I move that the Bill do now pass.
Committee on Finance. - Trade Union Bill, 1941—Fifth Stage.
I rise to oppose the final passage of this Bill, because I believe it is based on bad advice, bad information and on wrong conclusions, and that it contains principles which have never been applied to any other section of the community since the Constitution was passed. At no stage in the discussions on the Bill did the Minister attempt to make the case for it that it was of urgent public importance, or attempt to justify the statements he made that it was brought in by the Government for the purpose of organising the trade unions of the country on modern lines. The Minister quoted from documents issued by the Trade Union Congress in 1935 and 1936 to show there was a strong feeling for it. I admit there was a strong feeling inside the trade union movement that the number of unions was unnecessarily large, and that certain friction had arisen at the time, due to the competition and jealousy which existed principally among the smaller unions that were affiliated—and some that were not —with the Irish Trade Union Congress. I suggest that the conditions that existed in 1935 and 1936 do not exist today and have not existed to any extent since the emergency arose here. There is no justification, as far as I can see, for the introduction and passage of a measure of this kind, especially at a time when national unity was never more necessary in the country. Its introduction has created more disunity amongst the working-class people of the country than any other measure, that I know of, introduced here since the Dáil was established. Can the Minister even now tell the House, and the country through the House, the number of strikes that have taken place during the past 12 months, because that appears to be his main reason for the hurried passage of this Bill through the House? So far as I know there has been no strike of any importance during the last 12 months in which any large section of workers in the country has been involved.
Out of 500,000 wage earners in this country only 10,000, according to the figures given by the Minister, have received any increases in their rates of remuneration since the emergency. Would the Minister tell us the figure by which the workers' wages were increased during that particular period? Of course he quoted cases to show where workers in the cement industry had received increases of about 11/- a week, but he did not tell us of the cases where hundreds of thousands of workers, organised and unorganised, had received no increases whatever in their rates of wages or remuneration during that period. I speak with some knowledge—perhaps not with all the knowledge that the Minister has at his disposal—in regard to the activities of trade unions over a period of 34 or 35 years. I know of no time during that period when the organised workers of this country were lying down like lambs as they have been doing during the past 12 months; there were many cases where the organised workers, through their representatives, made demands for increased rates of wages, but did not pursue them, and I know of no case of any importance where they were pursued to the extent of causing a strike.
The main reason given by the Minister for the introduction of this measure was the loss of working days involved by strikes which it was alleged had been brought about as a result of jealousy between trade unions and union officials. I stated at one time during the proceedings here that this Bill was inspired and was being pressed on the Minister by the bad employers of this country. Deputy Mulcahy rather resented that suggestion, but I made that statement on the strength of the information which I had received from reading the official journal issued by the different employers' organisations of this country over the past year or two. Since I made that statement I find that the journal which purports to speak for the Federation of Irish Industries has published a stronger article than it had ever previously issued in connection with the contents of this measure. I think it is no harm that the contents of that article, or of portion of it at any rate, should be put on the records of this House in justification for the statement which I made at that particular time. The Federation of Irish Industries is a big organisation of employers, consisting mainly of the leaders in our new industries, but consisting of many men who are not Irish nationals.
We had statements made here in this House by the Minister, and I think it was rather unfortunate that they were made, about the power of British-born trade union officials over their Irish members, but there was not a word about the power—and it is far greater, as far as I know—of the British-born leaders and managers of many of our industrial concerns here, whose views are expressed, and I think very properly expressed, in the article which appeared inIrish Industry for the month of July. I want to say this to Deputy Mulcahy, that I know a number of decent-minded, good employers, men associated with the Federation of Irish Industries, who would not say that the views expressed in this article are their views, and who would not stand for the policy contained in this Bill, which apparently has the good-will of the leader writer in this paper.
I think it is right to say that it would surprise me that the paper from which Deputy Davin is quoting is the official organ of the Federation of Irish Industries.
I would advise Deputy Mulcahy to make further inquiries about that. This paper is edited by one of the principal officers of the Federation of Irish Industries, and the article appears under his name. It is headed, "The Principles of Politicians".
That is a sore point with Deputy Davin.
Oh, no—not a bit worse than with the Minister. Wait until the Minister hears the compliments that are conferred on him by the leader writer of this famous journal.
Does it say he has principles?
