Friday, 14 December 1934
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Local Government and Public Health (Mr. O Ceallaigh): I move the Second Reading of this Bill. This Bill provides for giving legal effect to the decisions taken in the earlier part of the year in regard to the Agricultural Grant. The Grant for the current financial year will be increased to a total of £1,970,000 or £222,000 more than last year and will be applied to the relief of rates in a new way.
When the Grant first became a feature of local finance, on the establishment of county councils by the Act of 1898, the Saorstát share amounted to £599,011 and it remained at this figure until 1925 when, an equal sum being voted, the Grant was doubled. In 1931 the Grant was increased by three quarters of a million pounds which brought it to a total of £1,948,011. Each county's share was applied at an equal rate over all land valuations. The occupier who ekes out a living on a small holding got the same rate of relief as an occupier who had a holding with a poor law valuation of £300, £400, or £500 pounds a year.
In 1932, the present Government increased the relief by £250,000, which brought the total up to two and one-fifth million pounds approximately, but the relief out of the new money was confined to holdings of £10 and under and the first £10 only of larger holdings. This was the first break with the old method of a county flat rate for all holdings and was continued for a second year, that is, 1933-34, when the total amount provided was £1,750,000, the reduction of the Grant that year by £448,022 not affecting the special relief to the limit of £10 valuation.
This year, as I have stated, the Grant will be £1,970,000, which is the highest figure it has ever reached  except that of the year 1932-33 when the land purchase annuities were still at the old figure. But whilst increasing the Grant a new method of giving the relief has been adopted. Last year's rate of relief on the first £10 valuation is taken as the standard rate, and the Bill provides that every occupier of land not exceeding £20 in valuation shall, in the current year, get this rate of relief, and occupiers of larger holdings shall get an equal rate on the first £20 of their holdings. To extend the maximum rate of relief up to the £20 limit will cost, we estimate, an additional sum of £116,000, and part of the new money to be provided this year goes to meet this extra cost. In the Bill the relief on the first £20 valuation is designated the primary allowance. The primary allowances, including urban district shares, will take, we estimate, £1,182,000 of the Grant and cover valuations amounting to £3,700,000.
The employment allowance is given where one or more men were at work on the holding in the nine months preceding the 31st December, 1933. Every occupier of land over £20 valuation was asked to make a claim to the allowance in respect of men at work on his holding, and the county councils received, and admitted, claims in respect of 130,000 men—somewhat more than half being employees and the remainder relatives of the occupiers. For each man employed an abatement of the rate was made at the primary allowance rate on £12 10s. valuation, if the occupier had so much additional valuation. The employment allowances will cost, we estimate, £386,000, of which £104,000 will come out of the additional £220,000 which is being provided this year. The cost of the employment allowances, when added to the cost of the primary allowances, will absorb £1,570,000 of the Grant. There will then be a balance of £400,000.
After the primary and the employment  allowances have been paid the balance of the Grant in every county will go to the relief of the part of the valuation that did not get any relief by way of primary or employment allowance, and this balance will be applied in every county by way of supplementary allowance at an equal rate over the remaining valuation, which amounts to £2,000,000. The supplementary rate of relief is everywhere below the primary allowance rate. In most counties the difference is slightly over 2/-.
This is the main outline of the scheme in the Bill. Perhaps an illustration of how it works in a typical county will make it clearer to those Deputies who are not themselves farmers, and had not, as a matter of business, to become acquainted with its working. Take a holding of £50 valuation in, say, County Kilkenny, the occupier of which has a brother and a paid labourer working on the holding. On the first £20 he gets relief at the rate of 6/- in the pound, which was the previous year's relief on the first £10. He gets relief at the same rate on £12 10s. for his brother and on £12 10s. for his labourer. That means that his rates would be abated by 6/- in the £ on £45. There is a remaining valuation of £5. On that remainder he will get relief at a lower rate of 3/10½ in the £, which is what the balance of the Grant runs to in that county.
We are now at the stage when it can be said that the new method has been successfully put into operation. It has, we recognise, involved a good deal of labour on the part of the secretaries and clerical staffs of the county councils and the rate collectors who examined claims, but this was inevitable in the initial year of the change over and the scheme, if continued, will probably work more smoothly each succeeding year.
It may be asked why do we put forward this scheme changing the basis on which the Grant has hitherto been distributed. The answer is shortly that we did not regard the old basis as any longer satisfactory. It applied the Grant in a blind, mechanical way and, except for the slight variations  made in 1932 every holder, large and small, whether he used his land in a way that gave the maximum employment or gave no employment at all, whether rancher or congest, got the same rate of relief without any conditions whatever. Some of the witnesses before the Derating Commission in 1931 took the view that relief from rates should be conditional on proper use being made of the land and, furthermore, two of the Commissioners recorded their view that as soon as the State could do so the first £15 or the first £20 valuation should be exempt from rates. In the scheme in the Bill we have combined two ideas, one to provide for occupiers of £20 holdings and under and the first £20 of larger holdings the rate of relief which was allowed last year on the first £10, and the other to differentiate in the case of larger holdings between occupiers according to the extent to which the holdings afford employment. It is a common criticism of the scheme that there is not sufficient inducement to give employment. That is so. In the first year unless we were prepared to revolutionise the whole system of relief of rates on agricultural land we had to content ourselves with a gesture that would indicate the path that we intended to pursue. This Bill is the beginning of a new system but only the beginning, and landholders of the higher valuations who are not making proper use of their land would be well advised to take note of the fact that the day of unconditional relief of rates on land is at an end.
With regard to the employment allowance, I notice some of the county councils are pressing the Government to allow claims to be made for persons employed temporarily. We cannot overlook the necessity for constant employment for the agricultural labourer and give countenance to a practice, which I am told is growing, of taking on causal labour during the busy season and dispensing with it during the slack season.
The Second Schedule of the Bill shows the share of each county council in that grant. These shares have been arrived at in the following way:— Each county was allotted a sum equal  to last year's share and credited with the payments that they are bound to make to certain urban districts, the whole of the additional sum required to extend the primary allowance from the first £10 to the first £20 was then allotted and the balance of the grant was divided in proportion to the claims to employment allowances. The urban districts that receive agricultural grant are those that have been created or extended since 1898. The county councils will pay these districts first a sum equal to what they paid them last year and in addition whatever may be necessary to bring the rate of relief on the first £20 in the urban district up to the county rate of relief. I may, perhaps, appropriately here add a word about these urban district grants generally because on every occasion that the agricultural grant has been increased there has been a considerable amount of pressure to extend it to all urban districts. The problem presented by these urban farmers is not quite so simple as it may appear at first glance. The point for consideration is whether there is a case for placing land in the 39 urban districts that do not at present receive any part of the grant on a par with similar land in rural areas. The exclusion of urban land in 1898 from the benefits of the agricultural grant was due to deliberate policy. Prior to 1898 oudoor relief was a charge on the electoral division and as outdoor relief was heavier in the towns than in the rural areas it bore heavily on the electoral divisions in which the towns were situated. After 1898 the charge was extended to the union and the agricultural grant was calculated as if there had been a flat union charge for all poor relief expenditure. The towns benefited by the wider area of charge and agricultural land get something extra by reason of the slightly higher rate resulting from the extension of the charge. The towns also experienced benefit when, on the county schemes coming into operation, the county at large superseded the union as the area of charge. As a rule, land occupiers in towns are not assessed on the full valuation for all rates. In most areas  a differential scale prevails by which land is relieved of three-quarters of the town rate.
Land in towns has a higher valuation due partly to proximity to markets. It is probably true that improved transport has neutralised some of the benefit of proximity but as against this it must be remembered that with an increasing population the value of land in urban areas tends to increase. We see urban councils called on to pay more than £100 an acre for land required for housing and of course if you give further relief to land in towns you enhance the value of the land. In some of the boroughs and urban districts—Dun Laoghaire for instance—it would be hard to justify further relief to agricultural land. By giving special relief you are in fact encouraging land owners to withhold land from building. It is proposed to continue the system by which an abatement of rates may be given partly by means of credit notes. It has been found in some counties that a credit note is an incentive to ratepayers to pay their rates within the financial year. In most counties the supplementary allowances will, this year, be given by means of credit notes that expire on 31st March, 1935.
I would say in conclusion that at one time I had hoped to present this Bill earlier in the year. But it was not possible to make a satisfactory allocation of the money to be voted until we knew what would be the cost of the primary allowances and employment allowances in every county, and before this information could be ascertained all employment allowance claims had to be examined. About 130,000 persons, relatives and employees, were returned as at work and it was some time before claims could be certified and the allocation of the Grant completed. The Bill, however, is temporary and applies to the present financial year, and, although it is not now possible to alter it radically, the Dáil will have an opportunity of considering a permanent measure which I hope we shall be able to present early next year.
General Mulcahy: It is an astonishing reflection on the attitude of the Minister to the public bodies and the  people over whom he is supposed to exercise a fatherly and helpful supervision that he introduces this measure and does not say a single word with regard to the financial condition of these public bodies or of the people upon whom the main support of them depends. The Minister has explained that a certain arrangement of finances has been made. He is introducing the giving of a grant in respect of employment in agricultural occupations, but does not refer in any way to the condition of the agricultural industry or to the fact that the wages paid to agricultural labourers within the last couple of years have fallen calamitously. An endeavour is being made to get the agricultural community to employ labour in circumstances in which they are less able to pay agricultural labourers than they were and, as I have said, the fall in agricultural wages has been calamitous within the last couple of years. The Minister's policy with regard to this grant has been a most wayward policy. When the Government came into office they were so concerned with the position of the agricultural community and of the burden that rates placed on it that the £750,000 additional relief in rates granted by the previous Government the year before was not enough, in their opinion, and they added £250,000 during their first year of office. But they took away £448,000 the next year, and they tell us to-day that they are adding £220,000. The Government indicated somewhat earlier in the year that the money that is being given in this way to the further relief of rates on agricultural land was being taken from bounties: that there was to be a reduction, I think, of 5/- per head on cattle, and 6d. per head on sheep. The Minister is now making great bones in restoring this £220,000 as additional relief on rates on agricultural land—in other words, putting into the farmers' pocket with one hand what he is taking out of it with the other.
What has been the condition of the people paying rates during the time when the Minister is carrying on this rapidly changing policy? In the year before the Minister gave his £250,000 as an additional relief in rates on agricultural  land, the total warrant of the county councils was £2,405,000. Then the Minister gave his additional relief of £250,000, but the total warrant for that year remained at £2,323,000, a fall of about £80,000. In the year in which he took away the £448,000 the total warrant of the county councils rose by £650,000, so that the warrant rose from £2,323,000 to £2,973,000. In the year in which they are getting this £220,000 back, in relief of rates, money which has been taken out of the farmers' pockets in bounties, there is no fall in the warrant, or in the burden that will fall on the general body of the ratepayers. The total warrant of the county councils remains at £2,963,000, a fall of about £10,000. While the burden of the warrant relateable to the year has risen, local bodies find themselves in this position every year, that they have bigger increases of outstanding payments. For instance, in the year 1932-33, when the total warrant was £2,323,000, the county councils had to look for arrears of £435,000, £129,000 of which they put into the warrant for that year. In the year 1933-34 when the warrant rose to £2,973,000, the county councils had to look for £542,000 of arrears, £176,000 of which they had to add to the warrant, while in the year 1934-35, when the warrant was £2,963,000, the county councils were faced at the beginning of it with arrears to the extent of £1,142,000. The condition of affairs was such that they had to squeeze £339,000 of that into the warrant for that year.
