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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 24 Jun 1926

Vol. 16 No. 16


I move:—"That the Bill be read a Second Time."

I want to draw attention to the inadequacy of the provision made for the relief of unemployment in the country, and to suggest that there is a growing necessity for some extension of the Unemployment Insurance Act. In answer to a question put by me here recently the Minister for Industry and Commerce admitted that the numbers of unemployed were increasing, and it is well known to anybody who takes any interest in the matter that the majority of the unemployed have exhausted their right to unemployment benefit. Under the system that exists the position is that a man who has been unemployed for a certain time and gets work of a temporary nature, insurable work, say, under one of the relief schemes for three months, gets 12 stamps for that three months' work, and when he becomes unemployed again he is entitled to draw in respect of these 12 stamps 12 days' pay. Then he is finished and is penniless, and his only hope is to get something from the rates. But what is the position of the man who has not been fortunate enough to get even three months' employment? He has no unemployment benefit to get for he has no stamps. Only the man who has been lucky enough to get employment can draw unemployment benefit, and that is a side of the matter, I think, which is not known to many Deputies. It is a side of the matter, I submit, that has not received the consideration it should receive from the Government. Deputies who go home every week-end, Deputies I am sure of all parties, are aware of the growing poverty and destitution in the country.

It has been stated here before, and it is worth repeating for the claim can be justified, that it is the duty of the Government either to provide work or to maintain people willing to work. There are, undoubtedly, many thousands of young men unemployed, and they cannot get employment notwithstanding the fact that many thousands of young men and women are clearing out of the country to America. It is well known that there would be many more thousands going if they could get away. We cannot blame them, for if they remain at home there seems to be no hope of their getting an opportunity of earning a living. It is all very fine for people in fairly good circumstances, who have nothing better to do than write to the newspapers, deploring this wave of emigration. If these people want to stop emigration there is only one way of doing it, and that is to provide for people who remain in the country work at a remuneration which will enable them to live in moderate decency and comfort. I submit that the Government has not done and is not trying to do that. I submit that it is the Government's duty to do that. The Government can set an example and give a lead, and it is not good enough for the Government, or any Minister, to tell the Dáil that they are not responsible for unemployment and that it is not their duty to provide work for the unemployed. It is the duty of the Government to provide work for those who are willing to work. We hear a good deal about relief schemes, and we are told that there is going to be two million pounds set aside for the making of new trunk roads. I am glad that the Government has seen its way to make that provision for roads and, incidentally, to give employment, but I want to point out that even if that two million pounds were to be spent this year, it could only be spent, owing to the very nature of the work, in certain districts and will not reach districts where distress is greatest.

Then, again, an Arterial Drainage Bill was introduced last year with a great flare of trumpets by the Government, and we were told that it would give employment. When is it going to do so? On the Government's own showing, it will not be sooner than 1927, and, perhaps, it will be at the end of 1927, but there will be no actual work done under the Act this year. That is the Minister's statement. There will be no relief for unemployed workers under that Act this year, and the reason which is put forward for that decision by the Ministry is that they have not a staff of engineers. I am told that there are even engineers unemployed. I do not know if they would be suitable for the work to be carried out under the Act, but I say that if the employment of ten or twelve extra engineers would enable the Minister to start the work this year, rather than next year, they should be found, in order to give the maximum amount of employment for unskilled workers. I am not satisfied that the Government has made any serious attempt to deal with the problem of unemployment. The number of unemployed to-day is greater than it was three years ago. That cannot be denied. The point, which I would like Deputies to grip, is that, day after day, the number of persons entitled to receive unemployment benefit is steadily decreasing because they have no stamps to their credit.

Deputies and the public should not be lulled into a false sense of security as to the position of unemployment by the official figures. Those figures only represent the numbers that are entitled to draw unemployment benefits, and it is well known that there is a far greater number unemployed who do not come into these calculations at all. I do not think that it would be an exaggeration to say—unfortunately we have not accurate official figures—that there are in the Free State to-day, between men and women, roughly 80,000 unemployed. That is a very serious matter, not only for the people unemployed but for the country as a whole, because, in one way or another, they will have to be fed, and they certainly are a drain on people who are working and producing, and they are a drain upon the country. I cannot understand the Government wasting their time on trivial little Bills and Acts instead of devoting it to trying to obtain a solution of this question of unemployment. I think that the Dáil ought to say to the Government, especially as it is going to adjourn for a long time, that it is not satisfied with the way they have been dealing, or rather not dealing, with the question, and should give instructions to the Government that it should be tackled this summer in a serious way.

