Wednesday, 7 June 1967
Dáil Eireann Debate
That a sum not exceeding £40,037,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1968, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, including certain Services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain subsidies and sundry Grants-in-Aid.
Mr. Dillon: When I reported progress, the Parliamentary Secretary had indignantly repudiated the suggestion that a circular from the Department bore the interpretation I put upon it. I admit I was very anxious to accept that assurance. I asked him, in case my information derived from a newspaper was incorrect, if he would cause a copy of the circular I complained of to be sent to me, which he politely did. I want to draw the attention of the House to what I think is a revolutionary and disastrous departure by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Department issued, on 22nd May, a press notice to the following effect:
Efforts are being made in some areas to compel milk suppliers to become members of the NFA by interfering with, or withholding facilities for, the transport of milk to creameries. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries wishes to advise  any milk supplier who is faced with intimidation of this sort to notify any local officer of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries or the headquarters of the Department in Dublin or the local Gardaí of the facts of the case. The supplier may then arrange for alternative transport facilities, and the extra cost of doing this will be reimbursed to him by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. An equivalent amount will be deducted from the Exchequer Milk Price Allowance of 7d per gallon payable to the creamery concerned.
The Minister also wishes to inform all creameries that, if milk from a regular supplier is not accepted by a creamery for any reason other than those prescribed in the Dairy Produce Act (i.e. dirty, stale or contaminated milk or dirty vessels), a related amount will be deducted from the Exchequer Milk Price Allowance payable to the creamery.
If you are informed by any milk supplier that he is being intimidated in any way in connection with the supplying of his milk to his creamery, you should obtain full details of the case from him, including details of the alternative transport facilities proposed, and notify the Department immediately by telephone (Dublin 67561). The matter should be reported to any of the following officers.
That is a perfectly proper circular. That circular, so far as it goes, is merely designed to assist the farmer to get his milk to the creamery if for any local reason an attempt has been successfully made to frustrate his lawful  right to deliver his milk to his appropriate creamery. But, here follows a paragraph which absolutely appals me. Remember, this is addressed to each local officer of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries:
If it is possible to do so without delaying your report you should inform the local Gardaí who may perhaps be able to supply some further information. If that is not possible you should in any event contact the Gardaí after reporting by telephone to the Department.
I want to explain to the House, and I put it to the House with profound reluctance, that this paragraph represents a revolutionary and shocking departure from the normal practice of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
If it is possible to do so without delaying your report you should inform the local Gardaí who may perhaps be able to supply some further information. If that is not possible you should in any event contact the Gardaí after reporting by telephone to the Department.
If I could construe that to mean that every local source of information should be tapped in order to get access to alternative transport, I would gladly do so but I cannot see how this is not direct incitement to the officers of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to act as a kind of CID of the Garda Síochána.
Deputies who are not familiar with the relationship that has been established between the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the rural community may not understand that one of the greatest difficulties that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries had to contend with was to establish a relationship of mutual confidence between its officers and the ordinary farmers of the country. One of the greatest obstacles to progress was that farmers looked upon the  officers of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries with suspicion and spoke of them as “inspectors”. One of our great achievements was that we gradually overcame that but we overcame it by exercising the most extreme caution and one of the injunctions that applied to every officer of the Department was: “If you go on to a farmer's holding occupy yourself exclusively with the work to which you are assigned. If you are a farm building inspector inspecting a building, inspect the building but do not advert to any other circumstances on the farm and, above all, if you believe that you observe any breach of the Department of Agriculture regulations, ignore it. Your sole function is to attend to farm buildings.” Similarly, if a Land Project officer went on a farm his instructions were: “Ignore farm buildings and everything else. Look to your own business but, above all, let every farmer be reassured that you go in as a friend and helper and not as an agent of the Department or of any other Department of State to detect any breach of regulations or, indeed, even of the law.”
I am sorry to say that that document has been issued by the Department asking every local officer of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in the event of his coming up against any case of a farmer being unable to deliver his milk or being intimidated, not only to report to the Department so that the Department may go to the assistance of the farmer who believes himself to be under pressure of one kind or another or obstructed in the lawful prosecution of his business, but to communicate with the local Garda either before or after reporting the matter to the Department.
