I rise to formally propose the Second Reading of the Charitable Hospitals Bill.
DÁIL IN COMMITTEE. - DÁIL RESUMED. PUBLIC CHARITABLE HOSPITALS (TEMPORARY PROVISIONS) BILL, 1923. SECOND STAGE.
I beg to second.
I will be very brief in my remarks. I desire again to thank individually the Deputies who saw their way to vote on the First Reading of the Bill, and I hope that those Deputies will stand by the Bill till, I trust, it is passed by the Dáil. I wish it to be clearly understood that this is not a party measure, and I think that this Bill should be considered and judged individually by the Deputies on its merits. I might add that if I for a moment thought that this Bill was unduly repugnant to the Government I would not proceed with it. I know that the Bill as it stands is not perfect, but is far from perfect, and it is the desire of my colleagues that every reasonable amendment and proposition to be put forward, if at all practicable, be embodied in the Bill. As I remarked the last day, in olden times, before the so-called Union existed, hospitals and other public buildings were built from the proceeds of lotteries, so that this process of public lotteries is not unknown in Ireland, and I think that if our forefathers thought well to institute lotteries for such a deserving charity as hospitals, I respectfully submit that we should not cavil with that. There is no doubt whatever that this Dáil—or, rather, the Executive of the Dáil—since it came into being, has overcome practically insurmountable obstacles. It has, I think any reasonable person will admit, legislated wisely and well for its people. Now, the three great divisions of any nation—the three most important services—are the Church and the State——
And the Turf.
And I again submit respectfully that the medical arm of the nation is of the utmost importance. I submit, too, that a paternal Government, like every other Government, will do its utmost to see that the public health of the community is attended to. At present we have no Public Health Department in the Government, but I am sure that later on, when we are settled more on our feet, the Department will be instituted. The care of the people and the looking after their welfare and their good health are certainly very important factors in the well-being of the nation, and it is because these hospitals play such an important part in the life of the nation that I suggest that it is imperative that this Bill should go through, or at least some other alternative should be put forward. Money for consequential losses and other things cannot be paid by the Executive, and the money required for the public hospitals, and particularly for the metropolitan hospitals, would be fairly large and therefore it will be conceded that at present we cannot get the required amount of money. Another point in connection with this Bill which should not be forgotten is that it is a purely temporary measure. From the time of its passing —and I hope it will be passed—it will only last for a year, and I submit that the passing and enactment of this Bill would be good constructive legislation. There may be a point against that, but on the whole I think that no reasonable person will conceive that this is not constructive legislation. There is no doubt whatever that if financial support is not given to some of the metropolitan hospitals they will have to close, and again that will mean unnecessary suffering to some of the poorest of our people. Another point that may not be of such great importance is this, that many of our metropolitan hospitals are hospitals of international repute, and if they have to close their doors many medical people, post-graduates long over their postgraduate courses, and students from practically all parts of the world will be unable to attend the clinics. Of course that is only secondary, and I am only concerned on the hardship that will be entailed on the poor of our cities and on poor people coming up to Dublin from the country. The gravity of the financial position of the hospitals is so acute and urgent that it requires to be seen to at once. When we hear the discussion for and against the Bill I am perfectly satisfied that few points can be put up against it and on the whole when you consider the object of the Bill and when you recollect that our forefathers here in old Dublin did not consider itoutre or an impracticable proposition then I think we should not cavil at it.
I second the motion. For many years it has been admitted that the Dublin hospitals have attained a high standard of efficiency. They are a credit to the city. What is most striking about the Dublin Hospitals is that they have been maintained with such generosity by the people of Dublin. Before I came to live in Dublin I often wondered at the generosity of the people who maintained these hospitals. Now, when I heard during the last few years that they were in dire circumstances, and not able to meet their bills in many cases, and to keep abreast of the times because voluntary support had fallen short, I sympathised greatly with them, and felt it was to some extent a great disgrace to the Irish nation that it was not able to maintain these hospitals as they should be maintained. If a man or woman in the country falls sick, and requires an operation, if he is a man of means he can come to Dublin to be operated upon. But it costs a considerable sum of money to bring a person from the country to Dublin, and to maintain such a person in a private home here for some weeks. Now, if anything happened these hospitals it would not be possible for the poor person to come up to Dublin and undergo an operation. It is inconsistent of us not to come to the aid of the Dublin hospitals seeing that all through the country the hospitals are supported through the rates. The scheme of amalgamation which was discussed here for the last few days gives us ground for hope that in a year's time, or certainly two or three years' time we may have in every county in Ireland properly equipped hospitals that will render it unnecessary for people to come up from the provinces so frequently as they did before to the Dublin hospitals. But, in the meantime, something must be done to keep the Dublin hospitals open. No one proposes at present that they should get a grant from the State. I have the greatest possible sympathy with the Dublin hospitals, and I am not in favour of any form of gambling. I might almost class myself as an anti-gambler, but I will put up no barrier against the hospitals getting some money, and that is why I support this motion. If the way of getting the money is not quite the proper way, well then let some suggestion be made to provide the money in some other way. The hospitals deserve the money, and need the money, and I think the people who object to it on the ground of morality are over-straining the point. I have heard men denouncing these things who have gone to one hundred races for the one I went to, and who will continue to attend races at the same rate. If this scheme is not good enough let us have a better scheme. I am seconding this motion, and supporting the Second Reading of this Bill, and I hope that those who are promoting the Bill will do something to meet objections raised on the ground of gambling and corruption. I do not believe much in those gentlemen who promoted recent Sweeps—I have no faith in their newfound love for medical science or charity. I grant all that. I ask those promoting the Bill to submit a clause providing that a full statement will be submitted by the medical committee showing the money received, and all the money expended, and then we will know where we stand with regard to Sweeps. It is a difficult matter I admit to carefully check these transactions, but it should not be beyond human wit to do so, and if we have a full statement of the money expended we will see what Sweeps are worth, or whether we should permit men for a purpose of this kind to run them. I am supporting this for this year only, and this Bill only, and only on account of the worthy object at which it aims.
