Friday, 10 December 1937
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Vice-President: It is proposed to take the business as on the Order Paper to No. 4, inclusive, omitting No. 2. When public business is finished, Private Deputies' business will be taken and the Dáil will adjourn till Tuesday, 14th December. It is proposed, if the public business on the Order Paper be not concluded by 12 o'clock noon, to continue public business; not to give Private Deputies' time, and to continue public business until concluded. Probably it will be necessary to move to sit late to-night. I do not know if it is possible that public business will be concluded by the usual hour to-night, if we sit late; but if not, I would like to give notice that we may have to sit to-morrow.
Mr. Cosgrave: If my recollection is right, no such proposal has been  moved. We have got a contingent suggestion from the Minister that public business be disposed of by that time. We have now reached 10.45 a.m. and we have had no business considered yet. I should like to know exactly where we are.
Mr. Cosgrave: The motion before the House is that Private Members' business be not taken. I object to that. I presume that the reason why that motion is moved is because of the congestion of business on the Order Paper. Now, so far as the House is concerned, it has been perfectly willing, since it commenced to sit in October, to meet the Government with regard to sittings. No objection has been made about meeting here at any time that it was thought necessary to assemble the House. But we have now reached a point, by reason of Government incompetence and the fact that the business was not ready, when there is congestion, just coming towards Christmas. It is not the fault of the House that that situation has arisen. It is entirely due to the Front Bench or possibly, if one could speak in that negative manner, to one absent member on the Front Bench.
A Bill was brought before us in the name of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. I do not believe the Minister ever read it. It is introduced by another Minister. Last night, in his absence, a different Minister altogether was unable to tell the House the subject-matter or substance of a particular amendment before the House. In these circumstances, we are told that we cannot have Private Members' time. We did not get Private Members' time this week, and it is possible the Dáil may have to sit until midnight to-night and to-morrow as well. Some Deputies had to travel long distances from the country and no Deputy had any information before his pilgrimage up here this week of these arrangements. We  had the usual humbug of Minister pretending to the public that this State was respecting a Catholic holyday, while every civil servant had to come in to his business and was not even allowed time to attend Mass. I object to this proposal and I am going to vote against it.
Mr. Norton: A complaint has already been made about the manner in which the business of the House has been organised, or rather disorganised, during the past four months. During that period, the Dáil did not sit at all on some weeks. On other weeks, it sat on only one day. When business has got into a congested condition, due to the manner in which the sittings of the House have been arranged by the Government, the Dáil is asked to sit for four days and threatened with the possibility of a five-day sitting. That condition of affairs reflects no credit on the Government and does not manifest any great competence for regulating the business of the House in such a manner as to permit of the business being dealt with with reasonable convenience to Deputies. Ministers say it is necessary to dispose of Government business before we can get Private Members' time but, last night, we had an exhibition which was in no way edifying to the House or creditable to the Government.
The Minister for Agriculture was left in charge of the Seanad Bill about 9.20. His business was to move amendment No. 91. The Minister was induced to move the amendment only after considerable encouragement by Deputies other than Government Deputies. When he did move the amendment, he contented himself with moving it formally. When asked for some explanation of the amendment, it was clear that the Minister knew absolutely nothing about it.
When he was pressed to explain the provisions of certain portions of the amendment, the Minister displayed a lamentable incompetence, with the result that a whole hour—from 9.30 to 10.30—was wasted here last night. Then, when the House adjourned at 10.30, I do not think any Deputy had  got an answer—certainly not a very intelligent answer—to the questions put as to the real meaning of amendment No. 91. How can business be dealt with effectively and expeditiously when a Minister is left in charge of a Bill of which he knows nothing and left to move an amendment of which he does not know the ramifications and which he will not explain. Is it any wonder that the House should have to spend a considerable time discussing a Bill when a Minister who knows nothing about it is left in charge? The Vice-President tells us that, unless we finish Government business to-day, we shall not get Private Members' time. That is the effect of the present motion. Unless the Government get the Seanad Bill passed—unless Deputies are prepared to pass it in a cursory and perfunctory manner—we are not to get Private Members' time. That is the threat made by the Vice-President. The Dáil sat on Tuesday and Deputies were required to remain in town on Wednesday. The House sat again on Thursday and is sitting to-day. With three complete days of Dáil session this week, not a single minute has been given for Private Members' time. We are threatened that if we do not pass the remainder of the amendments dealing with the Seanad Bill, there will be no Private Members' time this week. I think that is treating the Dáil in a scandalous manner, and it displays a wanton disregard for the rights of private members.
