Committee on Finance. - Vote 30—Agriculture.

Wednesday, 5 March 1941

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 82 No. 1

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Minister for Agriculture (Dr. Ryan): Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  I move:—

Go ndeontar suim bhreise ná raghaidh thar £303,741 chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1941, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Talmhaidheachta, agus Seirbhísí áirithe atá fé riaradh na hOifige sin, maraon ie hIldeontaisí-i-gCabhair.

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £303,741 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1941, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture, and of certain Services administered by that Office, including sundry Grants-in-Aid.

The Estimate is for £303,741, but of this sum £238,000 is offset by a saving of the same amount on sub-head A of the Export Subsidies Vote (No. 68). The main items of the Estimate are: sub-head M (7), £238,000, and sub-head N (1), £64,500. I want to give some details in connection with these two sub-heads. The big item is in connection with the provision of butter for winter requirements, £238,000. It is estimated that the creamery butter production for the year ending 31st March, 1941, will be 655,000 cwts., as against 714,000 cwts. last year. The production of butter during the last 12 months, including the month of March on which we have now entered, was lower than during the previous 12 months by about 60,000 cwts. Practically all this reduction occurred in the four months, August, September, October and November. In the months of April, May, June and July last, the production was about the same as [110] during the corresponding months in 1939. It was only towards the end of August that the returns coming in from creameries showed that there was a decline in production. That decline continued during the four months, August, September, October and November. In fact, the production was lower by 55,000 cwts. than it was for the corresponding four months of 1939.

When these returns were received by the Department the position was reviewed, and exports were stopped. There was no export of butter from this country after the 31st August, except about 1,000 cwts. which were allowed out to complete certain contracts which had been entered into. In fact, the amount of butter exported during those 12 months was lower than during the previous 12 months by a considerable quantity. The amount exported during the year 1939-40 was 240,000 cwts., and the amount exported this year was 227,000 cwts., so that we did in fact export 13,000 cwts. less than in the previous year.

These figures do not in fact give a true picture of the situation, because our usual carry-over of butter on 31st March always ranged about 8,000 or 9,000 cwts. The carry-over on the 31st March, 1940, that is the beginning of the present year, was over 20,000 cwts. So that if there had been the usual export the year the war commenced, and if we had carried over the usual 8,000 or 9,000 cwts., the difference in export in the two years would be much more marked than the figures I have given show.

Another point is, that taking our other exports of dairy products—condensed milk, dried milk, cheese, and non-creamery butter—we exported in the year 1939 54,000 cwts. of butter fat in the form of condensed milk, cheese, etc., and in the present year we only exported 38,000 cwts. I mention these facts because it was alleged by people interested in this matter that we had exported much more butter this year than we did previously. That is not true. As a matter of fact, in making up our programme for the year in April last, the amount that we intended to export was reduced by about 10 per cent. on that of the previous [111] year, as we had forecast a certain reduction in production. The dry season that came later in the year effected a very much bigger reduction than we anticipated, and it was owing to that fact that we were left short of butter during the winter.

Now I come to the price. The production from 1st April to 30th November, 1940, was 609,000 cwts. The delivered statutory home price for this period was 154/- per cwt., less levy 9/- and freight 2/-, making a net 143/- per cwt. To this has been added a production allowance of 6/ per cwt., owing to the lower production, and that makes a net total to the creameries for butter during that period of 149/- per cwt.

The production from 1st December, 1940, to 31st March, 1941, is estimated at 46,000 cwts. The delivered statutory home price for this period is 154/- per cwt., less freight 2/-. There was no levy. That gives 152/- per cwt. It is proposed to pay an allowance of 18/- per cwt. on this production, making a total of 170/-per cwt. for that period. Therefore, the average value for the whole year will be 150/4 per cwt.

As to sub-head N (1) — Diseases of Animals Acts, etc., £64,500, the main items under this are £22,500 for the employment of temporary lay assistants, and £40,000 compensation for animals slaughtered in connection with the outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. Owing to the extent of the area covered by the standstill Order made under the Diseases of Animals Acts, the Department found it necessary to employ men to assist the Gárda Síochána in patrolling the districts affected. About 2,000 men will be employed at 7/6 per day. The number of outbreaks that have been notified so far is 53. The number of cattle affected by these outbreaks was 2,112, sheep 1,440, goats 44, and swine 130. The estimated value of these animals is £38,499, and the amount provided in the Estimate for compensation is £40,000. It is probable, however, that this amount may be exceeded, but the excess will not be required before 31st March. I shall come back to foot-and-mouth [112] disease again, but I want to go through the other sub-heads.

The first of these is B—Travelling Expenses, £3,000. The additional provision is required for the payment of travelling and subsistence expenses of veterinary inspectors on foot-and-mouth disease duty. The next is G (3) —Fertilisers Scheme, £9,000. In the year 1938-39 the amount paid in subsidies and fertilisers was £84,959. In the year 1939-40, the amount was £76,394. For this year, to the end of January, the amount paid was £37,189. The expenditure in the current financial year has been £37,271 in respect of the 1939-40 season, and £37,189 in respect of the 1940-41 season. It is estimated that a further £14,540 will be required up to the 31st March, 1941, making a total of £89,000 for the year.

The next sub-head is M (1) —Miscellaneous Work, £2,500. This money was spent on a scheme for advertising Irish eggs in Great Britain. It was estimated that the cost would be about £5,000, but the scheme was terminated on 30th June, 1940, consequent on the measures taken by the British Ministry of Food to control the importation of eggs, which rendered an advertisement campaign on our part unnecessary.

Sub-head M.5 — £10,000 — improvement of the creamery industry. The additional sum is required for the purchase of two creameries. Sub-head M.11—farm improvement scheme —£9,900. This is the amount required for the payment in the current financial year of the wages, travelling expenses, etc., of the farm improvement supervisors and temporary agricultural overseers employed in connection with the new farm improvement scheme. I should say that the amount which is now sanctioned for payment on that scheme is £180,000. I do not know if all that will be paid within this financial year.

I come back now to the foot-and-mouth disease, and may commence by saying that it is undoubtedly the most serious outbreak that we have had in this country for a century. I am convinced that the policy of eradication which is being followed—it has always been followed here as long as this foot-and-mouth [113] disease has had to be dealt with—is the proper policy. Some people seem to have a doubt about the advisability of dealing with the foot-and-mouth disease in that way, people who are actuated, I think, by motives, whether misplaced or not, of humanity and so on. They think that it is a very cruel thing—they even think it is a great economic loss—to slaughter so many animals in order to get rid of this disease. The argument has been put up by many people that the disease is curable. As a matter of fact, dozens of people have called to see me and to see the officers of my Department to tell us that this disease can be cured. No doubt it can. As a matter of fact, a lot of those animals would probably get well if they were left alone, but if they were left either to get well themselves or to be treated in any way, we would have an appalling spread of the disease. I think there is very little doubt that it would spread over the whole country and affect every single beast, whether cattle, sheep or pigs. What is worse, it is adisease that does not confer immunity for very long. If we could be assured that, if we allowed the disease to run through our flocks, we might then be immune from it for some years, there might be some reason to consider the argument, “let it spread”, but it is not so. The immunity is of very short duration, and wave after wave of the disease would spread throughout the country if it were not tackled with the least possible delay.

I do not think there is anybody in this House who has suggested that we should deal with the disease in that way, but there are people outside the House who think that we have tackled this disease blindly, doing what our predecessors did before us, and doing what our neighbours do in Great Britain, without giving any thought whatever to the problem. I can assure everybody that the matter has been very carefully considered, both by our veterinary advisers and by those who look at it even from the economic point of view. They have taken the view that eradication is the only way of dealing with it. We also get letters [114] from time to time from people who say that they can immunise cattle against this disease. I do not know if that is true. I do know that immunisation has been tried on the continent of Europe and has not proved very successful. But, in any case, the same objections would hold: that while we were immunising our cattle and so on, the spread of the disease would be taking place and there would be enormous economic losses. It is very hard to calculate what that loss might be. It is held that it puts cattle back at least a month or two in condition. Even if they are only put back a month in condition, we can all imagine what the loss would be if the disease were to spread through, a considerable proportion of our flocks before we could get after it.

I have also been criticised for not having done some research in this disease. Well, we have not done research either with regard to the cure or immunisation because, as I have said, we were convinced that the proper way to deal with it was to eradicate it; but a considerable amount of research has been done in countries where it is endemic—on the Continent—and no great progress would appear to have been made. The next point that I want to make clear is this, although I think it should be clear to every farmer in the country, that if the farmer reports, where he has any suspicion that his cattle are affected, and if it is afterwards confirmed that it is really foot-and-mouth disease, he will be fully compensated for all the cattle, sheep and swine that may be slaughtered. I have not heard a complaint from any owner that he was badly treated in this respect. I think every Deputy will agree with me that, if any farmer thought that he had not got proper compensation, I would have heard about it before now.

I think there need be no anxiety amongst farmers that they will not be fully compensated if the disease is reported in a proper way. What is more, I am quite prepared to make allowance for a farmer being unaware of the existence of the disease for some time, even though he did not report it as promptly as the farmer who had his [115] wits about him would. On the other hand, where cases are concealed, and unfortunately there have been attempts at concealment, in my opinion, in this particular outbreak, I want to point out that it is an offence to make any attempt at concealment. A farmer can be prosecuted for doing so. Apart, however, from the question of a prosecution, I have full discretion in awarding compensation in such cases.

As I have said, the policy that we have pursued here in this outbreak is the policy of eradication. In attempting to eradicate the disease we must take drastic measures. I have, in all cases, in consultation with the veterinary advisers of the Department, sanctioned any drastic measures that they have thought necessary. On the other hand, I would like to say that the veterinary officers, wherever they thought they could possibly permit it, have avoided imposing any unnecessary hardships on anybody in dealing with the outbreak. There is criticism, naturally, of the way in which this outbreak has been dealt with. I say “naturally” because I can understand farmers who are upset in their business being impatient and anxious, blaming officers and so on, if they think that they are not carrying out their business as they should. The criticism would seem to come from two directions; some say that the regulations are far too strict, and some say that the regulations are far too lenient. I do not want to avoid any responsibility as regards anything that may be done. I would, however, like to say this, that when dealing with an outbreak of this character I must be guided entirely by the veterinary staff in the Department. When the chief veterinary inspector comes to me—he consults, I presume, with his own veterinary staff—and says it is necessary to take some very drastic step, I have invariably done what the chief veterinary inspector asked me to do. I think I would be very foolish to do otherwise, because if I did otherwise the chief veterinary inspector would feel that he was not getting the full co-operation which he would require in dealing with this very serious position. On the other hand, [116] if the chief veterinary inspector is inclined to allow a certain function to take place, whatever it may be, and if he sees no danger in such a function taking place, I am not going, of my own volition, to stop such a function for the sake of meeting public opinion. I am guided entirely in those matters by the chief veterinary officer.

