Private Members' Business. - Amendment of Licensing Laws—Motion (Resumed).

Wednesday, 9 November 1955

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 153 No. 4

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Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  I do not intend to delay the House to-night. I dealt last [629] week in great detail with the various aspects of the licensing laws and I gave, in so far as I was able, the reasons why I believe it is now essential to amend the licensing code. I am glad the Minister for Defence is here because I am sure he will agree with me when I say that the idea behind my motion in relation to the need for amending the licensing laws was the idea he had in mind when he was a member of the Government in the former inter-Party régime. At that time there was a motion in the name of Deputy Corry dealing with a certain aspect of the licensing laws and the present Minister for Defence, who was then Minister for Justice, stated here that the Department of Justice “were examining and are examining the whole licensing code.” That statement was made on the 17th February, 1949, almost six years ago, and I do not think that I can be described as being unfair to, or taking the present Minister at a disadvantage, in reminding him of his predecessor's remark six years ago.

One point I would like to have the Minister's opinion on is the number of inquiries that have taken place within the Department of Justice in connection with the administration of this code. I understand that several years ago when Deputy Boland was Minister for Justice the higher officers of the Garda Síochána were asked for their opinions as to whether or not the code was satisfactory and as to whether or not they considered or would recommend any changes. My information is that practically 80 per cent. of the higher officers of the Garda Síochána recommended an amendment of the licensing code. Surely the advice given by men who administer the law is based on years of experience and, if they so advised amending the law, they must have had very sound reasons for doing so.

I do not know if Deputy Boland, the former Minister, will refer to that when he moves his amendment, but I would like the present Minister to comment on it. The fact that Deputy Boland has seen fit to table this amendment shows that in his opinion there is need for a revision of the licensing [630] code. It is a serious step for a man of the standing of Deputy Boland to move an amendment which states that he believes a Select Committee should be set up to examine into the operation and administration of the licensing code. I feel sure Deputy Boland would never have put down that amendment unless he believed there was very grave need for it.

If the Government and the Minister find that the motion I have drafted is not one that meets with general approval, it is not my intention to try to force it on the members of this House. I am merely motivated with the idea of having the present licensing laws amended. It is an important matter and one that will need careful consideration. As such, I think it would be better for the Government to take over rather than have a private Deputy dealing with the problem.

If there is any intention of agreeing with the motion, in the spirit or otherwise, or if it is agreed to accept a motion on the lines of Deputy Boland's amendment, I would like to stress that this committee should not be used either as a way out or as an excuse for the Government to dilly dally. We have had painful experience here of fact-finding committees being set up; we all know that one would need a Hoover to take the dust off the reports submitted by these committees. The danger I see in this amendment, therefore, is that the report of such a committee will never see the light of day. Whatever Government is in power will take the opportunity of saying: “Thank goodness, we are safe for another three or four years, anyway; nobody else will bother about these licensing laws and we will put off the evil day.” Deputy Boland's amendment is acceptable to me. If it is acceptable to the Government I would like to stress that a time limit should be imposed as to when the report should be submitted.

If we find that a report has been submitted Deputies can then proceed to extract from the Government what their intentions are as to implementation or otherwise. But we want a definite date fixed by which the report will be submitted. That should not be [631] very difficult. It should not take years because if what we were told in 1949 is true, namely, that the Department of Justice was inquiring into this matter, plenty of evidence must be available and the committee will not have to sit for long hours in order to familiarise themselves with the various aspects of the law.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I would like to second the motion and, in doing so, I want to suggest to Deputy McQuillan that if this committee is set up he and I will put a time limit to it. I suggest we give the committee three months to report back and, if they do not, we will bring in another Private Deputy's Bill and try it out. That will not be any trouble.

I am glad Deputy McQuillan introduced this motion. I am also glad that he made it wide enough to give plenty of scope to any committee set up to cover all the ground and investigate every aspect. We know that the licensing laws at the moment are a joke. We know the members of the Garda Síochána look on them as a joke. We know that no decent Garda is prepared to enforce them. I do not know what happened since February, 1949, when the Minister for Defence, Deputy MacEoin, the then Minister for Justice, asked to have this matter left to him. Apparently the Department of Justice left it as such things are usually left. Nothing was done anyway until Deputy McQuillan's motion was brought in here to deal with it. The present licensing laws are derogatory to the Constitution of this State. I do not pretend to be a lawyer but I have legal opinion to the effect that if those laws were the subject of a decision in the Supreme Court, they would be beaten on the grounds of equal rights for all citizens.

People living in rural districts, unlike other sections of the community, must work on Sundays. We have not yet invented a six-day cow; cows must be milked on Sunday morning. A farmer and his family must go out on Sunday morning and feed their cattle and milk them while the city dweller is in bed. After that [632] they generally go to last Mass. If they dare go into a public-house they are committing an illegal act and are liable to be fined, unless they travel three miles after doing their morning's work. The city dweller can go to last Mass; even though he is only living across the road from the public-house he can cross over to that public-house and drink and he is legally entitled to do so. How can we apply the clause with regard to equal rights for all citizens that is enshrined in the Constitution of the State?

Let me take the description given by the present Minister for Defence as to what was happening in rural Ireland over a period of 20 years. Speaking in this House on the 16th October, 1942, at column 1442, Volume 88, of the Official Debates, he said:—

“As regards Sunday opening, it is only reasonable that the same law should extend to the whole country. There should be some period on Sunday in which trading would be legalised in the country. Everybody knows that there is a certain amount of illegitimate trading in every village in which the publican resides on the premises. The only place where that does not occur is where the publican is non-resident and, when he closes down on Saturday night, does not open until 10 o'clock on Monday morning....

I heard a publican complain that a sergeant of the Garda was persecuting him—not prosecuting him. I knew the sergeant to be a reliable, steady officer. I thought that it would be no harm, if I met him accidentally, to mention the complaint to him, which I did. He said:—

‘Everybody knows that, on Sunday, I enforce the licensing law until 1 o'clock. While the bona fide traffic is on from 1 o'clock to 8 o'clock, I do not run into every pub to see who is in it because I know that Paddy and Johnnie, who have been working hard all the week, are getting a pint. I am not going to follow those people. When the dance hall opens at 8 o'clock and when a bunch of brats come, [633] armed with poteen, take a few glasses, distribute the rest, and then go down to a pub and get a couple of pints to throw on top of it, which sets them mad—these people I will prosecute and persecute so far as lies in my power.’

I said: ‘Good luck to you.’”

That is a statement made by the present Minister for Defence on the administration of the licensing laws and that is the actual situation all over the country. No decent Garda will enforce the licensing laws; no decent Garda has any intention of enforcing them. Speaking on that matter also the late Deputy Dr. O'Higgins at column 1796, Volume 88 of the Official Debates on 4th November, 1942, stated:—

“I would like to see in operation here a set of licensing laws that would have the approval and support of the average citizen, and that would then be ruthlessly carried out by the officers in the service of the State. What is happening at present and what has happened in the past is this: If the police in town or village are to do their normal job efficiently as policemen, the job of preventing and protecting crime, they have to be on good terms with the public in their area. The common sense of the Guards and of the ordinary citizen would regard it as unreasonable to have a person, who got into a licensed house on a Sunday and had one drink, taken into custody and brought before the court. The Guards feel that. As well as the Guards every reasonable person in that area would say: ‘Ah, could you not have let him for a drink; what is the harm in a man having one drink?’

