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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 28 Feb 1935

Vol. 55 No. 2

Private Deputies' Business. - Relief of Rates on Agricultural Land: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
That the Dáil is of opinion that owing to the increasing distress of the farming community arising out of the continuance of the economic war, the Executive Council should take steps to relieve agricultural land of rates during the financial year 1934-35.

The Supplementary Estimates we have had before us are about the best indication that we could have of the position of agriculture, and are better than any speeches that could be made, especially the closing passages, where the Minister thinks that 22s. a cwt. is a good paying price for beef. He said that when he went into the market he put up the price of beef there. Good beef was selling at 17s. a cwt. in the market to-day, and more of it went home than was sold. Previous speakers mentioned places at which the President, on the eve of gaining office, offered derating as a bribe. One place that was not mentioned was Sligo, where the question was directly put to him and where the President promised derating. Another Deputy, who is now Minister for Education, laboured the question in long correspondence that appeared in the Carlow Nationalist in 1930-31. Deputy Corry was at one time so enthusiastic about derating that he claimed the authorship of the proposal. The Deputy is now in the position of claiming authorship of a forgotten movement. When the Deputy goes into Opposition again, I have no doubt he will be a staunch derater.

You will be gone then.

I do not wish to introduce any new features into the arguments put forward. The position created by the economic war is entirely distinct from the case for derating before the economic war started. Summarised, it is simply this, that the local authorities have to strike rates to pay money that is not paid out by the Government. The British Government collects the duties from the farmers and also collects sums equivalent to the pensions, while at the same time the Government here collects taxes to cover both pensions and local loans. The farmers pay £2,000,000, represented by local loans and pensions, to the British Government, while the Government here collects a like sum in taxes, and has it in the Exchequer, but does not use it for the purpose. If the Government does not meet the claims for which the money has been collected for a number of years, it is only a question of equity and justice to have it transferred to the credit of the farmers, seeing that they have paid it. The only stock-in-trade argument that the Government have as a set-off is that there are subsidies on wheat, beet and peat. The cultivation of wheat and beet and the production of peat is part of Government policy, and that policy should be prepared to stand by itself and should not be contingent on the economic war. If the economic war ceases that policy must continue. The Government sees every argument, but I dare say they do not want to face the position and that their supporters will vote against this motion. There are people looking on, watching such consistency or inconsistency.

If there is one motion that the Government should accept, in view of their past statements, it is this one. I am sorry the Minister for Agriculture has left, but as we have Deputy Corry here I shall be glad to refresh his memory. Speaking in this House, col. 2178, vol. 37, of Parliamentary Debates, we find the following statement by the President:

"We find there is a diminution of capital wealth, a diminution of the farmers' income, and we find, side by side with this reduction in the price which the farmer gets for his produce and with the reduction of his capital wealth, that the prices of what he has to buy do not keep step at all."

That was the statement made by Deputy de Valera, as he then was, from these benches. Before I conclude I will quote for the House the prices paid then and now. On that same motion Deputy Dr. Ryan said:

"If we were in the position here of being able to say that we were only going through a temporary depression in agriculture and that we felt that at the end of 1931 we would have turned the corner—the corner about which we have heard so often —we might have some patience and even some consideration for the Derating Commission, and give them time to present the best report possible and allow the Executive Council to consider it. There is, however, no time for that. There is no prospect for farming, so far as we can see. The prospects for farming were never worse. Up to last year we thought that things were going to improve, but now we see that they are going the other way and that relief is wanted immediately if we are to keep farmers in production."

I was not a member of the House on that occasion. This is what Deputy Corry said on that same occasion:

"We read a great many statements about the unity of the country. Does anyone mean to tell me that there is a farmer in the North of Ireland who would be fool enough to come into the Free State so as to have the pleasure of paying rates? The farmers in Northern Ireland have paid no agricultural rates for the last two years. If you are ever going to bring in the North you will have to give them as good terms as they are getting from their own Government. I maintain that rates on agricultural land are an absolute bar to the unity of this country."

I wonder what lobby Deputy Corry will go into when this motion is put to a division.

I will answer the Deputy.

There are a good many farmers members of the Fianna Fáil Party, but, of course, they are conveniently absent when a motion like this is being discussed. Side by side with these statements I want to quote the prices that prevailed then and now. These are taken from official returns published by the Department of Agriculture. They make very interesting reading. Take the first item—calves up to six months—the price in 1931 was from £2 12s. 6d. to £3 15s. The price this year is from 6s. to £1 5s. 5d., and in 1931 we had all this talk about the depression in agriculture. The price of first-class stores, from one to two years old, in 1931 was from £12 to £14 10s., and in 1935 the prices are from £3 to £4 15s. In 1931 the price for fat bullocks and heifers was from £18 to £24—the average live weight price per cwt. being 43s. to 45s.— and in 1935 the price is £7 10s. to £13 10s. as quoted here, while we know they are being sold at from 17s. to 22s. per cwt. Yet we have Deputies objecting to a motion like this being tabled for discussion.

