THE ADJOURNMENT—RELIEF OF UNEMPLOYMENT.

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.

No words of mine could possibly describe the appalling conditions in the tenements of Dublin to-day. I would ask Deputies to take a stroll through Gloucester Street, Gardiner Street, Grenville Street, Henrietta Street and such streets, which are within five minutes walk from the Nelson Pillar. They will find people in the tenements there hungry. I do not wish to exaggerate the conditions that obtain in the tenements of Dublin to-day, but I take this opportunity of asking the Minister if he will take the word of inspectors of the St. Vincent de Paul Society or of the Roomkeepers' Society. Both those societies are heavily in debt as a result of the administration of relief. They are working on overdrafts, secured by a few residents of the city. I ask why that should be, when we have an authority here that should administer relief to deserving cases. For some unknown reason they refuse to put their powers into operation. Section 13 of the Local Government Act, 1898, reads as follows:—

Where the guardians of any union satisfy the council that exceptional distress exists in some district electoral division, situate both in the union and in the county, and the council apply to the Local Government Board, the Board may, if it thinks fit, by order, authorise the guardians, subject to the prescribed conditions, to administer relief out of the workhouse, for any time not exceeding two months from the date of the order, to poor persons of any description resident in the said electoral division, and they may revoke any such order either wholly or partially or with reference to any particular class of persons.

There they have power to administer relief to "poor persons of any description." Dublin city—I mention this specially for the information of the country members, because we in Dublin are going to ask for their support in this matter—is the only part of the Free State where that section is not put into operation. You have a system of home assistance in the country. I will ask Deputies who know that a small number of unemployed in their own districts are getting home assistance from the authorities to support this appeal and to assist in seeing that the Dublin poor and the Dublin unemployed are put on the same basis as those in their own areas. What are the conditions so far as the Dublin unemployed man is concerned? A man with five or six children is healthy and strong and fit to work, but that makes no difference. He may be fit to work, but he cannot get work, and his children and wife get nothing. They may go a-begging. That is what is going on in Dublin to-day. The relief institutions are practically broken. You can see statements in the papers that the charitable institutions are visited by people who, when they leave the building, do not know where the next meal is to come from. A lady with whom I was associated in public affairs some time ago—Miss Harrison— has done her utmost to draw the attention of the public to the conditions that exist in Dublin city. It would be interesting if the Minister for Local Government would issue a report showing the death-rate in Dublin, especially in respect of infants of three months old and new-born babes. The reason I ask for that is that I have a letter here from a man who made an appeal to me to secure assistance for himself, his wife and six children, as they might be on the streets the following morning. I was in the same position as other Deputies, and was unable to help that man. Next day, that unfortunate man called upon me to ask me to subscribe towards purchasing a coffin for a dead-born babe. That occurred last week in one of our principal hospitals. He was an unemployed man who served the State and who had six children. I have his letter here for the information of any Deputy who wishes to see it. I should like somebody outside Dublin to investigate that case. I know there are sympathetic Deputies in this House who are willing to be convinced that something should be done for the unemployed of Dublin. I say that if something cannot be done to provide work for them, it is up to the State to provide for their wives and children.

We have, then, the case of the school children. There are children going to school in Dublin barefooted and hungry. I know a school in Dublin in which the teachers, who have not very good salaries, subscribe out of their own pockets and do their utmost to provide sandwiches or necessaries for the children when they arrive at the school. That should not be. Regarding the answer the Minister gave me on this question of Section 13——

I understand there are two Ministers concerned with this question, and some time should be given them to reply.

And somebody on these benches would like to say a word or two also.

I will not go through half what I intended to say. I have a list of 73 names of persons with families whom I sent to the authorities within the past week. I have thirty or forty people calling on me per day. I know they call on other Deputies who find themselves in the same position as myself. I can do nothing for them.

You voted for a Seanad that would cost £50,000 a year.

That is not worth replying to. Here is a case in which an unfortunate woman with six children writes that they are hungry and can nothing be done for them. I sent the letter to the authorities, and I said "I will be grateful for your kind consideration of the case of Mrs. A." The Secretary of the Union wrote: "Will the Relieving Officer please report upon this." I got back my own letter in answer to the appeal of the woman with the six hungry children, and it was marked "This is a case of unemployment.—Yours, T.M., Relieving Officer." I got back my own letter without any statement that they are going to do anything to help that person. I will avail of another opportunity to go into this matter in detail. I hope that if relief schemes are not provided, the Minister will see that this Section 13 is put into operation in Dublin and thus save Crooksling Sanatorium and the hospitals from being over-run with hungry people.