I want to support the case which has been so ably made by Deputy Morrissey in connection with the inadequate provision made this year for the relief of unemployment. In so far as the unemployed are concerned, they need not thank the Government for having done anything for them during the past year, or for intending to do anything during the coming year. In this year's Estimates we have an inadequate sum of £50,000 for relief schemes, in a country where there are, approximately, eighty thousand people idle and without means of sustenance. Under the Local Loans Fund there is a quarter of a million available for certain works. We can understand how inadequate that is when parcelled out to local authorities, even though the whole amount were parcelled out this year. The plight of the unemployed is deplorable and, notwithstanding the speeches we hear from Ministers and others who ought to have some responsibility, that trade is improving and unemployment decreasing, we still find cases to-day of men and women in continuous unemployment for three years, and without any prospect of being able to get employment. I suggested the other day, in connection with the Housing Bill, that the Government should raise a loan of ten million pounds for the purpose of dealing adequately and expeditiously with that problem, and providing some relief for hungry men and women who expect, and who have a right to expect, the Government to make provision for them in this crisis. The President pooh-poohed the idea. He thought that it was quite impossible to raise a loan.

At the last North Dublin by-election Deputy Mrs. Collins-O'Driscoll said as a member of the Government Party, that if Mr. Leonard and Mr. O'Connor were returned the Government proposed to borrow £20,000,000 for reconstruction. If £20,000,000 could be borrowed for reconstruction then, seeing that only one of these gentlemen was returned, £10,000,000 can be very easily borrowed now. I think that it is only by means of raising a loan for reconstruction, for housing and for the development of the country's resources that we will ever develop the country's resources and incidentally provide for those hundreds of thousands of people who are hungry to-day. No money, we are told, can be borrowed for housing. No money can be borrowed for reconstruction while millions of pounds can be paid in compensation, millions can be spent on an army and £400,000 can be paid to John Bull this year under the recent London Agreement. Yet no money can be provided to deal with housing for the working classes especially, and no money can be obtained for reconstruction schemes or schemes which are likely to give employment. I think that is a deplorable condition of things, and every Deputy, no matter what Party he is attached to, must realise that the problem of unemployment is very acute. What is worse, there is no prospect of amelioration in the condition of affairs.

I have before me a letter from a member of the Balrothery District Council in which he says that there are 140 people idle in the village of Swords and hundreds of people idle in the town of Balbriggan. All over the County Dublin the condition of the unemployed is deplorable. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health recently agreed to apply Section 13 of the Poor Law Act with a view to providing for the wants of the people who are in a state of acute distress there. The operation of that section comes to an end on Monday next. If the section is not re-applied in this area hundreds of men and women who can get no assistance whatever at present, will be forced into a condition of starvation. As the Dáil is going to adjourn for quite a long time, and as there is no evidence that the problem of unemployment will have decreased by the time we re-assemble next October or November. I want to voice with Deputy Morrissey my protest at the failure of the Government to make any adequate provision for the relief of unemployment. I think the working classes are entitled, notwithstanding the utterances of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, to expect that the Government shall find work for them. It is the duty of the Government to find work for the unemployed. If they do not regard it as their duty to find such work then they should clear out and give control of the administration into the hands of people who will regard it as their duty to save every citizen from the poverty and destitution which unemployment is forcing on them.

I beg to support Deputy Morrissey and Deputy Norton in their plea for the unemployed. I do not think the Executive Council realise the gravity of the situation at all. Year after year this problem has cropped up and we have got no satisfaction from the Ministry. I understand that there is a good deal of money to be spent on the trunk roads this year, but that will not give the employment that is necessary to cope with the present situation. It is only in selected areas where the roads are very bad that work will be carried out. The remaining portions of the country, the remoter districts, will receive no benefit whatever from the work carried out on these schemes. That of course is inevitable when you are carrying out schemes of this sort, but I say to the Government that they must provide money to give relief to these people who are unemployed for anything from three months to three years. It is criminal on the part of the Government to allow this situation to be steadily getting worse from year to year.

We have had our own Government here for the last four years, and what are they doing to relieve the sufferings of the mass of the people? Absolutely nothing. It is enough to make men say: "We wish to God we had the British back again." I ask every Deputy to show his detestation of the way the workers are being treated by calling on the Minister to provide a sufficient amount of money to give employment so that the people may get something to do. I see smiles around me in some quarters, but the smiles are coming from the big men of finance. They are not coming from men who have to work hard; they are sure that their families are wallowing in luxury at home. That is not so with the workers, and I ask every Deputy to do his utmost to see that the Government puts an end to this destitution at once.

