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 Emergency Powers (Rationing of Soap) Order 1942 / Ordú comhachta práinne (Ciondáil Galluanaighe) 1942

Emergency Powers (Rationing of Soap) Order 1942 / Ordú comhachta práinne (Ciondáil Galluanaighe) 1942

Issued by Sean Lemass, Minister responsible for the Department of Supplies

From the Documents Laid Collection, DL059533

The period known as The Emergency (also known as aimsir na héigeandála and ré na práinne) began on September 2 1939.  This was a direct result of the outbreak of World War Two and followed the declaration by Eamon DeValera that Ireland was in an official state of emergency.  It lapsed on September 2 1946 but rationing was to continue until 1951.

The Emergency Powers Act (passed on September 3 1939) allowed the government to make an emergency order without the need for specific legislation. In order to regulate the economy, fix prices and ration goods, De Valera appointed Séan Lemass (who had been Minister for Industry and Commerce), Minister of Supplies and in charge of “the Co-Ordination of Defensive Measures”. As there were limited supplies of imports available to the country, Lemass introduced rationing. Above is an Emergency Powers Order dating from 1942 which saw not just the rationing of soap and soap flakes for the washing of clothes but also of dentifrice (tooth paste).

Tobacco, shoes, tea, flour and butter were already rationed. From 1942, bread was rationed. Rationing of petrol had started in October 1939; by 1944 petrol rations that had been supplied to doctors were withdrawn completely. Transport was almost exclusively by bicycle and horse and cart. Plots of land in the Phoenix Park were given to Dubliners to grow vegetables while tons of turf was transported from bogs in the Midlands to the Phoenix Park, where they were stored in mounds until required.

Lemass urged increased state planning of the economy, more competitiveness and (influenced somewhat by a UK study, the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services by economist William Beveridge), a more enlightened social policy for those who were impoverished.   

In 1942 Lemass combined his job as Minister of Industry and Commerce along with that of Minster of Supplies. He imposed compulsory tillage orders on farmers to ensure they grew wheat along with other products that hitherto had been imported; he established Irish Shipping to bring in imports. He also established the Insurance Co-operation of Ireland to give insurance cover at lower rates than those of British companies and ensured the foundation of Animal Feeding Stuffs Ltd. (to replace imported animal food). Rural electrification was encouraged and Bord na Móna was established to further develop a native fuel supply.

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