Thursday, 4 July 1968
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: On Second Stage I raised several points and suggested that the Bill should stand over so that they might be clarified. One point arose from the statement by the Minister introducing the Bill — I am not quoting him verbatim, but I hope I am quoting correctly the tenor of his remarks — that all the countries in Western Europe had adopted the same time, except ourselves and Iceland. I made the point that this was not in fact the case because Italy had gone off the standard time. The Minister said he did not know that and I suggested that if he did not, he should not make any statement on the subject. On that friendly note, we left the matter until this week. The fact is that it is not true to say that all the countries of Western Europe had adopted the same time. I checked this before coming here in the Dáil library in the Aer Lingus timetables. Italy has again adopted double summer time from 26th May to 21st September which is a departure from standard time.
I pointed out to the Minister that in the Soviet Union and the US, there are different times in different parts of the country and this does not give rise to difficulty. Apparently that kind of distinction is permissible within a single country, but is impermissible between ourselves and Great Britain because  the Government want to align us with everything done in Britain. I pointed out that this will inflict hardship, for example, on schoolchildren and other members of the community. We have had the experience of having a different time from the time in Britain. During the war there was double summer time in Britain and we had a different time here.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: We had a different time from the time in Britain at one period and it did not give rise to any insuperable difficulties. The Minister will find that in the Aer Lingus timetables. The Minister was factually incorrect because he did not do his homework on the position in Italy.
The second point that concerns me was the rather bland statement by the Minister in his Second Reading speech in the Seanad, arising out of the Dáil discussion on the question of school hours, that he had taken up the subject of school hours with the Department of Education and that they were looking into the question to see if something could be done about it. It transpired when I questioned him on the matter that there had been no consultations with the teaching organisations. It was proposed, in order to meet the problem of children going to school in the dark, which, apparently, the Minister had overlooked until it was drawn to his attention in the Dáil, that the school hours would be changed without consulting the teachers. The teachers would lose an hour in the evening and gain instead a particularly useless hour in the early morning.
I suggested that the matter should be left over so that an opportunity would be afforded to Senators representing the teachers to express their views on the subject. I took the trouble of informing Senator Brosnahan, as an individual representing the organisation most concerned, that the debate was coming up here but I am afraid that whatever has happened, he is not able to be here so we cannot have his  views. I should like to hear from the Minister whether since last week he has consulted the teaching organisations and whether he has any reason to believe they will agree to the change in the hours. Is the Minister still in the position of having introduced this measure on grounds which are factually incorrect and without consulting the people who would be concerned and would be affected adversely by it? These are the points on which I should like a reply from the Minister.
Mr. K. Boland: Senator FitzGerald mentioned that Italy has a period of summer time, and it is true that for a period of roughly four months of the year, Italy is, in fact, out of step with her neighbours. The Minister apparently did interpret something in his brief as being tantamount to an assertion that there was an uninterrupted uniformity of hours throughout Western Europe. That, in fact, was not intended. I cannot, however, accept the Italian situation as a good argument for the proposition that we in this country can afford to go our own way. We must have regard to the realities of the situation.
Mr. K. Boland: A country of our size and economic strength cannot afford to take any step that would put obstacles in the way of the smooth operation of our commercial dealings with our close neighbours, with whom most of our business is done.
Mr. K. Boland: ——and it is probable that if our neighbours were not going over to the new system we probably would not go over either. Any  slight advantages there might be in having a time of our own for a few months in the winter would be greatly outweighed by the disadvantages of being out of step with our neighbours.
With regard to what Senator FitzGerald said about times in the United States and in the Soviet Union, I think the Minister did not mention those countries. He merely dealt with Western Europe, where we happen to be situated, and the only slight mistake was that he did not when speaking advert the fact that Italy is, for a period of four months, out of step with her neighbours.
