Thursday, 6 June 1935
Dáil Éireann Debate
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £55,281 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thoicfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1936, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Tailte i dtaobh Seirbhísí na Gaeltachta, maraon le Deontaisí um Thógáil Tithe.
That a sum not exceeding £55,281 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Lands in connection with Gaeltacht Services, including Housing Grants.
Minister for Lands (Mr. Connolly): The Estimate for the current year is a sum of £82,881, being a net reduction of £28,593 on the figure for the preceding year. At first glance, this may seem a substantial reduction but on closer examination it will be observed that the actual gross amount proposed to be expended during the current year is down by £13,898 only, the receipts by way of appropriations-in-aid being estimated to exceed those voted last year by £14,695. It will further be observed that the salaries and expenses of the Minister, Parliamentary  Secretary and their staffs have been transferred from this Vote to the Vote for Lands and that there have been other adjustments on the headquarters staff, so that in effect the actual amount of money which it is proposed to expend on the Gaeltacht Services is less by £10,856 only. This reduction of £10,856 is made up of reductions of £3,423 in the expenditure on rural industries, £6,973 on marine products, £312 on the central marketing depôt, and £950 on the provision for teachers' houses, totalling £11,658, against which must be set off an increase on other sub-heads of £802, leaving a net decrease of £10,856 as compared with last year.
Before referring to the sub-heads of this Vote in detail, I should like to say something about the two main items on which expenditure is down, that is to say, rural industries, for which £3,423 less than last year is required and marine products, for which I am providing £6,973 less than last year.
Looking first at the estimate for Rural Industries, sub-heads E1 to E7, it will be observed that the main constituent parts of the reduction are £2,000 approximately in salaries, wages and allowances, and £1,000 in advertising, and lest there be any misconception on the question of the reduction in salaries, wages, etc., I should like to explain that the sub-head covering wages, salaries, etc., in the estimate does not include the payments made to the ordinary workers engaged in the industries. The workers' earnings are not shown in these estimates; they are deducted from the actual selling price of the articles manufactured before the net amount is brought to credit as appropriations-in-aid. The reductions shown in this sub-head relate to the salaries or wages of a number of instructors and instructresses whose services I have been reluctantly compelled to terminate.
Deputies will recollect that, on the presentation of the estimates for the year 1934-35, I indicated that I was not satisfied that money voted for the  purpose of rendering assistance to the depressed areas in the Gaeltacht was being spent to the best purpose. Since then, I have had an opportunity of examining the position in more detail, as a result of which I have definitely satisfied myself that the method of distribution was wasteful and that far too great a proportion of the money was being expended, not on the workers for whom the State intended, but on instructional salaries and administration charges. At the same time, stocks were being piled up at centres and at headquarters for which a market could not readily be found, or, if found, such market was at prices which in no way represented the cost of the finished article. For the institution of the arrangement which caused this expenditure or for its continuance, I take no responsibility save to assure the House that I could not favour a system which resulted in an undue percentage of the money voted going in administrative and managerial costs rather than to the workers. It was accordingly necessary to close down, for the time being, some centres at which overhead expenses were out of all proportion to the results.
With regard to the centres which have been closed down, we have been able to arrange for some of them to be taken over and operated by local groups. Wherever this is possible, it is being done and it will, I think, be of advantage to the local workers. In the first place, it will be possible to cater for the demand for goods produced in local areas and it should insure closer supervision and more economical control than is possible by the Department. Where it is not possible to dispose of closed-down centres in this way, every effort will be made to have them reopened when existing stocks have been reduced or when new and additional markets have been secured. At the present time we have 23 centres operating. Not all of these are as good as we would wish but, on the whole, the volume of employment afforded by them and the prospects of future development do justify the continued  cost of management and administration involved.
A regrettable feature of the closing down of some of these centres is that we have had to dispense with the services of the instructresses. Some of these instructresses have long service, but are not entitled to pensions. Such of them as have service prior to the transfer of Government are entitled to make application to the Civil Service Compensation Board for compensation and this is being done. In the case of the instructresses who have been trained by the Department during recent years the blow is not quite so severe though the loss of employment is to be regretted.
