Committee on Finance - Vote 67—Employment Schemes.

Wednesday, 29 May 1940

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 80 No. 10

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Minister for Agriculture (Dr. Ryan): Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  Tairgim:

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £900,000 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1941, chun Scéimeanna chun Fostaíocht do chur ar fáil agus chun Fóirithin ar Ghátar, maraon le costas riaracháin.

That a sum not exceeding £900,000 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, 1941, for Schemes for the Provision of Employment and the Relief of Distress, including cost of administration.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance (Mr. H. Flinn): Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  The amount provided by the Oireachtas for the relief of unemployment and distress in the year just closed was £1,400,000 of which £1,295,065 or 92.5 per cent was expended within the financial year. To this expenditure should be added the contributions by local authorities amounting to £291,787, making a gross expenditure of £1,586,852.

The unexpended portion of the State grant is £104,935 of 7.5 per cent. of the amount provided, and this is made up of (a) under-expenditure on several subheads of allocation amounting to £60,441, or 4.3 per cent. and (b) moneys not allocated—£44,494 or 3.2 per cent. If the latter sum is deducted from the total amount of the Vote, the expenditure represents 95.5 per cent. of the amount actually sanctioned and available for expenditure within the financial year.

On a previous occasion the Dáil was [1265] informed that in order to achieve within any financial year the expenditure of the whole of the amount provided for employment schemes in that year, it is necessary to initiate schemes considerably in excess of the amount of the Vote; and, in accordance with this principle, schemes approximately £342,000 in excess of the amount of the Vote were sanctioned during the past financial year.

In the following analysis of expenditure the figures refer to State grants, and it may be assumed in relation to all sub-heads for which local contributions are required, that the expenditure on the contributions has been pro rata with that of the State grant. I come now to public health schemes. The amount which it was anticipated at the beginning of the financial year would be expended in the year was £100,000, of which £96,500 or 96.5 per cent. was actually expended.

Mr. D. Morrissey: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  Might I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to read a little bit more slowly and to speak more distinctly? We cannot quite catch at this side what he is saying.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I thought in actual practice that I ordinarily spoke a little bit too slowly.

Mr. Morrissey:  But the Parliamentary Secretary is now reading.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  As has been stated before, grants for public health works and peat development schemes are determined by the need that exists for such works in particular areas, and not necessarily by reference to the relative unemployment position in such areas.

In the matter of roads (urban) schemes the net amount available for expenditure in the financial year was £259,211, of which 98.8 per cent. has been expended.

For housing site development works the sum available in the financial year was £4,709, and the whole of the amount was duly expended. Under the heading of roads (rural) schemes the amount available for expenditure was £554,996, of which 93.3 per cent. was expended. For minor employment schemes the sum available was £263,338, [1266] all expended. For peat development schemes the amount sanctioned was £7,383, and this was duly expended.

The matter of the Clonsast Labour Camp was alluded to by the Minister for Industry and Commerce when he gave a considerable amount of particulars which I do not intend to repeat now unless the House desires it. This scheme of the Clonsast bog is financed from this Vote to the extent that any loss on it is charged against this Vote. Therefore the particulars are clearly for examination here; if any Deputy desires I shall read them. As the House is aware, there has been considerable pressure from all sorts of quarters that something should be done to enable employment to be given, and the problem which is known as the employment of those people— the younger people, many of whom had never employment—tackled. An attempt was made in Clonsast. This year the beginning of an experiment along those lines was started. For the purpose of the experiment it was decided to confine the recruitment to the recipients of unemployment assistance between the ages of 18 and 25 living in the County Borough of Dublin, people without dependents. Further it was provided that it should be limited to persons who had been unemployed for 12 months, or who had no previous work experience. This work was confined really to useful work upon which the amount provided can be used to give them employment. We were fortunate in the fact that in the turf development work in Clonsast there was an opening for the employment of entirely unskilled labour in the open air, under conditions which seemed to be very specially suitable for the purpose of benefiting these men. It was for that reason that that place was chosen. The Board already had a small camp in operation in Clonsast which was capable of accommodating 50 workers, and the original building has now been extended to accommodate an additional 100 workers. There were comfortable quarters for the workers. There was a separate sleeping cubicle for each worker. The buildings were suitably heated. There was a substantial diet of wholesome food provided, [1267] and provision made for outdoor games and indoor recreation for the men. Free medical attention was provided, as were facilities for religious services.

The work consisted principally of the various operations of turf winning on the bog and digging drains. The workers were paid on the terms already operating in Clonsast for each class of work. It is understood that the local workers earned an average of 36/- for a 48 hours' week. The amount earned by the city recruits will depend upon their output of work, but in order to give them an opportunity of becoming accustomed to this class of work, for a limited period each recruit is guaranteed a minimum sum leaving him 4/- a week for personal expenses after providing for food, etc. The food and accommodation at the camp will cost the recruit 17/6 a week. It is thought that the recruits may in a short time be able to exceed the minimum rate of earning, but this is one of the matters which the experiment is designed to test. Another matter to be tested is whether their experience in the camp will give the workers a better prospect of subsequent employment in their ordinary occupation. After 12 months, the first group of city workers were to be replaced by another batch of similar recruits.

The expenditure on the buildings and general equipment is approximately £9,000. In the event of its not being successful, and I hope and believe it will, the building will be used to the best advantage by the Turf Development Board. The whole circumstances of the case will and must receive very careful and continuous examination. It would be premature at this stage to form any strong judgment in the matter, or to make any general statement. I am satisfied that in specially putting up this scheme every possible prevision that could be taken in the matter in order to provide a scheme for the benefit of the men, was taken. The whole object of the scheme has been to benefit the men concerned, and in the process to set a basis possibly for the solution of the very large social problem which lies [1268] behind it. It is in that spirit the scheme has been initiated, and it is in that spirit it will be continued.

I now come to deal with small marine works. Of the original allocation under this head £4,354 was not absorbed. The net amount available for expenditure was £6,702, of which £3,202 or 47.8 per cent. was expended. These minor marine schemes are for the most part carried out under the supervision of the engineers of the Office of Public Works, and the slow progress of the work is due to the fact that, although the plans and specifications had in all cases been prepared and the work sanctioned in good time, shortage of the engineering staff of the Office of Public Works, and the pressure of more important work made it impossible to have a large proportion of the schemes put in hands. This difficulty has been overcome in the past year, and the position should be better in future.

For land reclamation schemes the amount available for expenditure within the financial year was £103,400, all of which was expended. The total amount available for miscellaneous schemes within the financial year was £42,745, all of which has been expended. Of the total estimated expenditure of £1,586,852 (including contributions by local authorities during the financial year 1939-40) approximately £669,260 was expended during the period 1st April to 31st October, and the balance of £917,592 during the winter months. The maximum number of workmen employed at any one time during the year was 38,270. The average number employed during the period up to October was 10,981, and from November to March, 27,960. Of these approximately 77 per cent. were workmen who would otherwise have been entitled to unemployment assistance. The average period of employment given to individual workmen varies with the class of work and the different areas, but it is estimated that from 60,000 to 70,000 individual workmen received part-time employment of three to four days per week for an average of 15 weeks in the year. The total number of applications received [1269] for minor employment schemes during the years was 4,400, and about 7,500 proposals were investigated and reported on. During the spring and summer approximately 525 small drainage schemes were carried out at a cost of £38,131.

I have on previous occasions alluded to the difficulty in keeping up the volume of proposals for employment schemes. The difficulty is to keep up the volume of suitable schemes. To be suitable for the purpose of the Employment Schemes Vote, a scheme must have a reasonably high unskilled labour content, and this eliminates many proposals which on their face appear to be very desirable works of public utility, but which are of such a nature that a disproportionately small part of their cost is paid in wages to unskilled labourers.

Another criterion of suitability is that the work proposed must not be one which the local authorities should or would undertake at once or in the immediate future out of their own funds, as the adoption of such schemes would not, in fact, yield any additional employment. Also, the location of employment schemes must generally be strictly related to the numbers of unemployed persons in each area, and as employment schemes have now been in operation over a considerable number of years, it should be evident that in many areas the best and most suitable of the works have already been exhausted.

A very special difficulty has arisen in maintaining a suitable supply of works of good public value and high labour content in the boroughs. Definitely the position is becoming extremely difficult. Dublin last year did not absorb half of the money which was available; Cork did not absorb the money which was available; and other boroughs found considerable difficulty in putting forward schemes which were desirable. I am receiving from boroughs and places of that kind schemes at the present moment the labour content of which is definitely low. This money is not voted by the Dáil for the purpose of doing works as such. It is not voted for the purpose, as far as I understand it, of making roads, or specifically for that purpose. The roads and other [1270] things which are done are done for the purpose of enabling the Dáil through those works to distribute in wages to necessitous people money which they need. We have to face the fact that the labour content, the labour value, of these schemes is year by year depreciating.

Last autumn, when the necessity for economies during the war was considered, the winter programme of employment schemes which had been prepared in advance and was then due to commence, was also reviewed to ascertain whether, in the light of the unemployment position in the rural areas at the time, and also having regard to possible modifications in the Employment Period Orders, the expenditure on employment schemes during the winter should be altered. In the event, however, no change was actually made in the amounts which had already been notified to the local authorities, but one of the results of the discussions which took place was to delay the issue of notifications of the commencement of the schemes comprised in the winter programme, and this had the effect of considerably reducing the numbers of persons engaged on employment schemes in the months of November and December, 1939, as compared with the numbers in the same months of the previous year.

The actual increase in unemployment registration in the first months of this year as compared with the same months in 1939 can best be judged by the combined figures of the live register of unemployment and the numbers engaged on employment schemes. On this basis the increase in the first week in January was just under 10,000; in the first week of February, 7,250, and of March, 9,300. There was a decrease of 21,000 in the first week of April last as compared with the same period in 1939, but this was due to the new Employment Period Order which operated from early in March this year as compared with June in 1939. That, I think, covers the story of last year as far as I know it. I understand that Deputy Morrissey is moving that the Vote be referred back for reconsideration, but I do not know the particular point which he has in mind and, if I have not dealt with it, he will take it that [1271] it is simply because I do not know. The provision for 1940-41 is £1,400,000, which is the same as the provision for 1939-40.

Mr. D. Morrissey: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  The same?

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Yes. The last one was £1,500,000, reduced by £100,000 to £1,400,000. To the amount of the Vote must be added contributions expected from local authorities estimated at £270,000. This gives a total sum of £1,670,000 available for expenditure within the financial year 1940-41, and to enable this expenditure to be achieved within the time limit, it is proposed to authorise the initiation of schemes involving a State grant of £420,000 in excess of the amount of the Vote. This sum, together with a proportionate [1272] amount for local contributions, will be carried forward at the 31st March, 1941, to form part of the ensuing year's programme.

In this regard it is necessary again to remind the Dáil that a large portion of each year's Vote is allocated to local authorities, and the fulfilment of the estimate of expenditure depends largely on the acceptance of the grants on the terms offered, and on the prompt submission of schemes by the local authorities. In a number of cases the local authorities did not intimate until well on in the autumn schemes for grants which were offered in the spring.

Subject to the foregoing remarks, the following table sets forth for each class of work the proposed expenditure in the year 1940-41:—

ESTIMATED EXPENDITURE
State Local Total
£ £ £
DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH:
Public Health Works 90,000 130,000 220,000
Rural and Urban Employment Schemes (including roads) 735,000 127,000 862,000
Housing Site Development Works 1,900 1,900 3,800
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE:
Supply of Seeds 46,500 46,500
Farm Improvements Scheme 228,500 228,500
OFFICE OF PUBLIC WORKS:
Minor Employment Schemes (including Minor Marine Works, etc.) and Peat Development Schemes. 230,000 230,000
MISCELLANEOUS SCHEMES 68,100 10,000 78,100
TOTALS 1,400,000 268,900 1,668,900

The only new item there is the farm improvement scheme, amounting to £228,500. Many times it has been suggested in the House that money which is being spent on unemployment assistance or employment schemes should be used for the purpose of employing men doing farm improvement works. It has been suggested that it would be much cheaper and a much more economical way of using up the money. That was carefully considered over a considerable period of years, to see whether or not some such scheme could be designed, which would in fact fully fulfil the ordinary purposes of this Vote, which is to distribute money amongst those who are necessitous. Anyone who has studied the maps which we have made available for the House over a period of years, showing the distribution of unemployment assistance recipients, will see the difficulty of that problem.

The vast majority of unemployment assistance recipients are segregated [1273] into what we call the “black areas”, and these are the areas on the west coast of Ireland, in which there is a traditional shortage of land, and in which the amount of land capable of being cultivated relative to the population is low, while in the large central plain areas in the eastern districts, where there is good land, and high valuation per head of the agricultural population, there is only a very small number of unemployed assistance recipients. It is quite clear that in the “black areas” there is only a very meagre possibility of extra employment of paid labour on the tiny holdings and farms, and unless it is possible to migrate that labour, at considerable cost, into the richer lands of the midlands and the east, and get it employed, it is not possible to solve that riddle in accordance with the general principle of the Vote.

For that reason, while this £228,500 will undoubtedly tend to increase employment, mainly within the central areas, it cannot be expected to produce either that detailed distribution or that actual efficiency that has previously been the object. It will be very largely, in practice, a subsidy for agricultural land. The actual scheme has not yet been fully worked out. The idea will be to bring it as much into conformity as possible with the intention to obtain paid employment for necessitous people, but it will not be possible, in my opinion, to do that to the degree in which we seek to do it in relation to such things as minor employment schemes, road work and so on. It is only fair to warn the House of that. Yet, I have no doubt that in this particular emergency it will produce very good and valuable results, and result in increased agricultural production.

The other schemes alluded to are of the customary character, with which the House is familiar. Investigation has not unfortunately thrown up any new body or new category of works of wide distribution, capable of being used not only for the purposes of unemployment but for relief through the payment of wages. The House has to face the fact that as minor unemployment schemes go on, the more that is expended upon them the more difficult it is to get [1274] schemes with that high factor of distribution and that high factor of labour wages content which is desired. I called the attention of the House to this before. Every effort has been made in relation to every scheme that comes forward to judge it on the basis of its merits as an employment scheme, and, as far as humanly possible, to direct any money in the Vote in the direction of schemes in which the labour content is high. The difficulty is great and it is growing.

Mr. D. Morrissey: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  I move: “That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.” I must confess that the closing remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary were rather a shock for me. It is very sad and a very serious thing to learn that at the end of so many years of research committees, investigation committees and inquiries, with an increase in the month of January of this year of 10,000 people registered as unemployed, the Parliamentary Secretary had to conclude his remarks by telling us that the position is not going to be better, and by warning us that it is going to be worse. That is not an unfair interpretation of what the Parliamentary Secretary said.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I was alluding to the quality of the schemes from the viewpoint of employment.

Mr. Morrissey:  As far as I could understand, what was conveyed to the House was that the Parliamentary Secretary warned it, that it was growing more difficult to find suitable schemes of work, that it was more difficult last year than it was the year before, more difficult this year than last year, and was going to be still more difficult next year, and that if schemes could not be found employment could not be given.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I agree.

Mr. Morrissey:  I thought that was not an unfair interpretation of what was said. To say the least of it that is something that should depress every member of the House, and should give all grave cause for concern. I want to say that I do not agree with the Parliamentary [1275] Secretary, with all due respect of the knowledge of the position that he must have gained over a number of years.

I am not satisfied—I doubt that many members of the House are satisfied— that many useful works do not remain to be performed. I doubt if you could go five miles on any road without seeing works which could be usefully performed—works which would give useful employment and which would have a high labour content. I am afraid the Parliamentary Secretary is not giving the same rein to his imagination in respect of this problem that he usually gives to it in regard to other problems. I have said in this House that, particularly in the light of the circumstances of the day, I look upon the army of unemployed, apart altogether from the hardships and sufferings of themselves and their families, as a potential menace to the safety of the State. The year's work of the Parliamentary Secretary can, so far as this estimate is concerned, be summed up in his own words—that a certain number of thousands of men got work for a certain number of days in each week. For how long? For an average of 15 weeks in the year. I do not think that a statement like that calls for any comment from me or anybody else. That statement in itself shows that we have not even started to grapple with this problem, must less grapple with it in the right way. I am satisfied, from the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary and from the experiment at Clonsast, with which I shall deal later, that this Department is not the Department to deal with this problem.