Is it not plain, in view of the facts and figures I have quoted, that the present position cannot be maintained? The price of pigs in 1931 was from 68s. to 71s. per cwt. dead weight, and the price in 1935 is 58s. There is the same variation in butter prices. These facts make it clear that this situation cannot go on, and that farmers cannot continue to meet even State demands for the payment of rates and annuities. We had a statement made by the President which was quoted the other night. It was made by him and other members of the Fianna Fáil Party in 1931, and was to the effect that they were committed to full derating. That was the time when they were talking about the depression in agriculture. Would not many people feel very pleased if they were getting 1931 prices to-day? Of course some members of the Fianna Fáil Party will stand up and say: "We have given you wheat and beet," but as I said before wheat and beet will not solve the problems of the agricultural community, and even if they are pushed to their utmost limits will not enable them to meet the payment of their rates and annuities.

So far as the finances of the public bodies are concerned, I consider that the Government are the greatest defaulters themselves. Last year they deducted £33,000 from the Agricultural Grant payable to South Tipperary. We do not know what we will get this year. I do not want to speak at length on the motion, but I think I have given sufficient facts to prove that the Government are bound in honour to give relief to the farmers in their present position. If this so-called national fight is to go on, there is no reason why the farmers should be the only people who are made to suffer. I hope in view of all the circumstances that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health will give careful consideration to the motion. It is absolutely necessary, if the local services are to be maintained, that relief be given so that the farmers may be able to meet the payment of their rates and annuities. I know that, in my own constituency, the rate collection is backward. I have seen that in the Press. That is so notwithstanding that there is a Commissioner operating there. I am sure that the Minister has had several conversations with the Commissioner in order to obtain information as to the situation there. I appeal earnestly to the farmer-sympathisers in the Fianna Fáil Party to support this motion. I think that it is their duty to do so. They supported a similar motion in other times which were not nearly so bad for the agricultural community. There is no justification for anybody in any part of the House refraining from going into the Lobby in support of this motion. I have quoted statements made by members of the Fianna Fáil Party from the President down. The substance of this motion constituted the swan-song of the Fianna Fáil Party in 1931. I have quoted the prices then and the prices as they are now, and will anybody say that there is no responsibility on the Government to relieve the agricultural community of rates in present conditions?

Statements made by me have been rather extensively used in connection with this motion. I am anxious, in the first instance, to clear the air. I was very definitely in favour of derating until I saw the result of the first relief which was given. I saw how the Earl of Barrymore got in relief of rates about double the amount given to two parishes combined —the parish in which I live and the parish adjoining it. I saw the freehold rancher-owners getting relief of rates while the small farmers had still to pay their full annuities. We had to consider which would give the most relief to the ordinary farmer—derating in which the estate-owner or rancher would get the largest plum or relief in the shape of halving the annuities, in the first place, and further relief in connection with farms under £10 valuation and according to the amount of labour employed by farmers. Between these two proposals, neither I nor any other farmer or representative of farmers who had to consider the question, could hesitate for a moment. If the man with a 1,000 acres or the man with the dog was going to get his rates wiped out, while the small farmer of 20 or 30 acres was merely going to get relief in respect of the small amount of rates he was paying on a low valuation, while he still had to pay the full amount of his annuity, there could be only one choice. Since these gentlemen were in possession of a freehold on which no annuity was being paid and, in the second place, were to be relieved of rates, there could be no hesitation as to what course any person who claimed to represent the Irish people would take. Those were the two proposals we had to consider. I, for one, am proud of the decision we took and will be proud of it since we relieve the ordinary farmer, so far as we can, in respect of his annuity and are not giving relief to the ranchers. What claim has a man in my constituency, who has 800 acres and who gives employment only to two herds, to relief of rates? Deputy Curran has appealed for him. Deputy Belton has appealed for him and they are supposed to represent farmers.

You claimed that yourself.

Certainly.

And so did the President.

I proved that I represented the farmers within the last six months. I was elected at the head of the poll by the farmers of County Cork. I have a better claim to represent the farmers than anybody here.

We heard that before.

I hope it will sink in. A good thing cannot be repeated too often, particularly when we have so many representatives of farmers—save us from them—over there. Deputy Curran quoted prices. I noticed that he forgot to quote the price of wheat. He did not say what the farmer in my constituency, whose land has been valued as wheat land at anything from £1 to £2 per acre, would get for the wheat he grew on that land of high valuation. He did not tell us that the price of wheat was £6 per ton at that time—that if a farmer grew the crop on the production of which his land was valued he would get £6 per ton for it. He did not tell us what the import of bacon was in the year 1931. He forgot that also. He did not tell us what the import of bacon was last year. I am concerned with the market which the Irish farmer has, and the Irish farmer to-day has a market for bacon over and above the market he had in 1931.

Has it brought him a better price?

If he was producing in 1931, he knows the price he got. He has a home market now in which the price can be controlled.