Next as to the reduction of almost £7,000 in the amount provided for marine products, sub-heads F1 to F4, most Deputies are familiar with the unfortunate situation in regard to kelp, a situation which has been forced on this and other countries interested in the production of iodine from seaweed by a strong South American combine having for its object the extinction of its competitors. The price of iodine has fallen to about one-third of its real value, at which we find it is not economic to collect seaweed for burning and for that reason a large reduction on the sum previously inserted for kelp has had to be made. But I doubt now whether we shall be able to expend even the amount we have budgeted for.
When the estimates were being prepared there was a hope, which I shared, that the market would soon show an upward tendency and we provided for the purchase of an amount not exceeding 1,000 tons of the spring weed. I regret to say that this optimistic opinion has not materialised and that as the market looks at present we cannot undertake to purchase kelp in any considerable quantities this year as the acquisition of any large quantity would involve substantial loss which we could not justify having regard to the stocks of approximately 6,000 tons which we at present hold in store. I can assure Deputies that no avenue is being left unexplored as regards any  possible use to which seaweed or its products might be put and if any reasonable prospect of disposal at anything approaching prime cost materialises I shall be pleased to make arrangements for the restoration of the normal purchase of kelp. It is not that the Department seeks to make a profit out of kelp nor even hesitates to face a substantial loss on it, but the problem is to find any market at all that would, in any way, compensate the gatherers without throwing an unjustifiable charge on the State. It is proposed to dispose of as much as possible of our existing stocks during the current year in the hope that we may be able to offer some price for the winter weed early next season.
Taking the sub-heads now in order, the reduction under sub-head A on the administrative staff is due primarily to the deletion of the salary of the secretary of the Department, the duties now being taken over by the secretary of the Land Commission. The reduction of £584 in the total salaries, etc., for rural industries, marine products and housing branches is explained by the amalgamation of marine products and industries branches, involving a reduction in establishment of one higher executive officer and other minor administrative changes.
In the accounts branch the reduction of £352 is due to the substitution of one junior executive officer by one clerical officer, after making allowance for additional costs by way of annual increments payable to staff.
Under sub-head B, travelling expenses have been reduced to a figure more commensurate with requirements, having regard to our experience of the actual expenditure incurred by officers engaged upon these duties over a number of years. The variations shown in sub-heads C and D, being casual, call for no comment.
It will be observed that a reduction of £2,003 has been made in sub-heads E1, relating to the salaries payable to instructors, instructresses and organisers. As I have already intimated, I could not justify the payment of an instructress where the amount of wages paid to the workers was but a  fraction of the administrative cost of the centre. I, therefore, found it necessary to cease work at centres where this was the case until it is possible with better organisation, coordination of production and sales and economical marketing, to secure adequate markets for our products. In actual operation, there are at present one instructor and 24 instructresses but we have reasonable hopes of being able to employ eight more during the course of the year. The provision of £500 in the sub-head for additional staff includes a sum which, with the savings on this and other sub-heads, will provide for the services of commercial and production managers, which are considered necessary to put the undertaking on a properly organised business basis. The variation in sub-head E (2) is casual and is based on average expenditure in previous years.
In sub-head E (3) provision has been made for the maintenance of existing looms, machines and equipment, and the substitution of about eight new machines for a similar number of machines which are worn out. This proposal is a step towards the renewal of all existing machines by newer and better types over a fixed number of years.
The provision for raw materials in sub-head E (4) remains unaltered, being based to a great extent on actual expenditure in previous years, having due regard to an extension of trade under the reorganisation scheme.
I have thought it expedient to make provision in sub-head E (5) for a sum not greatly different from that shown in the previous year. This sub-head enables the Department to award prizes at fairs or shows, or to incur expenditure within the limits provided in forwarding the interests of Gaeltacht goods exhibited at these fairs and shows.
A reduction of £1,000 has been made in the sub-head for advertising, E (6), as there is no longer the same necessity to expend large sums on bringing existing Gaeltacht products before the public. Periodical advertising will continue, but the sum suggested should  cover our needs unless the launching of some new project demands otherwise.
General expenses, as budgeted for in sub-head E (7), call for no comment, except in so far as it may be necessary to point out that the increased figure for the provision of designs is offset by the omission in subhead E (1) of the pay of an organiser for the production of knitted goods.