I say quite deliberately and with profound reluctance and distaste, that document is a disgrace to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and I do not believe that under any previous Minister that document could have issued from the Department. That document breathes the strange pathological hatred that the present Minister has allowed himself to become imbued with in this tragic, foolish and unnecessary contest that has been proceeding between himself and the NFA,  to something that has now become a scandal and discreditable personal vendetta.
I do not know if the House fully appreciates the magnitude of the growing paralysis that is spreading through the agricultural industry at present. I do not want to dwell upon statistics but they ought to be put on record. The delivery of pigs to factories for conversion into pork and bacon for the 21 weeks ended 27th May, 1967, was 565,000. For the same period in 1966 it was 687,000. We are now in the position that we are finding extreme difficulty in fulfilling the quota of bacon we undertook to deliver under the Trade Agreement made by the present Government with the British Government and we are in the ridiculous position that we cannot send out pork because we have not got sufficient pigs to supply the quota of bacon and to fulfil the deliveries of pork.
As to the price of fat cattle in the Dublin Cattle Market, I do not know what today's figure was but the return furnished on 21st May is 152/- a cwt. The price of the same cattle this day twelve months was 173/6d per cwt. That is a difference of about £10 per beast. That relates to fat cattle but the decline in the price of store cattle over the same period is even greater and as I mentioned to the House when I last spoke in this debate, in my own personal experience I paid £8 for a calf for which 12 months ago I would cheerfully have paid £16. The resultant pressure on the agricultural community in the congested areas is catastrophic and whether it is now possible to arrest the catastrophe that is overwhelming the congested areas of this country in so far as the small farmers resident there are concerned is a question open to the gravest doubt.
There are certain matters to which I wish to refer for the purpose of elucidating, if I can, the mentality which directs the Department at this particular time. In introducing the Estimate, the Minister said:
Gross agricultural output for 1966, including the value of livestock changes, was slightly below the level  of the preceding year in volume and £5 million lower in value. This decrease was due mainly to two factors. First, the very unfavourable weather throughout the spring hampered the sowing of crops, affected milk production temporarily and resulted in cattle not reaching marketable condition as early as usual—a position aggravated not only by the bank strike and the credit squeeze but also by the shipping strike.
How the credit squeeze and the shipping strike could result in cattle not reaching marketable condition as early as usual is a mystery to me but the interesting thing is that it is clearly implied in that paragraph that scarcity of bank credit during the strike contributed to the decline in agricultural production. It did emerge when the banks re-opened that £40 million worth of extra credit had been “kited” by people issuing cheques which they had not the money to meet and which were afterwards met by the banks.
Secondly, during the second half of the year, difficulties in export markets, arising from circumstances over which we had no control, led to a fall in the price of cattle and since cattle are the major item in agricultural output, this resulted in the value of gross output being substantially lower than had been expected.
I venture to say that the development in our foreign markets which led to the decline in the price of cattle was 99 per cent due to our own madness in developing a heifer scheme designed to increase the number of cattle without making any attempt to envisage how these extra cattle were to be sold. We created a surplus of cattle which was unsaleable and as the price for the surplus declined, that decline spread through the whole cattle industry of the country.
Crops, however, benefited from the favourable weather during the growing and harvesting period and  yields were higher. With the upward trend in farming expenses continuing, the net result was that total family farm income fell by about £6 million or by about 4½ per cent.
Is it therefore any wonder that the small farmers are waking up to the fact that while every other section of the community, including the Members of this House, are increasing their salaries and incomes steadily, farm incomes in one year fell by £6 million or 4½ per cent? They are the only people left in Ireland who are working a seven-day week and would I be exaggerating if I said that the bulk of them are working 70 hours in that seven-day week while the bulk of their neighbours are working a five-day week and resent being asked to work more than 40 hours in that five-day week? Yet we represent the farmers of Ireland.
In agriculture, it is always hazardous to attempt to predict what the future will bring—even in the short term— but the present indications are that 1967 should be a considerably better year for farming.