Why is it not controlled better?

Perhaps Deputy MacDermot will tell us, when he is speaking later, what he is growing on his farm. The bacon market alone is worth £1,000,000 a year that has been kept for him. There was close on 90,000 acres of wheat grown last year. That was a market worth about £500,000 to the farmer. That is close on £2,000,000 altogether. Let us take the beet market. That is worth to the farmer about £900,000. Those are things which, so far as beet is concerned, are subsidised, we are told. As far as that is concerned, we are preserving here a market for the Irish farmers.

With regard to this motion—I hope I will have an opportunity of dealing with that on the general Agricultural Motion about which Deputy Dillon has been speaking—but in connection with this motion dealing with the question of derating, I am not prepared to give the rancher any relief whatsoever. I am not prepared to give the Earl of Barrymore relief from all his liabilities to the community at large. Nor am I prepared to give relief to any of the other earls or any other of the types who have holdings of from 1,500 acres of land down to 600 acres. I am not prepared to give such a person any relief whatsoever; but we are willing to give relief to the man of a certain valuation who is working his holding and giving work to the men employed upon that holding according to its valuation. I believe that such a man, who is giving work to his employees, is entitled to any extra relief that could be given along the same lines, and along the same lines only. I have a very decided objection to seeing any individual getting land in this country who is not prepared to take off his coat and work that land or to give employment to other people to work that land. That is my principal objection.

I am aware that farmers are hard hit. We had a statement in connection with this motion last night from Deputy Brennan. A surprising thing I found last year was that the patriotism of these gentlemen was their loyalty to the "No Rate" campaign. Yet, I found that in the case of the "No Rate" campaign and those who advocated it, their loyalty was bought for 19/10 of a credit loan. That was the Opposition. Their campaign was bought for 19/10. The whole campaign was smashed last year for 19/10. In the month of March last year the collectors in Cork were not able to take in the money quick enough. Last year the whole "No Rate" campaign, that was carefully fostered and carefully worked underground and overground by the Opposition in order to cripple the local services of this country and to create such a situation as would deprive the unemployed man of home assistance and the farm labourer of his wages, was smashed because they could not withstand or were not prepared to lose, for their loyalty to that cause, the sum of 19/10 of a credit note which brought in something between £80,000 and £90,000 in rates in County Cork last March.

I have given, as fairly as I could, the reason why I considered that the best interests of the farming community could be better served by a reduction of 50 per cent. of their annuities, plus relief of the first £10 on their valuation, plus relief in respect of the number of men employed on their farms. I consider that the greater part of the relief in that case would go to relieve men who deserve it, instead of, as in the case that is now proposed, to relieve people who do not deserve relief from the Irish people.

I had not intended to speak on this motion because I have spoken so many times on motions so similar as to be almost identical. But the arguments used by Deputy Corry are so remarkable that I am tempted to intervene for a few moments. First, I think that one of the arguments is somewhat irrelevant. I am referring to the argument as to whether other kinds of relief that have been or could be given are preferable to this relief or not. Nobody is proposing to take-away any relief that has been given. The position of the farmers is such, in my opinion, that the farmers need derating, and need it badly, over and above anything else that has been done for them. The principal argument of Deputy Corry, however, was that he gave up derating because he discovered that freeholders would benefit by it. Was the state of political thought in the Fianna Fáil Party really at so low an ebb that, prior to their coming into office, they had failed to realise the existence of freeholders in this country, or had failed to realise that derating would benefit freeholders? Is it a crime to be a freeholder, or is a freeholder to be debarred from his ordinary rights because he is a freeholder ? Freeholders are not necessarily earls, and even if they were earls, I do not see why they should be debarred from common justice. Deputy Corry speaks of people escaping all obligations to the community. Does he not realise that freeholders and even earls pay income tax and that they sometimes pay super tax on top of that? Now, there is absolutely nothing but Bolshevism in the sort of talk that would deny a man common justice because he is a freeholder. Deputy Corry speaks of a man getting away with a freehold—as if there was no such thing as a man achieving a freehold for himself by working hard and saving up his money for years in order to get a freehold. And such men are not earls. Even in his own constituency, Deputy Corry must be aware of such cases, and is there any reason for such men to be branded as traitors to their country because through their efforts they have managed to become freeholders?

On a point of explanation, Sir, my statement was directed principally to the point that by relieving annuitants you were relieving persons who had a double burden—who had both annuities and rates. If you relieve ratepayers only, you relieve some individuals of the only burden they have.

Let us be clear about this. The annuities are part of the purchase price for the land—that is the purchase price paid in one form or another by the freeholders. If Deputy Corry asks why instead of relieving rates, the scheme of halving the annuities was adopted I shall tell him. The reason why the annuity scheme was adopted was simply because the Government knew they could not collect the annuities. They had not an earthly hope of collecting them unless they remitted half. The whole of their policy was threatened with breakdown unless they took that step. Anyone who went to the meetings of the Fianna Fáil Party, after they came into office, could hear the cheers that would greet the greater part of President de Valera's speeches, but when he came to the part where he told his hearers that the farmers would have to pay their annuities, but that the annuities would be kept at home, that announcement was received in chilly silence. That being so, no one was surprised when the Fianna Fáil Party decided to collect only half of the annuities.