There is no use in talking about the law, since if that man lived in the city he could drink for three hours on a Sunday afternoon and do that within the law. People are not fools. They could never see any just case for that differentiation between the country and the city. The view of the Guards, men of common sense, coincided with that of the average man, and when they saw a man trying [634] to get a drink on a Sunday they just walked the other way.

If the Minister, by sticking to the present legal position, is under the impression that there is no drinking going on in the country or that there is no drinking going on all over the country on Sunday, then he does not know the country. Whether or not the Minister legislates to have an opening all over the country for two or three hours on Sunday will not affect, by one bottle of stout, the amount of drink that is consumed in the country on Sunday.”

Those are statements made, one by the late Deputy O'Higgins, God rest his soul, and the other by the present Minister for Defence, in this House.

I do not believe the Minister has changed his mind in respect of that matter. He is a reasonable man. He lives in the country and he knows what is happening in the country just as well as I do every Sunday of the year, in places where there is what we will call a hard Garda Sergeant who seeks to enforce this unjust law—not the decent man the Minister described here. That sergeant goes to Mass on Sunday and the ordinary working man, after doing his morning's work from 8 o'clock until 11.30, goes to Mass. Can he hear Mass properly? His time is spent at the door because the sergeant, being a most respectable man, must go up and sit in a seat. The sergeant must wait till Mass is over, but when the priest turns around for the sermon, three or four of the men go out the door and over to the pub, where it is: “Three pints, Jack.” The three pints are filled and Jack keeps a lookout, saying: “Hurry up.” The three pints are swallowed down; they are followed by three more; and the round is finished with three more; and those men leave the public-house drunk.

In the ordinary way, if that public-house were open, the same as the city public-house is open, those men could walk in decently, sit down and enjoy their pints and have a chat over them. They could have a second one, and, if they had a third one, they would have two hours in which to drink the three pints and none of them will be drunk. I have had that experience for years. [635] In order to supply Deputy McGrath's constituents with hot milk in the evening—twice a day deliveries—my people have to milk the cows at two o'clock every Sunday. I have seen them come up from last Mass within half an hour of the time of their coming out from Mass and they could hardly see the cows, not to mind milk them.

That is the condition in which this unjust law is at present placing the rural community and there is no denying it. No man is going to tell me that there would be any excessive drinking in the country, if the public-houses were open as they are open in the city. There would not be any excessive drinking, and, as a matter of fact, there is this peculiar circumstance, that I have seen the same team of men come out from Mass on a holiday of obligation, when the pubs are open, and walk steadfastly past the pub and go home—the very same crowd who slip in the back door of the pub on Sunday. I have seen them do that because they knew they could go home in peace, eat their dinner and do whatever work was required, and then walk down in the evening and have a quiet drink, without interruptions from anybody.

That is one side of the picture. Let us take the other side with which Deputy McQuillan also dealt and see what that is. There is a certain section of the community, mainly in the cities, who stop in the public-house until closing hour and then get into their cars and drive out to the country where, under the existing joke of a law, they are entitled to drink until 12 midnight; but if Jack and Mick and Pat, after a day's threshing, who, if the threshing is late, have worked until nine o'clock or 9.30, are caught in the pub after ten o'clock, they are summoned. The joker who can stop work at five o'clock or six o'clock and go to the local pub after his tea about seven o'clock can stay there from then until ten o'clock, and then, provided he has nice company with him, can go out and have a few whiskeys and gin-and-its in the country public-house until 12 midnight.

[636] That practice is going on and if the Minister has any doubt about it, I invite him to my constituency and I will show it to him there. I do not think he would have any occasion to travel further than a mile outside the boundaries of this city to see it for himself. Is that a just law? Is there anybody opposite who thinks it is a just law? The Minister for Defence does not think so, from his statement about the sergeant who told him he turned his back at 1 o'clock and was not going to look at any man going into a public-house from that until 8 o'clock on Sunday evening. Good luck to him. Why carry out this law? Is it laziness on the part of the officials of the Department that has held this up for six long years? When the present Minister for Defence was Minister for Justice, he told us they were dealing with it six years ago. Is it in the next generation they intend coming into production on this Bill?

It is a very grave injustice to the ordinary rural citizen and I would not mind if I did not see in this House an exhibition that made me ashamed of the representatives here. I have here two division lists. I do not propose to read them, but I advise Deputies to get them and look at them. Let them look at the division lists of 17th November, 1948 and 17th February, 1949. Let them look at both. In my opinion, some of the Deputies ought to crawl out the gate outside and not come back—the Deputies who sanctimoniously marched into the Lobbies to prevent the rural people from getting a drink on Sunday and who, three months afterward, marched sanctimoniously into the same Lobby to ensure that the city fellow was not deprived of his drink on Sunday. One law for the city man and another for the country boy fool!

That was done. I have it marked out here so that any Deputy who wants to see it may see it. If there is any of the older Deputies who wants to know where his name is in the roll all he has to do is to go to the Library and look at the two volumes of the Official Reports. If any Deputy considers that it is unjust or wrong in any way to open the rural public-houses on a Sunday and let a man in the front door who [637] is at present going in the back door, and that is all you are doing, why, then, should you come along three months afterwards and walk into the Lobby in order to see that the city men, who have no work to do on Sunday, and have no work to do from Saturday afternoon at 2 o'clock, may have free leave and licence to walk from their own doors across the road into the public-house and sit down for four hours on a Sunday and drink away within the law?

Nobody wants that law. There is not a decent Garda in this State who is prepared to enforce that law except against his will. Why carry it on? That is, to my mind, a fair picture of what is happening in this country to-day. Those laws were made at a time when most of the people—the best-off people in this country—travelled in a trap or side-car. What is the three-mile limit to-day to a bona fide traveller? It is only five minutes in a motor-car. But the ordinary worker in the country has not got a motor-car. The rural worker has not got a motor-car and he has to do his work on a Sunday morning whether he likes it or not. I see no justice in forcing him to break the law every Sunday of the year, and that is what you are doing.

I have heard this matter thrashed out by pioneer associations and others. I would like to say this, that the pioneer associations who are anxious that the rural public-houses would not be opened on a Sunday were very silent when it came to an endeavour to close the city ones on Sunday and they remained silent. Are there members of this House who look on the ordinary rural worker as something that is half savage; something that cannot be trusted; something that is of an inferior nature to ourselves? That must be the opinion of some of the Deputies in this House who walked around the Lobby in the way I have described. I cannot account for their actions in any other way.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The actions of Deputies on a previous motion do not necessarily call for discussion on this motion.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I am giving them an [638] opportunity to change their course of action.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  If Deputies voted in a certain way on a previous occasion, that does not necessarily fall for discussion on this motion.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I am hoping to point out to them the error of their ways and I hope that on this occasion, if there is a walk around the Lobby, they will walk the right way this time. I think that if arguments cannot be put up here by Deputies for the purposes of conversion I do not know what purpose they have. I am not going further on that line and I have no intention of holding up the House. I have given the case as I see it here and I only want to ensure that if this committee is set up there will be a time limit placed on it; that we will not have the farce that we had on the Milk Costings Commission and the farce that we have had on other committees in this House which were set up from time to time and where there were three or four general elections before we had any report from them.

