Employment Period Order: Motion.

Wednesday, 19 May 1971

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 70 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 5 Next Page Last Page

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I move:

That all the Regulations contained in Article 3 of the Unemployment Assistance (Employment Period) (No. 2) Order, 1971 (S.I. No. 142 of 1971) as amended by Article 3 of the Unemployment Assistance (Employment Period) (Amendment) Order, 1971 (S.I. No. 154 of 1971) be and are hereby annulled.

The first inkling anybody had about the change in the unemployment assistance this year, if my information is correct and I think it is, appeared in an item on the agenda of the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis. Was the item reached and, if it was reached, what decision was made on it or what became of it? I am afraid I do not know. Some weeks after the Ard-Fheis if it was discussed—it certainly might not have been discussed in the manner in which it was entitled to be discussed—a circular was received by every employment exchange [251] in the country. I have a copy of it here which I intend to read for the benefit of Members. It was headed “Confidential” and it was entitled “Unemployment Assistance (Employment Period) (No. 27) Order, 1971”. There are five paragraphs and in these paragraphs there are a number of sentences underlined. I will comment on those in passing. The first paragraph is headed “Duration and Scope” and states:

An Order entitled the Unemployment Assistance (Employment Period) Order, 1971, has been made by the Minister for Social Welfare under Section 4 (3) of the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1933, prescribing that the period from Wednesday, 14th April, 1971, to Tuesday, 16th November, 1971 (both dates included) to be an Employment Period in respect of every man who has no dependant. “Dependant” means a dependant for the purpose of the Unemployment Assistance Acts as described in paragraph 8 of Leaflet U.A. 19 July, 1970.

The second paragraph goes on to say:

The Order differs from past Orders in the fact that it will apply to all areas of the country, urban and rural, without exception. It will thus affect all male applicants without a dependant whether they belong to U.A. Live Register category or to the category of U.A. Small Holders. Local officers must therefore ensure that payment of unemployment assistance will not be made to any man without a dependant for any day in the Employment Period of 31 weeks from 14th April 1971 to 16th November 1971.

Paragraph (3) states:

On receipt of this circular local officers shall proceed to examine the current applications for unemployment assistance.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  May I ask what circular the Senator is talking about?

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  The circular which was sent by the Minister for Social [252] Welfare to the manager of every employment exchange in the country.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  Which of them?

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  The first one.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Is this a public circular?

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I do not know. It found its way into my hands.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Is it confidential?

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I have already said that it is headed “Confidential”.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Is the Senator entitled to quote from a document issued to managers of exchanges in a confidential manner? Can he use documents of that nature here in the Seanad?

Acting Chairman (Mr. Sheldon): Information on William Alexander Sheldon  Zoom on William Alexander Sheldon  I am not aware that the Standing Orders forbid it.

Mr. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Surely this kind of thing cannot be kept confidential?

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  The birds in the bushes know it now. It is only a matter of confirming it to them.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  Those on the dole know it anyway.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  I wonder is there not something about the code of conduct in connection with it.

Mr. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Is there a desire to conceal this?

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  I was just wondering how the Senator came across the circular and if there is any bar on quoting confidential documents in the Seanad.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  If the Leader of the House has objection to my continuing to read the circular I am happy enough. I can discuss the matters contained in the circular. As regards doing anything irregular in the House I certainly would not like to do that.

We come, then, to 6th April, a few days after the circular was issued. [253] There was an announcement on the radio on that day at 1.30 p.m. making slight reference to what the circular contained, the people who are mentioned in the circular would no longer qualify for unemployment assistance in the 31-week period. This announcement was repeated again that evening on the television news. It was repeated again the following morning on the 7.30 a.m., the 8 a.m. and the 9 a.m. news. There was no announcement whatsoever from the Department of Social Welfare.

On the morning of 7th April every newspaper in the country carried a leading article against what was conveyed in the circular, the cutting off of unemployment assistance from those unfortunate people. I think that the papers behaved magnificently in this matter because they took a very strong stand on it.

Public representatives of all classes and creeds, some of them members of this party, some of the Fianna Fáil Party, some of the Labour Party, and Independents — everybody all over the country—took a very strong stand on this. I do not know what happened at the Fianna Fáil Party meeting which was held in the intervening period, but I certainly would not like to find myself at that meeting in view of what happened afterwards when the motion came before Dáil Éireann. We had, I think for the first time in the history of this State, one of the Government Party members voting against the cutting off of unemployment assistance and we had at least four Deputies who abstained. Some of them were in the House and they were not prepared to vote on it. It is quite evident that there had been some, if one might use the words, “messing around”.

It was not until the 7th April that the Minister himself came on the radio after the 1.30 p.m. news and said that a mistake had been made. Some members of his own party are inclined to think that no mistake was made. I do not know. I shall leave it to the people inside and outside of this House to judge for themselves whether a mistake was made.

It would be very interesting if we [254] could hear what decision was taken at Cabinet level or whether it was discussed at Cabinet level. Was the information as conveyed in the circular which was sent out by the Minister correct, or was a mistake made, as he said on Radio Éireann? I think that this House are entitled to know who made the mistake. It is unfair to point the finger of scorn at the Civil Service. Far be it from me to do it. It is equally unfair to point the finger at the Minister if he did not make the mistake. He clearly conveyed that a mistake had been made and I do not think that I am being unreasonable when I ask him who made the mistake.

This order came when the number of unemployed in this country had soared to a figure of 70,000. We all know what brought about that position. The position was brought about by the bank strike and by the cement strike. We are now in the position where we have factories closing in the country at the rate of at least one per week. The cost of living is soaring. I admit that this order will reduce the number of unemployed by 7,000, but that is only a paper figure. If the intention here was to bring down overnight the number of registered unemployed by 7,000, it was a very poor, weak and shameful effort to hit at the weaker section of the community.

I wonder if this was done in haste? If a mistake was made did the Minister think for one minute of the type of person whom he was hitting with this order? Take a man of over 18 years who lives in a rural area in this country, a small farmer maybe, with a valuation of under £5, £6, £8 or £10. He is the youngest of his family and he stays at home to look after his aged parents, or one parent. The only source of income coming into the house would be the old age pension, of which the parent was in receipt, plus the amount of unemployment assistance that this boy was receiving. Just overnight this amount was to be withheld from this boy and it would leave the position of the household impossible.

A single man with no valuation gets up to £3.30 per week, or 66s of old money. There may be a number of [255] abuses of unemployment assistance. We all know that there may be people who are in receipt of unemployment assistance, people who are chronically ill, who are infirm, or who are not available for work. If they are not going to get some assistance should not the next step be the receipt of home assistance? I checked quite recently with the county council, of which I have the honour to be chairman, and I was told that there were 45 to 50 people who had come on home assistance since this order was made.

Are we to accept this as only the thin edge of the wedge? For home assistance there is no recoupment from the Central Fund; it must be provided directly from the rates. “Maybe the motive behind the order was to switch the onus from Central Government to local authorities. If that were the position I think the Minister should have said so.

The counties which benefit most from unemployment assistance are counties like Leitrim, Donegal, Sligo, Cavan, Mayo and Roscommon. The majority of the people who live in these counties do not get any advantages from the subsidies that are paid elsewhere. Unemployment assistance is usually referred to by people who are above that category as dole. When we are describing the subsidy that is being paid for wheat, beet or barley it is not described as dole. The subsidy that is being paid to industrialists is not described as dole. The grants which farmers receive from the beef incentive scheme is not described as dole. But this form of subsidy which is being given to the poor people in the poorer parts of this country is described as dole. I think there is an onus on the better off sections of the community to help out these people.

The Minister changed his mind a bit about this when this circular had gone out after his announcement. As he said in the circular, the benefit was not to be paid to anybody without a dependant in the urban or rural parts. That was changed and we now find that single people living in the urban parts of the country can qualify for assistance. The second change was that [256] a single man over 50 years of age, if he lived in the rural parts of the country, would qualify for benefits. The third change was that for single people living in coastal areas. If the Minister was prepared to do this chopping and changing in the short period of a month I cannot see why he does not scrap the first circular he sent out and let all the people who are in receipt of benefit for the whole year receive it. He was the first Minister to give it to them in June, 1967. That was the first time that single people qualified for benefit the whole year around. I wonder if this was done because that year was a local election year. Was it done in order to secure votes for the candidates who represented the Government Party at the time? I certainly convinced myself at the time that it must have been. That is fully confirmed now when we see it withdrawn at this stage.

Before this order was made did the Minister think for one moment of the effects of inflation since 1967? If he was prepared to give it the whole year round in 1967 he must have known in his heart that the people who were in receipt of this benefit were much worse off in 1971 than they were in 1967. Look at it in another way and take employees of all description who have enjoyed substantial increases over that period. Take anybody you can think of, even Members of this House have all enjoyed increases. But this unfortunate weaker section of the community were to be victimised because we find ourselves in some difficult situation financially.

The Minister decided to increase the allocation for local improvements schemes by a figure of £50,000. I quote from the Estimates for Public Services for the year ending 31st March, 1972. When the Book of Estimates came out, which again shows the fumbling, the figure was left the same as last year at £500,000. Some days later a Supplementary Estimate was introduced in the Dáil for a further £500,000 which meant that there was £100,000 available for local improvements schemes for the coming year. If there had been proper thought given to this the item of £100,000 would [257] have appeared in the Estimates for Public Services and a Supplementary Estimate would not have had to be introduced for it. On going through the Estimates we find, at page 161, unemployment assistance for the year 1971-72 £7,731,000 and for the year 1970-71 £9,325,000, a decrease of £1,594,000 because of the Minister's decision to decrease the income of these unfortunate people by that amount.

The Minister states that the increase for the rural improvement scheme is to give employment to these people; but when we look at the circular issued to every county councillor we find the way these people are to be employed is (1) people who are in receipt of unemployment assistance; (2) those in receipt of unemployment benefit payments; (3) beneficiaries who have contributed to the cost of the work; and (4) other persons registered at the unemployment exchanges. That means that those under No. 1 will go down now and take their place at the bottom of the queue, that the people who have lost the benefit will no longer be in receipt of unemployment assistance. They will go down and take their place at the bottom of the queue and find themselves in the same place as other persons registered at the employment exchanges. I cannot see how that will solve any problem.

Over 40 years ago, maybe 45, when the old Cumann na nGaedheal Government reduced the old age pensions from 10s to 9s, we on this side of the House had to live with that when it happened. I even heard the Minister at a by-election a few years ago speaking outside a church gate and the whole trend of his speech referred to this. I am quite prepared to say that the Government at that time made a desperate mistake politically: it was one of the things that we in this party had to live with. These people were only reduced from 10s to 9s but in this particular case these payments are reduced from 66s to nil. Even though money has reduced in value, it certainly has not devalued at that rate. From now on when the Minister and other speakers of his party are speaking [258] outside church gates they will not be able to use this one any longer.

Embodied in our Just Society policy at paragraph 41 is the following:

Other social assistance provisions will be increased by 40 per cent within the period of the Fine Gael short-term social programme.