Here is what it says:—
"We have indicated quite clearly that we have one fault to find with the Trade Union Bill—it does not go far enough to remove the admitted and glaring evils which made its introduction necessary. Nevertheless, it is a step, if only a step, in the right direction, and for that the Minister for Industry and Commerce deserves all the support possible. He is all the more deserving of support and congratulations because of the manner in which that Bill is being opposed, because of the unnatural combination of voices raised in opposition to it. In all that combination there was not even one to put forward an alternative constructive proposal by which the admitted evils could be remedied. The Opposition is all vague, woolly, destructive— devoid of even one constructive proposal."
Mind you, the editor is wrong there, because the Minister has already brought in 35 amendments to the Bill, and the writer of this article did not know that. The article goes on:—
"It is admitted that the organised workers need a little `tidying up'; it is admitted that the trade union movement itself failed to do that, and it was pointed out long since that unless trade unionists put their own house in order it would be done for them. It is being done and they do not like or approve the process. It had to be done and the Minister who is doing it is accused of being a Fascist or on the way to be one. We wonder whether it is the Minister or his accusers are tarred with the brush of Fascism. We have seen an usherette in Dublin denied the right to earn her livelihood unless she did it in the way and manner dictated by a labour union. She had no fault to find with her wages or conditions of employment, but yet she was forced to walk out on the street or her employer be forced to close his business. That was done by a labour union."
The union is not mentioned, and the period is not mentioned either.
"We have seen business premises picketed to compel the staff to join a union. That staff enjoyed better, or as good, wages as were laid down by the union and their working conditions were better than those postulated by the union. There was thus no cause of complaint against the firm, but yet it was picketed to compel the firm and its staff to adopt a line of conduct they saw no necessity for or no intelligible reason to adopt. We have seen lorries burned on the streets of Dublin—"
the Minister has seen that too—
"we have seen the loads which these lorries carried destroyed in order to compel compliance with the demands of a trade union or members of a trade union. If all that is not a Fascist or dictatorial procedure we do not know the meaning of the word."
That was not always done by trade unionists, or not on the instructions of their trade union officials, at any rate. The article continues:
"Then we have the unedifying spectacle of the Fine Gael Party, with two or three exceptions, joining that baiting of a Minister because he has made an attempt, even a small attempt, to stamp out that terrorism which is eating into the vital life of the country. That Party likes to pose as the guardian and defender of the business and commercial elements of the community, and their interest in defending these elements is shown by their attitude on that Trade Union Bill. That attitude is determined by the rules of the dirty game, politics."
Of course, the Minister is not a politician.
"As a Party they hope to gather a few votes at the next election, and for the purpose of catching these problematical votes the Party is ready to pander to the perpetuation of the undoubted existing evils of the trades union movement. That Party is ready to sell the interests of the people for whom they have always liked to pose as defenders. It is by no means the first occasion on which that Party, or members of it, have followed a similar line with little advantage to themselves. That Party was responsible for tearing the 1932 Control of Manufactures Act to pieces and we are not aware that such conduct availed them much as a Party. Then another member of it went around for months with a magnifying-glass and a pointer dog searching for `back-room factories' in Dublin and elsewhere. The result was not very advantageous to the individual or the Fine Gael Party."
I am sorry that Deputy Childers is not listening to this, but I presume he has read it more than once.
He has read it.
Yes, I am sure he has read it, if he has not actually dictated it. At any rate, I am sure he has read it.
And so has the Deputy, and he thinks it is good.
The article continues:
"We trust that the commonsense business people of the country will appreciate at its true value the attitude of that Party on the Trade Union Bill and act accordingly. That Party, or some of its members, hope to gain a little tactical advantage over the Minister, who is attempting, even in a small way, to protect the business people of the country from the terrorism and threats of ill-directed trades union organisation. We trust the business people of the country will speak out and let that Party know that wallowing in the dirty game of politics does not always ensure financial, moral or personal support at election time."
Now, here is the spicy piece, in conclusion, and I should like to hear from the Minister what was the result of this very valuable suggestion.
What is said there applies also to trade union congresses.
Can we keep the Minister in order, Sir? I am reading the concluding portion of this article.
I was only going to draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that what the writer of that editorial said about the dirty game of politics also applies to trade union congresses.
As a good old Belfast politician, of course, the Minister knows nothing at all about the dirty game of politics! I suggest that if there is anything dirty about the game of politics you can learn it from a Belfast politician.
You have a receptive mind.
Here is the concluding portion of that article:
"Meantime, we trust the Minister will receive all possible personal expressions of support in order to counter the operations of that unnatural combination to which we have referred."