Let me deal with hardship first. Undoubtedly there is hardship, and hardship of a kind that cannot be compensated for. First of all, let us take the farmer who has an outbreak on his farm. I have said that he is very well compensated on the present value of his animals, but I am sure that even that is not welcomed by any farmer at the moment. A farmer does not look on an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease amongst his own flock as a stroke of good fortune, even though he does get the market value, or even a bit more than the market value for his cattle, his sheep, and his pigs, because he is put out of the business of farming for some time to come, and he is not compensated for that consequential loss. Apart from the farmers who are affected, you have the farmers in the restricted area, and they are suffering in many ways. For instance, there is the farmer who may have a good milch cow to sell; he cannot sell that milch cow because he cannot move her, and by the time the restrictions are lifted she will be no longer a new milch cow, and will not be worth the money she is worth at the moment. There are farmers also who had fat cattle ready for sale, and who had to hold them over. Those cattle, after being held over for seven or ten or fourteen days, will probably not be worth any more than they were worth when he had them fit for sale, although he will have had the expense of giving them additional feeding. There are farmers who perhaps have had to use up now the very necessary feeding stuffs that they had intended to hold over for other stock by getting rid of their fat cattle, and they will be put to the expense of buying more feeding stuffs when they get the opportunity. All those things are annoying, and indeed very hard on the farmers concerned, but still I think that the farmers as a whole will suffer those [117] inconveniences and even suffer those losses in the hope that we may be able to deal with the outbreak as effectively and as rapidly as possible.

Then there are other classes; there are, for instance, the men who made their living as dealers. Now, they arc completely demobilised, and they are the people, unfortunately if you like for their sake, in regard to whom we are most careful that they must remain out of the business for the time being. A lot of the regulations that we have made are made for the set purpose of preventing the dealers from going around from one farm to another to buy cattle, but in the dealers own interests it is better that we should deal with this thing as drastically as possible, so that they may get back to their means of livelihood as quickly as possible.

Then there is in this city, and I suppose in the towns to some extent, quite a number of butchers, quite a number of drovers, and quite a number of people who were employed in the making of sausages and the canning of meat, and who are now unemployed. All I can say is that the more drastic we are in keeping those regulations there—regulations which are very much to their disadvantage at the moment— the better for them in the long run. We must at this time be drastic; we must not have either misplaced or foolish sympathy for certain classes; we must not make the mistake of being too lenient, and thereby perhaps spread the disease again.

On the other hand, there is no reason at all why we should be panicky. There is no reason why we should do things that are unnecessary, or that put unnecessary hardship on any class or on any individual. I will take the instance of dog races and horse races. In some cases they are prohibited, and in some cases they are not. Open coursing in the restricted area is forbidden; open coursing outside the restricted area is not forbidden. Point-to-point races are discontinued. There was no order made in that case, because there was only a limited number of them; the committees were got in touch with in each case, and agreed to postpone their [118] point-to-point races for some time. All dog races and horse races on a confined course are allowed, except in cases where those courses are close to an infected farm. In this particular instance, I personally had some doubt as to whether or not we should permit the races to go on, but I was informed by my veterinary advisers that they could give no veterinary reasons for stopping those horse races; that they could give no more reason for stopping those races than, say, for stoppings football match, because the congregation of people is undoubtedly somewhat dangerous, but we might just as logically stop a football match or even stop people from going to religious services as stop people from going to a race meeting or a dog track. The dogs and the horses themselves are not more likely to carry the disease than the men and the women who go to those races; in fact they are less likely, because dogs and horses are not permitted off infected farms, while it is very difficult to stop humans from infected farms from going to any gathering whatever, whether it is a football match or anything else. In those matters I should like to say that the veterinary officers decide on scientific and rational grounds. They are not affected in any way by public opinion, and are not actuated by any other motive. In a case like this, I think it would be a pity that veterinary officers, or in fact any men who have to decide on a scientific basis, should by any sort of agitation be compelled to how to public opinion. It is much better that they should go entirely on their own judgment in those cases.

There have been other complaints made which are more specific. For instance, a complaint was made to me from at least two or three sources that we were very slow in the slaughtering of animals on the affected farms. However efficient we may be, or however anxious we may he to deal with this outbreak in an expeditious manner, it takes some little time to get all the preliminaries carried out and to do everything that is necessary before we slaughter the animals. I have looked [119] up a number of time-tables and I have found that from the time the case is notified to the Department until a veterinary officer from the Department calls it is, as a rule, only a matter of a few hours. He may have to go back the next day before he is prepared to verify a case. Every case reported to us is not a case of foot-and-mouth disease. There have been dozens of cases notified to the Department as suspicious which have not turned out to be foot-and-mouth disease and it is not surprising, therefore, if a veterinary officer from the Department examines a beast under suspicion, that he may not be able to pronounce there and then that it is a case of foot-and-mouth disease. He may say it is suspicious and in that case he serves an order on the owner to keep the flock isolated. He goes back the next day and then he is usually able to give a definite opinion. If it turns out definitely to be foot-and-mouth disease, the necessary preliminaries are gone through as quickly as possible.

The slowest job is the digging of the hole necessary to hold these animals. I do not know if people realise how careful we have to be in burying animals. The hole has to be nine feet deep, seven to eight feet wide, and roughly a yard is allowed for every animal, so that with a fair-sized farm you have to dig a hole nine feet deep, seven or eight feet wide and perhaps 100 yards long, and that takes time. We had to depart entirely from the practice of getting the labourers on a farm to dig the hole, because that took far too long. The holes are made by the military and in that way we get the job done very much faster. Comparing the time we take here with the time that was taken on former occasions in this country, and with the time taken in neighbouring countries, we are far quicker.

It was suggested to me by one individual—and I may say that all these people want to be helpful—that we might slaughter these animals and then wait for the hole to be dug. [120] There, again, we have a most difficult problem, because Deputies from the country know that when the animals die they become swollen in the body and very stiff in the limbs, and if we were to adopt that suggestion the hole necessary would have to be probably 50 feet longer. The only possible chance we have of packing all the animals in is to have them slaughtered and put into the hole while they are hot and soft. Another complaint made to me was that we were not sufficiently drastic about disinfection and isolation. I was trained in the medical profession and I have some knowledge of disinfection. I am perfectly satisfied from what I have seen that there is no ground for that complaint. Every officer of the Department has been most particular about this matter of isolation and disinfection. As a matter of fact, no case has been spread by any officer of the Department or through any laxity in taking the measures necessary with regard to isolation and disinfection.

Necessarily, we had to allow a certain amount of meat into Dublin, if that could be done with safety. We consulted the veterinary staff and they said they were satisfied that it could be done under certain conditions. The one thing they wanted to avoid was having dealers going from farm to farm looking for cattle, sheep or pigs. We had to adopt some system under which we would get the producers to send the cattle direct to Dublin without any dealers calling on them, except under control. It was an urgent matter and we had to set up some machinery within a number of hours. It was suggested to me that we should select as a committee the Chairman of the Cattle Traders' Association, the Chairman of the Dublin Butchers, and three members who were somewhat more prominent in the dressed meat trade than any of the others engaged in that trade. I agreed to that committee being set up. That committee has to buy all the cattle and sheep. It is done in this way. A producer will apply to the Department for a permit to sell his cattle or sheep to this committee. The committee will then send a buyer, who is accompanied [121] by an officer from my Department, an officer who is not a veterinary surgeon. Both of them are thoroughly disinfected before entering and before leaving the farm. The buyer purchases cattle and sheep at a price which the producers know they must accept and these animals are then sold according to grade to the butchers in Dublin.

The principal object of that arrangement was to supply Dublin with meat, but the scheme was also drawn up in order to avoid as far as possible dealers going from farm to farm when they were not under proper control. This is only a temporary provision, and as soon as the veterinary staff will permit it, as soon as they think it is safe, we hope to depart from that system and go back to the regular way of trade. It would be more acceptable to the butchers and to everybody concerned if we could get back to the live-stock market. We mean to do that as soon as we can.

I want to give a little history of how these outbreaks took place, so that Deputies may have some idea of how it spread from one place to another. We can only give an opinion of how it spread in certain cases; in other cases I think it can be stated fairly definitely how it spread. On the 16th January the Department was informed by the Northern Ministry that foot-and-mouth disease had been confirmed on premises about eight miles north-east of Derry and, as a result, the Department immediately made an order prohibiting the removal of animals from Northern Ireland into this State. On 17th January, the next day, the disease was confirmed on a farm in Derry within two miles of the Donegal border. Immediately, an area in County Donegal, lying roughly north of a line running from Strabane to Letterkenny and bounded by Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle, was made a restricted area. Next day, 18th January, the Department received a report of a suspected disease on a farm premises in County Donegal. Inspectors from the Department were already on their way to Donegal, owing to the outbreak in Derry, but they had difficulty in getting through, owing to a very severe [122] snowstorm. The disease, however, was dealt with pending their arrival. On the next day, 19th January, the Northern Ministry informed my Department that visits had been paid to a number of premises in County Donegal by a person who had been in contact with the disease in County Derry, and that, of course, is what spread the disease to County Donegal. On 20th January, disease was confirmed on premises in County Donegal lying within the scheduled area, and, since that date, eight further outbreaks have been confirmed in Donegal. The source of infection in the Donegal area was obviously traceable to the infected centres in County Derry, but it is hoped that the disease in County Donegal is now well under control.

