DEBATE ON REPORTS. - DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND COMMERCE.
The DIRECTOR OF TRADE AND COMMERCE mentioned that he would require a vote of £5,000 for his Department in connection with the proposed campaign for the encouragement of Irish Industries. Since the last Dáil Meeting he had a great deal of discussion with various people about a General Boycott of English goods, and he had set out his conclusion in the Report. Some Members thought, he said, that the import of ales, beer, and cigarettes should not be prohibited, but he was of opinion that an article like cigarettes would be a good one to start with. He would like to hear the views of the Deputies.
The ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT agreed with the Director of Trade and Commerce that an article that everyone used, like cigarettes, would be a very good item to start on, but he wanted to know if the Director was satisfied that the home supply would be equal to the demand. He was in favour of the project of starting with specific articles and extending the list from time to time.
The MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT said he thought the Director had made a very arbitrary choice. He thought it would be a mistake to exclude Bass. It was a medicinal drink, and it would be hard to get a corresponding restorative of Irish manufacture to recommend in its stead. As regards cigarettes, the thought they could not exclude these until they had a really first-class brand made in Ireland. He referred also to biscuits, another of the articles mentioned by the Director of Trade and Commerce, and said that Jacobs exported more biscuits from Dublin in one week than the whole of Ireland imported in a year. Soap was an important item, but until they could produce something as much in favour as "Sunlight," he did not think they could keep the English product out of the country.
D. BUCKLEY (Kildare, North) said he could not agree with the Minister for Local Government. He had some practical experience of the cigarette trade. The demand for Irish cigarettes was increasing very much. He had the same experience with soaps; the public were gradually turning to Irish products in preference to English.
J. MACDONAGH (Tipperary, North) said he felt sure they could knock out a great deal of English manufacture if they went about it in the right way. If sufficient public interest were aroused there would be tremendous decline in English exports to this country. He thought they should take up articles which were largely exported from England—boots, for example. There was an enormous import of boots into Ireland while Irish factories which gave as good value were closing down. He was convinced that if the £5,000 asked for was passed and the machinery already set up for the Belfast Boycott adapted to the Industrial campaign, the people would, in six months, be educated to the idea that the Economic weapon is one which will hit England very forcibly. For articles not made in Ireland, such as Drapery Goods, and they imported 31 million pounds' worth of such goods in 1919, they should try to obtain alternative sources of supply by propaganda in Foreign Countries through their Consuls abroad who could inform foreign suppliers that they would get preference above English merchants.
The ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE pointed out that a stranger coming to Dublin would see no difference externally between it and any English city. There were the same advertisements for Bovril, Fry's Cocoa, Beecham's Pills, etc., everywhere. He thought the best way to bring the Boycott home to the ordinary public would be to have a definite decision that no English advertisement would be allowed in our city. He referred to the articles published some time ago by K.R. O'Shiel, in which he developed a system of schedules which would be very useful in connection with the English Boycott.
The PRESIDENT said what they wanted to know was could they go ahead with the English Boycott and select the articles one by one. There was no use starting with articles which they could not succeed in stopping. He was doubtful about cigarettes, but thought soap could be managed. He thought also that they should issue a general appeal to the people not to use—or to use only to a very limited extent—commodities on which a large revenue was got by the enemy, such as tobacco and spirits. He would like to get the opinions of the Deputies as to what articles should be put on the list for exclusion, but they would finally have to leave the selection to the Director of Trade and Commerce.
JAS. BURKE (Tipperary, Mid.) asked what effect this campaign would have on the Belfast Boycott. He thought it would be better to have that boycott on a firm working basis before proceeding with the English Boycott.
The ACTING SPEAKER said there was one point he would like to put before the Director of Trade and Commerce. The value of the imported goods should be the real criterion. The cigarette trade and other goods mentioned might not involve much money but goods like agricultural machinery amounted to a very large sum, and they had an alternative source of supply in America and Canada. There was another point he would like to call attention to. He had been informed by a person who worked in a large bonded store that America, Spain, and Holland were dumping immature spirits into this city and that this spirit was being mixed with good Irish whiskey.
The MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS mentioned certain information he had received with reference to the cheapness of German goods. The writer said there was no article but could be got from Germany 50 per cent. cheaper than English prices.
The ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE said the idea of a general boycott of English goods was the first thing to start on. If they got that idea throughout the country they would have thousands of people refraining from buying little articles. By adopting the schedules that Mr. O'Shiel had set out, they would be able to indicate the articles to be boycotted, and week by week they could add articles to the list.
The MINISTER FOR FINANCE asked if the Director was in a position to put forward any scheme of Credits: without such it would be useless to talk about getting goods from foreign countries.
The DIRECTOR OF TRADE AND COMMERCE replied that he recognised that difficulty, and that was why he wanted to begin on the smaller articles. Propaganda was absolutely essential, but a general propaganda campaign in favour of Irish goods or against English manufacture passed away, whereas if they named a few articles to be boycotted they could get the people to refuse to purchase them. He wished to begin by listing articles which disclosed their origin so as to obviate the necessity of tracing the source of supply.
He believed the exclusion of English goods would arouse an interest in Irish markets in France and other foreign countries. French Trade Associations were taking the greatest interest, and had written several times to the Consul. He thought the effect of excluding a few articles of English manufacture would be to arouse greater interest. The Minister for Labour informed him that those engaged on the Belfast Trade Boycott reported a general desire that something should be done for Irish manufactures.
The Report was then put and adopted.