The Parliamentary Secretary told us that there were 10,000 more persons registered as unemployed in January of this year than there were in January of last year. Notwithstanding that, they follow the bad example set last year of taking £100,000 from the amount made available for these relief works. While I am on that question, I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department on the fact—it is only fair they should be congratulated on it—that they spent a very high percentage of the money [1276] voted by the House. It is only fair that that should be mentioned. But the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department seem to be tied to standard schemes of work. Outside these particular schemes they are not, apparently, prepared to go. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that they were going to embark on what is, for them, a new form of work or assistance —farm-improvement work. I forget the exact figure he gave, but I think it was in the neighbourhood of a quarter of a million pounds.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  £228,000.

Mr. Morrissey:  How much of that is to be spent, because, if we are to gather from the small amount of information we have got, the type of scheme has not yet been selected. The different classes of schemes have, as yet, got no consideration, and there is no thought-out scheme, good, bad or indifferent. What is the form of work to be? What is to be the relationship between the farmer, the person employed and the State? Will the State pay the man the full wage? Or will the State pay part of the wage and the farmer the other part? And— a very important point—are the unemployed who are to be given work on farms under this scheme to perform what I may call ordinary agricultural work? If so, has the Parliamentary Secretary considered the likely reactions of that scheme on men at present in the enjoyment, if I may say so, of permanent employment? I do not know if the Parliamentary Secretary is aware of the very serious reactions that have followed upon some of his rotational schemes— reactions of which he was warned in this House. Very largely, if not entirely, due to these rotational schemes and the wrong application of the moneys voted by this House, men in the enjoyment of permanent work for from 20 to 30 years have found themselves disemployed for three, four, five or six months of the year. The result of the way in which the money voted by this House has been spent is not to secure additional employment but—to give the matter the most favourable complexion—to give two [1277] men six months' work in the year where one man had been getting 12 months' constant work. I do not believe that that is a state of affairs which the Parliamentary Secretary desires to bring about, but that is what has happened and what is happening.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I do not quite understand the Deputy. If there is any case in which it can be shown that there have been unfavourable reactions from the rotational scheme, I should be glad if the Deputy would give me particulars.

Mr. Morrissey:  Let me give a case in point. The principle of the rotational scheme is bad enough; we have argued that before, and we may leave it. But when men on rotational schemes are put out to do work which would normally fall to be done by permanent employees of a local authority, then anybody who has any knowledge of the work knows what is going to happen. What has happened is that the men engaged on these rotation schemes have been put out to do road, quarry and various classes of work which, ordinarily, is done by permanent employees of the public authority. We have had the reactions. There is no question at all about that. I am satisfied that there are works of utility which could be done. I am as anxious as anybody to see this farm-improvement scheme a success, but I do not want to have men getting employment on farms out of the moneys which we are now asked to vote where such employment is going to lead to the disemployment of men already in permanent employment.

There is work to be done in this country that would not interfere with the normal employment of any working man. Let me give a case in point. I do not think I would be exaggerating if I were to say that there are thousands of farms in this State through which drains run into small streams or rivers. There are hundreds of these drains, and, for one reason or another, they are not cleaned; they are choked up either because the farmer has not the help to clean them or he cannot afford to hire the help to clean them; perhaps in a small [1278] number of cases the farmer is careless and he will not do the work. There is work to be done in that direction with, I might say, 100 per cent. of a labour content. It is work that would improve the lands from the point of view of saving them from flooding; if it would not altogether save them from flooding, they would be subject to flooding for a much shorter period than at the present time. The cleaning of those drains, particularly at this time, would provide very valuable manure or top-dressing for the land. I mention that as one type of work which would be useful work, as work that would give employment to unskilled labour, and that would be profitable work from the point of view not only of the farmer, but of the State.

The Minister referred to the experiment at Clonsast. I want to make my position clear. I am not one of those who will hold his hands up in holy horror at the idea of unemployed workers, particularly single men, having to migrate from their native districts to get employment in another part of their own country provided they get it under fair conditions; but I should like to know who was responsible for putting it into the Parliamentary Secretary's head that turf cutting and turf saving was unskilled work, work that unskilled men could do, and who put it into his head that such an experiment should first be tried on young fellows from the City of Dublin between the ages of 18 and 25, the majority of whom never saw a bog in their lives? To crown this experiment and to make sure that it could not be a success, those men, brought from the City of Dublin and many of whom never saw a bog in their lives, were to be paid on piece rates.

In the next breath the Parliamentary Secretary told us that one of his troubles was how to deal with the unemployment problem in the West of Ireland. Any of us looking at the maps outside can see by the black areas in portions of the West of Ireland that there are huge numbers of unemployed single young men for whom it is really impossible to get work in their native districts. Instead of bringing men [1279] accustomed to turf cutting from Connemara, or some other part of the West, and putting them to do work that they can do and that they are used to doing, and that would come natural to them, work at which they could earn good money on the piece rates, for some unknown reason the experiment had to be tried on young fellows from the City of Dublin. It seems to me, if those are the facts— and those are the facts that we got from the Parliamentary Secretary and from the Minister—whoever started out on that scheme started out deliberately to make sure that the experiment was not going to succeed. If they did not start out deliberately to do that, they could not have gone a better way to bring about that result. Some people, of course, chuckled and grinned when they observed that a number of those fellows returned from the bog. They said: “We told you so. These are the sort of fellows who do not want to work; all they want is to get money for nothing.” If some of the people who pass remarks like that—and perhaps there are some of them in this House —were sent down to a bog to cut turf at piece rates, they might not stay in it very long.

Dr. Hannigan: Information on Joseph Hannigan  Zoom on Joseph Hannigan  If the Deputy would look into the matter, I think he will find that only a small percentage were asked to cut turf.

Mr. Morrissey:  Was the Deputy listening to the Minister for Industry and Commerce? He gave figures which showed that only a very small percentage remained at work.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Deputy Morrissey is correct.

Mr. Morrissey:  To cap the Minister's statement, we had the Parliamentary Secretary telling us that, in connection with this scheme, there was every possible prevision. If that is an example of the Parliamentary Secretary's prevision, then I hope he will not indulge in any more experiments. We come back to the position that, so far as unemployment in this country is concerned, [1280] the Government have abandoned the standard that they adopted and continued for a number of years; that was, that the unemployment problem in this country was capable of solution; that they had a plan to solve it, and that there was no reason why unemployment should exist here. The Taoiseach on one occasion said he was prepared to stand or fall by his ability to provide employment. Let us get away from all that. This is the position, that at the end of eight years, notwithstanding all the efforts that have been made, we find ourselves to-day actually with more unemployed and apparently less provision for them.

The Parliamentary Secretary ends on a note of despair, a note of hopelessness. The only thing he can tell the House is that the schemes of employment are going to be fewer and fewer and, therefore, numbers of men can only hope to get, on an average, 15 weeks on rotation work in the year. I do not want to paint the picture any blacker than it really is. I only hope the Parliamentary Secretary and the members of the Government realise the potential dangers of that situation. I had to mention this matter in the House before, and I mentioned it because I have, perhaps, closer contacts than many other people here. If you have 100,000 or 120,000 people idle, and if they see no hope of getting employment, or of getting employment only on conditions that give them a starvation standard—and nobody will contend that a married man who has unemployment assistance, even at the maximum rate in rural Ireland, or a man who is employed on rotation schemes, can be on anything except a starvation standard, particularly having regard to prices as they are today—all I have to say is, and I hope I am wrong in my judgment, that there is material there which can be used, by any fellow who is sufficiently brainy and unscrupulous, against the best interests of the State.

That is no reflection, and cannot be taken as such, on the unemployed in this country. When men can see no hope, and when men are looking at those dependent on them who are not able to get enough to eat—and that is [1281] the position of many of them to-day— then they certainly become desperate and become reconciled and anxious for changes that they would otherwise not countenance for five minutes. I do not want to press the matter any further than that but I do say that the situation calls for a good deal more consideration than, apparently, the Government or the Parliamentary Secretary have given to it. From the speech which the Parliamentary Secretary has delivered here to-day, there is absolutely no change whatever from last year. The only new point made, if one could call it a new point—I suppose it is a new departure anyhow—is the announcement about the sum of money that is to be set aside for farm improvement works.

If all the information of the Department can be summed up in the few words of the Parliamentary Secretary in relation to the farm improvement works, then I am afraid there is not going to be very much of that work done in the present financial year, and I am afraid the Parliamentary Secretary will not be able to report as favourably upon the percentage of the money spent when he comes before the House next year—as I hope he will—as he is in a position to do this year. I think the Parliamentary Secretary has to admit that he has not succeeded in what he set out to do a good many years ago. I am not one of those, I never was one of those who believed he had an easy job. The only people who ever thought it was easy to solve the unemployment problem or even to make substantial inroads upon it were those who knew nothing about it. Those who did know something about the problem and have studied it knew that it was going to be a difficult task. But the least we had a right to expect from the Government and the Parliamentary Secretary was that if they were not able to reduce the number of unemployed they would certainly keep it from increasing.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  I just want to raise one or two matters in connection with this Estimate. Firstly, I want to say at the outset that I dislike intensely the whole economic policy of the Board of Works in respect to the provision of work, [1282] because I believe its whole conception in respect of wage standards is the conception of wage standards associated with the famine, that the wage scales paid by the Board of Works on such minor relief schemes as are carried out are pauperised standards of wages which no Christian could possibly justify. Not even the most greedy, grasping employer could hope to get men at such low rates of wages or to justify in his own conscience the payment of such intolerably low rates of wages. While I say that of the Board of Works in regard to their general policy, I want at the same time to pay a tribute to the courtesy and the kindness that one experiences from officials of the Board of Works in any contacts with them. They are not responsible, of course, for the wage standards. They are not responsible, of course, for the notorious rotational schemes which disgrace the Board of Works, but, within the limits of the very disagreeable task which they have to perform, they carry out their duties with courtesy, tact and understanding. I am only sorry that their manners, ability and tact should not be associated with a much higher conception of wage standards and life in this country.

There are two points which I wish to put to the Parliamentary Secretary in particular. One is that I have never been able to understand the policy of the Board of Works, in making a grant for the cleaning of a drain or of a river or the deepening of a river, insisting that that work should be carried out between the period November to March. There may not be a rigid insistence upon that, but I have seen in my own constituency and elsewhere men engaged on work of that kind employed under very disagreeable conditions, employed under conditions which are uneconomic in excelsis. I have seen these people trying to get silt and sand out of the bed of a river while the river was in torrent, whatever they threw up on the banks being washed back again by the rain or by the river or stream in torrent. I can understand the Board of Works policy, and agree with it to a large extent, that unemployment relief schemes ought to be put into operation when unemployment is at its peak period, namely, over the [1283] winter period. I can agree with that policy in respect of roads, in respect of removing corners, in respect of doing most kinds of work which the Board of Works undertake, but it seems to me that when they undertake the deepening of a river or the cleaning of a river, stream or drain, that is obviously mid-summer work, and that the best results can be obtained in mid-summer. Instead of that, I find people in my own constituency and elsewhere being put to the hopelessly uneconomic task of trying to deepen rivers, streams and drains when they are in torrent. That seems to me a most unwise policy of the Board of Works and one not calculated to get any kind of reasonable return for the work that is done. The men are working under very onerous conditions. They have no interest whatever in the work they are doing except to get the wages at the end of the week. If I were in their position I would have even less interest than they have. To expect people who are under-fed and who have been unemployed for a long time to take an interest in trying to clean a drain or a river in the month of November, December, January or February, is asking human nature to do something which it simply will not do. I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that in respect of that type of work, some effort ought to be made to ensure that it will be carried out in the dry months of the year when you will get the best possible return for the wages that you pay, such as they are, and when you will do a maximum amount of work for those wages, having regard to the climatic conditions under which the work is performed.

The other point I wish to raise is the question of the Drainage Commission. I understand that the Board of Works is closely associated with the activities of that commission, and is assisting in the submission of evidence to it as regard the general financial problem associated with it. I would like to put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that we ought to have an early report and some kind of national policy for dealing with tributaries of rivers which are already within an arterial drainage scheme, or which [1284] came within the scope, for instance, of the Barrow drainage scheme. There are rivers in my constituency which are associated with the Barrow, but which have not come within the scope of the Barrow drainage scheme. It is absolutely impossible, no matter what the conditions are, to get a grant from the Board of Works for any work on these rivers, because apparently the Board of Works take the view that, having made a State grant for the cleaning of the Barrow and having compelled riparian and other owners and residents in the county generally to contribute for that kind of work, they will give no free grant for the cleaning of the tributaries which were neglected when the Barrow drainage was first undertaken. We ought to have some policy on that matter.

There is a place in my constituency, Leighlinbridge; the Barrow courses down through Leighlinbridge. There is an island, if I might call it such, about two acres in extent, close to the bridge. When the river is in torrent the island impedes the free flow of the water, with the result that during the winter period the town is constantly under water. I have seen that town enduring appalling conditions owing to the condition of the river. The Board of Works will do nothing. They say it was not in the Barrow drainage scheme. If you ask the Board of Works to make some kind of substantial grant to clear the island or to divert the course of the water, or to do something to break up the island so that in time the water will corrode it, you get the answer: “No, it cannot be done. We cannot make a free grant for that, after making a State grant for the cleaning of the Barrow generally.”

I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that there are very many rivers in the country, tributaries of important rivers, and apparently it is the policy of the Board of Works not to spend any money on these pending the submission of the report of the Drainage Commission; but having regard to the saucer-like character of this country and to the widespread necessity for drainage, some steps ought to [1285] be taken—I know the problem is not easy—to evolve a policy in regard to the drainage of rivers of that kind which do not come within the scope of an arterial drainage scheme, which, because of their neglected condition, cause considerable flooding and do considerable annual damage to lands, and in respect of which we apparently have no policy at the moment, except to point out that the giving of a State grant on a repayable basis in one case prevents us from making a free grant in other cases.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  In view of the Deputy's line of argument, might I ask whether the debate is meant to cover Votes 9 and 10, in addition to Vote 67? Votes 9 and 10 deal with the Board of Works and Public Works.

Mr. Morrissey:  The only point about that is that the Parliamentary Secretary, in his introductory remarks, confined himself absolutely to Vote 67.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  You may regard me as having finished what I had to say.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The desire of the Chair is to have it cleared up for the guidance of the Committee.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  We have given money out of the Employment Vote for purposes analogous to those of which Deputy Norton spoke.

Mr. Hurley: Information on Jeremiah Hurley  Zoom on Jeremiah Hurley  The Parliamentary Secretary, from his local knowledge of my constituency, will appreciate that there is a good deal of unemployment in certain parts of it, and notably in the district in which he himself lives, the Rushbrooke and Cobh area. I want to repeat a statement which I made in the House recently with regard to the unemployment figures in Cobh and the manner in which those figures have grown in the last 12 months. In April, 1939, the number of unemployed in Cobh was 273, but in April, 1940, it had risen to 469, an increase of 196. In addition, 200 young people have left the district since the war started. As I say, the Parliamentary Secretary knows the district very [1286] well and understands the necessity for devoting the attention of his Department to it.

The local people have formed a committee in order to try to do something to combat the evils of unemployment in the town and district, and they intend to send a deputation to the Government on the matter. One of the things which they have put up very definitely is the provision of relief schemes, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to go into the question and see what useful relief schemes could be made available for the summer months. I must have got the wrong impression, but I understand that schemes of employment have been put up by the local council for the summer, but, in any case, I want to impress on the Parliamentary Secretary the necessity for immediate action with regard to relief schemes for the area. Other things are in the offing, and we are hopeful that some of them may come to fruition. In the meantime, however, there is an urgent necessity, owing to the large number of unemployed, for getting some kind of useful work going in that area.

