On the last evening, when dealing with the Second Stage of this Bill, I intervened in the debate simply to point out, first of all, that I was very disappointed with the Minister's statement and with the report of the Electricity Supply Board in so far as there is no reference whatever made by the Minister, and no reference in any report of the Electricity Supply Board, to the consideration of rural electrification in this country. I think it is an important aspect and it ought not be overlooked. The late Government had sufficient enterprise to initiate the electrification of the country, and at that time we were told by the then Minister that in order to make the scheme pay it was not necessary to include rural electrification and that neither was it necessary to include industrial electrification for the country; but very definitely, at that time, hopes were held out to our rural population that, at some future date, rural electrification of this country would be considered.
Now, what I want to point out is this. We are continually stressing in this House and outside this House that our agriculturists are being licked in competition with other countries in the market in which we sell our produce. I read some time ago where Deputy Childers referred to New Zealand production and said that it was a red lamp of warning to our agriculturists in this country. What is the position of New Zealand agriculturists and Irish agriculturists? Even on this alone we are very seriously handicapped, because the New Zealand farmers have rural electrification there, and all their work, such as milking, sterilising, separating, churning, bottling, and all the other operations in a dairying country like New Zealand, are done by means of power on the farm supplied from a national scheme. It is a matter that deserves serious consideration, that if we are going to compete with countries that are putting up very keen competition against us, we must keep in step with them at all events if we hope to compete with them, and we must equip our agriculturists as well as the agriculturists of other countries are equipped so that they can produce food at a minimum cost.
There is not a doubt about it, electrification on the farm, and especially on the bigger farms, is going to be very helpful to our agriculturists. As I have said, in the case of the dairy farmer you can do your milking, your sterilising, your separating, your churning, your bottling, and all the work of that sort on a dairy farm, by means of it. In the case of a mixed farm you can pulp turnips, bruise corn, run a small saw and do pumping when necessary, and that is essential on a good many farms, too, because you have not a proper water supply and you have no pressure supply, and if you had electricity on the farm you could have a proper water and pressure supply, especially on the bigger farms, and after all it is the bigger farms you must look to for the big output for our exports.
That has been completely neglected. I was greatly disappointed that no reference whatever is made either in the report of the board or in the Minister's statement to that aspect of the case. The Minister told us, in column 276, volume 81, of the Official Reports, that provision is also being made for a substantial sum for extensions to consumers and for the development of new areas. In effect, what does that mean from a production point of view? It simply means nothing, because most of the towns and villages of the country that have yet to be supplied with electricity are small rural towns and villages with no industry whatever and with no output from an industrial or productive point of view. Accordingly, from the productive point of view, the extension of that scheme, according to the Minister's intention and the board's intention, is worthless.
There is one consideration, in my opinion, that ought to weigh in all matters of this sort, especially where there is a big sum of money involved, and that is, what effect it is going to have on production and how it is going to be helpful in increasing production in this country. The countries that were our competitors formerly and that, I suppose, are likely to be our competitors in normal times—countries such as Denmark and Holland—for breakfast commodities are countries that always believed in electricity. Denmark was a country that always believed in electricity and, prior to a national scheme there, they believed in generating electricity by running windmills all over the country, and they had a power supply to the farms by the old method of running a windmill to generate power. They had that power there all the time before they had a national scheme.
In the same way, in the case of Holland, they supplied current even on their poultry farms for the incubation of eggs, for brooders, and for all that sort of work that is necessary on a poultry farm and that requires current, whereas we still have the old obsolete method of the paraffin oil lamp. Sweden has its rural electrification; Denmark and Holland have it, as I said, and Canada also. A great many of the United States have it, notably Ontario, in the vicinity of Niagara Falls, where the great power station is. This Province is intensely developed.
New Zealand and all these countries with which we have to come into competition are far better equipped than we are. They are infinitely better equipped in that way because they have rural electrification and we have not anything to approach it, and when we begin to talk about competition from these far, distant countries it must be remembered that with modern transport all these countries are brought much closer to our market from the competition point of view. We can only restore prosperity in rural Ireland by adopting modern methods in agriculture, and from that point of view alone we are absolutely out of the picture. As I said, there is no reference whatever made by the Minister or by the board to this matter. Of course, the board are very conservative in that respect, because evidently the intention is to make money and give cheap current for lighting only, and, of course, for industrial work in industrial towns, but this is a problem that ought to be faced up to. It is a national scheme and ought not to be looked at purely from the point of view of money.
If it were necessary to subsidise rural development it should be done. I admit that it is a difficult problem, but when it has been solved in other countries it should be possible to solve it here. I know that Canada has subsidised rural electrification. Other countries have put up the network by relief grants. Where network can be provided in rural Ireland the cost to the board would be reduced by making available relief grants for such a purpose. For distribution purposes in Sweden a group of farmers form a co-operative society to buy current from the board, and they are helped with technical advice and cheap materials by the board.