“Hazardous” is scarcely the word. That statement of the Minister's was made ten days ago and the price of cattle has since fallen in Dublin Cattle Market by £1 per cwt. as compared with last year. Is this evidence of growing prosperity for the coming year? If we get a good autumn and a good harvest, some farmers engaged in the production of cereals may do well, but we should remember that seven out of every ten harvests are poor and that three out of every ten are disastrous, for the reason that we have an average rainfall of 42 inches, ranging from 30 inches in the east to 60 inches in the west.
Is it credible that any man living in this country, never mind a Minister for Agriculture, could commit himself to the statement that the market situation for cattle has been relatively good? In  all my long experience of agriculture in this country, I never remember, except during the period of the Economic War, when the price of cattle was comparable with that of the present time. At that time there was always the comforting thought that the situation was due to the lunacy of the then Government and that if they recovered any kind of commonsense, the whole dreadful nightmare could be ended overnight. That is what happened.
You cannot end an economic war with Britain now. That ended 30 years ago. At present we are supposed to be operating under a Free Trade Agreement with Britain which was claimed to confer great benefits on the farmers, including an increase of £7 per head for their cattle. From that there appears to be no escape. A steady decline in livestock prices seems to have moved in and I wish I could get Deputies to understand that a decline in livestock prices strikes at the roots of the whole rural society in Ireland. The Minister says:
This sounds very like Deputy Haughey in his “golden egg” period. It is so far remote from reality that it makes me despair that such a man should be in charge of agriculture. How can you hope, in the month of June, that if we get reasonable weather during the rest of the year, the prospect is that the farmers will have a good year financially and they should more than recover the ground lost in 1966 when, in fact, the price of cattle is £1 per cwt. lower than it was, the price of sheep is down, the price of wool is down, and there are no pigs.
The complete derating of agricultural holdings of £20 valuation or less will benefit a vast number of farmers in the category most in need of State help and puts the  question of rates on smaller holdings outside the realm of controversy.
One would imagine that the proposal here referred to represented a Golconda for every farmer under £20 valuation. The fact is that derating has operated as to 80 per cent and the remaining 20 per cent now represents an annuity of aproximately £4 or £5 a year. The farmer has already lost more on one dropped calf than the whole devaluation of his £20 valuation is worth. Yet this is held out as a benefit to a vast number of farmers in the category most in need of State help.
At column 1674, faced with the dismal tale he has to tell, the Minister embarks upon the classic brouhaha of current economics: whenever you run up against a blank wall now, the sensible thing to do is to start talking about the EEC:
While membership of the EEC would benefit the more important branches of Irish agriculture, it will not of itself provide an automatic remedy for all the problems with which our agriculture has been faced in the past. The EEC market is highly competitive and only the progressive farmer who is geared to the highest level of efficiency and ready to satisfy the exacting standards of that market will reap the full benefits of membership. I am confident, however, that, given the opportunity, our farmers generally will be able to measure up to what is required and to adjust themselves to the changes in farming patterns which will inevitably follow on our entry.
Who the hell believes that this country will be in the European Economic Community in the next five years? What relevancy has that kind of blah to the present crisis in the agricultural industry in this country? None, except for the purpose of trying to divert people's attention from the disastrous failure which attends the Fianna Fáil administration, holding out this numinous hope that some fine day our problems will be dissipated by our  entry into the European Economic Community, something as remote as the realisation of any of the other programmes for economic expansion which the Government have proposed to us and which are now safely ensconced in cold storage.
I am glad to read at column 1676 that our exports of boxed frozen beef to the USA are reviving. I remember very well the inauguration of that trade. I remember forecasting for it a great future. I was dismayed to read and to learn in recent years of its virtual disappearance. I rejoice in its return. I gather it is now worth approximately £8 million a year to our exports. That is something for which we ought to be very grateful for I believe that, if it is skilfully exploited, it can be maintained and expanded.
The Minister is not here now, but his Parliamentary Secretary is. The Minister goes on to refer to the export of 10,000 young feeder cattle to Egypt and 4,000 young feeder cattle to Italy. At column 1677 he says:
Are there any prospects? If there are, I will rejoice to hear them, but it sounds to me as daft as a sixpenny watch, shipping six-month old cattle to Egypt and Italy, and I think the Minister has an obligation, instead of making a passing reference to an export of this character, implying it will develop into something really valuable, to tell us honestly what are the prospects, because there are people in the Department of Agriculture well qualified to prophesy with a fair degree of certainty as to what the prospects truly are.