If that is so, why was it when Deputy Cosgrave made the offer that the people turned it down?

They are wiser now.

When people are discussing what the present Government has done, and ought to do, it is simply pathetic to hear Deputy Corry speak of the wonders that they did and especially what they have done in securing the home market. The Deputy cannot deny that the markets that they threw away were far more valuable than the home market since prices have shown a calamitous collapse.

Derating was promised to the farmers by the Party in power. If it had never been promised by the Party in power it should be accomplished now, because the fact is that agriculture cannot survive without it. No matter what effort is made to make the minor industries pay, no matter to what extent the taxpayers and consumers are mulcted, no matter what amount of mollycoddling these industries receive, the least the Party opposite can do is to give agriculture—the queen of our industries—some chance of surviving.

I was present last night when Deputy Belton spoke on this motion, and he made some references which I think need some explanation. One of the questions he asked was why the bounties for this year were increased over other years. He indicated, in fact, that there was a further charge against the Government for having refused to make provision for the necessary requirements of the farmers in years gone by. I do not believe Deputy Belton was ignorant of this fact: that the British Government found it necessary last year to give a bounty of 5/- to their beef producers in England. The fact that they did not give that bounty the previous year can hardly be put forward as a charge that they owed them that amount still. The reason they gave that bounty was because the price of cattle had fallen the previous year to an extent that warranted them making some offer to the farmers to enable them to continue in production. Deputy Belton referred to another matter. He said that the amount of money the farmers had lost, through the economic struggle between this country and England, was not at all illustrative of the actual amount they had lost because 50 per cent. of the products of this country had dropped in price and these prices were reflected in the prices at home and that the farmers had to sell their products at home according to export prices. Again, Deputy Belton must be aware that the price of cattle and sheep at home is not the same as the export price. The price of these commodities is fixed for the home market at one figure and for the export market at another. Deputy Belton must be aware that the price of pigs has substantially increased, at home, compared with the export price. Similarly, with the price of butter, oats, barley, wheat and beet.

So far as I can gauge, the case made by the Opposition for derating of agricultural land is that this claim should be separated entirely from any Party point of view. It is put forward as a business proposition, as the pure altruistic mentality of men who promulgated the idea and as showing the minds of Deputies opposite who have advocated it. It was not political at all they tell us. If it was put forward on those lines I wonder why they did not try to state the truth. I wonder why Deputies who made the point I have mentioned went out of their way to misrepresent the situation as it is. If we are to have good business we must have truth and that certainly was absent from the arguments of Deputies opposite.

The Deputy is an authority on truth!

Mr. Maguire

Will the Deputy deny the truth of what I have stated?

Please proceed.

Mr. Maguire

I certainly assert I am an authority on truth; but the whole point sought to be made by Deputies opposite is a political point. Let those who say they want a business mentality show there is business and truth in their statements. Their whole point is to try and bribe the farmers and gather a lot of enthusiasm to their broken cause. What are the points they tried to make? We know the farmers here are losing like the farmers in the rest of the world. Are not farming conditions everywhere worse to-day than they were for years past? Why does the Opposition expect this Government to be able to place farmers here in a better position than the farmers in any other country? What are the real facts? Take the position of the farmers here and compare it with the position of the farmers in the Six Counties and see how they stand. Mr. Rowley Elliot, member of Parliament, and member of the Marketing Board in the Six Counties speaking the week before last in Derry said: "The industry is in a state that nothing short of a revolution in agricultural methods will restore it." What has the Minister for Agriculture in England, who is an expert and a farmer himself, to say as to the present-day conditions? Dealing with the cattle trade he said: "Beef prices were unremunerative a year ago and they are even worse to-day." And he says further that independent of the subsidy to beef the highest prices are 33/3 per cwt. That is paid in England and Wales and fully 5/- less for best beef in the Six Counties. That leaves the farmer in the Six Counties getting 28/3 for best beef. The price here is 22/- for export and 25/- for local markets. Take the conditions of the farmer in the Six Counties in respect of milk. The price in the creameries last year and the preceding year was as low as 1½d. a gallon. The price here was approximately 4d. Take the price of grain in the Six Counties. The best price paid for oats in Enniskillen market last week was 6d. to 7½d. The best price the farmer can get for his potatoes to-day is 3d. to 4d. a stone and compare that with the price the farmer is getting here.