The first outbreak was in County Donegal on 18th January. On 24th January, disease was confirmed on a farm premises in the vicinity of Abbeyleix and, since that date, six further outbreaks have occurred in that area. It appeared to be under control until, on 9th February——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  How did it get to Abbeyleix?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  That is one of the things we cannot say definitely. There are various theories, but I cannot say definitely. On 9th February, the S.S. “Kilkenny” left Dublin for Birkenhead with 753 animals. On 11th February, two days after, the British Ministry informed the Department here that one of the animals landed from the S.S. “Kilkenny” was showing suspicious symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease, and, as a result, an order was issued from Great Britain prohibiting the landing in Great Britain of all animals shipped from Northern Ireland and Eire. That was reported as a suspicious case, but, on 12th February, the disease was confirmed, and on that date an order was made prohibiting the holding of markets within the borough or county of Dublin. The Department at once began tracing the home farms of all the animals shipped on the S.S. “Kilkenny” and this work was completed by 17th February, five days later, no evidence of foot-and-mouth [123] disease being found on the farms visited.

I want to stop at that point for a minute. There seems to be some opinion that we should have acted more drastically at that point. If we had foreseen what was to come, there is no doubt that we should have done so, but it has happened before that animals landed at an English port have contracted foot-and-mouth disease within 48 hours of landing there, that is, contracting the disease there and not bringing it with them from this side, and the veterinary officers of the Department were inclined to think it might be possible that that was the case in this instance. Having traced all the contacts of these cattle which went on the S.S. “Kilkenny” and having found that there was no trace of the disease in any of the contacts, they were inclined to think that the theory that the cattle had contracted the disease on the other side was correct. However, we are convinced now that that was not true. The disease was brought from this side.

On 19th February, eight days after the disease was confirmed in Birkenhead, a case was found in animals slaughtered in the Dublin Abattoir. These animals came from a lairage in Prussia Street and further investigations showed that they were purchased at Birr fair on 11th February. When tracing the animals exposed at Birr fair it was found that a farmer on whose premises foot-and-mouth disease was subsequently discovered had exposed cattle for sale at the fair and it is presumed now, and supported, I think, by very good evidence that these cases in Dublin came from the same source, that is, the Birr source. On the same date, further cases of foot-and-mouth disease were discovered in a private slaughter house in Dublin in animals which had come from the same lairage as the diseased animals found in the abattoir. Since that date, 32 outbreaks have occurred in the city of Dublin and vicinity, and the disease is still active in this area.

On 21st February, two days later, the [124] disease was confirmed on premises in County Kildare. On 23rd February, the disease was confirmed on a second premises in County Kildare, the owner of which had exposed cattle at the Naas fair on 19th February. As a consequence, five further outbreaks have occurred in animals exposed at that fair. The Department are tracing all animals exposed at the fair and keeping them under veterinary supervision. The two big sources of the spread of this infection were the Birr and Naas fairs. Immediately after the discovery of the first case in Dublin, an order was made prohibiting markets, fairs and sales of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs in Carlow, Clare, Kildare, Kilkenny, Galway, Leix, Offaly, Roscommon, Tipperary, North and South Ridings, and Westmeath, that is, an extension of the order already made and, on 24th February, extending the prohibition to Counties Meath and Wicklow. On 26th February, this prohibition was extended to all the other counties.

The present position is that, judging from the reports available in the Department, we have, I believe, probably got the disease under control in Donegal, Leix, Offaly, and in the Naas centre of County Kildare. There may be further cases in these counties, but I think it has been got under fair control and that it will be cleared up in a reasonable time. There is a very much worse position in North Dublin, including the city, and the adjoining portions of Meath. There is a line running roughly from Dublin City and Finglas, through Castleknock and Blanchardstown to Dunboyne and, in that area, the disease is at the moment on the increase. It is hard to say when we may begin to hope to have it fairly well controlled. We have taken measures which have not, I think, previously been taken in this country and which would not have been taken if we looked on this as an ordinary outbreak.

We have, for instance, not only slaughtered all the cattle, sheep and so on which were affected and in contact here in the City of Dublin, but we have slaughtered all the cattle, even those which remained free from [125] the disease, in that whole Prussia Street and Dublin market area. Some of the herds were perfectly free from disease, and would probably have escaped, but we thought it better to clear all cases, as otherwise they might be cropping up again in a fortnight or three weeks' time. I should like Deputies to realise that if I am asked, as I have been, to do certain things about allowing certain fat cattle into the Dublin area for slaughter, or allowing dressed carcases in, or allowing certain sales and fairs to be held, or even to allow certain races to be held, or not to allow certain races, I would like to say that I am entirely dependent on the advice which I receive from the veterinary staff. If I am asked to do anything in the way of allowing certain fairs or certain markets, then they will be allowed or permitted as soon as the veterinary staff are satisfied that they can be allowed.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The first thing that falls to be said on this occasion is that it is the common interest of all that this outbreak should be got under control. We are either going to control this outbreak by the joint counsel of 138 inexperienced and well-intentioned ladies and gentlemen who are Deputies, or we are going to get the most excellent advice we can get and act upon it. If we have a relative who is in imminent danger of death we do not call in the whole family and debate amongst ourselves what is the best remedy to apply. We choose a physician arid we lay upon him the terrible responsibility of taking the decision, and forewarn him that whatever his decision may be we shall abide by it. We must not close our eyes to the fact that it is a dreadful responsibility to lay upon an independent party, but those who accept responsibility, physicians or veterinary advisers in the Department of Agriculture, accept responsible posts in the full knowledge of the serious burden they may from time to time have to bear, and it is only Dáil Eireann can say—I think it ought to be said now—that having chosen veterinary advisers in the Department [126] of Agriculture and given our confidence to them we expect them to do their best. We do not expect them to be magicians, prophets or soothsayers, but we require to be satisfied that they have done their best and, so far as I am concerned personally, I am satisfied that the veterinary staff of our Department of Agriculture is as good a veterinary staff as could be got. If I can be satisfied that they are being permitted to do their best, then I am satisfied that the best is being done in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

I think there rests upon the Minister a very grave responsibility to satisfy the House—and he has tried to do that so far, but he may have to go into a little more detail when he is winding up the discussion—that there is no interference with the expert decisions taken from time to time by the experts of the Department. I understand, and it is right that it should be stated publicly, that cattle were exposed at the Naas fair for sale which had been purchased or shown at the Dublin market; that they were brought to the Naas fair from the Dublin market after the Department was notified of the fact that there were beasts in the Dublin market which were suspect, if not actually diseased. It is suggested to me that beasts from that Dublin market, which the Department had knowledge contained beasts that were suspect or actually diseased, found their way down the country. If that is so, it calls for explanation. If the Minister considers the situation grave enough— and I think he is right in believing it to be grave——to exterminate every herd of cattle in the Prussia Street vicinity, whether it is diseased or not, how is it that vigilance was not sufficient to prevent cattle from going down the country which had been exposed at a fair where it was known diseased or suspect cattle were exposed, as in the case of the Dublin market?

I want to say very emphatically that I am convinced the policy of eradication is right. I know there are people who think it ought to be cured, and [127] that there are people who believe in slaughter against infection. I think the Minister has a perfect right to say that that is a theory which we cannot afford to experiment with. In a country where the live-stock trade means so much, we are entitled to be old-fashioned in regard to that. We must be absolutely certain of the efficacy of any remedy before we put the entire live-stock industry of this country into jeopardy by trusting to the safety of new-fangled devices. That does not mean that a day will never dawn when a satisfactory immunising agency will be available. It may come, and we hope it will, but pending exhaustive and conclusive tests under practical conditions elsewhere, I certainly endorse the Minister's resolution to adhere to the policy of eradication for the control of foot-and-mouth disease.

I have emphasised my view in this matter by approaching it with the resolution that the recommendation of experts should be carried into effect, whatever the cost in money or in popularity. No matter how difficult the Minister finds it to make Draconian regulations or to do a Draconian deed, if the experts in the Department recommend it I assure him from this side of the House that all he need do is to hold out his hand and it will be done. It is a good thing that the 138 well-intentioned ladies and gentlemen in this House may offer suggestions that may occur to them from their experience down the country for review by experts of the Department and possibly subsequent action. We are very scrupulous at the present time about preventing individuals from going on to affected premises or moving outside the 15 miles area laid down. We are particularly solicitous to ensure that no live stock will pass from a scheduled area into an unscheduled area. Has anyone taken any precautions to deal with itinerant tinkers who move frequently from 20 to 30 miles in a night, with donkeys, horses, goats, dogs and all the lares et penates of such establishments? I have seen no efforts to control the movements of these people. It seems to me that when they are [128] moved from one area into another they may prove a very fruitful source of infection. In any case, I think our sympathetic consideration is due to the unfortunate farmer, with perhaps 120 or 130 valuable beasts on his land, who sees one of these caravans arriving to camp on his mere, not knowing whence it came, but perfectly certain that before night has long fallen the donkeys and the horses will be across his fence careering about his land and coming in contact with his animals. Therefore, I think energetic measures should be employed to ensure that those people do not move their stock or their persons or their caravans from scheduled areas into unscheduled areas.

I am sometimes a little amused at the suggestions made that the whole population should be penned up in their houses and nobody ought to move at all. In the desire to co-operate to the limit in the eradication of this disease it is possible to go too far. Supposing we did pen everybody and everything else up, how can you pen up the rabbits and hares which are careering about infected lands? If we could, we could give the public a great deal more liberty.

I imagine that one of our greatest difficulties in controlling this disease is the movement of the ferae naturae of the land from one place to another. What can more readily carry this disease from one district to another than a rabbit or a hare? I think that problem is so grave that it is deserving of special consideration. Is it impracticable to fence off infected farms for the purpose of preventing rabbits and hares passing between infected land and uninfected lands? Normally we would recoil from the idea of putting netted wire all round an infected farm. But, when we come to digging trenches 100 yards long, nine feet deep, and seven feet wide in order to slaughter all the cattle on a man's land and to slaughtering every herd in the Prussia Street area, I do not think we ought to baulk at wiring off large areas.