The Minister is now introducing this measure and talks about relief in rates on agricultural land. But during the first six months of the year in which this relief in rates on agricultural land is to be given the county councils, instead of collecting the warrant for the year, were engaged squeezing about £700,000 of arrears out of the people. A sum of £339,000 has yet to be squeezed out of them as arrears under the warrant as well as another £100,000 or £102,000 not appearing in the warrant, but still there as arrears, to be squeezed out of them. We have heard nothing from the Minister as to that particular situation or as to the position  in which the councils find themselves as well as the people who have to provide the rates for the support of the councils. The Minister is supposed, as I have said, to exercise a fatherly supervision over the important work of local bodies, to do everything possible to assist them to discharge their important responsibilities.
The Minister, I suggest, should not shut his eyes to the situation. The amount of the rate collection at the 30th September last should open his eyes to the very dangerous position that exists. The various councils throughout the country have made serious complaints about what their position is. The Minister knows very well the condition of the agricultural community. He knows the importance of the work of local bodies. Last year, he was vigorous in his sizing up of the situation. He was vigorous not only in his appeal to local bodies to stand up to their responsibilities and to get in the rates quickly, but he was also vigorous in his threatening of them. To-day when the situation is infinitely worse the Minister has nothing to say with regard to it.
Let us first see the class of people with whom you are dealing in the main. You are dealing with the agricultural community. In 1932-33 when the Minister thought the rates bore so heavily on the agricultural community, and when he had to come to their assistance with an additional £250,000, they had received from exports of live stock and live stock products a sum of £27,155,000. In the meantime, he has taken roughly £448,000 from these people. He has taken £228,000 off the gross amount he is giving them in respect of rates, and his colleagues have taken £220,000 out of their pockets. Yet, he is doing that in respect of a time when their income from the exports of live stock and live stock products has fallen from £27,000,000 in 1931 to £12,000,000 in 1933. This year, they are only going to receive about £11,000,000 from these exports, and included in that £11,000,000 is £3,000,000 bounties which the farmers are going to pay themselves practically. That is one item that shows the Minister the condition of the people upon whom he is depending to  support local bodies, and the fact that the Minister dealt with this matter without paying any attention to that is an extraordinary circumstance to me.
The Minister is aware that local bodies have discussed their position from time to time. There is a County Council in Clare, and, as long ago as June last, a member of the County Council said he had not paid his rates in respect of the previous year until May 22nd. In order to do so, he had to sell nine head of cattle at £2 per head and to borrow £1. He said that he belonged to no political Party but he had voted for Mr. de Valera last year, and by the way things were going he was not going to do it again. That was in June last. Clare County Council have been discussing the situation again recently, and at a meeting held, and reported in the Irish Press on 28th November last, the Minister informed them that owing to the heavy draw on the Guarantee Fund in respect of arrears of annuities of the May and June gale, no further issue of the agricultural grant could be made at present and the collection of the rates should be pressed forward as quickly as possible. The County Council were driven to discuss a proposal asking the Minister for Local Government to confer with the Minister for Agriculture as to the best means of enabling the taxpayers to meet their demands for the maintenance of local administration. The situation of the farming community in Clare was discussed so much that a Fianna Fáil representative said that he could not object to it, if a resolution was brought forward, as the people needed whatever help they could get. Another Fianna Fáil representative said “they could not close their eyes to the fact that there were hardships on the people but that the Banner County should not be the first to put up the white flag.”
Even the Minister's supporters in the country realise to-day the condition to which the people are reduced. They have developed a hardened political skin, no doubt fostered by local personal antagonisms, but the Minister must view the position from a somewhat more detached point of view. If he takes any interest in the work of  local bodies, or any interest in the necessity for the work of local bodies being carried out in the interests of the people, he should take cognisance of the situation that exists in Clare when the local people, even of his own Party, comment on the stress in which the people find themselves. In Cork in June last, when pressure was being made for the collection of rates, two letters were read from rate collectors, one of them from the Castletownbere district, which stated that in many cases there were no prospects whatever of the ratepayers being able to meet the amounts demanded. In other cases, it was stated the ratepayers were actually on the home assistance list.
In June last, in West Cork, the people were unable to pay last year's rates, and the rate collectors stated, according to the Irish Times report of 22nd June, when the Minister was actually pressing at that time for the collection of rates, there were people being pressed for rates in West Cork who could not pay their rates, even if they sold the whole of their stock at present prices, and there were others who were on home assistance. The Kerry Committee of Agriculture in May last called on the Minister for Agriculture to call a conference on non-Party lines with a view to devising some means of avoiding a smash in local administration through the inability of the people to meet their local rates demand, owing to the existing position. About that time, at a meeting of the Westmeath County Council, in circumstances in which the bank would not allow any further increase in the Council's overdraft of £55,000, it was stated that the feeling of the meeting was that a serious financial situation had then been created.
The Minister has plenty of evidence that so long ago as June last local bodies were finding themselves in a very serious situation. I have called attention here before to the fact that a number of rates cases came before the District Courts, and in the more or less impartial atmosphere of the District Courts certain statements were made with regard to the position  of persons sued for rates. It is reported in the daily Press of 21st June that in the Castlemartyr Court the day before arrears to the extent of £2,000 were claimed against 175 farmers in the district.
General Mulcahy: This District Justice adjourned several cases for one month. One farmer on a large scale remarked that his cattle were being made lame and rendered unsaleable as a result of bringing them home continuously from fairs. I have already pointed out that as long ago as April last the District Justice, adjudicating on unpaid rates cases at the Edenderry District Court, said the evidence before him disclosed a pitiable condition of things. It was crying out for some alleviation from one source or another. The local authority, he said, ought to be in a position not to bring these cases at all. The rate collector could do nothing, added the Justice, because if he did not take action there was some peculiar machinery by which he was held responsible for the debt.
The cases coming before some of the courts were such as to put the District Justices into very considerable difficulty. They did not want to appear to be making political or ex-parte statements from their courts and they washed their hands of a situation that they were legally entitled to wash their hands of. The District Justice of Clonmel, on the 25th April, 1934, as reported in the Irish Press, said: “I gave all the time I could to people who were unable to pay—now I have made up my mind to leave it in the collector's hands to deal with people who are willing but unable to pay.” He salved his conscience to some extent by saying “I cannot see the majority of farmers without the necessities of life considering that they have land that can produce.”
He salves his conscience in that way. If he was taking advantage of the law to prevent rate collectors bringing these cases to his court, where people could plead in the detached atmosphere of the court trying conditions and the injustice  of the demand made on them for rates, he at least satisfies himself that they were people of a class not likely to starve. They were without money to pay their rates, but they were not likely to starve. An auditor in Cork is reported in January last as having examined the state of the rate collection and he reported: “In the examination of the causes of the backward collection, it was observed there were among those who had not paid their rates by October 31st a number of councillors, clergymen and teachers, several officers and employees of the council and its associated bodies, including dispensary doctors, rate and rent collectors, assistance officers, contractors, quarry owners, pensioners, road workers and a member of the Survey staff.” But the Minister is surely in a position to know that there are dispensary doctors, road workers, contractors to whom local bodies owe considerable sums of money who are not paid by the local bodies.
We see the circle going in a vicious direction now when the Minister is directing local bodies to withhold from persons who do not pay their rates some of the benefits that the law normally allows people in order to better their condition. The question arose with the Limerick County Committee of Agriculture in June last and it was considered by some of the members of the Committee that rate defaulters should not get the advantage of some of the agricultural and live stock schemes in the county. The Minister for Agriculture, looking at the matter no doubt from the point of view of the agricultural well-being of the people, wrote the Committee a letter stating that no provision was contained in any of the agricultural and live stock schemes to make the payment of rates a definite condition of receiving benefit.
Four, five or six months have passed and, while local bodies may want to regard the Minister for Local Government as the unfortunate victim carrying out the policy of his colleagues, we now have the Minister pursuing a policy that the Minister for Agriculture,  in the interests of the agricultural community, did not wish to pursue and the Minister for Local Government is now directing local bodies, in connection with schemes administered through the committees of agriculture in 1935 and subsequent years, that they shall not select an applicant for participation in any scheme with a view to obtaining a premium, prize, grant, subsidy or mare nomination unless they have first satisfied themselves that the applicant has no undischarged liability to the county council on foot of rates or cottage rent for the financial year immediately preceding the one current at the time the application is under consideration by the Committee.
The South Tipperary Committee of Agriculture stated that 90 per cent. of the people who would come under the lash of that measure were people who could pay their rates. So that some of the Minister's supporters are urging him to pursue that particular policy. The Westmeath Board of Health, on the motion of Deputy Kennedy, seconded by Mr. Brett, adopted a resolution to the effect that in future contracts for supplies of any kind or work of any nature be given only to those who can show clear receipts for their rates and annuities to date. I want to hear Deputy Kennedy discuss, for the benefit of the Minister for Local Government, the position in which his own Council is in the matter of discharging its obligations to the people to whom it is due to pay money. I suggest the Deputy will find his Council in the position that many councils throughout the country are in, and that is they are not able to discharge the obligations that lie on them and, instead of proceeding to twist the situation in the vicious circle in which the Ministry are apparently going to do it, which will make it further impossible for them to recover rates from the agricultural community, the Deputy and some of his colleagues concerned with the position of local government in the country should be putting the clear facts of the situation before the Minister.
 I would like to hear the Deputy discuss that, because, if we can believe the discussions in the Irish Press, he is reported as saying: “We are up against it now. Whatever may be said about the farmers being unable to pay their way, many people in the towns are well able and willing to pay,” and the Deputy was urging that the circulation of the warrant should be speeded up in the county so that the few pounds that might be collected in the towns would be collected, the farmers, apparently, in his opinion, being in such a position that he did not expect very much from them and no one indeed would expect very much from the farming community. It is interesting to see the Deputy, who has been so hard in his attitude to the farming community in these circumstances, waking up to a small extent now to the plight in which they are and before he turns the screw a little more on some of the people he has in mind, and before the Minister turns the screw more in the way in which he is turning it, the Deputy ought to tell the Minister what exactly the conditions of local government are in Westmeath and how exactly the local authorities stand financially.
The position in which the local bodies are is that, on the 30th September, they had 3.7 per cent. of their total warrant collected. The position on 30th September, 1931, was that £1,800,000 was outstanding; in 1932, £1,900,000; in 1933, £2,700,000; and in 1934, £3,100,000. There was this difference that when the local bodies were waiting on 30th September, 1933, to collect £2,700,000 from the people, they were only clearing up an arrears situation of £500,000, but the local bodies waiting on 30th September last to face the collection of £3,179,000 in rates were endeavouring to deal with a situation in which they had £1,142,000 outstanding at the beginning of the year. By methods of terrorism and threats in some parts of the country they had squeezed £700,000 out of the people in various parts of the country.
