Possibly not. Everything is queer that is not in line with Fianna Fáil. Continuing, Dr. Cohalan said:—
"It would be well for the Government to realise that there are many labourers with families who are not getting more than 10/- a week."
In Tipperary the rent collectors reported to the Commissioner operating in the south part of the county that they were unable to collect the rents. The excuse given with regard to some of those was that the farm labourers were unemployed. The excuse given with regard to others was that they were getting 8/- a week, and that rents could not be taken from them. So we are told about 12/6 in Kildare; 10/- in Cork and 8/- in Tipperary. I am interested in Wexford. Wexford is a tillage county. The people there have been brought to believe by the use of propaganda that if you only get something that is called tillage going in this country, the land is going to overflow with milk and honey. You have also the propaganda that while there is tillage there is a diminution of emigration, and that when tillage goes down emigration increases. You have also this view promulgated throughout the country that if you are working a farm economy that centres around live stock you do not need many men on your farm, but that if you go in for the growing of wheat you are tending it every day in the year. The statistics disprove all these contentions. Wexford is a tillage county and Wexford, I presume, has got its whack of the £6,000,000 a year that Fianna Fáil said was made available for Irish farmers. Wexford has got its share of the £11,000,000 that, according to the Fianna Fáil plan, was going to be made available for labour. That would result in £16 a year for every male or female person over 12 years of age, whether farmer or labourer.
What is the situation in Wexford as revealed by the County Committee of Agriculture? I have got here a report of a meeting for the month of February, 1935, where a motion was brought forward calling upon the Minister for Agriculture to set up a wages board for agricultural labourers, and at that meeting Mr. Kelly gave it as his view that the average wage at that time for a labourer was 8/- a week and his support. That matter was adjourned and it came on at a later meeting. At the later meeting Mr. Kinsella proposed that the wage be brought to 14/- a week by a subsidy of 6/-. They were all of the belief that Wexford was only able to pay 8/-a week, and they wanted a subsidy of 6/- on that wage. It is now almost ancient history where in 1933 the Revenue Commissioners definitely held up to scorn some farmer who apparently had returned himself as paying in wages to milkmen 32/- a week, 25/-a week and 14/- a week. The proposition was made by the Revenue Commissioners that this was work that was usually done by women and that the services of women could be obtained at from 5/- to 7/- per week. What the reality of this situation is as between those figures and what was said was to be achieved by Fianna Fáil is a difficult matter to find out. It is one of the things which this agricultural board will probably find out.
The Minister gave some figures. I understand that he said here to-day that the average wage in 1931 was supposed to be a little over 24/- a week. Three years later it had gone down to 21/- a week and in 1935 it had crept up from 21/- to 21/9. However, there is some percentage of people who got under 17/- a week. Whatever that percentage was it has considerably increased since Fianna Fáil came into power. In 1931 there used to be only 3 per cent. who got under 17/-, but a percentage of 9.8 of the agricultural labourers of the country are now getting under 17/- a week. The percentage of those who got under £1 a week has gone up by 5½ under the Fianna Fáil régime. That percentage has gone up to 16.9 or almost 17 per cent. The official figures were supplied here to-night. There are 126,000 labourers in the country. Of these 90,000 live out and 36,000 live in. The average wage all over the country for those who live in is 9/6 per week. Those people get their keep whatever that amounts to. The old-time slave was kept also but in addition to what the old-time slave got, these people got 16d. a day and, if they work eight hours a day they are paid 2d. an hour for every hour they work. That is the position to which Fianna Fáil, after all its promises, has brought this country. This is the condition of things in the country when the agricultural wages boards are going to be set up to fix what wages people are going to get. Probably they are going to tell us how they are going to get it. Those are the startling figures that emerge from the Minister's statement. There are 36,000 people who are forced to do work of a skilled type. As well as getting what sustains life they are getting 16d. a day or 2d. an hour. One does remember reading books long ago where the wages of labourers were stated to be so much in pence. Those were the days when a penny bought as much as sixpence would buy now. That 2d. an hour now does not buy what it bought five years ago. Those men work in whatever degree of discomfort and toil they are expected to work and they get 2d. an hour put into their hands at the end of the hour. That is paid to them by the farmers who have had already handed over to them £6,000,000 of a market in this country. That is only half of what they were promised. There is one other interesting figure that emerges from the Minister's statement to-night. There is the wages pool. In 1926 the draw from the pool created was, apparently, in this proportion: that the labourer drew from the pool £66 a year and the farmer and such of his children as worked on the land drew £93 a year each. By 1935 this peculiar situation had been brought about that from the pool the labourer was drawing more than the farmer. The labourer drew £55 from the pool in 1935 and the farmer and such of his children as were working, drew £51. The employer gave from the pool £4 a year more to the employee than he and his children drew. In 1935 we find the position to be that in Wexford the farmer was paying 8/- a week. That was close to the time of which the Minister speaks, the time when a man living in got two pennies to dangle in his pocket for his hour's work. At that he has got more than the farmer possibly. That is the agricultural situation.