If ever a meeting had a disastrous consequence  it must have been the meeting with Mr. Peart because it produced the phenomenon that cattle fell £1 per cwt on the Dublin market while at the same time the price of beef was rising steeply in Great Britain. The interesting thing is that, since that statement was made in this House, the Minister has become very coy about his discussions with Mr. Peart. What passed between them? What was the burden of their discussion? How did it come to pass that, after these profitable discussions, the price of beef on the hoof went down on the Irish market while it went up on the hoof in Great Britain. Certainly, if these kinds of discussions are to continue, the livestock trade in this country will have to take to its prayers in the hope that either Minister will retire from public life, because our people will get very little out of them.
This year I am making provision under Subhead F for £755,500 for grants to county committees of agriculture. In the past ten years the total number of advisers employed by committees has increased from 301 to 482. While an adequate advisory service is essential to provide the most up-to-date technical advice for all our farmers it is equally important to ensure that the advisory service itself is organised on the most efficient and effective lines. Accordingly, last autumn we secured the services of two experts from abroad to make an independent appraisal of our agricultural advisory services. Their report was received very recently and as I have already indicated it is my intention to print and publish it.
In the name of Providence, why do we want to get experts from abroad to tell us how to run the advisory services in this country? Suppose we sent two of our best men to Rumania or to the State of Dakota to study the advisory services there with a view to telling them how they ought to run them, what on earth do you imagine such Irish experts could do, not knowing the people, not knowing the background, not knowing the circumstances,  simply meandering around the country, and then making a report on how to run the advisory services? We have got some of the best experts in the world in our services here, provided they are let do their job. The only thing that has stopped them is the fact that they were not allowed to do their job, largely because Fianna Fáil did not like the Parish Plan and wanted to kill it. I am glad to see that Fianna Fáil have been converted because at column 1691 of the Minister's speech the following coy announcement appears:
... The pilot area development programme has been of great value in identifying and measuring the scale of the main problems associated with agriculture in the West, and, more particularly, in demonstrating that considerable improvement is possible even under existing conditions, when the intensive advice and encouragement and the wide variety of facilities and incentives provided for farmers are properly and prudently availed of.
I asked the Minister if he would let me have an indication of where the pilot areas, as he is pleased to call them, are located. He was polite enough to do so. I asked his predecessor, Deputy Haughey, on one occasion approximately what area was covered by a pilot area. He looked at me blandly and said: “Approximately three parishes”. Would anyone in this House distinguish for me the difference between the Parish Plan as operated by the Department of Agriculture between 1954 and 1957 and the pilot area development programme which at present most happily the Department of Agriculture has set on the way? The only difference as far as I can make out is that the scheme which was inaugurated 15 years ago by myself and subsequently killed by Deputy Smith was revived by Deputy Haughey and is now apparently going to be carried on by Deputy Blaney. I do not deride him for that. I rejoice in it. The tragedy is that the interval of ten years that has elapsed, since 1957 has deprived our people of the services that would have been of  infinite value to them in restoring the viability of the congested areas, and it is open to doubt as to whether the plan can give the people the benefits which could have been given to them if they had it at their disposal during the last ten vital years.
In the particular constituency I represent, County Monaghan, there has been some argument because in that county the new parish plan has been mainly centred in Aghabog which is a poor part of the county; the quality of the land is poor. Some members of the county committee of agriculture have complained that a pilot area development programme should be located in one of the poorest areas of the county. I think the members of the county committee of agriculture are wholly mistaken. It is a very wise thing that the whole resources of the Department should flow into a relatively poor area, but it would be a tragic mistake if the Parish Plan were confined exclusively to poor areas. It can do great work in the better areas where the land is good. The whole plan began in Bansha close to the Golden Vale in Tipperary, and it was subsequently located in areas some of which contained some of the richest land in Ireland, some of which contained some of the poorest land in Ireland. It did not matter whether we were operating in North Leitrim or in mid-Tipperary, the results in both types of area brought a dramatic improvement in the economic life of the people who lived in the areas catered for by the plan.