There was some comment as to a relief scheme in the district during the winter not being particularly useful. I am not offering any criticism of it — it may be right or it may be wrong — but the work was not regarded as useful work.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  What scheme is the Deputy referring to?

Mr. Hurley: Information on Jeremiah Hurley  Zoom on Jeremiah Hurley  The road back above Cobh. It was said that there were other more useful schemes which could have been put into operation. I have heard various suggestions in that respect and I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary has got them, too. I may say that all the harbour area is particularly badly hit in this matter of unemployment, and I suppose that most of it is due to the change-over from the British to an Irish Government. The point is, therefore, made, and I think with some justice, that the State has a special responsibility to the area because of the way the district has been hit by the change of administrations in this country. The other [1287] district I want to refer to is Passage West. That town is dependent entirely on relief schemes, and, for the past three or four months, there has been a pretty extensive scheme of work on roads going into the town. That now is finished, and the problem is to provide work for the summer months. Otherwise, the position in the town of Passage, as in the town of Cobh, will be extremely bad.

The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that useful schemes would be considered and that request for information with regard to useful schemes is reasonable. I have looked around as well as I could to find whether anything could be put up. The late county surveyor, Mr. O'Connor, had a very large scheme which was, I think, submitted to the Department, which would probably absorb a good many unemployed, even in the Cork City area and the Passage urban area, with regard to the proposed Passage railway road. The Parliamentary Secretary is so conversant with the district that he will understand what I am talking about. The old Cork, Blackrock and Passage railway has been in disuse since 1932, and the Cork County Council has taken over the site of the railway. The late county surveyor, Mr. O'Connor, put up a proposal in 1936 that the Cork County Council and the Cork Corporation jointly should purchase the land of the derelict Cork, Blackrock and Passage railway. The principal object was the building of a roadway on the old railway between Cork and Rochestown. It was considered this road would save congestion and danger to traffic on the existing narrow, winding main road and open up facilities for road transport.

When the Cork-Kinsale branch railway was closed down, over £30,000 was expended out of road fund grants on improving the main road to Kinsale, and, similarly, when the Cork and Muskerry railway was closed, the roads serving Blarney and Donoughmore areas were improved at considerable expense. Nothing has yet been done to compensate the town of Passage West for the closing down of the Cork, Blackrock and Passage West railway in [1288] December, 1932. There is very little chance of reviving industry there unless there are improved roads and transport facilities. There is now an opportunity to commence such work as an employment scheme.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Some of that work is actually in progress.

Mr. Hurley: Information on Jeremiah Hurley  Zoom on Jeremiah Hurley  I have said that. The Cork County Council has approved a scheme, and forwarded it to the Department of Local Government. It makes application to spend £4,900 to start with, and this includes provision for the construction of the new railway road between Cork and Rochestown.

It is to this I wish to direct the Parliamentary Secretary's attention in particular—that this scheme was suggested as one to be carried out in co-operation with the Cork Corporation. There was also a suggestion—I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary has got this document or not —of carrying the railway road across the Douglas River. There were also plans for a bridge and a dam, and there was a suggestion for a lake at Douglas. This plan would give a fresh water lake of 167 acres in area. There is a very deep, unhealthy slobland there. The lake giving 167 acres would extend for one-and-a-half miles from the dam up to Douglas village. There was also a suggestion for a park at Douglas. In my opinion that scheme put up by the county surveyor would be very useful and have a very large labour content. It is one the Parliamentary Secretary should look into with a view to giving employment in this particular district where unemployment is rampant.

There were other schemes in regard to roads at Crosshaven, some of which were done by minor relief schemes. There was a suggestion for a coast road at Crosshaven which would cost about £2,500, and which would give a good deal of employment. The Parliamentary Secretary knows the condition of unemployment in these areas and he knows that the works now suggested would have a very large labour content.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  I regret I was not able to be in the House to listen to the [1289] Parliamentary Secretary's statement, but I heard his concluding remarks, and I must certainly say he did not leave much hope for the solution of the unemployment problem.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Through employment works.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that unemployment is going to become worse. Anybody with a knowledge of our industries will find that by the introduction of new methods and of modern machinery, more and more men are being put out of industry, and more and more work is being done by machinery. I read a statement by the International Labour Office recently, which said that, with the increased knowledge and technical skill, production could easily be increased tenfold, and that, if it were increased tenfold, one could feed, clothe and shelter every man, woman and child in Europe. I am quite satisfied that unemployment is the greatest problem we have to face. I agree with Deputy Morrissey that it is a grave matter when young men remain unemployed so long, and when married men remain unemployed and have hungry children and wives depending on them. I am afraid we are not facing up to this problem at all seriously enough.

I have met young men with only the one suit of clothes year in and year out. I have seen these men with their bodies barely covered. These are men who have got a certain amount of good education and have a very advanced conception of life. I agree with Deputy Morrissey that these young men are open for anybody to take advantage of their privations and sour their minds against the present system. I will only say to the Parliamentary Secretary that it is rather absurd to say that he cannot find work for these people to do as there is not work which will give a good return. In other words, they will not be put to work, and cannot get employment unless he can get some return.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Some reasonable return.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  To my mind, that is a [1290] false view and a wrong conception. The Parliamentary Secretary knows as well as I know that it is ridiculous to say to me that we could not put anything up to 1,000 men usefully to work within Cork City at the moment. I am not going to accept that view. Take the question of housing and the slum areas in Cork City. We talk about the difficulty of transporting men to work here and there. I remember reading a statement by a clergyman in County Clare about men who cycled 21 miles to work and 21 miles back again without there being a murmur about it. I have been trying to visualise this problem of unemployment in cities and towns. Limerick and Cork are only 60 miles apart, and with modern transport I cannot see any great difficulty in putting unemployed men to work usefully if we have the will to do it. I am quite satisfied that the Parliamentary Secretary is vigorous enough to put them to work, but he cannot do it because he has not the money. Let me say candidly that the handicap is that the money is not available to put the unemployed to work, that we have not control of the money and credit of the country. The sooner we face that fact the better.

I am informed by Deputy Morrissey's statement that there were 10,000 more unemployed this January than in the previous January. Is there anything which needs more serious attention than that? I am told that Cork did not absorb all the money allocated to them last year in relief schemes. That is news to me.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  It is true.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  Is it the corporation?

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  We did not get the spring schemes until the autumn, and the autumn schemes until later. They did not absorb all the money.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  God be with the old days. I hope everybody is taking notice of that. We have been clamouring for the people responsible to put schemes into operation. We are informed that schemes were prepared and submitted. That brings me to [1291] another issue. We have suggested to the city manager and to our engineer in Cork certain schemes which should be undertaken and for which the money for relief schemes should be utilised. I understand that they are ready, but that it cannot be done. I have already spoken to the Parliamentary Secretary about that. The money should be left to the city manager to use in his wisdom and discretion in necessary schemes for new roads or clearing sites for housing schemes which will later be brought to fruition. My experience for the past two or three years has been that the mentality amongst young men and aged men is that the case of the unemployed is one of hopelessness. Men can be kept in good humour and in good trim if they have something to hope for, but when they are anxiously looking for work and see no hope whatever of getting it I feel it presents a problem which is not being tackled in this House with the seriousness it deserves.

I am satisfied, as I said before, that there are men, women and children dying of starvation, though it may not be so called by the medical authorities. I know children who die of diseases which I could mention, but these diseases are really due to the privations to which they have been subjected. I am satisfied that we are not facing up to that problem of poverty and starvation due to it. I do not want to exploit this question of the unemployed, but I am afraid there are too many obstacles put in their way and too much of a tendency to say: “You are unemployed because you will not work.” We had the experiment on the turf scheme which was mentioned here the other day. Like Deputy Morrissey, I cannot understand why any serious-minded person should take men from the Cities of Dublin and Cork to carry out experiments in turf cutting while there are plenty of young men in the country with whom such experiments could be carried out.

On the question of spending money on farms and improving land, nobody will object to that scheme, but I want to point out to the Parliamentary Secretary that if farmers were given [1292] an opportunity of working their land scientifically, much greater production could be secured without having to employ any additional people on these lands. I have not much knowledge of the conditions under which land has been worked recently, but I know that, between the farmers and their sons, there are sufficient people on the land to work it to full capacity if modern methods are employed. I think that you will find great difficulty in absorbing many unemployed on the farms unless you take over the big ranches that have been mentioned. I am sure everybody will give the greatest co-operation in that respect. If you were to take the labourers' cottages out of the country between Cork and Dublin, you would come to the conclusion that there was hardly anybody on the land at all.

In conclusion, I want to say that the Parliamentary Secretary is not correct in saying that we have no useful schemes of employment to put up. In Cork, for a number of years past, we have had a sewerage scheme on hand, and it is estimated that it will cost £250,000 to carry it through. It is suggested that we should do that in stages. We have many other schemes in Cork City which could be carried through if we were only given a free hand and were provided with the necessary money to finance them. I admit that the Parliamentary Secretary is anxious to put the unemployed to work, and that his mind is active and vigorous enough to consider every possibility of doing so, but I say that all your efforts will be in vain if you are not able to control the credit of the country.

Dr. Hannigan: Information on Joseph Hannigan  Zoom on Joseph Hannigan  I intervene solely for the purpose of dealing with one or two points raised by Deputy Morrissey in the course of his remarks. I am sorry that Deputy Morrissey is not present in the House now, because it may be that I am misinterpreting his remarks. I tried unsuccessfully to intervene when he was here. I gathered from some of his statements that the people in some parts of the country felt aggrieved because, as alleged, contingents of young men were going down [1293] from the city to displace local labour. That was mentioned particularly in connection with the turf scheme. I should like to point out to Deputy Morrissey, and to other Deputies from various parts of the country, that the unemployment problem, the housing problem, and many kindred problems in Dublin have been immeasurably increased and made more difficult by the continuous influx of people from down the country to the city during many years.

The municipal authorities and various other bodies in Dublin went very seriously into this whole problem and found that there was no remedy for it. I do not want to discuss this matter from any narrow provincial angle, but the fact is that this influx of people from the country to the city is of no advantage to Dublin, and it could not be of any advantage to the localities from which they came. In so far as the contingents of young men who went down to the bog are concerned, my only experience in the matter is that a number of employable inmates in the Dublin Union were voluntarily recruited to do work of this nature down the country, and it was emphatically stated at the time that there was no local labour available. It was only in these circumstances that the responsible board agreed to co-operate in the scheme. So far as my knowledge goes, the results were not as bad as Deputy Morrissey indicated. Quite a number of those who went down stayed on the scheme and gave satisfactory service. There are many other points which could be raised on this Vote, but this is not a particularly opportune time to discuss them. I am quite satisfied to deal with that one point. As I said, I would have liked to have had an opportunity of dealing with it when Deputy Morrissey was present, because it may be that I am not correctly interpreting his remarks.

Mr. J. Flynn: Information on John Flynn  Zoom on John Flynn  I regret to hear the Parliamentary Secretary state that, so far as minor relief schemes were concerned in the rural districts, the result has been disappointing. He indicated that that disappointment arose from their low labour content, and that he [1294] is dissatisfied with the whole system. As in the case of the men recruited for the scheme at Clonsast, I submit there are various factors which have led up to that result. In some instances these minor relief schemes have failed because one man in a district could hold up a whole scheme simply by refusing his signature to the necessary consent. Even though it may be an urgent and necessary scheme, one resident, by withholding his signature, can hold up the whole scheme and deprive a parish, or perhaps in some cases a very much wider area, of the advantages which would accrue from the scheme. Some schemes have had to be cancelled on that account. I submit that the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department should obtain the necessary power to overcome the opposition of people of that kind. I understand they are already in possession of compulsory powers, and as this deadlock has been recurring over a period of years, I think it is time that something was done about it.

So far as the question of low labour content is concerned, I think that cannot be attributed to any fault on the part of the people responsible for these schemes. There again various factors enter into the matter. For instance, you may have a public utility scheme which would serve a large number of people, and the inspectors and those concerned may say: “Well, this is not giving the necessary results. There is no appreciable return. We have expended certain sums on it, and as far as we are concerned, having regard to the number of persons employed, it is not up to the standard.” Nevertheless that scheme may be of immense value in the district. Even though there might have been a low labour content and a large number of people employed on such a scheme, I suggest that you should scarcely cancel such a scheme if it were really useful work. In my opinion, a number of useful and even necessary schemes come under that category. I am also convinced that there is quite an amount of overlapping in this connection. For instance, in my own county last year you had overlapping in certain areas. You had men recruited from the town of Caherciveen [1295] who had to travel six miles to the scheme on which they were working, and other men brought in to work on a scheme that was practically within a mile or two of the town, and the men from the town of Caherciveen, on their way to the scene of work six miles away, passed through the territory where the others were at work within a mile or so of the town. There was overlapping there certainly, and I think that it is necessary that there should be co-operation between the labour exchange officials and the county council. There certainly was no evidence of such co-operation last year in certain of these districts, and I think that the whole system should be examined in the light of these circumstances with a view to seeing that men should be more usefully employed in the various units or areas. I do not mean that these men had any objection to travelling the distance, but they did feel that they should not be asked to travel six miles to work when work was available within two or three miles of where they lived, and it does seem strange that such overlapping should take place.

I should also like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he is satisfied that the roads rural scheme is giving proper results. There again, in my opinion, the question of co-operation between the Board of Works, the local authorities and the Department of Local Government is in question. The principle of the thing is that the men should be recruited from the labour exchange offices. In practice, in connection with rural road work schemes, at certain periods of the year the moneys that are available for roads rural schemes are used by the county surveyors on roads that, in the ordinary sense, should be provided for from the county council allocation.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  That is not so.

Mr. Flynn:  I have seen cases where money that should be spent on what we call county roads, and provided for in the usual estimate of the county council, is not sufficient to maintain these roads and, as a result, the surveyor is compelled to group his [1296] district in such a way as to enable him to transfer some of the moneys for these small roads to the allocation of the roads rural scheme in connection with certain roads in the district. At any rate, I think that the matter should be examined from the point of view of the method of allocation, and how it works out in different districts.

A suggestion was made here to-day on the matter of piers, in reference to fisheries at Rineen, Waterville. There are 15 or 20 fishermen there who earn their livelihood from that industry, and the question of the repair of the Pier has been under consideration for some time; plans were submitted and rejected; then the whole matter was reconsidered and a new survey was carried out, but still the scheme is being held up. I submit that, if these men are to be considered, the Board of Works, again, should make an effort to sanction the amount allocated for that scheme.

We have heard mention in this House of the experiment at Clonsast. I submit to the Parliamentary Secretary that we have other areas in the country where similar schemes could be tried out—perhaps not on such a large scale, but certainly we have bog districts and drainage districts, and so on, in South Kerry and other places. As has been pointed out already, I believe the time has come when we should face up to this matter of transferring these men over a wide area, but of course it would all depend on how the matter is handled. Such a scheme as Clonsast could easily be a failure if you do not select your men properly or do not get the proper material. The same thing would apply in any part of the country if an engineer or surveyor were to accept every man that was offered from the labour exchange without knowing what work the man was able to do. Certainly, you cannot expect to get the full labour content in such schemes unless the engineer or foreman in charge is able to select and employ the men who, in his opinion, would be best qualified to make a success of the scheme.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  The foreman was not consulted in the case of Clonsast.

[1297]Mr. Flynn:  The usual thing is to ask that the most suitable men should be selected for the type of work in hands, and I think the same thing should be done in regard to the various areas in which considerable development could be carried out in connection with drainage and the making of roads into bogs, and so on. In our county, for instance, there is room for considerable development in connection with these turbary areas, and I think we need not refer to this question of a low labour content in connection with these relief works when we have all these large turbary areas where you could have schemes to absorb the unemployed in the different districts. Of course, I admit that it will require a lot of organisation and money to deal with the matter. I think that even on a small scale it could be done.