A Committee of this House is set up to do work. We should limit them to a reasonable time and not let them be like the Department of Justice that set out to do a job six years ago and have not completed it yet. The Department should have the Bill ready now, and if they present it to the committee the committee should not take long to knock the corners off it.

I appeal to the Minister not to place the Gardaí in the position that has been described by the Minister for Defence. It is unfair to the Gardaí and unjust to him and everybody else.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  Will I get time to move my amendment.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy can move his amendment now if he wishes to.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  As long as there is a time limit I do not mind.

Mr. Donegan: Information on Patrick S. Donegan  Zoom on Patrick S. Donegan  I will give way to Mr. Boland if he wishes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The usual thing is for the mover to move his [639] amendment immediately after the motion is moved and seconded.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  The debate will go on until 10.30?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The three hours will be up by that time.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  It will be earlier than 10.30.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  It is two and a quarter hours to-night.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  There will be a quarter of an hour left after this business terminates at 10.30. I suggest that Deputy Boland move his amendment now.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I move the following amendment:—

To delete all words after “That” and to insert:

“a Select Committee consisting of 15 members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, of whom five shall be a quorum, be appointed with power to send for persons, papers and records, to examine the operation and administration of the present licensing laws, and to consider and report what changes are necessary or desirable therein.”

The reason I am doing it is that I think it is a better way to handle the situation than Deputy McQuillan's motion would have been. I may be wrong, but I imagine Deputy McQuillan felt pretty certain he was pushing an open door, having taken into consideration the words of the present Minister for Justice in the House here last July. He may have also taken into consideration the words of the present Minister for Defence when he was in opposition here. Of course the words of the Minister for Defence, uttered when he was an Opposition Deputy, do not carry the same weight as those of the Minister. But the present Minister for Justice, when winding up the debate on his Estimate last July dealt with a complaint made by a Deputy on this side that the [640] Guards, particularly the younger Guards, were instructed to raid public-houses. He said that no such instructions had been given and at column 754 of Volume 152 of the Official Report he is reported as having said this:—

“I know that drinking after hours is against the law, but in the country places there are many more serious things than that. I see nothing criminal in five or six men sitting in a country public-house at night time after a wet day or talking about the threshing. They would not spend 10/- in a whole night while there would be £10 spent in a club in Dublin. I see nothing criminal at all in the instance I have mentioned and I ask the Guards to use their common sense and if they do so we will have a better country and better respect for the law.”

I, personally, agree with the sentiments then expressed by the Minister but I think that when a Minister for Justice makes a statement like that he is bound to bring the law into agreement with the practice.

That is his view; it is my view, and apparently it is the view of the Minister for Defence. I do not see how the Minister for Justice, having made a statement like that, can avoid bringing in legislation along the lines of such a statement. For that reason I do not think a very long debate is necessary at all. Perhaps I was absent from the House at the time, but I do not remember in 1949 the Minister for Defence, then Minister for Justice, saying that the whole licensing code would be looked into. From 1951 to 1954 I was Minister for Justice and if the licensing laws were being examined by my immediate predecessor I was not told of it. An examination may have been going on but it would not be like the Department not to tell me what was going on and therefore I shall have to assume that whatever inquiries were going on had finished when I took office.

When the 1942 Bill was before the House there were two reasons for its introduction, the principal one being that Howth had been brought into the City of Dublin and the licensing laws [641] in relation to it had to be adjusted, because otherwise there might have been abuses of the bona fides regulations. At the time the opposition from the other side of the House and from my own side was so strong that I had to compromise, and instead of allowing the consumption of drink all night, which was the law up to then, we made it illegal for anybody to drink after midnight, and we left the country opening on Sundays from 1 o'clock to 8 o'clock. After 12 o'clock at night on week-days it was made illegal to drink anywhere. Before that, a Guard could find people drinking at 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the morning and do nothing about it and it rendered the law unenforceable.

It is now an offence to drink after 12 o'clock and the law can accordingly be administered much more easily. I think that Deputy McQuillan was right when he remarked that that change was only an experiment and the late Deputy O'Higgins, God rest him, said at the time that we should give the present system a trial. I think that at that time we granted an increase of from 9.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. in the licensing hours for cities. That narrowed the gap between the bona fides closing time of midnight in the country so that it would not be worthwhile for people to go outside the cities to continue drinking.

However, I think that has not worked out so well in practice. The city people still go outside the cities but not nearly as much as when they could drink all night. That should be looked into. I recall participating in a debate in 1942, when I was challenged by people from all sides of the House, including my own and including the present Minister for Defence, to justify the differentiation between the town and country.

I said I would not do that because the Bill then being introduced was to impose further restrictions. We on this side of the House when in Government followed the principle of collective responsibility; whatever my personal views were on the matter my colleagues had to stand over every action I took and we were not prepared to have the same licensing laws for the country as for the city. The feeling I [642] have about the matter was that expressed by the present Minister last July and if I were Minister for Justice and gave expression to an opinion like that I would feel morally bound to amend the law in accordance with that sentiment. I understand that the Minister made a speech in another place—he may contradict me if he likes but I was told about it by a person who said he heard him making it—that he did not care so long as the publicans did not pull the shutters down.

Mr. Everett: Information on James Everett  Zoom on James Everett  That is not true; I deny it.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  Of course I accept that but it has been broadcast that the Minister made that statement. As far as my recollection of any committee set up by this House goes they, unlike the Milk Costings Commission, did their work expeditiously, there was a certain amount of agreement between all Parties constituting the committee, they furnished their report fairly promptly and brought it before the House in good time. I do not think I want to say much more about this. There are other points besides Deputy McQuillan's three that require consideration also but they could be considered by this proposed committee. I think Deputy McQuillan should accept my amendment and if the Government accept it in principle I would not tie them to the exact wording of the amendment. If they have the whole position since 1942 examined by a Select Committee I feel sure a good job of work will be done. When I was Minister—I feel sure the present Minister has the same experience—I got letters from all parts of the country saying that there was discrimination, that the sergeant liked one publican and allowed him to stay open after hours while all the others had to close. The whole thing made the task of the unfortunate sergeant an unenviable one and an impossible one to fulfil.

I do not know how much truth there is in these complaints but I got almost concrete evidence that the sergeant had a friend in this public-house and would allow the publican to remain open while a neighbouring public-house would not be allowed to stay open for [643] five minutes after the time. Of course, every law, if unpopular, is unenforceable. I would conclude by pleading with the Minister to have this committee set up and have a law passed which everybody will respect.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I wish to second Deputy Boland's amendment. In doing so I should like to be taken as concurring with a lot of what has already been said in favour of the motion. I think there is nobody in this country to-day who would disagree with the suggestion that the licensing laws need amendment.

I suppose there is no law which is more honoured in the breach than in the observance than the law relating to bona fide traffic in the licensed trade. Anybody can make a very good case for the countryman who cannot have a drink when his fellow townsman can have one and I do not think anyone could ever justify that situation being written into the licensing laws in this country. But that is not really the position as it stands. It is a question of the townsman or the city-dweller being able to get a drink by the front door while the countryman has to have it by the back door. No countryman is being deprived of a drink on Sunday. That is actually the situation and anyone who thinks otherwise knows very little about the way in which the licensed business is conducted in this country.