I can never forget the testimony of one creamery manager operating in those areas who had one half of his milk supply area in a Parish Plan area and one half outside. The Parish Plan had been operating for two or three years and he came to me and said: “If I could get from that part of my supply area which is outside the Parish Plan the same increase in milk production and supply as has developed in the area which is within the Parish Plan, I would increase the intake at the creamery to 3 million gallons per annum, and it would mean that I could pay the farmers 2d a gallon more than I am able to pay  them now.” It illustrates the extraordinary benefit that can accrue to our people when there are brought to them effectively these services already available from the Department of Agriculture and, above all, when there is constantly at their disposal somebody who is prepared to lead in the organisations and development of co-operation and modern methods in agricultural operations.
If I were the present Minister for Agriculture, I would be ashamed of my life to face the country, and I imagine that is one of the reasons why he is the Minister for Agriculture. He has acquired in his own Party, not without justification, the reputation for the brassiest exterior of which any member of the Party disposes. He is a good political performer on a bad wicket. When we had no houses, when the housing situation was a public scandal before the whole of Europe, it was Deputy Blaney who was put in to bat and defend the Government's detestable record in that regard. He has now been installed in the Department of Agriculture to explain why cattle are £10 a head lower than they were this time 12 months, to explain why pig supplies are falling, to explain the general black pall of gloom that has descended upon the congested areas of this country. I suppose for that political purpose he has a use, but having a Minister for Agriculture capable of authorising the issue of the circular to which I referred here this evening, it makes me grieve that a great Department that I believe the Department of Agriculture in the country should be is so prostituted by a Minister responsible for its administration.
In addition to the county and general Departmental schemes, special schemes of agricultural instruction and production are operated in the Congested Districts. These include the location of bulls and rams on special terms, the distribution of seed potatoes and seed  grain at reduced prices and the establishment of plots to demonstrate proper methods of cultivation, improvement of grassland, etc. The Gaeltacht Glasshouse Scheme, initiated by this Department in 1947——
Mark the date, 1947. If this scheme had any measure of success, I can claim no credit for it. I found it there. It was the brainchild of my predecessor, Deputy Smith, but I described it as appearing to me to be a somewhat exotic enterprise, and every Fianna Fáil cumann in Connemara and in Donegal passed resolutions; flocks of furious Catholic curates came pouring into my office, hotly attended by Fianna Fáil gauleiters from the parish level up, to represent this as one of the greatest contributions ever made to the economy of the congested areas of Ireland, and that indeed without it, Connemara and Donegal would be virtually depopulated in the twinkling of an eye.
Mr. Dillon: We shall come to that in a moment. Let us follow the history of the glasshouses. There were no rocks at all required to dispose of them because in his report the Minister for Agriculture goes on to say:
The Gaeltacht glasshouse scheme, initiated by this Department in 1947, is continuing in operation but the number of participants is decreasing according as the houses, now 20 years old, are wearing out. Under the new general glasshouse scheme introduced by Roinn na Gaeltachta in 1966-67 grants for the erection of glasshouses are available to suitable applicants in any part of the Gaeltacht.
I should like to know, just for old acquaintance sake, what happened to the glasshouse scheme. It appears from the Minister's report that the numbers are decreasing as the glasshouses wear out. I understand they are falling down.
Mr. Dillon: I should like to know  what their financial record is. I am glad to see that the Minister has not just silently buried them. But, for old acquaintance sake, I should like to know when the next 100 houses will be constructed. How much money have they cost the State? What real profit was derived by the people who acquired them? Was it a case of just building the glasshouse and living on the proceeds of its disintegration during the ensuing 20 years? It was a fraudulent scheme the first day it started.
I want to put it on record that if the Gaeltacht glasshouse scheme had any merit, I can claim no credit because I thought it was a cod the first day. Twenty years later, it would appear from the Minister's report upon it that my estimate of its value —20 years ago—was not far out.
I want to ask the Minister to tell the House, before this debate concludes, the prospects for the cattle trade in Ireland. I want to tell the Minister now that, at present prices, it is not economic to produce cattle any longer. I did not believe it was possible for anybody to do that. I want to remind the Minister that, since 1948 until the autumn of 1965, the production of store cattle was the sheet anchor of our small farmers. Since the autumn of 1965 to date, the production of store cattle represents a steady loss to those who produced them.
