Thursday, 14 November 1968
Dáil Eireann Debate
(1) That, with effect as on and from the 1st day of January, 1969, wholesale tax imposed by section 2 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1966 (No. 22 of 1966), shall be charged, levied and paid at the rate of ten per cent in lieu of the rate of five per cent specified in sections 7 (1) and 11 (1) of that Act.
(2) It is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution shall have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1927 (No. 7 of 1927).
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Before Question Time, I was endeavouring to demonstrate to the House that there is not a single member of the present Government who can point to a single achievement for which he was responsible since the last general election. Just as I was reporting progress, I was dealing with the fact that the Government had appointed a new Minister in the Minister for Labour and had established a new Department to help to deal with labour unrest that has had a very serious adverse effect on our economy. I have here a publication by the Department of Finance entitled Work for All—1980, published in 1967, on page 16 of which there is a heading Strikes and Aftermath. Under it, we read:
A worrying feature of industrial relations in the last few years has  been the long duration of a number of major strikes. All strikes have bad effects on output, exports, employment and earnings in other industries. The effects on industrial exports can be particularly serious. If Irish suppliers get the reputation for being unreliable, overseas customers may guard against the risk of strikes by finding alternative suppliers elsewhere. Many export sales may be lost for good. These effects could be especially serious for us because three-fifths of our exported consumer goods have been sold abroad under the distributors' brand names—not those of the exporters. This means that the exporters have no guaranteed market outlet to help them recover from an interruption in supplies.
Long-drawn-out disputes are the result of bad relations between employers and workers. In the industries in which they happen, and in the businesses affected by them, the stoppages may lead to reluctance to plan new investment, and may have effects, long after they have been settled, on the rate of growth in the industry in the years ahead.
I remember one Sunday night reading this at home in very peaceful surroundings. I could not help taking special notice when I read what the Department of Finance themselves say: “Long-drawn-out disputes are the result of bad relations between employers and workers.” Here we have a Government who, realising that, set up a new Department and appointed a new Minister. Since the establishment of this new Department and the appointment of this new Minister, I cannot see any closer bond of relationship between employers and workers.
Bord na Móna, for example, lost considerably. They are on the wrong  side financially, and the Minister for Transport and Power tells us this is mainly due to strikes— which could have been settled around the table in 15 minutes if a bit of commonsense and intelligence were displayed. Seemingly the big wigs of Bord na Móna did not want to give serious thought to the genuine claims of the workers employed by the Board.
I want to accuse the Government of having great responsibility for the bad industrial relations that exist. One would have thought that one of the first activities of the Government would be to make a serious effort to have most of these disputes settled by negotiation between the trade unions and the employers. I have yet to see a really unreasonable demand made by a trade union. A trade union has a responsibility to its members, but it also has a responsibility to the community, and they will not be sufficiently unintelligent to put forward an unreasonable case. In any case in which trade unions have made a demand there was very clear evidence that the concerns to whom they were making the demand had very substantial profits and dividends to distribute amongst their shareholders. If through employees' hard work, involving long hours and loss of energy, big profits are accumulated, those employees are entitled to a fair share of that wealth.
I want to accuse the Department of Labour and the Government of insincerity and inactivity in regard to labour relations. We have a bad record so far as strikes are concerned. We lose too much time, too much production, and too much which we could export, and this is all due to bad management, lack of leadership and a high degree of neglect. Things would be worse only for a very intelligent man in this country, the Chief Conciliation Officer of the Labour Court, a man who has done much to settle many of these trade disputes.
Too much time has been lost on strikes, and if any reasonable demands are presented by trade unions, there is a bounden duty on an employer, particularly if the State is the employer, to deal reasonably with those demands. The State sets a very bad headline.  How very often does the State make appeals to employers to do this, that and the other, but the State is the worst employer in this country? There are many progressive employers in this country and if the various State and semi-State bodies, where there is a high degree of discontent amongst the staff, would take a headline from some of these private employers as to how to approach these problems, it would be to the benefit and to the advantage of the country. I would ask the Taoiseach and the Minister for Labour to study further this booklet Work for All. Whatever officer in the Department of Finance gave it that title has a sense of humour. I would call this booklet issued by the Department a gimmick.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: The whole Government are gimmicks. Every State Department is in a state of disorder. Everyone knows the position in Agriculture, and there is no need to dwell on it. I have already dealt with Industry and Commerce. The Minister for Education has devoted his energy to closing down quite a number of schools in rural Ireland, not as his predecessor would do; his predecessor undertook to close down the schools in rural Ireland only after consultation with the parents. We have quite an amount of discontent as to the manner in which the present Minister for Education is discharging his duties.