I should like to ask the Minister what has become of the great housing scheme that got Deputy Rice returned at the by-election. I do not even see Deputy Rice here.

In my opinion, the hunger that prevails at present is not merely an awful tragedy for the hungry people but it is actually affecting the working people. In Arklow, last Saturday, I saw absolute panic amongst people who are themselves comfortable. At least eight persons to whom I spoke, many of whom are supporters of the Government, put the question to me: "Can you, up there, do nothing? Do you not see hunger stalking through the town?" I did see hunger stalking through the town. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health knows that about a month ago the three Deputies from Wicklow signed a request that he should take advantage of a visit to the county which, it was known, he was making to inspect certain work, with a view to relieving the terrible unemployment that prevails in that area. He was asked to receive the three Deputies who had some suggestions to make and who wanted, at least, to bring before him the tragedy of unemployment in that area. I am sorry to say that I, at all events, received no reply to that communication. If the Minister doubts that that state of affairs prevails, he can very easily ascertain from some of the Government supporters in that area. If he communicated with a priest in Wicklow town, I think he would hear a story of poverty and degradation that would really shock him into doing something.

It is impossible to deal with the problem of unemployment by means of voting relief moneys. We have in most years provided some money for expenditure on relief schemes during the winter. In particular areas the suffering was no doubt palliated to some extent by those relief schemes, but only a fraction of the people who were unemployed were touched or could be touched by them. I can see no possibility of substantially dealing with the problem of unemployment by the expenditure of relief moneys. If we were to embark on a policy of expenditure on relief on a large scale, we could not treat that expenditure as casual and non-recurrent, as we have heretofore done. It would have to be treated as normal and recurrent, and additional taxation would have to be imposed. The imposition of taxation for the finding of the relief moneys would aggravate unemployment. The money expended on relief is always to some extent wasteful. In some cases it is very wasteful. In other cases a moderate economic return is got, but on the whole good results are not obtained from it.

Is it not a good result if it feeds hungry men, women and children?

What a tragic commentary on your highly organised capitalist system.

Nothing better than a moderate palliative can be got by means of relief moneys. Something better can be done where definite schemes of construction are formulated. Something fairly substantial, in all the circumstances, has been done in that way through the expenditure on housing, for instance, the expenditure on roads and from the amounts annually expended by the Land Commission on improvement works and drainage. The view of the Government has been that, while they have found it necessary from time to time to vote certain sums for relief, more attention should be given to the formulation of constructive schemes. That is a matter that, perhaps, Deputies could co-operate in better than they have done heretofore. We hear criticism and we hear appeals, and we hear instances quoted of heartbreaking hardship, but it would be better if we had some more attention given by all the Deputies in the House to the thinking out of constructive schemes.

Will the Government put up the money?

I do not think that this Dáil, through various circumstances, has ever been able to concentrate on economic matters as it might have concentrated on them in different circumstances. If we were to reach a position where there could be more concentration on those questions although Deputies might disagree very violently as to the means and methods, still out of the discussion and out of the conflict further progress might be made. I have no time to refer to the housing scheme, except to say that there did not come out of the conference that was held as much as was expected. I do not know whether anything will ultimately come, but, in any case, we will have a Housing Bill in the autumn. It will be a Housing Bill with a longer period of life and which will contemplate a longer programme than any of the Housing Bills that have heretofore been introduced. The points that were raised by Deputy Byrne were really Local Government points and did not directly relate to the question of relief moneys.

The Minister said there was an intention to introduce a Housing Bill in the autumn. Would it be possible to introduce that Bill before the House rises, so that people might be making preparations to go ahead with housing and some relief of unemployment might be given in the meantime?

I do not think we could. In order that more houses may be built, we have to reconsider the scale of subsidies. In order that the money may be stretched as far as possible, we have to consider carefully what will be the least subsidy that will cause building operations to be continued.

In view of the fact that the Minister is not prepared to introduce the Housing Bill before the summer recess, would he not reconsider his decision as to introducing a supplementary estimate which would be of some help to the unemployed during the recess?

The Government reply is: "Nothing doing."

And Deputy Rice has come in at two minutes to eleven, and he was returned to this House to help to solve the unemployment problem.

The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until Friday at 10.30 a.m.