Sheep have collapsed in price but only within the past 12 months and not so dramatically as cattle. The diminution in the number of pigs appears to be attributable to the rise in the cost of feeding stuffs without any corresponding rise in the price available for pigs. It may be that that industry is undergoing a radical alteration which will divorce pig production altogether from the small farmer's economy but remember that a vast number of farmers living on the land of Ireland must produce livestock or nothing.
It is a long time since I first warned this House—I want to issue the warning again—that in a country with an average annual rainfall of 42 inches, varying from 30 inches to 60 inches, you produce livestock or you go  hungry. There is no other form of agriculture that can successfully survive in our climate except a livestock industry founded upon green crops. I do not believe that even Fianna Fáil will ever fall into the madness again of believing that the growing of cereals provides employment or an end return comparable with the livestock industry.
People often wonder why it is that we have not annual catastrophies in wet seasons from the growing of wheat —and remember that the growing of wheat was first introduced into this country to provide employment. As compared with livestock, the growing of grain provides no employment at all. It is now done by large contractors who plough the land in spring, sow the crop and close the gate until the time comes for the combine to cut the crop in the autumn. But, over and above that, we have in our climate a perennial threat of eye-spot which makes us so peculiarly vulnerable to a wet autumn. Whatever chance a barley crop has, a wheat crop has little or none. Without livestock, agriculture in Ireland will fold up. The present trends in the livestock industry fill me with foreboding that the time is rapidly approaching when, west of the Shannon, there will be nobody left to produce livestock.
Do not forget the pattern of the livestock industry in this country. Its normal pattern was that calves were born in the south-west and moved up through the west into the midlands and then to the sea and exported. The west and Monaghan and Cavan provided a very essential link in the whole pattern of the livestock trade. On the present basis, that trade cannot survive. I believe that that catastrophe has been precipitated by the folly of the heifer scheme without corresponding provision for marketing facilities. It is the Minister's duty to tell us what the Government propose to do to put right that catastrophe. It is our duty to warn them that, unless they have effective plans to restore the damage they have done, the small farmers are finished.
Sometimes I feel a sense of utter impotence in that I recognise that people living in cities, even in the eastern counties, do not understand the  gravity of the crisis confronting small farmers in the west. There are no words I could use too strong to emphasise the enormity of the catastrophe that has overtaken the smallholders of the congested areas. I have little hope that the Government, with the present Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, can do anything effective to relieve their state, but it is my duty, as long as I am here, to tell the House what the true situation is and to advise the Government of their essential duty without delay to bring effective relief to that section of our agricultural community which Fianna Fáil have so substantially ruined in the past few years.
Mr. James Tully: Relative calm. Even Deputy Dillon, for whom I have great respect as an orator, did not provoke from the far side of the House—for the obvious reason that there is nobody there but the Parliamentary Secretary—the sort of storm his speeches usually provoke here. We should remember when talking about agriculture, about the farming community and about their livelihood, that while this is going on, we have locked up in some of our jails some of the most decent people I know, not because they have committed a criminal act but because they refuse to allow themselves to be branded as criminals. I hold no brief for those who deliberately break the law. The farmers in the NFA made a number of mistakes in their campaign for a fair deal but there is an old saying that those who never made a mistake never made anything, and for that reason I believe the farmers have learned their lesson and they will not make the same mistakes again.
In the months and in the years to come, what happened the farmers will rankle in their minds. The trade unionists were similarly kicked around  the streets of this city when they first started to fight for the rights of the workingclass people and because of the abuse they got they learned that they had to do certain things which they did not want to do. They have reached the stage where I should like to see this or any other Government attempting to treat the trade unionists in the way in which the farmers are being treated.
Nobody rushes out when a strike takes place to lock up the people involved, not because they would not like to but because the Government know that they dare not. The NFA, unfortunately for themselves, started as an isolated group and they have been fighting as an isolated group. They were wrong to blockade the roads from 8 o'clock in the morning to 8 o'clock at night. They could have and should have, if they desired blockaded them for two or three hours and showed what they could do. They were also wrong, if they had the money to pay the rates, to delay paying them. Do not forget that they did pay them. It is monstrous that people charged in court for a simple traffic offence should in addition to paying fines have to suffer the indignity of signing a bond to keep the peace.