“At this period, granted efficient collection, the proportion of the entire year's collection lodged should have amounted to one-half, but in no county has one-third been reached, and the general position is that less than one-eighth of the rates has been collected. This position is discreditable alike to county councils, their collectors and ratepayers themselves. Economic conditions were difficult last year, when the proportion collected at this stage amounted to one-fifth. In the preceding year the proportion was one-fourth, while the year before showed a collection of over one-third. The retrogression disclosed cannot but reflect on all parties concerned.”
Now, in a year in which the total amount of money collected is one-twenty-seventh, the Minister has not a word to say. He does not dare write to the local authorities now to remind them of their duties and to threaten as to what is going to happen them and their officials if they do not collect the money that is outstanding. The silence of the Minister to-day must be an indication that he understands the situation to some extent. That being so, I would ask what the Minister proposes to do during the year further to assist local bodies.
The Minister is aware that he has a sum of money withheld from local bodies to the extent of probably £900,000 in respect of old estate duty grant and old agricultural grant. The Minister withheld, at the beginning of this year, £256,000 of agricultural grant. In addition, he had an old outstanding liability to refund to the county councils, at the earliest possible moment, £643,000 estate duty grant. The Minister knows sufficient of the history of the land annuity campaign to know that he has a very considerable amount of responsibility for the position in which local bodies find themselves now, as a result of the withdrawal of moneys to meet the nonpayment of land annuities. I should like to ask the Minister what he proposes  to do to assist the local bodies now by restoring to them some of the money which is at present withheld, and I should like him to tell the House what he has been able to ascertain with regard to the situation as a result of his experience in those counties in which he has three commissioners at the moment. The Minister set up an inquiry in Kilkenny, an inquiry in Waterford and an inquiry in Leix, at the beginning of this year, and after very short inquiries, the whole burden of which was that the local bodies in Waterford and Kilkenny were not making any attempt to collect the rates, and that the people were well able to pay if they would only go and collect them, these bodies were superseded. Commissioners were sent down and the commissioners set out to leave nothing undone to see that the rates were collected. They issued public statements of the clearest and most vigorous kind to the effect that they were going to take all the steps necessary to collect the rates and to carry on the local government administration. The Irish Press of 2nd July last reports that a number of Waterford farmers were summoned before the District Court in Youghal for arrears of rates. The collector told the court that the Commissioner for Co. Waterford had given instructions that the most active steps should be taken against defaulters who had distrainable effects. Again, on 9th July, three days afterwards, the Irish Press reports that, at the same court, a rate collector, in giving evidence, stated that the Commissioner intended recommending the Land Commission to take over those farms on which rates and annuities were due. Previously, on 19th June, in the same court, the rate collector said—
“He had been notified that morning he would be dismissed, in common with other collectors in Co. Waterford, if his collection was not finished at the end of the month. He had also received from the newly-appointed Commissioner for Co. Waterford a circular for distribution to all ratepayers in arrears warning them that  `the full force and resources of the law will be vigorously enforced immediately, and as the heavy costs of such action will be borne by the defaulters themselves, I advise them, in their own interest, to pay their rates at once.' In one case, where there were several years' arrears, the collector said that he visited the place to make a distraint some time ago, and found that the tenant, a woman with a family of nine, had neither means nor stock. `She should be on outdoor relief instead of being rated.' he added.
All this was preceded by a statement by the Commissioner in which he said at a meeting of the Waterford Mental Hospital Committee: “The dissolution of the Waterford County Council and my appointment as Commissioner were due principally to the disgraceful state of the rate collection in the county. I intend to concentrate for the moment on the collection of rates, and in this connection I would warn defaulters that the most active steps are about to be taken to collect the rates.” Then he goes on to describe what a rich county Waterford is. Well, the Commissioner has been performing in Waterford, and we find the position in Waterford to be that on the 30th September, 1931, 47.9 per cent. of the rates was collected, while in the year 1932, when the policy of the Minister's colleagues had begun to affect the country, only 31 per cent. of the rates was collected. In 1933 the percentage had fallen to 12, and, after all the skin and hair that were going to fly in Waterford in the interests of the efficient collection of the rates and the carrying on of local government, the percentage of the rates collected on the 30th September, 1934, was 1.2. We have it then that the percentage was 47.9 in the last year of the previous administration; 31 per cent. in 1932: 12 per cent. in 1933, and 1.2 per cent. in 1934 under the rule of the Commissioner, who was going to take the most active steps to collect the rates. Now the Minister  has, I forgot to mention, an equally vigorous Commissioner in South Tipperary. The position is that, in the last year of the previous administration, on the 30th September, 1931, the percentage of the rates collected in South Tipperary was 46.1. In 1932 when, as I say, the present Government's policy had begun to affect the people responsible for paying those rates, the percentage was 26. Last year it was 7 per cent., and under the Minister's Commissioner the percentage on the 30th September of this year is nil. Not one halfpenny was collected out of a warrant amounting to £171,000 in County Tipperary this year.
General Mulcahy: Will the Minister tell us if it is because the ratepayers of South Tipperary are in jail that none of the rates have been collected? The Minister has another Commissioner in Kilkenny. 29.5 per cent. of the collection had been made by the 30th September, 1931; 13 per cent. was collected in 1932; 6 per cent. in 1933; and 0.1 per cent in 1934 under the Minister's Commissioner. A total of £46 had been collected out of the total warrant of £89,588.
General Mulcahy: The Deputy has heard me read out some extracts from the statement of the Commissioner in Waterford. Now, if the Deputy wants to apply the nice little term “paid in” to the transaction that happens when you get talked to like that, he can do so.
General Mulcahy: I get information from the Minister when I ask it by Parliamentary question. I do not have  fortnightly consultations with the Ministry, and I try not to impose too great a burden on the Minister.
General Mulcahy: I ask him for this information at the end of every quarter when he does not give it himself. Last year he gave it gratuitously to the people at large; this year we had to ask for it. That is another commentary on the situation. As far as Leix— where there is another Commissioner— is concerned, the percentage collected in the last year of the previous administration was 23.4 of the total warrant, on the 30th September. Then the policy of the Fianna Fáil cum Labour Party hit the farmers of Leix, and on 30th September, 1932, only 15 per cent. had been collected; in 1933 11 per cent., and in 1934, 3.7 per cent. Out of a total warrant of £121,000 which was to be collected from the unfortunate agricultural community in Leix—unfortunate because of their present condition—£4,000 was collected.
General Mulcahy: I should be very grateful to the Deputy if, even arising out of an interruption, he would tell me where I could get the figures for the various counties as regards the rate collection to the end of November.
General Mulcahy: The condition of Leix, even as reflected in the daily papers, sometimes gets smothered under the appalling revelations we get from other counties. We cannot be always keeping our eyes on Leix. We look at it every three months.
General Mulcahy: I think the Minister realises the position and is trying to evade discussing it. Members of the Labour Party can help the House by a discussion of the situation. Deputy Davin believes either that these rates can be collected in the country this year or he believes that they cannot. He knows that there were £1,140,000 outstanding from last year at the beginning of April last. Will he tell us that £1,500,000 or £2,000,000 will not be outstanding at the end of March next?
General Mulcahy: If he is in touch with the Leix situation we should be glad to hear some expression of opinion from him as regards Leix, even if he cannot go further and tell us the position in regard to any other county. The Minister has settled a certain amount of money to be allocated in a particular way. He has indicated that the way in which he has allocated part of that money is going to encourage the employment of labour. I should like to hear Deputies discuss whether or not that is so—Deputies who, like some of the Deputies in the Labour Party or the Fianna Fáil Party go down among the people. I should like to hear them discuss to what extent this is going to increase the employment of labour. If we are having, as we unfortunately have, a very big depression in the wages paid to agricultural labourers in every county in this country, are we going to have  the satisfaction of knowing there will be a bigger number employed? Or, is the Minister talking about this, entirely divorced from any knowledge as to what the results of this Grant for employment will be? There are counties in which it is the opinion of men who were engaged in agriculture that it is not going to do any good. The House is particularly entitled to discuss the general situation, and to have some kind of prognostication, such as the Minister can give, as to what the financial position of the County Councils is going to to be at the end of this financial year. There is every evidence before the Minister, as it is before us, that the people are not able to pay these amounts, and that local bodies at the beginning of December are already in serious financial difficulties.
Mr. Bennett: I was waiting for Deputy Davin to rise, but evidently he is waiting for a further opportunity to address the House. In presenting this Estimate the Minister explained that he is actuated solely in the amount of rates he collects, and the manner in which it is collected, rather than in the difficulties in which the people who should pay the rates are. I have every sympathy with the Minister in his position. He is suffering, as his Ministerial colleagues are suffering, from the general policy of the Government. The Minister says he is actuated solely by the collection of the rates, and the amount he can get from the unfortunate and suffering ratepayers. When recently addressing the Committee of Limerick Mental Hospital, on the occasion of the inauguration of an extension of their premises— and very probably other mental hospitals will need an extension of premises in the near future, if signs and portents are any indication—the Minister, appropriately enough, made the remarkable declaration that he did not think the rates were high enough. It was just as well it was to the representatives of the mental hospital the Minister made that remarkable declaration, because one would not like to be in the Minister's position in making it amongst a  representative body of ratepayers. Really, if that is the view of the Minister, any argument of ours for the alleviation of the sufferings of the ratepayers will have very little effect.
Mr. Bennett: I do not want to enter into statistical explanations on this debate but, when introducing the Estimate, the Minister said that there was a common complaint that sufficient inducement was not given to give employment. Is there any particular inducement being given by the Minister to-day to employers generally in the agricultural community to increase employment? The method of allocation of the Agricultural Grant that the Minister pursues will not have any effect in increasing the amount of employment given by farmers. The Minister made great play with a particular statement, that more was given this year than ever in relief of rates. He quoted what was given in previous years. In 1925, when, by the way, Cumann na nGaedheal was in office the Agricultural Grant was doubled, and in 1931 it practically reached £2,000,000— £1,948,011.