These are details that the Minister and the Department are more capable of dealing with than I am. In fact, I say to the House that it should not agree to this loan except on one condition, that at least 10 per cent. of the amount, or even £500,000, is earmarked for rural electrification. There is no use in bemoaning the deplorable condition of agriculture here if some really courageous effort is not made to place the agricultural industry on a higher plane so that we will not be handicapped, as we are at present, compared with other countries with which we are in competition. We could raise the plane of agricultural life from being a life of drudgery in the farmyard to a higher level. All the operations I referred to are included. The lighting of out-offices, cattle sheds and barns would be of tremendous advantage as also the operation of machinery for pulping, grinding, the running of incubators and brooders, milking machines, sterilisers and churning. That should be possible here. I have here a copy of the Irish Builder and Engineer for March 5th, 1938, containing an article entitled “Electricity for the Countryside” by an electrical engineer, read before the Irish Institute of Electrical Engineers, showing how Dumfries faced the problem. There they succeeded in an amazing way, without any extra cost to the urban areas, with a scheme of rural electrification. Dumfrieshire is a county in Scotland about the size of County Limerick. Population density there was something similar to the density of population in rural Ireland. Including towns, the average population density was about 55 inhabitants per square mile, but when mountainous districts were excluded the population density of the remaining area was about 100 per square mile. The average population in rural Ireland is 80 to the square mile, and that figure can be modified to some extent by the elimination of mountainous districts. In his paper the county electrical engineer, Mr. J.S. Pickles, B.Sc., stated:—
"There are in the area, 1,321 farms of 50 acres or over. In May, 1937, 551 farms were taking supply, and it is expected the number will have increased to 650 in May, 1938. A few farms specialise in dairying, and a few in poultry, but the great majority are mixed farms, being principally devoted to the feeding of stock coupled in some cases with small dairies and a certain amount of tillage. In practically every case, supply was taken initially for domestic use in the dwellinghouse and lighting of the outhouses. The application of electricity gradually extends to such uses as grain bruising, turnip cutting, cake crushing, pumping, elevating, or a small saw bench, and on the dairy farm, to milking and sterilising, separating, churning, bottling, etc. Electricity finds a ready market in the poultry farm for incubating, brooding and for extended lighting of hen coops. Rapid progress has been made with these applications and on some poultry farms very high consumptions are recorded. On the average mixed farm the consumption of electricity is about 2,000 units per annum, and the corresponding revenue about £15 per annum. Cottages situated on the farms add on the average about £5 per annum to this figure."
That was on big farms. He says that the revenue from the large farms was £15, and that the cottages on these farms contributed £5, so that the net cost for electrification was £10 per annum. It can be appreciated what an enormous advantage it would be on our farms to have an unlimited supply of current not alone for lighting but for power. I would even go so far as to suggest that the House should only agree to this loan on one condition, that the Minister was prepared to promise to devote 10 per cent. of the amount in order to make a start with rural electrification. It is some 13 years since the Electricity Supply Board was set up, after the beginning of the Ardnacrusha scheme, and one would expect that some reference would be made in the annual report, even if it were only by way of excuse, to the problem of electrification for rural Ireland. Will we ever solve our economic problems by lighting towns and villages? Is it not time to face up to this position, that what really matters is increased production in agriculture and industry? The electrification of rural Ireland is one of the means towards that end.
I have few words to say about the statement of the Minister generally, but I feel worried about the Clonsast proposal. It appears to me to be a way out for the Turf Board when they failed to make a success of turf development, which we were told so much about at one time. They are now going to produce electricity. Are they going to put another £800,000 into another bog and bury it as was done at Carbury in North Kildare? A paragraph in the annual report of the Electricity Supply Board states:—
"The board has had under consideration the construction of a peat fired generating station, and the technical and economic aspects of the utilisation of this fuel have been investigated."
Deputy Cosgrave referred to this matter on a previous occasion. We are not opposed to the extension of the scheme at all-far from it. As a matter of fact I am very keen on the extension of the scheme all over the country. We have no assurance from any expert engineer that it is going to be a success. Until we have an assurance that the matter has been thoroughly investigated by experts, I think the House should not accept that statement as being sufficient.
I will go further than that. That has already been said by Mr. Cosgrave, but I will go further. The report goes on to say:—
"The Department of Industry and Commerce has assured the board that the production of the Clonsast Bog will be increased to meet the large demands of a generating station, and on the basis of these assurances a suitable site has been selected and steps are being taken to empower the board to proceed with this project."
The Department of Industry and Commerce "assured the board". I wonder if the board is satisfied with that assurance. Does the Department of Industry and Commerce guarantee the board that there will be a supply of turf if we have a particularly wet summer in any year? Turf must be won in the summer and, of course, you cannot save it if you have a very bad summer. In this climate of ours we know that that occurs fairly often. Is there any guarantee that, if we have a particularly wet summer, there will be a sufficient supply of turf? I am not satisfied with the word "assured" at all. I have very grave doubts that in the particular kind of year that I visualise it will be possible to win a sufficient supply of turf under bad weather conditions. I think it is essential, in examining all the aspects of that case from the point of view of a supply of turf under difficult weather conditions in an abnormally wet year, that we have the assurance of an expert that this is going to be a success. There may be years when it can be a success, if weather conditions are ideal for the saving of sufficient turf. I forget the quantity that the Minister gave but it is enormous. Would he repeat it?