It will be observed that the reduction in sub-heads F (1) and F (2) in the provision for the salaries, wages and expenses of officers engaged upon the purchase of marine products is substantially due to the slump in the market for kelp following the collapse in the price of iodine and to an alteration in the method of carrageen development. It will not be necessary to employ staff to the same extent as in previous years.
Sub-head F (4), providing for the expenditure on carrageen development within the current year, shows a substantial reduction, but the Department can congratulate itself on the fact that the reduction is due to the maturing of the policy of the Department by which there is now available for all carrageen gathered in the Gaeltacht a good market. A stage has now been reached when the functions of the Department in relation to carrageen for manufacturing purposes can be limited to a supervision of the industry. An agreement has been made with a firm which will ensure the satisfactory continuation and development of the industry and that the gatherers will be paid the full price that the market will justify. Adequate safeguards have been adopted by the Department to ensure that the standard of quality will be maintained, that all carrageen offered will be purchased and that the interests of the gatherers will be protected. Food carrageen will continue to be packed at the Cashla station under the direct administration of the Department as heretofore, and provision has been made accordingly. A sum of £150 has been provided as a token sum to enable the institution of research into improved methods of marketing food carrageen. No material alterations have been made in  the provision for sub-heads G (1), (2), and (3), in relation to the staff of the central depôt and general expenses. No comment is accordingly called for.
The increase on the amount asked for under sub-head G, for industrial loans, is merely an increase from a nominal sum of £210 to a sum which will enable the Department to advance a loan of a reasonable amount should the merits of the proposal seem to warrant an expenditure on the particular scheme proposed.
In sub-head I, provision is made for the emoluments and travelling expenses of a domestic economy instructress whose meritorious service in the Gaeltacht is well known to western Deputies. No alteration has been made in the provision for grants under the Housing Acts, subhead J (1). While the amount expended for the year just past did not reach the sum provided in the Estimates, we are doing our utmost to have the work speeded up during the coming year, and, if applicants carry out their part of the agreement, no obstacle will be placed in the way of any resident of the Gaeltacht who is entitled to a grant or loan, or both, completing the work in the shortest possible time. Provision is made under sub-head J (2) for the building of one new teacher's residence and the completion of two already under construction. The appropriations-in-aid, sub-head K, consist mainly of sums brought to credit from the sales of marine products and from the sales of the products of rural industries. It is intended, if possible, to dispose of the existing stock of kelp during the current year on the best commercial basis available. We are budgeting for £10,000 from this source. The figure for rural industries has been based on previous years' experience, due regard being paid to the fact that the instructional period has now terminated and that an extension of business is not unlikely. Our gross rural industry sales for the year just ended amounted to £30,000, which was considerably in excess of our last year's Estimate. Included in these were the clearance  of certain accumulated stocks of tweeds and knit-wear goods which had been hanging over in the Department. We are gradually getting our stocks cleaned of “jobs” of inferior lots and are approaching the period when we will have our centres and our central depôt on a reasonably good business basis. I do not mean that we are out to make commercial profits in the ordinary sense but we do want to eliminate waste, to put an end to the accumulation of bad and faulty stock and to get the maximum amount in wages to the workers with the minimum amount of administrative overhead. The services of a production manager have already been secured and the Civil Service Commission is at present advertising for a commercial manager and a competent designer. When we have these arrangements complete and with the administrative reorganisation and the clearing out of old stocks that have already taken place, I am hopeful that we will be on reasonably sound lines and that our organisation will be such as will enable us to expand our existing operations and break into new lines that will give a wage return to the needy areas.
There is one branch of our work which, whilst it does not figure in our Estimates, is to me of the highest importance, and that is our interest in seeing that the activities of the other Departments of State are so guided that the greatest possible amount of assistance can be directed to the Gaeltacht areas. In our inter-departmental activities, we have received the most sympathetic assistance from all the other Departments. Needless to say, the full co-operation of the Land Commission is available. The Department of Industry and Commerce, whilst it has found it almost impossible to get industrialists to go right into the Fior-Ghaeltacht, has, where it is at all possible, got industries going in the towns adjoining. Certain manufactures are at present considered as “reserved commodities,” and I am hopeful that we will be able to secure some of these for Gaeltacht areas.  Already artificial silk fabric has been so declared and I am hopeful that we will have this as one of our larger Gaeltacht products. Two of the alcohol factories are being reserved for Donegal and one for County Mayo. I merely mention these as examples. In Education, Local Government, Agriculture, in the Board of Works and the other Departments our Inter-departmental Committee finds the utmost co-operation and valuable help. Frankly, it is through the agency of the other Departments that the main benefits which result from Governmental activities of all kinds can be brought to the people of the Gaeltacht and I would like to express my appreciation of the help that we have received from these other Departments.