We were delighted to see the Parliamentary Secretary attempt this scheme and put it under way at Clonsast, because we realised, rightly or wrongly—at least I did—that it was a move in the right direction, and the forerunner of several of its kind throughout the country. I still believe, even though certain of the men sent there were found not to be suitable, that that should not deter the Parliamentary Secretary or his Department from pursuing the matter and, I believe, making a success of schemes of the kind on a much larger scale. The scheme is one that commends itself to the average man. No matter how some people are facilitated, they will not avail of work. Time and again we have been told about men in rural districts who would not accept a certain wage. At least they did not agree to it because they did not believe it was sufficient. But be that as it may, I can say that the relief schemes carried through in rural districts in our county were the saving of our people in those areas. They assisted them over very lean periods. The small farmers, fishermen and workers in those rural areas were given the opportunity of carrying on and developing their little holdings, and at the same time of earning some money. We all admit that the amount paid to them was not what some people would regard as the maximum [1298] wage, but, at any rate, it enabled them to rear their families and to develop their holdings. It would be a sad day for those people if, at any time, the Parliamentary Secretary should abandon this system for the reason, as he has stated himself, that he is dissatisfied with the labour content in some of those minor relief schemes. I can say on behalf of the people in the rural areas in my county that they are full of gratitude to the Department and to the Parliamentary Secretary who initiated and devised those schemes. They feel that the schemes should not be withdrawn. Even though one set of schemes might prove unsatisfactory by reason of not being up to standard in a district, another set of schemes, related to the development of turbary and work of that kind, might, if attempted, be found to fit in with the system, and should, I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary, be undertaken. In conclusion, I would ask him to review the whole matter in the light of present circumstances, and, if anything, to extend a system, such as the one that was inaugurated at Clonsast, to the rural districts in our county, to the “black” areas, or what we call the congested districts.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  The Deputy who has just spoken was not, in my opinion, well posted by the Parliamentary Secretary in connection with the experiment recently carried out at Clonsast. He talked, apparently without any knowledge whatever, about the foreman having some say in the selection of suitable men for the carrying out of work of that kind. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell him that the foreman, or men in charge of Clonsast peat works, had very little, if any, say in the selection of the Dublin men who were sent down there to carry out the experiment.

I want to say quite sincerely to the Parliamentary Secretary that I am prepared to give him every support in experimenting with any kind of scheme that will provide useful work for our unemployed people. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, when speaking of this subject in the Dáil quite recently, did not take the House into [1299] his confidence. He merely brushed the matter aside by saying that the fellows from the Dublin area who were provided with work at Clonsast did not want work: that they would not work. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to say why he was a party, as I am sure he was, to the selection of men who were born and reared in the centre of the City of Dublin for the carrying out of this experiment. I feel fairly certain that much more suitable men could have been found in our rural areas from amongst the unemployed there—men who had seen a bog, and who, perhaps, had worked on the bogs previously. I am reliably informed that the men who were sent down from Dublin, and returned shortly after their arrival at Clonsast, were men who were physically unfit for that type of work. I am quite prepared to believe that. Will the Parliamentary Secretary say whether it is true that those people were suffering, to some extent, from malnutrition? I ask him to take the members of the House into his confidence on this matter. I know that turf-cutting is a very laborious form of employment, and has always been so regarded. In the days before this Parliament was established, turf-cutting work was paid for at a far higher rate in the rural parts of the constituency that I represent than any other kind of work, whether of the agricultural or industrial type.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  None of those men were cutting turf.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  The men themselves stated locally, to people with whom I am in contact, that they were unable to carry on that kind of work because they had been so long out of employment, and had not had previous experience of it. Some of them, at least, admitted that they were not physically fit for it. It was not a case with them of not being willing to accept work for which they were fit. Those men, I suggest, were quite unfitted for that type of work. If there was a desire to carry out a fair experiment at Clonsast, then preference for employment on it should have been given to men who could have been brought from the rural areas, men who had some previous knowledge of [1300] the operation of turf-cutting and of spreading turf on a bog. The foreman or the people in charge at Clonsast, as far as I am informed, had no say whatsoever in the selection of the men who were sent down from Dublin. If the taxpayers' money is going to be spent in a profitable way in producing more peat from our bogs, then let it be spent in getting from the proper place the type of men who are physically fit and more suitable than men from the City of Dublin for that kind of work.

I have seen the conditions under which work has been carried on in Clonsast and I appreciate the conditions under which single men are housed in the hostel attached to the Clonsast scheme. The Parliamentary Secretary complained of the fact that he is unable to find enough schemes with sufficient labour content so that this whole business can be regarded as a success. What is the minimum percentage of wage content which he would regard as up to his standard in a scheme? Does he want a scheme of 50, 60, 70, or 80 per cent. labour content? What is the wage content for instance in a scheme for carrying out road repairing on a bog road?

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Oh, it is very high.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Would the Parliamentary Secretary educate me on that point? What is the percentage he would regard as an average?

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  It would be over 75 in those cases. Minor employment schemes have the highest percentage of labour content and they would be between 60 and 70 per cent.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  I suspected that the labour content in the making of those bog roads would be in or about 80 per cent., so that my view and the view of the Parliamentary Secretary do not differ to any great extent. Will the Parliamentary Secretary say why, in view of the demand made by the Taoiseach that we should increase our turf production to three times the output of last year, he will not give, in my area at any rate, the small grants that are required for the purpose of repairing the roads into our bogs? I know of bog roads in my constituency [1301] that I have repeatedly brought before the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary. In wet weather the people are unable to get in or out of the bog through these roads—they are unable to get in to cut the turf and when the turf is cut they are unable to get it out. If this kind of scheme comes up to the requirements of the Parliamentary Secretary from the point of view of labour content, if he is willing, as I am sure he is, to help the Taoiseach in his campaign for increased turf output, then he should regard it as part of his immediate duty to allocate the small grants required in many parts of my constituency so as to enable the people to get in and out of the bogs to cut the turf and cart it away. I would like him to call for the files dealing with applications of that kind from my constituency and see whether he cannot go further to meet the reasonable requirements of the people there. Is there a fixed sum to be allocated to each county or constituency on a basis of so much per head of the unemployed population?

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Yes, that is the position.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Is the Minister limited to the sum available for this purpose all over the country and is the maximum sum to be allocated to any constituency for carrying out such works limited? Is that why he has in the past failed to carry out these works?

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  In some cases I could spend more than the share which belongs to the district and in other cases I could not.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  I get back stock letters in reply to the applications I send to the Parliamentary Secretary. These letters say that it is not disputed that the work is necessary, but that in view of the fact that the number of registered unemployed in the area is not so many, the Parliamentary Secretary regrets that such-and-such a scheme cannot be sanctioned or that the money required for carrying out the scheme cannot be allocated. If that is the case, grants for works, whether urgent or not, seem to be based on the local register of unemployed people. Well, the unemployed register this year is [1302] much smaller than last year because single men have been cut off the register for a longer period and something in the nature of a sensation has been created in the country in the past few days as a result of the announcements made through the local labour exchanges that the married men are going to be cut off the register next week in rural parts of the country. That is the kind of policy that is extremely dangerous in a state of national emergency and at a time when all Parties in this House are prepared to co-operate with the Government in matters affecting national defence policy.

The married man who is cut off the register and who cannot see any other form of employment available for him in the country, does not care much about the discussions we carry on here or elsewhere on matters of national defence. Our national defence cannot be separated from the question of providing food, clothes and shelter for our civilian population. We have here before us for our approval an Estimate which cuts down the sum provided in last year's Estimate by a figure of no less than £100,000. Does this reduction represent the improvement which the Parliamentary Secretary thinks there is in the employment situation in the country? Is there any Deputy who will get up and say that the number of men provided with continuous employment in local industry is greater now than it was last year? I am prepared to admit that the increased acreage under tillage is going to provide more work for agricultural labourers, but not continuous work. It will be more casual work. I would like to think that the increased acreage of land which I am glad to see under tillage this year will provide continuous work for a greater number of men than were given work in the agricultural industry last year. But the married men are going to be cut off the register without any hope of continuous employment. They are not going to get any additional contribution from this Vote for the carrying out of necessary improvement schemes in the areas where they reside. That is a bad position from the point of view of the country as a whole.

[1303] I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look into the question and see whether he cannot provide an increased sum of money for the carrying out of urgent repair works to bog roads in rural areas. If he does that and if his colleague, the Minister for Lands, will induce the owners of turbary to let more bog land for increasing the production of peat, there is every hope that the appeal made by the Taoiseach and by the Minister for Industry and Commerce for increasing our peat production will be responded to. I am now speaking entirely apart from the political or Party point of view, but I want to repeat that there are areas in my constituency from which schemes have been repeatedly put up to the Parliamentary Secretary for minor relief grants for these works. Will the Parliamentary Secretary look into a number of repeated applications for minor relief grants that have been submitted to him by the Commissioner for the County of Laoighis for the purpose of providing some work for the unemployed in the Mountrath area in that county? It appears to be a waste of time for the local authority to take these matters up with the Parliamentary Secretary or the Office of Public Works. I mention that particular town because I know from intimate knowledge of the place that the registered and unregistered unemployed have no hope of getting work of any kind except on public works schemes provided either through the agency of the local authority or through grants allocated by the Office of Public Works.

There is a certain amount of boring work being carried out in mining areas in my constituency, and I understand that an application for grants for the making of roads into the mines where the boring operations are being carried on has been made repeatedly to the Office of Public Works. I refer in particular to an application submitted from the local authority for the County Laoighis to the Office of Public Works for a grant for the making of a road into a new colliery at Wolfhill. The carrying out of these operations there is giving employment to 50 men who [1304] otherwise would be unemployed. There is no money at the disposal of the people who have put their capital into this for the making of a road into this colliery at a place called Ballylehane. The road concerned, I believe, is under the control of the local authority, but the person in charge says he has no money available for the purpose. He has made repeated representations to the Office of Public Works and given full particulars of the case, and I would impress on the Parliamentary Secretary the necessity for coming to an early and favourable decision with regard to this deserving application.

I do not want to go into individual cases all over the constituency, but it is regrettable that, in the existing circumstances of the country, and, in particular, in view of the rather sensational decision of the Government recently to remove married men in rural areas from the unemployed register, we should be asked to agree to a reduction in this Vote of £100,000, and personally I cannot see my way to subscribe to the proposal.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: Information on Timothy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Timothy O'Sullivan  I should like to draw the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to a few matters concerning the constituency I represent. While I agree that a generous grant has been made available for employment in the Bere peninsula under the roads rural scheme, at the same time it is impossible for this grant to cover the whole area, because while quarrying and steamrolling are proceeding in one part, there are men unemployed in the other part. I think there should be some co-ordination between the Department of Local Government and the Office of Public Works in making available minor employment schemes in those areas that the roads rural scheme will not reach. I refer particularly to one side of the electoral division, namely, Kilcatherine. I brought this matter to the notice of the Office of Public Works on a few occasions within the last 12 months, and I regret to say nothing has been done about it.

In the other part of the peninsula, where the roads rural scheme has been finished, a number of men are again unemployed after having been employed [1305] for a great part of last year on that scheme. Several minor employment schemes have already been inspected and approved in that area and, where no other grant is being offered this year, I think those schemes should be put into operation. I refer particularly to the Adrigole area, where the roads rural scheme is finished. There are also many schemes which have been inspected and approved on Bere Island, on which there is no road rural scheme. The same applies to Dursey Island. While, as I say, a generous grant has been made under the roads rural scheme, still I am not satisfied that those areas to which that scheme did not apply have been fairly treated in the past year.

I should like to draw very special attention to the situation on the other peninsula—the Goleen area—where last year about 100 men were disemployed in the granite quarries. A very serious situation exists there because, under the present regulations of the Office of Public Works, there must have been a certain number of men on their unemployed list last year before a grant is made available this year, and these men were not unemployed in time last year to comply with this regulation. The fact remains that they are unemployed since, and in that area many schemes have actually been approved by the Office of Public Works which, I hold, should be put into operation immediately, because there is definite evidence that these men, who were employed for a few years, are now unemployed because of the closing down of the granite quarries. I think that that should be sufficient to justify the altering of that regulation, and that those schemes which have been approved in that area should be started immediately.

I have to complain that no scheme is at present in operation in the urban area of Bantry, where schemes have also been approved. There are over 80 persons in that area on the unemployed register, who have proved their willingness to work by travelling three and four miles outside the town whenever work was made available for them under the rural scheme. We have the position there that these men [1306] worked on the rural scheme all the winter and travelled three and four miles to that work in all kinds of weather, but when the summer came they were left without employment, because that special work was reserved for another division. There are several schemes in that area. Men in the urban area should be allowed to travel out to places where work is available. When a scheme has been approved of, work should be made available in the urban areas. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look into the points I referred to, and especially into the urgency of the Goleen business.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  The Parliamentary Secretary claimed that one of the reasons why he was not as cheerful as he might was because he found it very hard to get schemes with high employment content to justify work being carried out. He was here for the speech of Deputy O'Sullivan, and I am sure was delighted with Deputy Flynn's remarks about the position in Kerry. Far be it from me to suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary is in fault, but if I do not blame him I must blame Fianna Fáil Deputies, because the Parliamentary Secretary said that schemes were not suggested to him, while Deputies said that the Department would not spend money on them. Somebody is at fault. Either Deputies are doing their job and the Parliamentary Secretary is not doing his, or it is the other way, as he says he never heard of these schemes. One of the most amazing references was the contribution of Deputy Hannigan, who regretted the absence of Deputy Morrissey, with whom, apparently, he wanted to wipe the floor. What he wanted to say was that he objected to Deputy Morrissey resenting men being brought from Dublin to work in rural areas. But Deputy Hannigan said that the cause of the whole trouble in Dublin was the migration to the city, and that it was the country people who were causing trouble in Dublin, where the position was most serious. Deputy Hannigan overlooked one important thing, that when a countryman comes to Dublin he is able to take a job and do it, while if Dublin [1307] men went to the country they would not be able to do the work that is to be done there. I make Deputy Hannigan a present of that viewpoint.

I sympathise with the Parliamentary Secretary's references to minor relief schemes and to the work he wants done. It seems that the type of work he wants to have done is getting scarce, and that the position will be getting worse in the way of giving employment. Without referring to any particular district, I can visualise one type of work that could be done, on which money could be usefully spent under this Vote, and that would give a very high employment content. Every Deputy will agree that the main roads, which might be called the tourist roads, have been wonderfully improved.

While that has been done, there are miles of what are practically main roads that are deteriorating rapidly, because the usual amount of work has not been done upon them in some cases since they were under contract 20 years ago. Take the case of two roads running parallel through the same type of country. Because one is a main road it is steam-rolled and the people who use it have all the amenities of a steam-rolled road, while the other road is falling into disrepair, and getting into a worse condition every year. If the county councils have not finances to repair these roads and to put them into good condition, work of that kind could be usefully carried out under this Vote. Expenditure on roads of that kind would provide a large amount of employment. If that is what the Parliamentary Secretary is anxious about, I cannot imagine any work that would give a higher employment content than on roads where the work would consist of cleaning up the sides, spreading stones, that could, perhaps, be broken by hand, as well as patching. I do not believe there is an area in the country, and particularly in County Cork, where people could not be found anxious to get such work.