The Minister acquiesces in that situation to a certain extent when he says he does not believe that the Gardaí should be active in certain cases. It amounts to this—that under the present circumstances the publican scarcely knows where he stands.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. Corish): Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  All of them have a good idea.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I would not say the publican's life is an enviable one at the present time, apart from other adversities which cannot be discussed under this heading. He may be fortunate in having reasonable Gardaí in his area who will permit a certain amount of laxity or he may live in an area where opening is not permitted [644] under any conditions after the bona fide hours. Then if he attempts to take a chance he does not know when he may find himself in court although his next-door neighbour may be practising to a greater extent the same breaches of the law and may escape all his life. Under the present system which certainly gives occasion to that sort of irregularity there is a situation in which I would say the licensed trade itself would like that the law would be either amended or enforced. If a publican was certain when he closed his door at ten o'clock in a country village that he was not permitted to allow another person to cross the threshold without incurring the risk of a fine himself he could close his door in contentment and go about his business, go to bed or go for a walk. If somebody knocks at his door and is not admitted under present circumstances the publican knows perfectly well that that customer of his will gain admission in some other public-house and may be a customer of his no longer, as would be quite natural if he is not admitted after hours when some other publican is prepared to admit him. The result is that late illegal drinking is the order of the day with every publican taking a certain amount of risk and not knowing when, at the whim of some official of the Gardaí, he may find himself in court.

I would say: let the law be enforced strictly so that if I turn out my customer my next-door neighbour will not take him in, or else let the law be completely amended to abolish the bona fide hours entirely and, as Deputy Corry said, leave the position so that the people who seem to relish a drink just because they get it after hours would no longer be in that position. Possibly you would have less drinking. There is a type of person who would not go in until the lights are blinking and the signs creaking. Then they go along to the back door to have a pint. These people would not think of going in when the front door is open. There may be some virtue in the pint under those circumstances, but it all comes down to the fact that the present licensing laws are a farce. The argument that the city dweller can get a drink while the countryman [645] cannot may seem a very good one, but the facts do not bear it out. The fact is that there is no man deprived of a drink on Sunday at the present time and if he is getting a drink within his own area outside the bona fide arrangements he is getting it illegally and probably will continue to get it until some Minister has the courage of his convictions, as Deputy Boland said, and gives expression to the pious hopes and amends the law so that public-houses will be closed when they are supposed to be closed, or else licensed hours will be abolished entirely as they are in some countries where no closing hours are fixed at all.

Some people might think that that would lead to a considerable amount of drunkenness in this State. I personally do not think it would result in one extra bottle of stout being sold. Let us set up a committee to examine the position thoroughly. There are a few of us in this House who have experience as publicans and are not ashamed to say so. Remember it is not an enviable position. The publican is a man at whom many insults are aimed from different sections of the community; yet he is fair game when there is money wanted for anything even when it comes to revenue to uphold the State. He provides, I think, over one-quarter of the total revenue.

I remember a resolution being put forward once by a certain body calling for an increase in the rate of duty on spirits to an extent that would abolish their consumption completely. The reply of the Minister for Justice at the time was that he would like these people to indicate in what way the loss in revenue could be made up, what other 15 or 20 commodities or essential foodstuffs could be taxed to bring in the fraction of the revenue that is brought in through the much-maligned publicans of this country. Let us at least put them in the position where they will know where they stand. If there is a law, will that law be enforced or will its administration be left to the whims of those whose duty it is to implement? I do not think that is the best solution. The present position is crying out for immediate attention. The motion proposed by [646] Deputy McQuillan goes a long way towards meeting many of the grievances but there are certain aspects the situation which require careful consideration. For that reason I am supporting the motion proposed by Deputy Boland, namely, that a Select Committee be set up thoroughly to examine the whole question of our licensing laws and their administration with a view to making suggestions as to their amendment.

Mr. A. Barry: Information on Anthony Barry  Zoom on Anthony Barry  A law that is not obeyed is a bad law and a law that is notoriously disobeyed, as the licensing laws are at present, injures the whole national foundation. We should stop that and, in order to stop it, we should alter the law and remove the discriminations implied in it. I would support any proposal to examine the situation and place all citizens, irrespective of whether they live in urban or rural areas, at equal advantage under the law. What is right for the city man should be right for the countryman; and what is wrong for the countryman should be wrong for the city man. What is wrong for the whole community is the bona fide trade as it is run to-day. We want to put a stop to that. We want to remove the discrimination through the law. Then, we can enforce the law.

Mr. MacCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  I think the House must go a long way with Deputy McQuillan in some of the points he has put forward. He said that the present system of bona fide licensed trading should be completely examined with a view to correcting existing abuses. I think it should be examined from the point of view of its original object and its application to-day. This archaic law should undoubtedly be changed. It was framed at a time when the rural population travelled all night on foot or with horses in order to reach the cities and the towns in time for the morning market. That situation has altered fundamentally and, consequently, the application of the law to that particular aspect of the lives of the community should be changed.

If Deputy McQuillan means by abuses late drinking in pubs or clubs I am 100 per cent. with him. If he [647] means uniformity in the law I am 100 per cent. with him. I think, however, that the amendment is the better way of approaching this matter; a committee of the House should be appointed to examine into the various aspects of it. I do not think I would be prepared to go all the way with him in his second proposal about St. Patrick's Day, but I see no reason why the Sunday opening hours should not apply generally on St. Patrick's Day. That is an aspect of the matter which should be examined. On St. Patrick's Day there are various functions in various places at which those who are invited can enjoy themselves as they wish and at will while the ordinary people have no such facilities.

In relation to the bona fide trade, hurling matches, football matches, bowling and other games often take place on Sunday and there may be as many as 5,000 or 6,000 visitors. They have no chance of getting refreshments of any kind unless the public bars help by opening their doors and providing sandwiches and beverages of various kinds. If a friend or a relative comes from some other town or village be can go into the public-house but the relative he is visiting or the friend resident in the town cannot join him unless he is prepared to break the law and run the risk of prosecution. Anomalies of that kind should be removed. Really it is so obvious that it is almost a waste of time debating the matter here. The whole country knows the position. The whole country is calling for a change and, in response to the wishes of the country, we ought to make that change. The best way to do that is by having, as is suggested by Deputy Boland, a Select Committee of this House to consider the various aspects of the matter.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I listened to Deputy McQuillan speaking the other night and I was very impressed with the number of points he made. In some of the roads he travelled to make his points I think he rather overdid it. As a member of the Pioneer Association I do not think it is right to say that they are somewhat in the nature [648] of which hunters, as Deputy McQuillan said the other night, or that they try to put halters on anybody.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  On a point of order. I never suggested at any time that pioneers or the Pioneer Association were witch hunters.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I am sure Deputy Tully accepts that.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I accept that, but the remark was made that the pioneers attempted to put halters——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Better not paraphrase now.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  The Pioneer Association is far more interested in keeping horns and wings off people. Deputy McQuillan described the situation very well in so far as the bona fide trade is concerned on the outskirts of Dublin City and many other cities and towns after 12 o'clock at night. In these areas even angels fear to tread. I often leave Dublin very late and until I pass the last bona fide house the road is a death-trap. The motorists coming in are a menace because nine out of ten are so drunk that they cannot drive a car. Deputy McQuillan made a very good point when he spoke about that. I would not agree, however, that he is entirely on the right line and I think Deputy Boland's approach is a more realistic one. I am a pioneer and I am sure I speak for every pioneer when I say that I do not believe a man should not have a drink. Just because I am a pioneer I do not believe everybody else should be debarred from drinking. Provided a man has the money, can afford to drink and feels he needs it he is quite entitled to drink. I object to the licensing laws which allow a certain class of people to get beastly drunk and then go out on the country roads with motor-cars where they are a menace to every living being. The sooner the licensing laws are amended to stop that, if possible by preventing those people from getting drunk at all after hours, the better it will be for everyone.