I remember driving through Australia and seeing up in the district [129] behind Sydney, up beyond Bathurst, that every farmer worthy of the name had his land wired all round, and that the hallmark of the ne'er-do-well was to point to his land and say, “There is no wire on it.” There is no decent farmer north-west of Bathurst but had his land wired against rabbits and the fences sometimes run to 22 miles and are maintained. Fortunately, we are not under that obligation here, and it might be impracticable to attempt it. But I would be interested to hear from the Minister when concluding as to the practicability of wiring off areas to prevent the free passage of rabbits and hares, and possibly rats, who would spread the disease despite the best precautions that one might take for the immobilisation of stock and human beings. Therefore, I feel, so far as foot-and-mouth disease is concerned, that the Minister need not be in the least degree reluctant to take whatever steps may be necessary to control the outbreak and that the only time he must walk warily is when he is tempted to take a risk. I do not think the people will readily forgive him if he takes a risk and proves to be wrong.

We can all sympathise with the natural optimistic self-deception in the earlier stages of the outbreak which could induce the veterinary experts to believe that beasts acquired foot-and-mouth disease in Holyhead while we know that the disease was raging in Abbeyleix and Donegal. It is easy to be wise after the event.

Looking back on that, it seems to have been a very imprudent risk to take. Possibly if I were in the position of not foreseeing the extent of the outbreak that was going to come on me I might have allowed the wish to be father to the thought that these beasts had taken the disease at Holyhead. After an error of that kind let energetic measures be taken now to correct the consequences. Do not let any error of that kind recur. Let us err in future on the side of undue caution, and nobody will find serious fault with the Department for doing so.

It is true that foot-and-mouth disease [130] preoccupies the minds of most Deputies at present. Grave as that problem is, however, let us not forget that there are other matters that require to be looked to. There are several matters under sub-heads M (5) and M (12) to which I should like to turn this evening, but I am not going to do so because I think many Deputies will want to engage in the discussion on the principal subject. But I cannot allow sub-head O (5) to pass, because I want to direct attention of the Minister to a very great hardship resulting from the mal-administration of the Pigs and Bacon Act for which money here is appropriated. We were told when we were passing the Pigs and Bacon Act that its purpose was to ensure that a man who reared pigs would have full notice of the price he might reasonably expect to get for them when they were ready for the market and that we would stabilise the price so that a level price would be paid all over the country for the pigs that were offered. In fact, 88/- was being paid for pigs not many weeks ago and within seven days the price had gone up to 118/- in Claremorris and a price of 108/- was being paid in Dublin. Hundreds of pigs were sold at 88/- which farmers could have kept and got 118/- for if they were given any reasonable notice of the prospective rise in price. Farmers in Mayo were getting 118/-, while farmers in Dublin and Wicklow were getting 108/-. So far as I can see, a carriage and pair and a cart and horse have been driven through the provisions of the Pigs and Bacon Act.

What astonishes me mostly is that the Minister himself has been apparently forced into the position of declaring that the fixed price under the Pigs and Bacon Act was a minimum price, when he knows that he himself in this House stated most categorically that it was not a minimum price. It was a fixed price above which or below which no one would be allowed to go, because to go above it was to facilitate the person who wanted to establish a monopoly for the subsequent exploitation of the pig producers, and to go below it was to deprive the pig producers of the return which they were entitled to get [131] for the pigs produced. I consider that the way the pig producers have been treated within the last six months is absolutely scandalous. I know one man who, on the Minister's advice that pigs were then a public menace in that they were consuming essential feeding stuffs, sold his 60 pigs at 88/- per cwt. and ten days later could have got 118/-, so that he lost £90 on the 60 pigs. That is enough to crush any man, and the man who has had that experience once will not dare for years to touch pigs again. That kind of incident was due to the mismanagement by the Minister of the pig situation in this country, and it is a thing which reflects most gravely upon his administration of the Department of Agriculture.

I shall reserve for the main Estimate or some other suitable occasion a discussion under sub-head M (12) of what will come to be known in this country as the Belgian butter farce. That story requires to be told and written in red letters on the records of this House. I have had an opportunity of putting it in black letters on the records of the Public Accounts Committee, but it yet awaits to be told in the Oireachtas of Éire. It is worth the telling, and worth listening to.

Mr. Byrne:  Did I understand the Minister to say that the Prussia Street area was completely cleared?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  It is being cleared.

Mr. Byrne:  I understand that up to 6 o'clock this evening there were over 100 head of cattle in Prussia Street. It is desirable that the area should be cleared at once, that it should be washed and disinfected and closed for at least two weeks. My information is that it has not been cleared.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  It is being cleared. It may not be completely cleared yet.

Mr. Fagan: Information on Charles Fagan  Zoom on Charles Fagan  I listened carefully to the Minister's speech. I think he explained things very well as far as the cattle were concerned. In my [132] opinion, conditions have improved in the last few days as regards the way the Department are carrying out their duties. I think they mismanaged things in the beginning, perhaps not through any fault of theirs. It may be that they did not think the position was so serious. It was unfortunate, I think, that they allowed two markets to be held in backyards in Dublin— the disease had been notified at the time—because that helped to spread the disease. I am not blaming the Department although, as I say, I think they mismanaged things in the first two weeks. While the markets were supposed to be closed, they allowed these markets to be held in a backyard. That was much worse than bringing cattle to a public market. Five of the beasts brought there had to be killed ten days afterwards. I do not want to blame anyone. I suppose the Department did their best. I think that when the first outbreak was discovered, a stand-still order should have been made. There is no use now in crying over spilt milk, but, in my opinion, failure to take that precaution was the real cause of the spread of the disease.

Deputy Byrne has referred to the Prussia Street area. I was on a deputation to the Minister this day week about that. He said that he would look into it. I believe he sanctioned the slaughter of a number of cattle to-day. I think they should have been slaughtered immediately. Even to-day there were some cattle in Prussia Street. We asked the Minister to do away with every beast in Prussia Street because we felt that would be the wisest course to adopt. The Minister said he had not the power to do that. I think he should have got the power to do what we suggested. If some of the animals there had been slaughtered on that day £4 or £5 each might have been got for them. I understand some of them contracted the disease later, and, of course, had to be destroyed. As far as I know the Government have the situation in hand now.

There are some things which they [133] are doing that I do not agree with. I think that enough animals are not being slaughtered. I have heard of some out at Dunboyne that were obviously suffering from the disease. They have not been slaughtered up to to-day. They should have been shot, no matter what it would cost, because the spread of this disease threatens our greatest industry. Cattle that are suspected to be suffering from the disease should not be allowed to roam about for a day or two. They should be slaughtered immediately.

I have to complain also of the methods employed at present to bring cattle to Dublin so as to make meat available for the Dublin butchers. I know the Department have difficulties to contend with and are doing their best, but, according to advertised figures, they have put three or four men in the position of being able to earn between £4,000 and £5,000 a week. I heard of one case to-day. A butcher went to the abattoir to buy a beast. He reckoned its value at so much deadweight, and calculated that the man selling the beast to him would have a total profit on it of £4 17s. 3d. When attention was called to that, the Department pointed out that that might be only one case. But even so, that is too big a profit to have on one beast. The Dublin butchers require over 700 cattle a week. If we knock off the 17/3 and say there is a profit of £4 on each beast, it means that those three or four men have £2,800 a week to divide amongst themselves. That is, so far as cattle are concerned. The figure given does not include the number of sheep killed. I know those men are decent men and I am not blaming them for earning any money they can. The Department promised to look into this. I think they should take a serious view of it. The butchers have complained. They should be afforded an opportunity of purchasing the class of meat that will enable them to meet the reasonable demands of their customers. Unless they are enabled to do that, they cannot carry on their business.

I realise that there are difficulties in the way of doing all those things, but this is a matter which should be [134] looked into. Another matter is that they advertise a price of 53/- a cwt. to farmers for their cattle. Everyone knows that people who are buying cattle all their lives are experts in the business, and 53/- a cwt. is not the price which should be given to farmers at the present day. It might have been all right three weeks ago. I have a list here showing that the price available for our cattle in England for the period up to 10th March is 57/6 per cwt. I think 53/- is not enough to give the farmers. They should be getting at least 55/- if the market were running normally. There have also been complaints made to us at our meetings by butchers' firms in Dublin, who buy nothing but the best meat, in connection with this price of 10½d. per lb. Personally, I am not concerned with the butchers, but I think the farmers are not being paid enough at 53/- a cwt. for their cattle. The Minister for Agriculture should communicate with the Minister for Supplies and allow the butchers to increase the price of meat. I know it is very hard to say that under the conditions which obtain in the city at the present time, but, as far as I know, the price has not been increased for some time, and a number of butchers are going out of trade in Dublin owing to the way matters stand at the moment when they have to adhere to a fixed price. I should like to impress upon the Minister the necessity for clearing out Prussia Street and disinfecting the streets. There have been a number of complaints about the mode of disinfecting. I think the old way was the best, but I am not an expert on those matters. The Minister referred to the employment of 2,000 men at 7/6 a day. I hope that work will not be given only to members of Fianna Fáil clubs; I would like everybody to be able to avail of it.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  The Commissioner of Police has employed Local Security Force men; I do not know what their politics are.

Mr. Fagan: Information on Charles Fagan  Zoom on Charles Fagan  I thought it well to mention the matter, as I have had so much experience of the way in which [135] those things happen. There is also another matter to which I should like to refer. The butchers in Mullingar complain that they must get a licence to buy a beast, but if they buy it two miles outside the town they must bring it in by lorry. There is no such thing as a lorry for hire in the town of Mullingar. The railway company refuses to carry the beasts if they are two miles outside, and they cannot get a lorry, with the result that the butchers have to go out and walk them into the two mile limit. The railway company say that they cannot do it without an order from the Department of Agriculture. I think it is due to a mistake that there is nobody with a haulage licence in Mullingar at the present time. The man who had a haulage licence has gone out of business, with the result that there is no lorry for hire in the town of Mullingar. There are some people looking for a licence, and, if the Minister would expedite the granting of that licence, this difficulty could be cleared away.