I wish to support the plea made to the Government. At the same time I think it is very hard for any Government, even if it were a Labour Government, to deal with this question of unemployment, particularly when we have councillors representing districts where acute distress prevails who will not put forward some scheme to the Government to show that money could be expended with some return in that area.

Where is the money for the schemes?

I will point out in a few moments where the money will come from. I have supported the workers on every occasion in the Dáil. I have done everything in my power to try to convince the Government of the necessity of giving an adequate sum for the relief of distress. We have to-day something over 80,000 people registered as unemployed, but how many thousands of unemployed are not registered? How many thousands of agricultural labourers are never registered? How many thousands of workers are there in rural districts who are not eligible for unemployment benefit or who are not engaged in any insurable occupation? It is in these districts that real distress exists.

In answer to a question last week the Minister for Finance said that the drainage schemes, particularly in Westmeath, cannot be carried out this year. Deputy Morrissey has explained why; there are not sufficient engineers. If that is the only drawback, there are, as the Deputy said, dozens of engineers unemployed in the Saorstát, men who are quite capable and who have sufficient qualifications to carry out any drainage scheme. To deal with this question of unemployment in country districts why not put these drainage schemes into operation immediately? Why not employ these engineers? It would be money well spent in relieving distress amongst hundreds of thousands of families.

I do admit that it is very hard for any government to deal with the situation at the present time. We have too much to meet. By the agreement arrived at here £15,000,000 have to be paid to England as our portion of the War Debt, or as the amount of money England has paid to this country by way of compensation. Certainly I do agree that that amount of money could be used to better advantage by being put into some industry that would be instrumental in giving employment to our unemployed. We have been told on every occasion here that the Government have done their best. I admit the Government have done a good deal. In the matter of housing a great deal of money has been expended by the Government, and a great deal of employment has been given in all parts of the Saorstát where the drainage schemes are in operation. I know that in one particular case in Westmeath the Government have given their sanction to an expenditure of £550 for drainage and I think the work has been in progress for about a fortnight. The £2,000,000 grant under the road scheme will not relieve distress amongst all the workers. It will certainly give employment to a number of men, but there are hundreds of men and women living in country districts who will receive no benefit whatever from that Trunk Road Scheme. We want something to help the workers of the country districts and towns. Through the action of the Dáil here, I hold, as I have said before—through their putting on tariffs they have given employment to about 6,000 workers in the industries protected, but that protection was instrumental in throwing out of employment 10,000 workers. There is more unemployment to-day in the Saorstát than when the tariff was put on. The Government is responsible for this unemployment amongst the people. It is useless to ask sympathy from a body of people who do not know what sympathy is. It is very hard to expect any member on the Government benches to realise the true position. It would be very hard to expect them to know exactly the conditions under which the workers have to live, because none of these Deputies ever had the experience of having to go to bed supperless or seeing his little ones go to school without their breakfast. Yet that is an everyday occurrence with the children of the unemployed in the Saorstát to-day. One particular man, in the town of Moate, came to me last Saturday. He is in receipt of 5/- a week outdoor relief, and out of this he has to pay 3/- for rent. That leaves him 2/- to support himself, his wife and two children. There is not another shilling going into that house. If that mother has to go round from house to house who is to blame for it? Who brought her to beggary? I hold it is those who will not find employment for her husband. That is the position that we are coming to. It is degrading to dwell on the position to which the workers are being reduced. I know that the rest of the people could do a lot to ease the position of the unemployed. One should not expect the Government to do everything. The farmers around the country can do a lot. The landlords can do a lot and the employers can do a great deal. If the farmers will only till more land, if each farmer would only employ one man extra, if those who now employ nobody would employ one man, or if those who are in a big way would take on an extra man it would do a great deal to lessen unemployment. In addition, if the houselords would give the unemployed man time until he is in employment and not press him to pay them a rent out of the outdoor relief or the dole, things would not be quite as dark as they are for the unemployed. The question of unemployment is not a problem for the Government alone, but every man and woman in the country is in some measure responsible for easing the situation. The country is now safe. At least we hope so. Under these conditions people who have money to invest should invest it in this country. The circumstances are different from what they were a few years ago, because a man did not then know how soon the building he was erecting or the factory that he was establishing would be blown up. In this connection I do say that we have to thank the Government who withstood that attack on the State and brought forward very drastic legislation in order to establish a state of peace in which we are in at the present moment.

Peace and starvation.