Mr. Bennett: In 1932 the present Government increased the grant, but in 1933-34 the farmers of this State were muleted in £448,000. The grant is now a small amount greater than it was in 1931. Can any honest comparison be made between the conditions of the farmers  generally and their ability to pay rates between 1931 and 1934? If £1,948,011 did not suffice to give farmers adequate relief—and Deputies on the opposite benches joined with Deputies on this side in proclaiming at that period that the sum actually given in relief of rates was not sufficient—can the Minister make any case whatever why £100,000 more at this period is at all sufficient, or that the condition of farmers has been in any way improved by his exertions? Even if the amount is insufficient, is the method of distribution equitable? The Minister stated that a change was made because the Government did not consider the old system satisfactory, as relief was given whether a man used his land to advantage or not. That may have been so. But what are the advantages of the new system of distributing this relief? There has to be an allowance first for people whose valuation is £20. They are to get the principal relief under this method. It is a notable fact that in the counties where the collection of rates is most difficult valuations are highest. That applies particularly to dairying counties like Limerick, Tipperary and contiguous counties, where the average rateable valuation is much higher than the West of Ireland, and in other parts, where dairying is not carried on to any considerable extent. The present method of relief will affect a much fewer number in these counties than in other places. In alluding to that, I should like to say to the Minister that the method of giving relief on the basis of employment is not an equitable one in the dairying counties. Relief is given according to the number of male employees employed by any particular farmer. Every Deputy knows that in the counties where dairying is carried on the number of women employed—who have to be employed in the dairying industry——
Mr. Bennett: ——is a very great number. Deputy Mulcahy interrupts me to say that it is at the instruction of the Revenue Commissioners. The  Revenue Commissioners did definitely advise farmers to employ a greater number of women in lieu of men.
Mr. Bennett: ——as to the number of women employed in the dairying industry. It might affect the argument as to whether the intervention of the Revenue Commissioners succeeded in adding to the number of women employed in the dairying industry. Under the Minister's system no relief is given for women employees. In the County Limerick, which I represent, and in the neighbouring counties of Tipperary and Cork, and other dairying counties, thousands of women are employed in that particular industry for whom the farmers will get no relief whatever. If that is an equitable distribution of a grant in relief of rates, then it is difficult to argue the matter. The average farmer in a county like Limerick, say, of 40 acres, with 20 cows, has as many female employees, and possibly more, as he has male employees, and his relief under the head of employment would be very small, while in another county, where farmers do not engage in a similar occupation, a farmer similarly  situated would get treble the relief or, perhaps, more, than a farmer in that county would get.
In the counties where the greatest difficulty is experienced by the Minister and the collectors in getting the rates paid, the difficulties of the farmers are greater than those of farmers situated elsewhere, notwithstanding that there has been an effort on the part of various Ministers to prove that the farmers carrying on dairying are more prosperous than any others farmers. Up to this no Minister has been able to sustain that argument; no Minister has definitely been able to stand up to the statements made in that respect. It has been definitely proved in this House and outside that the position of the dairying farmers, if not worse, is at least as bad as that of the farmers carrying on any other branch of agriculture. The Minister for Agriculture challenged me a couple of days ago in this House, aided and abetted by Deputy Davin, to repeat certain statements down amongst the farmers in the country that I made in this House. If the Minister, accompanied by Deputy Davin, chooses to come with me to any agricultural audience in the counties of Limerick or Tipperary, I shall be very happy to accompany them and make the same statement there that I made in the House.
Mr. Bennett: I put that definite challenge to Deputy Davin and the Minister for Agriculture—that I shall accompany them before an audience of farmers and repeat the statements, word for word, that I made in this House and let the Minister or Deputy Davin disprove them. Deputy Mulcahy referred to the difficulty that the farmers meet with in disposing of their  produce and stock, and quoted from a statement made by some farmer that his cattle had gone lame from travelling. That is a general grievance amongst farmers. Personally, I have had cattle in three recent fairs—Kilmallock, Bruff and Limerick—and in none of these did I receive a single bid for any of the cattle. There are thousands of unfortunate farmers in a similar position, and if they cannot dispose of their produce how are they going to pay rates?
The difficulty found in paying rates is not confined to the farmers. I hope Deputy Davin will bear this in mind; that the rate arrears in the southern counties are just as common, and possibly more so, amongst the holders of labourers' cottages, as amongst farmers. Unfortunately, the poor possessor of a labourer's cottage has his rates included in his rent; at least that is the position in the county I represent. His rate is collected with his rent and he cannot well pay one without paying the other; so that he is pressed and harassed in a manner that, possibly, the farmer is not; and the difficulty is much greater in the case of a man in his position than in the case of the farmer. In my county, for seven weeks, up to last week or the week before, at any rate, none of the workers under the county council had received any wages. I suppose some of these people were expected to contribute punctually to the payment of the 1934-35 rate. These unfortunate people, who were honestly working for the local council, expecting to be paid, had been waiting for seven weeks and received no payment whatever. Their lot, bad as it is, is not perhaps as bad as that of thousands of their brethren who have no work; who have not even the satisfaction of knowing that, if they wait long enough, they will get some wages. Many of these are in arrears with their rates, and some of them are threatened with eviction. I myself within the last month contributed to a collection made on behalf of the occupant of a labourer's cottage who was unable to pay his rent and rates and was about to be evicted. Perhaps in his case the amount due was extravagant; but the man's  actual circumstances and his condition were unfortunate.
The Minister says that landowners who did not make sufficient use of their lands would be well advised to take note. Take note of what? Is this meant in the light of a threat— that if they do not pay their rates some particular infliction is going to be imposed upon them. I suppose it means that the land will be taken from them. But even if it is, even should the land be taken from the farmers who will not pay the rates, the position will not be improved because the man who gets it will be in exactly a similar position to the men who have it now; they will be in exactly a similar position to the man who has a half an acre plot or the man with a thousand acres—they will be unable to pay. They will all find it equally difficult to pay the demands made on them in the matter of rates. The Minister in his explanatory statement left the question of the credit note to the last. The final relief is to be made by a method of credit notes. These credit notes are only available if the rates are paid by the 31st March next. In other words unless the unfortunate ratepayer pays his rates by the 31st March next he loses the amount of his credit note.
I venture to predict that there will be thousands of farmers and thousands of labourers who will be unable to pay their rates by the 31st March. Those particular credit notes will be of little use to them unless the time is extended. Perhaps it would be as well now if the Minister would make a statement now that the credit notes will be available after the 31st March next. Otherwise a certain portion of the amount that the House is now discussing will never reach a big proportion of the ratepayers in general. As far as one can see anything ahead there is very little probability that the state of the rate collection next March will be anything better than it is now. In fact it is likely to be worse. A number of people holding credit notes will find, unless the time is extended, that these notes will be of no further use to them. The number of such people is likely to be very  great. These are the main points that I would ask the Minister to take particular note of—first, that the relief, as far as it pertains to employment, should be extended to employers of women labour as well as to employers of men labour. If it is not then the relief given under this vote will not be equitable. In many counties employers employ more men than women. In many farms there are more women employed——
Mr. Bennett: The Deputy is protesting his ignorance. The Deputy sometimes interrupts intelligently. On this particular occasion he has not interrupted intelligently. The rate of wages paid in Limerick and Tipperary to women milkers is about on a par with the rate paid to men. They receive practically the same amount although the farmers got a definite hint from the Revenue Commissioners——
Mr. Bennett: ——that 6/- or 7/- a week would provide suitable recompense to women workers in dairy farming and that women should be employed in preference to men. Notwithstanding that, however, the unfortunate farmers kept on a few men. They kept on a great number of women at men's wages. Does the Minister suggest that dairy farmers should get rid altogether of their women workers? If there is any portion of the agricultural industry that provides work in general for the family it is the dairying industry. That industry provides work for the men, the women and the children of the family. Because, as Deputy Corry knows full well, many of the children are employed on dairy farms at work which men or women would not be expected to do— for instance taking milk to the creamery. Many young people are engaged at that work. Deputy Donnelly will not suggest that driving a donkey to the creamery is very  onerous work. Many young workers are thus employed. Notwithstanding that, nevertheless, the relief given to dairy farmers under this grant-in-aid is not an equitable one.
I ask the Minister now to make some change in the arrangements for the distribution of this grant before next March. Otherwise the position with regard to some dairy farmers will be that they will not be getting the relief that the other farmers are getting. My second point is that the credit note should be extended beyond the 31st March. No reasonable Deputy supposes that the great bulk of the farmers will be in a position to pay the balance of their rates before then. It is unfair to hold out a threat to them that if they do not pay they will lose a certain part of the grant that this House is now voting to them. That is an unfair proposition to make to the farmers. Surely at this time when no farmer is in a position to pay his rates, and when everybody knows the difficulty there is about the disposing of agricultural produce such a condition should not be allowed to prevail. It is monstrous that this House should stand for such a method of allocating this grant.
Anything further that I might say will not, I suppose, have any effect on the Minister. Perhaps he may be induced by a little argument to alter the method of allocation and to extend the date in the credit notes. I hope I will be supported by some Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches in impressing on the Minister these two points—the relief in the case of the female workers and the extension of the credit notes after the 31st March. Where the female workers are paid a reasonable wage the employer should get relief in their case as well as in the case of the male worker. I do not see any reason why Deputies on the Government Benches should not back me in these two points. The people of the country will expect that much from Deputies who represent farming communities. I do hope this co-operation from the Fianna Fáil Deputies will be readily given.
Mr. Brennan: They appear to be satisfied that the situation that confronts the country at the present time is one towards which they cannot make any contribution. Having embarked upon a policy which has landed the country in the condition in which it is, the Local Government and Public Health Department say there is no responsibility on them to get the people out of this position. To my mind, the Ministry of Local Government and Public Health is the most responsible Ministry in the country. There is a dual responsibility there—a responsibility that is not really carried by any other Minister. The Ministry must interest itself in the prosperity of the main industry of the country, because it is both on the prosperity and the continuance of prosperity that local government can flourish or indeed continue to carry on at all. There is no other Department in the State which is such a tell-tale of progress or decay as is the Department of Local Government and Public Health. The state of affairs which exists at the present time and as disclosed by the rate collections all over the country is most alarming. Even the silence of the members of the Fianna Fáil Party cannot allay the alarm which, I am sure, the Front Bench of the Fianna Fáil Party must feel at the situation. We have in practically every county an outcry for increased bank overdrafts. That is not customary at this time of the year. It is not the normal condition of things. The responsibility rests upon the Minister for Local Government to come to the assistance of the councils and local authorities in some way. I maintain that there is an obligation on the Minister to do that over and above the ordinary obligations which the Minister is supposed to bear. Let me take the case of the Council of the County of Roscommon. According to a question put to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health some time ago, there was withheld from that Council over a period of years, dating back as far as  1922, £32,141, out of the Excise grants, for the purpose of meeting the amounts due by defaulting tenant purchasers. There was refunded to the Council £10,000 odd, leaving a balance of £21,000. In 1934, deductions were made from the grants amounting to £9,000. At the present time, there is withheld for one cause or another from the County Council of Roscommon over £18,000, taking into account the fact that £12,136 was recently received by the County Council on foot of the £300,000 which was supposed to be made available to the county councils and which was made available to some extent. I do not know whether or not it was made available fully. That was in connection with the 1933 Land Act.
In addition to that, the position in which the county councils find themselves is due entirely to the agricultural situation. People are at a loss to know—particularly those in charge of the administration of county councils and boards of health—why the agricultural grant is not being paid in the usual way. I presume that the Minister will tell us that and make county councils aware that, although the annuities have been halved, the country has reached such an impasse—such a state of decay has set in—that the money which would ordinarily be accruing to county councils is being withheld to meet deficiencies of annuities. In our county, out of practically £68,000 of agricultural grant notified to us, we have, up to date, received only £19,000. We are supposed to put the screw on the ratepayers to see that public services are maintained while the Government itself owes us practically £49,000. That is the position in which we are in Roscommon at present. In addition, an extraordinary thing has recently happened—a thing which we never had experience of before. The county surveyor's requisitions for moneys due to him for road grants have not been paid in full. The Local Government Department, for some reason known to itself, has been shortening those demands and paying the county surveyor less than he has asked. That has caused the funds of Roscommon County Council to be called upon to meet demands which  would otherwise be met out of the road grants. It is interfering with the ordinary funds of the council.