At this time of the year it has always been customary to allow Private Members' time, and always been customary to permit Private Deputies to discuss matters in which they are interested, but we have seen during the past few months a definite conspiracy to prevent Private Deputies availing of the time normally set aside for them. That mentality has now taken on a new orientation, and we are told that we cannot get time for Private Deputies' business unless we are prepared to pass the Government amendments to the Seanad Bill. I think that attitude reflects a very bad mentality from the Government standpoint. I think it is gross discourtesy to the Private Deputies who want to  discuss Private Deputies' business, which is a million times more important, in my opinion, than the passing of a Bill which interests nobody except the people who hope to get jobs in the new Seanad. The House would be much better occupied in dealing with Private Deputies' business, which at least relates to the hard economic realities of life in this country. Instead, we are now asked to sit here until twelve o'clock, simply because the President, having abolished the Seanad, now wants to create another Seanad. I know of nobody in the country, except the potential Senators, interested in this Bill. Certainly the ordinary man in the country, the unemployed man, the man working three or four days a week on a rotational scheme or trying to exist on 24/- a week as an agricultural labourer, is not concerned with the provisions of this Bill, and does not care whether it is passed to-night or this night 20 years.
Mr. Norton: It is a pity some Minister could not have been induced to talk last night and to explain the provisions of amendment No. 91. Although the Minister for Industry and Commerce entered the House while it was being discussed last night, he did not show any special brilliance in explaining it. It is a pity he could not have talked last night, even with the same kind of accuracy with which he talks elsewhere. I am protesting against this motion. I think it is another effort to muzzle Deputies and to prevent them from discussing matters in which the country is interested, and another effort to get the country talking about the Seanad, when the real problem before the plain people of the country is that while the Government is asking the Dáil to pass the Seanad Bill, the people of the country are finding it harder than ever to make ends meet in the existing situation.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Norton has  protested against the time taken up by the Seanad Bill. Why has so much time been taken? Because there has been obstruction on it. The Deputy has talked about the unedifying spectacle that took place here last night. What was it? It was the continuous reiteration of the same question by Deputy Norton and the Deputies opposite.
Mr. Lemass: Every Deputy knows what happened here last night. When Deputy Costello asked a question, it was answered, and then Deputy Norton, Deputy McGilligan, Deputy Brennan and other Deputies on the opposite side reiterated the same question.
Mr. Lemass: ——to matters dealing with economic questions about which Deputy Norton pretends to be concerned, and if we are not getting on with them, it is because Deputy Norton and the Fine Gael Party are holding up the Dáil by unnecessary discussion of the various amendments to this Bill. The Deputy spoke about the delay in getting the business of this session properly under way. Everybody knows why that delay occurred.
Mr. Lemass: At the request of the Opposition members of the Dáil.  Instead, therefore, of the business coming before the House, it came before a committee of the House, and that reduced the volume of business for the Dáil. The work on the Committee Stage of the Bill, however, was proceeding, or, at any rate, it was intended that it should, but the Special Committee proved a fiasco because the Opposition Deputies decided to play Party tactics instead of trying to deal with the particular problem in respect of which that committee was set up.
Mr. Lemass: This Bill has got to get through. There is a number of other urgent measures which the Government is anxious to have enacted as quickly as possible, but which apparently cannot be enacted before Christmas and which may necessitate an early reassembly of the House after Christmas.
Mr. Lemass: We ask co-operation of the Opposition Parties in getting this business disposed of so that we can get down to these other matters, but it is perfectly ridiculous for them to protest against a delay which they are causing. Deputy Cosgrave made what was in my opinion, a most unjustifiable reference to the fact that the Dáil did not meet on Wednesday last, a Catholic holiday. He knows quite well, as other Deputies know, that the decision that meetings of the Dáil should not be held on Catholic holidays was made by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. It was not a decision of the Government, and on that Committee on Procedure and Privileges Deputy Cosgrave's Party was represented and they assented to that arrangement. This discussion is itself wasting time. It is necessary that the Seanad Bill should be disposed of in this session, and if Deputies are willing to co-operate with us in that, we can get on to Private Deputies' business, even though the motion to be discussed  under that heading is sheer nonsense and the discussion on it serving no purpose whatever. On the general question of the restriction of the rights of Private Deputies, I ask Deputy Norton to look back over the records of this session. He will find that in respect of days on which the Dáil has sat, Private Deputies have got more time than the Standing Orders entitle them to.