I am hopeful that, following the reorganisation of our services, we will show continued improvement and get the maximum amount of benefit for the money expended. The difficulties, as Deputies know, are considerable but we have hopes of overcoming at least some of them.
I have refrained from going into the question of migration to which the Land Commission has been paying special attention and which has been dealt with in my Land Commission Estimate. It is my hope that schemes of migration will be possible on a large scale—large enough to preserve the language and association of the migrants and large enough to give a substantial number of the Gaeltacht residents a reasonable chance of establishing themselves as farmers on decent holdings.
In moving that the Estimate be referred back, I should like to say that I regret very much the necessity for doing so. In spite of the fact that the Minister, to my mind, has made a most ingenious case for the treatment of the Gaeltacht in his opening statement, I think every Deputy from the Gaeltacht realises that since this Estimate was under consideration last year, the same condition of affairs prevails. The  Government, to all appearances, at any rate, have shown no change of heart towards the Gaeltacht. They continue on their course of cutting down these Gaeltacht services, apparently singling out these areas of the country for their economies. It is no pleasure to be putting down these motions referring Estimates back, but until a halt is called to this anti-Gaeltacht campaign, I intend to continue to put down a motion of this kind in the hope—a hope which, I may say, is becoming fainter as the months go by that Fianna Fáil Deputies from the Gaeltacht counties will at some stage forget their Party allegiance and join with me in condemning the Government for their general attitude towards the Gaeltacht.
Some of those Deputies who have been in the House since 1927 used to be very vocal on the Estimate when they were in opposition in days gone by. They could not find words in their vocabularies sufficiently to condemn the former Government for their neglect of the Gaeltacht and I must say I had a great deal of sympathy with them, but I must have been a very innocent man. I thought that all the talk and all the interest expressed in the Gaeltacht in the past was really and genuinely sincere, that there was no playing of politics about it. I have now come to the conclusion, as everybody who remembers those days and sees what happens now, must have come to the conclusion, that all those protests were mere eyewash, that there was no sincerity in their demands because they are perfectly silent now when far less is being done. It is perfectly obvious now that all these protests and all these speeches in the past had one object—to hoodwink the people in the Gaeltacht and other persons, and there are a great many other persons in different parts of the country well outside the Gaeltacht who take a great interest in affairs there, in order to get their votes.
The Fianna Fáil Government are now over three years in office. This is the third Estimate for which they are responsible. They were not responsible for the first Estimate in 1932/33 which had been prepared  before they came into office. The first Estimates prepared under their auspices were those of 1933/34; then, those of 1934/35; and now this year's. Each year, instead of doing more and more for the Gaeltacht, the amount provided in this Estimate has shown a steady decrease, and a steady, big decrease, until, to-day, we find it at about one-third of the amount which was provided for by the former Government. The Minister has pointed out that this year the total net Estimate is £83,881. Last year, the total net Estimate was £113,780, and that showed a reduction of £31,828 on the year before. This year, there is a reduction of £28,593, and, even with the Appropriations-in-Aid to which the Minister refers, there is, at any rate, a reduction of about £14,000. Conceding to the Minister all he has said about Appropriation-in-Aid making the reduction an apparent one of £28,593, there has been a total reduction in the past two years of £31,828 plus £14,000, or £45,000. And there is not one word of criticism from Deputies from the Gaeltacht constituencies who sit on the Fianna Fáil Benches.
No amount of explaining away can wipe out the obvious fact that the non-provision of money in an Estimate of this kind is a clear indication that there is to be a contracting of the activities of the Department. It can have no other meaning, and even if we had not that to go on, we have the Minister's own statement now and we have facts which were gleaned by questions during the year. The Minister has admitted the closing down of rural industrial classes in various parts of the country. In reply to questions, we learned that 17 of these industrial schools were closed down during the past year.
