Friday, 10 December 1937
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Norton: I take it, Sir, that this motion can be debated also. In any case, some members in the House, remembering that they were elected to a legislative assembly, at least want to discuss the business brought before them.
Mr. Norton: Presented with a choice of discussing a matter and forming a brick in the wall of silence here, I prefer to discharge the function of a legislator and discuss a matter which is brought before the House. The Vice-President now tells us in that kind of simple heroics for which he is distinguished that he is going to stick out his chest and stick out his chin and sit late, until 12 o'clock to-night. That is simply because the Government cannot display any competence whatever in organising the business of the House. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is very much concerned at the waste of time. Well, I never saw time wasted more scandalously and more wantonly than the way it was wasted between 9.30 and 10.30 last night. We had the Minister for Agriculture speaking last night, and he displayed to the House that he knows even less about the Seanad than about agriculture. He was asked last night to move amendment No. 91. It was obvious that he was in a state of mental panic when he was asked to explain its provisions, because he knew nothing about it, and when he was asked to explain sub-section (3) he excited the sympathy of all parts of the House last night. Question after question was addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, and he sat there on the Front Bench last night and there was  as much noise coming from him as from the effigy of Victoria in front of the House.
Mr. Norton: Because Ministers are put in charge of Bills and amendments about which they know nothing, time inevitably is wasted here. Consequently, not only must the Dáil sit late, until 12 o'clock to-night, but, in fact, Private Members will get no time unless they are prepared to respond to the intimidatory attitude of the Government. The Minister for Industry and Commerce told us that he was bursting to introduce certain other types of legislation of a very important nature. What is the type of legislation he wants to introduce? In June last we had a motion put on the Order Paper for a First Reading of the Shop Assistants (Conditions of Employment) Bill. The Minister, remembering that the election would be held at the end of June, that shop assistants had votes, and that the putting of this Bill on the Order Paper might probably have the effect of deluding some of them into voting for the Minister, the Bill got a First Reading in June last. But the Second Reading of the Bill was not taken when the House resumed in July, or in August, or in September, or in October. It was only in November that the Second Reading was taken, although the Bill got a First Reading in June. In the meantime we had Bills on such world-shaking subjects as little fish, the Presidential seal, tidal waters and scrap-iron—Bills which not only got a First Reading, but a Second Reading, and passed their Third and Fourth Stages all in the space of a couple of weeks; while the Shop Assistants Bill, which got a First Reading in June, had not the Second Reading taken November. Is it not  patent to anybody except perhaps the Minister for Industry and Commerce that the purpose of putting down the First Reading in June last was to try to get votes? Of course that trick did not work.
Mr. Norton: They were few enough. The Minister comes along and puts a Bill on the Order Paper for the purpose of trying to get votes, and does not take up the consideration of the Second Stage for four months after the First Reading. Now he comes along and says: “Please pass this Seanad Bill in order that I can get on with the Bill about which I have been delayed for four months.” It is perfectly obvious that that kind of argument by the Minister is only just an attempt to excuse his failure to proceed with the Second Stage of the Shop Assistants Bill. I suppose the Minister will now tell us that the Shop Assistants Bill could not be dealt with earlier because it was not ready. We all know that it was not ready, that it was not ready when the First Reading was taken, and that the purpose of the First Reading was to try to get votes at the election. Now we are asked to sit until 12 o'clock to-night so that the House can continue to waste time discussing this Seanad Bill in which, as I said, nobody is interested. The ordinary people of the country do not care whether the Bill is passed or not. They do not care whether it is ever passed.
Mr. Norton: There are motions dealing with the standard of living, with labourers' cottages, with the low wages paid to agricultural workers, with the low price paid for certain types of agricultural produce, with the exactions of ground landlords, with the low rates of unemployment assistance benefits which are being paid, with the notorious rotational schemes, with teachers' salaries, with the defective National Health Insurance Acts, and a number of other matters. We are now to be prevented, unless we are prepared to pay the price of passing this Seanad Bill, discussing matters of that type which are of much more importance than the Seanad Bill. I do not wonder that the Government wanted to get the Seanad Bill through. After what transpired when, discussing amendment No. 91 last night, the quicker the Government can pass this Bill probably the better for themselves; because, when the public realise what is being done in amendment No. 91, they will have more contempt for the Seanad than they ever had before.
This is a proposal to compel the House to sit until midnight in order to discuss a Bill in which nobody is interested, which will just leave the poor people as poor as they are when it is passed, which makes no contribution whatever to the relief of the sufferings of the tens of thousands of people in this country, which will not put another halfpenny in the pocket of the agricultural workers, which will not give another farthing to the recipients of unemployment assistance, which will not stop any person from going to  Great Britain to look for work who cannot get it here. Yet, we are asked to discuss a Bill of that kind until midnight when the country is confronted with social and economic problems of a magnitude which it has not known for many years. That is what the House is being asked to sit for until 12 o'clock. I think it is an outrageous motion.