Mr. D. Morrissey: The Minister, having had his own say on this matter, dropped a hint to the Vice-President that he might now move the closure. Towards the end of his own speech, he said that we were only wasting time on this.
Mr. Morrissey: The Minister talked about wasting time on the motion being discussed as Private Deputies' business, but he succeeded himself in wasting two hours on it, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance another two hours. I stated here on the first day on which the Government moved in this session to take Private Deputies' time, that the object of the Government was to keep away from the motions on the Order Paper. That is now quite clear, and what this motion to-day means is that Private Deputies are going to be deprived of their rights, not only to-day but until the Dáil comes back after Christmas. It is quite clear that we will have the same excuse for taking Private Members' time advanced next week. The Seanad Bill must be got through before the Dáil adjourns for Christmas and, therefore, there will be no time available. There will be no opportunity to bring before the House any of the matters mentioned on the Order Paper, such as the cost of living, wages, and unemployment. In the opinion of the Minister for Industry and Commerce these matters are of no importance. What is of importance is the Seanad.
Mr. D. Morrissey: Surely no person is going to treat seriously anything coming from the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the man who had the hardihood to get up this morning and accuse the House of obstruction.
Mr. Morrissey: Nearly 40. One amendment before the House took us, roughly, one hour to deal with it. It would not have taken five minutes if there was a Minister on the Front Benches able and willing to answer the questions that were put.
Mr. Morrissey: Ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He knows all about them. He knows that the position was indefensible. No one knows better than the Minister for Industry and Commerce that the position was indefensible last night. We are told that there has been obstruction, but the Government are so incompetent that they were only able to have meetings of the Dáil on seven days in 17 weeks. The Vice-President stated last week that the trouble was that the Dáil was facilitating the Government too quickly—that it was getting through the Government business so quickly, and that co-operation was so good, it was not necessary to sit more than one day every week. The Minister for Industry and Commerce appreciates that point.
Mr. Morrissey: My complaint is that the Government is taking Private Deputies' time. I am not concerned as to who is responsible. My statement is that the Government is prepared to use any means in its power to keep the House from dealing with motions that affect the people, such as the cost of living.
Professor O'Sullivan: Scrap them. There are various motions to be discussed, but the Minister says they are of no importance, such as a motion dealing with the standard of living. That is of no importance in Dublin, but in Geneva it is! The question of de-rating is of no importance!
Professor O'Sullivan: We know that when the Government is determined to waste time these Deputies are put up to speak, to prevent a decision on these motions and to prevent the House getting on to other matters. The Minister described Private Members' Motions as rubbish and as dealing with nothing of importance. He  now says that there are urgent Bills to be dealt with—he mentioned one or two of them. Why were they not introduced two months ago?
Professor O'Sullivan: Despite the Minister's plea, the delay is owing to incompetence on the part of the Government, and nothing else. It is quite obvious from the Minister's tone that he is following the President's example, namely, that he does not want discussion on anything except on little fishes and on scrap iron. These are the only things we are to discuss, according to the Minister. We had to waste one and a half hours last night, and then Deputy Norton proposed that the House should adjourn. Why? Because  we could not get any answer from the Minister.
Professor O'Sullivan: Perhaps the Minister remembers why such a motion was made. Because he sat there dumb. A Deputy described the situation as one in which the Minister was not there at all. For all practical purposes the Government Benches were empty. When questions were put to the Minister he refused to answer. He did not understand the questions. He could not grasp them. After one hour we got some kind of an answer from the Minister, but it was quite obvious that he was completely unfamiliar with the Bill. We are asked to discuss the general principle and the details of these Bills by the President. When we asked a Minister the meaning of a particular section he was unable to tell us. Gradually it drawned upon him what was meant. Then we got some extraordinary submissions with which we could not deal. It is quite obvious that the Minister is deliberately preventing the motions on the Order Paper being discussed. There was ample opportunity to do so. Meetings of the Dáil were called week after week for a couple of hours' Government business and disposed of. On more than one occasion they were asked to give Thursday for the discussion of these motions. They refused. The cause of the delay is entirely the fault of the Government. We have another Bill now that we are expected to take to-day. Why is it before the House now for the first time? It is a lengthy Bill, a Constitution (Amendment) Bill. We are told it is urgent now. Why was it not urgent two months ago? Why was it not introduced and passed before this? Because the Government has no track or control of the business. We had a lamentable exhibition of that last night from the Minister. He knew nothing about the Bill and refused to answer questions. He treated the House the way that other Ministers treat it, with extreme insolence. The Government that is responsible for wasting time has now the insolence to suggest that there has been obstruction. The obstruction  last night came from Ministers. There might, at least, have been some co-operation from Ministers in charge of Bills when they are put before the House. The Minister refused to answer questions. When driven to try to answer, it was quite obvious that he did not understand the points that were made. We got all sorts of answers. I think that procedure illustrates the Government's general conduct towards Parliament and its institutions, and that is why I oppose this motion. The Government have no respect for the House. Their members do not come into the House to listen to what is happening, or to take part in debates, except to obstruct motions dealing with Private Members' business.