Is truagh liom nach d-tig liom cuidiú leis na Teachtai a tharraing an Bille seo ós ar g-comhair. Gidh go bh-fhuil na h-oispideail i g-cruadh g-chás agus go bh-fhuil airgead a dhith orra ise mo thuairim nach m-beadh na Coisti buidheach dinn Bille mar seo a chur i bh-feidhm ar a son. Tá airgead a dhith ar gach cumann puiblidhe co maith leis na h-oispideailibh acht ní shaoilim go m-beadh siad toilteachnach airgead a fhagháil ins an doigh seo nó ins an doigh a mhinigh na Teachtai duinn anocht. B'fhearr leo a bheith gan airgead na an t-airgead a fhagháil ins an dóigh seo.
I am going to oppose this Bill. To assume that its sponsors are in earnest would be stretching things, for it is probably a joke, but it is not a timely one; the atmosphere is not congenial to levity. Even the barometer is in trouble. All assemblies are probably liable to the raid of the humourist, and we can scarcely hope for immunity. The actors here deserve congratulation, in so far as they have dressed their designs in an attractive garb. We are all attracted to charity. There is probably no higher form of charity than suffering humanity. To alleviate misery, in disease and disablement, appeals to everyone, and it is surely a crude joke to suggest, as these proposals imply, that our nature is irresponsive to such fine feelings except through an appeal to its cupidity. The inherent weaknesses of the gambler are to be subsidised. That unfortunate propensity, which produces more disaster for our people and more suffering than our combined hospitals are called upon to relieve, is to be exploited. Our national characteristics exhibit a strong disposition to take risks and a pride in doing so; our temperament is extreme in this line. It is in the recognition, in the fertility, of this field that our wager-laying friends rightfully placed confidence, and they want permission in a small way for a very laudable object to utilise this propensity. With the acceptance of the principle and the establishment of the precedent the small way can develop and the object become reconcilable with the real designs of those who engineer these schemes. The money comes largely from outside the country, they will say: Perhaps so; but if the principle be wrong, there is no exemption even should the money come from Russia. The principle of indirectly sanctioning gambling which is here jocularly proposed cannot be confused or confounded with the object for which funds are needed. Bazaars, they say, are similar. No doubt; and I hope that we are reaching the stage when even sanction for bazaars will not be sought seriously on the responsibility of this nation. This is a falling into line with the doctrine of "the end justifies the means." It is a doctrine pressing for acceptance presently in much more serious matters in this country. Whatever sanction is sought for such a doctrine, it should meet with the opposition of all such responsible authorities. Hospitals have suffered latterly and have served strenuously. Their financial needs cannot be left unattended to. If a Bill is brought forward to secure for them national recognition proportionate to their services, and conditional with acceptable national control, it is likely to be unanimously accepted here, and it is neither rational, just, nor politic to cast them on the waves of chance and make them incorporated agents in an absurd game of chance in the exceptional position in which they find themselves to-day.
On a point of order, is the Deputy allowed to read his speech?
There is no Standing Order bearing on the question as to whether a Deputy can read his speech, but it is very desirable that Deputies should not read their speeches.
We have in this nation predominant sporting proclivities. These are worthy attributes. They deserve every encouragement; they need national protection against those who would drag them behind sordid agencies. As far as it is possible we should try to free them from association with gambling votaries and institutions. To purify and keep clean this important avenue of national life and national development should be our aim, and it would be to my mind disastrous were we to commit ourselves to the entrance-gate of responsibility to any such proposals by according them sanction from the Legislature.
I feel that this is a great day for Ireland. The Dáil has been engaged for some time in passing legislation which in the main has had to do with public affairs, the transfer of authority, the regularising of politics and administration. But here we have the first fruits of freedom. I can imagine that Deputy Doctor White has been thinking how best to celebrate the achievement of freedom by the Free State. I can imagine him looking at Reginald's Tower and thinking down the centuries, the long procession of heroes, patriots, poets and martyrs, and saying "here we have the one far-off divine event to which this long procession moves—the emancipation of Ireland from the Lottery Act." The day will come, I am sure, if this Bill become an Act, when Deputy Doctor White will quote or adapt, or his friends, or his children's children will adapt Shakespeare—"He that shall live this day and see old age will yearly, on the vigil, feast his neighbours, and say, `to-morrow is Saint Vincent's Day.' " I want to deal with the matter seriously. This Bill is intended to give to a certain committee who I presume are doctors—although they are not described—authority to run sweepstakes; and the plea is made that the hospitals for which those sweepstakes are to be run are in great need of money, and that they are essential to the life of the State. Nobody is denying or doubting for a moment the great need of the hospitals and the necessity that money should be found to provide for them. But this Bill is the outcome of a series of sweepstakes and their suppression. And what are the facts about these sweepstakes? The facts are that to raise large sums of money the whole world must be scoured. I have been told on excellent authority, almost the highest, that fully eighty per cent. of the money that has been obtained by the sale of sweepstake tickets comes from England or Scotland and about ten to fifteen per cent. from the United States of America and the British Dominions; and not more than five to ten per cent. from Ireland. Now that is a very important fact; it is put forward as though it were something to commend the Bill. But I say that it is the most damnable fact about the whole question. The first Act of a private nature in the Dáil is to give permission, authority, to exhibit the sores of Ireland and the poverty of Ireland to the world and as a beggar to ask the world to come to the aid of the hospitals of this country. But it may be said that this is not begging. Perhaps not. Then it is an appeal, as Deputy McGoldrick has said, to the cupidity of persons who have no concern with Irish hospitals, but who are simply hoping to get very big prizes for a very small amount of money. But this is a consideration which I want the Dáil as a whole to bear in mind —that it is an utter denial of the doctrine of self-reliance, that it is an utter denial of the doctrine of self-help. It is simply telling people that Ireland, having got this measure of freedom, immediately proceeds to throw the responsibility for maintaining her hospitals upon other people. Is that a thing to be proud of? Is that a desirable movement? But worse than that, you are dependent, I say, for eighty per cent. of your income upon subscribers in England; you are dependent upon the Postmaster-General of England as to whether your Bill is to be a success. It is a contravention of the Lottery Acts, and you are simply putting your whole institution at the mercy of the Postmaster-General or Home Secretary of England, to say whether these tickets shall be allowed to be distributed, and whether the Post Office shall be at your disposal. Is that a desirable position in which to place yourselves? What would be the position of the Oireachtas if they passed this into an Act and then, when you had got your thousands or millions of books out, the Postmaster-General