This includes unemployment assistance including that payable to small farmers and it could mean that those people would now enjoy an increase of 18s per week instead of being reduced from £3 6s to nil. I have never heard any Fianna Fáil speaker making any reference to what is embodied in the Just Society.

Mrs. Desmond: Information on Eileen Desmond  Zoom on Eileen Desmond  As a person who has some knowledge of the realities of life in rural Ireland I rise in support of this motion. It is difficult to find anything new to say on it. Since the publication of the original order I would say that nothing in the sphere of social services has ever received more publicity than this particular matter. That is not surprising to me. The emotion that registered with all of us on hearing this news was one of shock.

It is unbelievable that a Government could display such a lack of sensitivity of the needs and problems of this underprivileged section of our community that at eight days' notice they could withdraw a miserable pittance, £3.30 per week. It is a very small sum and only represents what most people would seek by way of compensation for the cost of living rise over the last 12 months. Indeed it would not compensate one fully for the rise in the cost of living during that time. It is unbelievable that people who sought to eke out a meagre existence with the help of a sum of this nature should be the first to be hit in an economy drive by the Government.

I will not endeavour to list the reasons for the modifications in the original order. Senator Reynolds has covered that point adequately. Suffice it to say that as a result of pressures some people, by virtue of their having dependants or by virtue of their age or addresses, are now exempt from that [259] penal first order made by the Minister. However, the problem does not end there.

In rural Ireland it is quite commonplace to find single men who are the sole supporters of their aged or disabled parents. Any of us who have followed the social pattern in rural Ireland in the not so distant past realise that it was commonplace, too, for parents of very meagre means, knowing the difficulties of obtaining employment for their daughters in the rural areas, to devote whatever resources they had towards their education. Records show that there was a tendency up to the time of free education —we all greatly welcomed free secondary education and free school transport—for rural people to educate their daughters. Frequently, the situation obtained where a number of their sons married but one son remained at home and was ultimately left with the responsibility of caring for his parents. Many of those men, who are still under 50, are living in rural Ireland today. Employment for those men must be obtainable in the immediate vicinity of their homes. We all realise that in rural Ireland there is no local employment available for those people. We all realise too that the dole is not the ideal solution of this problem; indeed the dole is the last resort. Those who have had to depend on it to supplement their livelihood, or to provide the only means of subsistence for them, would be the first to say so. From my knowledge of those people they would much prefer to be in some type of productive employment. However, the sad fact is that no productive employment is available for them in their areas.

It is all very well to say that a £1 million supplement was added to the sum provided for rural improvement schemes in the current year but a considerable saving by way of cuts in road grants has been made this year. In my own county the cut in road grants resulted in a reduction of £86,000 in the original demand. Were it not for the ingenuity and special concern of our councillors and their officials we would have a situation now [260] where some 40 to 50 men would have become redundant as a result. It is all very well for the Minister to say that further sums have been made available for rural improvement schemes. On the other hand we all know that there have been large cuts in road grants throughout the country with resultant unemployment. The very people who were affected by these cut backs are the people who are affected by the dole order. There are in all council areas large crews of casual labour who, because of this cut back, will not be given casual employment this year. Were it not for the concern of county councillors generally to concentrate on high labour content jobs quite a number of their permanent staff would now be unemployed. We have a ridiculous situation obtaining now in regard to two neighbours: the one inside the urban area will continue to draw the £3.30 while the other neighbour because he is outside an imaginary line which means nothing to him no longer draws this money.

I do not wish to cover ground which has already been covered very adequately by Senator Reynolds, which has been covered in the other House and in the news media. However, the Minister ought to have provided employment for those people before he withdrew the unemployment assistance from them. He has, as a result of his action, caused considerable suffering to many people whom I know personally. £3.30 means very little to most people but when it is the only income in a house to supplement an old age pension, a disabled person's allowance, or some other type of social welfare payment, it matters a great deal. Therefore, I would like to add my voice to the many voices already raised to implore the Minister to reconsider this matter.

As Senator Reynalds said, unemployment assistance was only extended to people in rural areas in 1967. No improvements in employment opportunities in rural Ireland have occurred since then. If anything, employment in rural Ireland has declined. We all sincerely hope to see that situation reversed in the years to come. It has not been reversed during the years [261] 1967 to 1971. I wish to join my voice to those already raised to appeal to the Minister to allow those people, who are suffering badly as a result of his action, to continue to draw unemployment assistance.

Mr. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  I am not quite sure if Senator Mrs. Desmond seconded the motion. If she has not done so I would like to second it now. There are a number of aspects of this matter which are relevant and should be considered by the House. There is no doubt that the case made by Senator Reynolds and supported by Senator Desmond with regard to the question of hardship is a matter that will concern Members of the House and one which will influence Members of the House in coming to a decision on this motion.

There are also other factors involved. I want to deal briefly with the question of the apparent blundering that has taken place in connection with this whole matter. If Senators have preserved their Order Paper for the meeting of the Seanad on the 5th May they will see there a list of papers laid before the Seanad. We find in that list at No. 24, Unemployment Assistance (Employment Period) Order, 1971. The next one is Unemployment Assistance (Employment Period) (No. 2 Order), 1971 and about half a dozen items later on we find Unemployment Assistance (Employment Period) (Amendment Order), 1971.

We have here disclosed for posterity to see, in one Order Paper of the Seanad, three separate efforts by the Minister to deal with the making of an Employment Period Order. There is no doubt that the first order made was in clear, simple unambigious terms. Portion of that order read as follows:

The period commencing on the 14th day of April, 1971 and ending on the 16th day of November, 1971 shall be an employment period in respect of the following class of persons, namely, every man who has no dependants.

That was clear, it was unambigious, it was all-embracing. As Senator Reynolds pointed out, that order was made on 1st April. It was followed up [262] without much delay by a circular or directive to the employment exchanges telling them what was in the order and telling them who was to be precluded as a result of the order from receipt of employment assistance.

Again the terms of the circular that was issued were clear, unambigious and all-embracing. It made it quite clear how the matter was to be dealt with in the various employment exchanges. It even went on to deal with reference to deciding officers and the wording of decisions which could be given by deciding officers in relation to applicants who were found to be disqualified by reason of the employment period order which the Minister had made.

That was the order made by the Government. As Senator Reynolds pointed out, it was then unearthed and there was an explosion throughout the country. Voices were raised from every corner. The press were shocked. The news media generally created an outcry which was heard by the Government in the midst of all their other distractions in connection with the internal affairs of their own party. That was the position. I do not wish to do any injustice to the Minister or to his arguments, but as I understand it the Minister then explained that a mistake had been made. He deserves credit for not blaming anyone for the mistake. He made it clear in the Dáil that he, as the political head of his Department is the person with responsibility and that he was prepared to accept that responsibility. The explanation given was that there was some lack of communication regarding the Government decision either to the Department of Finance or as between the Department of Finance and the Minister's own Department. I am not quite clear about this but there was some lack of communication.

I accept the word of any Minister of State who gives a categorical assurance either in or out of the House with regard to his Department. We, in this House, as part of the Legislature, particularly in considering, as we are doing now, a motion to annul the order made by the Minister, are entitled to ask the Minister to let us have sight of the communication that was sent from [263] the Government to either his Department or the Department of Finance. Or was this done verbally? If it was done in writing, presumably the writing has been preserved and is now a record which should be available to be brought before the House. If it was done verbally, was there subsequently a note made of what was stated? If so, can the Minister give us the benefit of that? This is a serious matter as regards the administration of affairs in this country when a mistake in communication can give the kind of effect that the making of the first of these orders could have had if the whole thing had not exploded like a time bomb when it was discovered.

We are entitled to ask the Minister what would have happened if it had not been discovered before the period was due to commence on the 14th April? What kind of compensation or compensatory arrangements would have been made for the people who would have been affected by the making of an order which should never have been made? The Minister, in dealing with this matter in the Dáil, pointed to the fact that during the years when it was customary for these employment period orders to be made, there was always one exception: the orders never applied to the classified urban areas. But this order did. How did this happen? If someone, possibly thinking of the knives out in the Fianna Fáil Party, simply said over his shoulder to an official “Make the usual order”, what order would have been made? Would it not have been the order applying to rural areas and excluding urban areas? We have the Minister on record in the other House as demonstrating that. That was the usual customary order that was made in the past. Something must have been said. Some communication must have been made to the Minister's Department or the Department of Finance to alter that state of affairs and to have the order made so that it would apply to urban as well as rural areas. That is a vital distinction between the initial order made in this case by the Minister and orders made in previous years. I want to know and we are all entitled to know how did it come about that [264] something that was never done before was done on this occasion and that the order was extended to the urban areas. What direction was given so as to bring about that state of affairs? When he was dealing with this in the other House on 22nd April last, the Minister said that it was a simple matter of misunderstanding between the Department of Finance and the interpretation of the Government's decision. It is the simplest thing in the world: to err is human. There was only one definite thing in the order as compared with previous orders. In the past many of these orders have differed in the period covered and in the type of people included, but heretofore they never extended to the 60 urban areas that contribute to the scheme. However the order did apply this time. That was blunder No. 1. Blunder No. 2 apparently was the communication, or the failure in communication, or the incorrect interpretation of the Government decision.

Then the Minister set about trying to remedy the position and, as a result a second order was made. As I understand it, the second order got back to the position in that it was in pretty well similar terms to the orders which normally had been made prior to 1967, and it confined its operation to rural areas. Subsequently, when that was still regarded as entirely unsatisfactory, an amending order to that order was made. There was a series of orders made by the Minister to deal with this situation.

Senator Reynolds referred to the fact that in the Book of Estimates provision is made for a reduction of approximately £1½ million in the moneys which were to be made available for unemployment assistance. As far back as the time the Book of Estimates was being prepared it seems clear that the Government had decided that money was going to be saved on unemployment assistance and that an order was going to be made which was going to save up to £1½ million, or whatever the precise figure is, shown as a decrease in the amount of money to be made available for unemployment assistance. Whatever may be said regarding the hardship [265] involved—and I do not think that that case can be over-emphasised—a great deal can be said about the bungling that was engaged in by the Government in relation to this matter. At this stage in the lifetime of this State, it is not good enough that we should have such bungling, where the livelihood of thousands of people is affected. This is a very serious matter. I know that the Minister was asked whether or not he had any intention of resigning as a result of this. As far as I can recall, hearing him on the radio, the answer was: “Not a hope in the world”. If the Minister has firmly set his mind against relinquishing his post because of this particular error, and if there is any recurrence of blunders of this type in his Department, or in any other Department, by the Ministers who must accept responsibility, may I express the hope that in future they will resign in such circumstances.

Mr. A. O'Brien: Information on Andy OBrien  Zoom on Andy OBrien  Dissatisfaction was was created by this order in more ways than one. The subject matter of the order itself caused dissatisfaction and unrest, and even unhappiness, in many homes. The order was circulated in an unsatisfactory manner and parts of it were rescinded in an equally unsatisfactory manner. The public had been led to believe that this order, was a mistake and the blame appeared to be attributed to some civil servants. That is regrettable because in a survey carried out recently the Irish come next to the Mexicans in their mistrust of civil servants.