Another matter that hinges on this question is that it is found occasionally, where minor relief schemes are carried out, that while everybody is [1308] happy, even if the local authorities have taken them over, they get into disrepair, particularly in boggy districts, and in four or five years they are as bad as ever. Some method should be adopted to ensure that where public money is spent on roads and other works they are kept in repair. I was glad to hear Deputy Flynn referring to another matter, and that is where one individual in an area holds up a scheme that would be for the benefit of his neighbours. If a county council intimates that they want to make a new road, to drain land or to remove grass margins in order to widen or straighten a road, very often one person will refuse to sign the usual agreement and the whole thing is held up or the money available is shifted to another district. I am not clear what the position of the Board of Works is when dealing with cases like that. I am aware that local authorities have compulsory powers, and if they want land for improving roads they can use them. I do not think they ever exercise these powers.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Not for non-public roads.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  I agree. I know instances where the Cork County Council and the Board of Works spent money on improving the portion of a road for a quarter of a mile. Then they started at the other end, but in between there was a stretch that could not be touched because the county council could not get one individual to allow them to remove a fence. That person held up the neighbours at the point of the gun and refused to allow a fence on a public road to be removed until he got £15 in hard cash. The neighbours paid the £15 between them, but if the authorities did their job they could have exercised compulsory powers and taken whatever land they wanted to complete the road.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  How much would that cost?

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  I do not know. Deputy Corry is always anxious about the cost. Deputies know the type of person I am referring to, one who holds up his neighbours when he thinks he can do so, but who would not face a writ of [1309] mandamus from the county council or fight a case in the courts, because he would not spend the money that that would involve. Whether it would cost money or not, I say that local authorities are not using their compulsory powers. It is wrong where public money can be expended in an area on minor relief schemes, or on other works, that it should be lost to that area because of the action of one individual. Deputy Allen mentioned that compulsory powers could not be utilised for non-public roads, because it would lead to a lot of trouble. I maintain that when money is spent on making a road it should automatically come under the control of the public authorities, and that provision should be made for upkeep. It is wrong to spend money on making a road from point A to point B and then forget about it afterwards. I do not see why you should have such a thing as a non-public road made by public money.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  That does not make it a public road.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  I know that, because the local authorities are avoiding expenditure by leaving the situation as it is. It is quite satisfactory to the local authorities to leave the position as it is. They lose nothing, and they are not going to let themselves in for expenditure for which they are not now liable.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  They would have to maintain every boreen in the country.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  It is not a question of a boreen. A sum of £400 or £500 is spent on making a road into a bog, or making a road to suit the farms of five or six people. Public money should not be spent at all if it is to be spent to suit four or five people.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Why not?

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  There are 101 works in every county which would be public works in the real sense, and money is not spent on them. Public money should not be spent to suit the convenience of individuals as long as there is a bad public road on which the [1310] money could be spent. I understand Deputy Allen's feelings, because a lot of the good of the relief schemes, from his point of view, would disappear if the money were devoted to these purposes. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned a sum of £228,000 as the amount which was to be allotted for farm improvement work. He did not give any details, and until he formulates some scheme I do not think that any purpose would be served by going further into the matter. Even before the scheme was formulated, there was a certain amount of objection from some of the speakers on this Vote. I do not see any reason why the Parliamentary Secretary should not be able to formulate a scheme for the relief of unemployment in this way. I do not think that it is beyond his capacity or the capacity of his Department to formulate a scheme which will be satisfactory to everybody, and I hope he will set about it as quickly as possible.

On the general question, Deputy Hickey always seems to suggest that there is only one member of the House, from the Parliamentary Secretary and the members on the Government Benches to the members of this Party and the Independent Deputies, who is interested in the unemployed—or, at least, who is interested to the extent that Deputy Hickey himself is interested. If Deputy Hickey really considered the position, he would find that every Deputy was just as interested as he is and as anxious to do something for the unemployed as he is. Although Deputy Hickey criticised this State, this Government, this House and the individuals who constitute it for lack of interest in the unemployed, I do not think that his contribution to the debate showed that he had any better idea of what could be done for the unemployed than the rest of us whom he accused of lack of interest. The get-up of these gentlemen is always the same. They say: “You are not interested. Even if you were interested, you could not do it because you do not control your own credit.” Even if we did control our own credit, they do not tell us that we would be able to bring money out of the sky for the purpose of employment or anything else. I do not [1311] mind Deputy Hickey blaming this Government or the last Government in connection with the unemployment problem, but I am not going to let him get away with his standard speech, suggesting that the only one interested in the unemployed is Deputy Hickey, and that because we do not talk of the unemployed every time we get up here we have no interest in them. The serious thing is that, over a number of years, a native Government should have to introduce a Vote like this. It is unfortunate. Everybody in this House has by now realised that there is no magic remedy for the unemployment problem.

I myself believe that we shall have to face in the rural areas a much more serious situation than we have had to face so far. Most Deputies know that, in all rural areas, there are a certain number of people who depend on casual employment—the unskilled labourer or semi-tradesmen, and those who were employed, in the main, on building work for local contractors. Very often a group of these workers got together, became contractors themselves and built labourers' cottages. That form of building did a great deal to relieve unemployment in the rural areas. If building slackens down, as I think is inevitable if the present situation continues, a problem will arise in the rural areas as to how to place these people in employment. I do not think that there is any use in suggesting, as some people did, that you cannot find room for them on a scheme like the farm-improvement scheme. It was suggested by one Deputy that the only way you could get extra people working on the farms was by spending the money on the big farms in the midlands. It was suggested that in the west and portions of the south holdings were so small they were not capable of employing more people. I think that that is quite wrong. Except for the tiny farms which cannot usefully employ even the families living on them, I do not think that there is any farm in my constituency which might not be able to take another man if labour were made available, or made available at a rate which would enable people to meet their obligations.

[1312] I know a number of cases where, simply because people could not pay their way, they are trying to do with one of the two men they formerly employed. In other cases, where they employed two men capable of doing all classes of farm work, they are trying to do with one man and a boy. Something will have to be done, not alone to meet the present situation but to meet the extra unemployment with which we will be faced when building schemes drop out and when private building stops, as it, undoubtedly, will stop owing to increase of costs. I have a suggestion to make to Deputy Hickey next time he comes in here to suggest that nobody in Ireland but himself is interested in the unemployed. Having told us that the cause of our trouble is that we do not control our own credit, I suggest that he gives us, at least, one small indication of his remedy for the unemployment problem. I shall be delighted to hear it. If there is anything in it, I shall praise him as much as I have criticised him to-night for attacking people for lack of interest in a problem for which he does not suggest any remedy himself.

Mr. T. Murphy: Information on Timothy J Murphy  Zoom on Timothy J Murphy  I have had the advantage of hearing this subject discussed from different points of view on different Votes for 17 years, and I confess that I never felt so pessimistic about any immediate result as I do at the present time. It is significant that, in a time of acute unemployment and the acute poverty that follows in the wake of unemployment, this Employment Schemes Vote, which used to be described as a Relief Schemes Vote, has been substantially reduced. It is extremely strange that that should occur when the number of people on unemployment assistance is about to be substantially reduced.

Last night we heard the leaders of the various Parties discuss very important and very vital questions of national defence. Perhaps it is a significant coincidence that this evening we are discussing employment schemes. It would seem to be that both matters are very closely related, because I know no more secure foundation for national defence in this country, or in any other country, than some measure [1313] of contentment, or even some measure of hope of ultimate contentment, among the masses of the people who have nothing else to offer except their labour. Both questions are very closely related, and I know of no more disheartening prospect, no more depressing knowledge, than that which was conveyed to unemployed people at the labour exchanges yesterday, when it was indicated that married people in receipt of unemployment assistance would have to follow in the wake of the single men, the widowers and the small farmers with valuations of £4 and over, who have already been sacrificed to accumulate the money that should be spent on unemployment assistance.

I do not want to be misunderstood in this matter. I have no hesitation in stating my own view about unemployment assistance. I should like to see it completely abolished in this country if we had an alternative to offer. I think every Party would welcome a situation when the working people would be put in the position of feeling that they had something decent to get for their labour. I think if it came to a situation whereby we could see a reasonable prospect of employment for many thousands of our people, no member of the Labour Party and no trade union in this country would stand in the way of such a policy being put into force for the sake of a few shillings one way or the other in the matter of wages. That is a view that I think is shared by every member of the Party to which I belong.

I hope there is some realisation here of the growing peril that we are facing in this country. One does not want to be an alarmist or to say things here for the purpose of getting publicity because of extravagant statements or extravagant views, but I think it needs to be stated that, in the judgment of many of us who are in touch with the situation in rural areas and who meet people who know the conditions in the cities and the larger towns, we are reaching a situation that is going to have very disastrous results if we do not try to do something to meet it. Large numbers of unemployed have lost hope of ever getting work; they [1314] have lost hope that this House is serious about making any attempt to get them work, and the worst feature of all is that they regard this House, this Government and public authorities generally, with growing contempt.

Even in the present crisis large numbers can be found to express the view that no change that can come will make their condition worse. That is a mistaken view and I regret very much that it is shared by large numbers of people; but there is little doubt that growing numbers of people are expressing that view to-day and, deplorable as that situation is, it seems to me that it is the writing on the wall that should indicate to the authorities here that no matter how difficult this problem is, if the foundations of society are to remain here it must get more attention than it has got in the past. We can offer our congratulations here on one side or the other for some particular work that has been carried out, for some promise of an approved work, but that is not going to go very far.

I suggest we are fast approaching a position when we will have to reckon with an entirely new situation. We live in times that generate violent feelings. We live in times when the standards that we regarded throughout the world as unchangeable and irresistible very suddenly and very violently change. I have often felt—and again I want to try to be as moderate as possible—that were it not for the foundation of our religion, and the resignation and submission that that religion inculcates in our people, we would have very much more violent expressions of the discontent that pervades the country.

The Parliamentary Secretary ended his statement this evening, as I heard one speaker say, on a note of pessimism as to failure to find suitable employment for the people. That represents a very serious position indeed. Is it not possible that the almost innumerable works that have been undertaken and partly carried out in this country could be finished? In their present condition they are of no value. There are various types of works left in an unfinished state. At the moment their value must be judged on the basis of the registered unemployed living in [1315] adjacent districts. It does seem ludicrous that works of that kind should be undertaken, a certain amount of money spent on them, and they are then left in an unfinished state. I hope it is not the Parliamentary Secretary's view that these schemes should remain in that condition. Whatever changes in policy may take place in regard to minor relief schemes, I trust that such unfinished works will be brought to the completed stage.

We have had the familiar story of the people who will not work. Possibly there are some people of that kind in the country. I think that one of the great difficulties in this connection arises from the situation that occurs when people in receipt of unemployment assistance are offered work. Very often the transfer of such people from unemployment assistance to public works for a certain number of days means a waiting period of something like three weeks or more before they receive any wages. Their credit in the local shop has already reached its limit. There are probably children in the house, a fair sized family, and the father is considerably in debt—to whatever extent he can obtain credit. The members of that family have the prospect of something like three weeks before they can expect any wages, and I think they would not be human if they did not think that the change over from a position where they had a reasonable certainty of getting an amount of money each week, to a waiting period and the supplications they would have to make for further credit over that period was anything but attractive. Such a position gives rise to a great deal of difficulty. It may be that, through co-operation between the Parliamentary Secretary and the local authorities, some change could be made by which wages would be promptly paid in a situation of that kind. Some revision of the method by which wages are paid would go far to remedy a position of that sort and would help to solve a good deal of the difficulties that arise.

I wish to refer to the very serious position that obtains in a good many areas of a constituency, in a large portion [1316] of which life is at all times fairly difficult, the constituency of West Cork. The two industries that gave the greatest amount of employment there are being reduced to a very bad condition. The granite quarries at Goleen have been closed since last year, and practically 100 men have been thrown out of employment. The Benduff and Madranna slate quarries, which have been offering, over several generations, regular employment to a large number of men, have hardly any employment to offer now. The Parliamentary Secretary has inquired about useful schemes. I submit to him that it is difficult to understand why application after application from the slate quarries for assistance towards removing thousands of tons of rubbish that obstruct development in a certain direction has not met with a response from him. He has been told, I think, that the Slate Quarry Company would put up pound for pound of any money that is expended in that direction. Although conditions in the building trade are depressed and difficult at the moment, at least ultimately the work that would be given in that direction would be productive. I again suggest that that matter should be reconsidered. The Government are not asked in this connection for anything more than the directors of the quarry are willing to provide, and in an area where there is at the moment a large amount of unemployment I suggest that the removal of thousands of tons of rubbish that obstruct development would ultimately lead to employment that would be productive and useful. I hope that that matter may be considered again.

I have heard in the last week from a public official in the town of Bantry that conditions are extremely bad there, and I know that in that neighbourhood there must be quite a number of opportunities for doing useful public work. In fact, I know of no town or village where a certain amount of work could not be found. I think the Parliamentary Secretary would find that his opportunities for getting work done are not as limited as he seems to think from the statement he has offered to the House this evening. May I express the hope that it is not too late to ask the Government again, on this [1317] occasion, to endeavour to strike out on a bold, live policy in the matter of giving useful public employment? I certainly will not be disposed to put any obstacles in the way of the operation of that policy. It would seem to me to be the foundation of real security in this country. It would seem to me to be the most vital need in securing really and sincerely throughout this country the co-operation that was offered by all Parties in this House last night on another issue. If that policy is forthcoming, then, whatever our immediate dangers are, I have no fear of the ultimate fate of this country, because such a policy would give us the foundation of a future to which we could look forward securely. If, on the other hand, we deal with this matter in the kind of way that is represented by this Vote, in the kind of annual mumblings that take place in connection with it, I have great fears about the future. The failure will not be laid merely at the door of the Government who are in power at the time; the failure will be laid at the door of this Parliament. The people of this country, who have sent representatives here, will feel that their representatives, of all shades of opinion in this House, have not been really serious in dealing with the problem which is for them the only serious problem of the moment.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I, like Deputy Murphy, regret that this Vote is not larger. I also regret that the necessity has arisen that we should have such a Vote at all. I agree with Deputy Murphy that the sooner all Parties in this House set to work to put an end to the unemployment position the better, because any young boy leaving school at 15 or 16 years of age, and spending five years in idleness is, at the end of that five years, unemployable; he is good for nothing; he is going to be a burden on this country whilst he is in it. The sooner that that condition of affairs is ended the more hope there will be for this country in the future. I suggested here on a Budget resolution that it would be better to put an extra shilling on income-tax in order to provide that money. I regretted that that was not done. I think it would be money well spent for the good of this country. [1318] We had a howl from some newspapers about it, but I repeat that I regret that that was not done. I think it would be a far better insurance policy for those who are in a position to pay income-tax than any other insurance policy they could take out.

To my mind, there are plenty of useful works, particularly in the rural areas, on which money could be expended usefully. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that where a county council or a local authority, composed of local men, who know the needs of their particular districts and their particular areas, put up proposals, those proposals should be considered. Where a local authority puts up proposals on which the local authority is prepared to spend a certain amount of money on condition that the balance is given by way of grant, every single one of those proposals should be very carefully examined and, if possible, the money should be given. I have in mind roads that were good enough a few years ago but which are not good enough to-day. There has been a Government policy in regard to public roads in this country, carried on, I might say, for the last 15 or 20 years, which has resulted in this fact, that you have better main roads for motorists while your rural roads have deteriorated to such a condition that they are not fit for the farmer to take his horse and cart over them. You have the condition of affairs that lorries and motor traffic have been travelling over those rural roads and have made them impassable for any vehicle at all. I have in mind a proposal that was put up by the county council recently to contribute £300 towards one road at Carrignavar, on condition that it would come under the employment schemes. The farmers of that district are in the position to-day that they have to take their milk five miles further on to another creamery rather than to take the short cut, which would bring them to a creamery within a mile and a half of them, because the roads there are impassable.