of England said "Stop"? Where should we be? I say it is a shameful proposition. Self reliance! Sinn Féin! and you throw yourselves freely upon the mercy of an alien administrator. It has been put to me that this is the means of giving a large amount of employment. The people that make that kind of argument to any Trade Unionist or labour advocate, entirely misconceive the position that Trade Unionists and labour advocates hold. Six hundred clerks, I am told, have been employed at this particular job. Six hundred clerks may continue to be employed, but if you do not legalise this procedure, then six hundred clerks are going to lose their employment. Vested interest is being created, and at the end of a year, we are told, that these interests will be dispersed. But you can create vested interests by any kind of proceeding. You can create employment by all kinds of undesirable practices, and by allowing all kinds of obscenities to take place and to go through your institutions. We are not going to advocate or support any proposition for the mere creating of employment which is not for the good of the community. In the promotion of these sweepstakes we have seen the most horrible competition amongst the promoters to get hold of a charity that they can exploit, and we are told quite frankly that it cannot be done by voluntary agencies, that it cannot be done by people who are interested merely in the charitable side of the movement. You must have professional men who can organise this kind of an institution, these sweepstakes. It must be done in a business-like way by really well organised men that are specialists in the work. We have them tumbling over each other to get hold of a charity which they can exploit before the world. We are asked to legalise that kind of thing here.
Deputy Milroy says "no, no," Will the promoters of the Bill say that they are prepared to leave the Doctors, or any other set of voluntary workers, to run this business, and to run it within Ireland? If they will do that, a good deal of the opposition, my opposition at any rate, would be withdrawn, But they dare not do that, because they would not get the money they want. You have got to do a degrading thing to get the money, or you will not get the money. One has seen the professional beggar getting possession of the most decrepit and ill-kempt child for the purpose of exciting the charity of the public. That is an analogy to what these people are doing who are toppling over each other to try to get hold of the opportunity to run a sweepstake. The Doctors interested in this, no doubt, are going to select the organiser, and they are going to select the most respectable of the organisers, the most honest and decent, and, no doubt, they will see that it is all done decently and in order, and thus they will alienate all the rest. Then, we are to have a Committee which is to decide for itself how the money which has been collected in this way is to be expended. The Oireachtas of the Free State is to hand over to them full authority for the distribution of the money, to select what hospitals they like, and to distribute it in any manner they like, having raised the money in any manner they like, all with the authority of Dáil Eireann. We will then find squabbles between the hospitals. We will find a rivalry between a hospital in Dublin and a hospital in Cork or a hospital in Waterford; between a private hospital and a semiprivate hospital, between a hospital and a convalescent home, between a nursing institution and some other kind of medical institution. That will come about, and we will find that the Committee which has got authority from the Dáil is going to be placed in hot water, and further demands will be made for freedom to organise further sweepstakes. I believe these hospitals must be maintained. and I believe money must be found for them. They are not the only hospitals that are in need of money. Hospitals in England are making the same complaint, and they are endeavouring to run sweepstakes and endeavouring to evade the Lottery Act in England, and no doubt there will be rival sweepstakes going on. But Ireland is to be the happy hunting ground in regard to sweepstakes. They are to be legalised here, and it is not to be merely a winking or a blinking or a putting of the telescope to the blind eye, as has been done in the past. Sweepstakes are to be actually legalised here. and, therefore, I say Ireland is to be the happy hunting ground of this particular kind of "sport," as it is called. We are challenged to find an alternative means of financing the hospitals. For my part, I am prepared to make a suggestion, and to support the suggestion individually to the utmost. There are something like 450,000 or 460,000 health-insured persons in Ireland. A penny per week for a year, half subscribed by employers and half by employees, would produce £100,000 in the year. That is a fund that I believe could be obtainable, and I believe the workers generally would be willing to subscribe to it, knowing the need. I submit that this whole hospital position has got to be considered in relation to the Health Insurance under a Health Ministry, and I hope the Ministers, when making proposals under their Ministries Bill, will make provision for a Health Ministry, which will bring within its purview the hospitals and health insurance. Let there be some real national responsibility for the upkeep of these hospitals. But the mean way we are proposing to do it —to throw them upon the charity of England, Scotland, America and Canada, and we will give 5 per cent.—I say that is not worthy of the Dáil or of the Oireachtas; it is not worthy of Ireland, and it is not worthy of the promoter of the Bill.
The proposer of this Bill asked us to consider it on its merits. I am almost in agreement with him except that I would ask the Dáil to consider it on its demerits. He told us that in olden times our forefathers used to disport themselves after this fashion. I do not know much about olden times, but I do know a certain amount about more recent times and about the activities of certain members of the community with regard to sweepstakes. The carpet in my office has been worn by people coming to me with reference to this particular business and they were people whom I never suspected of being philantropists, and who had not the reputation generally. But they wept about the condition of medical charities, and I attribute a cold I contracted some time back to the damp atmosphere they created in my office. They were touched to the quick about the conditions of the hospitals and particularly the condition of the Dublin hospitals. They told me just how many days and hours they were from closing down, and that they were to be let run a little sweepstake to prevent the calamity to the community and to the metropolis. My construction of the present Bill is that when I proved so flinty-hearted that appeals in the name of individual charities failed, then they take to the hospitals collectively and hope that when beaten in detail they are going to win when they come en masse. Now the "drive" behind this Bill is not the "drive" of medical charities, but it is the "drive" of people who have made a profession or occupation or livelihood out of promoting sweepstakes; people who have at their disposal the organisation, the huge lists of addresses and agencies that are necessary for the running of sweepstakes as sweepstakes are run in these, our days. This Bill is a simple Bill—one of the most naive documents I have ever had the privilege of reading. It meets the point, if I might perpetrate a bull, by evading it. One would not think by reading this Bill that there was any corruption or fraud or looseness attributed in the public mind to sweepstakes. There are no regulations or conditions here to counter any such evils. It is a very simple Bill and set out at the foot of it we have 10 or 12 names. I only know one of these gentlemen personally, but I am prepared to accept offhand that they are all very good and upright and respectable men, though only one of them is a Knight.