Civil servants are a body of officials who have served this country well all down the years, under different Governments, and they have given complete satisfaction. Sometimes they are accused of being too much tied up in red tape and of taking a long time to say “yes” or “no”. Some are accused of being advanced in the art of saying neither “yes” nor “no”. However, they are people of integrity and I believe that they are entitled to the respect of the people and of Members of the Oireachtas. It is to be regretted when it is implied by a Minister that some civil servant bungled somewhere and that an order was circulated which it had never been intended to circulate.

[266] As some speakers before me pointed out, by consulting the Book of Estimates, one may find proof that it was intended to circulate the order. I see where the amount of money allocated to this branch of social assistance was reduced and that must indicate that the Government intended to make a reduction. The circular to the employment exchanges stated:

The Order differs from past Orders in the fact that it will apply to all areas of the country, urban and rural, without exception.

When that is underlined, as it was underlined in the circular to the employment exchanges, we can take it for granted that it was the declared intention of the Government to introduce an order of that kind. It was, therefore, wrong and unjust to lead people to think that some civil servant made a serious blunder, because that might lead people to believe that civil servants are incompetent. It might even lead them to believe that civil servants at times take the liberty of circulating documents without the approval of the Minister of the Department. It might also lead them to believe that a civil servant of sharp practice might place a circular on his Minister's desk at a time when he knew the number of circulars to be signed was so great that the Minister would not have time to read them all. It would be wrong to lead people to believe that our civil servants could be capable of such mis-behaviour. The terms of the circular and the figures in the Book of Estimates point clearly to one factor alone: the blame lies with the Government.

I should like the Minister to explain the reason for the great urgency and why this announcement had to be made on 1st April, and to come into effect 14 days later. The Minister is on record as having said that the problem of the dole is a major one and has to be tackled.

The Minister also said in the Dáil, on 24th April, that the whole system of unemployment assistance, commonly known as “the dole”, will be the subject of examination in the near future. We must face the fact that we are paying money to people who do not fully qualify in accordance with [267] the regulations laid down. The Minister said that the whole system of unemployment assistance, commonly known as the dole, will be the subject of examination in the near future. If this system of unemployment assistance will be the subject of examination in the near future, would not one expect that, for the sake of the £1 million or so involved, the Government could have continued to pay it, and not just suddenly announce on 1st April that as from 14th April to 17th November it will not be available for people in towns or in the country? This was later amended to certain classes of people in the country but, nevertheless, there was a great urgency in making an order, the subject matter of which the Minister has stated must be the subject of examination in the near future. I believe the honourable and the decent way to do it would be to continue to pay the money to these unfortunate people until this examination has been carried out and until an alternative system of helping these people is developed.

The Minister then went on to say that anybody who suffers hardship as a result of this order would be covered by a scheme which would be announced shortly. Would the Minister not agree that the order made or announced the first day would cause a great deal of annoyance to a large number of people, the very class of people who are not equipped to deal with it? Would it not have been a great thing to announce that simultaneously with the changes in the payment of this assistance money, another order would be announced which would help people who might suffer hardship as a result of the first order? This would have been the Christian and humane way to do it.

It was unfortunate that the order was made at a time when there were over 70,000 unemployed people in the country and 25,000-odd on unemployment assistance. I should like to ask whether this scheme which the Minister announced to help people who might suffer hardship has got under way. If it has got under way, how many of these people who are being [268] deprived of the dole are now in gainful employment as a result of the scheme that was introduced or said to be introduced to ameliorate the position? From observations in the other House, it is plain to be seen that the Minister is obviously worried about abuses of the dole and that he thinks it wise to make economies in that sector. The Minister decided to economise on people who were drawing the princely sum of £3.30 or £3.60 in the week. That is like a big business concern that decides economies are necessary and rushes in to make wholesale economies on petty cash.

I am quite sure that there are people on all sides of this House and of the other House who will agree with me that there are more fertile fields for economy than the people who draw the dole. We are very often told when we are considering what salaries should be paid to Government Ministers, Members of Parliament, judges, top-class civil servants and chairman of State-sponsored bodies that we must, in fairness to them, and with due credit to their great ability and to the service they render, take into account what their counterparts are paid in Northern Ireland or in England. If we were to apply the same yardstick to people seeking assistance we would, instead of cutting off their allowances completely in certain cases, be forced to increase them very substantially.

It is greatly to be regretted, from many points of view, that the economies that are so desirable should start among that section of people who are least well able to bear them. There are rumours afloat that Ministers and perhaps Deputies and Senators, judges, top-class civil servants and company directors may soon get a substantial increase in their salaries. If that were to come about, it would help to cause a very deep-rooted mistrust among the people of this country of the motives of the people who are at the head of affairs in this State. We should make an honest effort to divide our wealth equally and not cut off allowances from the most underprivileged sections of the community while we are concurrently thinking of increasing them for the more affluent.

[269] It has been said by way of excuse for this order that work is readily available in rural Ireland between 14th April and the 17th November. I live in rural Ireland and I should like to know what kind of work is available? What will these people do? Who will employ them? Everybody knows that many thousands of farmers are not able to pay the fixed wage that must be paid to men whom they employ. If the worker has to support himself, his wife and family he must get this fixed wage. The wage is fixed as high as it is in order to meet increases in the cost of living for which the Government are, to a large degree, responsible, because of turnover tax and so on. These farmers cannot afford to employ these workers so there is no work available.

Again, because of the fact that the production of milk is now less profitable than the production of beef, people are changing over from milk production to beef production. Some of us are old enough to remember the time when it was regarded as criminal by these who are now in Government to fatten cattle or to have bullocks about the place. The Government's policy in this regard may be wise for one aspect of our economy but it means that there is less and less employment in rural areas.

Other factors contributed to the reduction in the amount of work available in rural Ireland. These things happened over a number of years. If, for example, this Government had thought it wise to continue Section B of the Land Project much gainful employment would be available, employment that would increase the potential wealth-producing capacity of the land of this country. A tremendous amount of good work was done while Section B of the Land Project was in operation. If it were still in operation, land could be made more productive and employment would be available in rural Ireland.

The minor employment scheme, the abolition of which was slipped in almost unknown to many people, gave a good deal of employment in rural Ireland in the construction of laneways, roadways, drainage and so on. [270] This scheme was scrapped some years ago by the present Government. The very terms of this minor employment scheme meant that it provided work in areas of congestion. A certain percentage of people had to be unemployed in every Garda district so that that area could qualify for grants under the scheme. While conditions of employment were worsening in these areas, this scheme was scrapped. The land project went, the minor employment scheme went and work for a number of people in rural Ireland went with them. This was gainful work and work that could add to our production potential.

It will be generally admitted that the tourist industry in this country is going into a bleak period. Hotels cancellations, and cancellations of self-drive cars and buses give that indication. That, too, means that since a number of these hotels are situated in rural areas the seasonal work which they give will be reduced too. I should like to make the observation: if we are going to continue to refuse to give assistance to people under 50 years of age without dependants in rural Ireland and these people cannot find work—and I know that in many cases they cannot—what are they going to do? They have only two alternatives— to go to Britain where prospects of employment are not too good, or to go into the towns. There will be a rush into the towns from rural areas and then we will be back to the situation where people are living in one room. Then you will have urban councils and corporations forced to meet the problem of overcrowding and having to provide increased housing for the influx of people from rural areas, people who are driven into towns because there would be no unemployment assistance for them if they were out of work in rural areas. That is entirely to be regretted and deplored. It will also mean that some of these people will have to receive home assistance and they will have to be assisted from the rates. Some of them may be people who are physically handicapped in various ways and they would have to get disability allowances. That, in turn, will increase the burden on the rates.

[271] What I have said about conditions in rural Ireland does not mean that there is no work potential there. There is work for thousands of people in rural areas on drainage work, such as arterial drainage of rivers and so on. The Government have given no indication whatsoever that they intend to go ahead with that work in the near future. There is no indication in the Budget of vast sums of money being made available to undertake this arterial drainage or land reclamation work which would provide employment in rural areas. It was time enough to make an alteration in the payment of unemployment assistance when schemes of some magnitude had already got under way.

I do not want to introduce anything of a bitter note in this, but I will say, like other speakers, that there is at least one good point in all this bungling and that is that it will forever put an end to Fianna Fáil propagandists going around the country before elections doing their utmost to hammer into the minds of people that if the Fianna Fáil Government are put out of office old age pensioners and social welfare classes and home assistance classes will go to the wall. That is what goes on. They try to make people believe that only one section of the Irish people and only one party in this country subscribe to the teaching of John the Baptist, that if you have two coats you should give to the man who has none at all. Their effort is to convince the people of this country that that doctrine was handed over from John the Baptist to Fianna Fáil and that they, and they alone, practise it. In that way the order will do this much good. It will prevent these people from being intimidated and being led astray. Now that we have seen what happened on the dole, we can hope for the day when we will have a more objective examination on the part of people of the policies put before them by various candidates seeking election.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. J. Brennan): Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I will hold the House up only for a short time because we had a discussion in the Dáil before and the [272] pattern of the debate has not changed much.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Michael D. Lyons  Zoom on Michael D. Lyons  On a point of order, are other speakers to be allowed after the Minister has intervened?

Acting Chairman (Mr. Sheldon): Information on William Alexander Sheldon  Zoom on William Alexander Sheldon  Oh, yes.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on John J Brennan  Zoom on John J Brennan  There is a good effort being made to kill a fly with a sledge hammer, but there is a hope that a good deal of mileage may be got out of the propaganda value of this employment period order.

Before I go into what may be described as purely the propaganda end of it, I want to talk about the events which led up to the making of the order and what is described as a mistake in communication or otherwise. Let me remind Senators that when I refused to make the order in 1967—first the order was made and then it was revoked—there was not the slightest criticism, because there was no advantage to be gained by condemning the making and revoking of the order then.

This time it was suggested that the employment period order would be made as usual and the Government decided that the order would be made this year. After a good deal of thought and consideration, it was decided that it should fall as easily as possible, and that the blow should not fall where it would hurt most and that those with dependants would be excluded from the order. That is where any misunderstanding of communication comes in. That was the only way in which the order would differ from all its predecessors of 30 years, in that it would not apply to persons with dependants. In the drafting and the communication between the Minister and the Department, the order was drafted to include all men without dependants. When that was discovered, it was corrected. I cannot see any great crime in correcting——

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  It took three orders——

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on John J Brennan  Zoom on John J Brennan  Just a moment now. The Senator has already made his contribution. I did not see any great [273] crime in correcting the order, and in producing an order more in keeping with the first one, which I did. There was a good deal of discussion about it, mainly at our party meeting, as I said in the Dáil. We had the message back from every part of the country. Our party is representative of every section of the people. We got the message: a section of our people who would suffer severely. I want to talk about that section in a moment. We decided to amend the order to exclude those over 50 and those living on islands. There was not a third order, as Senator Reynolds has said—that was an amended order excluding those over 50 and those living on islands, which I think was a very good thing.