I do not know whether or not it [649] would be feasible to carry out a number of the suggestions made here during this debate and whether it would be the ideal thing to have all the public-houses open on St. Patrick's Day. The visitors coming in here would find it a bit awkward if the people who get drink late at night, get into their cars and drive on the roads, started doing the same thing on St. Patrick's Day. I am sure that is something which we do not want to see happening. Nor do I agree with Deputy MacCarthy's suggestion that we should have the same system as on Sundays—I presume he was referring to the system of having the drink handed out in parcels at the back window.

Mr. MacCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  No, nothing of the kind. I meant that the same law should apply generally on St. Patrick's Day.

Mr. A. Barry: Information on Anthony Barry  Zoom on Anthony Barry  The Sunday law.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Whether that is so or not, I think Deputy Boland's amendment is far more realistic. If a committee, set up from all Parties in this House, sit down to produce amendments to the present licensing laws we may see something reasonable emerging. I am afraid that haphazard resolutions to amend the licensing laws will not solve the problem. It is something which will have to be studied. I myself have a dread of commissions. They take too long to bring in conclusions. However, I am sure in this case there is the possibility that since a great number of people are interested in the result, enough pressure could be brought to bear on the people comprising the commission to see to it that the results would be brought in within a reasonable time. Therefore, I would be prepared to support Deputy Boland's amendment.

Mr. Finlay: Information on Thomas A. Finlay Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas A. Finlay Jnr.  With regard to the motion before the House in the name of Deputy McQuillan I would comment on—I will not say criticise—the motion by saying that it is somewhat too narrow in scope. I think that comment probably shows up an underlying decision that I think this House must reach before it goes into any detail on the amendment of the licensing laws.

[650] Deputy McQuillan's motion could fairly be described as containing the possibility for three amendments of the existing licensing code which presumably the Deputy considers to be the three most urgent amendments. That is one way, as I see it, of attacking this problem and it is attacking it in a narrow field. It is unlikely in my view that the sort of amendments which could possibly arise from consideration of the three topics with which the motion deals either through a committee, a commission or through this House sitting in Committee, would represent perfect or permanent amendments in relation to this problem.

Another possibility which has obviously been mooted by some of the Deputies who have spoken before me is that what is really required at this stage is not an amendment or two or three amendments of the existing licensing code but much rather a reconsideration and a re-examination of the attitude of the Legislature and of the law to the whole problem of the drinking of alcohol. I think that before we embark on an amendment in any form of the licensing laws, it would be worth the while of the House to consider whether or not we should first try to form some sort of a general policy on the question of licensed premises, licensed trade and drinking in the country.

A short review of the history of the last 30 or 40 years shows that this problem is by no means domestic and by no means internal. It is a problem in connection with which, more than any other social problem as far as Europe and America are concerned, we have seen more examples of failure to deal with the problem even partly adequately outside this country than we have with any other social problem in current politics or in politics over the last 40 or 50 years. It is worthwhile considering that in Scandinavia at this particular moment there has broken down one of the experiments which was created to try to deal with this particular problem. We had in the twenties the complete breakdown in America of Prohibition as an experiment. It probably did more harm to the social structure of America between [651] the two world wars than any other single factor. There was then the Scandinavian attempt, which dates from roughly the same date as Prohibition, to ration drink according to certain classifications. That has been abandoned and I think in Sweden within the last 12 months it has been abandoned to the extent that it has been so enlarged that it could hardly be called a ration any longer and the best information one can get is that it was only abandoned by a Government or people or Legislature that was very devoted to it, because it had become so palpably wrong and so palpably impracticable.

I agree with a very considerable amount of what has been said in the House already about the unsatisfactory working of the existing licensing laws. The very history of the bona fide licensing law, the law which was made to give sustenance to a traveller because he had gone three miles, shows when you relate that to any form of modern transport, good, bad or indifferent, that it has become a complete anomaly. But the fact that it has become a complete anomaly may not mean it is necessary to get rid of it or make it desirable to alter it drastically.

The question we must face up to is this. I honestly do not believe that any amendments which suggest flattening out the situation between the cities and towns, which suggest opening the public-houses for any period on St. Patrick's day instead of keeping them closed on that day, one day in the whole year, will make a substantial alteration in the relation between the practice and the law or in the general attitude of the people of this country to that particular law. I may be wrong in that and I would not like to impose a sort of hopeless pessimism on a problem of this description and say: “It is no use. We cannot do anything about it.” But I do think it is wrong to believe that amendments on the three matters which are before us in this motion are amendments which will make any great contribution to the solution of the general problem.

If that is right, if that view is even [652] credible or can be generally supported, then if we are going to embark on amendment of the licensing code in general, we must recognise that any examination by a committee of this House or a commission of outside persons with power to hear witnesses, will create a situation in which a fairly substantial alteration of the existing code is going to follow. I think that, once you start this snowball, you cannot stop it. Once you start the people in the country in their various interests, in their views, prejudices or sound opinions—whatever they are— on a wide contemplation of the relation of the licensing laws to morality and social legislation, I do not think any examination is going to end without a drastic alteration of those laws.

I should like to put a view to the House, which will probably be considered as retrograde to a fair extent, as a possible view for consideration, and it is this, that the licensing laws in their operation are unsatisfactory— grant that; that there are marked inequalities in the way they are operated and marked inequalities even in the laws themselves—grant that; that it appears to be the situation that the people who get the greatest facility for drinking in public-houses are not the right people and the people who make the best or wisest use of these facilities—that is another possible view; but leaving all that as definitely accepted, I think it is worth the while of the House considering that they are going to do considerably more harm by altering in any substantial way the licensing laws of the country than they are going to do good.

If anybody came forward here with a concrete, well-thought-out policy with regard to the control or licensing of drinking in this country, I for one would be personally very anxious to support a re-examination with a view to putting that policy into effect, but merely to say that it is unsatisfactory as it stands and to give examples of the way in which it is unsatisfactory and then to embark on a large examination which, as I view it, must inevitably end up with a large alteration of the licensing laws, is wholly unwise until we are completely satisfied that substantial alteration is going to mean [653] substantial improvement. It could easily happen that, bad and all as the licensing laws of this country are, and worse as may be their practical application, we would run the general framework of the social life of the country into much greater trouble by upsetting what is a bad and creaking old machine and replacing it with something new and streamlined which is not fitted for the situation.