But we are asked to believe that these gentlemen will run sweepstakes, that these busy Dublin surgeons and physicians, are going to sit down and personally conduct a sweepstake, or sweepstakes. We know that that is not the position at all, that in fact they will go to one of these gentlemen, who has at his disposal all these addresses and agencies all over the world, and say, "run a sweepstake for us." They could not do it otherwise. They could not do it themselves, as Deputy Johnson has pointed out. They would not have the time, and they would not have the knowledge nor the organisation necessary. Now, I will probably be acquitted of having any prejudice against the medical profession, or of having any deep-seated antipathy to hospitals. Any day I may personally require the services of one or more of these hospitals, but I do not think that this is the way to cater for them. A Deputy here said he was not in favour of any form of gambling; he was, in fact, an anti-gambler. But people are not entitled to come along with a Bill and say, "If you do not like this, put up something else." We are entitled to say: "Not this." That is all we are asked to do—to vote "for" or "against" this measure. Personally, I intend to vote against it. Deputy Dr. White, the proposer of the Bill, came to me and asked, "would it be any embarrassment to put it forward," and my answer was that it was better discuss and thrash it out, but that personally I would oppose the Bill, because of my experience during the last four or five months—oppose it if you like, on account of the people who gravitated towards my office in this particular class of business; oppose it because I am not satisfied that the "drive" really comes from people interested in medical charities, and that, in any case, I do not think that the care for the physical welfare of the citizens ought to lead us to do a thing which is not healthy for the body politic.
I do not like to give a vote on this occasion without saying something. I voted for the introduction of the Bill. I am going to vote against it now. I think, perhaps, my experience of the general working of hospitals in Dublin is greater than anyone in this gallery. I know that they are very much in need of money, and I know that it would be extremely difficult to raise that money. I know, if we turned to the State and asked for a subsidy, the answer we would get from the Minister for Finance at the present moment. I deplore the idea of the care of the sick being thrown back on any money raised in any objectionable way. The Minister for Home Affairs has made a greater impression on me than anyone else in regard to the matter. I do not see how it would be possible for me to support the Bill after he had stated his experience, and said that after careful consideration of the matter he did not see how it would be possible to eliminate the question of fraud. If that is so, I do not feel that I could support it. I have one or two objections that I would like to raise. I do not think the hospitals have been consulted as to whether they would wish to have money collected in this way. I see by to-day's papers that one hospital has refused to have anything to do with it. Up to the present I have no guarantee that there is a general desire on the part of the Managing Committees of hospitals to support the Bill. I am sorry that I should have to oppose the raising of money to help hospitals, no matter in what way the money is to be raised, but I cannot see my way to support the Bill in the present case.
I have just a few observations to make about this Bill. I rise to try to disinfect this Assembly from the poisonous gas we have had from those opposed to the Bill. I was really sorry Deputy McGoldrick was not allowed to read the full text of his pontifical letter on Faith and Knowledge, and I was also sorry that this Dáil had not amongst the other Ministries a Ministry of Public Worship, so that it could be circulated as a tract amongst the erring members of the community who strayed from the paths of righteousness. There is one argument that might have been put forward, which would have met fully and logically and satisfactorily the contentions of the promoters of the Bill. I waited to hear that answer from the Minister for Home Affairs. That answer would have been that this Bill was unnecessary; that the State would rise to that sense of responsibility which Deputy McGoldrick claimed it possessed and come to the aid of these institutions. A few days ago, discussing another measure, the Malicious Injuries Bill, when there was certain criticism passed upon the exclusion of certain forms of injuries as a basis of compensation, the President, in arguing in favour of the exclusion of these, said, "Where is the money to come from?"
Where is the money to come from to support these institutions? I do not think anyone here will contend for a moment—even those who share the strange delusions of Deputy Johnson that we are upon the brink of an abyss of iniquity and that we ought to pause before we hurl the country into that abyss—that money is not needed for those Institutions and needed urgently. If you can show that money is to be forthcoming, that these Institutions are going to be maintained, that they will function with all the essential requisites of such Institutions, and that they shall be fully equipped to do the services that the nation needs, then you have met, in the only way in which you could logically meet, the arguments in support of this Bill, and there will be no necessity to proceed with it. I have here the balance sheet of Mercer's Hospital, showing a very heavy debt to the Bank, and also showing that the ordinary expenses are far in excess of the ordinary income. This is not a Bill to legalise sweepstakes, as such. It is an emergency measure to come to the aid of Institutions that are in a state of crying financial distress. I have no affiliation or acquaintance with any sweepstake interest, though I have no doubt there will be some moral philosophers from Leopardstown to-day who will vote against the Bill—probably some who never missed a race either there or at Baldoyle. They will doubt the morality of this Bill. I do not charge them all with that, but I heard some people who think it is almost immoral to miss a race meeting, denouncing the iniquity of this Bill. To say the least of it, that is not logical or consistent, and it is not representative of a considered judgment or an impartial mind. To put it mildly, the Minister for Home Affairs did not treat the Dáil to what I call a serious examination of the Bill. There is no one here, whose argument is more conclusive, when he has a good case, than the Minister for Home Affairs; there is no one whose reasoning is so putrid as his when he has a bad case and when he is trying to substitute imagination for logic and facts. In Dublin there is an eminent divine who recently pronounced upon the Bill. He said, "What shall it profit the State if the Hospital heal the citizens' bodies and heal them at the cost of their souls." I want to know have the souls of the patients who passed through the Mater Hospital since it was erected been damned? An eminent writer in a daily paper says that the first Dublin Hospital lottery ticket was issued in 1847, and that from 1853 to 1857 a series of annual Dublin lotteries raised funds for the equipment of the Lying-In Hospital, now known as the Rotunda, the second maternity hospital erected in the world's history. Mercer's Hospital followed the Rotunda, and then came the Hospital for Incurables. These were erected largely with the assistance of funds raised in a somewhat similar manner, and possibly with less precautions against corruption than we can take in this enlightened age. I want to know where is the logic of utilising now those institutions that were built largely out of the proceeds of lotteries, and that derived their source of support from the very thing we are suggesting now? Those who are opposed to this Bill on principle, should now proceed to advocate that those Institutions, erected by means of funds derived from such iniquitous sources, should be demolished, and that the philanthropists who are so conspicuous by their absence in the subscription lists of the hospitals should proceed to erect alternative institutions in their places. We are told by the Minister for Home Affairs that it is impossible to close all loopholes to fraud and corruption that might be opened by the Bill. I do not believe the resources of civilisation, or the wit and ingenuity of the Minister for Home Affairs are so bankrupt or scanty as that. If that argument held, it is practically an argument that there is a certain curious thing known as original sin that still remains in Ireland, and that there must be no legislation until that original sin has been eliminated from the denizens of this unfortunate country.