In regard to this whole matter I should like to say that everyone concerned is anxious to do everything possible to stamp out the disease. We realise that drastic measures must be taken. The standstill order must be enforced, no matter how drastic the regulation may seem, because the time is coming for the opening of the store-cattle trade, and until we have a certain disease-free period in the country there will be no shipping of cattle, so it is up to everybody concerned to help the Department. We in the cattle trade would like to help in every way. There is another matter which I almost forgot to mention. The salesmasters have practically been put out of business. We were completely passed over when a body of men were being appointed to bring meat into the butchers of Dublin. Our whole livelihood has been upset, and it would be quite an easy matter for the salesmasters to lose contact with the farmers and go out of business altogether.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  When we consider that [136] the approximate value of our live stock is £60,000,000, apart altogether from its potential value, and that the great bulk of our exportable produce comes from the live-stock industry, we begin to realise the grave menace which is endangering the economic structure of the State at the present time. I am one of those people who believe in the policy of eradicating the disease. I think it is ridiculous to talk about isolation and cures and all that sort of thing, because we are in a different position altogether from other countries where the disease is endemic, and where they simply try to let it run its course. I am inclined to think that if we were so unfortunate as to have the disease endemic in this country the mortality here among the live stock, especially during the late winter and early spring period, would be very high.

The Minister said he was aware that there was a good deal of criticism in regard to the regulations at the present time. He said that some of the criticism was to the effect that the regulations were too drastic, too severe, while others thought the regulations were not sufficiently drastic. I am one of those who believe that the regulations were not sufficiently drastic and that the veterinary inspectors failed to appreciate the gravity of the position in the earlier stages. I am not inclined to agree with Deputy Dillon when he suggests, more or less, that so far as this House is concerned, it should be a matter of hands off the veterinary inspectors of the Department, that they are specialists in their work. I admit they are specialists, but they are human beings, and it is quite possible they have made mistakes. I believe they have. We here as representatives of the people have a right, not only to criticise the Minister in his capacity as Minister for Agriculture, but we also have a right to criticise the officials of his Department, and some criticism of how the greatest industry in this country has been handled by his officials might be healthy.

Deputy Dillon referred to the general belief that animals that were exposed for sale on the Dublin market, or at all [137] events animals that were in the vicinity of the Dublin market—in Prussia Street or in the market area—and that were brought to the Naas fair, were responsible for spreading the disease. A great many people in North Kildare and Dublin, people in the cattle trade are of the opinion—I do not know what the Minister's information on the matter is—that there was a leakage there and that that is where the outbreak did spread. That is the general feeling among people who are in a position to know. This outbreak did not become really serious until the disease was discovered in the abattoir. I am told that when the inspection was made by a veterinary officer of the Department there was no proper discretion exercised, that the inspection was carried out in a very careless manner, and many butchers and cattle dealers were permitted to enter the abattoir and in that way they carried the disease away.

It was the visit of a cattle dealer to a farm in Meath that actually caused all the trouble that was on that particular farm. This is a really serious matter and the House ought not to gloss over it lightly. If an official is placed in a position to safeguard the live-stock industry the responsibility is on him as well as on the Minister to prevent the spread of such a very infectious and dreadful disease. Farmers generally feel that the outbreak, particularly in Dublin, North Kildare and Meath, was very badly handled. There is quite a lot of talk in the country about sabotage, but I think there is no doubt that most of the disease resulted from contact and that that can be proved. I had a question on the Order Paper to-day asking the Minister to take what I consider is a very necessary safeguard—the prevention as far as possible of any public gatherings. I was amazed, and so were people who take a very serious view of this situation, to find last week that the Government permitted coursing to take place at Clonmel. I am aware that a particular individual, probably through sheer ignorance of the menace he was with infection on his own farm, was present at the national coursing meeting in Clonmel.

[138]Mr. Brennan:  With a dog?

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  Anyone who realises the gravity of the situation cannot fail to appreciate the menace that individual was, in the centre of such a huge gathering as was at Clonmel. I do not care what the veterinary inspectors say, I am firmly convinced that it was absolutely wrong to permit that coursing meeting to take place. It was a meeting for all Ireland, dogs being drawn from 96 clubs, and they were sent there to a coursing meeting lasting three days. If it was a purely local meeting with local dogs the situation would not be nearly so bad, but there were some dogs actually taken from the infected areas and they were accompanied by people from infected farms. The Government should have banned that coursing. The threat is such a serious one, from the point of view of the whole country, that there should not be any public gathering allowed until the disease is eradicated. There are unfortunate people who cannot sell their live stock because fairs are not permitted. We have that sort of protection on the one side and then we become quite careless and permit people from infected areas to mix freely with others from non-infected areas. There is no commonsense in that and it should not be allowed.

On the subject of conveyance, not only in the infected scheduled areas but outside, lorries are used for transporting live stock. Very often you see a butcher's lorry taking a load of skins—God alone knows where they come from—and delivering them to the railway and then going to the country for sheep or cattle. There is no question of disinfection. I suggest that every vehicle carrying live stock, even in the remotest district of County Kerry, should be disinfected. It is only by drastic action that we can stamp out the disease. I do not think it has been handled in a sufficiently drastic fashion. Foot-and-mouth disease is unfortunate at any time, but it is particularly unfortunate that it should occur at this period of the year when we usually export thousands of stores. It is the period when the store-cattle [139] trade is at its best. It has a special effect on the tillage areas. If we are not able to clean up this outbreak and get an opportunity to export our cattle before the feeding runs out, the position will be much more grave. There is no provision for the grazing of cattle on most farms. A big problem will arise in the tillage areas where the food produced through intensive tillage must be consumed during the winter and spring in order to have sufficient farmyard manure. The cattle are usually sold and exported at this period. If this situation is not remedied, where are those cattle to be put? Where will we get grass for them? Is it not worth while sacrificing any sport in order to ensure that we will eradicate this disease as quickly as possible?

I am not satisfied, if Deputy Dillon is, that this matter has been properly handled. It is a crime against the agricultural industry that it has been handled in such a careless manner. I know definitely that in the case of one very big farm in County Kildare, on which there would be approximately 200 cattle, and from which cattle were on the boat to which the Minister referred this evening which produced the case at Birkenhead, an inspector was sent down at four o'clock in the evening to inspect the cattle. This happened a month ago and Deputies will realise the number of cattle he could inspect in, say, the hour and a half between four o'clock and dark. He went in a very casual way through these cattle and satisfied himself in that hour and a half that the cattle were free from the disease. It could not be done at all in that time. That man should have gone back to his hotel and spent the night there, and spent the following day on the farm. If this job is to be done right, it must be done thoroughly, and it is not being done thoroughly. There are any number of people in the country to-day who are most indignant with the way the position is being handled—allowing coursing, racing and all sorts of “gallivanting.” On the other side, when they handle a position such as this, they do it more drastically. They [140] batten down the whole job and do not permit these gatherings to take place.

The Minister has admitted that this is the most serious outbreak which has visited the country in a century. For God's sake, do not let it come to our generation to fail in respect of a disease which our people through all the years were quite capable of stamping out. I do not think that anyone can say at the moment that the position is well in hand. The Minister admits that in an area on a line from Dublin to Dunboyne, the disease is not under control. The sooner it is got under control, the better for this country. Let there be no nonsense about it; let there be no saying that times are so serious and there is so much dislocation and unemployment in the country already that we must have as little more dislocation as possible. Let there be all the dislocation necessary. Nobody will criticise the Minister or his Department for causing it, if it is going to have the effect of stamping out the disease as soon as possible. That ought to be the policy instead of mild regulations. The remedy must be drastic because drastic diseases require drastic remedies.

I should like to touch also on the matter referred to by Deputy Fagan, that is, the employment of four men by the Minister to supply meat for the City of Dublin, because representations have been made to me with regard to it. I wonder is the Minister aware that none of these men was actually in the Dublin trade? Some of them are attached to foreign firms, buying cattle for export, that is, employed by English firms for the purpose of exporting live stock to England, and none of them had anything at all to do with the Dublin trade. They did buy cattle for export, but I am informed that none of them bought for the Dublin trade. I do not think it right or proper to put four men over the heads of people who normally provide the Dublin trade with meat, and if there was any preference in the matter, people in the trade should have got it. I agree with Deputy Fagan that the margin between what these people are supposed to pay—and [141] I stress the word “supposed”—and the price at which the butchers buy that meat is altogether too wide and is going to leave a very handsome profit to these people.

That is not at all as it should be and it is not on that basis that these men should operate. Their duty is to provide meat for Dublin and it ought to be done on a commission basis of so much per head, instead of giving four men a monopoly to do what they like in respect of supplying meat for the city. They have paid for cattle at less than 10½d.—we have proof of that— which stretches the margin still further and the Minister ought not to forget the time he attempted to fix prices at 25/- before. He ought to remember the experiences of the time when his arbitrary attempt to fix prices failed completely. The cattle were bought at whatever price they liked to pay—at times a long way below 20/- a cwt.— and to give a monopoly on that basis to four individuals is absolutely wrong. If these people are to operate, they should operate on a commission basis, and on a commission basis only.

I do not know whether these men at the moment are permitted to export any dead meat and I do not know what the Minister proposes to do about the exportation of dead meat, if the situation should improve somewhat. We should like some information on that point, because if we are going to export dead meat, we ought not to put its export in the hands of three or four individuals, and especially on the basis obtaining at present.

I realise the difficulty of the Minister and his Department in that responsibility must be narrowed to three or four men. If you do that, I suggest you do it on a totally different basis. It will free the public mind of suspicion, and of more than suspicion —it is an actuality—that the profit is altogether too much. Even on the figures fixed by the Department, there is too great a profit.

There are other matters in this Supplementary Estimate to which I should like to refer, but, like Deputy [142] Dillon, I think this problem is so outstanding and there are so many other Deputies anxious to give expression to their views that it would be unfair to take up the time of the House any further in dealing with them. Although some of them are important, they simply fade into the shade beside this all-important problem, and so as not to minimise the importance of it in any way, I do not propose to refer to them. We can take another opportunity of doing so, but I do say to the Minister that not only am I expressing my own feelings of dissatisfaction with regard to the manner in which this whole matter has been handled, but I am expressing the opinion of thousands of men in the country who are capable of forming an opinion. This is not a highly technical type of question at all, but a matter of sound commonsense and judgment as to what steps should be taken to safeguard the interests of a vital industry. Let us hope that we shall see an improvement in the near future and that we shall have some hope of saying: “Thank God, the Department is getting this under control and it is not going to become endemic.”