The whole purpose of the motion is to stifle discussion on any subject which is in any way related to the realities of life in the country. The manner in which Private Members' time is being filched from them clearly indicates that the Government do not want the House to discuss in Private Members' time any of the important matters on the Order Paper. All the Government want to do is to keep the people talking about Seanads and Presidents in the hope that their excitement over these things will keep them from feeling the economic pain inflicted upon them in other directions. I think I said a very true thing, that in ancient Rome the people cried for bread and were given a circus. Here, when they cry for bread and protest, against the rotational schemes and the high cost of living they get a, Seanad Bill to discuss and pass which is in charge of a Minister who knows nothing about it.
Mr. Norton: We all know that these amendments were the product of spite and malice on the part of the Government, simply because they could not get this crazy plan of theirs through, and because nobody was prepared to agree with the Government the night the Minister for Industry and Commerce lost his temper on the Special Committee.
Mr. Norton: The Minister says now that he knows sufficient about the Bill  to keep the extra Labour representation out. It is a good thing even that the Minister knows that much about the Bill. The next time the President leaves the Minister in charge of the Bill, he should prescribe that only that matter should be discussed while the Minister is in charge. What the people will be much more interested in is the kind of people who are going to be let in while the Minister is busily engaged in keeping the Labour representatives out. We got out of the Minister last night——
Mr. Norton: I know it is not. The fortunate part of it is that we will be able to get another opportunity of discussing the Seanad Bill. The Minister for Agriculture says that he knows enough about this Bill to keep the extra Labour representation out, but does he know enough to keep out people who have been convicted of municipal misfeasance?
Mr. Norton: This is an outrageous motion, but it is quite in keeping with what has gone on in this Dáil for the past couple of months. The whole purpose of the motion is to prevent the Dáil from discussing matters that vitally concern the people. The object is to muzzle and chloroform the Dáil, so that we cannot discuss a matter in which the people are specially interested.
Mr. Morrissey: I suppose the Minister is entitled to his little laugh this morning, but the laughs were all the other way last night. I am glad that the Government are, apparently, going to give the Minister an opportunity of saving his face this morning, having properly instructed him as to the line he is to take on amendment No. 91. The Vice-President, in moving this motion, did not give any reasons for  doing so. I would advise Deputy Brady, and if I might say so, Deputy Tom Kelly, if they would like to know what a motion like this means, to go down to the Library and read some of the reports of the proceedings here in 1927, 1928 and 1929.
Mr. Morrissey: The Minister is just as incompetent and as unsuccessful in his present Ministerial position as he was in his previous Ministerial position. The Minister seems to forget that he was a Minister before he was Minister for Industry and Commerce.
Mr. Morrissey: The Minister for Industry and Commerce does not want the House to have an opportunity of considering the motions on the Order Paper. The Minister told us a short time ago, somewhere down the city, that we were going to have a general election early in the new year, and the Minister does not want his colleagues put into the position of having to go into the Lobby and vote against the motions on the Order Paper on the eve of a general election.
Mr. Morrissey: The Minister was very confident of winning in Galway also, but the Minister is beginning to find out some things, and the sooner this general election, about which he has talked, is held, the sooner he will learn a little more. I grant you that the Government have succeeded in deluding the people much longer than most people thought they could, but the Minister has heard of the old saying that you cannot fool all the people all the time. If he does not know it, he will very soon know it. I thought that in accordance with his usual form he would say, as he said in respect to another incident on that occasion, that it was untrue that he threatened a general election. I want to say that the Government are trying to stifle discussion in this House on matters that concern the people. I believe that there are Deputies on that side of the House who do not want to be forced to go into the Lobby to support a wage of 24/- a week for agricultural, labourers, who do not want to go into the Lobby and vote against the derating of agricultural land or who do not want to go into the Lobby and say, as the Minister for Industry and Commerce tried to some little time ago, that there has been no increase in the cost of living in this country. That is the reason why we did not get any speech made when the motion was moved. There was no attempt made to justify the motion. There is going to be no attempt made to justify other matters on the Order Paper.
Mr. Morrissey: You are compelling us, because this motion is tantamount to saying: “Either you give us the Seanad legislation without any discussion or you shall sit here until 12 o'clock to-night.” That is the threat we get from the Government. The Government does not want the Seanad Bill discussed. They want it passed without discussion. What we really have in this motion is the threat: “You must give us this Bill without further discussion or you will sit until 12 o'clock.” That makes very little difference to Ministers who are fortunate enough to be living in the City of Dublin, but it makes considerable difference to Deputies who live 100, 150 or 180 miles from here. Deputies are threatened and accused of obstruction if they do their ordinary normal duty here by trying to extract the information that they sought last night and by trying to point out to the Minister and the Government certain defects which we conceived were in the new section. Is it not better to do that now than to have the Government, as happened on a number of other occasions, passing the Bill hurriedly now and being forced to bring in another Bill to amend it next week or the week after? That is the position.
De Valera, Eamon. Moylan, Seán.
O Briain, Donnchadh.
O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
Ruttledge, Patrick J.
|Dowdall, Thomas P.
Fogarty, Patrick J.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Kelly, James P.
Kennedy, Michael J.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick J.
Moore, Séamus. Ryan, Robert.
Walsh, Laurence J.
|Bennett, George C.
Benson, Ernest E.
Byrne, Alfred (Jun.)
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'Sullivan, John M.
Pattison, James P.
Redmond, Bridget M.
Rogers, Patrick J.
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