If that argument is good, and that is, in reality, the principal argument he puts forward, all legislation should be suspended until that marvellous achievement is arrived at. Our legislators would have a good long holiday, and the community might be delighted if that took place. It is quite possible to take precautions against all outstanding and almost minute attempts at corruption or fraud. All the accounts of these sweepstakes for charitable institutions can be supervised by public accountants. Every penny brought into their coffers can be scrutinised and examined, and the personnel of the Executive Council directing and controlling such projects, can be made such as would meet the satisfaction of every person who is not, in this matter, looking at it rather from the point of view of anti-race meetings,i.e.., one who is opposed to all the things that are supposed to accumulate around race meetings. Practical steps can be taken to safeguard public rights and finances, and I think the financial council can be made such as would meet the requirements of all.
Certain names are mentioned in the Schedule of the Bill, but there is no reason why they could not be altered or added to, and I believe the Committee did contemplate some change in their body by, at least, giving to the other provinces representation that would be adequate, to see that the other provinces would have their interests safeguarded in the matter. I am afraid that I am distracting the attention of this Assembly at a considerable length, but the adverse comments on this Bill have been so sweeping, so largely detached from actual facts and common-sense, that I did not want this Assembly to finish its discussion here to-night with these delusions of the imaginations of Deputy McGoldrick, Deputy Johnson, and the Minister for Home Affairs. I would like that this Assembly would come back and consider the fact that what this Bill asks is not to attempt to give legislative sanction to sweepstakes as such, but that it is an honest intention and effort to try and meet the crying need and the serious financial necessities of institutions that are essential to the well-being of the community. No one denies that they are in need of funds, but no one has put forward a practical alternative to the solution. I am not overlooking the alternative that Deputy Johnson suggests, but I am afraid that that suggestion would take a very long time to materialise, and that the immediate necessities of those institutions would not be met in the degree to which, I am informed, at any rate that they are essential. I do not know if Deputy Johnson or any other Deputy contemplates that calamity. Theseinstitutions are in financial distress, and that distress is becoming more acute. I do not know that we can allow the opportunity of assisting them to pass, or to reject such an opportunity and see an added acuteness of financial distress coming about without feeling some serious responsibility for it. I do not know that Deputy Johnson and his friends on the other side of the Dáil will hail with satisfaction—at least, I feel they will not—a situation in which the coffers of these institutions become so depleted that the employees of these institutions cannot be paid a living wage in order to discharge their duties. Deputy McGoldrick said the circumstances were not such as lend themselves to levity. Certainly I do not approach this in any spirit of levity, and I think I have what might be called a flippant nature. The levity that has been introduced has been all on the side of those who oppose the Bill, and who tried to evade the fact that these institutions are up against a serious crisis, and that it is the duty of this Assembly to safeguard them against bankruptcy or inefficiency. As I say, there are three alternatives. Let the Government state that they can finance these institutions. If they cannot, let them show us another avenue or source from which funds can come to subsidise or finance these institutions. If they can do neither one nor the other of these, then let them give those who are trying to meet the situation with a practical solution a chance to do that which they admit they are incapable of doing.
I intend to vote for the measure on this occasion, but not because of the convincing nature of the sermons that have been preached here to-night in support of the Bill. We have been reminded of the fact already that in the first Seanad which has been set up under the Free State some of the wealthiest men in this country are members, and if we are sporty enough, as I believe this Dáil is, to send the Bill along to the Seanad that body will provide it with a sponsor to put the case in the same way that Deputy Milroy has put it this evening. They will realise that this is the first opportunity that they as wealthy capitalists and honoured citizens of the country have had to com pensate for the honour that has been done them by electing them to the first Seanad. Deputy Johnson has asked me if I meant out of their private purse, and I certainly say "yes." We have in the Seanad also some very good sporting men, as we have here in the Dáil. I am not now referring to Deputy Gorey, although he is looking at me. I am quite satisfied that if the Dáil sends up this Bill, which, in my opinion, and, as quite truly said by Deputy Milroy, is not a Bill to legalise sweeps, the gentlemen there, with very few exceptions, who represent the capitalistic interests of this country, and who are, no doubt, every one of them philanthropists, will find a way out of the difficulty for the Minister for Home Affairs by turning down the Bill, and finding sufficient money to keep the hospitals going until such time as the State is able to provide them with funds.
If we had not had the text of the Bill before us, and if we did not hear some of the advocacy of the measure that we have heard, I would be tempted to urge the Dáil strongly to give the Bill a chance.