Peace has been established and the country is now quite safe for the investment of capital. I feel sure that the Labour Party will now do everything in their power to co-operate with those engaged in building up the industries of the country. I feel sure that no drastic step will be taken by official labour against any employer so long as he pays a fair wage and so long as working conditions are reasonable. All the worker asks for is a fair wage to enable him to rear his children. The investor now has nothing to fear. The Free State has been established and so far as the laws and their administration are concerned there is fair play for all, but there is one other thing needed. We have not real freedom. The freedom the worker expects is the freedom to earn a sufficient livelihood to maintain himself and his family. We want more employment in the Saorstát. A few years ago, in 1919-20 there were 850 people employed in the Woollen Mills in Athlone. To-day there are only 340 working alternate time. In another factory there you had 184 a few years ago, and to-day you have only 16. In another woollen mill there you had 78 five years ago, and now you have only 30. Every man in the town who employed two men at that time employs only one to-day, and the man who at that time employed one man now ceases to employ. As a result you have 780 people unemployed in Athlone alone. You have 340 people unemployed in Mullingar. In the small town of Longford you have 400 unemployed. Those people will not benefit by the Trunk Road Scheme. Still we are told here that the Government tried to do something. The suggestion made by Deputy Norton that £10,000,000 should be borrowed for the purpose of relieving distress is a good one. I hold that every man who is willing and able to work should be given a chance of working. We must not allow such people to starve. The man who commits suicide is guilty of a crime, but if a man is allowed to die of hunger then the crime of murder has been committed by those who allowed him to die and they must be held guilty of murder. We are asked here to-day to try and get the Government to introduce some measure that will give immediate help. I do not want to see any measure introduced to help the people through the Labour Exchange. I want to see an opportunity given to all who are willing to work to earn their livelihood. Help through the Labour Exchange is now only given to those in insurable occupations. That help would not reach the people for whom I am speaking. I appeal to the Government to do something to relieve unemployment. If they would even advertise that the country is safe and that foreigners can come in and invest their money in the country—that is if they cannot raise a loan themselves— it would help to give employment. I want the Government to realise that large numbers of the citizens are suffering to-day in a very bad way. I do agree that every Deputy is anxious and willing to relieve the distress amongst the unemployed. It is a problem that requires the immediate attention of the Government and of every Deputy here if we are to get away from the position of allowing our people to starve.

After the apologia submitted on behalf of the Government by Deputy Sean Lyons, Ministers will probably have very little further to say on this matter. I contend that this is a matter where the Executive Council is on its trial for violation of the Constitution. Article 3 of the Constitution provides that all citizens shall have the same rights and privileges. I ask any reasoning Deputy to consider the position of the unemployed and the position of other citizens of the State. Are the large mass of people who are unemployed through no fault of their own enjoying the same privileges as are enjoyed by other citizens of the State? Is the Government taking steps to see that they enjoy the same privileges, consistent with their position, as workers having nothing to protect but their lives, and consistent with the position that they have nothing to give to support their lives but their work? Is the Government taking steps to see that these citizens are getting the same privileges as other citizens of the State?

It is a matter on which the Executive Council clearly can be indicted for violation of Article 3 of the Constitution. They are making no effort in the matter. The paltry dribs and drabs that have come the way of the unemployed are in no way an attempt to meet the situation. Probably the Government will say that they have investigated the matter, that they understand the matter and that they are meeting it just exactly as it ought to be met. I have in mind one constituency and I ask the Government what knowledge it has of the distress in that constituency. That constituency is not in favour with some members of the Executive Council who might say that the people are unsocial and uncivilised in parts of it. Probably not one member of the Government Party has gone into that constituency to investigate the matter for at least two years. Not one member of the Government Party has come in contact with the suffering people of these districts. I come in contact with those people every day. I want to assure the Executive Council that I am not endeavouring to make any capital against them in this matter. Distress in that constituency is of a most acute character. There are people drawing home assistance who have not had work for 18 months. Ministers and others say: "Where is the money to come from?" You are taking it from them in some direction or other. The rates will have to support them if you do not give them work through some scheme financed by the Exchequer.

The Government is moving very slowly in the matter of land distribution. If so much land is kept out of cultivation and production what is going to happen? We are told that the only cure for the abnormal economic position at the moment is more production. Why does not the Government give a lead and put more land into cultivation by distributing it? They could easily distribute land for productive purposes more quickly than they are doing. Drainage schemes are held up, too. I asked the Minister something over a month ago why drainage schemes submitted by county councils were not gone into. He had no sensible or reasonable answer to give. Such work would relieve a good deal of unemployment.

