Wednesday, 5 July 1972
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. McDonald: On this section, the Minister mentioned the fact that 77 per cent of all farms under £20 valuation were derated, and it is rightly so. Nevertheless, we must remember that farmers here must compete with their counterparts in Northern Ireland and in EEC countries, in all of which there is 100 per cent derating of agricultural land, and this is very significant. These are the people we must compete with at market level. I do not decry or belittle the continuation of this particular service, but I was slightly disappointed that there was not an increase in any of the provisions in this respect. SECTION 3.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister mentioned female labour. It is matter raised by Senator A. O'Brien and has been cropping up many times. There is a very distinct tendency in rural Ireland at present for more women to take up agricultural employment. There is scope for women in the poultry units and the vastly expanding dairying industry. If persons are employed fulltime in agriculture, the fact that they are not working in the open should not deter them from receiving the same benefits as men. This is the era of women's lib. and those women who work on the land should receive the same benefits and should be subject to the same insurance regulations.
Mr. Molloy: I have already dealt with this. The Senator must agree that there would be such a small number who would benefit from this and the expense of administering it would be so large in ensuring that the law was being applied as it stood—that it was wholetime employment on agricultural work—it would be rather unwarranted. I gave it some thought and would have liked to extend it to female employees, if I thought it could be worked administratively without excessive expense, but it would probably cost more to administer it than it would be worth to the farmer who was benefiting from it.
Mr. Molloy: The local authority would have to be absolutely satisfied that the people employed were employed solely in agriculture and were employed wholetime, not just part-time, and did not undertake any domestic duties in the farmer's house, as this would debar the farmer from qualifying for the allowance. For that reason and because of the obvious difficulties that would have to be overcome to administer it, I do not propose to extend it to female labourers at this stage. If the House wants it to be considered, of course,  the inclusion of female labourers can be considered for the next Bill, and some system could be devised that would not be expensive and unwieldy to operate.
Mr. Molloy: From inquiries made it has come to light that most female employees of farmers are doing part-time duties in the house and part-time work at agricultural activities. It would be impossible to examine each individual case to ensure that the female employee was working at agricultural activities only and was not also a domestic employee of the farmer, helping out in his household chores.
Some examination has been made of this and I am assured that the difficulties are real. However, I shall have another look at it and, if some way is found in which women can be included, we can include a section to cover them in the next Bill. At the moment I could not possibly accept it, because I am not convinced that it can be worked or that it is worth the bother.
Mr. Butler: I am glad the Minister is to have another look at it. I think there is a case to be made, particularly in the case of poultry units on small farms where female labour is employed fulltime.
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