I had on to-day's Order Paper a question addressed to the President, as follows:—
To ask the President whether his attention had been called to a statement made by the Minister for Finance in the Seanad on 22nd March last, that the Shannon Scheme, the Dairy Disposals Board, the Drumm Battery and the Beet Sugar Factory were as precious a collection of white elephants as drew their unfortunate owners to the verge of insolvency, and if in view of this statement he will indicate the policy of the Executive Council with regard to those projects.
The President replied:
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. With regard to the second part, large sums of public money have been sunk in these enterprises, and quite irrespective of any views that may be held of the wisdom or otherwise of their initiation and their management up to the present, it is the duty of the Government to safeguard the capital invested in them and, if possible, to secure their success. I need only add that the Government is resolved to carry out its duty in this respect.
I said at question time that that was not an answer to my question. I want to say now that not only was it not an answer to my question, but I submit it was an attempt to evade my question altogether. I asked the President if he would state whether he and the other members of the Executive Council agreed with this statement. This is a very important matter; it is a matter of great importance to the people of this country. The people of this country have, as the President quite rightly stated, sunk a lot of their money in those schemes, and we are entitled, as representatives of the people, to know exactly whether the statements made by the Minister for Finance in the Seanad represent the view of the Executive Council. I may say that when I read the statement in the Press I was amazed to believe that any Minister of this State would be so irresponsible as to make such a statement, and would have such little regard for national schemes, and for the national credit, as to make a statement of that kind. I decided to wait in case the Minister was misrepresented, or was not correctly reported, until I got the official report, and when I received the official report I found that the Minister was correctly reported. Now, I do not want to use very strong language in this matter, but, in my opinion, the language is not too strong when I say that that statement made by a responsible Minister of this House, speaking as a member of the Executive Council, with regard to four schemes of national importance, was nothing less than an outrage, and I want, and I think I am entitled to get, as a member of this House, from the President, a plain "yes" or "no" to my question. I am not going to put the President to the trouble of going into a long, detailed explanation of the matter. I gave in my question the statement made by the Minister, and I asked the President to state whether that was the view of the Executive Council or not. The President can answer me in one word, "yes" or "no," and I hope that the President will shorten the proceedings by giving me a plain and straight answer. I do not wish to say any more about it. It is not going to do any good to drag the matter out, but I do say I am entitled to, and I hope to get, a straight answer. Is the view expressed by the Minister for Finance, who is a member of the Executive Council, holding collective responsibility, the view of the Executive Council on these four national projects?