Deputy Lyons told us—it was a very pregnant phrase—that the country is quite safe for people to invest money in. What about the people who prepared to invest their labour in the country, who are not allowed and who are kept idle? No work is provided for them and no extension of unemployment benefit is given them.

I said here on one occasion that time always justified men who revolted because of their starving wives and children. They will justify any abnormal action that men may take because of their starving wives and children. The situation is desperate in some parts and unless the Government take steps immediately they may find themselves faced with a situation which, in order to quell, they had to pool the resources of the nation on another occasion. They pooled the resources of the nation once to preserve property and life. Here we have a body of citizens whose lives are in danger and the lives of whose families are in danger, and the Government are pooling no resources to save them. They are making no effort, as was suggested, for a loan to save these people from starvation.

The situation which was abnormal has become ordinary. The condition of unemployment and starvation which was very abnormal has now become the ordinary condition. People find themselves living such a low standard of life, a mere starvation existence, that suffering is an every-day occurrence with them.

On a former occasion here there was very keen difference of opinion—very sharp difference of opinion—as to the rights of this country or the obligations of this country to pay certain moneys to another nation. We are very anxious and willing to recognise our obligations to other countries. We are very willing to acknowledge that we owe money to other people. In the case of citizens of this State who for twenty or thirty years, perhaps, have given labour and who are willing to give labour to the State to-day and work the resources of the State in order to produce for the State, we are not fully acknowledging our liability. I am prepared to say that any abnormal action, any action out of the ordinary, taken by these people to vindicate their rights to the privileges enjoyed by other citizens will be justified by time, will be justified because of the condition in which the unemployed and the poor find themselves.

This House is likely to adjourn in a few days for a very long period and I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without joining in the appeal made by Deputy Morrissey that the Government should do something very quickly for the relief of the unemployed, especially in the city of Dublin. I am aware that in certain parts of the city to-day there are families in abject poverty, almost on the verge of hunger. The question of unemployment benefit is rather difficult to handle. Men with families who are a long time out of employment cannot get unemployment benefit until such time as they have twelve stamps on their cards, which means that somebody has to give them three months' employment before they are eligible for benefit.

Deputy Morrissey has stated that there are some 80,000 people unemployed. Half of those are not in receipt of any benefit. At least one-third are married and have families ranging from two to six. In Dublin such men and their families have to depend upon societies like the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Roomkeepers' Society to give them help to prevent them from having to go into the union or go hungry. Both of these societies have very little funds at present to help deserving cases. The Government should take immediate steps to find out the number of unemployed people who are not in receipt of benefit, and make some effort to give them relief. I have knowledge of one case where a man has been idle for three years, notwithstanding the fact that he has made every effort to get work. When he looked for unemployment benefit he was told he must have twelve stamps on his card before he could get any. That is not fair treatment. It is with very much regret that we see appearing on the streets of Dublin again a number of barefooted and ragged children. We all thanked God when barefooted children were no longer to be seen on our streets. For some seven or eight years one hardly saw a barefooted youngster on the streets. To-day, however, barefooted children are again to be seen with faces showing the pinch of hunger. That ought to be proof to the Government of the conditions obtaining in Dublin at present.

In this connection I should like to mention a complaint which was made to me only yesterday by two out-of-work tradesmen who said to me: "Is it not very hard that we cannot get work while foreigners are being allowed to come into the country to do work which we could do?" In Limerick, I believe, there are foreigners arriving almost every day to do work which could be done by some of our unemployed. That should not be allowed. When those large schemes were entered upon, those who were unemployed had great hope that they would get employment for a long period. It is not fair that two tradesmen like those should be left to walk the streets of Dublin because of the ease with which foreigners can come into the country to do work which they are capable of doing. In a small way I understand that that is also going on in connection with the beet factory in Carlow—that the list of foreign labour is growing slightly every day, instead of diminishing. I think that that ought to be stopped also.

It has been suggested that the Government should resort to borrowing in order to deal with the unemployment problem. I agree that borrowing on a large scale is the only method of dealing with it. It is urgent and necessary to take some extraordinary measures in order to provide for those out of employment. I suggest that the present generation has borne much more than its share of the hardships and sacrifices that have been made within the past ten years, and I think the Government ought to make up their minds that posterity ought to pay something for the so-called freedom we have attained. I think that borrowing is the only remedy for our present unemployment, and it will have to be on a large scale, in order that works of a reproductive character can be initiated. Instead of receiving unemployment benefit, I would prefer to see those who are unemployed put at some work of a reproductive kind. I feel certain that the unemployed in Dublin would much prefer to get work than a few months' unemployment benefit, because they look upon that only as a temporary relief, hoping some day that the Government will do something to take them out of their present unfortunate predicament. I join in that hope.