There is much the same story to tell in relation to the Department of Defence. Many old IRA men are ending their days on the threshold of the workhouse having devoted the greater part of their lives to serving the nation. The plea has been made in the House earlier today to endeavour to provide fully and adequately for the very limited number of old IRA men who are not in good circumstances at the end of their days.
So far as the Gaeltacht is concerned, all we hear are pious observations and lip service being paid to it while it is still disappearing. There is no point in going into that now, because I have already reported progress on the Estimate  for the Department of the Gaeltacht and I shall have an opportunity at another time of going into that with the Minister concerned.
This should go on record: This is a bad, dishonest Government which should be and must be removed from office, a Government which has lost the confidence of the people, a Government of political “hallucinatics”— people who suffer from hallucinations.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I do not think so—a “hallucinatic” is one who suffers from hallucinations. The whole Government see what is not there at all. They see prosperity. They see good times. They see nothing wrong in the country. I am sure the Minister for Education has been the victim of hallucinations from time to time. He sees his Department of Education, not in reality, but in a dream. The same applies to the entire Government. Political “hallucinatics”—that is how they can properly be described. They do not see the conditions under which many thousands of people in this country are living. They are too far removed. One would not mind a Government suffering from these hallucinations if that were the only form of insanity of which they could be found guilty.
The time has come when a firm stand must be taken by the Opposition and by the whole country against the high degree of Government graft. There is such a thing in existence as a panel of certain people in this country who are high up in the legal world and who have been promised that they are on the panel for appointment to judgeships. There are people on the panel for appointment as county registrars. There are people on the panel for State solicitorships. There are people on the panel for the appointment of superintendents and chief superintendents of the Garda Síochána. This must be smashed.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I quite agree but the Financial Motions are introduced into the House by an incompetent Government who are studying graft, studying the interests of their own friends, and not the interests or welfare of the country. This is a dishonest Government. They have been engaged in every possible kind of racket. They are a group of selfish men imposing unnecessary hardship and taxes on the people. They are power-crazy. They are economically insane. They are providing money which they are gathering in from the tax-payers. I venture to say that any Irishman who would have progressive industrial ideas and who asks this Government for financial assistance towards providing employment or advancing his own little industry will not get it but let a man describe himself as “Herr Von” this, that or the other, let him come over wearing a turban, let him come over with any shade of hide, and he will get any money that Fianna Fáil can give him to set him up in industry in this country, but it will not be given to a progressive Irishman or to a group of progressive Irishmen anxious to start a small industry. The man with any shade of hide or the turban or the title “Herr Von” will get any financial assistance he wants from Fianna Fáil. Whether there are ways and means of giving backhands by way of cheques, we do not know. He may, as a necessary qualification, have to be enrolled in Taca. We do not know that. It is only what we can assume is likely to be the position.
That is why I think it is about time that this country was cleaned up. The people look upon this Government with suspicion. They know that they are not aboveboard. They have shown, by the manner in which they have voted against them in the presidential election, in the local elections, in the referendum, that they are only waiting for the opportunity to remove them from office, to have them removed from authority, root and branch, and to replace them by a Government that will administer the affairs of this country in accordance with the principles of  good government, honest government and clean government. It is on the undertaking to the Irish people of clean, good and honest government that the Fine Gael Party will present themselves at the next general election. I have no hesitation in saying that a Fine Gael Government will not introduce two Budgets in one year, will be honest in calculating and estimating the amount required to run the country and will not devote their time to depriving the people of a decent and proper standard of living in their own country.
I should like the Taoiseach, when replying to the debate, to tell us what has happened to the “Buy Irish” campaign. Here we have Irish goods being taxed. A campaign was started some time ago to advocate the buying of Irish goods. I should like to know what has happened to that campaign. I should like to know what serious and genuine effort has been made to increase exports, in particular, the export of Irish whiskey. If we are anxious to produce more for export, we are entitled to know what is the organisation, in the United States, for example, responsible for promoting the sale and marketing of Irish goods. I am told that that is a racket, too, and one that should be very closely investigated. I am waiting for some additional information from the United States and, if I get it, I will address a series of questions to the responsible Minister in this regard.