Mr. K. Boland: Some Senators apparently suggested that the public do not read these advertisements. Quite apart from the fact that these advertisements were in the newspapers, the newspapers themselves in their news columns gave a great deal of publicity to the proposals and to the fact that the views of the public were invited. I do not see what more the Minister could have done to invite people to put forward their views. I  think no organisation in the country can claim that they were not given ample opportunity to comment, and no organisations have claimed that they were not given ample opportunity to comment. It is correct that the Minister did not specifically consult the INTO, nor did he consult any of the other dozen or more organisations that are directly concerned with education in this country, but I think it cannot be seriously suggested that each and every one of these organisations did not know what was happening. I do not think Senator FitzGerald could have been serious in suggesting that the INTO did not know because he later adopted the attitude that it was not enough for them to know of the proposed change but that it should have been specifically put to them that there might be a question of changing the school hours.
Mr. K. Boland: The only firm fact about all this is that this Bill is designed to have the effect that clocks would be put on in the winter and that, in consequence, if people continue to observe the same hours as at present, work, school and all other activities will, in effect, begin one hour earlier. This is the only firm fact and it is a fact that it is well-known to the INTO as it is to everybody else. It would be absurd and an insult to the intelligence of the INTO for the Minister to go further and say to them: “Of course, it may be that the working day will prove to be too early for tiny tots and that the teachers and the management will get together and decide that it would be better to move back the working day for these children by half an hour or an hour”. I do not know what the possibility is that this would happen and it certainly does not rest with the Minister for Justice to decide that it will happen. This is obviously something to be arranged by the people concerned. All this Bill does is provide that clocks will be put on one hour in the winter.
The proposal in the Bill, of course, has disadvantages and the Minister  referred to those in his opening speech. One of the disadvantages is the problem of very young children going to school. I say “very young” children because it is the view of the Department of Education that, on balance, even as far as schoolchildren, taking them as a group, are concerned, the change proposed in the Bill is advantageous in that it will lead to children having an opportunity for open air play after school even in the winter.
But the problem facing the Government in deciding whether to sponsor this legislation was not whether the change would be beneficial to schoolchildren but whether, balancing the disadvantages and the advantages, it was beneficial to the country as a whole. The answer to that, based on the overwhelmingly positive response to the invitation for comment, and also on the Government's own assessment of the situation, is that the Bill is not only the better choice but, in practice, the only possible choice.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: That is a lame brief if ever I heard one. My sympathy actually goes out to the Minister because he is not the Minister concerned. He has gallantly undertaken to deal briefly with this Bill here this evening on behalf of his colleague. I just wonder a little whether, when he took that on, he had at that stage read the brief and knew he would have to trot out this bluff about having to align ourselves with Britain in every respect because, all credit to the Minister, this is not his normal line. The Minister retains something of the tradition of his Party of feeling that this country should retain its identity, that it should not align itself with Britain in every way, and unlike some of his colleagues of the “back to the U.K. tradition” who think that we should have settled for Home Rule and that national independence was a mistake, the Minister has never adopted that line. I think it was rather hard that he was the Minister on whom the lot fell to read out this stuff about aligning ourselves with Britain in every respect because it would be so  bad for our business relations if we did not do so. Are there no business relations between the different States of the United States of America and within the Soviet Union? Of course, there are. The fact that the hours are different does not create any serious problem. One has never heard that the economy of the United States suffers because of these time differences.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: Even within our own country this would mean a difference in time just as it does within those countries. The case made is unsustainable and the last person to have to make it is the Minister present. I must say I am sorry for him and for that reason I shall not press it any further. I think he shares my view that we should not align ourselves with Britain in every way. He made the point that it was only for four months that Italy was out of line. Of course, if we did not adopt this Bill, the period for which we would be out of line would also only be for something like four or, perhaps, five months because the period during which, in fact, recently we have adopted summer time has exceeded the six months. It has gone beyond that and, in fact, then we could choose ourselves, as Italy has done, the period during which we wanted our time to be different for the sake of our own people in this country which is situated, geographically, so remotely from the bulk of the areas in which this Standard Time is operating. For those reasons I cannot accept that the case has been made.
On the question of consultations, the Minister suggests that it would be insulting the intelligence of the INTO to have consulted them. This is a concept of government of which we have seen signs from the present administration from time to time — that any form of consultation with people is an insult to their intelligence. It is one that the organisations concerned do not  generally accept. Most of them are quite happy to have that type of insult made to their intelligence by the Government if it means they are given an opportunity to express their views.