I have very little fear with regard to the rural areas. I think the money which will come out of this Vote will all be expended, and more looked for. I agree with Deputy Linehan that [1319] there is not a farm, in Cork County at any rate, on which one man at least, and in all probability five or six men, could not find useful work for the next four or five years; and is it not far better for the country to expend money in that manner—to find employment, and save these men from being, firstly, a burden on the country at present, and, secondly, a burden on the country for their lifetimes, as will be the case if they are left much longer as they are, than to expend it on useless schemes? Deputy Linehan complains because the compulsory powers were not made more use of by local authorities. With all due respect to Deputy Linehan, I would rather give an old farmer £10 extra, even if it meant extra expenditure in the way of compensation——

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  Provided the council gives it.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Yes, and the council does so. I would rather give £10 over and above the value to an old farmer than to give it to a couple of crooks of lawyers, because the money would not go here or there. It would not even pay for the mandamus, and Deputy Linehan knows that very well. So far as the local authorities of which I am a member are concerned, we find very little need for using the compulsory powers, and I would rather spend a little extra at any time than give money to anybody for the loan of his tongue. I will say this much, that we have a demand all over the country for more production and cheaper food. I attended a demonstration outside Dublin recently of a new machine known as the Ford-Ferguson tractor, and I should like to warn everybody that they will not get cheaper food if labour is to be employed. I happen to have five men employed at present, and from what I saw of that tractor I could do the whole work with one. You can even get a machine now that will pull the beet and throw it into the wagon. You will get cheaper food, but if you do, you will have five times more unemployment on the farm, and we are tending, and tending steadily, in that direction. That position [1320] obtains already in the flour milling industry, and it is now coming to the turn of the farmer. The horse has been hunted off the main roads in favour of the motor car, and soon we will see him in the museum as an example of an extinct animal.

I want to call the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the very serious unemployment position which exists in the towns of Cobh and Passage. Passage is shown on the map in the Lobby as the one black spot, but I suggest to the Minister that there are plenty of opportunities of providing employment for the unemployed in these districts. It is not very many years since I saw some very important officials of the Department of Lands —at least, they were drawing jaw-breaking salaries—down there for a fortnight or a month. They went around in punts trying to find out the depth of the water here, there and everywhere in the channels around Belvelly. I do not know why the scheme was dropped, because it would have reclaimed some thousands of acres of land. I would rather see money spent in that manner—on the reclamation of land which would be of some use afterwards, and would give employment to the unemployed afterwards—than to see it spent on useless schemes.

I do not know on what basis the Department judged the scheme then put up, but I honestly suggest that if a couple of practical men went down and examined the scheme, it would cost far less, and something would be done. Expenditure on such a scheme, even though it looks enormous at the start, should be considered in relation to the after employment it would give. If 1,000 acres of land are reclaimed, it represents so much land saved to the country, and so much extra land provided, and it means employment for people who otherwise would not be employed. When the scheme is completed, and when those who carried it out are dead and gone, that land will be there and will be giving employment. I suggest that the scheme should be examined more carefully, and that a couple of men should be put on the job. If it were put into operation, it [1321] would keep every unemployed man in Cobh employed for almost 12 months or two years, and would completely relieve the problem there.

There are other ways in which the problem in Cobh and Passage could be tackled. There is the matter which seems to be an annual feature of the discussions here—so long as I have been in the House, since 1927, we have been talking about it—the question of the dockyard. It is rather an amazing position that, in the first harbour in this country, it is not possible to put a plank on a boat or stop a leak. Money spent on a project such as that, no matter how large, would relieve us of the unemployment problem in that area, and would ensure employment afterwards. I know that the Vote for Haulbowline dockyard will come up for discussion later on, and that we can deal with the matter on that Vote, but I suggest that schemes in relation to other dockyards besides Haulbowline were put up to the Minister which, to my mind, represent better business propositions. The position we find ourselves in with regard to Cobh is rather humiliating, to say the least of it.

This unemployment problem must be tackled in a fair way; it must be tackled with a determination to get rid of it. So far as those who are not prepared to work are concerned, I know that when I ran a scheme of employment in 1922, every fellow I met worked. If he was not willing to work, he had to, and I suggest that the same be done now. I do not think that a man who works for very poor wages should be asked to contribute out of his labour to the man who refuses to work. Thank God, there are very few. I remember on a few occasions the question was raised at the board of assistance, when a few small schemes were going on, and it was suggested that men be drawn from the unemployed list for them. That was done, and they did the work well, and nobody refused. I believe there are very few men who do not wish to work, and that such men could be dealt with in another way. It is not fair that the unfortunate farm labourer—who has very little above the starvation rate of wages to support himself, his wife and [1322] family—should be asked to contribute in his ounce of tobacco and in the tax on tea for some fellow who is not willing to work. When the scheme of land improvement comes along, it may solve the problem in the rural areas. In the meantime, the unemployment problem is becoming more grave in those rural areas. In Carrigtwohill, for instance, where there are 60 men working to-day, I do not believe they will be working in six months' time. The provision of other materials for housing has come to the point where it will go down enormously. That is a problem which will arise during the coming year, and which should be tackled.

There is not sufficient money in this Vote with which to tackle these problems. There is not a rural area or a parish I know of to-day in which useful work cannot be found for the unemployed of the district. There may be some problem around the City of Cork, but I would honestly say to the Parliamentary Secretary that the way I have seen money thrown around in Cork City is scandalous. I have seen tar macadam roads laid down one year which in six months time have been torn up again—just for the fun of it— and I would sooner see the money thrown into the tide. You can walk out not four miles from Cork City and see the unfortunate farmers trying to drag themselves out of their boreens. If the Parliamentary Secretary took his car along some of the roads in that district he would never be able to take it back. That is within four miles of the spot where you see tar macadam roads put down and torn up again.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  These boreens are not in the Parliamentary Secretary's constituency.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Some of them would be. Some of them have been in that way for a long time.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Deputy Corry is right.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  If you take a look round Blackrock, that will be obvious.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  The Parliamentary Secretary said the Deputy is right for once, so I will accept that.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that these unemployed [1323] could do useful work instead of tearing up roads which have cost thousands of pounds—roads which were not bad and would not be bad for years to come—and redoing them at the whim of the Hitler of Cork. This kind of thing has gone too far. There are many ways in which money could be spent, and all we need is the cash. I regret that we did not get the cash when we had the opportunity. It would be a good insurance policy for the highly-paid people who have plenty of money and are paying income-tax, if they paid an extra shilling in income tax to be devoted in the way I have suggested. I passed a few schemes to the Parliamentary Secretary from time to time but must admit I did not get very far.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  The schemes must have been pretty bad.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I admit I did not send some in recently, as I found I was knocking at the wrong door and could not get anywhere. I do not know who examined my particular scheme as nothing came out of it. This House should tackle the unemployment problem and end it as quickly as possible.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  Undoubtedly, the unemployment problem presents a great barrier to the prosperity of the country and a real danger to the security of the State. It should engage a much more determined effort than has been made by the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government so far, if we are to obtain satisfactory results. The Parliamentary Secretary ended on a note of pessimism regarding the future. With the anticipated reduction in building schemes, undoubtedly more men will be thrown on the unemployment list. The Parliamentary Secretary complained of the difficulty of securing schemes of public utility—schemes which would be a source of employment for necessitous unskilled workers. He warned us of that state of affairs last year, and said that, as time goes on, the problem would become more and more difficult. Where I personally and Deputies on this side of the House differ with Fianna Fáil in tackling the unemployed problem is this: When you [1324] come up against any State problem, the solution of the present Government has been simply to pile on taxation. Deputy Corry has pointed out that method of dealing with the problem. He has emphasised the fact that another bob on income-tax would provide a solution as if the source of income-tax were inexhaustible and as if you could tap it to an unlimited extent.

We have pointed out over and over again that when you increase income-tax in this country you not alone hit the people who are paying income-tax but you hit the lowliest man in the State as well, particularly the worker. Naturally the man who pays income-tax, when that tax is increased, will make some effort to retrench and tighten up so as to compensate himself for what he has to contribute to the State. In doing that, he will certainly reduce the number of men in his employment. We have pointed out time and again that every effort should be made by the Government to encourage private enterprise, as a method of solving the unemployment problem. That is the most satisfactory system of providing employment that could obtain in this or any other country—employment provided by a private individual or a private company. The fiscal policy of the Government, the piling up of taxation and at the same time the effort to cure unemployment by the direct method, is imposing a heavy burden on the taxpayers. It has not proved a success, although it has been tried for a number of years past; in fact, it has proved a miserable failure. We have been spending huge sums in an effort to provide work, year in, year out. Much of that work, I admit, is good social work, schemes such as housing, water supplies, sewerage, drainage, etc., but very substantial sums, which are a heavy drain on the resources of the country, are also spent on unproductive work, work for which there is no return to the State and which contributes nothing to the national wealth.

In respect of work provided under the Department for which the Parliamentary Secretary is responsible, a sum of £1,400,000 approximately is contributed in this Vote, and we are contributing another £1,500,000 through [1325] the Department of Industry and Commerce for the payment of the dole. In other words, we have to provide a total of £3,000,000 approximately in an effort to solve a problem which, despite all our efforts, is persisting and increasing in volume annually. Expenditure to that amount imposes a tremendous burden on a small country like this. I personally would not have any objection to increasing the State contribution towards work of a productive or profitable character. The State could then look to some return at all events for the money expended. To my mind, that is where the Government have failed and where they are making a real error at the present time. I admit that some of the work done under these schemes may be of public utility, but it is non-productive work. In future, we shall have to get on to schemes that are more productive and that are, at the same time, of public utility. I would suggest, for instance, that we should drop such work as the cutting of corners on roads. We shall be able to get round these corners all right as they are.

I would say that we should concentrate on work that is profitable and productive and that would prove a national asset in the long run. For that reason, I welcome the scheme of farm improvements which has been announced. The scheme, I understand, is experimental for this year, and so we can regard the £228,000 which is provided as a small portion of the total sum which will be devoted to this purpose eventually. If the scheme were to be regarded as other than experimental, that amount is not enough, because we could spend a vast amount of money very advantageously on a scheme of this character. I do not for a moment suggest that we should subsidise normal work on the farm, but we are all aware that work of an improvement character on farms has been absolutely neglected for many years. Not alone has that been true during the period since the present Government came into power, but it was also true of the period of office of the previous Government. The vast majority of the farmers have not spent any money on work of an improvement [1326] character. Owing to the peculiar circumstances of the country, they could not afford to spend money on that sort of work. They were barely hanging on. No man was in a position to lay aside money from agricultural work. There was a very small return on the capital invested in farms. The farmer is, I think, entitled to some return on the capital he has invested in his holding, but he was not making that return. He was lucky if he was able to make ends meet at the end of the year, and he never attempted any improvement work, because he could not afford it.

The farmers of this country are just as enterprising as the farmers of any country in the world, if given a chance, and they would be willing and anxious to spend money on the improvement of their holdings if they were in a position to do so. I hope that this scheme will be sufficiently attractive to induce them to undertake work of that character.

There is a considerable amount of work awaiting attention in the way of drainage—local drains and then field drains. The field drains are choked up all over the country and much land is water logged that could be really good, useful agricultural land, though of a rough quality, if the drains were properly attended to. In other places the land is overgrown with scrub, bracken and furze, which should be torn up. By the application of artificial manures, such land could be brought into cultivation and the quality of the sod would surprise you in a very short time. Other countries have been carrying on work of that character for many years. Then you have such work as fencing, the cleaning of dykes and the cutting down of hedges. In some places you have hedges growing 20 feet into the air. These hedges should be cut down and trimmed. All that class of work will eventually prove a national asset.

We talk about people flying from the land and about the monotony of rural life in this country. Some people have suggested—I do not say it has been suggested in this House—that we should make some attempt to provide social life amongst rural communities. There is no necessity to do that. If [1327] work is made profitable in rural Ireland, the people will attend to the social side themselves. We need not worry about that aspect of it. To my mind this scheme, properly handled and made attractive to the farmer, is going to be a real success. The Parliamentary Secretary stated that the incidence of unemployment, as illustrated on his maps in the Library, is greatest in the black areas shown in the west, and that the problem in the eastern counties is not by any means so big. I speak subject to correction, but I think I am right in stating that he said that he was not hopeful that this farm improvement scheme would prove a very fruitful source of employment in these areas.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  It will not make any very large inroads on the unemployment register.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  I am not as conversant with the problem as the Parliamentary Secretary is, but I think if you are to provide employment for a number of these young men in the west, you will have to face up to the question of migrating them to farms where you can find suitable work of this sort. Remember that in this country you have roughly—I am not sure of the figure as I have not looked it up recently — 130,000 to 150,000 holdings of over £30 valuation.

You have, roughly, some 400,000 agricultural holdings in this country, and the number of holdings of £30 valuation is, approximately, from 130,000 to 150,000. Now, the number of our unemployed at the moment is 120,000, and if you look at it that way, it means that you could absorb the unemployed if one man were to be taken on in each of these holdings of £30 valuation. Is it not possible to have such a scheme put into operation? I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that every farmer with a holding of £30 valuation could absorb one unskilled labourer to do work of this sort, and I submit to the Parliamentary Secretary, through you, Sir, that work of this sort would prove to be a real asset to this country in the long run and that it would be much more profitable than cutting off [1328] corners of roads, and so on, not to speak about steam-rolling roads, and all the rest of it. It is my opinion that, for a poor country like this, our roads are very good, and even excellent. I do not think we need to worry very much about our roads; and with all due respect to my colleague, Deputy Linehan, I would not be anxious to spend any more money on our roads at all. Our expenditure on roads is already a very heavy drain on our resources, but here undoubtedly is a scheme that in the long run would prove profitable.

It must be remembered that our fathers—and our grandfathers especially —when they were able to get cheap labour in those days, did a considerable amount of work of that nature. There are plenty of old men in the country who can point out fields that, within their memory, were wet and boggy fields but which, 40 or 50 years ago were made very good fields and useful for grazing and so on, because they were properly drained. These fields are now slowly but surely going back into bog and rushes because they are neglected. That is the history of many a fair or good patch of land in this country that, 70, 80 or 100 years ago, was boggy land, was then made into good land 50 or 60 years ago, and that, because of neglect since then, is slowly but surely going back to its original state of bog and rushes. Now, that is the type of land that is really excellent for grazing, if it is properly drained, because that kind of land will stand long periods of dry weather or drought much better than light, dry land that will burn up easily. If you have that sort of marsh land properly drained, and then attend to it, it makes excellent grazing. That is why we have been stressing so much and for so long the use of artificial manures by our people in this country for every type of soil, whether for tillage or for grass, because if such land is properly attended to it will become excellent land that will be a real national asset.

I think that if this scheme is properly worked and made attractive, and if the contribution that the farmer is expected to pay will not be so much that [1329] he will forget all about it, it will be a success. It must be remembered that the farmers' pockets to-day are fairly empty and they will not be prepared or able to make a substantial contribution. From the start, therefore, I would say to the Parliamentary Secretary that, if he wants to make a success of this scheme, he should make it attractive and worth while, and whatever may be the percentage of the cost that the State will have to bear, I say that in the end it will be money that will be far better spent than money spent on the type of work we are doing at the present time. I believe that we ought to be prepared to spend any amount of money on agriculture at present. We talk about defence, and, of course, we had common agreement in this House last night on the matter of defence, but undoubtedly the first line of defence in this country is the production of food, and for that reason we should strain every effort to restore agriculture to prosperity and put our agricultural community and our agricultural industry on a profitable basis.

Reference has been made here to the Clonsast bog. I agree with other Deputies who have spoken that it was a pity that the attempt to start this scheme at Clonsast was made by bringing chaps down from the city. I do not know very much about cutting turf, I must admit, but one would expect that the work of cutting turf would not be of much attraction to city fellows.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I suggest that the Deputy should drop in to see the scheme some time and have a look at the work that is being done.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  Well, as I say, I do not know very much about it, but I do not think there is a lot of skill required, and I imagine that the ordinary country person should be able to learn how to do it in a week or two.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  As a matter of fact, in this case, it was not a question of cutting turf, but only of footing it.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  Anyway, it seems that you have no edge for either cutting or footing. Why did not the Parliamentary Secretary bring people from the “black” areas for that experiment? Why did he come to Dublin for [1330] these workers, and why did he not go to these “black” areas and get country chaps who knew something about that kind of work and who had seen a bog before? I think there is no doubt that many of the fellows who were brought down from Dublin did not know what a bog was or did not even know where turf came out of. Now, the scarcity of coal, and the problem of providing fuel generally, is very serious, and there is no doubt that that problem is going to become more acute. Therefore, I think that this attempt by the Government to get unemployed men to cut turf is a good scheme, but I think it should be given a proper chance and undertaken in a proper way.