The text has been circulated to all Deputies.
What I said was, "if we had not had the text before us," but we have had it. A very strong case has been made out against the Bill, and no attempt whatever has been made good, bad or indifferent to meet that case on the part of the promoters of the Bill. If the Bill fulfils certain conditions, it has been stated that it would have a considerable amount of support in the Dáil, but the promoters of the Bill turn round and tell you you can change it and make it anything you like. It is not the Dáil's business to make it anything it likes; it is the business of the promoters of such a Bill to come forward with a Bill that will carry conviction to the Dáil, and will stand criticism and will not in any sense be anything to the discredit of those who back it in the Dáil or elsewhere. Now, as the Minister for Home Affairs has said, all the gentlemen whose names are on the Schedule are highly respected and decent gentlemen, but officially they are not known to us. Whom do they represent, what interests do they represent, and what direct authority from those institutions have they got behind them? We do not know. I want to know.
A very pertinent point indeed was made by those Deputies who said that these things are run by professional sweepstakers and that they are not run out of bigness of heart in the interests of charity. But nobody on behalf of the Bill has stood up here and said that "that sort of thing will not happen now and we have taken steps; we have Sections or Clauses in the Bill to prevent that." You have not. You have a Bill that might be for anything. As a matter of fact, except the good names of the gentlemen who are mentioned in the Schedule, there is nothing at all to indicate that 80 per cent. of the proceeds of sweepstakes should not go to some private people and not to institutions at all. But the promoters say "We can change all that in Committee." It is not our business to wait until the Committee Stage to do that; it is their business to have the thing in workman-like shape in the Bill. I voted for the First Reading of the Bill to give it a chance. We had not the text or anything else before us. We have had the text since and we have heard the advocacy on behalf of the Bill. There is one great argument in favour of the Bill, and one only, and that is that the hospitals and other institutions in Dublin are desperately in need of money. Most of us know they are, and it is a crying shame and scandal that they are not financed on a much sounder basis than they have been. Personally I agree that the community through the State, perhaps, also, through the municipalities or local authorities, should finance the hospitals and should provide, not only an efficient but a sufficient medical service right throughout the country. The only argument, the only solid argument, is the urgency and the desperateness of the case. I would be prepared to back Deputy Johnson's suggestion. He calculates, I suppose, that anything upwards of £100,000 could be got. Can the promoters of the Bill give us any idea whatever of the amount of money no matter where it comes from that will go into those institutions from the sweepstakes? They cannot. The fact of the thing is that the pretty big gamble in that sense is an argument against the Bill. I do not think at all that it is a matter of gambling. If anyone goes down to Leopardstown or Baldoyle and takes a flutter in that way, I am not against him or against anyone who desires to take a flutter, or against anyone who wants to have 10/- on a sweepstake when the chances are 1,000 to 1, if he wants to do that, but here the gamble is very big as against the hospitals. Let the promoters of the Bill satisfy us that the objections made by Deputy Johnson and by the Minister for Home Affairs are not sound objections, that we can all be sure that there will be no private profit-making out of this business and that there will be none of the defects that have been pointed out to us. We are are told about the Metropolitan hospitals, but what about other hospitals, in Cork and Waterford and various other places? Are they going to be left out?
No, certainly not.
Well, I shall be very happy, indeed, to find even a professional sweepstaker who inside twelve months, will be able to raise and give to all the hospitals in Ireland that need the money sufficient to remove the complaint they make that they cannot make ends meet. Deputy Milroy says that nobody on this side of the Dáil would like to see the people employed in the hospitals deprived of a living wage. I wonder how many of them have had a living wage as it is, even at the best of times? We know perfectly well that because of the scandalous state of affairs that prevents the hospitals getting sufficient money, many of those who do the hardest and most arduous work in the hospitals work for very little, and work terribly long hours. I refer to those on whom throughout the night the health of the patients, under the supervision of the medical staff depends. But there is not even a guarantee from anybody that their state, or anybody's state in the hospital will be improved. They cannot even tell us that £50,000 will actually be handed over to the Dublin hospitals out of a Sweep, because they do not know. They depend on somebody else. The gentlemen whose names are in the Schedule do not know; they are dependent on somebody else. That is not the kind of proposition that should be brought before us; the gamble is too big. I am not against a decent gamble, but so far as the hospitals are concerned the gamble is too big, yet I think the thing should get a chance.
I will not detain you very long. I agree with a good deal of the last speaker's remarks, but I would point out that it is an urgent necessity to keep the hospitals going, and the proposition that is made is to wait for twelve months, and you will get £100,000 perhaps, if the employers give ½d. and the labourers give another. Now, the proposition on the other side is to give us a chance, have a sweepstake, and we will have £10,000 a month for twelve months. There is something wrong with the Bill. Provision should have been made for the prevention of fraud, and we cannot inculcate the idea of legislating towards gambling, but at the same time the matter is urgent, and it is to be done in the interests of charity. I will give you one text of Scripture and then I will sit down—"Charity covers a multitude of sins."