I have endeavoured, again, to point out that this dishonest Government have forced this supplementary Budget on the people, against their wishes and with no authority from the people to impose a penny tax on anyone, because, the present Taoiseach at no time got a mandate from the Irish people. At the last general election, again through bluff and trick the authority was given for the time being, by a very reduced vote, to Deputy Seán Lemass but, in so far as the present Taoiseach is concerned, he should not impose a Budget of this character on the people, knowing that he never got authority from the people to rule for even 24 hours. That is why I say that the Government can be bulked into one —a complete, dishonest lot—that this  Budget is a dishonest Budget and the taxes that are being imposed are dishonest. Every section of the people who will suffer as a result of this Budget will be compelled to do so by dishonest men.
Enough has been said about the Budget and I do not intend to say any more. What we need in the country is a complete change. The past generations have stood enough and the young people cannot be expected to take as much. The present Government are doing nothing to assist our younger people to become better citizens. At this time it is no harm to put on record that our young people today are as good as they have been in any generation. We are proud to be able to say that the young people of this country are superior to those in any country in the world. However, they do not seem to be getting the chance they deserve— there is no planning, there are no new jobs, there is no security. I hope that the Minister for Education, who is now here will do everything possible to assist our young people. Some people criticise them because of their hair-dos. They criticise the girls for their dress——
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I am just winding up and I express the feeling that in this Budget we should have some encouragement for our young people. On the other hand, we cannot expect a whole lot when we see intelligent people today trying to reach the moon. Our young people do not deserve to be criticised but appreciated and complimented in every way.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I am glad the Minister appreciates that. I hope that if Fianna Fáil are in office next April—I presume they will be—there will be generous provision made for planning for youth. The trouble is that Fianna Fáil are not planning for the future. They are living from day to day, limping from crisis to crisis, from April to November, with new taxes. Their time  will come at the next general election. This is a dishonest Budget by dishonest men, dishonestly imposed on the people who deserve better.
Mr. McLaughlin: There was quite an amount of criticism all over the country of this severe Budget when its terms were announced last week. As time goes on this criticism will continue because the people have not really felt the brunt of it yet. In most counties the rate in the £ is £4, a shocking burden, particularly in the villages and towns and cities where they have to pay the full rate, pound for pound. In rural areas, at least, there are some concessions by way of agricultural grants and those in rural areas also have the benefit of the produce of their farms. Let us not forget, however, that people in rural areas are becoming very scarce. From smallholdings, and from big holdings as well, not only are the youth going but whole families, fathers and mothers in many cases, are leaving, due to the fact that there has been no planning to absorb boys and girls into useful employment in those areas. Consequently, there is a steady flow of people on Wednesday mornings to labour exchanges or to Garda stations to sign for unemployment assistance.
One can discover dozens of married men with families unable to get work. Their anxiety to get work is illustrated by the fact that many of them travel 40 miles to see a Deputy, wondering if he can do anything to get them work. The only thing one can do is to make representations to the forestry people or to the county council and generally the reply is: “The answer is no, we are overstaffed.” The Government must know the position very well because it occurs in most rural areas. Of course, they tell us that our people like to wander, that they like adventure. The only time members of the Government came to the country was during the recent referendum when they came to every town, village and church gate in the country. They should come when things are normal, when they can talk to the people about their situation. During an election campaign they have no time except to go from one meeting to another. When Ministers are asked to come down and address a group of  local representatives we discover that they have no time to spare; they are too busy. During the five weeks of the referendum campaign we held meetings in every corner of the country and told the people what to do and how to do it so that we would have better Government. That is what the Government should do instead of telling the people about the straight vote.
It is said when two, three or four young men call on you and tell you they have been in England but that they would prefer to stay at home. Having spent a few years in England, again the same thing applies. Most building contractors today have their work organised. They have their own staff and with machinery they have no trouble in curtailing the number of employees. The result is that these unfortunate young men who come home will have to decide on going back to England again. They shed many tears before they go and certainly they will not be happy when they are there. I know these people coming and going and it is very sad to see them at the railway station with tears in their eyes on their way to a big city where there are millions. It is an old saying that you can be lonely even among millions and these young people are lonely among millions.
We have a Government in office since 1932, an almost unbroken term of office except for a few short spells, but we are in the same position in which we were ten, 12 or 14 years ago despite the fact that all this has been debated.
We have business people today who have come very badly out of this Budget. We all know the telephone is now availed of to a large extent. It has been installed in many homes where we never expected it to be installed. However, telephones have become very expensive. The annual rent has increased. Then we come to postage. The stamp which people were getting for twopence will now cost sixpence and this is unfair to hardworking people. We have a population of 2,800,000 but we are taxing them almost out of existence. If you go to England or any other country you  will find 2,800,000 people in what I would call a fair sized town. Here in this little country we have 2,800,000 people, scattered all over it. This is a productive country from an agricultural point of view and we are in the position today of having taxation soaring sky high, and it looks as if it will continue to soar.