I do not know whether it will be possible to extract from Ministers on this occasion, after long waiting, some declaration of policy in regard to this most urgent and possibly the most acute question that faces the country. I am not one to belittle the seriousness of the difficulties of the problem. I know it is not easy to propound any single remedy that is going to be capable of application in a week or two or a month or two, but at least we ought to have from the Ministry at this time—they have had a long period of thought on the matter—some declaration of what their policy is in respect of this problem of unemployment. The figures are quite unknown of the number of unemployed men and women in the country at present. People make estimates which may be within a reasonable amount of accuracy. They may be eighty thousand, sixty thousand, fifty thousand; we do not know, but we know the extent of the problem is very wide indeed and is growing more and more acute.

Its acuteness is felt by very many of those who feel it is an outcome of the deliberate policy on the part of the Ministry which they have not yet been willing to change. I am speaking now quite incidentally of the policy of ensuring that preference in the matter of employment will be given to ex-soldiers of the National Army, not merely preference, but monopoly in many cases. I have contended on that score many times that if there is to be choice in respect of public employment, particularly employment of a relief kind, the men with the greatest number of dependents should have the first preference whether they served in the National Army or not. If you come to men of equal need, whether for themselves or for their dependents, then I have no objection to giving preference to men who served in the National Army, and I go further and say I would give preference to those who served in the National Army where there is equal need; surely the time has come when that preference has to be put into a second place and the need of the man and his family ought to be considered as more insistent than a reward for some service rendered three years ago. I say the Ministry has had a long time to cogitate and consider as to their policy upon this question, and one can only gather from statements made from time to time that they are living in hope that by the ordinary processes of trade revival there will be a gradual increasing absorption into employment of those at present unemployed and that by the expenditure of public moneys on public works a big break can be made into the army of men who have been so consistently unemployed for so long a time. That is not a policy satisfactory in itself. It is useful. It has relieved the situation considerably, but all the time that policy has been carried out you have left behind amies of unemployed, ranging from sixty to eighty thousand people. You are continuing the same policy. You will contemplate leaving this army of thirty to sixty thousand people unemployed. I say it is a refusal to recognise responsibility. Surely when we consider ourselves a community whose public activities are directed by a Government, there is just as much moral compulsion and as much responsibility upon that Government to see that this steady movement towards starvation should be arrested, and that this attack upon the lives and morale of the people should be stopped as if there were an emergency rather more sudden but not less disastrous in the shape of either invasion or internal revolt. An internal revolt or invasion does call upon all the resources of the people to resist and meet that danger.

I insist again, as I have done so often, that here you have a problem which means an attack on the very life's blood of the nation, an insidious gnawing at the vitals, more disastrous because it is so insidious. Yet there is no policy of meeting it. There is no attempt to meet it except by a little movement here or a little movement there, not one of which proposes to deal with the problem as a whole. We speak of the problem of the country as a whole and inevitably we are bound to think of the problem as it affects all parts of the country, but I am prepared just to take the county Dublin. There are fifteen members for the city of Dublin and I have no doubt they are all prepared to speak for their own constituency. It is not very often in this House, to my loss, perhaps, that I have put forward very special pleas for county Dublin. I have been blamed for it naturally, and it so happens that county Dublin is represented by fairly active members in this House who have, I think, taken a national view of their responsibilities and have thought of the country and not of their own constituencies. I think that can be said of the representatives of the county Dublin, but what is the result of taking that national view? The result is this constituency has been neglected to an extent which does not reflect credit upon the authorities responsible and possibly those Deputies for the county who have thought patriotically of the nation rather than of their own particular interests have to bear some blame for not sitting on the doorsteps of Ministers pleading and begging for benefits for their constituents.

In this constituency, which is one of the largest in the country and contains a fairly considerable urban population as well as a rural population from Dunlaoghaire to Balbriggan out of town after town, village after village, you get the cry, "Unemployment is destroying us." You have in the urban districts of Rathmines and Pembroke thousands of men unemployed, exactly the same as in the city of Dublin, but in the less populous districts where people are apt to think the residents are able to live on nothing you have the same cry of unemployment and necessity for assistance. We have, as Deputy Norton has said, this cry from the north county. Underpressure of need it was found necessary to extend the provisions of the law relating to special relief and to extend Section 13 of the Poor Law Act to the Balrothery Rural District. That was simply to allow special outdoor relief to be given to men whose wives and children were clamouring for bread in an agricultural county. They have got it, and it is expected to be withdrawn this weekend.