The suggestion has been made in the House and we hear it outside the House—I do not want necessarily either to become indignant about it or to sneer at it—that licensing hours are one of the main difficulties and that if there were no licensing hours, if the public-houses operated like any other shop or service in the country, if they served their customers while they thought it good business to serve them and the customers used them while it suited them to use them and the State did not enter into the question of whether they were open or closed, there would not be any more drinking than there is now and it would probably be done in much better conditions. That is a view one hears very widely expressed. I think that the European countries in which that sort of freedom exists do not prove that. I may be wrong, but I understand that in France, for instance, where there is a much wider latitude in regard to hours than there is here—if there is any restriction at all—its statistical position in the matter of alcoholism is one of its most upsetting features and it ranks extremely high amongst the European countries in that regard.

That is a view that has support in this country and I think it is worth while considering that, if we go into an examination of the matter—and I think it must be a large examination or no examination at all—we may find ourselves in the position that the pressure of opinion in the country for either some form of prohibition or some form of easement of restrictions would be so strong that the House would be forced to one or other extreme. I have no doubt personally that all the examples around us of the attempts of other countries to legislate on this matter within the past 30 or 35 years [654] show that neither of those two extremes is likely to have any result, but an extremely harmful result to the social and moral life of the country.

Therefore, while, as I say, I can see great force in the points which Deputy McQuillan and other speakers made and have a full realisation in the case of my own work, apart from anything else, of the extreme impracticability of the application of the licensing laws at present, I should like the House to consider the possibility that, by interfering with this machinery and organisation, bad and all as it is, we may do more harm than good.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  With the previous speaker, I am inclined to agree when he speaks about the present system being possibly better than anything we might start off anew or anything we might superimpose upon it. There is, to my mind, a lot of truth in that statement, but assuming that it is true and that we accept it as true, I feel that there are, as enumerated here by previous speakers, a number of grievances under the existing code, and would it not then appear to be a rather simple matter to proceed to eliminate the grievances that have been mentioned, and of which all of us know, and amend, somewhat on the principles laid down in the motion, the existing legislation? If, after a time, we find that these amendments, that the legislation mentioned is not satisfactory, we possibly could come back again and rehash, or, if necessary, throw aside the old law entirely and bring in something new.

We have the view in the country, at any rate, that there is discrimination against the country worker and the country dweller. I think it is admitted by everybody in the House that the law, as we now have it, is biased in favour of the city dweller. That is entirely wrong and possibly even equality in this matter might not go far enough. I feel that if there is to be any difference in the licensing hours for city and country, the later and longer hours would, of necessity, suit the country much better than the other-way-round position we now have. There are many abuses that any of us can see up and down the country and many of us know [655] that these abuses are associated with drinking at illegal times—the crawling in back doorways and laneways, the getting into public-houses by many routes other than by the front door.

The real trouble arises when people have got inside, because they will remain inside in many cases as long as they will be kept inside, and, as long as they are kept inside, they will drink and will drink more than they would drink if they had free access to the premises. They will then find themselves, as many of us know, if not drunk, partially drunk. They will find that on a Sunday after Mass, as has been instanced here, they will not get home in time for their dinner. They may not go home for dinner at all. They will not leave the public-house for the reason that, if they leave, the local Gardaí may in the meantime take a walk around or possibly stand about, with the result that they cannot get in again, so that, once inside, the tendency is to stay inside, and naturally when they stay inside it is a question of drinking as much as possible while they are allowed to remain. The result is drunkenness on Sunday throughout the country.

Then we have the other extreme which is even worse. We have the case where the local Gardaí are so strict that there is absolutely no possibility of getting in the back door. In that case we find a group of men, three or four of them, getting together and going in a car for three, four or five miles. Would anybody tell me or get me to believe that having travelled three or four miles they will be satisfied with one or two bottles of stout or one or two halves? They will go out for an evening's drinking and drink they will for the evening. The trouble has not ended there because there is still the problem of getting home. Having drunk their fill for many hours they will have to get home in the car they came in. They will have had no food and too much to drink. Very likely the driver will be one of those people who had no food and he will have drunk enough to make him incapable of driving.

He then sets sail with his load of drunks and as well as being a menace [656] to himself and those with him he is also a menace to other users of the road. Not very far from here we have roads leading to and from Dublin where, at every bend, a monument could be erected to persons killed by this type of carry on in and around Dublin. One could mark out the roads and points on them where people have been killed without any excuse except the thoroughly inadequate facilities, or perhaps the too great facilities, given for the consumption of alcoholic liquor.

We should then, in my opinion, if we accept the amendment consider the grievances that are so long outstanding. These are that the people in the country should be given the same facilities as the people in the city as far as Sunday is concerned and that there should be no bona fide selling of drink in this country. I believe emphatically that that is more a cause of drunkenness in this country than anything else and because of that drunkenness there are accidents and deaths that should not occur. We can remove the causes of these calamities by giving to the people of the country the facilities which the people of the city now enjoy and by wiping out the inequitous system whereby, if you travel three miles, you may drink all you wish for as long as you wish and so do all the damage you wish on the way home.

I feel that the terms contained in the motion possibly may not go far enough in the minds of some and may go too far in the minds of others. For that reason I will agree to the setting up of the committee. I will point out for the benefit of some who have spoken that it is not a commission which it is proposed to set up but a committee, and it need not have all the faults inherent in a commission that there may be long delays. We do not want to see that happen in this case. This could be a committee of the House given a specified time to report back to the House. I feel that it should take the line pointed out by the last speaker and that they should not try to give a new licensing code to the country. It should be made plain to them that they are there to remedy the grievances we now have and to see if they can be [657] removed by slight improvements on the present system.

If their recommendation should not give satisfaction and if the grievances still existed then we can still come back and try some other means. I am fully convinced that we must do something about this evil—and it is an evil. It is going on in every town and county of the State, week after week, year in and year out. Everybody knows it and why nothing has been done about it is more than I can see.

An endeavour was made previously to get something like this done and why it was not carried I do not know. Neither do I know why the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association at the time should have opposed the extension of city facilities to the country. I cannot understand it except perhaps that some people may have thought that we were providing more facilities for drunkenness. I think they did not understand the situation and I would ask them to look at it from the point of view of ruling out the theoretical consideration that the longer one has to drink the more one will drink. That can be proved to be entirely wrong.

I would then appeal to the people in this House and to those outside it who hold strong views on this matter and particularly to the Government to recognise that in pushing this matter and in asking for the grievances outstanding to be remedied I am at one with the people who want to see this done and who want to reduce drunkenness in the country. I am not, in any way, giving my approval to facilities which would increase drunkenness. It is purely on the basis that it would reduce drunkenness that I ask that these grievances be remedied and that country dwellers be given the same facilities as city dwellers and that the inequitous bona fide racket should be done away with. I ask that in the belief that it would make our people a little more temperate in their drinking habits.

Mr. MacBride: Information on Seán MacBride  Zoom on Seán MacBride  There seems to be nearly unanimous agreement in the House that the existing licensing code is defective in many respects. In its origin it is in many respects archaic and it suffers from the fact that it has [658] been amended and patched up here and there. I was very impressed by the speech made by Deputy Finlay and the last speaker, but I think that their judgment to a certain extent errs when, having recognised that the existing code is defective, they baulk at the idea of having the whole position examined again. It does appear to me that the proper approach should be to try and have the whole of the licensing code examined from top to bottom and then to formulate concrete proposals for a completely new approach to our licensing laws.