I remember Mr. Dillon, both as Minister and as a Member of the Dáil, castigating the Fianna Fáil Government for never changing their minds on anything. They were rigid; they were a dictatorship, they would not yield or bend to public opinion. Because they would not, they were called dictators and said to be intolerable. But now, when the Government do so, to improve something, it is taken as a sign of weakness. I do not take much notice of that. The important thing is that the order was changed twice. It was changed for the better each time and nobody objected to that when speaking here. Now they are asking me to change it again. If it was a crime to change it twice, why ask me to change it again? That is what is being asked. Since it was such a serious thing to make two orders already, I must refrain from making the third order.

Many of the Senators speaking here blundered into disclosing the real point behind this. The last speaker mentioned retarded persons and persons not physically fit. If I wanted to enforce ruthlessly the provisions of the Unemployment Assistance Acts, I would cut most of those people off the dole anyhow. I have never rigidly enforced those provisions. I did not enforce the provision that a person must be capable of, available for and genuinely seeking employment and unable to obtain it.

If these provisions were rigidly [274] applied to the categories Senators are talking about, those people would be left without anything. That is the reason why I made a reference in the Dáil to the examination and classification we are now carrying out to see in which way we can provide these people with benefits without giving them the dole. When a man goes out to those people who are disabled or retarded or compelled to be at home with old people for whom they are caring, or maybe it is an invalid brother or sister, he finds that they are certifying by solemn declaration each week that they are available for employment. Of course, we know they are not, or have not been. We have not been rigidly enforcing the provisions of the Employment Assistance Acts.

Let us get a scheme which will provide for these people and give them more than they now get, but let us not require them to trot to the barracks and make a declaration which is not true. Every Member of this House knows that, too. That is the reason why the present order has done some good. It has got people who have been sneering at the dole and slighting it for years past to come out on the side of it —and that includes the Press, too.

We have been accused of paying the dole to collect votes. Nobody ever saw anything good in it until now when they found there was some propaganda value in saying it was cut off. The amount of the benefit was £3 6s. We are paying the average which a man was drawing, because there was a means test. The average he was drawing was somewhere in the vicinity of £2 18s. A man now gets £17 for working one week with the county council in the worst of counties. If he gets three weeks' work on one of the schemes which will be made available as a result of the extra half million pounds to the western counties it will certainly make up for what he has lost during his entire dole period. A man under 50 years of age in the worst part of Ireland may obtain that.

Let nobody here for a moment try to convince me that there is not much difference between now and 1957, when there were 91,000 people unemployed and Deputy Corish, as Minister for [275] Social Welfare, signed an order twice in the year cutting off even the people with dependants. Where did they find work? Where did they find work when that is not available now? We are told now that machinery is “the man on the farm”. It is said that machinery is being so much used on the farms that work is not now available. I had numerous complaints about the unavailability of labourers during the summer season. The Agricultural Wages Board are one group which made specific official protest or representation to my Department. Farmers could not find labourers to employ during the busy season.

Then people jumped on the band wagon with the cry that the dole was being taken away. Of course, this serves as a means of getting a knife at the Government. It was good stuff to do it. Nobody took the thing seriously. I thought that we would have had a more realistic approach to it here and that out of the debate on this we would have had many more suggestions as to what could be done by way of providing a pool of work which would provide these people with some means of contributing to the State for the money they are getting.

One Senator said that there were millions of pounds of potential work in rural Ireland. He is perfectly right. We have bog roads and accommodation roads, tourist roads, landing jetties, drainage schemes, arterial drainage, houses for old people, public parks, and community centres. We could spend millions, and yet we are paying £9 million to people for being unemployed. It must be possible to marry the two somehow: a man receiving a certain weekly amount should be required to contribute to the amount he is getting, to do something for the country and by so doing uplift his morale. He would be much happier earning it than tramping down to the barracks for his unemployment money. If there is a section of our people who cannot participate in that type of scheme, let them have their benefits. Let them have their small farm subsidy. Let their standard of living not be impaired by any withdrawal of the money, but let them not be tramping [276] down to the barracks to make a false declaration in order to obtain it.

I do not think there is any serious difference between the orders. I was looking at the employment period orders that were made down through the years. During the war years everybody was taken off. In 1948, for example, from 17th March to 26th October occupiers of land exceeding £4 in rateable valuation who were resident outside county and other boroughs, urban districts or other towns having local government were affected. From the 16th June to 26th October all persons resident outside county or other boroughs, urban districts or other towns having local government who did not come within the scope of the First Order of 1948 were, with a few exceptions, affected. These were the orders which cut off men with dependants in a year when there were 91,000 people signing on. None of them died, but there was very little talk from the people who are shedding crocodile tears now about a rather limited order that I had made, and very little credit has been given to me for amending it twice, each time improving the situation.

I do not think we are realistic about this. My Department has a research section which is dealing with the classification of persons in receipt of unemployment assistance and benefits. There is a sizable task to be done there. It may have to be applied on a pilot basis at the beginning. But it is a worthwhile job, and it had to be done sometime. If this has brought it nearer to fruition, it is good. I can assure the Seanad that we are keeping the position well under review. One day those who are now seeking to make propaganda out of what might be the plight of the weaker sections will be very sorry for attempting it.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Michael D. Lyons  Zoom on Michael D. Lyons  I rise to support the motion. In spite of what the Minister, who is a gentlemanly man and who never attempts to hurt the feelings of anybody, has said, surely it is up to an Opposition in any Parliament to make capital out of the mistakes made by a Government, and surely never in the history of any Government in a [277] democratic country has such a mistake as this one been made. People say the Civil Service is a machine, a machine which never thinks but which never makes mistakes. Therefore, it is unlikely that the civil servants could make a mistake in a particular order issued by a Minister and presumably on a decision by a Government. Surely regardless of what the Minister says and the ambiguity into which he went in the latter part of his statement—I could not follow it—when he referred to the war years when everybody was taken off the dole and when there was nobody at home because there was so much factory work in England at the time that people were going from the farms who had never left the country before. That was the first time our girls left this country to go to England.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on John J Brennan  Zoom on John J Brennan  That is not correct. We had an influx of people back from England during the war.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Michael D. Lyons  Zoom on Michael D. Lyons  I can tell you that the case you were making was that a particular order was made. You were trying to justify the fact that orders were made every year according to circumstances. Did you, or anybody else, think before making this order, whether it was the first order, whether it was the amended order or the order amended for the second time, of the effect it would have on the recipients? I am not talking about a party, I am not talking about its effects politically. I am talking about its effects on the people in Mayo, Galway, Kerry, Donegal and Cavan who were cut off suddenly from the money they were getting to sustain themselves. What alternative did you give them? You talk glibly about other schemes being prepared to provide employment for those people. I am chairman of Mayo County Council and I do not know of any scheme that you have prepared to provide work for those people tomorrow, next week or next year.

Acting Chairman:  Would the Senator please address the Chair because it gets confusing if you keep accusing the Chair of doing odd things.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Michael D. Lyons  Zoom on Michael D. Lyons  Certainly, I will address [278] my remarks to the Chair. Because the Minister made such pointed remarks I, unfortunately, am addressing my remarks to the Minister. I would ask the Minister's pardon, as well, for that.

Let me bring the case closer to hand. The people I am talking about were suddenly deprived of any means of subsistence and were left with only one alternative—home assistance. The rates in County Mayo are among the highest in Ireland, but those people had no alternative but to fall back on the ratepayers whose burden is already more than they can carry. If that was a good Government decision, carefully thought out, it beats me. That was the decision. There was another choice for those people to go “tatie-hoking” to Scotland and England. We know from the Press and from the efforts of certain clergymen who were trying to do something about “tatie-hoking” the type of life offered to them as an alternative by the Minister's order.

It is a long time now since another Donegal man, Pat McGill, wrote a book entitled The Children of the Dead End. In that book he portrayed the vicissitudes of life of the “tatie-hokers”. That was written more than 50 years ago and, of course, it was banned at the time because the circumstances of that case could not be portrayed to the general public. Nowadays, thanks to the mass media, everybody is aware of the circumstances under which these people are forced to live. That was the only alternative, together with home assistance, that was given to those people. The Minister said that some people are drawing the dole under false pretences. Of course, they are drawing it under false pretences. What alternative have they? Has the Minister, or the Government, set up any other organisation to deal with those people who have been taken off the dole? We know very well that the Government have been trying to take disability allowances away from people and put them on home assistance which involves a saving for the Government at the expense of the ratepayers. This is common knowledge and every member of a local authority here knows it.

Many of the people affected by the [279] order are under 50 years of age. They are obliged to stay at home on a small farm to keep their parents supplied with the necessaries of life. Many people say that the children's love for their parents in rural Ireland is dead. It is not. It is the only reason why these people stay at home. They could be earning up to £50 a week in England—not in Dublin, Cork or elsewhere in Ireland—but for the fact that they have to look after their parents.

Acting Chairman:  May I interrupt the Senator? It is now six o'clock which is the normal time for suspending the business of the House.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  It is a matter for the Seanad to decide if they wish to suspend business.

Acting Chairman:  I take it that there are still several people who wish to speak. Perhaps we had better adjourn until 7.30 p.m.

Business suspended at 6.5 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Michael D. Lyons  Zoom on Michael D. Lyons  Before business was suspended I was talking about the effects of the order and various other orders on the recipients of what was commonly known as the dole and I pointed out that while there is such a thing as the dole, as the Minister so rightly said earlier, there will be people under that umbrella who are not legally entitled to the dole, because they are able to work. I also pointed out that many people affected by the orders were people who would not be on the dole except for the fact that they had to stay in rural Ireland to look after relatives. These cases are not isolated and if they did not stay, the relatives would have to be put into institutions at far more expense to the community than is incurred by payment of the assistance they are getting.

This is something that must be remedied and whether the time is now ripe for the remedy remains to be seen. The Minister said, and I agree with him, that if this debate opened people's minds to the whole situation and led to an attempt to initiate a [280] remedy for this situation it would have performed a useful service.

In political life many people would say that the blanket of charity might be thrown over the mistakes of a Department or a Government. The hard facts of life are that no Opposition Party can afford to throw the blanket of charity over the mistakes of the Government and should not, in any circumstances, do so. Therefore, it is right that when what people regard as a mistake has been made and when something inhuman, in the circumstances prevailing, has been done or attempted to be done by a Government, this must be exposed, and properly so, in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The changes that have been made have been pointed out by other Senators and I do not wish to be repetitive. The number of orders made and the amendments to them have been designated here in the debate. I do not wish to follow that line. The cumulative effect of the various orders is what I am thinking about. There are people on all sides of the House who know that there will be hardship imposed by the order whether as amended or in its original form. This hardship is something which concerns all of us. The Government must take immediate steps to ensure that the people who are out of employment through the orders of the Minister must get employment in their local areas and must not have to go tatie-hoking to Scotland, or go on outdoor relief, or home assistance as we call it in the west because there is nothing else open to them. I could go back into the history of the dole or, as it is called, unemployment assistance. Why was it started originally? It was a product of the economic war, when unemployment assistance was given to small farmers, because their livelihood was affected through Government action, through Fianna Fáil action at that time. The Government felt that they should bring in something in order to endeavour to repay small farmers for the suffering they had to undergo during the economic war.