Forestry has been taken over in a big way but, instead of increasing the number of forestry workers, I am inclined to think that the number is being reduced. I meet people who have been let off the forestry work and who find it difficult to get back. They are told that they may be called, and then they come to us to see what can be done for them. In many areas in county Leitrim—I am not so sure about Sligo—we have the position where men are employed week about —one week working, another week off. A young married man who has given 30 or 20 years, as the case may be, working as a council worker has to go to the labour exchange every other week in order to get his benefit, and wait for council employment. This is too bad and it is a sad state of affairs. I wonder how other employees would react to that state of affairs. There would be a strike but the council worker has no alternative: he has to take the order as it is given him.
All this is due to the fact that in the past we had a number of schemes which we have not today. We had bog development schemes always being carried out during the winter. We had minor employment schemes programmes issued to every public representative round about October. Each representative got in touch with the local people and told them that such and such a scheme was being carried out. Work was given to local men and, as a result, money was provided in the area. That is all done away with and the local improvements schemes have been handed over to the county council, completely independent of the Board of Works. That is the one and only scheme in operation throughout each county and that is very unfair to the people of this country. These schemes were doing a good job. Many of these works will be neglected now.  The local improvements scheme will not be applied to mountain roads, which heretofore were done under the scheme, because local people will not contribute to a scheme which will be carried out in January on a mountain road and maybe washed away in two months' time.
I mentioned that to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance when we were discussing this thing at an early stage. I told him that bog roads had never been repaired under local improvement schemes. All these schemes have decreased but the cost of living has increased and the net result is that the people are leaving. That is what will happen as a result of this Budget.
I have heard some Ministers in the early stages of this debate say that they did not want to see young people spending a pound if it could possibly be avoided. The Minister can take it that we are living in an age when young people will go out and spend a pound. They are prepared to work and earn a pound honestly. We are very proud of our young people today. They are a credit and never have we had better youngsters than we have today. Some people may say that they do not belong to their group and that they cannot see eye to eye with the young people of today. That is only natural. We could not see eye to eye with the generation before us and it is only natural that we find it difficult to fit in with the younger generation. But, we have a young generation today who are a credit to this country and we in this Parliament should do everything we possibly can to keep our young population at home.
When you see a house closed it is very hard to estimate the total loss involved. There is the family, the supplies that go into the home and all the other money is involved in various ways. Today it is a very common sight to see those homes closing. It also follows that this closes other homes, too, because one family will not stay in a lonely, quiet area when all the others are gone. Now I should like to come to the question of housing and planning.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I do  not like to interrupt the Deputy but I must remind him that details in regard to Estimates which have still to come before the House would not be appropriate on the Budget debate. There are Estimates relating to Local Government, Agriculture, Transport and Power and so on still to come before the House and the Deputy may not go into detail on these matters in this debate which is concerned with finance.
Mr. McLaughlin: Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on the recent referendum if we had been spending it on the building of new houses and the reconstruction of other houses we would be doing a better job. People were very disappointed to think that so much money was spent and so much shouting done over a period of five weeks instead of looking after the many things that need to be looked after. It is terrible to meet people who are five and six years without homes, men with wives and families, caged in flats where they have no accommodation of any description. Everywhere we can meet those people. It is about time we tackled this problem and completed it. I know there will always be work to do but it is terrible to meet people who have to pay £4 and £5 for a flat out of wages of £11 or £12. Out of that they must also pay tax and with the high cost of living it is a desperate life for them. That is all due to the increased taxation and the lack of housing.
I would certainly like to see some change brought about. We have had Fianna Fáil now since 1932 except for two short periods and God knows it is time they gave way to somebody else who would tackle those problems and particularly the problem of emigration. It is one of the saddest things to see people travelling long distances to see a county councillor or a TD in the hope that they might be able to do something for them when there is not  a hope. Instead of numbers increasing on the employment list the number is decreasing. That is the position and the sooner we have a change the better.
Five shillings is the usual increase given in social welfare benefits. A five shilling increase to a social welfare recipient does not give him much to go on when we consider the continuous rise in the cost of living. The majority of those people live in towns. They have to buy all the necessaries of life out of that social welfare benefit. We have ex-members of the Garda Síochána who established this State in 1922 which was a very difficult task. Some of them were a bit advanced in age when they joined the force and they came out with a very miserable pension. They got a few increases but all in all they have nothing in comparison with the work they did when this country was very much in need of such men. We have CIE men in receipt of £4 or £5 a week, unmarried, perhaps, and living in a flat or with a landlady. Those people are crying out for increased pensions and they will have to get them. They cannot carry on the way things are. The Government have a lot to think about at the moment in order to give the people of this country some sense of security.