I think every Deputy in the House will agree that the existing bona fide traffic is one of the evils that should be dealt with. There are probably many other evils that result from the existing licensing laws which also need to be remedied but the whole problem seems to boil itself down to this, as far as the House is concerned: is a committee of the House the best way of dealing with the question? I know that commissions have a bad name in that they take a long time before they produce a report. On the other hand, I think we should be quite frank in approaching this question in the House. We are all aware that if a committee of the House is set up a number of vested interests of one kind or another —some actuated by motives of gain, others by quite altruistic motives—will get busy and pressure will be put on the different Parties and the different members of the House who are on the Select Committee.

I hope that such pressure would not deflect them from doing whatever they thought was best, but I fear it is true that possibly members of the House are not the best qualified persons to give an objective view on the best course to adopt. For those reasons, despite the fact that a commission might take a long time, despite the fact that it may be a cumbersome piece of machinery, I think better results would be obtained by a commission, carefully selected of persons who would be able to give the whole question really undivided attention. It may be said, of course, that a commission of this kind, with no responsibility, would be likely to produce a [659] report which might not be practical, which might not meet with the approval of the House, but in so far as it does, in so far as the report is unacceptable, the House need not implement it, but at least the commission would provide the House with a reasoned and I hope a well-informed report containing a number of proposals as to how best to deal with the whole problem.

For those reasons, I would suggest to the mover of the resolution, and also to Deputy Boland who moved his amendment, to consider whether or not in the long run better results might be obtained by having a commission of responsible people with special qualifications to examine this whole question over a period of time. True, the question of bona fide traffic is an urgent one but we have allowed the position to obtain over a good many years now so that the delay of an extra three or four months would not be likely to affect the issue. I do not know whether a Select Committee of the House would be so satisfactory. It would be rather an unsatisfactory body which might suffer from lack of full attendance at its meetings. Different members would attend on different occasions. I do not think a committee of the House would have either the time or often the inclination to go into the amount of detail necessary to formulate constructive proposals in regard to this problem.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  If the Minister wants to get in, I would give way to him, but I want to say only a few words on this problem as both the motion and the amendment have been fairly well discussed and many members of the House have already made up their minds, if it comes to a vote, as to how they will cast their vote. I am convinced it has been conclusively shown that there are serious abuses of the law as it exists. Deputy Boland, when Minister for Justice, brought in the last Licensing Act that we have had in order to cure some of the very serious abuses of the bona fide traffic at that time. But that was in 1942, 13 years ago, and many things have happened since; for instance, the amount of motor transport [660] that has come on the roads in the meantime has done much to aggravate the abuses.

It is a well-known fact, well-known to the Department and to the Minister as well as to the members of this House, that very many of the fatal accidents which occur in this country take place late at night as a result of the bona fide traffic. What I am mostly concerned with, and every member of the House should be so concerned, is that there is no doubt there are serious abuses all over the country of the existing licensing laws. I say that these abuses are committed with the connivance of the Minister for Justice. The Guards are told to lay off and not to enforce the law and I think it is bad and rotten for this community that laws in existence are not being put into operation on the advice of the Department and Minister for Justice. They advise the Guards, who have the responsibility for administering the law, to lay off and not to enforce the law. Laws were made to be enforced and it is the Minister's bounden duty to amend the law so that it can be enforced, either that or do away with the licensing laws altogether. There is another way for solving the problem and that is to reduce considerably the alcoholic gravity of all drink and then to do away with all licensing laws. That is one way of solving the problem. Then there would be no necessity for enforcing any law.

Mr. Everett: Information on James Everett  Zoom on James Everett  Do you observe it yourself?

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  There are other countries where there are very liberal licensing laws but the alcoholic gravity of the main beverage in these countries is very low. I am now pleading with the Minister to do one of three things: do away with the law altogether as I have suggested; amend it so that it will be enforceable; or enforce the existing law. It is no use bringing the law into disrepute. Considering the background, I do not think the Minister enhanced the reputation of this or any other Government when, last July, he made the following statement in the House, as reported at column 754 of Volume 152 of the Official Report:—

[661]“I know that drinking after hours is against the law, but in the country places there are many more serious things than that. I see nothing criminal in five or six men sitting in a country public-house at night-time after a wet day or talking about the threshing. They would not spend 10/- in a whole night, while there would be £10 spent in a club in Dublin. I see nothing criminal at all in the instance I have mentioned and I ask the Guards to use their common sense and if they do so we will have a better country and better respect for the law.”

Deputy MacBride, who spoke a few moments ago, pointed out a very serious matter that arose in his experience as an advocate in the courts. He pointed out that at least 50 per cent. of the serious accidents that occur at night are due to the consumption of alcoholic drink after hours. The Minister is aware of that and has the evidence of a Deputy of this House who is an advocate and has experience in the courts every day of the week. I think that in itself should be sufficient reason for the Minister for Justice to have the law amended and so do away with all this bona fide traffic at night, as Deputy Blaney suggested. Every night that the Minister for Justice himself leaves this city he personally has his life in his hands for many miles of the road as he drives home.

I do not propose to detain the House very long, but I do ask that the amendment suggested by Deputy Boland should be accepted. It is admitted on all sides of the House and by the Minister that there is cause for investigation of the licensing code and there is no better body in my opinion, no more efficient body which could make that investigation than a Select Committee of this House. Each and every one of them has sufficient knowledge of the abuses of the existing law. I do not agree at all with Deputy Finlay that because the law is wrong, because it cannot be administered as it is, that no effort should be made to amend that law. Dáil Éireann will be in session for the next century at least and probably for the next seven centuries, and the law may be amended every year [662] or every five years, but an effort must be made now to amend the law. It may be difficult but that is no reason why we should avoid it.

The question of Sunday drinking is a matter for this committee, and I do not propose to go into its merits now or into the merits of city people who can get a drink without being bona fide on Sunday or the merits of the case for the countryman who gets a drink at the back door, as Deputy Brennan says. Personally, I believe there is not one adult male in every 1,000 of the people of this country who seeks drink on Sundays—nor probably one in every 5,000. It is a very limited number of people we are asked to cater for but nevertheless they are entitled to their liberty and their rights. Every section of the community is entitled to certain liberty and certain rights. The section seeking drink on Sundays in the country is mainly drawn from the working class and the small farmers in my experience. These men work hard all the week and if they require some relaxation on Sundays and have not got a motor car to drive three miles that is a matter that should be considered— whether they are entitled to get a drink in their own town or not. Personally, I am opposed to giving drink on Sundays and I would not have any drinking on Sundays or holidays. Travelling around my constituency I find, thank God, that my own area is not as bad as others that I have seen in regard to Sunday drinking. I have seen many abuses of the law, and if the Department of Justice and the Minister for Justice are aware of this the Minister, however he would manage it, should set out to remedy those abuses.

The Gardaí should be enabled to enforce the laws and should not be ashamed or afraid to enforce them and there should be no suggestion as there is at the present moment of undesirable practices in many many towns—I will not say more than that. I think we cannot have a sound country, or a sound Garda force when they are told by the Department of Justice to turn a blind eye to breaches of the existing law. I think that should not be so and [663] that the Minister should not be afraid to——

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  Were there not abuses before this Minister came into office and a blind eye was turned to them? We had the courage to say what we were doing.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Will the House give an opportunity to the Parliamentary Secretary to speak?