For years unemployment assistance was used as a political tool to keep certain sections of the people voting for [281] the Government party. Expediency was the motivating factor behind the social welfare policy of the Fianna Fáil Government—expediency designed to get the poorer classes to support them at election time. This is a sorry fact and one that cannot be denied. I know there are members of the Fianna Fáil Party who want to see that matter remedied at once because what will be the result? The proud, small farmer of Ireland and the worker became a mendicant who had to go, cap in hand, who had to kowtow to the local big-wig of the Fianna Fáil Party in order to get what he was entitled to by law. He also had to say: “I am going to vote in the right camp if I get it.” There was also an inherent threat: “Well, my boy, if you do not vote in the right camp, we are not saying that you are going to be deprived of something but there is danger.” This has happened, time and time again. This is political history. I have been involved in the political history of my native place for many years and I know that this is true. It causes laughter but there is a certain amount of shame behind the laughter because the truth is there and it can never be denied.

I should like the Government to bring in some measure to give back their self-respect to people who have been deprived of earning a living. It has been mentioned by the Minister and by other speakers that there is a large amount of work to be done all over rural Ireland in drainage, road-making, afforestation, and in the beautifying of the countryside. However, it was wrong to deprive any section—especially the poorer and the lowest paid people in the land—in order to save a few hundred thousand ponnds by amending the order. It is quite clear that instead of saving £1½ million—which appeared to be the amount involved in the first order—it may now happen that the saving will be less than half what was originally intended. The Minister said that people over 50 years were not going to be affected, that they were to receive unemployment assistance, as heretofore, and that the islanders were going to continue as before. If we are going to have this series of mistakes engendered [282] by thoughtlessness, or by error, or by whatever action was taken to save half a million or more pounds, then I am afraid that it was an exercise in the wrong direction. However, it may have taught a lesson to the Minister and to the Government. It may have taught us all a lesson that first and foremost if you are going to balance a Budget you do not do it at the expense of the poorer people. It may also teach a lesson to the Fianna Fáil representatives who, in the past, had always taken the Cumann na nGaedheal Government to task because they took a “tanner” off the old age pensions.

Senators:  A shilling.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Michael D. Lyons  Zoom on Michael D. Lyons  I stand corrected. It may possibly have been 5 new pence. However, they can no longer stand on the platforms and say: “Well, you do not deserve to go back into power because you took a shilling off the old age pensioners.” The answer to that would be: “Well, you tried to shoot down the poor Government.” In the absence of a plan to absorb these people, this action was unwarranted, unjustified and unjustifiable.

Mr. McGlinchey: Information on Bernard McGlinchey  Zoom on Bernard McGlinchey  In asking the Minister to annul the Unemployment Period Order, I presume that this evening, at any rate, the Fine Gael Party believe that the dole system, as we knew it to 14th April, was a good one. Here I detect a considerable amount of insincerity on the part of Fine Gael. For years they have conducted a whispering campaign against this system and from every election platform throughout Ireland charges have been made, and have been repeated here this evening, that Fianna Fáil were using the dole to buy votes. While some people in rural Ireland might have been prepared to believe these statements of Fine Gael at election times, I felt that both Senator O'Brien and Senator Lyons, who repeated them this evening, were doing so with their tongues in their cheeks. It is unfounded charges of this kind that have kept Fine Gael in the Opposition for so long.

Every speaker who talks on this motion should be consistent. The first [283] public speech that I ever made, 14 or 15 years ago, was one calling on the Fianna Fáil Government to change the dole system. I believe that the system, as we know it, is wrong and I believe that every Member of the Fine Gael Party in this House also feels that this system is wrong and is in need of improvement. I listened with interest to hear if any of the speakers whose names are to this motion would suggest ways and means of improving this system, but they were more concerned about making political propaganda out of mistakes, or alleged mistakes, than about dealing——

Dr. Belton: Information on Richard Belton  Zoom on Richard Belton  This is not done in the Seanad.

Mrs. Farrell: Information on Peggy Farrell  Zoom on Peggy Farrell  It has been done by Senator Lyons.

Mr. McGlinchey: Information on Bernard McGlinchey  Zoom on Bernard McGlinchey  ——with the motion or with the system as we know it. I should like to see a number of improvements in this scheme. The recent controversy will give the Minister an opportunity of reviewing the entire system. In his speech he referred to the number of disabled people who were not eligible for the dole but who were receiving it. I should like to see these people taken completely out of this category and paid a disability allowance. I should also like to see the small farmers taken out of this category. The small farmers are as much entitled to a subsidy based on an incentive basis as are industrialists, hoteliers or anyone else. Many of them, because they have been in receipt of unemployment assistance, have left themselves open to scorn and ridicule at the street corners and in publichouses. Indeed, only a few weeks ago I heard of one being attacked because he had 12 cows. He was selling milk to the creamery and he was able to sell his potatoes to a local institution by tender. That man was attacked because he was in receipt of the dole. Apparently my informant believed that it is only the layabouts who should be paid and that those who have initiative and incentive should not.

It would be in the interests of small farming if the small farmer category [284] were removed to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and a scheme introduced to pay them a subsidy on an incentive bonus and so taking them out of the dole category altogether. This would leave two types of people— those who are prepared to work and who are unable to find employment and those who are not prepared to work. I strongly disagree with the principle that any able-bodied man should be paid money for doing nothing. Whether this is good politics or bad politics on my part is immaterial. I do not feel that anyone should be given money for nothing if he is able to work. It encourages sloth and discourages incentive. We all know of people who have managed to stay on the dole for many years and have no interest in work. Some years ago some members of the Government were interested in formulating a scheme through the Board of Works, the Department of Local Government and the Department of Social Welfare—indeed, I think the late Donogh O'Malley was involved in it—whereby receipients of unemployment assistance who were capable of working would spend so many days a week working for either the Board of Works or the local authority. My information at that time was that it was “knocked” by the civil servants in the Department of Social Welfare. I do not know if this is true or not but I would certainly urge the Minister to initiate another review and introduce a scheme whereby people who are receiving dole money could work for a number of days in order to justify receipt of it. It is possible that if the Department of Labour offered employers a grant of some description if they employed many of the able-bodied men who are in receipt of the dole, more people would be employed as a result and the dole would be cut out altogether. Admittedly, it is very difficult to introduce a scheme that will not create some type of abuse. I only regret that this order was made without a substitute being ready. But whatever about that, if, as a result of this order, as a result of the debates on it and as a result of all the opinions expressed throughout the land, we get a system that will encourage initiative and incentive [285] in this country then, perhaps, this controversy will have been well worthwhile.

Mr. W. O'Brien: Information on William O'Brien  Zoom on William O'Brien  The injustice of this order has been recognised by all parties. I was surprised when the Minister intervened during the debate and referred to the propaganda being made out of this by the people on this side of the House. The propaganda really started on 22nd April in the other House. It was not started by the Opposition. I read an account of the debate in the newspaper. A Fianna Fáil Deputy and a Dublinman, Des Foley, made it very clear that his conscience would not permit him to vote. A Kerry Deputy was missing rather than face the Kerry people. A Mayo Deputy decided to leave the party rather than run the risk of meeting the people of Mayo. Quite recently again there was a contribution from an ex-Minister, Mr. Boland, who described this order as a kind of kite flying try-on-order. How then can the Minister accuse Senators of being insincere? I believe most of the propaganda started on the other side.

I was in Donegal for a by-election recently. It was my duty, as it is the duty of every party man irrespective of the party he represents, to canvass the people of that constituency. In the vast majority of the houses which I entered I was told indirectly that they could not support our candidate because they had been told that if they supported a Fine Gael candidate they would lose the dole. I now wonder how that Minister and his colleagues and Senators across the way can go to Mayo and tell the people that Fianna Fáil won the by-election but their people lost the dole.

I know a number of people who cannot get employment at the moment. It has been argued—as a worker I can see the point—that a man would be much better off to work for his wages. I am a member of the Limerick County Council which decided 18 months ago to take over 24 miles of culs-de-sac as public roads. We had to apply to the Department for sanction for a loan of £24,000. We only applied for permission to raise the loan. We [286] never got that permission. As a result, we could never carry out the repair of the road. We have no employment in that area.

It has been said that the extra money voted will give employment. I do not see that it will. Even at this very late stage I would ask the Minister to reconsider his decision, because it is absolutely essential that people who are unable to get work, or who are unable to work, should have some means of livelihood. As somebody said here today—and it drew laughter from the other side of the House—there was criticism of other Governments in the past. I have heard that, too, criticism of Governments who interfered with or reduced social welfare when people so badly needed it. But it must not be forgotten that at the time referred to money was very difficult to obtain. A lot of money was wasted in this country in building and re-building the nation and in defending the policy which is now being defended by the Taoiseach and some of his colleagues. I sincerely hope that the Minister will see his way to amend the order.

Mr. McGowan: Information on Paddy McGowan  Zoom on Paddy McGowan  I shall try as far as possible not to cover ground that has already been covered. This is a very good subject on which to make a political speech. Most rural representatives, regardless of whether we are told it was blundering or bungling, or whatever allegations are made, are prepared to accept this if we see a change. I have attended many meetings with the Minister and I am aware of the amount of pressure that was brought to bear on him by people who were quite interested in the rural population, who are very much involved and who are meeting him from day to day, and I can assure the House that there was no playing at politics at those meetings. At those meetings requests were made for a change in this system.

There is plenty of ground to make a case for and against it, because we are dealing with people. Somebody said we should go back to the start and to the reasons why unemployment assistance was started. I think it was a scheme to rescue people who were in the hiring fairs back in the bad days. [287] All too often we have to live with legislation which is outdated and certainly there was plenty of scope here for change. If we are spending £9 million a year, many Senators on both sides must be satisfied that there was waste here and that this sum of money was not being spent as well as it could be and those who needed this benefit were not getting their share.

There are several aspects of it on which I should like to see many more changes, and several aspects with which I do not agree at all. I do not agree that benefits should have been discontinued in rural areas when they are being continued in urban areas. This is tipping the scale further against the rural worker, as you have the incentive to reside in urban areas becoming greater and greater every day. In urban areas is is much easier to get a house, much easier to get a job and you are sure to have electricity and running water, sanitary facilities, schools and transport available to you. The incentive to live in urban areas is much greater than it is to live in rural areas, and we have people who come along and say “Save the West” and we have campaigns, speeches and so forth. We had no political line-up in Fianna Fáil. We are all free to discuss this openly.

One other thing which I should like is a balanced approach to this: that a rural dweller is as entitled to benefit as much as an urban dweller. I hope that when the Minister is considering this matter further he will make no discrimination against the rural dweller.

There is one further aspect of this unemployment assistance which I should like to have considered, and that is where the income is calculated on valuation. The present system militates against the rural dweller, especcially in poorer counties, counties like Donegal, Mayo, or Leitrim. The present system calculates £20 per £ valuation and this is unfair. I hope that the Minister will review this and adjust it. My calculation is that £10 per £ valuation would be a fairer figure, because if a man has a small holding with a valuation of £10 his income is [288] assessed at £200 under the present system. Not alone have we to take into account the actual benefit of which he is deprived, but there are many benefits which go side by side with it which could be terminated when the income is assessed. He may not qualify for a medical card or for hospital treatment. All these things will have to be taken into consideration. I should like the Minister to give further consideration to this and accept that there is room for review here. I sincerely hope that this is only the start and that further amendments will be brought in here. I have already talked to the Minister and I hope that he will make it easier for those who will not now qualify to get jobs and that they will have an opportunity to get jobs on equal terms with men who qualify.