It is an extraordinary commentary on the Government's policy, considering that they have endeavoured, through the allocation of the grants, to assist employment, that in County Roscommon recently, when ten labourers' cottages in rural districts were advertised for letting, the board of health had only two applicants. These cottages were all in districts where people would be supposed to be looking forward to holding a piece of land and to employment. That is an extraordinary commentary on the Government's housing policy and on their attempted assistance of employment. But that is the case. When the Government told the country that they were going to endeavour to assist employment by making special allowances in the rates to those people who employed labour, there was a great flourish of trumpets and, from various platforms, the new system of allocation of grants was hailed with delight as a great advance in the interests of labour. What did it really represent? In our county there is a distinction of 2/2 in the £ between the rates of the man who employed labour and the man who did not. In other words, the man who did employ labour got a present of 25/- or 26/-. He was supposed to employ a labouring man all the year round at a wage of £26, which is the wage usually paid in our county to a man living in. The farmer was supposed to employ a man and pay him £26 a year, living in, in order to get a reduction in his rates of 22/-, 23/- or 25/-. That is the position. The real situation with regard to wages is disclosed in the Returns of Agricultural Wages, wherein it is shown that, since the year 1931, there has been an average drop in Saorstát Eireann of 3/3 per week. These are not my figures. These are the figures of the Department of Industry and Commerce.
Mr. Brennan: The Deputy may know something about that. I hope he does.  It will probably do him good. I maintain that there are some anomalies in this Bill, particularly in respect of subsection (3) of Section 13. I should like the Minister to say whether a county council is obliged to use credit notes or has any option in the matter. According to this section “the county council of a county may, with the sanction of the Minister, decide ...” so-and-so. Might I, at this stage, ask the Minister if some councils have not adopted the credit system, while others have? That question makes a great difference to the ratepayers who are unable to pay their rates. I should like to have the position clarified if the Minister is agreeable to do so now.
Mr. Brennan: Since the county council has the option, does that not create a rather peculiar situation? Let us say that a county council adopts the credit note system and wants to give a man a credit note against a £10 rate. Then suppose a man's credit note amounted to £1 10s., his real payment would be £8 10s. In that case a man would not be charged £10, but £8 10s. If two men fail to pay their rates in proper time, £10 will be carried forward against one, and £8 10s. against another.
Mr. Brennan: Suppose the county council does not use the credit note, and that they apply the reduction the other way. Suppose they place it in the books, and that the man gets credit for it, while against the other man the full amount is carried forward, does not that require a remedy?
Mr. Brennan: The county council cannot remedy it. If the county council decides, in order to induce payment of rates, to use the credit note system, they cannot alter that, and that means that they would carry forward in the instances I have given £10 against one man and £8 10s. against the other.
Mr. O Ceallaigh: If there is an amount allocated to the county council out of the agricultural grant, this year, and that is not used up, suppose for the reason the Deputy has given, then there is an amount carried forward to the credit of the county council, and that goes to the reduction of rates.
Mr. O Ceallaigh: I do not know whether secretaries of county councils have discussed this matter in full with members of their councils, but I have discussed it frequently with the secretaries of the county councils. They understand it fully; they went into it fully; they asked many questions, and, generally speaking, they are a very efficient body of men and understand their work. I understood they discussed the matter fully with members of the county councils and with the members of the finance committees of the county councils. If a county council anywhere did not know what the system was, I have not been asked, since I came in as Minister, and since the credit note system was introduced, by any member of a county council or by any county council as a body, for any additional information.
Mr. Brennan: I have no doubt the secretaries of county councils are a very intelligent body of men, endeavouring to do their work to the best of their ability. But I do not believe it occurred to them or to the members of county councils that this thing was really happening.
Mr. Brennan: The county councils adopted the credit business as an inducement to people to pay, but I do not believe that the county councils had thought about or were given any indication of this other hardship.
Mr. Brennan: The county councils did not. I think it was unfair, when the Minister came to discuss these matters with the secretaries of the county councils, that what was in the Minister's mind, if made known to the secretaries, was not afterwards disclosed to the county councils, that is, as to the manner in which this credit note system was to be adopted and put to the credit of the payees. If the rates are to be carried forward against individuals, surely they ought to get credit to the amount of the notes.
Mr. Brennan: If it was really known, I do not think that the credit note system would have been taken up at all. I think there ought to be some solution found in this matter. I think a very grave injustice is inflicted upon men who cannot pay their rates. Under Section 14 of the Bill, the Minister is reserving to himself the right to extend the period for payment in which these credit notes would be available. That seems an absolute necessity. What about people who paid their rates in 1932, 1933 and in April, 1934. These people lost their credit notes, and some provision should be made for them.
Mr. O Ceallaigh: There are county councils who would want to get the whole agricultural grant paid away in those credit notes. We only give a small portion in that way. I think the Deputy's argument that the county councils did not know all about it is without foundation.
Mr. Brennan: I understand that but the principle in this Bill was not operated last year. The Minister stuck to a fixed date. At that time the people did not know what a credit note was but he stuck rigidly to the 31st March. At the present time the position disclosed by the rate collection is so unsatisfactory that I think it does not need any advocate from these benches, or anywhere else, to show to the Minister that something ought to be done to make up to the county councils for the amount of money withheld for years; that is, if the present situation is temporary. If it is not temporary, but is going to be a continuing situation, in regard to the main industry of this country, then I am afraid that temporary suggestions will be of no use. I impress upon the Minister further that there is a responsibility on him and, also, that there is a responsibility particularly upon the Minister for Agriculture, with regard to the main industry of this country, and that if the rates are not paid the Minister for Local Government ought to endeavour to find out why they are not paid. He ought to endeavour to get at the cause of it and remove the cause. There is no use in attempting to bolster up a position such as we have at the present time. You must find a solution for it somewhere, and unless you can find a solution for it, well, then, I have very little hope for the future of the country.
Mr. Dillon: Few as they are, Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches may not relish them. First of all, I should like to know from the Minister what is the comparative position of the farmer, say, in Kilkenny, to whom the Minister referred—the farmer with a holding of £50 valuation who employs his brother and one paid labourer on his holding— compared with his position on the old basis of distribution of the agricultural grant. I think that before we can arrive at any reasoned judgment on the merits of this proposal, comparative figures of that kind must be made available, not only in the case of a man employing one labourer but in the case of a man employing a number of labourers. It seems to me that the Government attitude on the question of part-time employment of men in agriculture, and their determination to make no allowance in their respect, shows, on their part, an ignorance of normal agricultural procedure which is deplorable.
If the Minister really desires to promote employment and to promote methods of agriculture which involve the employment of agricultural labour, he must do so in a practical way and must realise that if men are going to save a crop of hay, or of roots, or of corn, or if they are going to go in for that type of agriculture at all, they will employ ordinarily at the harvest a very large number of men in order to save the harvest within the period of good weather. He will also realise that it is perfectly futile to suggest that any farmer, taking on labourers in harvest time, should keep them all the year round. It is equally futile to suggest that any farmer could harvest his crops with the same number of employees with whom he should, and actually does, carry on the normal month-to-month activities on his holding. If you really want to stimulate those types of  agriculture that involve employment of comparatively large numbers of men, you ought to make an allowance for part-time employees, because they are an essential part of crop-raising economics.
Those are two of the points I wanted to deal with. Now, I want to deal with a third point. The Minister, when the rates collection began to present a problem, proceeded to dissolve certain county councils and to send out commissioners, and the commissioners were clearly instructed to go out to the country and raise the scare of a conspiracy not to pay rates.
Mr. Dillon: Has Deputy Donnelly finished “clocking”? Because, if he has, he can get up after me and flap his wings and crow. In the meantime, let him continue to hatch his eggs in silence. As I was saying, the commissioners were sent out with the idea of raising the scare of a conspiracy not to pay rates, and they desired to create the general impression that there was no reason whatever why the rates should not be paid. All the Fianna Fáil Deputies then shook their heads and said: “Quite right. Now we are going to see something done.” And everybody waited, full of expectations. Then the position of the rate collections was published, and all the Fianna Fáil Deputies, with virtue oozing from their persons, hastened to demonstrate to the world that wherever the Fianna Fáil army was firmly entrenched the rates would be paid up to date and that the faithful followers of the Great White Chief would make whatever sacrifice might be necessary to pay the rates on the nail in order to show their love for de Valera. What transpired? The first county in the return to show itself either unable or unwilling to pay one single penny of rates is the County Clare. Dev's stronghold! The cradle of Fianna Fáil! The heart of Cathleen Ni Houlihan! The county that was described by one enthusiastic Fianna Fáil member of the County Council as  the Banner County of Irish Republicanism !
Mr. Dillon: And “No Surrender!” That just describes it. “Pay nobody anything; we are Irish Republicans to the last ditch!” Can the Minister explain that? Is the absence of one penny of rates collected in Clare due to a Blueshirt conspiracy, and if it is, had he not better start looking around for a new constituency for President de Valera, or evidently the President will lose at the next election?
Mr. Dillon: ——of Fianna Fáil, to the effect that there is a “No Rates” campaign, is pure moonshine. The fact is that you are all closing your eyes to what is wrong. You are all behaving like a whole collection of ostriches with your heads stuck in the sand. The fact is that the rates are not being paid in Clare, because the people of Clare cannot afford to pay them. That must be true, or else President de Valera's supporters in Clare are all hypocrites and frauds. They will go out and bawl “Up de Valera!” at the cross-roads, and they will vote for him. They will even vote for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Lands and Fisheries, and that demands some sacrifice of commonsense. They will even vote for him, but when it comes to doing something concrete, such as putting down the cash when President de Valera says that it is essential for the welfare of the State that they should pay up, what do they contribute? Not one farthing! Is it that  they are unable to pay? I believe they are unable. Or is it that they are typical of the support of Fianna Fáil throughout the country—loud-mouthed hypocrisy?
Mr. Dillon: They will not contribute that moral support of paying their rates, because it costs 3/- or 4/- per man to do it. That is a dilemma out of which the Minister for Local Government and Public Health must get himself. One or other of those theories must be correct. Now, there might be some peculiar circumstances in Clare which would explain the inability of the Banner County to meet the just demands of their beloved representative, President de Valera. But Councillor MacMahon—F.F. in brackets—took the field at the Clare County Council. He was there asked to support a resolution drawing the Government's attention to the inability of the people of Clare to meet the rate collector's demand, because they were suffering acutely in the economic struggle. Now Mr. MacMahon is full of purposeful patriotism when it comes to voting for a resolution, and he rose and said that “the adoption of the resolution would create chaos, because the people would expect some fairy wand would be waved and the institution maintained hereafter without their being asked to contribute. They could not blind their eyes to the fact that there were hardships on the people, but let not the Banner County be the first to put up the white flag.” He would not put up the white flag, but he would not pay his rates. Mr. MacMahon was full of patriotic fervour, but he would not pay even 6/8.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy, but it appears to me that he is singling out a particular councillor as not paying his rates, and that is an impression that should not be given.