I wonder what the Minister for Agriculture, any member of the Government, or of the House, would say if he took a chance and parked a car in a non-parking space, as we sometimes do if we are in a hurry to go into a shop, and was subsequently prosecuted for illegal parking, fined £5 and then told he would have to sign a bond to keep the peace before he was let out. The first black mark I would put against the Government is that the instruction to insist on this bond being signed must have come from Government level; otherwise, the district justices, who are normally intelligent, decent men would never have resorted to something like that.
When the farmers paraded in this city, 20,000 or 25,000 of them—and I have been looking at parades in this city for a long time and have taken part in some of them—it was the most orderly group of people I ever saw parading in this town. The parade  dispersed quietly and it was an insult not alone to their intelligence but to the intelligence of the House that the then Minister for Agriculture refused to meet a small deputation of those men to discuss their grievance. Do not mind the story that he had met them so often in the months before. This is a second reason why the farmers have a right to feel aggrieved.
Following this, we had all the ins and outs, the going into and coming out of jail again. Do not let anybody try to put it across that the Government have not been playing a game. The release of the farmers during Spring Show week when the show was collapsing, because of the farmers failure to attend it, was such an obvious trick that it was surprising the farmers did not realise that they were being taken in. They are ordinary decent people who do not normally look for tricks of this kind and because of that they were taken in. They were released from jail one week and taken back in the next. Some weeks ago I was talking to two farmers whose sons were in jail and they pointed to a car which was passing. In that car was a young lad who had no licence and had no tax or insurance; the car nearly had no tyres, and no brakes. He had been taken to court and the licence which he had not got was taken from him, and he was fined £5, but on the following Sunday evening, he stole another car, crashed into two cars and a telegraph pole, and he was again taken to court and again the licence which he never had was taken from him for the second time. He was sent to jail for nine months. He went up on a Friday and because he had political pull, he was out driving a car on the following Sunday. Those farmers asked me: “What law is there in this country? Our two sons whom we need on the farm are in jail because they will not sign a bond to keep the peace for six months.”
Mr. James Tully: Not if I can help it. As I said, the farmers made a number of mistakes but the treatment  they have received from the Government is disgraceful. I challenge the Minister, or the Parliamentary Secretary, to deny that the present campaign which the Government are now carrying on is nothing but a trick. Is it not true that at present the Minister for Justice in particular is screaming his head off about the intimidation which is taking place, with the object of getting the NFA to deny this intimidation and to spend so much time denying it that the Government hope that everybody will lose sight of what the original row started off about?
Mr. James Tully: I understand that there are files knocking about which are supposed to show intimidation. I always thought that police files were secret and only to be shown in court but I understand that these files were shown to people who had nothing to do with the police and were made available before these people were tried. This is justice: this is the way people with a sense of grievance are being treated.
I do not know what game the Government are playing, but I do know that it is far more serious than they appear to realise, because something which was not in rural Ireland for many years, that is, bitterness amongst the agricultural community, is building up. I am quite sure the Parliamentary Secretary is aware that not only supporters of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, but also rabid supporters of the Fianna Fáil Party are involved in this. There is no question of their being anxious to do down the Government as is suggested in some wild statements made by Government spokesmen.
At the present time all these people are suffering from a serious grievance. They are suffering from what they call the unfair treatment of themselves and their fellow agriculturists. Bitterness is being built up, and unless a miracle occurs, it will be ten long years before  that bitterness sown by the previous Minister for Agriculture and the present Minister is dissipated and cleared up. That is a great tragedy.
Rather sneering references were made during the discussion on the other Bill this evening to the efforts which were made at mediation. Let me put this on record. I genuinely had no intention of trying to pick up any political kudos. I agreed to try with two other Members of the House, who both seemed as anxious as I was to have the matter settled, to mediate to see if we could do something about it. I was amused to see the Fianna Fáil member being policed in and out of these benches. He was not allowed to come in on his own lest he talk to Deputy Clinton or myself.
It is a shocking situation when a person cannot be man enough to stand up and say: “I do not want to have anything to do with this”, or “I will not have anything to do with it”. It is rubbish to suggest that we were trying to get political kudos. It was not for that that we wanted to intervene. That is not why we offered to mediate. I notice that the mediation which was supposed to be directed by that person with some of his colleagues does not seem to have gone very far.