I propose to ask the Minister for Local Government to extend that, and perhaps he will extend it, in the hope that after two or three weeks a certain amount of work on the roads and the farms, hay-making and so on, will be obtained. But when that has passed what have they to face? Ministers have not dealt with this problem with the seriousness they ought to have dealt with it, and with which they have dealt with other problems. They have not faced this problem as they faced the agrarian problem or as they faced the problem of defence. You may spend money here and there and it will be useful and valuable and it will relieve the situation, but I want to know whether the Ministry is going to put forward to us a considered policy. They have been asked time and time again in this House what was their policy.

They told us they had the Shannon scheme, a beet sugar scheme, schemes of roads and house-building, with proposals for tariffs and hesitation and doubt as to whether tariffs will be valuable or not; but with all these proposals, you have remaining this army of unemployed. I have come to the conclusion that while this method of tinkering with the problem may have some effect, it is absolutely essential that provision should be made for those who remain. I entirely agree with the proposition that it is infinitely better to set men to work, but if you do not set them to work then you are bound to provide them with means of maintenance and I prefer the method of the unemployment insurance scheme with such extension as may be necessary.

But what has been the policy of the Ministry? The policy of the Ministry has been to cut down the benefits available under the unemployment insurance scheme, to cut off the extensions, to limit the number of weeks that men may draw unemployment benefit and to leave them to the chance of the labour market which has not shown any sign of revival. It is too late, of course, at this portion of the session to expect anything of that kind to be done. We have asked for it on every possible occasion, but up to now it has been refused. After the Recess we shall be into the winter. People, somehow, are able to get through the summer season, but the winter will come and I make this urgent plea that the Government will, as the first business of the next session, bring in a scheme of unemployment insurance extension which will fit the requirements of the case for the winter.

We hope that the moneys that have been voted will be spent quickly during the summer to absorb as large a number of unemployed as possible, but do not let these months pass over without recognising that the winter is coming and that these men and their families require to be fed and clothed. I say it is an absolute necessity, to avoid risks that are facing us, that some extension of this unemployment insurance scheme should be assented to.

Deputy Hogan has said that history justified men who had revolted on behalf of their wives and children in case of hunger and of need. Ministers have been very fortunate in their unemployed public within the last few years. It may be not unfairly charged against some of us that we have been too quiescent, too trustful, too patient. But there are spirits in the country not quiescent, not patient, and I am not sure whether it would not be good for the country if those spirits took possession of the minds of the people. It is not in the power or the capacity or even suited to the temperament of some of us, but unless there is evidence of real anxiety and real determination to meet this problem, I would say "Good luck" to the man who will fire the enthusiasm and the passion, if you like, of the unemployed men.

This question is undoubtedly serious and it is increasing in seriousness as time goes on. We have been looking forward for a long time now to a revival of industry and a general advance towards a more prosperous and a better state of affairs. Looking around to-day and regarding the conditions commercially, industrially and materially, one is forced to confess that the evidence of our prosperity is illusive. We are no nearer a solution of this question than we were a considerable time ago. I should like to be in a position to controvert the statements that came from the Labour benches, in urging the claim for proper consideration of the unemployed. I should like to be in a position to say to our friends on the Labour benches that they have been too fond of throwing the responsibility on other shoulders, without recognising that a large amount of responsibility attaches to themselves. To-day, I think that Labour representatives are seriously trying to shoulder as much of the responsibility as they can. No accusation lies to-day against Labour, as may have been the case in the past, that they desire to make it more difficult to carry on. That being so, and, recognising as I must and as everybody in this House must, that the burden of the unemployed is becoming intolerable. I would ask the House to face the situation and see if any solution can be arrived at to ameliorate the condition of a large number of men and women who are to-day in a very hopeless state.

It is undoubtedly a very difficult problem and one finds it puzzling to make suggestions as to how it should be solved. Deputy Norton's scheme for a large loan, to be invested in housing, does not appeal to me. His claim and the claim of some members of the Labour Party is for a policy of inflation. A policy of inflation, while it may be temporarily good for the workers, does not solve any problem. We would have to look on this suggestion of inflation as a remedy which would have a very bad effect even the immediate future. Even if you got £10,000,000, you could not spend it on building. As Deputy Good has said over and over again, skilled labour in connection with the building trade is to-day fully occupied at relatively good wages.