Let Deputies on the opposite side who say they want to discuss this matter on plain honest business lines do so. Do they assert that it is within the power of this Government to put the farmers here on a better footing than that on which they are in the Six Counties or in Britain or any other country where farming is carried on? All this is moonshine. It is not plain honest business dealing; it is dishonesty, hypocrisy and it is playing for cheap popularity. If you are honest about this proposition, why come forward solely on this question of the relief of rates on agricultural land? Are there no other people living in this country for whom you might appeal? What about the unemployed? Have appeals come from the opposite benches for relief for the unemployed? If they did, they were belated and again they were hypocritical and they were dishonest because when the Opposition was sitting on these benches, what did they do for them? What was their attitude to the various schemes we introduced to help the unemployed? Why do you concentrate on this question of relief of agricultural rates alone? Do you think the farmer has no need of other things? What about employment for his children? Have you considered that or have you advocated that? It is an important item with him. Have you considered the needs of the shopkeeper? Have you advocated that he should be assisted in meeting his debts? Have you thought of the worker and whether his wages might be increased? Why concentrate on this question of the relief of rates?

That is what we must concentrate on.

Mr. Maguire

The only explanation for concentrating on this is because it makes an appeal to the farming community, which Deputies opposite desire as a political issue and not, as they assert, as an honest business deal. Deputy MacDermot, in speaking a few moments ago, did, I think, a very unfair thing to his friends and the friends of his Party. He made an apology for the freeholder who acquired his freehold as an inheritance. In reply to Deputy Corry, he mentioned that certain freehold lands in this country were bought by men who earned their money, thereby indicating that there was a distinctive difference in relation to freeholders. Are we to assume from his argument that there are people who are freeholders in this country who are dishonestly occupying these holdings? I should like to hear his explanation.

It all depends on where they got the money to buy the land.

Mr. Maguire

He further said that the land annuities were halved because we were unable to collect them and I think that is the entire explanation of this motion for the relief of agricultural land from the opposite benches. They went forth in this country with all the fury and enthusiasm they could gather around them to stop the payment of land annuities and of rates, and, as Deputy Corry says, failure beset their efforts and because they failed in the country in the use of coercive measures and of force and of threats, they now come back a defeated people to talk this question over as an honest business proposition. I should like a better indication of honesty than I have so far seen on this motion.

The calamitous drop in all agricultural prices since this Government took over office is a further argument used and stressed by Deputy MacDermot. Again, it is dishonesty. The calamitous drop in prices is not, as Deputy MacDermot suggests, the result of this Party taking over the control of government, but the result of world conditions, of which Deputy MacDermot is well aware. I think it is time the Opposition either cleared their own minds voluntarily or had it done for them. I can assure Deputies on the opposite side that camouflage like this will deceive nobody and they need never think that they will get anywhere by it or get the support of the public by methods of that kind. I would suggest that if moneys are to be spent for the relief of agriculture they should be spent in some practical way, whereby honest, hardworking farmers will derive benefit, and I suggest to the Executive Council that there is pressing need amongst the farming community and money, if it can be made available, should be made available to them for the drainage of their lands and thereby confer a lasting benefit on the farmer who wants to work his land and improve it to the benefit of himself and of the nation. The Party that advocates, even for the purpose of gaining cheap popularity, giving this money for nothing to farmers who have the privilege of owning their land—some of them the freeholders for whom Deputy MacDermot makes an apology to-night— and giving them the benefit, at the expense of the community, of removing the responsibility which property here, so long as we have a Christian State, must bear to the State, will get a very short distance.

It is very interesting to get a lecture on honesty from Deputy Maguire and from the Government Benches. After all, we are not demanding anything unreasonable from the Government, in view of their declarations over and over again to give full derating to the farmers of this country. The argument has again been put forward by Deputy Corry to-night that it is better to halve the annuities than to give full derating. It is really shameful for a Back Bencher like Deputy Corry to come into this House and try to discredit the President of this State, the Leader of his own Party, who definitely stated here, before the House adjourned for Christmas, that the farmers of this country had already paid the land annuities to England. I challenge contradiction on this statement which I quoted here last week and which is on record for any Deputy who wants to be honest enough to read it.

It is no pleasure to us, I assure Deputy Maguire and other Deputies on those benches, who have to make our living by agriculture, to have to come here and find fault with the policy of the Government. As I have said on more than one occasion in this House, it makes no difference to the people of this country what Party is in power if the country is prosperous. That is the important thing, but I put it to anybody in this House: can he stand up and say that the farmers of this country are more prosperous to-day than they were three years ago? Let me take Deputy Maguire on the question of relieving the unemployed. Let us compare the figures to-day with the figures when this Government came into office in 1932. Nobody in this country will forget the promise they made about finding work for 86,000 additional people in the Free State. But what are the facts? The most recent figure given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce showed that there were 139,900 unemployed in the Saorstát.