Mr. Dillon: Well, he may have none to pay, but he might get his supporters and friends to pay. The position is that no one in Clare has paid his rates. I think it is peculiarly typical of Clare that while they were not prepared to raise the white flag, but were prepared to stand behind Cathleen Ni Houlihan, the one thing that costs a few shillings to the country is the thing that they are not prepared to do. Some peculiar circumstances may have arisen in Clare which would explain the state of affairs there. I now pass on to the other fortress of patriotic fervour, the County of Kerry—the Kingdom—where the I.R.A. formed fours. The warrant there amounts to £133,700, and after great scraping in the whole of the Kingdom of Kerry £29 was collected. Is there a conspiracy in Kerry not to pay rates? Are the supporters of Deputy Crowley, Deputy Flynn and Deputy Kissane in a conspiracy not to pay rates, and, if so, have these loyal Deputies been called to a reckoning with the President in his office? If they have not been so called, are they going to be prosecuted for organising a conspiracy in the County Kerry not to pay rates? Perhaps Deputy Flynn's wee gun that he was asked by somebody to lend to somebody else has been at work in order to prevent the payment of rates in the County Kerry. We all remember in this House Deputy's Flynn's embarrassment when a letter was read requesting a friend of his to lend to another friend a wee gun. I wonder has that wee gun been in operation in the County Kerry?
Mr. Dillon: I am trying to find some reason why the rates in the County Kerry have not been paid. The Minister's commissioners have gone to Waterford, Tipperary and Kilkenny, and they say that there is a dark conspiracy to prevent the payment of rates but what are the facts? None of the counties which I have mentioned are a bit worse than the Banner County  of Clare or the ultra patriotic Kingdom of Kerry. Is the Minister going to explain to the satisfaction of this House why it is that there is conspiracy in one county not to pay rates and just inability in another? Why is it that where President de Valera's supporters reside it is inability to pay, and where the supporters of Fine Gael reside it is a dark conspiracy not to pay, and where the non-payment of them is made the subject of prosecutions before the Military Tribunal? Why are not the military, the tanks and the recent additions to the police force sent down to Clare or to Kerry to deal with the situation? The conditions that obtain in Kerry and in Clare obtain in every other county in the State, and it is that the decent, respectable farmers who have always paid their rates have been made unable to pay them as a result of the activities of the Fianna Fáil Government. There is no use in sending lorries and military and secret police or spies down to any of these counties. There will be no necessity for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands to send down the battering ram, the bailiff or the evicting gang to any of these counties if he and his colleagues will give the people the chance to earn a livelihood. If they get that chance they will pay their way as they have always done. If the Minister and his colleagues are going to create a situation wherein these people cannot earn a livelihood then neither his bailiffs nor his battering rams will get out of them what they have not got to give.
Mr. Dillon: It is better that I should speak hard words, so that the Government may be warned of the direction in which they are wandering perhaps inadvertently. I have too high a respect even for Deputy Donnelly to believe that he will be a party to the employment of the battering ram in this country, or of the evicting gang. I believe there are some Deputies on the benches opposite with sufficient independence left to them still to resist that. The Deputy will remember that his colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands,  sat silent yesterday when I asked him if it was proposed to evict a widow woman and her family because she was unable to pay the demands that the State was making on her. He did not deny that he was going to do it, or would try to do it, but I have every confidence that if such an attempt were made in that case or in any group of cases, that Deputy Donnelly and a few of the Deputies who sit with him— Deputies reared in the country, and who know the conditions in the country —would not help the Government to do it. It is much better that we should ventilate that now, before so mad an enterprise is embarked upon. Deputy Donnelly and his colleagues should warn the Government that they are not going to be made parties to the use of the battering ram or of the evicting gang.
Mr. Dillon: I am angling to nail the Deputy's ear to the post and I have reason to hope that he is not going to lend his support to that. I have often said that there are a great many who have not the wherewithal to pay their rates. Let me call evidence in support of that thesis. It is unnecessary to deal here with the income of the agricultural community, because that has been referred to on many occasions in this House. Deputies know as well as I do that the income of the farming community has been halved in the last two years, and is steadily dwindling. Take the figures for outdoor relief, which is only given to destitute persons. There is a statutory obligation on local authorities to give outdoor relief, but that only arises when the danger of hunger accrues, so that we are not dealing with a variable class of persons. We are dealing only with that class of persons who are immediately threatened with hunger and destitution, and who turn to the local authorities for protection from that threat. In 1931 the average weekly outdoor relief paid in Saorstát Eireann was £11,000. That was a sufficient sum to protect every individual in this State  threatened with destitution, from destitution and hunger. Then we had a year of the Fianna Fáil Government, and the amount of outdoor relief paid rose to £12,956.
Mr. Dillon: In 1933, the weekly outdoor relief rose to £16,200. Then in 1934, we have the impact of the Unemployment Assistance Act, which takes a very considerable burden off the rates. I think Deputy Briscoe will agree with that. A very large burden was taken off the local rates by the Unemployment Assistance Act. In fact, one would imagine that every able-bodied person in receipt of outdoor relief would be taken off the outdoor relief list by the Unemployment Assistance Act, but after that Act has been put into operation what do we discover? That the only effect it has succeeded in bringing about is to leave the home assistance relief bill much larger than it was in 1931 before the Unemployment Assistance Act was introduced at all.
Mr. Dillon: Unfortunately a very large body of the occupiers of agricultural land are getting home assistance because they are in a state of destitution. I refer to the case which was reported in the newspapers very recently in which a rate collector went to the house of a woman with five children. He sued her and brought her before the courts. She came before the court and explained her position, and the comment of the District Justice was: “This woman should never have been sued. She is entitled to outdoor relief, but she is sued in this court as a ratepayer.” I am making the complaint that the burden here is in direct relation  to the relief being provided under this Bill. I am making the case that the Government has converted hundreds and thousands of farmers in this country from self-supporting, self-respecting members of the community into dole getters and individuals who are living on outdoor relief, and that, at the same time——
Mr. O Ceallaigh: Might I interrupt? The Deputy quotes a case in which one individual was prosecuted for the non-payment of rates. Is it not a fact that the arrears of rates in that case extended over many years?
Mr. O Ceallaigh: I do not know in what county it occurred, but Deputy Mulcahy referred to it earlier, and my recollection is that, as he read it out, there were arrears for many years and the Justice wondered why these arrears were carried from year to year.
Mr. Dillon: I do not profess to say how many, because I do not remember at the moment, but the case is here amongst the papers. I see the point the Minister is trying to make. The point the Minister is trying to make is that there is nobody unable to pay his rates to-day except those who were unable to pay in previous years.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I wonder would the Deputy remember that there is a Standing Order which precludes a Deputy from anticipating discussion on a motion following the particular matter under discussion at the moment?
Mr. Dillon: Surely I am making the case that the farmers of the country have been reduced to destitution by the Minister and the present proposal for their relief is ineffective and inadequate because, in fact, they have been reduced to destitution by the Minister. I further make the case that his suggestion, that their failure to pay rates to-day is due to a conspiracy not to do so, is all pure nonsense, and I make that directly relevant to his proposal that the credit note should become valueless if it is not used before March, 1935. It is necessary that we should face facts, because Fianna Fáil propaganda at the present time suggests that a great boon is going to be conferred on the agricultural community by the Minister under this Bill. In fact, not only is any appreciable advantage not being conferred upon the agricultural community by this Bill, but the agricultural community is being reduced to absolute destitution and ruin by the Minister, taking his whole policy into purview. I put it to the Minister that the sooner he and his colleagues wake up to what is happening under their very noses the better it will be for the country, because the longer this process of attrition goes on the more catastrophic will be its results. There is no reason why the whole business should not be settled and why all the difficulties in connection with rate collection should not be overcome. There is only one way of doing it, and that is to restore to the people the capacity to meet their obligations. You will be able to get rates in Clare and in Kerry just as well as in Waterford and Tipperary. In the meantime, in the name of justice, do not go around the country alleging that the farmer who lives in Waterford and in Tipperary, and who is a supporter of Fine Gael, is a conspirator and a dastard because he is unable to pay,  while the farmer who lives in Kerry and Clare is a patriot and a self-sacrificing individual because he shouts “Up de Valera” and keeps his rates in his pocket.
Mr. Dillon: Is not the fact there before you? Not one penny rate is collected in County Clare. Why? Will Deputy Donnelly get up after me and explain why there has not been one penny collected in Clare?
Mr. Dillon: I tell the Deputy that the people of Clare and Kerry have been paying their rates and land annuities for the past 50 years and that there was never any difficulty in collecting what these people legitimately owed until the Deputy and his Party appeared on the scene.
Mr. Dillon: There might have been a little reluctance or slowness but, in the long run, the people paid their way and made no bones about it. There was never any serious difficulty until the Deputy and his Party came on the scene. Is not that true?
Mr. Dillon: There could be nothing more reasonable than that. I hope  the Minister's explanation will be more convincing than that of the Minister for Agriculture when I put him a query some days ago. He said he did not believe what I alleged to be true, because it was too silly. He declared that President de Valera could not have said what I alleged he said, because it was too silly. The Minister for Agriculture has consulted the references I gave him and he has discovered to his horror that silly and all as it was, the President said it. I hope that the Minister for Local Government will not try to explain the figures in Clare and Kerry on the grounds that they are not true because they look too silly. Unfortunately, they are just as true as the allegation I made about the President of the Executive Council. You cannot get out of that dilemma. It is unanswerable and yet it has to be met. If you take the view that those people cannot pay, you must turn your minds to the reasons why they cannot pay. If you have any moral courage, when you find those reasons you will at once set out to correct them. I very much doubt if any of you have any moral courage. Your reaction to it will be to shout “Up the Republic,”“We are fighting John Bull and we will not put up the white flag.” You will collect on your various contracts, your tobacco contracts, your wheat bounty contracts and your beet contracts, and, having collected that money, you will all shout: “Up de Valera,” as well many of you might. I do not blame you at all.
Mr. Dillon: Ah! I have succeeded in drawing Deputy Breen into the discussion. Perhaps Deputy Breen will pay us the courtesy of intervening in this debate. We hear his voice so seldom, it would be refreshing to have a statesmanlike contribution from him. The last time we had a statesmanlike contribution from Deputy Breen the whole front bench opposite fainted; he almost gave the President apoplexy. I invite the Deputies who are so anxious to interrupt me to  intervene in the discussion and present the House and the country with their theories of why the people in Clare and Kerry have not paid a penny rates. My theory is that they cannot pay because you have made them destitute. I suggest to Deputy Corry, and particularly Deputy Breen, that they might usefully intervene. I would like to hear Deputy Breen on this, to learn his opinion why the people of Clare and Kerry have paid virtually nothing in respect of rates which the Minister for Local Government declares are essential to the good government and continued welfare of the country.