I wonder how many hundreds, or even thousands, of telegrams the Minister received from the bad employers who were responsible for the production of that article? If that is the source from which he gets his advice and his information in connection with trade union matters, at this period of the history of the country, then I sympathise with the Minister, but his name will go down in the history of this country for having brought in a measure which has done more to destroy the national unity of the country than anything else that I know of at this critical period. The inspiration, we now know, behind the writer of that article—and the Minister knows it better than I do— comes from people who are not all Irish nationals. If Deputy Corry wants to know who was responsible for the export of scrap iron I can tell him that the same gentleman has something to do with what is contained in that article.
Read out the speech that Deputy Keyes made.
I have no hesitation in saying that some of the people associated with the closing down of the Haulbowline dockyards supplied the information for that article, and they are not Irish nationals.
That has nothing to do with the Bill.
I would not have mentioned this, Sir, were it not that the Minister went out of his way to try to persuade the people who read what he says that the British-born trade union officials are the only people who are against this Bill. The Minister has also endeavoured, both here and elsewhere, to give the impression that there are in this country responsible trade union officials who are in favour of the proposals contained in this Bill. I have stated here in the House, and I repeat it now, that I do not believe, and never did believe, in the existence or the necessity for four or five trade unions for the purpose of catering for the interests of any one group of workers engaged in any industry. Personally, I believe in industrial trade unionism.
I believe that all the railway workers, in the traffic grades of the railway service, should be in one union, and I advocated that as far back as 30 years ago. I do not know what personal views the Minister for Industry and Commerce has in regard to this, but he should have held some view in matters of this kind when he was an honoured member of the Independent Labour Party in Belfast. The very fact that we believe that there can be a certain amount of reorganisation of the trade unions in this country is no justification for suggesting that any responsible official of the trade union movement in this country will stand up and defend the proposals now contained in this Bill. The editor who talked about this being a poor attempt at interpreting the views of employers certainly did not know that the Minister had such bad advice and information tendered to him in connection with this matter that he had to bring in 35 amendments to the Bill on Report Stage. Imagine a Minister having had this whole matter under consideration for 12 months, and having more information at his disposal than is at the disposal of any other citizen of the State, at the same time having to confess that he knew so little about the matter that, on Report Stage, he had to butcher the Bill beyond recognition. It was only when the Bill was circulated on Report that Deputies could really understand what was contained in the Bill.
I read an article—as I read most articles—in theIrish Press, published yesterday, which was headed “A Sorry Spectacle”. No doubt, that article was inspired by the active mind of the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
May I at once, before this kind of thing goes any further——
Is this a point of order?
——disclaim any responsibility for the article which appeared in theIrish Press yesterday.
I would not blame the Minister for repudiating it.
No, I am not repudiating it. I think the sentiments expressed in the article were excellent, but I say that there is enough native genius in theIrish Press to express the views of the common people of this country without having to be inspired by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
The Minister only writes the letters to theIrish Press.
No, he gets Deputy Meaney and Deputy Childers to write the letters.
The letters are not under discussion here.
As I said, I read that article, and although I am not going to challenge the rather qualified denial that was made by the Minister——
The Deputy has been speaking for 20 minutes now, and I do not think he has come close to the Bill yet.
I submit, Sir, that the leading article in theIrish Press, to which I refer, has something to do with the Bill. I do not want to waste the time of the House by reading the whole of the article, because it certainly would be a waste of time to read it, but there is an insinuation in that article that certain prominent people associated with the trade union movement favoured the proposals contained in the Bill.
So they did. Deputy Keyes did.
That is not so. The Deputy knows nothing about it.
What about the speech the Deputy made?
The Deputy knows nothing about it. He did not even read it.
Deputy Corry came into the House some time ago and was handed a certain copy of theIrish Press, dated some day last November. A copy of the Irish Press article was handed across to him from the official benches.
And he was made a liar of in the House.
He read from that Press report——
Does the Deputy realise that we are on the Fifth Stage of the Bill, and that the question is that the Bill do now pass?
I do, Sir, and I suggest that I am entitled to comment upon a pertinent interruption that was made on this Bill by Deputy Corry, and to suggest that Deputy Corry is not, even now, fully and correctly informed by the Minister as to the meaning of the summarised version of the proceedings of a certain conference, which was given in theIrish Press in November last. I thought that Deputy Corry would have had a consultation with the Minister in the meantime, and have found out for himself, as he should have found out for himself, what were the proposals submitted by the Minister's officials to the conference at that particular meeting, and compared the proposals submitted by the Minister's officials to the executive of the Irish Trade Union Conference with what is even now contained in this Bill.