We have a problem in rural areas where preference is given to a married man to get a job, let it be on a local authority road works or forestry. I hope that the Minister will see that equal opportunity is given to men who may not now qualify. I think that he will sympathetically consider this.

I saw a film recently made in Strabane, County Tyrone. The film showed in very great detail all the ill effects of unemployment benefit. It showed the outlook and ambition of a man who is drawing unemployment benefit. He generally goes into the employment exchange in the town or village, has a few “jars” and then goes to the betting office. He is afraid to work; he is afraid to be seen working and this is the attitude that destroys a man's interest in work. There will be many arguments for and against these changes, but I hope that the Government will have the courage to continue because there is a groundswell of support for the Minister, regardless of particular sections. I hope the Minister will have the courage and determination really to go into this and to produce a scheme that will give the benefit to those who need it most. I certainly see no lack of opportunity while money can be provided, whether it is for accommodation roads, industries or other development. These are areas in which money can be spent. I sincerely hope that there will be much more discussion [289] of the scheme, that the Government will review it continually and that we will have a scheme more acceptable to the public in general.

Most people in business are paying tax directly or indirectly; they are paying rates and they are contributing one way or the other to the scheme. They are anxious to maintain and support those who are in need of support, but they are also anxious to know how the money is being spent. The Government have a duty and responsibility to review this and to keep it up to date with present day needs.

Ruairí Brugha: Information on Ruairí Brugha  Zoom on Ruairí Brugha  Listening to some of the speakers on this motion I have concluded that a little bit too much has been made of the whole affair. Before the adjournment I was posing the question to myself: is this indignation because of hardship or alleged hardship in the final order introduced, or is it because of an error which has been admitted? In part the question has been answered by Senator Lyons rather honestly and I quote him: “It is up to the Opposition to make capital out of mistakes by the Government.” It seems to me that is what a lot of the talk has been about.

The Minister, both here and in the Dáil, has set out the position of the orders as they now stand. The order is a limited one applying only to single able-bodied men under 50 years of age. It excludes everybody in urban areas; it excludes people with dependants; it excludes all those over 50, and, in addition, I assume, all those who are incapacitated. It has been admitted that an error was made and that this error has been corrected. I think that is sufficient.

To me the whole principle of payment of dole or unemployment assistance has a demoralising effect. All Senators will agree with this in practice because in too many cases it becomes, as some Senators have said, a disincentive to work. It is much better for a man's self-respect if he can be paid for work done rather than that he should be a charitable dependant on the State, assuming that he is able to work.

In the past week or two I came [290] across several cases, not much more than ten miles from this House, of young men who up to a few weeks ago were known to have remained in bed up to midday and even after, but in the past couple of weeks they have been out working. I think this is the key to the question of young men who had lost the will to work because of payment of unemployment assistance. I also know, over the past couple of years, since the original order of 1967 was introduced, of areas in the west where able-bodied men have because of the dole been refusing to work where work was available, or were only willing to work for a few weeks so as to qualify and then not to work any more. I know of areas where work on houses has stopped.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Michael D. Lyons  Zoom on Michael D. Lyons  They do not have to qualify for unemployment assistance. They qualify for unemployment benefit by working for a period of time.

Ruairí Brugha: Information on Ruairí Brugha  Zoom on Ruairí Brugha  We know that. Perhaps it is better not to go into it but I know of contractors in the west who are not in a position to state the situation because they might never get people to work for them any more. I am all in favour of the idea to which the Minister has referred, which has been under consideration for a number of years, of creating a pool of work from which unemployment payment could be made. I strongly urge the Minister that in examining the whole system he should try if at all possible to implement a scheme of this kind.

As I said, too much has been made of error and confusion. So much has been made of it that the underlying principle has been lost sight of: that where possible a man should have to earn his living. Too many people amongst the Opposition and outside the two Houses do not seem to be able to see anything good being done by a Fianna Fáil Government. They see everything in terms of disaster. I chose to see in this measure a courageous attempt, a beginning, by the Government to clean up a system of payment for not working which tends to destroy the moral fibre of too many people and keeps this nation from getting down to work and making a success of [291] itself. I would urge the Minister very strongly, as other Senators have done, that he should go into this matter with vigour and try to change the system. The change that has been made in this respect is a small one but it is a good beginning and I commend the Minister for it and assure him of my support.

Mr. Farrell: Information on Joseph Farrell  Zoom on Joseph Farrell  I have been listening carefully to the speakers in the opposite benches this evening. I formed the opinion that if a stranger came in here and sat listening to the Opposition people the only conclusion he could come to would be that the Fianna Fáil Party were the enemy of the working classes. Of course, the working class people and the small farmers are well aware that this is not so. I am probably the only one in this House who ever signed for the dole and I did so in the twenties. If there was any work to be given out by the county council through the labour exchange the qualification to get that work was if you had served in the Free State or British Army. If you had served in the Free State or British Army you were not asked if you were married or single. If a married man with ten or 12 children who had not served in either of those armies was there he was passed over.

A Senator:  Are you sure that was not Cumann na nGaedheal?

Mr. Farrell: Information on Joseph Farrell  Zoom on Joseph Farrell  That was Cumann na nGaedheal——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  The Chair is not quite clear as to the relevance of this.

Mr. Farrell: Information on Joseph Farrell  Zoom on Joseph Farrell  ——and this was the position. I want to remind Senators——

Mr. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  I suppose at some stage the Senator will refer to the motion.

Mr. Farrell: Information on Joseph Farrell  Zoom on Joseph Farrell  I will surely.

Mr. McGlinchey: Information on Bernard McGlinchey  Zoom on Bernard McGlinchey  Does it hurt?

Mr. Farrell: Information on Joseph Farrell  Zoom on Joseph Farrell  I will refer to it. A lot of people who spoke on the far side, including Senator O'Higgins, did not refer to the motion. When Fianna Fáil came to power in 1932 the regulation was changed——

[292]Mr. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  They have changed it again in 1971.

Mr. Farrell: Information on Joseph Farrell  Zoom on Joseph Farrell  Wait a minute. We will come to that. The regulation is and has been, since Fianna Fáil came into power, that a man with dependants gets the work. Someone mentioned how unemployment assistance came into being, that it was through the economic war. He made the suggestion that the economic war was, of course, the fault of Fianna Fáil. He conveniently forgets that it was the British Government, ably abetted by the then Cumann na nGaedheal Party trying to pull down the Fianna Fáil Government, that caused the economic war.

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  The Chair would prefer to hear less of these historical ramifications.

Mr. Farrell: Information on Joseph Farrell  Zoom on Joseph Farrell  I am sorry. We come now to this order which was made by the Minister three short weeks ago.

Mr. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Which of them?

Mr. Farrell: Information on Joseph Farrell  Zoom on Joseph Farrell  The Senator says there were three but there was only one. If you people were really in earnest why were you not so eloquent during the two terms when we had a Coalition Government? The same set of conditions prevailed then and your Minister for Social Welfare, during those two terms, signed a similar order to that which has been signed this year and which you now find, or pretend to find, so dangerous and so bad.

I am fully behind the Minister's action for which he gave his reasons. Somebody here said—and it was stated on television last night by the Leader of your party—that the Fianna Fáil Government is a weak Government. No matter how weak that Government is the people of this country realise that a Fianna Fáil Government will do more for them than the people on the far side of the House.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Thomas P Flanagan  Zoom on Thomas P Flanagan  At the beginning I had intended to speak on this motion but, as I saw the debate developing. I changed my mind. However, as one [293] who had to administer schemes and look after the expenditure of money which was devoted to providing employment instead of dole to the people, I cannot possibly let the suggestion pass that there was irregularity in the giving of employment or that, as the chief administrator in my county, I ever departed to the slightest extent from the conditions which were laid down for me. Those conditions were that lists of unemployed people should be got from the labour exchanges and a preference of work would have to be given, in every case, to those in receipt of the highest dole. That was the position when I was in charge of the administration of the funds over many years. That is the position today.

There was a time, of course, when the dole was not politics. At one time the dole was necessary. I remember, particularly during the years 1939-1945, when migratory labourers were no longer able to go to England because of the danger of being conscripted and when we had a tremendous number of unemployed people willing to work in the country and particularly in my own county, that an increase in the amount of dole was made available. That fact brought about more criticism than the changes that have been made in the recent regulations. The fact that men were to receive something for doing nothing was absolutely repugnant to the vast majority of the people of the county and, I think, of the people of the country. On every side the cry was raised: “If you only make them dig a hole and fill it again, make them do something rather than give them money for nothing.”

The clamour against providing the dole to able-bodied men was so great that the cry was heard on every side: “Work should be provided.” Even, as I have already said, if the county council was prepared—I am speaking now as a chief engineer in the county council at the time—to provide any type of work it would be better than giving men money for doing nothing. That is what we were told. Money was provided for schemes and men employed then, as now, had to be recruited through the labour exchanges. We had so many men available that work was given on the basis of rotational [294] employment; two, three or four days work a week in proportion to the amount of dole of which a particular man was in receipt. Those in receipt of the highest amount of dole had to be called first. This did not turn out to be popular because the difference between what they earned for the two, three or four days and what they would have been paid in dole was so little that the men objected to doing the work. They realised that they were working for a few shillings.

During that time many useful schemes—bog and village roads, drainage of lands and drainage of roads, cutting dangerous corners, filling dangerous hollows on main roads which were liable to flooding, the reclamation of land suitable for tillage and work of that type—were undertaken. Those who had land of their own suitable for employment found that it was now much more lucrative for them to go and do something on their own land rather than go out and work on the roads for the difference between the dole and the payment for two or three days work. Many of those people went back to their land and started reclaiming and working on it.

When the fuel crisis arose work on turf production on a piece rate basis, which was the basis on which I operated in Mayo, was available and whole families began to avail of this work. Their earnings were very considerable. I remember on one occasion I visited a district near Louisburgh to make some inquiries. I called to a house and told the woman of the house who I was. She asked me if I was the man who was in charge of the turf production and I said I was. She began to praise me and bless me because she said they had England and America at home. In other words, the earnings from turf production on a family basis were equivalent to what they would have got in England and America if the family had emigrated.

My view then was that, when the war ended and our people had an opportunity of working at home or emigrating, the dole should cease. This was not good politics and the dole was continued when it should not have been.

[295] I remember a meeting in the Engineers' Hall in Dawson Street. It was attended by county managers, county engineers, city engineers and Department officials. I do not know who was Minister for Local Government at that time but Deputy Paddy Smith was Parliamentary Secretary in charge of the Office of Public Works. During the course of the debate I spoke on the question of dole and I repeat what I then said, that history will carve a niche for the man who has the courage to abolish the dole.