I think that the Parliamentary Secretary should attempt the scheme again, but that he should get these people from the West. I should like to point out to him, in this connection, that single men were selected on this job in Clonsast, and I presume that in operating this farm improvements scheme you will have to bring along a number of single unemployed men from the West of Ireland to these farms. I do not think you will have any difficulty in getting the farmer to provide food and lodging, and I am sure it should be possible to have some provision to that effect incorporated in the scheme, and that, possibly, the State would pay the rest. I do not think that it is such a great problem at all, and I do not believe the Parliamentary Secretary is right when he says that he is not very hopeful that this is going to be a solution of the problem. I think that, if it is properly worked and properly tackled, it is going to be the real solution.

Mr. Brasier: Information on Brooke W. Brasier  Zoom on Brooke W. Brasier  The concluding note of the Parliamentary Secretary's statement seems to have struck Deputies of this House with consternation. In effect, he said that the labour value of such schemes is depreciating year by year. Could it be possible that there would be any other result, when schemes must be confined to areas with a very high labour content, utterly regardless of the fact that very large numbers of unemployed are scattered over the country, in areas that would not answer to the description or class [1331] that the Parliamentary Secretary has earmarked for the grants? He has stated that Cork did not absorb all the money that was available. I cannot understand that, considering the numerous schemes sent up from Cork and repeatedly turned down on the grounds that the labour content of each scheme sent up was not such as to answer to the requirements of the Parliamentary Secretary's Department. As to labour content, I can say very definitely that schemes with a very high labour content have been turned down, because in the immediate neighbourhood the labour is absorbed in other directions. But, now that the note has been struck, that no more schemes are available in the “black” districts, it surely ought to be possible for the Parliamentary Secretary to migrate labour into these areas, where schemes are urgent, and where they can, so to speak, create a very big labour content indeed.

There is one scheme at Monane Bridge in my constituency. It has been put by the local residents that a causeway could be run from Ringabella to Fountainstown with the purpose of joining two public roads. It would also serve the dual purpose of draining that area which is inundated at high tide with floods, that destroy some of the most valuable land in the country. It may be that there is not a high labour content in that area. The labour population there may be small, but there would be a high labour content in a scheme of that kind particularly when portion of it would take the form of draining the agricultural lands required for the making of this causeway. The causeway would join two districts and would provide a necessary scheme for the relief of the unemployed if the Parliamentary Secretary would relax his regulations and migrate labour to the area, as he has confessed he has already done in connection with work on the bogs. I daresay he would be able to find men to carry out work required in connection with a pretty elaborate engineering scheme, and for the handling of large quantities of material. Schemes of that kind provide a large amount of employment.

Other speakers have alluded to an area that is also in my constituency. I [1332] refer to the drainage area at Belvelly near Cobh where an air port was contemplated at one time. The Parliamentary Secretary may not have decided on that particular scheme owing to the surrounding hills making it unsuitable for our ships. At any rate, if that land were drained it would prove very valuable land for agriculture and other purposes. These are some schemes, in addition to various others that have been mentioned, that could be undertaken in County Cork. The one bright spot in the Parliamentary Secretary's statement was that he proposes to embark on new avenues for the provision of employment—that is in relation to the agricultural schemes which were touched on by the last speaker. His promise of £228,000 for the improvement of lands would be laudable and constructive, if there was not this snag in it, that a contribution will be required from the land owners. It is also hampered by the fact that the land owner would probably be in an area where there would be a big labour content, where the land is poor, and where probably the farms are small. Therefore, the scheme would not enable farmers to make the very big contribution which it was pointed out by the Minister for Agriculture would be necessary. This provides £228,000 for schemes all over Eire, at a time when the Government are reducing the Vote by £100,000. If that £100,000 was added to the £228,000 it would not be an over generous amount, bearing in mind the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that in this Vote he is embarking on new avenues of employment for the rural districts, and at a time, too, when the rural population will, it is anticipated, become unemployed through the dearth of other forms of employment that are likely to ensue from the effects of the present situation.

Various schemes of arterial drainage and of minor relief schemes have been carried out, all to the good, I would say, of the areas in which they were undertaken. It has frequently been pointed out to me by farmers that it did not appear to them that the best way of spending money was on arterial drainage schemes. It seemed to them that it was the actual fields on their [1333] farms that required to be drained, but they were not able to undertake that work themselves because of increasing labour costs. Those farmers felt that a ready way of absorbing the unemployed, of doing away with unemployment assistance, would be to employmen at an increased wage on schemes of that description. It would be a much more constructive way of providing for the unemployed than by giving them money which ultimately is bound to have the effect—I will not say of making them “work shy”, but of their becoming unfit for work. It is true to say that if men are unemployed for a long period they ultimately become unfit for work, and may get the name of not being willing to work. In reality they are not able to work because their muscles get quite out of order. Deputies accustomed to farm work know quite well that after a period of idleness they would become unfit for work through lack of use of the muscles. One of the most constructive schemes that could be undertaken is work of that kind: land reclamation, fencing, and various other forms of agricultural employment. It would provide a suitable form of employment if the Parliamentary Secretary is prepared to migrate the necessary labour. If he is able to do that in connection with one scheme, surely he ought to be able to do it in the case of others. Farm work is not a hard form of work. Most of the labour available in rural areas is usually able to carry it out. Therefore I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that it would be quite in order for him to increase the grant for agricultural employment and to devote his attention to this form of employment.

There has been some talk about the expense of drainage work. £10 an acre was the amount allowed at one time by the Land Commission to farmers when valuing land. That was not a generous amount to allow at a time when labour was much cheaper than it is at present. I hardly think that even if that amount were now doubled it would cover the cost of carrying out drainage work in the fields; at the same time there is an opportunity of diverting employment [1334] schemes to that form of employment instead of to the works that the Parliamentary Secretary has some difficulty in finding as an outlet for the money provided for in this Vote. Therefore, I have not got the same sympathy with the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary when he says that the labour content of such schemes is, year by year, depreciating. It is the inevitable result of confining schemes to a limited area where a certain class of employment is predominant.

I am not in agreement with the previous speaker when he says the local authorities can take care of the dangerous corners on their highways. The country as a whole is full of dangerous corners. Accidents are happening from day to day in the rural districts, and all owing to the non-removal of these corners. Action should be taken in connection with this matter, which is rather a national question than one for the local authority. These dangerous corners would in their removal have a very high labour content. It would be most important to have those high banks removed. The result would be that visibility would be given to motorists. Car owners from other counties may be motoring in the County Cork, and it would be inequitable for the local authority to be charged with the cost of these dangerous corners. That is why I say it is a matter for the National Exchequer, and that it is one which should engage the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary owing to its high labour content.

Remarks were made about the quality of the roads in the neighbourhood of Cork City. Now the Cork County Council has borrowed £20,000 for the improvement of roads converging on Cork City. These are roads just within the immediate liberties of the city. That is no small amount for the local authority to spend. A great deal more improvement could be made on the roads if the Parliamentary Secretary would take up the finance for removal of the dangerous corners.

There are various marine works of great importance to agriculturists. I refer to the cutting of roads into [1335] strands for the carting of seaweed. That is one very important problem and it provides a very high labour content. Yet up to the present that has to be done by the local authority at a very high expense. The cutting of these various strand tracks would afford protection from further coast erosion. That would be a new form of employment and one much needed. There is such a scheme at Guileen, near Whitegate. We have been asking the Parliamentary Secretary for a grant for it. Owing to the way coast erosion has been taking place there, this would be well worth the Parliamentary Secretary's attention. I join with my colleagues, Deputies Hurley and Corry, in drawing attention to the very urgent problem of unemployment both in Cobh and in Passage West. I was at the last meeting of the Cobh Urban Council. My colleagues attended the previous meeting. A deputation was appointed to wait on the Minister and ask him to deal with the huge volume of unemployment in Cobh and to provide some form of development there. There is on the roads in Cobh Island a very wide field for the Parliamentary Secretary's activities in the matter of providing means for the relief of unemployment in that particular area. While we are waiting for industrial expansion the immediate needs of the unemployed are very pressing in Cobh and Passage West. I urge on the Parliamentary Secretary to give as generous a grant as possible for the carrying out of public works in that neighbourhood. The place is teeming with possible schemes which would absorb any available money. These needs are quite as urgent as any in the western part of this country.

I think there is one little problem. It is in a different constituency to mine but it is my county council area. I refer to the Youghal Bridge. Owing to its dangerous condition buses have not been able to travel over it. The route has now to be run from Cork to Youghal Bridge, and then there is another line from Youghal Bridge to Waterford. In the meantime the people have to be got over the bridge some way or another. Owing to the [1336] narrowness of the road it is necessary to have a very elaborate turntable on which to turn the bus. Dealing with that bridge would afford the means of providing a great deal of employment in that area and in a town which is in a very distressed condition.

Very considerable drainage schemes could also be carried out in that area on the mudlands. It is my county council area. I would draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the need for doing something about that. He has been already asked for a grant, but his response has not been very encouraging. I think from the volume of experience of the different speakers it is clear that in this House the demands should be rather for an increase of grants for employment on such constructive works as I have mentioned, and an increase in the Vote for which the Parliamentary Secretary is asking.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  If it were possible I would like to get this Vote to-night.

Mr. Victory: Information on James Victory  Zoom on James Victory  I had not intended speaking on this Estimate at all, but as a matter of fact most of the speakers who have spoken are from Cork, and they seem to me to be laying siege to the Parliamentary Secretary. Each and every Deputy who spoke seems to want more money. We are all agreed that money is a serious question. There is only one Deputy who so far has spoken who did not ask for more money, yet each and every one of the Deputies had already spoken against taxation in the Budget. To cut the matter short, I believe that the problem of trying to relieve unemployment to-day is a serious one. We must, however, consider it from the angle of reproductive employment.

I heard it suggested in this debate by Deputies on the opposite side of the House, that field drainage should be included in this Vote. I am a farmer myself, but I do not believe in going that far towards suggesting that the whole expenditure should come from this Vote. We have all had the experience of knowing that if all money is going to be spent from the National Exchequer without any contribution [1337] from the local authority, there is sure to be waste. I want to see local contribution in these cases. We should devote ourselves to what is known as reclamation schemes, whether it is shoring low-lying lands. There again you have the problem of main drainage schemes in the offing. I welcome this grant of £280,000 odd for the improvement of harbours. I believe it is a beginning in the right direction. I believe it should be confined to reclamation work.

As to the way in which the money is being expended, I think that for the last few years there has been a squandering of money on the main roads. Roads have been ripped up that would be good for many years, and corners cut away where it was not necessary. That kind of work is not reproductive. What would give value to the nation considering the emergency we are faced with, is the reclamation of land which is non-productive to-day. If the money spent on removing corners on roads had been devoted to the reclamation of this land, we would get value for it. I, for one, believe that any works undertaken in future should be of a reproductive nature. I would not object to any work of a reproductive nature, even if we had to wait for a long time for a return from the money spent. I believe, too, that that kind of work, would go a long way to help to relieve unemployment, and we are all agreed that unemployment is a very serious problem for this nation.

Mr. Fred Crowley: Information on Frederick Hugh Crowley  Zoom on Frederick Hugh Crowley  I have a few suggestions to put to the Parliamentary Secretary. In the first place, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary again, as I did last year, to reconsider the basis of the allocation of the money set aside for the relief of unemployment. Six or seven years ago the basis of the allocation was the valuation per head of the population. At present it is the number of registered unemployed in a district. For the last four or five years the electoral division has been selected as the unit. In future I ask him to group three or four of these units. I know that he has departed from the rule confining these schemes to the electoral division, but he has not departed from it sufficiently [1338] in my area. It so happens that certain areas which are definitely entitled to employment schemes are getting a grant because those unemployed happen to be in the next electoral division.

In the debate on the Vote for the Department of Industry and Commerce, I drew the Minister's attention to the vital necessity of concentrating on turf production. The Parliamentary Secretary can do useful work by helping to make roads into the bogs, and probably by carrying out minor drainage schemes. In view of the fact that the turbary areas coincide exactly with the areas where there is the greatest number of unemployed, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to concentrate upon the policy of helping to make bog roads. Then, again, many new creameries have been established in the south. It is a matter of great concern that people living in the mountain pockets have great difficulty in getting their milk to the creameries on account of the wretched condition of the roads running into these townlands. In view of the fact that farmers' butter cannot be sold at present, and that most of the farmers are bringing their milk to the creamcries, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to pay particular attention to that matter. I also wish to refer to the question of co-operation with the Department of Agriculture regarding the improvement of lands. I hope that that will take the form of reclamation, and that it will not cut across the employment that would be given by the farmers hiring men. I am glad to see that a reclamation scheme is being adopted, but it is coming rather late; it should have been adopted seven or eight years ago.

In conclusion, I should like to say that it is about time that an economic council was formed. I suggest that that council should be composed of one representative of farmers on the east coast and one of farmers on the west coast, because farming is totally different in those areas; one representative from the congested districts—I am sorry that the Congested Districts Board was abolished; two representatives of industrialists (one representing [1339] the manufacturers of cloth, hosiery and boots; and one for food manufacturers and fuel producers); two from the labour organisations; one from the transport companies; and one from the distributing trade.

I certainly say that a huge task has been put on the shoulders of the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department and that they have done wonders with the money allocated to them. Criticism has been levelled at the Office of Public Works in connection with the steam-rolling of certain roads. I always thought that the steam-rolling of roads was principally a matter for the Local Government Department. The amount of work done under the minor relief schemes which the Office of Public Works have carried out is amazing. To give an idea of the difficulty of administering such relief schemes, I might mention that under the new régime in Russia 1,500,000 people died in the first one and a half years before the relief schemes were working properly. In the relief of the unemployment problem by these schemes I must say that the Office of Public Works have acquitted themselves well. At the same time, I am not satisfied with the way the economic situation is being tackled. I certainly say that the Government have done wonders so far. But, we are facing an uncertain future, and the situation in which, I believe, an economic council will be absolutely essential. I emphasised the necessity for that on the Vote for the Department of Industry and Commerce, and I emphasise it again now.

Mr. Corish: Information on Richard Corish  Zoom on Richard Corish  I was not here when the Parliamentary Secretary was making his opening statement, but I should like to ask him what are the prospects of having relief works done in urban areas during the summer. Last year, as the Parliamentary Secretary will remember, grants were allocated in the spring and summer period. My information —I do not say that it is official — is that grants are not to be given for relief works until the winter period which starts about the end of October or November. I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary if that is so, because the local authorities, [1340] who have been asked to put up money to supplement the grants given by the Office of Public Works, have levied the same amount in the rates this year for that work as last year and they expect that the money will be available in the urban areas in the summer period.

The Parliamentary Secretary seems to be greatly concerned with the labour content of schemes. He said the schemes are depreciating in value because the labour content seems to be becoming less each year. Of course, one can understand that, because in urban areas, especially, a great deal of the work consists in making concrete roads. When this work was started some years ago cement was only about 32/6 per ton; to-day it is almost £3 a ton. That will seriously interfere with the labour content of such schemes, because the amount required for materials will be much larger than two or three years ago. I think that will be found to be the reason from what the Parliamentary Secretary has stated.