I should like to make the point that two separate issues are involved. One is consultation on the original proposal that there should be Standard Time; the other is consultation with the teaching organisations on a consequence of this proposal, which emerged at a later stage, that is——
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: I have never alleged they are complaining. Indeed, in so far as their representative is not here, although he was informed about the debate, they do not seem, I must say, desperately interested in it. That I am not afraid to admit.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: The Minister should not come into this House, as the Minister did last day, to say he had consulted the Department of Education and that there would be no problem about this without even  finding out what the teachers' view was on the question of having to work an hour later in the afternoon. I think the matter has been badly handled. It is no blame to the Minister who is here today but it does not reflect well on the Minister and the Department who are handling this legislation.
Mr. McGlinchey: I should like to make one point for Senator FitzGerald's benefit. As a result of circumstances beyond my control and, indeed, beyond the control of my Party, I live just a few miles from the Border. I would ask Senator FitzGerald to consider this situation if this Bill was not introduced. In the town of Strabane in County Tyrone, the public houses close at 10 o'clock and if this Bill were not introduced it would then be 9 o'clock on our side of the Border. I thought of this when he was speaking and I thought, from my point of view as a publican, it was a great pity this Bill was introduced because when the pubs closed in Strabane, and all over the Six Counties, it would be 9 o'clock our time and most of the people who would come out of those pubs would cross the Border into the 26 Counties and drink for the next 2½ hours.
Mr. McGlinchey: While this may be advantageous to the publicans, particularly the publicans in the town of Lifford, a few hundred yards away from Strabane, I think that Senator FitzGerald would agree it could be highly dangerous from a driving point of view. Certainly, whatever about Britain, it is obvious to anyone who has connections with the Six Counties that the same time must operate on both sides.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: The ducks are getting lamer. I hope they can swim. First of all, the point made by the speaker was that 2½ hours difference would be created. This implies there is 1½ hours difference at the moment.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: Indeed, yes. If there is 1½ hours difference I cannot  see that the extra hour is going to make that difference. Anybody in Strabane who, when he is thrown out of the pub at 10 o'clock, as it now is on the calculation, does not go over to Lifford for 1½ hours is not likely to be that much tempted to go over because it is 2½ hours.
Mr. K. Boland: Senator FitzGerald is perfectly right in saying that I appreciate the importance of this country retaining our national identity. Of course, that applies to the Government as a whole and the Fianna Fáil Party.
Mr. K. Boland: In fact, the establishment of our separate identity as a sovereign nation, such things as the retention of our national language constitute the fundamental reason for the existence of this Party, but we are so convinced of the fact of our separate national identity that we do not see any reason whatever to impose unnecessary difficulties on ourselves  merely in order to prove that we have a separate identity.
Mr. K. Boland: Our separate identity is a fact and we appreciate that it is a fact and that it is not necessary to impose those difficulties on ourselves merely in order to convince ourselves. We realise our separate identity is a fact and that this applies to the whole country. In fact, I think it might be argued that this Bill is particularly desirable because of the fact that it is not a good thing to establish new differences between the two separated parts of our country and that that might be put forward as our justification for adopting this Standard Time. The more differences that grow up between the two parts of the country I suppose the more reality may attach to the pretence of there being two separate States in the country.
Mr. Garret FitzGerald: It is an argument often put forward, indeed, that so long as there is Partition we must do exactly the same as the UK because otherwise we would be different from Northern Ireland. It is an argument which I think is inimical to the development of Irish nationality and one I cannot accept, while recognising that we should not in serious matters divide north from south more than they are now divided. However this question of avoiding serious difference in the two parts of the country is carry to its logical conclusion because if that were the conclusion he would not make it impossible for people from Northern Ireland to get employment, for example, in this part of the country by requiring a knowledge of the Irish language. In matters of that kind the Minister is prepared to make a differentiation of a damaging kind, which treats people from Northern Ireland as second-class citizens, but when it comes to having a different time, as happened during the war, and as existed within individual States, then he feels it is a matter of vital importance. I regard the whole thing as thoroughly unconvincing.
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