I ask Deputy Maguire to tell the House what are the wages of the working classes, the farm labourers in this country. Those lucky enough to have employment are paid half of what they were paid in 1931. I challenge any Deputy on the Fianna Fáil benches to say if their own supporters down the country have not reduced the wages of their agricultural labourers by a very big amount. Why are they compelled to reduce their labourers' wages? Is it not because they have not the money wherewith to pay them? Deputy Maguire talked about employment for the children of the farmers. What employment are they getting through the Fianna Fáil policy? The only change in their position is that the Government is demoralising the farm labourers and the small farmers. They give them 6/- worth of beef, free milk and the unemployment dole, thus inducing them to become idlers and to become for ever a burden on the State. Deputies have talked about Sinn Féin, patriotism and so on. Was that the policy of Sinn Fein?

Sinn Féin is very far away from this motion.

Not so far away at all.

It seems to me the Deputy is far away from the motion.

Well, I will say that this is not the policy that was advocated by Sinn Féin. To-day in this country we have the position that farm labourers have actually refused to work on the land. They have been driven by the policy of the Fianna Fáil Government to refuse to accept employment on the land. Deputy Maguire has talked about relief schemes. What is the actual position in that regard? It is that these men who had employment all the year round-these small farmers —are actually driven to compete with the honest real unemployed for this relief work. Before the Government came into office, this work was left to the real unemployed of the country. Deputy Corry says he was definitely in favour of derating, but after Fianna Fáil got into power he discovered his mistake, because, as he tells us, somebody down the country is in occupation of 800 acres of land. Because of that no consideration is to be given to the farmers of the country. They are not to get the benefits of derating. Deputy Corry is in favour of giving some derating in proportion to the number of workers employed by the farmer. He has voted already for that.

It was mentioned here to-day by a Fianna Fáil Deputy that in one large farm in Galway employment was given to 22 men. These men have now been put out of employment. Well, after all, if an occupier of land gives employment to 22 men, surely that man is of some benefit to the people of the country. Deputies on the Government Benches have talked about the small farmers. I have made it my business to go amongst the small farmers. I live amongst them and they are people who could not be described as idlers. I am prepared to take the Minister for Local Government and Public Health down to my own constituency and to my own parish. There I will ask him to discuss with the unfortunate people who are being driven to desperation because of the Government policy, the question of the economic position of the people. The small farmers of this country have been deprived of their living. I am now speaking of people whose annuities are not much more than £2 yearly. I asked a number of these people some time ago what they got for a dropped calf in 1931, and they said anything up to 50/- or £3. What would they get to-day? Practically nothing. There are people in the city who talk about the farmers as if they had nothing to do but to look around them and to watch things springing up from the ground.

I was speaking to a farmer in my own parish lately and he told me he brought a calf to the market and got one shilling for it and at the same time he sold an old hen for 5d. a pound. It is no joke. I make no statement over which I cannot stand. I ask for the setting up of a tribunal to inquire into this question. I am prepared, before that tribunal, to give information that will enlighten the people of this country. Another farmer in my constituency told me he took three calves into Macroom and the man to whom he brought them told him he could not take them. However, the farmer said: "I will leave them with you and do the best you can." The next day the farmer went to Macroom and the man told him he could give him nothing. "I had to pay Dr. Ryan a licence fee of 1/- each for slaughtering the animals and I had nothing for myself." Up to the time when the Fianna Fáil Government came into office these dropped calves would sell at 50/- to 70/- each.

Deputy Maguire spoke about the farmers of this country being better off than any farmers in the world. He told us that the live-stock market in the Free State was better than in Northern Ireland. Well, the people who are smuggling cattle across the Border must be a lot of damn fools so. I am sorry for using unparliamentary language, but the kind of talk we hear from the Government Benches in this House and from their followers in the country is enough to disgust any honest man. The Deputy talked about encouraging the grain-growing industry. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health said here recently that the Government were making an allowance in the rates according to the amount of permanent employment the farmer was giving and, he added, that he found latterly that the tendency was not to give permanent employment. The Minister probably does not realise the position he and his Party are creating.

I have always maintained that grain growing does not give as much employment as mixed farming. Dr. Hennessy, when a member of this House, gave us some figures to show that more employment is being given by mixed farming than by grain growing. When the farmer sows his grain on the 1st April he locks the gate of his field and that gate remains locked for six months; when the grain is ripe, if it has not lodged, the farmer reaps that with his reaper and binder and gets through the work without any additional labour.

Deputies have talked here about the prices ruling for our bacon in this country. We had from Deputy Curran the prices in 1931. Did not the Minister for Agriculture admit that at all times the price received for the farm produce sold at home is ruled by the price of the exported articles. We have the fact now admitted that the export prices rule the prices paid at home. Dr. Ryan had, last Christmas, to admit that for the first time. There are times when Dr. Ryan shows a little bit of honesty.

Deputies on the Opposition benches have talked about a no-rate campaign. We never advocated a no-rate campaign. Before the present Government came into office, Deputy Corry at the meetings of the Cork County Council was continually complaining that the farmers were unable to pay their then rates. Will the Deputy deny that now? Will the Deputy deny that he said the first duty of the farmers was to feed their families, and that if anything were left over then they could pay their rates and annuities. Taking all the facts into consideration it should not be necessary for us to press on the Government the acceptance of this motion. Their own policy before they came into office was definitely a policy of derating. I will ask them to be just to the people of this country. They have always boasted that they are determined to fulfil their promises. I ask them to show their sincerity by accepting this motion, and thereby offer some measure of relief to the people who unfortunately, because of this Government's policy, are unable to pay their rates.