I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that useful work could be done in regard to housing. There is a regulation laid down either by the Office of Public Works or the Local Government Department—I am not sure which it is —which does not permit of a grant for an employment scheme being used for the development of a housing site if it is the intention of the local authority to proceed with the building of houses immediately the development has been carried out. I think that that is a very short-sighted policy. As far as I know housing authorities cannot build upon a site so developed until two years have elapsed. I do not know what is the object of that particular policy. To my mind it is a bad policy. I suggest that at a time like this, when housing costs have increased enormously, in some cases, as far as materials are concerned, by as much as 50 per cent., some help should be given through the medium of employment schemes for the development of such work, and it should even go so far as to permit foundations being dug for houses with the grant. Every little helps as far as housing is concerned, owing to the increased cost of materials. [1341] It is going to be very hard to get local authorities to proceed with the building of houses in the near future, because rents, which are already high, are going to be considerably higher owing to the increased building costs.

Some Deputies referred to the cutting off of corners in roads in rural areas, and suggested that that was work for local authorities. Strictly speaking, I suppose it is their work. Quite a good deal of useful work of that kind has been done by relief schemes and by grants from the Board of Works. I suggest that that work should be continued, because it gives a very high labour content and very little material is used. Almost 100 per cent of the money expended goes in labour. It is very useful work and the Department should continue to advance money for improving and easing dangerous corners. I am glad to see that money is being spent on the improvement of farms, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to be sure that money expended in that way is not used in such a manner as to disemploy men already engaged on farms. This will be extra work to be done on farms, and not work that would usually be done by ordinary farm labourers. Otherwise, it would cut across the whole scheme and defeat the object that the Parliamentary Secretary has in mind. A great deal of work could be done on farms, such as drainage, reclamation, and the cutting of bushes. I agree that that would be splendid work and we all hope that the scheme will be a success. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say what his intentions are as far as summer work is concerned, and if he can see his way to permit a certain amount of the grants being spent in the preliminary work of housing schemes? Any little relief of that kind will be responsible for the expenditure of much more money by local authorities, and will relieve unemployment, because builders' labourers will find employment in that way.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  The amount of money to be spent under this Vote is very large and constitutes a very severe strain on the resources of taxpayers. The first consideration in these [1342] schemes should be to concentrate on ones that will give a return in the near future. Long-term schemes that will not give a return for 20 or 30 years can wait. I am wondering if the Department could not concentrate on the cutting of turf. It should be possible to organise schemes for the making of roads, under the necessary supervision, in the vicinity of bogs and to have teams of men to cut supplies of turf for marketing. Of course, that might create difficulties and might compete with people engaged in peat production, but these difficulties might be solved if the turf was not sold locally but was sent to large towns. It should be possible to overcome any labour difficulty that might arise in districts where a sufficient number of men would not be available through the register, by providing lorries or other conveyances to bring men from places where there are unemployed to areas where peat could be saved.

With regard to farm improvement, it would be necessary to arrange for migration from areas where there is a surplus of unemployed to areas where there is a shortage of labour and plans could be made whereby local farmers would accommodate such workers. I support the proposal made by Deputy F. Crowley for the establishment of an economic council, and, in order to secure active co-operation in each district, I consider that parish councils should be constituted. The Department could help in the formation of such councils if one of the regulations provided that the schemes in each county should be submitted for the approval of parish councils, which should be consulted in regard to the relief of unemployment. That would give local councils a status and give them important functions to perform.

Mr. M. Brennan: Information on Michael Brennan  Zoom on Michael Brennan  I was sorry I was not in the House to hear the Parliamentary Secretary's statement, in which he intimated that it is proposed to spend money on the improvement of farms. I am informed that details were not given. That is unfortunate, because if details had been given this discussion would not have been of such a stereotyped nature. Living as we do in abnormal times, with the world [1343] practically crashing around us, it is a pity that this discussion has been of such a normal type, because there is no burking the fact that democracy is on trial. If the Parliamentary Secretary were a dictator, and it were put up to him as to what he should do to meet the necessities of the country for the next year, he would probably tell us that he would do certain things. Two things that, in my opinion, are outstanding have not been suggested. They are the production of food and fuel. We seem to be doing nothing about these problems. A sum of £1,400,000 is to be spent, and the Parliamentary Secretary said that he could not get useful schemes. I do not blame him for that.

I am partly in agreement with the proposals made by Deputy F. Crowley and Deputy Cogan that committees should be set up. We have a defence committee. I consider that we should have a production committee. We have heard a great deal about the need for fuel supplies. There are plenty of bogs, even between Roscommon and Dublin, in the hands of the Land Commission, that have not been touched, while thousands of people want to get supplies of turf.

There are thousands of turf banks which could be cut. We may be going without fuel. What are we doing about it? Not a single thing. The Parliamentary Secretary may say that he cannot find useful schemes. Perambulating through the congested districts, he has found the usual road schemes, which have a large labour-content. If we are going to get anywhere, we shall have to stop that. We shall have to act as if we were a totalitarian State. A sum of £1,400,000 is to be spent. Are we going to apply it for the benefit of the people who may be in a very precarious position before two years? I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary can himself meet the position as a whole. I think that the resources and the brains of this country should be pooled. It is not enough to have a production council at headquarters. That is not worth a “smoke” if you do not get it to extend its tentacles into the counties. You [1344] must have some such body in every county. We have in every county Land Commission officials and agricultural instructors. We should get them all together and try to find useful schemes. There is no use in trying to solve this question in the usual way. The sum of £1,400,000 is not enough for unemployment. If we could think not so much of unemployment as of production, and if we could get that sum put into production somewhere, in some way, we would be doing something for which posterity would thank us. If the Parliamentary Secretary and his colleagues would consider this matter deeply, they would find that they cannot solve the problem from an office in Dublin. They ought to get suggestions from the best brains as to what channels this money could usefully be put into. The two things which the people may stand most in need of in 12 months are fuel and food. We are living on the verge of an abyss. We do not know what is before us. With this money, we could do something useful. I commend these suggestions to the Parliamentary Secretary.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I should like to thank members of the House who, in the last quarter of an hour or 20 minutes, have so valiantly restricted themselves and abbreviated the discussion in order that this Vote should be passed to-night. I very much appreciate the courtesy and restraint which have been shown in the matter, and I myself shall try to be as brief as possible. There is a tendency, as a discussion of this kind proceeds, to forget the purpose of the Vote. It is definitely and distinctly laid down by the Dáil that this Vote is for the purpose of relieving unemployment and distress due to unemployment. My function in relation to that fund is to distribute it so that as much relief for distress due to unemployment as is possible is provided. That is the specific purpose of the Vote. If it were a Vote for some other purpose, it could be devoted to some other purpose, but our administration of this Vote must be judged by the efficiency with which we carry out the purpose for which the Dáil votes the money.

That brings us to the question of a whole series of schemes in areas in [1345] which there are not unemployed people. Am I to use this money for the purpose of relieving distress amongst unemployed people where they are or where they can be got to, or am I to use it for some other purpose? If I am to use it for the purpose specified by the Dáil, then I must use it for the benefit of the people who are in distress, due to unemployment, in the areas in which they are or into which they can come. I do not think that anybody questions that. The whole machinery, outlook and purpose of the Department, throughout the whole period that I have been connected with it, and, I may say, the attitude of mind of every single official connected with it has been to see that the largest proportion of the total sum available will, in fact, get as nearly and as mathematically justly as is possible into the hands of those who need it in the places in which they are and in the proportion in which they need it. That is the function of the Vote, and it is by that we are to be judged.

We had an example from Deputy Brasier, who mentioned the scheme at Ringabella. Ringabella has been brought to me by various Deputies. It is a scheme which, apart from drainage, would cost £10,000. It is not an area in which there is any considerable number of unemployed people within a distance of four miles. If I were to devote money from this Vote for that purpose, I would be taking it from people who are entitled to it because of distress due to unemployment. That is a typical case. It is very easy to find useful schemes with a high labour content in the areas in which there are not unemployed people, but that is the place in which I have no business to spend money unless the Dáil is prepared to vote other moneys under some other designation.

I agree with a great deal of what has been said, and I am very grateful for a good deal of the criticism. The harder the criticism the better I am pleased. We do not get enough criticism of these schemes. We are doing 4,000 or 5,000 unemployment relief schemes in a year. Everybody in this House knows the insurance premium in supervision which would have [1346] to be paid in order to prevent any of these schemes going wrong. It would be simply an apocryphal amount. There are bound to be schemes which are wrong, but I do not get told about these schemes. I have got to go and find them. The bad schemes are not brought to our notice and I am grateful to any Deputy who draws attention to these schemes, not on account of the particular scheme but because, in going down to that scheme, we can find out by what process a wrong scheme has been allowed to go through and how a wrong scheme, having got through, has been allowed to last without some machinery for bringing it to our notice. Members of this House do a great and salutary service when they complain of something which is wrong and, for that reason, we have spent a great deal of time encouraging Deputies to make complaints. Even when complaints are not well-founded, it is better we should have them than that they should not be brought to our notice. In investigating a complaint which is not itself well-founded, we may find gaps in machinery which can afterwards be filled for the betterment and improvement of the administration of the whole scheme.

Deputy Norton gave an example when he complained that a certain amount of work on drainage was being done at a time when drainage should not be done because of the impossibility of getting economic results. Such a case may occur, but the machinery is that in relation to any scheme which involves drainage or working in water or anything of that kind, an examination is made and a certificate is given as to whether or not that desirable work can or cannot be economically carried out during the winter. If the certificate is that it cannot be economically carried out in the winter, then it is not done in the winter. But it is possible that a mistake is made occasionally, and it is quite possible that Deputy Norton saw some work of that kind going on which may have been incidental to some other scheme. As a matter of practice, we have deliberately gone outside our ordinary procedure in trying to concentrate on [1347] other work in the winter for the purpose of doing drainage schemes in the summer. As I have already told you, this thing continued last year. We did 525 separate drainage schemes, and we did them all in the summer, because experience has shown that we get very much better results by that means.

I think the House will appreciate that it will not be possible for me to go in detail through all the matters that were raised. I will deal with the points raised so far as I can, and any questions which have arisen relating to matters in which Deputies are very much interested which I cannot deal with now, I will deal with by way of correspondence, as I usually do.

Deputy Cogan wants to have men migrated. That is largely mixed up with the cost of transport. If I have a whole lot of lorries in every district, the cost will have to come out of the cost of the scheme; it will have to come out of the wages of the men and out of the pockets of the men. The one thing I am trying to do is to get the money into the pockets of the men.

Deputy Corish raised the question of spring and summer schemes. Local authorities have been asked to send schemes forward. When the schemes come forward they will be examined and, on the basis of that examination, a decision will be given as to whether the schemes are advisable and when they can be started. I should imagine that in July certain urban schemes will be in operation.

A question has also been raised in relation to housing development. The attitude we adopt is that we will not do anything for a local authority which will enable them to avoid spending money which they otherwise would spend on employment. If we do that we defeat the purpose of the Vote.

Mr. Corish: Information on Richard Corish  Zoom on Richard Corish  Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will reconsider that attitude in view of the high cost of building?

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  What would be the effect? The effect would be that I would deprive the people of employment and [1348] I would really make this a fake Vote; that would be the actual effect. However, I will look into the matter. That is our attitude, at any rate. If it is going to do that, we will not be a party to it, but, if it is not going to have that effect, then we will see what else can be done.

Mr. Corish: Information on Richard Corish  Zoom on Richard Corish  At the moment it might encourage people to go ahead with house building.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  So far as the normal schemes which local authorities have undertaken are concerned, if they say “We are going to prepare for another scheme ahead”, then we are prepared to help them. That is the ordinary procedure. Every penny voted last year for housing development has been spent.

Deputy Crowley raised the question of the basis upon which unemployment moneys are issued. He is quite correct; we did originally do it on a valuation basis before we had an unemployment assistance register. But the unemployment register is theoretically the right way. We still have the old valuation register and, as Deputy Crowley knows, in any case in which a Deputy can show that the unemployment register does not give a fair record in relation to a particular district, we are prepared to reconsider the matter on the basis of the valuation. In some cases that has been done; but, broadly speaking, when the State sets up that great, that very comprehensive and extraordinarily careful machinery of ascertaining under the unemployment assistance register the amount to which every individual on the register is entitled, that cannot now be easily ignored.

Mr. Crowley:  The point that I was anxious to raise was that the necessary and most urgent scheme may not be in the electoral division, where the most unemployed might be, but may be in an adjoining electoral division where there are fewer unemployed.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  At the present moment we have something in the nature of 3,000 electoral areas in Éire. Any of you who look at the maps will see numbers of areas which obviously do not call for any scheme. As a matter of [1349] fact, we are operating in 1,800 out of the 3,000 areas. I should like Deputies to consider this important fact, that we have 1,800 separate employment units of area to attend to. Deputies come along and mention various schemes. Of course, anybody has the right to put forward a scheme. The point is that when anybody gives us a good scheme in relation to an area in which the number of unemployed is insufficient to cope with that scheme, if there is another area which is contiguous and which will enable the scheme to be carried out, it is promptly sanctioned. That cannot be done in every case, but I may assure the House that everything that is humanly possible is being done and will continue to be done.

I quite agree with the remarks regarding turf production, but we have not yet properly begun turf production. We have been constructing literally thousands of roads into turf production areas for the last few years. Provision in that connection has been made every year. If at the present moment there are great possibilities in the matter of turf production for thousands of units of the community, it is because provision has been made in advance for these schemes over a number of years. I have been discussing with the Minister for Lands the extent to which this money can be used for the purpose of helping turf production and, as a result of those discussions, I may say that we will help.

I should like to deal with one aspect of the Clonsast experiment. The only question which seems to have given difficulty to anybody is the question why the people were recruited from the city. The reason why they were recruited from the city was because we wanted to benefit the people in the city, because we wanted to deal with the unemployment problem there. We were anxious to aid people who had few opportunities, whose health was likely to be affected through lack of exercise and the absence of pure, fresh air; we wanted to give them some opportunity to get away from city conditions.

The experiment in Clonsast had not for its object the production of turf. That is being done. The experiment made in Clonsast was largely to ascertain [1350] whether or not we could not, in Clonsast and other places, reconstitute and recondition these men and give them a chance in life. Not one man who went down there was allowed to go down before he had been through a medical examination to certify that he was fit. Everything that was humanly possible was done, and for no other purpose than to benefit those men. Those were the men who needed it most; those were the men who were down on the very bottom of the register. Our record of them showed that they needed it. I have in this House many a time borne tribute to the willingness of the unemployed to work. I am satisfied that the vast majority of those who are on the unemployment assistance register, given the opportunity to work, and in so far as I have had opportunity to see them do it, are willing to do it.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  Of course they are.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I cannot say that of the men we sent to Clonsast.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  They should have been sent somewhere else.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  They were sent to a job which at the present moment, in Kerry, Clare, Mayo and Donegal, is being done in many cases by women and little children as well as by men. It is the easiest work possible. They were not asked to cut turf and they were not cutting turf; they were asked to foot turf; they were only footing turf, and a youngster could do that. I do not want to deal too strongly with this matter. I regard this as a very serious social experiment, one in which we are going to get extraordinarily valuable and really authoritative information in connection with a most serious problem. Up to the present I can tell the House, with full knowledge of the facts, that there is no evidence that the men who went down to Clonsast did desire to earn a living.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  Is the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the men who are being sent from the labour exchanges to different relief schemes? What I have in mind is that there are [1351] numbers of men who are in receipt of pensions—from whatever Government they receive the pensions, I do not mind. The point is that you may have a man with five children and he has a pension of 12/- or 16/- a week. That amount is deducted from what he would ordinarily get from the Labour Exchange. The result is that that man is never sent out on a relief scheme because he is not drawing a larger amount from the Labour Exchange. The Labour Exchange will never be aware that that man has five or six children depending on him. I [1352] think it is a matter that should be carefully considered.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  A certain amount of consideration is given in such cases.

Motion: “That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration,” by leave, withdrawn.

Vote put and agreed to.

Progress reported.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 30th May.


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