I rise to support the amendment which has been proposed by Deputies Davin and Keyes. I think that it is one which ought to commend itself to the majority of this House and one that will be endorsed by the whole electorate. Let me say a few words on behalf of the pint of porter, which is the poor man's beverage. It is indeed, much more than a beverage or stimulant; it is, in fact, a food. As they say in my backward part of the country, there is "atin' and drinkin' in it." I heard a very distinguished physician say that porter was a real Godsend to the farmers and workers and that it saved many of them from an early grave because, even if they over-indulged in it occasionally, it made no great difference because they get a remedy in the morning air and they worked off not only the alcohol but a lot of other waste products which, otherwise, they would not have got rid of.
In support of the amendment, I shall, with your permission, A Chinn Comhairle, appeal not only to Irish history but to the Irish song-writers. I shall appeal also to several modern authorities on literature. It is a well-known fact, which cannot be controverted, that the ancient Celts and Gaels were the real discoverers of brewing. As you know, in ancient Ireland the cuirm-thigh or ale-house, was a most important institution in the country and I need not say that the bean na leanna has become proverbial. As a matter of fact, in ancient Ireland the only people who were entitled to brew beer were the flaitha. The flaith was, more or less, a prince or peer and a good prince or a good peer, as he may be called, if a decent sort of fellow, always distributed his brew on Sundavs and festivals to his friends or followers. Hence, as the Ceann Comhairle knows very well, the word "flaitheamhail" has come to mean "generous." In connection with that, I recall an epigram uttered here in Dublin many years ago by a very clever man. He said, "In ancient Ireland only peers were brewers and, in modern Ireland, only brewers are peers." I do not wish to detain the House very long, but I want to appeal to some of our song-writers in support of the amendment. One song-writer says:
"It is little for glory I care;
Ambition is only a fable.
I'd as soon be meself as Lord May'r
While there are lashings of stout on the table."
Another writer sings in this fashion:
"Irish stout I have no doubt
In either wood or bottle,
And well brewed ale will never fail
To cool a thirsty throttle."
I hope these words will appeal to the Minister for Finance. I know he is a very temperate man, but he realises, I am sure, that the moderate use of alcohol is quite legitimate. If necessary, I can quote authority from the Bible on that point. I can also appeal to modern writers. A famous English poet has said that "Nothing can equal the welcome of an inn." Dr. Johnson says that "a tavern chair is the throne of human felicity." The late Gilbert Chesterton, who was such a great ornament to literature and whose death we all regret, says truly that "the most democratic institution in the world is the common public house." He goes on to say that every man who conducts himself there and can pay for his drink is as good as another. It would be a very good thing, he says, if statesmen would occasionally drop in there and hear the comments of the man-in-the-street on their policy, their politics and their tricks.
In view of these circumstances, I do hope that this amendment will be accepted by the Minister and the House. The Minister knows, as we all know, that the price of stout or porter — call it what you will — is oppressive. A large number of people have to consume it. I appeal in this regard to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Hugo Flinn, who cannot deny that some of the hardest worked men in Cork — the coal heavers, who are engaged in a gruelling type of work —have to depend for maintenance of their vigour and health during the day on bread and porter. That is well known to the Parliamentary Secretary, and I am sure he will endorse what I have said, at least, on that point. I reiterate that I hope this amendment will be accepted by the Minister and embodied in the Finance Bill before the House.