I would dearly love to see the dispute in Irish agriculture settled tomorrow morning, but I am firmly convinced that the Government do not want to see that dispute settled. The only reason I can see for that attitude —perhaps I am wrong—is that having been badly beaten in the Presidential election in both Dublin and Cork, the Government are under the impression that by creating a phony war with the agricultural community, they will in some peculiar way be able to win back the support of the cities and towns which they apparently lost last year. If that is not the reason, I cannot understand what it can be.
Now we have the National Agricultural Council. The NIEC was set up a couple of years ago. Pleas were made from these benches and from other parts of the House to have our primary industry, agriculture, included, but they  were resisted. The Government said: “Maybe we will consider it at a later stage. We do not think it necessary now.” How they expected to do anything for industry while our primary industry was left outside that committee beats me. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. They could not do anything.
Then the decision to set up the National Agricultural Council was taken. It was quite evident from the start that this was going to be a Government-controlled body. There are letters in the newspapers and hysterical outbursts from people on the Government benches about whether or not this body represents the agricultural community, or whether it simply represents the Government. They say it represents agriculture in general, but does it? Take a look at it and see does it. Is it not true that the Minister deliberately decided to nominate sufficient people for the purpose of swinging decisions his own way? He is now the chairman of the committee. The Taoiseach has the right to nominate 11 people to the Seanad because it is felt that there must be some way of ensuring that the Government have control of the Seanad. The Minister did the same thing with the National Agricultural Council.
Why was it necessary to do that? If there was a desire to help agriculture why was it found necessary to set up this phony body, because phony it is? Why did they not wait and set up this body properly and leave no room for a grievance, so that the matters at issue might be settled? Why was it not left over until such time as the dispute with the farmers had been cleared up? Then this body could have been set up and could have worked in harmony. Apparently from the very start the idea was that if the Government did not control agriculture in every way, then it was not going to be allowed to go ahead.
I was also rather amused to hear some statements about the Free Trade Agreement. Hindsight is a great thing. Most people will remember that the decision to ratify that agreement was  taken by the Government with the support of Fine Gael.
Mr. James Tully: If this House had decided against the Free Trade Agreement and voted against it, if the vote had been carried, the Government would have had to resign on such a major issue. There would have been a general election, and if the Government were beaten, the new Government might not have ratified the agreement. That is the situation. Fine Gael voted with the Government on that issue. Now they say it is a terrible tragedy that the farmers were codded by the agreement. Of course they were.
The former Taoiseach and the present Minister for Finance who was then the Minister for Agriculture definitely promised that 638,000 head of store cattle would be taken by Britain, and that the price of store cattle would go up, in Deputy Haughey's words, by not less than £7 per head. As a matter of fact, in a rash moment, he made a statement which he did not repeat that he estimated it would mean an increase for Irish agriculture of approximately £20 million per annum. Then we found that the price of cattle went down instead of up, and when they were asked in this House by ourselves and Fine Gael what the farmers should do, should they hold on to their cattle or sell them, the advice the Minister gave was to hold on. They thought that something would turn up after a while, and that things would get better.
They did not get better. The price dropped and dropped and dropped. It is now an old story that the farmers lost up to £20 per head on their cattle as a result of this stupid agreement. Deputy Dillon talked about the west of Ireland and the big losses in the congested  areas, but I can tell this House that I come from an area with the best land in Ireland—not excluding Tipperary—and in that county there were very substantial losses. The only people who did not lose so much were the really big farmers who, if they lost £15 per head on their cattle, recovered it in a couple of weeks on the cattle they were buying in. They were not so bad, but when you move down to the middle-sized farmer and the small farmer, you find that they got it in the neck. There is a saying that some of the farmers are in a poor way. I can assure the House that a number of farmers who have held their heads very high for so long as I have known them are in a very poor way at present.
There is talk about what happened during the Economic War, but what has happened now is having a far greater effect than what happened during that period. If there were any hope of an improvement in the position, it might be possible to see brighter days ahead, but it appears that not only is there no hope but also that the Government neither know nor care how the farmers are to be taken out of their present situation.
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