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture (Mr. O. Flanagan): Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  The motion tabled by Deputy McQuillan asks that the present system of bona fide licensed trading should be completely re-examined with a view to correcting existing abuses but I have not heard from any of the speakers who are supporting this motion who is asking for this examination.

A Deputy:  Everyone.

Mr. O. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I have not had complaints addressed to me on this; I have not heard of complaints from the general public; I have not heard complaints from the licensed trade; I have not heard complaints from any section of the people and I have been wondering whether the Minister for Justice or his Department has been showered with correspondence giving details of the many abuses——

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  On a point of order. I understand that this debate will finish at 10.30, that there will be a quarter of an hour or so more. I presume the mover of the motion is entitled to 20 minutes to reply. So far, the Minister has not interevened and I do not know if he is to intervene or not. I am, therefore, asking to have my 20 minutes whether the Minister is getting in or not.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  There is a three-hour limit on Private Deputies' motions.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The time for the motion will expire in a quarter of an hour to-morrow or the next day on which it is taken. After to-night there will be a quarter of an hour to go on with.

[664]Mr. O. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Then I presume I am in order.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Parliamentary Secretary is in order.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Everett): Information on James Everett  Zoom on James Everett  I can finish now if you let me in.

Mr. O. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I respectfully suggest to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that with Deputy McQuillan's agreement, if the Minister for Justice wishes to get in, I have no objection whatever.

Mr. Everett: Information on James Everett  Zoom on James Everett  Only one Deputy as far as I remember has made reference to a statement which I had the courage to make when others were sending word down along the line not to put certain Acts into operation. Deputy McQuillan, Deputy Boland and I practically share the same views. The licensing laws in my opinion must be revised. Deputy McQuillan's motion has referred to the question of St. Patrick's Day but that has been decided in this House on two occasions, I think. I appreciate what the members on both sides of the House have said and I realise that what I advocate would come better from me as one who does not know the taste of intoxicating liquor. Like Deputies McQuillan and Boland I recognise that members of the licensed trade are a very important and very influential section of the community although they may be twitted in trying to carry out the law. At the same time I realise that we have abuses and how to remedy these abuses is the problem.

When Deputy McQuillan moved his resolution Deputy Boland came forward with a very wide and important amendment but then I had to remember that Deputy Boland gave me advice on the Gaming Act when a Deputy of his own Party suggested that there should be a committee of the whole House. With his experience he pointed out the difficulties involved in having a committee of the whole House to consider this point and I have been wondering since Deputy Boland put down his amendment if the same considerations would apply if we appointed a committee of the House in [665] connection with the revision of the licensing laws. I am afraid they would.

Now Deputy McQuillan put forward a very reasonable case when he dealt with the position of the licensing laws, their non-observance and the situation generally throughout the country at the present time. I would be prepared to have a commission to inquire into every aspect of the present licensing system, a commission representative of all Parties in the House. I would guarantee that the Deputies selected to sit on that commission would be selected on the recommendation of the House. In that way we would avoid having perhaps a Party political commission. There would also be represented on it those interested in the licensed trade, those interested in the Pioneer Association and so forth. All the grievances mentioned by the various speakers here could be put before that commission, particularly in relation to the bona fide trade. There was such a commission in 1925. Probably Deputy Boland remembers it. It took some six months for that commission to send in its report.

I know that certain people have a horror of commissions because of the time they take but, if it is agreed to have such a commission, I would place upon the body the obligation of making its report as soon as possible. I would not allow it to sit for years. As I have said, that commission would be representative of all Parties in the House together with the outside interests affected and it could not, therefore, be said that it was representative of politics, or the licensed trade or the temperance organisation only. Such a body could go into the matter thoroughly.

I do not want to give my own personal views if it is the intention that such a commission should be appointed since I do not want to influence the commission. I think Deputy Boland knows my views.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I do not want to embarrass the Minister, but he has put himself on record as to what his views are and, that being the case, I think we can expect him to implement those [666] views without appointing any commission at all. He has spoken as Minister and not merely as a Deputy or a member of his own Party; he has spoken as Minister and he has put his views on record. How he can go back on those now, I fail to see.

Mr. Everett: Information on James Everett  Zoom on James Everett  If we agree to have a commission I do not want to influence that commission by stating my views here. I want that commission to examine the position in the interests of the public and of all concerned. We do not want to do it as a Party matter.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  It is not a Party matter.

Mr. Everett: Information on James Everett  Zoom on James Everett  Views have been expressed by all Parties. I think Deputy McQuillan deserves congratulation for the manner in which he brought forward this matter. I think it would be in the best interests of all concerned that a representative commission, such as I have outlined, should be appointed. I think that would serve the interests concerned best. Such a commission could not subsequently be accused of being influenced by any political Party. I do not want to influence such a commission by any statement now of my own opinions, Deputy MacBride has suggested a commission. I do not think Deputy McQuillan would object to that so long as all aspects are examined. I think such a commission could give a report within a very short time and that report could then be considered by all Parties here and we might possibly have agreement on a Bill to be introduced forthwith to implement the majority decision of such a commission. If Deputy Boland is prepared to accept that suggestion, we are prepared to appoint such a commission.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I would prefer the committee. That is my own view. Of course, the Minister is the Minister.

Mr. Everett: Information on James Everett  Zoom on James Everett  I think it would be in the best interests of all to have a commission.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  I do not think there is any need to prolong the debate. When this motion was tabled I knew [667] quite well that there were parts of it with which many Deputies would not agree and I knew equally well there were parts of it with which they could agree. I appreciate the manner in which the Government has met the proposals. I think the amendment to the motion was a sound way of dealing with the problems I mentioned; indeed, it covers some matters which were not mentioned in the motion at all. I am somewhat afraid of the idea of a commission because very often this House is inclined to shelve or evade its responsibilities by appointing commissions. The Minister has, of course, tempered the matter to some extent by the promise to include on that commission representatives of all Parties in this House. If it were a commission composed solely of outsiders, no matter how much we could depend on them, I think it would be wrong to leave the matter entirely in their hands. In other Parliaments, in the American House of Representatives and Congress, the people's representatives have confidence enough in themselves, through their sub-committees, to deal with many matters of public importance embracing the whole of the United States. I think this House should now give itself an opportunity of carrying more responsibility. Members would take a more active interest in the welfare of the community and in the drafting of legislation if they could sit on more committees.

The Government appreciates the position that the licensing laws need amendment. My motion has not been accepted in its present form and evidently the Government, in its wisdom, considers the idea of a committee of the House, as suggested by Deputy Boland, would not be the best means of dealing with the matter. It has been decided to set up a commission on which members of this House will be represented. I would like the Minister to let us know whether this commission will have for its terms of reference the three sections of my motion plus the matters included in Deputy Boland's amendment. If those matters are part of the direction given [668] to the proposed commission I will be satisfied to abide by that.

Mr. Everett: Information on James Everett  Zoom on James Everett  The terms of reference will cover more than the motion and the amendment.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  In view of the Minister's undertaking I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


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