Mr. Corry: I suggest to Deputy Dillon that this question of why the people of Clare and Kerry will not pay their rates should be sent to the International Court of Justice, where he is going to tell Jimmie Thomas he is going to settle our case to-morrow or hereafter.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Let us be clear about one thing. The ordinary courtesies that are usually extended should be preserved in this House, especially in regard to a person who is a member of the Government of another State. Surely that courtesy ought to be extended to him?
Mr. Corry: I withdraw. I should have said Mr. Thomas, with all due respect. Deputy Dillon has been telling us here the reasons why people cannot pay their rates and the way out for us. He enlightened us a few nights ago as to how he would do the job. He said he would stand up four square with Mr. Thomas, and he was going to tell Mr. Thomas this, that and the other thing. He was going to tell him “without yielding my position I would not ask them to yield theirs.” Finally he said that the whole matter could be argued before the International Court of Justice. A Deputy who does not know what the economic war is about now comes forward and says: “Why do you not settle it?” Such sublimated idiocy I never heard the beating of.
Mr. Corry: Deputy Mulcahy was also very anxious about the poor people who could not pay their rates. Why did they not pay? Because they were ordered not to pay. He read out a list of those who have been ruined by the economic war and he mentioned councillors, clergymen, teachers and dispensary doctors. Those are the people who would not pay their rates in County Cork, as read out from an auditor's report by Deputy Mulcahy.
Mr. Corry: They included teachers, clergymen, dispensary doctors, and even the staff of the county council could not pay their rates because they had received orders from the Blueshirt organisation not to pay. They could not go around to the unfortunate farmers and tell them to pay their rates while the dispensary doctors were not paying theirs. That is why the rates were not paid. They were not paid until the back was broken of this kind of society that has been carrying on that game. Those people who have all the sympathy for the unfortunate ratepayers send out their gangs at night to cut trees, telegraph wires, knock down bridges, block trains and put on more cost on the unfortunate ratepayers whom they say are unable to pay their rates. That is the game. One gentleman, according to the daily Press, said he was acting under the orders of the League of Youth. He was putting a further burden on the unfortunate ratepayers by cutting trees and telegraph poles. When they have done all that they say: “I am very sorry, Sir; I acted on bad advice.”
That has been the position brought about by Deputies who went down the country last year warning the people publicly not to pay their rates. That campaign, however, failed and, as proof of that, I can tell the House that, in the three days before 31st March of this year, there was lodged in the offices of the Cork County Council £98,000 in rates. They sold their blue shirts for 19/10 of a credit note. These are the patriots—the men who advised the people not to pay their rates were also sold for 19/10 of a credit note which expired on 31st March and they paid in £98,000 in rates in the three days preceding that.
We have Deputies here to-day boasting of the result of that policy one after the other and getting up with their tongues in their cheeks and saying: “The poor people cannot pay.” Then we had a veiled attack on the new system by which the farmer who cultivates his land and employs labour gets more relief in respect of rates than the individual who leaves his  land derelict. I have only one regret in this matter. I think it unfair that the enormous sum of £400,000 should be still available for relief of rates on land on which no employment is being given. I think that is a matter that should be looked into and I am glad to say that the Cork County Council unanimously sent a request to the Minister that they be allowed use their share of that sum of £400,000 in the same manner as the Minister had used the other portion, namely, in relief of land according to the amount of employment provided. I would suggest to the Minister that that change should be made.
We have heard a lot of noise as to the reason why the rates were not being paid. We all know the reason why the rates are slow this year. The rates are slow on account of the working in of this new system which delayed the issue of warrants for at least four or five months. In 99 cases out of 100, warrants were issued only in the month of November and the figures read out here to-day were in respect of the period three or four days after the issue of the warrants, and before they were issued at all, in the case of County Clare, County Kerry and other counties. I heard an argument between Deputy Mulcahy and Deputy Davin to-day on that matter but the fact is that £47,000 out of £112,000 have been paid as against the £3,000 quoted by Deputy Mulcahy. The rates are coming in. Another matter which falls very heavily on the community, and to prevent which, I think, the Minister for Local Government should take steps, is the cost of the wholesale outrages that are being committed on the advice of the Party opposite through the country. The burden of the cost of these outrages falls on the ratepayers. Where the individuals committing the outrages are a mark for the money and when a man is caught cutting a tree, he, and not the unfortunate ratepayers, should be compelled to pay for the tree he cuts.
Mr. Corry: That is the actual position with regard to the reason why the rate has not been collected. One suggestion I would make to the Minister is that, on account of the late issue of the warrants this year, which is largely not the fault of the county councils concerned, he should be a little more liberal in the payment of the Agricultural Grant in the earlier portion of the year. County councils are very hard hit in the matter of overdrafts on account of that particular issue, and I think the Minister ought to do his utmost in that regard. I do not intend to delay the House further. I merely rose to give the facts as they are when I heard the arguments from the other side.
Mr. P. Burke: As so much has been said about the Banner County, I feel, having the honour of being one of the representatives of the constituency which elected the President, that I should say a few words. I should like, first of all, to say that there is no conspiracy in Clare against the payment of either rates or annuities, and I must corroborate Deputy Dillon when he says that little, or none at all, of the rates has been paid so far this year. Our rate for this year is £102,636, and very little, if any, has been paid so far.
Mr. Burke: They were issued a month or two ago, but whenever they were issued, we are asked to pay the first moiety on the last day of this month, and we are asked to pay the complete year's rate within the next three months or so, in order to qualify for this credit note. I suppose that credit note can be described as either an inducement to, or a compulsion on, the ratepayers to pay, but the position in Clare, as I know it, is that we are selling good two-year-old cattle at from 50/- to £3 and £3 10s., and two  years ago they were worth at least £10 or £12. The women in that county were selling turkeys a few days ago at 5d. a lb., and two years ago they received 1/3 a lb. for them. The only little industry we can claim to have in County Clare is the rearing of store cattle, turkeys and pigs, together with the little advantage we derive from creameries established by Deputy Paddy Hogan, the former Minister for Agriculture. In my area we built a creamery five years ago, and the first payment we got in that creamery was 1/7½ per lb. for butter fat, and to-day we are receiving the noble sum of 9d. That is more or less due to the recent levy imposed by the Government and to the reduction of 2/- per cwt. in the price of butter.
We are asked to employ extra labourers on the farms. I should like to know for what purpose. Can any Deputy say what the farmer can produce at the moment that will pay him for his labour? I believe that, bad and all as the position of the labourers is, they are better off than their masters at the present time.
Mr. Burke: I said that in County Clare, we had only one factory and that is the creamery. We have no beet in County Clare and we have very little wheat. Two-thirds of the county cannot grow either beet or wheat, so that this litter of baby white elephants will not be any use to the people of County Clare. We will not grow beet—we are unable to do so—and we are more or less unable to grow wheat. As regards the rates, the people of County Clare who elected the President were under the impression at the time that there would be complete de-rating of agricultural land and now the only consolation we have—and we heard it very recently— is that rates should be increased. The people of the county which I have the honour to represent are prepared to pay their rates but we want to be put in a position to pay. Our fairs and markets are a thing of the past. We have nothing else to depend on there. We have no factory of any kind. I would suggest to the Ministry that the  only remedy, in order to enable the people to pay, is to settle this so-called economic war. I believe, as an Irishman—and I claim to be as Irish as the other good Irishmen who sit on the other benches—that we all should co-operate at least in setting this thing called an economic war. I believe it can be settled in an honourable fashion, without making any sacrifices of our Irish nationality or of our Irish principles. I would say that the sooner it is settled the better and the more creditable to all concerned, because it will settle itself whether we like it or not.
Mr. Burke: Unfortunately, it will perhaps have so settled itself, before the Government of the day will be big enough to go and settle it. Deputy Donnelly asks me how to settle it. I would suggest that if he went over to Mr. Thomas, instead of asking me, he might come home with a better result.
Mr. Burke: A lot has been said about the Banner County. That county was famous for having elected O'Connell, Redmond and the President of the Irish Free State. I would make an appeal to the President to make every effort to settle this war, and as soon as possible. I think the sooner it is settled the more creditable it would be to the President, because, as I have just said, it will have to settle itself if it is not settled by somebody very soon. We have made fame and name for this country by the production of many things—racehorses greyhounds, cattle, pigs, and so on.
Mr. Burke: We are also, I believe, famous for the production of blackthorn sticks. I wonder if we could not bring those into useful effect, with the addition of some fishing gut, to try and get rid of the few British uniforms in Cobh and Berehaven. Then, perhaps, we might unite on both sides of the House and say that we have a free Ireland without a British uniform in it.
 I think the great objection of a lot of the people I speak of through the country, who support Fianna Fáil, is that we have not freedom while we have a few uniforms belonging to the British on Irish soil. I have suggested that, with the help of the blackthorn sticks and the fishing gut, we might be able to hunt them out of it, and then we will have a prosperous Ireland!
Minister for Local Government and Public Health (Mr. O Ceallaigh): I do not think, in concluding the debate, that I need say a great lot with reference to the speeches that have been delivered, mostly from the Opposition Benches. We have rambled very far afield in this debate. The economic war was, as one would naturally expect, dragged in. One would have thought that on the subject of rates alone—it is an important subject—and local government in general, one would have had enough to deal with on a Bill of this kind, without rambling even as far as Deputy Bennett did. He is not such a rambler, as far as my recollection of him goes, but he certainly took a fairly wide scope in dealing with this measure. It struck me, in listening to some of the speeches, that the Deputies had not gone to the trouble of reading the Bill, because while Deputy Mulcahy, who started off referred once or twice to the Bill, he did so only in a vague kind of way. He never made any reference whatever to the amount of the Agricultural Grant of this year. He did tell us all we were not doing for agriculture. He told us all about the speeches made at a dozen different county council meetings, and about speeches made by District Justices, but he paid very little attention to the Bill itself. Deputy Bennett, I must say, paid more attention to it than almost anybody, because he did make one or two suggestions as to where, according to him, the Bill might be amended.
There is a lot of talk about the amount of rates that has been collected this year. I said in my opening speech on the Second Reading of the Bill that there had been delay this year—and  delay was necessary this year—in introducing this Bill for the legalisation of the additional Agricultural Grant, and I explained why. The reason was that the new system which is being introduced this year for the distribution of a certain part of the Agricultural Grant on the basis of the amount of employment given by agriculturists necessitated a very big amount of additional work being done by the secretaries, the staffs in general, and the collectors of rates in every county. At least three months were required in every county to collect the information which was necessary so that the proper allocation of the moneys could be made. Three months and, in some cases, even a bit longer, were taken by the staffs of the county councils in collecting that information. We wanted to have the information as realiable as possible. We wanted to give the farmers full time and full notice as to what was in store for them, and we wanted to give them time to send in the returns. As we know, without any reflection on the agriculturists more than any other members of the community, they are not too quick in sending in the various statistical forms that are required by the county council to be filled up in connection with this and other matters. Although they were notified several times and called on in person several times, in addition to which a registered letter was finally forwarded to everyone who had not sent in the form, nevertheless there are agriculturists in different parts of the country who will complain very bitterly because they will not get relief this year by reason of the fact that they did not send in the forms. That caused delay, and that delay is responsible for the fact that in many cases the rates were not struck until the month of September. Some were struck early in September and some late in September. The striking of the rate was, therefore, several months later than usual.
