This Motion standing in my name may seem very humdrum and commonplace by comparison with the matters of high politics we have been just discussing, but nevertheless, it is one that we attach a very great deal of importance to. It deals with two distinct but closely related matters — the questions of Irish manufacture and Trade Union labour. Possibly many of the delegates may think, on reading it, that there was no necessity at all for such a Motion, but I regret very much that that is not so. The Resolution is as follows:—
"That contracts for goods, by the Government shall be made only with persons or companies who guarantee that the goods, if capable of being produced in Ireland, within a limit of preference to be hereinafter specified, are of Irish manufacture and produced under fair conditions by Trade Union labour."
The words "within a limit of preference to be hereafter specified" are meant to provide for a contingency where the cost of the Irish article would very much exceed the cost of a non-Irish article, and it would have to be agreed to that some limit of preference would have to be drawn up and that in the case of, say, an article that might cost four, or five, or six times the cost of a non-Irish article we would not ask the Parliament to be committed to purchasing the Irish article. With that limitation we ask that it shall be laid down as a cardinal principle, in connection with Government contracts that Irish manufacture and Trade Union labour shall be specified. I regret to say that during recent months instances have come to our knowledge in which the Government has very radically departed from the principles laid down here. I refer, in particular, to very extensive purchases made by the Ministry of Defence for the Army, and I am assured on information I consider reliable that there were articles such as blankets, brushes, cutlery, boots and commodities of that kind which were not of Irish manufacture, and which could easily be procured in this country. So far as we can find out in connection with the purchases, no restrictions or stipulations have been laid down as to the question of Trade Union labour or Irish manufacture. The persons responsible seem to be entirely ignorant that they should stipulate that those articles should be of Irish manufacture and made by Trade Union labour, and we ought to have some explanation from some Department of the Ministry as to why these elementary requirements were not made in the purchase of those articles. So far as we can gather, up to recently at any rate, there seems to be no settled method of purchasing supplies of this kind. We understand that when advertisements are inserted and tenders are sent in there are no stipulations as to Irish manufacture and Trade Union labour. Some explanation, more or less reasonable, may be offered for that state of affairs, that it only covered a short period or that it was impossible in the circumstances to insist on these stipulations. We are concerned a great deal more with the future than the past, and we do ask for a specific binding pledge on the part of the Ministry that so far as the future is concerned, at any rate, these two stipulations will be rigidly adhered to.