Mr. McGowan: The Minister for Industry and Commerce, in the course of his remarks, intimated that the Opposition, and particularly the Labour Party, were responsible for a great deal of the obstruction. He intimated that they were obstructing the putting through in this House of a measure that is very dear to them, the Shop Assistants (Conditions of Employment) Bill. I would remind the Minister for Industry and Commerce that that Bill was introduced before the present Dáil sat, and, as Deputy Norton reminded him, for the purpose of securing votes at the last general election. Since the House sat, other Bills have been introduced and disposed of. Some of these were Bills of a very trivial character, and although introduced subsequent to the Shop Assistants (Conditions of Employment) Bill they are now law. One of them was a Bill for the protection of immature fish. I suggest to the Minister for Agriculture that if he brings in any more measures of that sort he should introduce one to exterminate a fish commonly known as “cod”, and perhaps if he does he may get more business done.
Mr. McGowan: In view of the  answer given a few days ago to a question asked by a Fianna Fáil Deputy from Donegal, is it not painfully evident that there is another reason behind the Government's objection to let Private Deputies have time for the consideration of motions on the Order Paper in their names? We all know that the next business to be taken in Private Members' time is the Second Reading of the Labourers Bill, introduced by the Labour Party, the object of which is to give relief to the tenants in the occupation of labourers' cottages. It must be evident to every member of the House that the Government fear a discussion on that measure. That is clear from an answer to a question given in the House recently, that they themselves propose introducing legislation akin to, if not on parallel lines with, the Labourers Bill introduced by the Labour Party. Last week, when I referred to the fact that the Opposition desired to be constructive, we got a rather expressive “What” from the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I suggest that one of the principal reasons why the Government are taking Private Members' time is that, amongst other things, they are afraid of a discussion on the Labourers Bill introduced by the Labour Party, because they know that the discussion would show them up in a rather peculiar light in the country. At all events, I think we can congratulate ourselves on this fact, that the Government Party are now emulating the example of the Labour Party by introducing a Labourers Bill on practically parallel lines.
The Vice-President: I just want to say a word. To use an expression that I believe was first made popular in this House by Deputy Cosgrave, I do not think that during all the time I have been here, that I have ever heard as much codology as in the last half-hour from the immature Deputy who has just sat down and the Deputies opposite on this motion.
The Vice-President: We all know that this Bill is necessary. Deputy Norton knows it as well as I do. It must be got through. If the Bill had been discussed in the normal way it would have been finished before now, and the business down for Private Members' time could have been taken. I may tell the Labour Party that I am very keen on getting a discussion on the  Labourers Bill that they have introduced.
The Vice-President: And I want to tell them further that we are not going to agree with what they propose. We will tell the country, too. That is information for them. I think that enough time has been wasted on this, and if necessary, I move that the question be now put.
De Valera, Eamon.
Dowdall, Thomas P.
Fogarty, Patrick J.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Kelly, James P.
Kennedy, Michael J.
|Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick J.
O Briain, Donnchadh.
O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
Ruttledge, Patrick J.
Walsh, Laurence J.
|Bennett, George C.
Benson, Ernest E.
Byrne, Alfred (Junior).
Cosgrave, William T.
Costello John A.
Dockrell, Henry M.
Esmonde, John L.
Gorey, Denis J.
McFadden, Michael Og.
McGowan, Gerrard L.
Mongan, Joseph W.
O'Shaughnessy, John J.
O'Sullivan, John M.
Redmond, Bridget M.
Rogers, Patrick J.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Vice-President said that he might move the closure. He did not do so. When the Chair accepts a closure, such acceptance is always distinctly announced. As a matter of fact, what the Chair stated was: “I assume I may put the main question.”
Professor O'Sullivan: Possibly, it is due to the disorder on the Front Bench opposite that it is impossible to know what is occurring here. Certainly, however, Deputies told me that they were under the impression that the closure was being accepted.
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