The advocates of this measure are not to be congratulated on their advocacy. I do not mean to make the small point of how much they differ amongst themselves. I sympathise deeply with Deputy Sears who, as the newspapers say about certain criminals in the dock, seemed to feel his position acutely. He is an anti-gambler, but he would relax his principles in favour of this Bill. The seconder of it on the first occasion gave us an admirable impersonation of Sir Toby Belch. He says, in effect, after Sir Toby, "Do you think, because you are virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" And then, we have the extraordinary allegation that because the hospitals are a charity, nothing is to be said as to the morality or expediency, or advisability of the means suggested in this Bill for coming to their rescue. The Deputy who was responsible for the Bill had the audacity to remind us of the lotteries of the eighteenth century. I wonder has he read the history of the operations of these lotteries. Pleasant and easy reading for him would be one of the stories of Maria Edgeworth, if he does not care to take serious history for his purpose, or, if he wishes, let him read the Preamble to the Lottery Act, which sets out, amongst various whereases, the moral depravity and the utter ruin to all trade and social dislocation caused by the indulgence in lotteries. To tell us that our forefathers did these things, is pretty much the same as if he were to address us in favour of relaxing the duties say, upon Spanish wines, because his great-grandfather was an eight-bottle man and could survive the seven-bottle man at the dining tables of the eighteenth century. There are other charities. Supposing I was to propose that because University College, Dublin, is sadly in need of funds, due to a building debt imposed upon it by the iniquity of the British Treasury in dealing with it in the hard period of the war, and I were to point out what a noble charity that is, I venture to suggest, and I am not afraid of it appearing an exaggeration, that the education of the country is a far greater charity than the relief of the ailing and the sick. If I were to propose to provide a measure for sweepstakes and lotteries to raise funds to pay off the debt on University College, and were to get a number of professors to put their names to the First Schedule of the Act, I wonder how much of his pontifical eloquence Deputy Milroy would expend in support of the measure? He would realise, then, that it would be a curious inconsistency to set up an institution which would indoctrinate the growing youth with proper principles and, at the same time, procure the means therefor by something which, though not, perhaps, bad in itself, has notoriously the effect of bringing about evil. Now, I do not want to appear as one of "unco' good" in this matter. I am as much in favour as Deputy Milroy, of people spending their off-hours at Punchestown or Leopardstown, or any other race meeting. There is no harm in that, but, this is a very different matter. I put a few pounds, let us say, which I had saved to buy a suit of clothes—being a sweated underpaid apprentice in some of the Dublin industries—I put this money into a sweepstake. From that moment I am interested in seeing what are the probable runners, I am interested in finding out which horse is allotted to my ticket, I am interested in the race and in the odds and all about it and I become an ardent and diligent student of the Sporting Press. In a little while you find me neglecting my work, and going where bets can be put on, and I will have what is called here, humorously, "my little flutter." And eventually, as has happened in thousands of cases, I am obliged to help myself from my employer's till. It is not because sweepstakes are bad in themselves, or that backing horses or horse racing is bad, but it is because of the evils that come in the train of these things that they are objectionable. Why should a man work for a miserable return if he can, by the mere purchase of a ticket, have a chance of winning £5,000. That is the unsettlement of the public mind which is highly deleterious to public morals. The only case that was attempted to be put up for this Bill was the case put up by Deputy Milroy. Queen Anne is dead, there are four seasons in the year, the hospitals are in a very bad state, they want money. He began with the obvious fact, which we do not need to be told about, and then his argument was that unless the sweepstakes were promoted by legislation in this Dáil, that no relief should be forthcoming. Why not rob a bank? There are banks in the country. Why not rob them? There are members of the Seanad who are wealthy men, as Deputy Davin told us. Why not rob them; hold them up and make them subscribe? That is the only way, I allege, that you can get the money readily and swiftly. Deputy Wilson dwelt on the urgency. Very well, I admit the urgency. Here is an obvious way to deal with an urgent necessity. Call upon the Seanad at the point of the gun. It is the same thing.
It is not nonsense, I submit, because the argument that Deputy Milroy uses, and dogmatically asserts, is that there is no other way, and because this is the only way we, who sympathise with the hospitals, must adopt it. I point out that there are other ways.
I did not say there is no other way. I asked to be told what was the other way, and there was no answer.
This is not the place to come for oracular answers to questions. I throw out one which I dogmatically assert to be a useful method. Let him show that it is not practicable or advisable. According to the argument of Deputy Milroy, anything which seems to him or to the abettors of this motion to be the only way of securing the desirable end, is a straight way to be voted for in this Dáil, and is to be adopted. He spoke of logic, but there is no logic in that. There is no logic in his speech, there is defiance of logic, if that be logic. We are told by some of the advocates of this measure that the strictest viligance would be exercised to secure that there would be no fraud. I personally do not care whether the thing is conducted with the utmost purity or not, that is not the point. I have not the slightest wish to doubt the probity, the public spirit or the charitable sentiments of the book-makers, or commission agents as they are called, who would organise this thing on behalf of the gentlemen mentioned in the Schedule. I know nothing about them, and consequently I have no reason to question their honesty or to suspect that any of the moneys would find a way into their coffers, but, to my mind, that is not the point. The point is this: Are you, as Deputy Sears admitted, going to legalise, on the ground of being a temporary measure, something which he by putting forward the argument of being only temporary, in effect admits not to be defensible in itself. There is a question of principle and public policy in this matter. To me the fact that Deputy Sir James Craig is against this, outweighs the arguments of a thousand Deputy Milroys. There is no one in the Dáil more intimately acquainted with the state of the hospitals, their needs and their value to the community, than Deputy Sir James Craig, and he will not give his vote on this occasion in support of this expedient. Even if I were not able to think about the matter for myself, his authority would weigh with me to an enormous extent.
I think there is one thing to be said which has not been touched upon so far, as to why this Bill should not be given a Second Reading here. I think it is extremely undesirable that legislation of this nature should be put through by ordinary methods of legislation. This is not merely a private member's Bill; it is really a private Bill that is to give exemptions from the provisions of the general law to certain people. It gives them privileges over other people, and over everybody, and a measure of that sort should be brought in under provisions that will very soon I hope be adopted for Private Bill legislation.
The Minister is quite wrong. The Bill comes under the category of public Bills, and is rightly going through Public Bill procedure.
Well, if that is so the Dáil should be extremely careful about passing legislation which would give exemption from the general law to any persons whatever. It is extremely easy in that way to open a door which was n ver intended to be open. There are other charities in the country as deserving as the hospitals, and as urgently in need of assistance, and if these hospitals are to be exempt from the provisions of the general law as asked it would be extremely hard to resist those other applications, and in that way, have the general law repealed bit by bit, not as the result of any considered policy, but simply as the result of inadvertence, and a certain amount of carelessness in opening the door by giving exemption to one particular institution or one particular body of people.