We have a new educational scheme. We have children who are four miles from school having to be out of bed at 7 o'clock in the morning in order to get on the bus at about 20 minutes to eight. They are not back until half-past five due to the fact that there is not enough transport. It is very unfair to have children spending such a long day to get to a school that is only four miles away. What is needed is more transport. There is another problem that should be considered and that is the question of books. When books are provided they should be provided for children in the national schools as well. They are just as entitled to them as any other children. The Minister for Education would be well advised to consider this.
The Budget did not deal very sympathetically with the old age pensioner when the price of tobacco and  drink was increased. As a rule, when the old age pensioner goes into the local village he goes into the pub to have a drink where he meets some of his neighbours and you could meet no better company than his. I am afraid they will have to cut down on this expenditure and I think it is not right.
The Government should be in a position to run this country on less taxation than they are doing. They have long experience. The machinery is there over a long number of years; there are good men there we are proud to say. The total number is 2,800,000 and when we cannot support that number in a country like this with a good climate and plenty of liberty there is something wrong. I am sure our Ministers have been in Holland. We had a deputation there recently and it certainly is an experience for anybody to go to Holland and see what is done there. There is too much emphasis on getting men from Germany or England or elsewhere and giving them £50,000 if they go to build a hotel on a lake shore to attract tourists. If he has about £5,000, he will get about £15,000 to put him on his feet. Some of those hotels are almost white elephants. That is where our money is going, money that should be channelled into agriculture so as to give people more for what they produce. If that were done people would face up to the job. To do that you must have a guaranteed market for the produce. You do not want a bumper year with poor prices and a scarcity in the following year when no money will buy the produce. That is the present position. Sufficient encouragement is not given to these people.
We have county development officers in nearly every county, hardworking, honest young men going everywhere they think there is a possibility of getthing co-operation. There are many who work very well and hope to qualify for a grant but these projects take a long time before showing results. We should establish something worthwhile quickly in these areas and any project that would not employ about 50 workers is no good. It is all right to say to a craftsman: “Set up a good forge; put in modern machinery and we will employ you to make gates and it will be a great success.” That only means  a man or two. The county development officer goes perhaps to another centre and discovers another ambitious young man and gets him going. At best it is only a few men. That is why our villages and towns are dying quickly. It is sad to say so but it is a fact: the people are gone. The Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries may not see this if they are going to good centres; but if they travel to the other areas they will see these problems of counties with, perhaps, low valuations where the roads have not been built up and improved. Those matters should be dealt with because the people who kept homes in such places were great people and many of them would be sad to see these homes close down after all the work that was put into them and considering how they loved to live there.
More employment would be the saving of these remote parts. I discussed this with the clergy recently and they admitted that it was part-time employment that would keep the small farmers on the land. The creamery cheque becomes very small in September for these people and, if there is nothing else coming in, the farmer and his family will have a very tough time until the turn of the year. This is all due to higher taxation every month and less employment. Road men are being laid off or alternated. Forestry employees are laid off and called back again only when work is there. The Forestry Division is not getting as much land as formerly. When they went out to buy land in the past they should have bought it instead of coming and going for up to two years stepping up their offer by a couple of pounds at a time. Some unfortunate widows did not know when they had  sold their land or what they were getting for it. They should give the price the land is worth in the first instance and, if they do not get the land for that, leave it there. The way this matter has been handled is no example for any Department to set and that is why they find it very difficult to get enough land.
The Government should seriously consider employment above all things. If we had employment there would be no need for us to harp here, day in day out, about emigration. Employment would solve two problems and leave the people happier. It would help to reduce taxation, as there would be far more people buying supplies and greater demand for farmers' products.
Income tax is hitting our people very hard. A man with only £8 or £9 finds a couple of pounds deducted from him and he cannot understand why this should be. If, as a single man he was getting £16 he would have £4 or £5 stopped. It would be better if it could be arranged that a man should be paid what he is worth with nothing stopped and let income tax be collected in some other way; but paying him with one hand and taking it back with the other does not make sense. It makes work for somebody else in a big office. If the money could be stopped at the source it would deceive nobody. A tax of 7/- in the £ on a young man who has only started and has a home to maintain is hard to understand. With £16 the tax could be over £4 a week.
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