In that condition of things Labour feels that it is right to plead for more wages for this depressed section of the community. No doubt such a plea should be made. But what is the good of making that plea? The only use of a plea on sympathetic grounds, in the way that the Labour people spoke, would be in circumstances in which they believed that farmers had more to give and were unwilling to give it. I doubt if that view prevails. I believe through the country there is a feeling generally that, in the desperate times we are passing through, farmers and servants have drawn closer together, and that servants are, in fact, taking less because they realise the impossibility of being paid more. There is a better community of interest. There will be always when there is little to spare. It is only when there is a certain amount of plenitude that people begin to squabble as to who is to get the surplus. What is the good of Labour addressing humane pleas? We can all join in and hope for the best, but surely what we have to face is the question: what is to be done to rectify the situation?
It is amazing to me that the situation should be as good as it is. I take up theTrade Journal for September of this year and I find that the estimated output of agricultural produce for three years, comparing one year with the other two, in 1929-30, was estimated to yield £64,865,000. In 1934-35 under Fianna Fáil the yield was down to £40,500,000, a drop of £24,000,000. How is it to be expected agriculture could thrive if the value of agricultural produce was brought down in five years from almost £65,000,000 to £40,500,000? Remember that is not the whole story.
These figures showing a slump from £65,000,000 to £40,000,000 would have slumped still further if it had not been for subsidies. I have a calculation with regard to matters in which agricultural produce shows an increase. In this Journal the increases are very small. Where are they? Wheat is up, sugar beet is up, barley is up, and oats is up. These crops are up almost by £2,000,000. In other words, the figures would have dropped another £2,000,000 were it not for these four crops. Two of these crops are heavily subsidised; two of them are responsible for over £1,000,000. It comes to this that the table would show a drop not merely from £65,000,000 to £40,000,000 but to £38,000,000 if it had not been for the policy of subsidies. What is the cost? To prevent the figures slumping by £1,500,000, this country has been taxed £2,500,000 to subsidise crops. By paying that to the farmers they prevented the slump in production falling by another £1,500,000. Long ago there were two famous people who used to have their say on a variety of subjects. I think they were known as the "Two Black Crows." They bought two pigs and after feeding them for some time sold them at the same price as they had paid. The comment was made "you cannot go on doing that." They said "we know; we found that out." We are finding this out. How is it possible to continue subsidies at the rate of £2,500,000 to prevent agricultural produce dropping another £1,500,000? Although we are doing that we find that agricultural production has been reduced by what the figures represent, the difference between £65,000,000 and £40,500,000. How can the country last? Subsidies have been tried and all they do is to put a small barrier on the devastation that has been worked. They have stopped it. Take credit for it, and particularly take credit when the farmers have paid in the main the cost of the subsidies. They should take credit as by providing nearly £2,500,000, they prevented the agricultural table appearing worse than it is.
If the Labour Party in this House would join with this Party, and if they got Fianna Fáil to get a glimmer, or, even the small amount of economic sense that must spring to the mind of anyone looking into these figures, we could get the situation rectified. It is not going to be done by simply saying to a board: "fix the wages to be paid to agricultural labourers." If farmers cannot pay wages fixed by the board there is only one result. We have already seen that result during years of depression. It meant that the number of permanent labourers was reduced and the number of those employed temporarily increased. It is the obvious resort but not the obvious resort to defeat a Wages Bill. It is the obvious resort of people who find they cannot pay, who cannot meet certain demands made upon them and who have to take the only way open to them. I have no experience of this, but I had detailed examples of occasions where employers finding the strain too great went to employees and suggested that the only way out was that one of them or a group should leave and there was the very pitiable suggestion that if a man went out and went on the dole he could do as well as if he was working. Numbers of farmers have taken that resort. They have a wages bill at the same figure and they are spreading it over a smaller number of people. They find that if the wages they were forced to offer were diminished the result would be so scandalous that they would not tolerate it. We know what happened before. The number of people permanently employed in agriculture diminished while the number temporarily employed rose slightly. The people paid off their permanent hands and got others when they needed extra help.
If you have these agricultural wages boards and this squeezing of farmers, if they are not to get help to pay the wages that may be fixed, is there anything else open to them? Let them be given credit as being humane and as being closely in touch with the people they employ; let them be given credit for these virtues. If up to the moment they are paying, as in 1934, more than they are getting out of the land, and if, as I suggest, there is pressure one way, agricultural production will either fall or be only infinitesimally increased if there is an upward pressure coming through the wages boards that will extract whatever earnings they had to pay their employees. I said in the beginning—although it is a pitiful suggestion—that in justice the Government must meet the difference. Deputy Corry intervened to ask if the suggestion was that the labourers should be put on the dole. It is late for Deputy Corry to be alarmed about the dole. It is a scandalous thing that agriculture has got to the point that all the farms in the country must become a sort of subsidised workshops. Who brought the situation about? The people who got into power on the promise of the £11,000,000 are now to be tested by results. If they even believed that soon, although not immediately, agriculture is going to be in a position by reason of their efforts in which these wages can be paid, then the Government should bridge the gap for the time being, because it is the Government is responsible for what has happened with regard to agriculture.