Mr. Lynch: The Minister told us, to some extent, why, in his opening statement. Four knitting centres and one weaving centre were closed down in Kerry; in Cork, three knitting centres; in Galway, three knitting  centres; in Donegal, two knitting centres and two weaving centres; and in Cavan, which is not in the Gaeltacht, one knitting centre was closed down. I am not taking up the attitude that it may not have been right to close down some of those centres if they were not being used locally— if the girls in the locality were not taking advantage of them by availing of the training provided there. If they were not being availed of, the Department had no option but to close them down. But I am far from believing that that would apply to every one of those centres which has been closed down. I am not making a case as regards my own constituency, because those closed down in my own constituency were probably the ones to which what I have just said would apply. I am referring more to areas like Donegal and Galway where there was a tradition of taking advantage of those local industrial centres in the past. I am perfectly certain that there was no great falling off in attendance at those centres in recent years, or, if there was, I should like to know what is the explanation. Have the areas suddenly become so overflowing with wealth that they could afford to dispose with the little earnings which they made at those centres? I doubt it very much. I am not prepared to accept, as sound economy, the closing down of a centre because it does not show a profit, or does not even come to the point of paying its way.
Those centres were primarily educational, even though the earnings of the girls there were of very considerable advantage to their households. They were primarily educational, and possibly it might have been more appropriate that they should have been treated as technical centres under the Department of Education. At any rate, it was absurd to think or to hold that because they were not actually paying their way they ought to be closed down. So long as there was a considerable number of girls attending those classes and working in them, I hold that, in spite of the fact that there might have been a fair loss per annum, they should have  been carried on. Apart from those considerations, a few years ago the Minister brought a number of girls up to Dublin and gave them a course of training, obviously with a view to eventually having them appointed as manageresses of those centres. I think the policy of closing down the centres, which is now being adopted, is a clear breach of faith with those girls, who must have been under some considerable expense in undergoing the course of training. One would like to know what has become of them. Obviously they cannot have found jobs as manageresses or assistants in those establishments, and obviously there can be no hope of their getting jobs in those centres in the future, if the policy of closing them down is to continue. The Minister said something to the effect that eight of those people who were dispensed with were to be re-employed during the coming year. We are glad to hear that, and we also hope that it means that eight of the centres which were closed down are to be re-opened, or that eight centres are to be opened elsewhere where they will be availed of. If that is so, it is all to the good, and I hope that the policy will continue until all those who have been put out of employment are reemployed. I hope that employment will be found for those girls who have been trained at public expense, and, presumably, at some considerable expense to themselves.
There are ugly rumours going about. I am one of those who usually take with a grain of salt all the rumours that go about. For instance, I pay no attention to rumours like those that were given voice to here about differentiation by Land Commission inspectors with regard to their selection of persons for schemes. I do not believe a word of that kind of thing. I know the reason why that type of rumour goes about, and I state it for the Minister's benefit; he might pass the word along to the persons responsible. Some Deputies—it happened too when we were over there—have the habit of gobbling up an inspector when he comes down to their area. They try to make great fellows of themselves with their constituents by  being seen going around with the inspector. They pose as great fellows before their constituents, and they give the impression to other people “the land is being divided as Deputy so-and-so says.” That is the foundation for those rumours. I know that no matter what a Deputy thinks, or how much he goes around with the inspector, the scheme will be prepared entirely on the merits, as they appear to the inspector. However, ugly rumour has been going around, and I might as well give it to the Minister so that he will be able to deal with it. The suggestion is that certain industrialists, who were affected in their profits to some extent by those industrial centres, brought influence to bear on the Government to put them out of action. That would be a scandalous thing if it were true.
Mr. Lynch: I am extremely glad to hear it, and I entirely accept the Minister's word in that regard. There might be a theoretical case, let us say, that the Government should not subsidise an industry against an Irish national who is conducting that industry without a State subsidy. Of course, if a case like that were put up, it would be purely theoretical, especially under conditions where every one of those industrialists is heavily subsidised by tariffs. In the case of the Gaeltacht, where a peculiar economic situation prevails, I should not care a thraneen whose toes I trod on in dealing with that particular situation. I entirely accept the Minister's word that that rumour had no foundation in fact. Cork, Galway, and Donegal, as well as my own constituency, Kerry, are the places which are being singled out for the campaign of economy by way of closing down those industries.