Mr. Harris: Information on Thomas Harris  Zoom on Thomas Harris  Deputy Hughes stated that the views he expressed were the views of thousands of people in the country. I am living in an affected area, within five miles of where several outbreaks have taken place, and if the policy that Deputy Hughes recommended was carried out, I would have to stay at home. The farmers I have met, even farmers who have been affected because the sale of their stock is held up or who are inconvenienced in many ways, have expressed the opinion that the officials of the Department have a very difficult task, and that they are doing it as well as possible. The one anxiety I heard expressed by almost all the people with whom I came into contact, was as to whether the farmers would co-operate with the officials. If people suspect that animals have the disease they should report it. Those I move amongst feared that the disease spread, largely because of want of sufficient co-operation, or, in fact, [143] owing to carelessness in some instances in reporting it to the officials.

Deputy Hughes stated that people from the infected areas should not be allowed to mix with others in non-infected areas. If that suggestion was enforced Deputy Belton and other Deputies who reside in affected areas would not be able to attend this House. As far as I know, all possible precautions have been taken. I do not think wild speeches are helpful. What we want is to get people to have confidence in our officials and to support them. As the Minister and Deputy Dillon pointed out, we have experts in the Department. If any of our relatives were stricken with fever or with any dangerous disease, we would place the case entirely in the hands of, medical experts. It would be a queer thing if we started disputing at such a time, whether the experts were right or wrong. We should ask the people to co-operate in every way with the Department and its officials. I know that the farming community are in difficulties owing to shortage of feeding stuffs and being unable to sell their stock, but the only way to deal with this scourge is by co-operation and confidence in those who are there to advise us.

Mr. Brennan:  It appears to be the point of view of Deputy Harris, no matter what the Department or the Minister think, that in a case like this, which is so serious for this country, the best thing to do is to keep quiet. I hope that anything I shall say will not be considered to be what Deputy Harris would describe as a wild statement. Nobody on this side of the House made a wild speech. Deputy Hughes criticised certain things, and if he did I think he was quite right in doing so. It is helpful to do that. If mistakes are made, either by the Department's servants, by the Government, by a Minister or anyone else, there is no gain in closing our eyes, but rather in exposing them, because there are still pitfalls ahead. I must say frankly that I was very disappointed at the Minister's statement [144] to the House on this subject. The Minister knows quite well—it was apparent from his speech—that criticism is levelled against him and the Department with regard to the spread of the disease in Dublin. It cannot be said that it spread from an isolated part of the country or that it took time to find it out. I would be charmed if the Minister could justify the detailed steps the Department took when they found the disease at the abattoir.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  That is quite easily explained.

Mr. Brennan:  Is there any truth in the allegation that cattle buyers were allowed into the abattoir, and allowed out again, without being disinfected, and that they then went down the country to buy cattle?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  No.

Mr. Brennan:  I hope it is not true. That has been stated here by Deputy Hughes, and outside the House by scores of people in the cattle trade. I have the greatest sympathy with the officials of the Department. What makes me have more sympathy with them is that the Minister, in effect, said that the responsibility was theirs, and that if anything happened he would not take responsibility.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  I said the opposite.

Mr. Brennan:  Did the Minister not tell the House to-night that if the veterinary officials told him that a meeting or a function ought not to be held he would not interfere?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  I said that I would not interfere with their advice.

Mr. Brennan:  The Minister would let them take the responsibility for spreading the disease or otherwise?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  I would take their advice.

Mr. Brennan:  I do not admire the Minister for that. He ought to take responsibility for stopping coursing matches if, in his opinion, it was necessary to do so.

[145]Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  If in their opinion it was necessary to do so.

Mr. Brennan:  Deputy Harris said that the Minister and the Department called in experts to deal with the disease. We all bow to that decision. It is not a question of experts dealing with the disease, as far as meetings are concerned, for the purpose of getting away from contact with it. That is commensense. But the Minister ought to take his responsibilities and not allow such a gathering as a coursing match to be held at Clonmel to which people were drawn from every end of the country, and to which they brought dogs. I think that was a shame and that there was something very much remiss in allowing it. The Minister ought to stand up to and take the responsibility, and not say: “The Department officials told me it was all right.” That is not good enough. The country ought not to take that. The Minister should set an example to the officials and tell them that, no matter what they thought, he had made up his mind that slaughter was the right thing, that he accepted that advice, and that that ought to be done at once. He should have said: “As far as contact is concerned, I take responsibility for all the steps taken in that respect.” It has been stated with regard to the outbreak in Dublin, that a certain police officer was approached about having people who were in and around the affected positions disinfected, and that he replied that he had no authority. I think he had no authority, and that he did not get it until 7 o'clock that night, when everyone was at home and brought the disease with them. We have not got details from the Minister as to what happened with regard to cattle taken from Prussia Street and brought to Naas, and then brought to Longford and sold.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  They were not brought.

Mr. Brennan:  Does the Minister say that there were no cattle at Naas fair that had been in the Dublin market some days before that?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  The outbreak in Dublin was after Naas fair.

[146]Mr. Brennan:  There were cattle in the Naas fair and the Minister and his Department should have known thoroughly well that the disease was there.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  How could the Department know when the disease had not occurred?

Mr. Brennan:  I do not know. People around Dublin and cattle buyers say that the Minister should have known of it.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  They are wrong about the dates.

Mr. Brennan:  I do not know what the dates were. No matter how Deputy Harris or anyone else tries to defend the position, there is a feeling that there has been a terrible mess made of it. I am not saying that for the purpose of criticism or to throw dirty water on anyone, because I have the greatest sympathy with the Department.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  What is your purpose then?

Mr. Brennan:  My purpose is to point out that if a mistake is made it should be criticised so that it will not occur again. That is my reason for making it. The Minister says that it is advisable to slaughter cattle as soon as we can. We are all agreed about that. He gave as an excuse that, because holes could not be dug fast enough to bury them, they have to be left there for some days, possibly. I have information here of cattle which were detected and were not slaughtered for three days. I have information about a farmer who had 75 cattle. When these were examined, four or five of them were found to be suffering from foot-and-mouth disease. They were not slaughtered for three days, and at the end of the three days 22 cattle were found to be suffering from it.

During that time these cattle had been lying across hedges and walls and the saliva getting on to the roads and nothing done to prevent it. I am also informed that cattle in Meath which were to be slaughtered and were [147] awaiting valuation were closed up in pens over which their heads extended out on to the public road with the saliva coining from their mouths. If that is happening, it is a shocking state of affairs. Even if the Minister had to employ the whole of the Army to do it, I think that immediately beasts are detected they ought to be shot. So far as I am concerned, I am not asking for any release from restrictions. I had the same respect for the cattle trade in the past that I have to-day, but people on the other side of the House had not.

Mr. Harris: Information on Thomas Harris  Zoom on Thomas Harris  We had.

Mr. Brennan:  You never had. You thought that the rearing of cattle was unpatriotic and unnational. It is a long cry from that time until now. At the present time we know the value of the cattle because we cannot pay our way without them. We want to eradicate the disease as far as we can.

Mr. Harris: Information on Thomas Harris  Zoom on Thomas Harris  You see that you cannot eradicate the wheat either.

Mr. Brennan:  There is a war on now. If anyone tries to put it across the House that a war-time policy ought to be a peace-time policy, he is very foolish.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  I thought we were discussing foot-and-mouth disease.

Mr. Brennan:  We were, but I was interrupted about the wheat policy.

Mr. Harris: Information on Thomas Harris  Zoom on Thomas Harris  You were not. You called for interruption.

Mr. Brennan:  I talked about cattle.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Fionán Lynch  Zoom on Fionán Lynch  There is nothing about wheat in this Estimate.

Mr. Brennan:  I did not introduce it. Reference has been made to a certain syndicate which is buying meat for Dublin City. I have a good deal of sympathy with the Minister in trying to deal with a matter like that, because it was a matter of extreme urgency that the city should be provided with meat. But I think the [148] system under which four people buy cattle in the way in which they are being bought ought to be altered. Whatever you do, you ought not to have it thrown in your face that four or five people were making £3,000 or £4,000 a week upon the sale of meat in Dublin. That is what is being said and can be proved.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  And the butchers of Dublin thrown out of business.

Mr. Brennan:  Yes. In any case, there is a racket by a few people. Possibly the Minister was in a cleft stick and could not get a better scheme, but that ought to be watched and not allowed to happen. The Minister and the Department ought to make sure that wherever the disease is confirmed the beasts that are suffering from it ought to be slaughtered immediately because they are spreading the disease. Complaint was made to-day by a man on whose land the disease was confirmed a few days ago that the beasts are still roaming about his land. When will that land be cleared? I read in to-day's paper that a veterinary officer of the Dublin Board of Health complained to his board that, although it was his job to visit all the dairies in his district for the purpose of inspection, he had got no instructions from the Department. There was no co-operation; he was not asked for any co-operation. I think that is a shocking state of affairs. A person in his position ought to be called in to assist.

I am also informed that the Department is short-handed as far as veterinary inspectors are concerned. That ought not to be. There are plenty of veterinary inspectors employed by local authorities all over the country who are ready and willing to give their services. I am also informed that cattle which are infected are awaiting slaughter because they have not been valued and that there is only one valuer employed. If, as a result of having to wait for that valuer, cattle are allowed to live for 24 hours pouring the disease on to the public roads and by-ways, that is a shocking state of affairs. There are plenty of people who would give their services free [149] gratis and for nothing for the purpose of valuing animals. These are the points which I should like to bring to the Minister's attention. I do not do so, as I said, for the purpose of throwing dirty water on anybody. We do not want to show up the dark side of the picture.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  You did your best.

Mr. Brennan:  I did not. I told the Minister what was in my mind so that these things would not happen again.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  The Deputy got his information from a circular letter. I got the same thing from three or four Deputies.

Mr. Brennan:  I did not get a circular letter.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  You got your information from the same source. There is not a word of truth in it.

Mr. Brennan:  Have I said something that is not true?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  Yes, several things.

Mr. Brennan:  Will the Minister say what they are? I will sit down and wait for the Minister to reply. I will expect his contradiction of the things I have said which are wrong, and I hope I will get it. I am going to wait for it.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  What we have heard to-night is only what we might expect. The blame for everything that happens in this country is put on somebody and an effort is made to prove that matters are not as they should be. I have listened to Deputy Brennan's yarn, and it is on all-fours with the yarn I heard in my part of the country when there was supposed to be an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease at Rathcormac. The yarn was that there was an aeroplane over the district the night before and that the Germans were dropping some kind of germs. That yarn was circulated all over the County Cork. That is on all-fours with Deputy Brennan's story.