Immediately that meeting was over Deputy Paddy Smith called me aside and said he would like to have a discussion with me on the remarks I had made. He brought me to his office and I spent two hours there while he searched my soul for the reason for my remark. It was my firm conviction then, as it is today, that the dole should be abolished, but I did not convince Deputy Smith to take any steps in this direction.

Later on during my career there was a meeting in the Custom House at which the same council officials— county managers, engineers, and city engineers—were present. On this occasion the Minister for Local Government was the late Deputy “Pa” O'Donnell, go ndeanfaí Dia tróchaire ar a anam. During the debate on employment and dole, I pointed out the difficulties I was having in some areas in County Mayo where there was work available and quite a large number of men on the dole—that we had got lists of unemployed people from the dole office but still nobody turned out to work. I pointed out that people were engaged on drift net fishing, drawing dole at the same time and unavailable for work which was readily obtainable. I felt that those people should either come out to work or lose the dole. I remember the Minister asking me, “Do you think that drift net fishing can be reckoned as employment?” I said, “I do, it is very lucrative employment.” He said, “That is all you know about it,” or something to that effect. The men continued on the drift net fishing, continued drawing the dole and we had no men to fill the [296] jobs we had available. In one case it was a Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Secretary I was dealing with; on another occasion it was a Fine Gael Minister; but in either case, no man in those times had the courage to do what he should have done and that is take stock of what the position was due to paying money to people for doing no work.

On that day I pointed out to the Minister for Local Government that I knew of people who were offered employment in the towns of Castlebar and Westport cultivating gardens and work such as that. When asked what wages they would expect for the work they said, “The wages do not matter so much as a few stamps on our cards”. There was no doubt that that was an abuse which was rampant in rural areas where men worked for stamps in order to qualify for the dole or unemployment benefit.

That rot went on and continues down to the present time. Although we hear about the land hunger and we hear much talk about failure to provide land, at the present time people are offered land in my county and they refuse to accept it because its acceptance would bring them over the valuation for the dole.

My fellow Senator from the same county knows as well as I do that 90 per cent of the vegetables consumed in the towns of Mayo are grown in Dublin or Louth and brought to Mayo and sold in the towns.

Dr. Belton: Information on Richard Belton  Zoom on Richard Belton  That is so.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Thomas P Flanagan  Zoom on Thomas P Flanagan  When I talk of vegetables I include potatoes. During the war years Mayo produced 350,000 tons of turf which was sent to Dublin, and we are now getting turf down from Ballymahon or Lanesboro for the county hospital and other institutions in Mayo. This is because people are drawing money for doing nothing and will not avail of the work which is there for them. I categorically deny that dole or work was ever given on political lines. I am quite sure that Senator Lyons will withdraw that because he knows——

Mr. Lyons: Information on Michael D. Lyons  Zoom on Michael D. Lyons  Senator Lyons never intimated that work was given.

[297]Mr. Flanagan: Information on Thomas P Flanagan  Zoom on Thomas P Flanagan  Well, dole.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Michael D. Lyons  Zoom on Michael D. Lyons  No. I did not say even that. I said that during general elections the question was posed, “Well, you are getting the dole, you may get more or you may get less”, but I did not say anything about work and I want categorically to deny that I mentioned work.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  The Senator's conscience is annoying him. Nobody said that.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Thomas P Flanagan  Zoom on Thomas P Flanagan  My conscience is not annoying me and I will defend it anywhere, in the Seanad or outside it.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Michael D. Lyons  Zoom on Michael D. Lyons  Be assured that I never said it.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Thomas P Flanagan  Zoom on Thomas P Flanagan  I will also repeat that when the dole was stopped I heard members of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil —and I mention Fine Gael people because I say again that my conscience is clear on this matter—approve the withdrawal of the dole and say that it was past time for doing so. I will quote for you a report from what is here described as “Connacht's brightest weekly”, The Mayo News, of Saturday, 15th May, when the Westport Urban Council were discussing this question and Mr. P. J. Campbell, who is a member of the Fine Gael Party in that council, said:

Free dole is a degrading form of assistance to be offered to any self-respecting able-bodied man.

He said this at a meeting of the Westport Urban Council when he supported a suggestion by Mr. Michael Kelly, who is a member of the Independent Party, that the council call on the Government to replace free dole schemes in the urban areas with special employment schemes.

Senators:  Hear, hear.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Thomas P Flanagan  Zoom on Thomas P Flanagan  Mr. Kelly said:

Approximately £60 free dole was paid out each week in Westport and this amounted to £3,000 in the year which could be better utilised in some local improvement schemes which would give employment. It [298] may not be the thing to say anything against the dole scheme but this scheme is deplorable in that it encourages people not to work. There are many able-bodied men in Westport drawing this dole who would prefer to work for their money and not feel like spongers. If any serious consideration were given to the matter, many local improvement schemes could be drafted at little or no material cost and this would leave men more dignified, the town would be improved and a considerable reduction made in the rates.

That was approved by Mr. Matt Beckett, who was chairman of the local Fine Gael organisation.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Nash): Information on John Joseph Nash  Zoom on John Joseph Nash  May I interrupt the Senator? I understand that 20 minutes is the allotted time and that leaves him about one more minute.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Thomas P Flanagan  Zoom on Thomas P Flanagan  I shall be very brief. I do not agree that the method which was adopted in this particular case was the wisest one from the political point of view. The Minister stated tonight that he was having a new look at the effects of the dole in general, with a view towards introducing a scheme which would reach more directly those in need and would not cause very much damage economically to the country. Everybody should support the Minister, as I will.

Finally, in connection with those unemployment figures—people drawing dole—I always feel that at least one-third of those who are on the register are unemployable. We had experience of that whenever we gave them work for the Christmas relief schemes or something else. Men were brought out who had not had a spade or shovel in their hands for the previous 11½ months and it was pitiful to see them. Besides not getting a return of work, it was demoralising the remainder of the gang. There should be a separate scheme for those people who are chronically unemployable—in cities and towns as well as in the country—instead of dole. They are absolutely unsuitable for work and will never earn their living. On the other [299] hand, future schemes should make provision as far as possible to encourage those who have land available to make the best possible use of that land. I suggest that no man should be given an addition of land, no matter where it is, unless he is making full and proper use of the land which he has already. If we approach things in that way and cut out politics for a time, if we try to devise a scheme which will have a better effect on our people, socially, economically and generally for the improvement of the social conscience of our people, what has been done and what, we hope, will be done in the future will be all to the good.

Mícheál Cranitch: Information on Micheal C Cranitch  Zoom on Micheal C Cranitch  B'fhéidir nár cheart domsa aon rud a rá sa dhíospóireacht anseo, más rud é gur beag daoine in aon chor atá díomhaoin im thaobh-sa tíre. Sa cheanntar ina bhfuilim agus in aice leis tá beagnach lán-fhostaíocht. Tá daoine nach bhfuil ag obair, ceart go leor, daoine nach teastaíonn uatha bheith ag obair, daoine nár theastaigh uatha a bheith ag obair agus dá mhairfidís an dhá chéad ní dhéanfaidís stróic oibre fós. Ach leasmuigh díobh-san tá beagnach lán-fhostaíocht ag na daoine eile, agus b'fhéidir nár cheart dom labhairt in aon chor. Ach mar sin féin dubhradh an oiread san rudaí spéisiúla agus an oiread san rudaí aisteacha le linn na díospóireachta go gcaithfidh mé cúpla focal a rá.

For various reasons, I should not make any contribution, inasmuch as we have very little problems in my part of the country as far as the dole is concerned. However, since many of the contributions this evening have been more doleful than those dealing directly with the dole itself, I felt that maybe one or two words might not do any harm. While it is true that this matter of dole has not a great interest for many Deputies and Senators from various parts of Ireland where there is almost full employment, there are undoubtedly hardships here and there. Today people will not live at the standards at which they lived two, five or ten years ago, not to mention the standards that obtained 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago. At some stage a method had [300] to be devised in order to help those people to exist.

The type of assistance to give those people is a matter that has been concerning very deeply the present Minister for Social Welfare and Ministers before him. It is very difficult to arrive at an ideal solution. We think of such things as giving assistance and vouchers, so that at some stage the people in receipt of those vouchers will pay back a certain amount by way of labour under a public scheme. The Government has been, and will be, concentrating on the provision of industrial employment all over, in so far as it can provide that industrial employment.

Emigration will always exist. People will always emigrate, no matter what employment is available, but industrial employment to supplement whatever can be got out of small agricultural holdings will probably be the answer. It is a very big problem, and this is not the time to consider it, but I know that the Minister and the Government have these problems very close at heart.

Many people were delighted when this order was issued before the amending order was made. Shortly after the amendment of the order a young man said to me: “You did a very good job.” Many people, irrespective of their political persuasions, have been saying to me from time to time: “Could you not do anything at all to prevent the abuses that occur as far as the dole is concerned?” The abuses are widespread, not alone in cities and towns, but very often in rural districts. Where there is blanket legislation, you cannot have a different law for every person concerned. No matter how carefully we frame legislation here and in the Dáil, no matter how capably it is done by parliamentary draftsmen, and no matter what help we give here or in the other House, people will find loopholes.

One point which struck me very forcibly, and I shall end on this particular point, is that somebody on the Opposition benches remarked that the reason for the introduction of the dole in the first instance was to catch votes for Fianna Fáil. That appears to be a fairly widespread belief. I have often [301] heard it down through the years—“Give them the dole and they will do the right thing at the polls.”“They took the shilling from the old age pension” was a great rallying cry and it was supposed to bring in votes by the thousand. It is still being used. Recently, I happened to be at Mass in a certain county and a friend of mine sat beside me. A very well-known public figure passed up the aisle and this man nudged me saying, sotto voce:“There is the man who took the shilling from the old age pensioners.” This is still alive.

Having said that, I want to come to the last point I want to make. If that is so and if the Government made such an extraordinary blunder recently and have, so to speak, neutralised the effect of taking the shilling from the old age pensioners many years ago, instead of ologóning about the whole matter the Opposition should be now chanting for giving it back.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  I had no intention of taking any part in this debate, but when I found Senator Lyons and Senator O'Brien with their socks down about their ankles and with large adjectives purveying the silly idea that Fianna Fáil bought themselves into power by buying votes with the application of social welfare throughout the western and other parts of this country, but in particular the west, I felt sorrow and sympathy, particularly for Senator Lyons. I hope he now realises what he has said. I also hope that the Western People and all the papers down in Mayo and around Ballyhaunis will be sympathetic towards him at the end of this week. What he has said is that because Fianna Fáil have applied social welfare to rural Ireland they were wrong. Therefore, all the people in Mayo who have been receiving such social welfare benefits in recent years should not have been receiving them at all. We are back in square one again with Fine Gael, and Senator Lyons leading them.

From the attitude of most of the Senators who spoke there is one point which I should like to make to the Minister and that is the payment of what we know in Galway as farmers' assistance or as it is called farmers' [302] pensions. The Minister proposes to have a look at the social welfare structure under all the codes. When he is taking a look at this matter I should like him to understand that farmers' assistance as applied in theory is a good assistance and is needed. Valuation has been the biggest scourge to the application of farmers' assistance. For example, if a married man with three children has 20 acres of land or 15 acres of land valued at £1 per acre, as is quite frequent in our county in particular, his amount of farmers' assistance would be very low. On the other hand, there are married farmers with two children having 80 acres of land valued at 1/- per acre who get the maximum farmers' assistance. I should like to be constructive in offering a suggestion on this. I do not think it would be a very hard thing to do to revalue land in a speedy way.