Mr. Lynch: Very good. I shall be glad to hear the exact reasons for the closing down of those centres in the different areas. In regard to Gaeltacht  housing, the provision this year is the same as last year, £45,000, so we can take it now that the rate of progress is to be £45,000 per annum. I do not know whether the Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches are satisfied with that rate of progress, but the Minister is aware and certainly the Parliamentary Secretary is aware, that for two and a half years—by Parliamentary Questions and by raising the matter on the Estimates and so on—both myself and other Deputies from this side of the House were ballyragging and spurring on the Government to bring in another Bill to provide more money for those services. For the first two and a half years it could justifiably be said that, except for the activity in the way of housing that was carried on by persons who were building under the old sanctions before the change of Government, there was practically no housing activity in the Gaeltacht. The Acts of 1929 and 1931 provided £250,000 and £100,000 respectively, making a total of £350,000 for these services. Nearly all of that money was actually ear-marked or allocated before the change of Government. The ear-marking and the allocating are, in fact, the important elements in dealing with Gaeltacht housing, and not so much the actual paying of the money, for this reason: The paying of the money will depend afterwards on the rate at which the housing will proceed. It is, to use a colloquialism, the funeral of the applicants; if they proceed quickly with the building of their houses once they have got sanction, then the money will be automatically paid according as each house is finished. If the money is held up because the work of building is not proceeding quickly, it is not the fault of the Department but of the man building the house. If the Department is slow in issuing sanction, that is the Department's fault. The building cannot commence until sanction is issued.
I suggest this to the Minister, that for about two and a half years applications were piling up in his office and virtually no sanctions were issued to  applicants, because the Act had not been passed providing further money for the service. During the two and a half years when these applications were piling up, many preliminary inspections were carried out and the proposals were either favourably reported upon or turned down. But there must have been hundreds lying in the Department favourably reported upon, ready for the issue of sanction once the money was available. In view of that position of affairs, I cannot understand the slow progress of £45,000 per annum. Even if there were no holding up of applications for a period, I believe progress could easily be made at the rate of £100,000 per annum. With applications and sanctions held up for close on three years, there is no reason why the £300,000 extra provided by the Act of 1934 should not have been made available in the course of one year. I ask Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches to join with me in urging the Minister to make this money available quickly, to get the sanctions out quickly, so that persons even at this hour of the day will be in a position to go on with building projects during the summer months. It is then the people in West Kerry, Connemara, West Clare, and Donegal West have an opportunity of putting up their houses cheaply.
Everybody will remember that when this legislation was going through the House, and after the Acts were passed, the desire was expressed from every side of the House, by members of every Party, that there should be quick administration. The only complaint made in 1931, if Deputies had any complaint at all to make, was that we were too slow in getting out the sanctions. The sanctions were going out then at the rate I have referred to and the £350,000 made available by the first two Acts was practically all allocated in 1932. The first Act came into force in December, 1929. It took at least six months to provide the machinery both at the headquarters and in the country for the administration of the Act, so you may take it that it was the beginning of the autumn of 1930 before the Act was well under way. In one-and-a-half years, therefore, you may  say £350,000 was allocated. The considered opinion in the Department three years ago was that an annual sum of £100,000 would be required for these services. What I am afraid of is this, that when you provide £45,000 in the Estimate the tendency in the Department will be to hold up sanctions within that £45,000. There is absolutely no reason, if the cases have been favourably reported on by the inspectors, why any man should be made wait because the £45,000 has been already allocated for the year. It would be much better in a case of this kind to have elasticity to provide even well over the sum that might be availed of. I think it would be a conservative amount if the Minister provided £80,000 for the service for the year and I have no doubt that he could issue sanctions easily up to that amount.
The Department is also concerned with marine products and the Minister has referred to the reductions there. The reductions are striking. With regard to kelp, that cannot be criticised. The provision this year for the purchase of kelp and seaweed is £3,700, as against £10,000 for last year and £25,000 for the year before. The Minister provides Appropriations-in-Aid in respect of the sale of £10,000 worth of kelp this year. That is presumably the kelp held over. I do not know if he could give an estimate of the price he hopes to get. Presumably it will have to go at a loss.