[150]Mr. Brennan:  The Minister told us the same story.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  It is all a matter of telling a good lie so that it will go round.

Mr. Brennan:  The Deputy was not here when the Minister was speaking.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Deputy Brennan talked about restrictions. If the position is as serious as he says, neither Deputy Harris nor Deputy Belton, who comes from the middle of the affected area, should be here, or else they should be fumigated before being allowed in. If Deputy Brennan's restrictions were to be enforced then we should get after the magpies and the crows, the hares and the rabbits. They should be looked after if the position is as dangerous as it is alleged to be.

Mr. Brennan:  As the Department says it is.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  That is one side of the story. The other side is that the Minister and his veterinary inspectors are trying to stop the spread of the disease. It will take them all their time to do so and will need the full co-operation of the people. Deputies should feel a sense of responsibility. They should not come into the Dáil to retail old women's stories, heard through the country, and seek to throw the Dáil's cloak of respectability over them. It is time that that should stop. If Deputy Belton thinks the situation is as dangerous as he says, then he should have remained at home, and not be sitting so close to Deputy Hickey in case the disease should spread to Cork.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  I think it would be much better if the Deputy were to deal with the situation in a more serious way than he is doing.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  If they had kept it down the country we would have been safe in Dublin. The Deputy knows that it came up here from the country.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I do not know the exact number of cases that have occurred. I think the number cannot be more than 40 or 50.

[151]Mr. Brennan:  Fifty three to be correct.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Even if there was only one valuer engaged, I do not think that he would be too hard put to it to deal with that number.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  How did it come from Birr and who brought it? That is the kernel of the whole problem.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  There are different stories as to where it came from. The suggestion that I make to Deputies is that they should let the Minister and his veterinary officers handle the job. It is their job. It is a long time since they have had one like it, and I hope it will be a long time before they have a similar situation to deal with. It would be much better if they were allowed to go ahead with their work instead of having old women's tales, which simply create confusion amongst the people of the country, recounted in the Dáil.

Mr. Bennett: Information on George Cecil Bennett  Zoom on George Cecil Bennett  This is a matter that ought not to be treated in a flippant way. I am sure there is scarcely a member of the House who does not realise the seriousness of the position and the effect which this outbreak would have, if allowed to develop. I am quite satisfied that the Minister is as anxious as any member of the House to see an end to it, and that his veterinary and other officers are doing their best to eradicate the disease. We are not likely to get anywhere by entering into a debate on what has happened or as to how it happened. The fact is that the disease is more widespread than any of us would like to see it. The most effective contribution that we can make to the debate is to offer whatever information or assistance we can to help prevent its further spread. The Department's experts, veterinary and others, ought to be the best people to give advice as to what should be done. I do not know that they are really the best people to give advice to the Minister. I, myself, am a firm believer in the application of very drastic remedies: in the prohibition, for example, of all public assemblies [152] such as coursing and racing events. I say that, even though I am as much interested in these two branches of sport as any member of the House. There should be prohibition except where the events are of a local character. When I say local, I mean events held in a district where there is no prevalence of the disease. If important public functions are held, it is almost certain that numerous people from even disease-affected areas will attend, with the consequent danger of being carriers of the disease. Some Deputy said that if we were to go that far we should prohibit the ramblings of hares and rabbits. I think the 15 mile limit effectively disposes of that argument. The hares and the rabbits are not likely to travel that distance. At any rate, other countries have succeeded in preventing the spread of the disease without going that far. Hares and rabbits may be possible carriers of the disease.

I believe myself that the disease is more easily carried by humans than in any other way. On that, I am reminded of what I was told by my father when I was a boy. He had a home farm and another farm 20 or 30 miles away. There was an outbreak of the disease on the out-farm. He was a very careful man. He did not want the disease to spread to the home farm and took every care to prevent contact between the two holdings. This happened 65 or 70 years ago. My father told me of it about 50 years ago, and of the precautions he took to prevent the spread of the disease to the home farm. He had a pair of boots and an overcoat which he changed every time he came home. Nevertheless, in spite of his precautions the disease broke out on the home farm in the course of a couple of weeks. I do not say that will happen in every case, but I suggest there is grave danger of innocent people carrying the disease. We had a big coursing meeting held last week. I hope nothing will happen as a result of it. There are other public events announced to be held. We do not want to stop them. I am as anxious to see them held as any member of the House. Even though the experts have advised [153] the Minister that there is no danger likely to arise from visitors coming to attend a certain event next Saturday, I believe there is a danger. We read in the newspapers this morning that the ladies, and others, attending it are to dip the soles of their shoes in a saucer of disinfectant. If there is no danger of the infection being carried to the race meeting why ask ladies to go through the farce of dipping their shoes in a pan of liquid of some sort? I believe the only method that would make people absolutely immune is not some of the modern ones but rather the old one of fumigation. There would then be no possibility that they could spread the disease afterwards. In every area where this disease is, I should like that every person who could probably or possibly come into contact with the place would have to undergo some such precaution. It should not be possible for any man, woman or child to get into one of those places and get out again without having some such precaution taken. I should like the Minister to say that apparatus is provided at each of those places for some such form of disinfecting.

As I said at the beginning, I only mean to be helpful rather than critical. Personally, I do believe that even though the course which the Minister might take might not be absolutely necessary, still if there is the merest chance that such gatherings would be dangerous they should be stopped. It would be only a temporary stoppage in any case, and, as the Minister said in his own speech, thousands of people will have to suffer from the spread of this disease besides the farmers themselves, and, if people have to suffer through the temporary suspension of a few public functions then, much as we regret it, I think that if they are the source of the slightest danger they ought to be prevented.

I was interested in the speech of Deputy Fagan when he said that the price of 53/- is perhaps not enough. If there is a possibility that the price which would now prevail would, as Deputy Fagan said, be more than 53/-, and that they might reasonably expect [154] for good cattle 55/- or 56/-, I do think they should be paid that price as compensation for the cattle slaughtered now, for this reason, that whatever price you pay the farmer for the cattle slaughtered, even though you pay him to the extreme limit, nobody can possibly say he got too much. There cannot be any criticism that the farmer has been paid too much for the cattle slaughtered, when it is remembered that not alone are you killing his beast and paying him for it, but you are suspending his operations for perhaps three or four months. I am not sure of the time, but you are suspending his operations for a period which you cannot estimate, so I do hope that the figure paid will be the top-notch market price. So much has been said on the matter that I do not want to say any more, except that I personally am in favour of the most drastic measures that can be taken to prevent the spread of the disease. I do not want to indulge in any criticism of what has happened; perhaps some of it was inevitable. I do think the desire of every one of us ought to be to co-operate with the Minister in every possible way to prevent the further spread of the disease. There are items in the Estimate that we are supposed to be discussing which I should like to refer to, particularly in regard to the creamery industry, but I think we will have an opportunity in the near future for discussing those matters, so I do not want to take up the time of the House in discussing them now.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  I was rather disappointed at the Minister's reference to the advice tendered to him by his veterinary staff as regards functions; he remarked that he hoped the staff would never be impressed too much by public opinion in the carrying out of their duties. My strongest objection to the holding of coursing meetings, race meetings or anything else, is not so much the danger of the things themselves as the very bad reaction they are having on public opinion in the country, and the Minister and his Department should listen to expressions of public opinion. The national coursing meeting was held at Clonmel, [155] and as we all know there were 96 dogs running in the Oaks and Derby. There were 32 dogs in the National Cup. That meant that there were cars and people and dogs from practically every electoral division in Ireland.

The experts may have been right when they said there was very little danger, but look at the reaction on farmers down the country in an area 150 miles away from an outbreak of this disease when their pig market in Cahirciveen was stopped on the same day that this coursing meeting was allowed in Clonmel. With all due respect to them, I do not think the Minister's experts were right when they suggested that there was no danger in things like coursing meetings, because I certainly remember that on one occasion the Waterloo Cup meeting in England was abandoned on account of foot-and-mouth disease, and no doubt in their eyes the Waterloo Cup meeting was every bit as important as the National Cup meeting here.

I go as far as saying that I was disappointed because the Minister did not tell us to-night that he had banned the race meeting which is to be held on Saturday. This business about the people having to dip their feet in disinfectant is sheer nonsense, if there is as big a crowd at that meeting as there was at the last. Like Deputy Bennett, I would be sorry to see those functions abandoned if that could possibly be avoided, but it is utter nonsense to talk about having all those people dipping their feet in disinfectant. Considering that Leopardstown is in the middle of an area with foot and mouth outbreaks practically on one side of it, with this bad line running from Dublin City to Dunboyne, and with motor vehicles and horse-drawn vehicles coming through those areas, and horses and fodder being brought from all over Ireland into that area and being taken out again, if there is no danger in that I do not know what to say. I think the allowing of those meetings by the Minister is a very bad policy to pursue. I agree entirely that he is right in stopping fairs and markets all over the [156] country, but, if fairs and markets are going to be stopped, assemblies like that should be stopped as well. I do not think it would be any national loss to this country to stop every race meeting and coursing meeting until you could definitely say that you had this disease completely under control.

After all, we have to think of the unfortunate men down the country who have been depending on the few shillings they would make on feeding 17 or 18 pigs, and who had those pigs practically ready last week, but will now have to hold them until the markets are reopened, seeing no possibility of getting any stuff to feed them with, and a great possibility of losing all the the money they have spent on feeding them up to now. Their reaction to the holding of the Red Cross Chase is that simply because it is a big function it is in an entirely different category from a small pig market in the country.

I am not saying that from any critical point of view. Even if there were no danger in the holding of those coursing meetings and race meetings, I think it would be in the interests of the country to ban them altogether during the period of the emergency. I do not think any reasonable man, whether he is a greyhound owner or a racehorse owner or merely a follower of both sports, could feel any grievance in the world if he were told that he would have to do without his sport for the next month. I am quite sure that the racehorse owners and the greyhound owners of this country would be very much better off if their sport was stopped for a month and this disease wiped out successfully, because the presence of this disease would not help their trade any more than the cattle trade, even if the war was over and there was demand for horses and dogs again. Even if the war were over and greyhounds were being freely exported, I am quite sure the people in England would not want to buy them if we had recurring outbreaks of disease here, so it is as much in the interests of the greyhound owners as it is in the interests of the cattle dealers to wipe it out as soon as possible.