For that reason, and unless we had a very carefully thought cut measure put before this Dáil, with every safeguard and every consideration brought in that could be brought in in the case of a Private Bill, after careful examination, and by all the parties concerned having joined together and settled any differences there might be among themselves, and, having used every safeguard, and satisfied themselves in advance that everything was safe and secure, I think the Dáil should not pass it merely in the interests of these gentlemen. If it were a general public law in the interests of the whole community, and applying to everybody, it might be right to proceed with such a Bill; but when it is a measure of privilege, to give exemption to certain individuals, unless everything is in order, and has been looked into very carefully, and put into some sort of decent shape. so that it could be passed, the Dáil should not, in the interests of a group, through Deputies who drafted the Bill, spend its time trying to make that measure somewhat acceptable, and, I think, a second reading should not be given to it. If any such measure is prepared it should be prepared by people outside, and then some regular scheme should be brought up, and the Dáil should not be asked to legislate for a group of individuals, but should stand for legislation in the general interest.
I approach the matter from a different standpoint to anyone who has spoken for or against the measure. I hear this measure described as gambling and as sport. It is neither gambling nor sport. It is an insult to sportsmen to call this gambling or sport. It is not betting or sport, and when we are told that we are dealing with a sporting fraternity, I refute it. I voted upon this measure on the First Reading, in order to give certain Deputies an opportunity of proving their consistency. We heard about all the fabulous sums made by private individuals over a recent big sweepstake in Dublin. We heard figures of £38,000, and we heard figures up to £95,000. I do not know how true the one or the other is, but when people make these statements they ought to come here and prove them. I listened to Deputy McGoldrick and Deputy Sears, and I heard them state their pious objection to gambling. These old maids object to a decent bet. They remind me of religious old maids. It is all right to go to a race meeting and have a bet where a man can see what he is doing, and can get a run for his money.
On a point of order I did not object to betting or gambling.
That is not a point of order.
In the case of a sweep it is a million to one chance against you. These sweeps have been a scandal for years. Tickets have been coming into this country from India, Switzerland and elsewhere until legislation had to be passed against it. This is not gambling. It is a proposition put up to enable somebody to make a good thing out of it. Some particular individual thinks that he is going to make a good thing and to make it easily without any risk. I do not think a proposition like this adds to the dignity of the Dáil. I think it makes this country more of a Monte Carlo or Switzerland than anything else I can conceive. I do not think that is fair. I think that the proposition that Deputy Johnson put up as an alternative is not the only alternative, as a matter of fact it is not a fair proposition at all. The people who employ persons in this country and the people who work are not the only people in this country and they are not the people with the most means. The people with the most means in this country are very often the people who employ only one servant or, perhaps, two. I see no reason in the world, why this State should not subsidise and take charge of the whole public health of the country. I think that is one of most pressing needs there is in the country. I think it is a thing which ought to be tackled by the State and that it ought to be as pressing a service as any other National service in the State, perhaps one of the most pressing. For goodness sake when you are talking about this Bill do not call it sport. It is not sport, and as a sportsman I object to it.
If Deputy White desires to conclude the debate he can do so.
There are just one or two points about this Bill which are not, perhaps, clear to some of the Deputies. It is suggested, and it will be done, if, as I hope, this Bill gets through this Reading, that three representatives from each province from outside Leinster be added to the present committee, these representatives to be selected by the Governing Bodies of the Public Charitable Hospitals within each province. I think it was Deputy Johnson raised that point. Therefore, there will be representation from outside the Metropolis. I am not a bit perturbed, and I am not a bit more convinced now than I was when I came into the Dáil this evening. I am quite satisfied that this is a Bill that should go through. Some of the Deputies have seen well to make it a matter of jest, that this Bill was not drawn up perhaps as perfectly as it should have been, and when I made a few opening remarks this evening, those opening remarks seemed to be the pendulum for jests on the part of some of these Deputies, because it was suggested that the Medical Committee, and the colleagues working with them, were not magnificent draughtsmen of these measures.
Before we finally vote on this Bill tonight, I would respectfully suggest that we be given an opportunity of overhauling the Bill, and I promise you that on the next reading it will be as watertight as possible, as far as it is possible to make a Bill of this kind watertight. The point raised by Deputy Johnson as to the contributions by the workers and employers is an admirable one; but, I think, that the time does not admit of it—his suggestion is not practicable at the moment. Under this Bill it is quite possible that on a big race in two or three months' time you may have, perhaps, thirty or forty thousand pounds or more than that, and that would be a considerable sum to the Metropolitan hospitals to go on with, not to speak of any hospitals in the country. Then, if I am in order, I would appeal individually to the members of the Dáil to give us an opportunity of endeavouring to stop up those loopholes, and, as I remarked before, of making this Bill as watertight as it is possible to make a Bill of this kind.
- Seán Ó Maolruaidh.
- Seán Ó Duinnín.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- Riobárd Ó Deaghaidh.
- Seán Ó Ruanaidh.
- Mícheál de Duram.
- Ailfrid Ó Broin.
- Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Criostóir Ó Broin.
- Ristéard Mac Liam.
- Liam Ó Daimhin.
- Próinsias Bulfin.
- Aindriú Ó Laimhin.
- Próinsias Mag Aonghusa.
- Cathal Ó Seanáin.
- Peadar Ó hAodha.
- Liam Mac Sioghaird.
- Tomás Ó Domhnaill.
- Uinseann de Faoite.
- Seán Buitléir.
- Domhnall Ó Broin.
- Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.
- Mícheál Ó Dubhghaill.
- Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.
- Liam T. Mac Cosgair.
- Donchadh Ó Guaire.
- Mícheál Ó hAonghusa.
- Pádraig Mac Ualghairg.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Deasmhumhain Mac Gearailt.
- Liam Ó Briain.
- Earnán Altún.
- Sir Séamus Craig.
- Gearóid Mac Giobúin.
- Liam Thrift.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Aodh Ó Cúlacháin.
- Caoimhghin Ó hUigín.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Ristéard Mac Fheorais.