Mr. Lynch: A considerable loss, if there is a market found for selling it at all. I am not going to criticise the Minister for this, because it is due entirely to reasons beyond his control. I can imagine myself sitting over there and defending such a reduction for two years and I can imagine the speeches that would come from Fianna Fáil Deputies.
Mr. Lynch: Deputy Cleary and Deputy Blayney and other Deputies interested in the kelp industry would want me to take out the good ship “Muirchu” and go to Chile in order to prevent the Chileans from producing iodine. For the information of Deputies I may say that 90 per cent. of the iodine produced in the world to-day is produced in Chile. However, I am not going to take that dishonest line. Everybody knows that kelp at best was never more than an industry that was on sufferance. However, at odd periods its production was worth while but those odd periods appear to be gone entirely for the present. We cannot effect a change on our initiative here. We can have no effect as far as that is concerned. World conditions may create a demand for it again or they may not. The Minister referred briefly to experiments with regard to other methods of utilising our kelp. There was an experiment going on with regard to its utility as a cattle food and for manurial purposes, phosphates, and so on. But I have no great hope, however, that we can make very much out of the industry in the future unless we can again get back to having a market for kelp for the production of iodine.
What I have said about kelp does not in any way apply to carrageen. That is quite another matter. The Minister was rather interesting in his statement about carrageen. He said they had changed the method of development or something in which the use of carrageen was developed. When I looked at the Estimate this year I thought it was rather significant that the Minister had dropped the word “development” from the sub-heads. For years we had that sub-head in this Estimate. This year the Minister is satisfied with the word “carrageen.” I am not surprised at that in view of the fact that the reduction in the Estimate is such as it is. It would be farcical to refer  to it now as development. The total provision for carrageen this year is £2,375. In the previous year the total provision was £3,350; in 1933-34 it was £11,350, and in 1932-33, in the last Estimate that we prepared the provision was £19,500, so that in the course of three years there has been a reduction from £19,500 to £2,375.
Mr. Lynch: I saw a notice on the paper some time ago that the purchase of carrageen is in the hands of a firm called Messrs. Cummings. That is an old firm across the water engaged in the carrageen business. The position is this, that for all intents and purposes we go back to where we were before the Department undertook the development of kelp in the first instance. Messrs. Cummings were the firm who were then buying the kelp. They were quite a reputable firm. I am not saying anything against them, but their object, of course, is to get the kelp at the price which will give them the greatest profit.
Mr. Lynch: I think myself that the gatherers had a better market at fair prices for their commodities when the Department continued its activities as they were. I was glad to hear the Minister say that the preparation of carrageen for food has not entirely been given up; this company that is now going to buy it, used buy it in the past, and the bulk of the carrageen they bought was used for industrial purposes. For that reason the carrageen would not carry the price that would be paid for it when it is packed and graded and made up for food purposes. I would like if the Minister when replying would develop something about the continuance of the preparation of carrageen cleaned, packed, graded, and sold in packets for food purposes. The scheme involved in that gave very considerable employment to numbers of girls and women in the Gaeltacht. The whole value of this and the rural  industries in those areas was that there was no trace of any charity about them; that the money that was earned in these industries was extremely hard-earned money. That this had a general good effect in the areas, I think there can be no doubt. I hope that not only will the preparation of carrageen with a view to its sale for food purposes be continued, but that possibly the Department will come in, concentrate upon that side of the industry and develop it. The limited extent to which there is a market for carrageen as food should be availed of. We should continue to pack and grade it for that market. A considerable amount of money was spent on advertising dealing with this particular commodity and its food value. I think it is generally accepted by the medical profession that it has extraordinary medicinal qualities. If that be so, and it undoubtedly is, there is a market for carrageen. It would be a tragedy for the Gaeltacht and a great pity in the general economy of the country that the industry should be lost. It would be a pity if we do not try to develop that industry. The rougher portion of the market, the lower grade stuff might be bought in bulk by any person who desired to buy. Messrs. Cummings would be as good buyers as anybody else in the market.