Much play has been made by Deputy Dillon and others on the question as to why County Clare—we all know the reason why they chose County Clare— was recorded as having no rates paid on the 30th September. The fact of  the matter, I am sure, was that the rate warrant was not issued in a great many cases. The demand notes certainly were not issued by the 30th September in the vast majority of cases in the Co. Clare. Therefore, it is quite true that the return of rates paid in the Co. Clare up to the 30th September was given as nil, the reason being that they were not asked to pay their rates. The same applies in several other counties. It applies in South Tipperary and Westmeath, and to the extent that only a small percentage was paid it is also true in a great number of other cases. In Galway, 6 per cent. was paid by the 30th September; in Kerry, .1 per cent. was paid, and in Kilkenny, .1 per cent. had also been paid by the 30th September. Some other counties had a great deal more paid on that date. Wicklow had .4 per cent.; Wexford had .5 per cent., and so on. In those counties demand notes were not issued at the usual time.
In some cases they were issued four or five months later than usual. That is the reason why the rate collection was as bad as it appeared to be on September 30th. In reply to Deputy Mulcahy, Deputy Davin stated that in Leix £40,000 had been paid at the end of November. I asked the Department what amount had actually been paid in Leix and I was told to-day that out of a warrant of £121,000 £53,000 had actually been paid to date. I do not doubt that in other counties the amounts paid to date, while they may not be as good as is evident in the case of Leix, where the warrant was only issued in September, there has been a very good collection. I have the figures to the 30the November and they show that amounts ranging from 45 per cent. down have been paid in a great many counties. I have no reason at all to say that I am dissatisfied with the vast majority of the counties, in the way they are doing their work, in so far as the collection of rates is concerned, up to the 30th of last month.
I say that there has been, in some areas of some counties—not in any whole county—a deliberate attempt to prevent the collection of rates and to encourage people not to pay. I will  quote Deputy Bennett, not his actual words, but I remember reading a speech in which he stated that he could pay but did not pay, and his cattle were seized. He was not saying that he could not pay, that he had not the money to pay, but had the money and did not pay.
Mr. Bennett: On a point of order. The Minister's accusation against me was made on a previous occasion, and words I did not use were quoted. I am not admitting that what appeared in the newspapers was correct.
Mr. Bennett: What appeared in the papers was: “I will not say I could not find the money.” I wanted to be as fair as I could. I will not say that I could not find the money. That is different from saying I could not pay. In making the statement I wanted definitely to be honest with the people that I made it to. It would be possible for me to find the money, not from my farming earnings, or from any other earnings, but by endeavouring to borrow. It would have been possible in that way. I was definitely honest in making that statement to farming people. I was not making the claim that I could not find the money, and I am not claiming that I could not find it.
Mr. O Ceallaigh: I am glad to have given Deputy Bennett an opportunity of saying exactly what he did say, because I heard the words quoted against him. I do not want to misrepresent Deputy Bennett or any other people. I called the attention of Deputy Bennett to the matter, and he admits that he had credit enough to pay. Any man who has credit or who can get the money at all is bound to pay his rates.
Mr. Bennett: As a personal explanation, as the Minister has quoted me, I may say definitely that I have always preached the principle—and I defy anyone to say otherwise as far as rates are concerned—that they were in a different category to annuities, and that the public services should be maintained, where it was possible to do so.
Mr. O Ceallaigh: I am glad to have that expression from Deputy Bennett. I do not want to misquote or misrepresent him, but I remember reading a statement in the newspapers. I have not got it here, but if I have misrepresented him——
Mr. O Ceallaigh: ——I did not intend to do so. The Deputy knows that rates have to be paid and that local authorities have to collect them. I know that resolutions which were passed by certain political organisations, with which Deputies opposite are associated, calling for the non-payment of rates have ceased in the last few months. Responsible heads on the Opposition Benches realised that that was not a profitable game to play, and they have quietly encouraged their people to drop the campaign against rates, and they are dropping the campaign against the payment of the annuities. I do not know whether or not they are doing that on the advice of their leaders, or  some of their leaders, perhaps, but it has been dropped, because it does not pay.
We have made a considerable addition each year, over several years, to the Agricultural Grant, with one exception, when there was a decrease because, at the same time, we had made other provision for the agricultural community. That gives them a great advantage over previous years. The annuities have been halved, and it was thought that the very exceptional sum given in the Agricultural Grant the previous year would not be so necessary now. We find that the position of agriculturists has not improved, that world prices of agricultural produce have continued to decline, and ours, of course, have declined. Conditions are such that we realise that agriculturists want what help the Exchequer can provide for them. But we have to measure our help to the agricultural community in accordance with our cloth, in accordance with the money in the Exchequer, as we have to think of other classes in the community. This year we brought into operation an Unemployment Assistance Act which relieved the rates to a very considerable extent. In the boroughs and in certain urban areas, certain additional rates had to be put on to bear some of the cost of the bill for unemployment assistance. The county councils were not asked to do so, and therefore, they have benefited to the extent that they have been relieved considerably by the Unemployment Assistance Act. That should be borne in mind, particularly when we are comparing one year with another, in order to see how the agricultural community is being helped by the Government through this Bill for the relief of rates on agricultural land, as well as from other sources.
Mr. Belton: I deliberately abstained from making a speech because, in my opinion, there was too much talk about the economic war and I wanted to get away from it. I am putting that definite question now. Leaving the economic war there in operation—no matter what side we are on with regard to the economic war it is there —there is a loss borne by a certain section because it is there. I will not say what section that is. Should not the Minister, in considering the matter for normal times, specially consider the case for abnormal times?
Mr. O Ceallaigh: Does not the Deputy know—I am sure he knows as well as I do, because he takes a particular interest in agriculture—all that has been done in the last three years since this economic struggle started? Does he not know that the annuities have been halved?
Mr. O Ceallaigh: A half a million, in round figures, has been paid to relieve county councils and others of the burden put upon them through additional unemployment. There has been a considerable increase since 1932 in the Agricultural Grant.
Mr. O Ceallaigh: So that I am satisfied that we have done as much as could reasonably be expected, considering our resources, to meet the difficulties of the agricultural community. There were two points raised by Deputy Bennett, one with regard to women and the other with regard to the time limit for the credit notes. I must say that my own view is that it is advisable that the Government should do all they can to encourage the employment of men rather than women everywhere, in every industry. I think from every point of view, for moral reasons as well as economic reasons, that that is good policy, and that, especially at the present time, when so many men find it so difficult to get employment, anything the Government can do by way of encouragement to people of all classes and in every industry to employ males rather than females is all to the good.
Mr. O Ceallaigh: Even of that I am not satisfied. I would not pretend to enter into a discussion on the details of agriculture with the Deputy or any other agriculturist. I have not the knowledge or experience to do that, but, speaking generally, from my limited knowledge of agriculture, I would say that there are very few things that could not be as well done by men as by women. Take the milking of cows. I am sure that in many cases that is done in Limerick by the large farmers, at any rate, by machinery.
Mr. O Ceallaigh: It is done in many places in County Dublin by machinery. That could be done better, I think, by men than by women. The making of butter is largely a machine process  now—I am talking of butter making on the farm, not in the creameries.
Mr. O Ceallaigh: That matter has been trotted out frequently here by Deputies Cosgrave, Mulcahy and others, and not one of them has attempted to produce the document. Until they do, we are at liberty to dispute that statement and say it was never made.
Mr. O Ceallaigh: I should like it to be done and the names and the authority quoted. I could produce a document any day and, if I was not prepared to stand over it and give the names, what use would it be? Deputy Dillon, like others, rambled a good deal in this debate and talked about destitution and starvation. I shall not follow him through the wandering speech he made; but I will say that if there is destitution and starvation in the country we have not heard of anybody dying of destitution and starvation since this Government came into office. We have on record, in the public Press and elsewhere, authoritative evidence of the fact that people did die of starvation——
Mr. O Ceallaigh: I do not think there is anything else I need answer. We are making all the efforts we can to meet a situation that we realise, so far as the agricultural community is concerned, is a difficult one. We realise that things are not now even what they were last year and certainly not what they were four or five years ago. Prices have fallen rapidly and that is a situation that necessitates the very close attention of this or any Government.
It is a situation that I am sure is getting close attention in all countries affected as ours is by the heavy fall in agricultural prices. But we are no exception. That collapse in agricultural prices is world-wide. I think we are doing more considering our resources to help the agricultural community than is being done by most of the Governments affected as we are by falling prices. In proportion to our resources a great deal more has been done here than elsewhere. I am not saying that everything has been done but I would say that everything that can be done has been done and will be done. I am not going to say that everybody is going to be satisfied or that even a quarter of the agricultural community would stand up and  say they were satisfied. Naturally, the desire of all is to get more help. When times are hard people will make big demands.
I think the country, as a whole, is satisfied that we have done well. That has been proved by the recent elections. Deputies opposite clamoured for the holding of these elections this year. They complained that we were holding them back. We faced the electors and Deputies know the result. Without the help of the agriculturists in all the counties where the people make their living by farming, we could not have got a majority; if the farming people were dissatisfied with us we would have been defeated. However, we improved our position. There was evident a feeling on the part of the farmers, a feeling and disposition that this Government was doing its best for them. That is clear from the votes that were recorded. We have done our best and we continue to do it, and if more money will be available to help agriculturists over their difficulties, the Government will put it at their disposal.
The Fianna Fáil Party is very largely composed of agriculturists. They know the feeling of agriculturists and of the farming community generally. The members of the Fianna Fáil Party are not in any way silent in pressing the claims of the farmers. But the Government has to look to all classes of the community. They have to deal fairly with every class. We believe we are doing that and we are out to help agriculturists in every way over their difficulties.
Mr. Belton: Might I ask the Minister a question dealing with the concluding part of his speech? Is he not aware that there is dissatisfaction amongst the agricultural community, regardless of politics, not in regard to the economic war, but as to the distribution of the burden caused by the economic war? I am just putting that question to the Minister, and I want to put a supplementary to it. Will the Minister give the agricultural community a commission to inquire into this—even let them be selected from his own followers —drawn entirely from the ranks of his  own Party? I put that question to the Minister because he must know that members of his own Party feel——
Mr. Bennett: On a personal explanation, I want to say that when speaking a while ago I gave a quotation from a speech delivered by the Minister in Limerick. That quotation represented him as saying that the rates were not high enough, or something to that effect. I think, in his speech since, the Minister rather suggested that that was a misquotation of his remarks in Limerick. If the Minister is satisfied that that is so, I wish to tell him that I have here a report of the speech made by him in Limerick——
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