It is not relevant at this point.
If so, Sir, Deputy Corry's interruption was irrelevant.
I beg to inform Deputy Davin——
Is this a point of order?
I do not need to wait for anybody to fly over here from England to make up my mind for me or to tell me what to do on this Bill. Somebody flew over here to tell the Deputy what to do, and he had to do it.
Deputy Davin is in order.
One does not like to get involved in an argument over that kind of silly interruption. That is an unfounded statement.
The Deputy should address the Chair, and not address Deputy Corry personally.
I can tell the Deputy that nobody on these benches takes their instructions from across Channel, and if that suggestion is repeated, either inside or outside the House, then let us have the proof of it produced. That has been insinuated by Deputy Corry, although it has not been previously alleged by anyone, not even by the Minister, and he has more information at his disposal than Deputy Corry has or ever will have.
Oh, you never know.
This Bill contains several sections which are highly objectionable, and for that reason it is impossible for any trade unionist, who believes in the rights of Irishmen under the Constitution, to vote for a measure of this kind. The tribunal set up by the Minister under the Bill has no relation to the functions of any tribunal properly constituted. Certainly the appeal board set up by the Minister in an amendment brought in on the Report Stage is a type of appeal board hitherto unknown in this country. I daresay it is the type of tribunal which, in the opinion of the Minister, is eminently suitable for dealing with the grievances of trade unionists, and to that extent it proves that this is class legislation of the very worst type. The amount of the deposits to be paid by unions which will recognise this Bill when it becomes law also gives it the hallmark of class legislation of the very worst type.
The Minister, by his interruption, apparently intends to make it clear that some things happened at the recent Irish Trade Union Congress which would give him adequate authority for pushing this measure through and putting it into operation. I have as good information as the Minister, although I was not present at the congress, on that particular matter, and I know of no delegate to the recent congress who, when challenged, was willing to stand up and say that he stood for the proposals in this Bill. In conclusion, I wish to say that whether or not this Bill was justified by the conditions prevailing in 1935 and 1936, the conditions which were said to prevail in 1935 and 1936 have not prevailed in this country for the past 12 or 18 months. The Minister, by bringing in this measure and creating the disunity which has been created as a result of its introduction and its forced passage through this House, has done a disservice to the people of the country at a most critical period in the history of the nation.
The proposals in this Bill, which it is now proposed to pass through the House, I believe are disastrous proposals not only for the workers, but for the employers and for industry generally.
The manner of the Minister's approach in bringing the proposals before the House, and his general attitude during the discussion of the measure, were simply in keeping with the proposals, and will tend to add to the disastrous and disruptive effect at a time when, as Deputy Davin pointed out, we want the most complete understanding among all sections of the people, and the most complete cooperation between those who have anything to do with production. The Minister has sown the seeds of misunderstanding and distrust, and has set out to disrupt organisations that, however they may require to be improved and bettered, have grown up naturally here. The members of these organisations have grown up together, worked together, and achieved things together, both on the workers' and the employers' side, and have made a contribution to the development of Irish industry and to the harmonious carrying on of industry here, no matter what may be said with regard to disagreements and disturbances that have occurred from time to time.
The very attitude that Deputy Davin takes up with regard to the employers at this particular stage shows how far the proposals and the discussions and the attitude that the Minister has taken on them have spread the area of distrust. Deputy Davin takes it that employers generally are behind this Bill, and are the people who forced the Minister into bringing forward the proposals. He mentionedIrish Industry, and quoted some things from that publication as bearing out what he feels. I want to deny, from my knowledge, at any rate, that the Federation of Irish Manufacturers have anything to do with this publication. So far as I know, it is the product of an individual, and however an individual, when he sits in the editorial chair, may wish to speak for all and sundry, I think it would be a disaster if that, as well as the Minister's attitude here, or the attitude of any other person, should bring about a position in which it would be possible for anybody representing labour or labour interests in any authoritative way to make use of them as a reason for taking up an anti-employers' attitude.
I do not think that in a normal atmosphere any great section of workers could be got to say that there was a divergence of interest between the workers on the one hand and the employers and the organisers of industry generally on the other. I think that both the employers and the workers realise that their interests are very closely knitted and that neither section can prosper or add anything to the general well-being of the country except by working hand in hand with the other.