[157] There has been a peculiar atmosphere about this debate. First of all —I am sure the Minister was delighted —Deputy Dillon and the Minister were like the heavenly twins. Deputy Dillon crowned it all when he said that the proper thing to do, in case of trouble, was to call in the doctor. I do not agree that calling in the doctor, in the shape of the Minister, has meant or would mean the solution of all our agricultural troubles.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  The Deputy does not agree with the majority, then.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  In many cases the doctor is changed. The experts are not always right.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  The majority are right.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  After what Deputy Hughes said, Deputy Harris appeared to be frightened about the situation in Kildare. Deputy Dillon agreed so much with the Minister that I find myself in complete disagreement with everything he said. The one sensible thing he did say had reference to the tinkers. I will give you an instance of how public opinion reacts, arising out of the order about the holding of fairs and markets. There is an annual horse fair held in my town on a Sunday and Monday and, when the statement came over the wireless about the holding of fairs and markets, the local people were not sure whether it applied to horse fairs. Those who would lose most if the fair were abandoned would be the publicans, because the annual fair was always regarded as their big event. They had obtained an area exemption order for the occasion. Traders and farmers got together and they were quite satisfied, if there was any suggestion of danger, to cancel the horse fair. They telegraphed to the Department and the Department told them to carry on.

There was a very large volume of opinion in that district, particularly amongst the farmers, opposed to the holding of the horse fair, even though the Department sanctioned it. If everybody interested within a five miles radius had been approached, I [158] doubt very much if the fair would be held. The traders and farmers were quite prepared to sacrifice their own interests as they felt it would be much better to forego the big day of the year rather than incur the risk of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

The main thing that is frightening farmers and others is the way in which tinkers are allowed to wander through the country. This is the time of the year when we find them gathered in our area. On the occasion of the annual horse fair they come from all over the province of Munster. The Guards and the local people tried to keep them out. Deputy Dillon has described how they break into fields the moment darkness comes and their animals mix with the farmers' cattle and sheep. The people in my town tried to keep them away from the area. If one saw the litter along the roadside where those tinkers draw up their caravans, one would not be surprised at the grave danger in having those people moving through the country. I think the Guards should be authorised to warn tinkers that they are not to move from the district in which they have their caravans. It might mean hardship to the tinkers, but that would not be anything to the hardship that might be caused to the people of Cork, Kerry, Waterford or any other areas free from the disease.

Mr. Brennan:  It might be a hardship on the people of the district if the tinkers were left there.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  I think the Minister should re-consider his decision with regard to various public functions. There are very few people, who, perhaps, for their own glorification or some other reason, are anxious just now to have race meetings or coursing. Most people realise how dangerous such gatherings can be at a critical time like this. The Minister is relieved of responsibility in regard to open coursing meetings. I have no doubt that there will be considerable resentment if greyhound racing is to be allowed in Dublin while the disease is so rampant in the city area. The Minister will have the approval of the [159] majority of the people if he clamps down on those functions. I would say the same with reference to football matches. I do not mind local matches, but if I thought there was going to be a big football match here on St. Patrick's Day, to which people would come from all over Ireland, I would be in favour of stopping it.

The inconvenience you would put some people to would be nothing compared to the ease of mind given to many others when they observe that everything is being done to stamp out this disease. In the opinion of many people the Minister should have made a standstill order for the whole country when the disease was first confirmed. Had he done so he would have had a better chance of finding out where the disease originated.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  It is rather difficult to know how to approach this question. I would not like to be very critical of a body of men who are doing their best and have not an opportunity to reply to any criticisms that we may make here. As an old civil servant I suppose I have a fellow-feeling in the matter. I agreed with Deputy Hughes when he said that he did not admire the Minister for Agriculture adopting the rôle, more or less, of sheltering behind the officials. The Minister should be a strong man. He should get advice from his technical officers, then marshal the facts and be strong enough to say to his officials: “I will do this, whether it is your opinion or not; I will take my stand on my interpretation of the advice you have tendered to me.” Foot-and-mouth is such a dreaded disease that one cannot be too careful in the treatment of it. So far as the veterinary technique of the Department is concerned, I am afraid the officers did not show themselves prepared for an epidemic of this kind and, in so far as they did not show preparedness, they are to blame. In the last 30 years we have had such experience of this disease, both in this country and Great Britain, that we should at least know the danger of infection and we should be able to take necessary precautions.

[160] It is proposed to hold a race meeting in County Dublin this week. As a representative of County Dublin I must protest against that proposal because of the danger of bringing infection to a portion of County Dublin where, at the present time, there is no trace of the disease. I can say that no portion of this country holds so many milch cows as the Leopardstown area. My land comes within two and a half miles of the Leopardstown Racecourse. I wonder, if the cows in that area became affected, would the Minister be satisfied to slaughter them and give compensation at the current market price for such cows?

Take the Dublin dairyman who has 50 to 100 cows in full milk, with a round of customers. The property value of that business in respect of customers is far more than in respect of cows. If the man's cows are slaughtered, his customers go to his competitors and he will never get them back again, and the Department will not compensate him. They have not done so in the case of Clarke and Craigie of Finglas. Is the Department, with its eyes open, going to allow this race meeting on Saturday? Deputy Linehan referred to the danger of horses being brought there in boxes, with hay thrown in for bedding, whereas, at the moment, in this area, we cannot take a cwt. of straw on the road, except under permit. Yesterday my man was taking manure from my dairy yard a distance of 200 yards away, and he was stopped.

A Deputy:  And rightly so.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Somebody says: “And rightly so,” which shows that he does not know the regulations. It was one of the over-dutiful local Defence Force special constables to whom the Minister referred who did it, but a competent Guard came round this morning to apologise and to say that the other man was too zealous. But that man merely misinterpreted his orders. Hay and straw are stopped, but manure is not. They went out to-day under permit. Those are the restrictions in that area which is immune from the disease and [161] which is on about the 15-mile mark from the abattoir. I think Leopardstown would come within the 15-mile mark and where we have restrictions within a 15-mile radius, we are going to hold a race-meeting. I think it is well within the 15-mile radius and I presume horses will be brought in boxes from various parts of the country. On nearly every farm in the Leopardstown area, right up to the mountains at Kiltiernan, on to Bray and round by Dalkey and Dun Laoghaire into Dublin, cows are kept and there are scores of yards where people keep up to 100 cows, in some cases, which have not got a sod of land at all. These people have taken a life-time and, in some cases, it has taken two or three generations, to build up these dairy businesses. They are now in danger of being swept away in a night and all they will get is perhaps the price of stripper cows, whereas the real property value is in their round of customers.

We in Dublin have a definite grievance in this matter. This night fortnight it became known in Dublin that the disease had been discovered in the abattoir, and I put it to the Minister that the Department inspectors knew, on this day fortnight, that the infection came from Birr. They knew who bought the cattle and sent them from Birr to Dublin. Yet nothing has been done and I challenge contradiction of that. It was then discovered in County Dublin. Have we not got a good, efficient veterinary service in County Dublin? We have a whole-time officer, Mr. John Flynn, chief veterinary officer for County Dublin, and we have three part-time officers covering the whole of the county. Is it not extraordinary that, with that service, covering the whole of the county, paid for by the ratepayers, Mr. Flynn or his assistants were never consulted by the Department? At the meeting of the Dublin Board of Health yesterday, we sent for Mr. Flynn—it was I who moved that he be sent for—and he astonished us at the meeting when he told us that he was never consulted by the Department and that he knew nothing about the infection in County Dublin for which he is the veterinary officer, receiving [162] a salary of about £l,000 a year, with a car and travelling expenses. He did not receive even the courtesy of notification that the disease was there, and he first learned of it when he read it in the papers. Is that true or is it not? Mr. Flynn, of his own volition and acting on his own judgment, prohibited his officers from visiting dairy yards in County Dublin lest they should carry infection, but the parent body which was looking after the interests of the cattle of the whole country did not even tell Mr. Flynn he should do so, when they should have sent him a sealed order stating that these visits must be suspended.

We are talking here about fencing in farms to keep rabbits and hares from going out and we are talking through our hats. Could we do more to spread the disease? I think an explanation is necessary. As a representative of County Dublin, a member of the county council and board of health, a member who has always supported the maintenance of such a veterinary service, I think it extraordinary that we should now be told, in effect, that our veterinary service does no good and that we are taxing the ratepayers of the county to keep up a veterinary service which, in the opinion of the Department, is not worthy of recognition. The Minister has told us that the disease is fairly well in hand all over the country, with the exception of the area on a line running through Finglas, Blanchardstown, Castleknock and Dunboyne, which are all in County Dublin.

The chief veterinary officer does not know that unless he heard it talked about. Perhaps it will be announced on the wireless to-night or in the papers to-morrow, and Jack Flynn will know about it for the first time in that fashion. Yet we are paying £l,000 a year with travelling expenses out of the rates for the upkeep of a service to look after the bovine interests of County Dublin. Was there ever such a farce known before?

So seriously did we regard this matter at the meeting of the board of health yesterday that we requested the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Justice, acting on the advice [163] of our chief veterinary officer that humans are potential carriers of this disease, to order that no human being should be allowed to walk on grass land, except those whose business brings them there, that it should be made a criminal offence and that the Guards should be directed to take action in any such case.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  It is a criminal offence already.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  What is?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  To walk on any person's land.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Because of the prevalence of foot-and-mouth disease?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  Yes. The Deputy should read the orders made.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I am tired reading orders, but I see none of them carried [164] out. Will the Minister give me one case of a Guard “pulling” anybody for walking across grass land without authority?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  Everybody is obeying the order, probably.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  What are the Guards doing and what are these special fellows to whom you are giving 7/6 a day doing?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  They did not catch anybody contravening the order.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Why, a blind man could catch scores. I move to report progress.

Progress reported.

Committee to sit again to-morrow.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 6th March, 1941.


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