In the course of his remarks Deputy Maguire asked if there was no other class in the community besides the farmer that needed relief. He pertinently asked: "What about the condition of the shopkeeper, and what about the conditions in the towns?" I submit that the existing conditions in our small market towns form one of the strongest arguments in favour of the motion now under consideration. There is no class in the community that has felt the destructive consequences of the economic war more than the town dwellers, whether they are merchants, employers, professional men, or the ordinary rank and file of town dwellers. The weekly markets in the country towns have been ruined; in some places they have actually ceased to exist. Fairs have become a thing of the past. Our country towns used to live on the weekly market and on the monthly fair, and when these went by the board there was no form of industry in any of the towns to help to carry along the wage earning population. These towns acted as distributors for the agricultural community, as the distributing centres for their produce. What are the conditions to-day? The trade in the towns has ceased to exist and credit in the case of the farmers has to be restricted.

If the discussion on the motion is permitted along those lines we will be soon discussing every phase of Irish life-the position of unemployment, the position of the town dwellers, and so on. I cannot allow the discussion to range over so wide a field.

I was merely submitting that one of the strongest arguments in favour of this motion is the position of the towns.

I cannot allow the discussion on the motion to embrace the position in the towns.

I merely put it forward, arising out of some remarks made by Deputy Maguire, as one of the strongest reasons why the motion should be adopted. The Deputy, in the course of his remarks, mentioned some of the things that the Fianna Fáil Government have done for the farmer in the way of subsidies, increased prices for cereals and other commodities he produces, and he pointed out the advantages of the home market. I find it very difficult to believe that what is consumed in the home market is of any material advantage to the farmer. For instance, the Deputy mentioned the increased price for oats. What does it profit a farmer to get a 1/- extra per cwt. for oats if he has to pay 2/6 extra for the sack of meal he buys, that sack containing 15 per cent. of the oats he has previously sold? He mentioned markets in the North of Ireland and across the Channel. He said that world markets were depressed and that prices generally were low. We all know that all over the world people are passing through a bad time, yet this is the very time that has been selected by Fianna Fáil to fire the first shot in a disastrous economic war. The farmer in Northern Ireland can get foodstuffs for the production of his livestock at least at one-third lower than the farmer in the Free State and in the Free State the farmer is paying for a very inferior article.

Some of our friends opposite have endeavoured to draw a distinction between the small farmer and the rancher. I do not know what is meant by "rancher". There are very few in the county from which I come and certainly there are none in the constituency I represent. As a matter of fact, in County Cork nearly one-third of the valuations are less than £4. The majority of these small valuations are in the western portion of the county. I will give an illustration of the conditions in some parts of my constituency. I happened to be in a market town in the western portion of West Cork. I was told by the merchants that there had not been a fair for a considerable time. In fact, the monthly fair had not been held for at least three months. The people had brought in cattle, but there were no buyers; there was no demand for the class of cattle from that district. Three successive fairs fell through owing to the absence of buyers. I visited another parish in the same district and I took statistics with regard to the conditions of the people. I got the statistics from the parish priest and the local Civic Guard sergeant, who had to do with enquiries arising out of unemployment assistance. I find that in that parish there were 400 houses, all occupied by people of the farming class; there was not what I would call a labouring community there. In that parish nearly 500 people were in receipt of unemployment assistance.

One case struck me very forcibly. A man had nearly 42 acres of land of a kind, and a few cows. The valuation of his holding was about £16. He was a particularly good man. Compare his valuation with the valuations of the bulk of the people in County Cork, which are for the most part under £4 This man was getting 1/6 a week unemployment assistance. If that amount of unemployment assistance reflects the economic condition of that man and his family, how can he afford to pay any rates on his holding? His annuity was something less than £2, but his rates would be something like £6. We hear a lot of talk about halving the land annuities when really they have been paid two or three times over by the farmers. You are levying what you describe as half the annuity, and it is a very small thing in some cases, but the rates are a much more serious problem for the unfortunate people who have to live under such conditions as I have observed. If you go through the country you will find that it is a most pressing problem.

I have been ruled out of order because I was proceeding to refer to the impoverished condition of the towns, the want of employment and the depressed state of trade. The lack of credit, the great falling off in turnover and the increase in unemployment in our towns and cities form one of the strongest arguments in favour of the derating of agricultural land.