The Minister in dealing with the last Estimate was not very hopeful as to the possibility of forestry development in the Gaeltacht. I have no doubt he has the best intentions and I believe he will carry on his experiments to try to find the class of trees that would be most suitable for the Gaeltacht. I accept his word on that. But he told us that the experiments would lead more towards pessimism than optimism. Now, when on top of that you have the closing down of these industrial centres in the Gaeltacht areas together with what appears to be a considerable abandonment of the carrageen industry and the inevitable collapse of the kelp industry for which the Minister is not responsible the position is not very hopeful. We have in addition the snail's pace in dealing with Gaeltacht housing. When all  these things are considered I think I have considerable justification in asking that the Estimate be referred back. There is one thing with which I will deal and it is a matter to which I rarely refer. I have never been one of those who criticised an Estimate from the point of view of the aspect to which we had become so accustomed to here in our time. I never took up an Estimate, picked out sub-head A and deducted that from the total of the Vote, because, of course, that is no test whatever. A large portion of the Estimates represents salaries for the administrative staff. Nobody could say that these services should not be carried on, so that it is entirely a false type of test to criticise an Estimate merely because the salaries seem to be very heavy in comparison with the rest of the Estimate. The real test of an Estimate, of course, is whether we get value for the money spent.
I have no doubt that the salaries of the officers for whom provision is made in this Estimate are as hard earned as the salaries of the staff in any other Department. I have no doubt whatever that the staff are quite as competent as the staff of any other Department. But the question is: what are they giving to the country in their present position and with the present policy, as one can gather it from the Estimate and the Minister's statement? What is the use, for instance, of maintaining a central depôt at a cost of £3,332 when we closed down in one year 17 industrial centres?
Mr. Lynch: That is not what the estimate shows. Does it require for mere storage a manager, two minor staff officers, three clerical officers, and so on? If it was mere storage, a caretaker would do. The Central Marketing Depôt was established for the purpose  of being a clearing house for the products of these industrial centres in the Gaeltacht and 17 of these have been closed down during the year. That should mean that there would be considerably less work for the staff in the depôt, unless there has been a great spurt of activity in the other centres.
The same might be said about the staff in the housing branch. If you are only going to proceed at the rate of £45,000 per annum in grants for housing and if, as must have been the case, the inspections have been carried out and reported on in the case of hundreds and hundreds of these applicants during the past couple of years, you should nearly be able to do without a staff altogether for a couple of years, at least as far as the preliminary inspections are concerned. If you are only dribbling out money at the rate of £45,000 per year, I think there is scarcely any justification for a staff which costs £10,000 a year. I am saying nothing against the staff, individually, because my experience was, and the sentiment expressed by Fianna Fáil and Labour Deputies in 1931 was, that the staff of the housing section of the Department were extremely efficient, painstaking and considerate towards applicants.
The item for the administration of kelp and carrageen schemes is small— £749. I was going to ask what they are doing for that but if we are still continuing to deal with carrageen for food purposes there is some justification. The position at present, however, is that the kelp industry is dead, through no fault of the Department. The carrageen industry has to a great extent, apparently, been abandoned by the Department and left in the hands of private buyers. You know what I have said about Gaeltacht housing, and these are the three main activities of the Department, and the staff cost £24,371. In view of the position of the three services administered under this Department, I think we are not getting value for that money, and that Fianna Fáil Deputies representing Gaeltacht constituencies ought to join with me in referring back the estimate and asking  the Government to reconsider their whole attitude towards this problem.
Mr. Dockrell: I do not purpose to touch on the question of Gaeltacht housing or the carrageen or kelp industries. I merely wish to make a few remarks from the point of view of Government trading. That is a branch of the Gaeltacht industries in which the Government are engaged in a purely trading venture. The chambers of commerce throughout the country have suggested that when a Government are engaged in trading activities, balance sheets should be published; and I am in entire accord with that. I take it the Government have nothing to be afraid or ashamed  of, and if there are certain items that should be criticised, the sooner attention is directed to them the better. I also suggest that they are not subject to certain feelings that a private individual might have in publishing the results of his trading, namely, if the trading was adverse he might feel that it reflected on his credit. I should like to suggest to the Government that it would be a very good thing to start by publishing a balance sheet such as would be put forward by commercial firms.
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