There is a man living in one of the villages near me owning nine acres of land. He reared five children, the oldest of them now being about 16 years of age. That man worked all his life like a slave. He bought conacre, he sowed vegetables and beet, and he did everything to make a living. That man is still working hard and will continue to work hard. He has not had equal opportunity. He has bought a “Mini” to take himself, his wife and children to town to do the shopping and to Mass on a Sunday. He is quite entitled to do it. There are many people in this country who have had three and four times the opportunity of getting on in life as that man had. I would be wary if there was any change in the application of farmers' pension to that particular man or to men of that type.

There are men living in certain land regions throughout my county who have land valued at 1/- or 5p or even up to 10p per acre and who have 70 and 80 acres of the finest land in the county and who are receiving full benefit of the farmers' pension. This to me is wrong. The money that they are receiving should be divided equally among those who have not even got 20 acres of land per person. The average amount of land per man in our county only amounts to about 25 acres. The Minister for Social Welfare, when applying farmers' assistance, might [303] have a look at those regions which have no valuation and, on the other hand, look at those other regions which have high valuations and try to put all on an even keel so that equal rights would be applied in the circumstances prevailing. We must be very careful on that point.

The recent annulment of granting dole to the under fifties is a welcome step. It had tended to breed more laziness in that 10 per cent of lazy people who have never worked in this country, and probably never will. I do not think it is right for 10 per cent of the people of this country to sit outside the high walls of every major town every day of the week and go to the local public house every night of the week to drink at the expense of the State and the taxpayer, while the man who has been working like a slave all day cannot. This order was an eye-opener to those people, and given a little time they will realise it and feel the pinch. If in about two or three months time we could compel those people to work on local improvement schemes we would be making a good effort to wallop out the laziness that has been there for the past 40 years. The Minister should have a very careful look when he is applying this.

Fine Gael have again tonight, without qualm, lacerated Fianna Fáil's policy on social welfare. The present Minister and the Department of Social Welfare apply to this country and to the needs, broadly speaking, of the underprivileged classes, more social welfare money in one month than the Coalition Government applied in one year.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I should like to thank everybody who took part in the debate on this motion, and I think it has served a very useful purpose. The motion was a very simple one and it ends up by saying:

We hereby annul the Orders made by the Minister.

That means that the people who have been deprived of unemployment assistance should get it back. If the Government find themselves in financial difficulties [304] it is unfortunate that this is the section of the community to be hit and hit very hard.

The Minister, and Senator Brugha agreed with him, said he had some scheme which he would announce in the foreseeable future that would take the people off the dole and give them employment. Numerous other Fianna Fáil Senators conveyed the same thing. Do these people realise that they are now in Government for 39 successive years, except for a short break of two three-year periods? Is it not reasonable to expect them to have announced this scheme before now? Can any of them recall a slogan which was used in a general election after two and a half years of inter-Party Government? It was found plastered on every available wall in the country and outside derelict sites. It read “Wives, put your husbands to work”. The Minister, when he intervened in the debate, told us about the number of people who were unemployed during the inter-Party Government. If he counts today the number of registered unemployed and the drop in population since Fianna Fáil came back he will find——

Mr. Crinion: Information on Brendan Crinion  Zoom on Brendan Crinion  The population has gone up in the past five years.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  Will you prove to me that it is going up? The census does not prove any such thing. The last available census showed that the population in the urban areas is going up and that in the rural areas it is going down. If you talk to me, and there is no question——

Acting Chairman:  The Senator must address his remarks to the Chair.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I am very sorry. If anybody takes time to tot the drop in population and the increase in the number of registered unemployed in this country since the inter-Party Government, he will find who will end up on the right side.

Rural improvement schemes have been mentioned by a number of Senators as a means of solving this problem. The situation with every [305] local authority at the moment is that there are no engineers available. Anybody who has experience as a member of a local authority in any part of the country knows the difficulty there is in recruiting engineering staff. The announcement came a few months ago that there is an extra £500,000 to be spent on rural improvement schemes. Before this money is spent each scheme has to be inspected, it has to be costed and the local contribution must be established. I doubt if most county councils in the country will be able to spend the money that may be available to them in the current year.

In recent years also there has been the increased use of machinery, which does away with a tremendous amount of employment. The true situation is that road grants have been substantially reduced and there is very little work available for those people who were in receipt of this benefit.

The Minister admitted in his reply that he made the first order and two amending orders. Three orders were made to solve this problem. I do not think it would be any crime if I asked him if he was at one stage trying to satisfy the Mount Street Fianna Fáil Party, at another stage the Letterkenny Fianna Fáil Party, or at another stage the South County Dublin Fianna Fáil Party. If there had not been a “leak” on this issue, what would the situation be now? Would these unfortunate people, the people to whom benefit has been returned, have found themselves without benefit?

It also has been mentioned during the debate that the Fine Gael Party were seeking to make political propaganda out of the order. That is far from the truth. The Fine Gael Party put down this motion in order to secure that no other people who were in receipt of any social welfare benefit would find themselves reduced. Every one of us knows the Government party are passing through a rough period financially and the first people they are trying to hit are the weaker section of the community. We wanted to make sure that no other weaker section or people in receipt of any type of social welfare benefit would be hit.

The Minister in his contribution said [306] that nobody had given him credit for amending the first order which I read here today. What credit would he expect? If the Minister decided tomorrow morning to reduce, say, widows' pensions by ten shillings, but if his own party put pressure on him and he decided to increase them by five shillings, or if some other branch of the party put more pressure on him and he decided to go back another half crown, what would he do? Any Minister can do what the present Minister for Social Welfare has done. He can reduce something, he can change it and then try to get credit for himself for bringing it back only half way. I cannot for the life of me see what credit he wants.

Everybody in this House and outside this House knows that the Fianna Fáil Party always thumped their craws and called themselves the friends of the poor man, the friends of the poor woman. Something over 40 years ago the old age pensions were reduced by a shilling. Somebody made reference to it here from the far side of the House. That Senator said that recently, when he was attending Mass and somebody walked up the aisle, a person nudged him and said “There is the man who reduced the old age pension”. I wonder if he told him what party he belongs to now.

I want to say in fairness to the Fianna Fáil Party that when they came into office in 1933 they gave back the shilling that was unfortunately taken off some years before that and they increased the pension to 10s per week. For the years that followed—during the war years—these unfortunate people and these weaker sections of our community got no increase. But the Government of the time decided that they would give them vouchers and people queued up outside courthouses and every public building in this country to collect those vouchers. They were equivalent to 2s 6d. Not until the inter-Party Government came back into office did this unfortunate section of the community get the increase that they were justly entitled to, which was 5s.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. J. Brennan): Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  That is not correct.

[307]Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  It is quite correct.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on John J Brennan  Zoom on John J Brennan  They gave them half a crown in six years.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  What did you give for the number of years before?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on John J Brennan  Zoom on John J Brennan  We gave them 5s.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  During the war you gave them half a crown, queued them up and handed it out to them in the form of dole.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on John J Brennan  Zoom on John J Brennan  Keep the record straight.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I am straight. In 1957 and the years that followed the Fianna Fáil Government withdrew £8 million in the form of subsidy. Again, whom did they hit? Was it not the unfortunate people in the lower income group, the people who were in receipt of social welfare benefit? They had to pay into the Exchequer the extra £8 million that was withdrawn from them. People can have a short memory when it suits them and I do not think, with the line this debate has taken, that there is any harm in reminding them of it.

Senator McGlinchey spoke at great length on this particular issue. He talked about taking the small farmers out of unemployment assistance. He said that it often created laziness, sloth and that type of thing. If he or the present Government want to take the small farmers out of this category surely if they have a scheme shelved some-where—it is not the first time that I heard of a Fianna Fáil scheme that was shelved—they should say what it is. This Government find themselves now in the position that nobody will believe them. They will have to announce this scheme. They will have to get this new scheme through the Dáil and the Seanad before anybody will accept it.

Again, some other Senator challenged us to know if we had any alternative to the dole, if we had any alternative to tell them what was done. I quoted at the opening of this debate [308] the Fine Gael policy on social welfare. We are quite prepared to implement that policy and there is no onus on us sitting on this side of the House to produce this scheme. The onus is on the Minister and on the people sitting on that side of the House. Those are the people who reduced the income of this unfortunate section of the community. The Minister also said in his reply that people were collecting in the region of £9 million, the amount paid to the unemployed people per year, and that they were collecting it by false declaration. I do not believe that. I do not like to doubt any Minister's word. There may be a limited number of people collecting benefit and signing false declarations, but I think they are very limited. I am sure they would not make up half or quarter per cent of the total number of people who are collecting this benefit. Somebody else described it as a wastage of £9 million. I cannot see how it would be a wastage of £9 million to pay these unfortunate people who are unemployed, people who have no hope of getting employment, when we have a Government who sit down and make no effort whatsoever to give these people employment.

Senator Flanagan made one point which I would like to mention. It was that there were a number of small farmers in the country who were not prepared to take land when it was being divided by the Irish Land Commission because it would put them over the valuation which would deprive them of unemployment assistance. He might have a point there, but I am not prepared to go the whole way with him. The reason why those people do not take land is that in recent years the Land Commission annuity for this land is far too high for these people to pay. Everybody who spoke in this debate admits that we have a social problem. If we have a social problem on our hands I certainly think the onus is on the Government to do something about it.

Question put.

Belton, Richard.
Boland, John.
Desmond, Eileen.
Farrelly, Denis.
FitzGerald, Alexis.
Fitzgerald, Jack.
Kelly, John.
Lyons, Michael D.
Mannion, John M.
O'Brien, Andy.
O'Brien, William.
O'Higgins, Cornelius K.
Prendergast, Micheál A.
Reynolds, Patrick J.

Brennan, John J.
Brugha, Ruairí.
Cranitch, Mícheál C.
Crinion, Brendan.
Doyle, John.
Eachthéirn, Cáit Uí.
Farrell, Joseph.
Farrell, Peggy.
Fitzsimons, Patrick.
Flanagan, Thomas P.
Gallanagh, Michael.
Garrett, Jack.
Hanafin, Desmond.
Keegan, Seán.
Keery, Neville.
Killilea, Mark.
McElgunn, Farrell.
McGlinchey, Bernard.
McGowan, Patrick.
Nash, John J.
Norton, Patrick.
O'Callaghan, Cornelius K.
Ó Maoláin, Tomás.
O'Sullivan, Terry.
Ryan, Eoin.
Ryan, Patrick W.
Sheldon, W. A. W.
Walsh, Seán.

Question declared lost.

Mr. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  At last, here is a subject that Fianna Fáil are united on.

The Seanad adjourned at 9.25 p.m. sine die.


Last Updated: 15/09/2010 05:22:02 First Page Previous Page Page of 5 Next Page Last Page