Mr. Broderick

Rising at this time of the night after an exchange of views on both sides of the House with regard to derating, one cannot hope to add very much to the arguments submitted with reference to the inability of the farmer to pay. But there is another side to this question, and I feel that something in the nature of a personal explanation is needed as to my temporarily changed attitude, if you like, on this matter. I had the honour to be associated with the Derating Commission, which recommended against total derating, a view I have strongly held in normal times, and that I still hold, and I would only support this derating proposal as an expedient in certain very difficult circumstances because I view derating as bringing in its wake the doing away with all local authorities, as one could not conceive local authorities spending money supplied by a central authority. That would eventually tend to have centralisation of all power here, a position that I do not want to see in this country.

What circumstances compel me to support this motion, holding views of that kind, still convinced as I am that the sharing and dividing of responsibility, both local and central, is the best way of getting over the difficulties of this country? They are twofold. One was the statement made by the Minister for Lands on last Sunday fortnight when he said that anyone who did not contribute to maintain local services was helping to bring about a set of conditions in this country not to be thought of. I hold the same view. I hold the view that if local services, such as home assistance, mental and other hospitals, are not maintained, civilisation, as we know it, will not continue to exist in this country. Whatever else goes, the local services which our generation demands must be maintained. The other is that in my view the deductions from the agricultural grant, the piling of unpaid moneys on the backs of the few people who are endeavouring to pay, will bring about the collapse of local services and all the suffering that that will entail.

I should like to answer one observation made from the other Benches, that there is a campaign for the non-payment of rates. I am not aware of it. I have never heard an expression from anybody of responsibility or from any ratepayers that rates should not be paid. I have heard many claims of inability to pay. I have met no evidence anywhere of any disinclination to pay rates, but I am aware of inability to pay rates. If I localise the matter for a moment it might better convey what is in my mind. We had a deduction made from the Cork County Council in the beginning of last year of £56,000 of the agricultural grant of £559,000 given in 1927. My opinion is that if the withholding of these grants is to be continued, nothing can save the local services but the taking over of them by the central authority.

The first £559,000 given has been alluded to as a grant from the Government. That is a misnomer. It was not a grant. It was liability formerly shared between the landlord and the tenant and taken over by the British Government under the Act of 1898. To prove that it was a statutory obligation on that Government, and on the Government which inherited its obligations, I may point to the fact that all properties which have been transferred since then bear on the face of the transfer that a liability for 50 per cent. of the poor rate was accepted by the Government. Is the Minister for Local Government, at the instigation of the Minister for Finance, now to find himself the victim of circumstances and compelled to go on a marauding expedition to take away that grant? I am not going to debate whether it is legal or not, but I am quite satisfied that it is an immoral act to tear up an agreement entered into. What is called a grant in that case is not a grant. The double agricultural grant given in 1927, from which the Minister for Finance deducted from the Minister for Local Government last year £448,000, was a grant.

I do not know how the Minister for Local Government, holding the views he does as to the extension of public services and having the public services brought up to the highest pitch of perfection— views with which I thoroughly agree— could have consented to that. As far as the capacity of the country is equal to it I am prepared to support the Minister for Local Government in his policy for the improvement of public services. I would, however, point out to the Minister for Local Government that that cannot be done while he allows the Minister for Finance to deduct a sum of £448,000 from that grant, as he did at the commencement of last year; to deduct from the Cork County Council, at the end of the year, £46,000, in addition to £56,000 already deducted and to deprive them of £10,000 in probate and death duties; sums amounting in all to £112,000 in one year deducted from that local authority. I know I shall be met with the statement that some recompense was made by the grant of £300,000 to local authorities as promised by the President. I admit that we got £24,000 of that; but that was for three years' funded arrears under the Land Act and represented only a payment of 5/- in the £ of the £96,000 deducted from us.

I should like to point out that the entire liability for the failure foreshadowed by the Minister for Lands does not rest with the ratepayers of the county. The morality of the deduction is made for the purposes of the Guarantee Fund. For what? The Guarantee Fund is to discharge a purely statutory obligation to pay interest on and provide a sinking fund for the money invested in land stock. That obligation was accepted publicly by the British Government and, therefore, the function of the Guarantee Fund here ceases. It has been publicly declared that the Guarantee Fund was a statutory obligation accepted by another authority. There is, therefore, no justification for the existence of a Guarante Fund in this country.

Then we come to another matter— the local loans. I do not know what the levy is for the entire State, but the Cork County Council has to pay an annual contribution of £67,000 to the Local Loans Fund. It is hardly necessary to point out how these local loans were contracted. We, as a local authority, borrowed money from the British Board of Works. That was a purely contractual bargain and we were prepared to repay the sum. There was no inherited claim by anybody else. Nobody else had a right to collect that money. It was a purely business bargain. We have to pay that £67,000 every year, while the liability is mounting up against us or the State at penal interest. The Minister for Finance, however, insists that the Minister for Local Government should compel us to pay that.

Having regard to all these facts, I submit that the Minister for Finance, in depriving the local authorities of the necessary finances, is contributing more than anybody else to the state of affairs referred to by the Minister for Lands—a set of conditions undreamt of in this country. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned to Wednesday, 6th March.
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