That is in Dublin?

Dublin is not the whole country.

I venture to say that it is the same in the country.

There were seventy joiners unemployed in Limerick City a fortnight ago.

We have been told here that the grants for the building of houses have been taken advantage of to a greater extent in the country than elsewhere. However, as regards the country the position must be determined by the farmers. The farmers can say whether they can employ more labour or not. It is up to the people who are in a position to give employment to provide as much employment as they can to meet the situation. But even that may not meet the case. The suggestion has been put forward that the Unemployment Insurance Fund provides the best means of dealing with this question. I am inclined to agree with that. The Minister for Industry and Commerce holds that the Unemployment Insurance Fund must be worked on actuarial lines. Grants out of the unemployment fund which are not represented by stamps to credit get the fund more deeply into difficulties and render it more and more insolvent. If the unemployment fund is actuarially unsound and unable to meet the needs of people who cannot get employment, I would suggest to the Government that they examine the basis of the fund, with a view to reconstructing it and allowing a margin which would be available for people out of benefit.

I think the difficulty in connection with the unemployment fund in the past—here I accuse the members of the Labour Party—was largely due to the abuse of the fund, in the sense that every labourer who contributed to that fund and who had the good fortune to be employed all the time, regarded the money he paid as money which he ought to get out of the fund if he possibly could. Instead of a man being proud of having contributed to the fund, without being a burden on it at any time, every opportunity was taken to get back the money paid. That was largely though not altogether the case. It is there I think that responsibility lies in connection with the administration of the fund, in the past, at all events. I do not say that that operates to-day.

I do not see any other way out of this difficulty. There is no use in our calling on the Government to bear the burden and do this, that and the other thing. All sections of the House ought come together, recognising that this is a problem that must be faced. It cannot go on as it is going, and the Government must be the instrument through which every section of the House will be enabled to contribute something towards dealing with the needs of the case as we find it to-day. We cannot face another winter in the position in which we are to-day. There is undoubtedly an enormous abuse by men who are deliberately out of employment. There must be a considerable number of those. There must be a considerable number of men, too, who are so long out of work that they are really unemployable at present. But we cannot ignore the fact that we have a responsibility in the matter. I say deliberately to every section of the House that we must do something as regards this question and do it as soon as ever we can. I join with the Labour Party in asking the Government to explore the whole position in the hope of arriving at some policy to deal with the large number of unemployed that we have. So long as there is unemployment in our midst to the extent that there is to-day, with no apparent hope of lessening it to any great degree, we cannot ignore our responsibilities in the matter, and a real effort should be made to absorb as many in commercial undertakings as possible. We cannot controvert it, and I know it to my own knowledge, that men are waiting for work week after week and year after year, until they become practically unemployable. We cannot fail to recognise our responsibilities in this connection, and I ask every section of the House to face the problem and see what can be done.

I did not intend to speak on this matter at all until references were made to the farmers and to agriculture. The farming community have very few suggestions to make. An unfortunate position was created in the agricultural community a few years ago by unreasonable strikes. Where they took place tillage was curtailed and cows sold and sent away to England. These cows are coming back and tillage is coming back. Things are improving, but they cannot become right all of a sudden. Cows are becoming normal in number in county Waterford, where two or three thousand left in one year. County Limerick has increased its cows by two thousand or more this year, and the numbers in Tipperary are also increasing. Tillage is also coming back, and if we can be spared—as I think we should be, in view of the lessons of the past—these unreasonable and ridiculous strikes, and if Labour could make up its mind to accept what can be got out of the industry, not what cannot be got, we would have less unemployment in agricultural districts. I believe that there is more unemployment in county Dublin, the highest paid centre of agriculture, than anywhere else. You can trace all this back to the demand for a wage which the land, in Dublin and everywhere else, cannot pay. There is a good deal to be done on both sides, and if we are prepared to help we want help from Labour. There is no use telling us that a man requires a living wage on which he can support his family in comfort. The standard of comfort and decency ought to be the standard that the country can bear.

For everybody?

For everybody. It ought to be no fictitious standard.

What about the standard of profits?

If the Deputy has any doubt about the standard of profits in agriculture in Dublin he has only to consult any farmer in Dublin; that is, if he wants to be honest on this question. I did not mean to say anything, but as these references have been made I thought it well to intervene. We are prepared to do our part, provided everybody else is prepared to do the same.

Sitting suspended at 6.50 until 7.30,AN CEANN COMHAIRLE in the Chair.