To-day I addressed a question to the Minister for Finance asking him, in view of the very large amount of unemployment at the present time prevailing and the poverty and suffering occasioned thereby, was it the intention of the Government to introduce a Supplementary Estimate prior to the adjournment of the Dáil in order to finance relief schemes. so that work would be provided for the unemployed. My reason in tabling that question was owing to the fact that at the present time there are tens of thousands of unemployed men and women in the Saorstát, and the majority of those unemployed men and women are legitimately looking for work, but are, unfortunately, unable to find it. Many of those who are unemployed in Dublin and elsewhere are married men with wives and families. Some of them have been in insurable occupations, but their unemployment insurance benefits have become exhausted. Some of them, such as agricultural labourers, in other parts of the country, not being in insurable occupations, are not entitled to draw any benefits.
The Dáil will be adjourning inside the next week or fortnight for a period of approximately three months. Many of the Deputies on the Government benches will be going away to enjoy themselves at seaside resorts and elsewhere. No doubt some of the Ministers will be going to France or Sweden or other continental resorts in order that they also may enjoy themselves. I do appeal to Government Deputies and to the Ministers who are going away to enjoy themselves to picture the scenes which will take place in Dublin and other parts of the country in the homes of the unemployed. Many of these unemployed are married men with wives and families. They have to feed their families, clothe them, educate them, and pay house rents. Picture the plight of an unemployed man, with a wife and family, whose benefits are exhausted or who was never entitled to draw unemployment benefits. His wife and children are calling out for food and he has no food to give them.
The Minister, in the course of his reply to-day, was very brief and abrupt. He said it was not the intention of the Government to introduce a Supplementary Estimate for the relief of unemployment. Is it any wonder that I charge the Minister and the Government Party with callous indifference to the plight of the unemployed in Dublin, Donegal and elsewhere throughout the Saorstát? The unfortunate fact is that Ministers, as well as members of the Government Party, seem to have got the idea that unemployment is a necessary evil which must and always will exist. I am one of those people who hold otherwise, and I believe if the Government had the moral courage or the pluck to face up in a proper manner to this question of unemployment, the situation could be relieved, if not altogether wiped out.
Deputies here who were members of the First Dáil will recollect that in the year 1919 there was passed or adopted in that Dáil what was known as the Democratic Programme. For the benefit of Deputies who were not in the First Dáil I will point out that one of the clauses in the Democratic Programme was: "That while the duty of the citizens is to give allegiance and service to the commonwealth, it is the right of the citizen to demand of the nation an opportunity to work for adequate reward." I want to know are the Ministers prepared to face up to the fine words in that particular clause in the Democratic Programme, or, on the other hand, have they run away from that Democratic Programme? Apparently, according to the indifferent reply which I received from the Minister for Finance to-day, he no longer is a believer in that Democratic Programme.
I charge the Government, here and now, not alone with indifference towards the unemployed in Dublin, Donegal and elsewhere, but also with putting a premium on dishonesty. The reason I do that is this. If you take a dishonest man at present who commits an offence, he is brought before a court and convicted. He is put into prison and the cost of keeping a man in prison, for food alone, is 13s. 4d. a week. That means that the Government are prepared to pay, for the upkeep of a dishonest man, a sum of 13s. 4d., whereas an honest unemployed worker is not allowed to get benefits if he has not been in an insurable occupation, and, if he has been in such occupation, he is cut off after six months.
I put it to the Minister and Deputies on the Government Benches that surely there is some sort of a kink in the social system that allows that sort of thing to go on. Surely the Ministers could give the time of the House and the brains of the Deputies of all parties in an effort to solve this problem instead of leaving hungry men, women and children with the reply: "We are not prepared to do anything for the unemployed." That is their reply now, but inside a fortnight we are prepared to adjourn the House and to go to seaside resorts and continental countries. The Ministers are prepared to do that, but as far as the unemployed in Dublin and other parts of the country are concerned, we are not prepared to do anything for them.
Inside the next week I suppose we will be asked to pass a Vote on Account for over £7,000,000. I would like to go over a few items in that Vote on Account because I believe it has a direct bearing on this question of relief schemes. Vote 71 is for Relief Schemes; in other words, money to provide work for the unemployed who are unable to find work. We find in capital letters after it "Nil." They are not prepared to provide any money for that. Let us go back to the first item and we find Governor-General's Establishment, £2,000. That is £2,000 for the upkeep of the Governor-General's Establishment while this Dáil is adjourned. Apparently Deputies are prepared to say that that establishment shall be kept up in comfort and in luxury while the poor unemployed men in Gloucester Street or the Coombe or in Donegal are to be allowed to starve. I put it to Deputies here, is that common justice or common decency? Is that what you would expect from any Irish Government? Let us come to another item on the Vote— Science and Art, £13,000. Science and art might be quite all right in their own way, but I put it to the Government, can this country afford to spend £13,000 on science and art while so many unemployed hungry men, women and children are in this country? I put it to them that they have not faced this problem seriously.
Deputies will remember that some time ago an Unemployment Committee was set up to inquire into relief measures in connection with the unemployment problem. That Committee for the relief of unemployment made a report, but so far as the men and women who are unemployed throughout the country are concerned, they have benefited nothing as a result of the finding of that Committee. I charge the Government here and now with being responsible for that. The Government set up this Unemployment Committee with one idea, and that idea was to sidetrack the whole question, because they did not provide money to carry out the findings of that Unemployment Committee. They did not introduce a Supplementary Estimate to give effect to the work of that Committee. To my mind, it was like asking a bricklayer to build a house without giving him the necessary materials to do it.
I understand that Deputy A. Byrne and some other Deputies desire to speak on this question, and I would appeal to the Government now to reconsider their decision before entering upon an adjournment of three months. There are many unemployed, as Ministers know, not only in Dublin, Donegal, Cork and elsewhere, but all over the country. These unemployed people are looking to this Dáil hoping against hope, and they expect the Dáil to do something to relieve the unemployment situation before the adjournment. These hungry men, women and children are holding out their hands to this Dáil imploring them to do something for them, and I hope the Dáil will not adjourn until a supplementary vote shall have been introduced. No doubt, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, in replying, will tell us what they have done to relieve the unemployment situation. They have done a little —just a little. That little has not been sufficient, no matter what the Ministers may tell us in their replies. There is no gainsaying the fact that there are, at the moment, men, women and children hungry in the country as a result of unemployment. No doubt the Ministers in replying will indulge in a lot of word-juggling and logic-chopping, but fine phrases and juggling of words will not feed the hungry men, women and children. Before this House adjourns, I would appeal to Deputies to endeavour to bring pressure to bear on the Government to induce them to face up to this unemployment situation and to provide funds which will go towards the relief of the unemployed.