The Bill, as well as bringing about this atmosphere of distrust and ill will and, I believe, disparaging, demeaning and lowering Parliamentary institutions in the eyes of the workers, contains provisions which put it into the Minister's power, if he puts the Bill into operation, to wipe out of existence organisations of workers which have brought harmony, progress and good-will into many parts of the country. As we have pointed out, some of the smaller town unions, which are valuable centres of sound harmonious working, and which have kept the peace and helped to improve conditions generally for the general run of town workers in various parts of the country, will be put out of existence under this measure. It was pointed out that craftsmanship is going to suffer at the hands of the Bill by the wiping out of craft unions. It establishes the power of the purse and is an invitation, shall I say, to the boss type, whether amongst workers or masters, to try to get control of organisations, and to do that by means of the purse. It is a very great mistake if it is attempted to put it into force.
If that is the foundation upon which organisations, either of masters or workers, are going to rest in the future, then it is not peace but strife this Bill is going to bring into the lives of workers and of employers, and into industry generally. Deputy Davin referred to the appeal board. The tribunal as now remodelled by the Minister, is as fantastic a thing as was ever conceived, so fantastic that it would be well worthy of being included in the Bill, as originally brought before the House. The Minister is doing a very sorry thing for Irish industry. It is a very sorry day for the harmonious ordering of our lives here, whether socially or industrially, and I sincerely hope that wiser counsels will prevail.
This is apparently the last stage of the steam-rolling process upon which the Government relied in order to try to pass this Bill. As I stated on the Second Reading, this is an unwanted Bill. Good-class employers have not asked for it, and the trade unions have not asked for it, as the Minister very well knows from what happened at Drogheda. If there are any Fianna Fáil Cumainn left in the country, we have no evidence from them that they want it, and they are usually organisations which can be induced to pass resolutions on request. So far as public opinion is concerned, there has been no public opinion expressed in favour of the introduction of a Bill of this kind. Yet, notwithstanding the fact that there has been no demand for the Bill, not even a mild demand, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, particularly in present circumstances, insists on wasting the time of this House in discussing a Bill of this kind, and using his Parliamentary majority to force it through the House. All this is taking place at a time when the whole nation is looking to this Legislature to give the country a sound lead on such problems as shortage of food, shortage of fuel, the emigration of tens of thousands of our people to the bombed cities of England, and control of prices.
In another State, when the people asked for bread the Emperor gave them circuses. Here, when the people ask for food, for fuel, when we have high prices, and the drift of our manhood and womanhood from the country, the best the Government and the Minister for Industry and Commerce can offer the country is a Trade Union Bill, on which to dissipate its energies at this critical time. No Bill ever came before this House based on such false pretences. Deputy Cooney and Deputy Corry will vote for this Bill on the grounds that it will help Irish unions. That is the bait held out. That is the carrot to get them into the Division Lobby in favour of the Bill. Everybody who knows anything about trade unions —as Deputy Cooney does—must know that one of the immediate effects will be to put a number of small organisations out of existence because they cannot pay the deposit required by the Minister.
The organisations that will not be able to do that are solely Irish trade unions. Every Deputy on the Fianna Fáil Benches with any experience of Irish trade unions knows full well the truth of what I am saying. If there are English organisations that want to comply with the provisions of the Bill, there is no doubt that every one of them can do so, so far as making the deposit is concerned. There are some small Irish organisations, which have rendered excellent service to their members, which have helped to raise the standard of living of members, which rendered good service to the nation, and helped to create the State, which will be seriously affected, if the provisions of the Bill are put into operation and if they are compelled to comply with its provisions. The excuse given by so-called nationally minded folk on the Government Benches is that this Bill will put non-Irish unions— British unions—in their place. The Minister for Industry and Commerce almost declared war on them during the Committee Stage discussion.
Everybody who knows the facts of the situation knows perfectly well that in the main this Bill if put into operation will do irreparable damage to the smaller Irish trade unions which have not the deposit demanded by the Minister. One would imagine that at a time when small countries are toppling over each week, when their independence is being trampled upon, their liberty stifled, and when life is really becoming a struggle, the Government would realise that it was nationally unwise to introduce this measure, and that what we needed more than anything else was the welding together of our people so that we might present a united front in the face of any external menace or any internal difficulties. When national unity was so essential, that is the time selected by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to introduce a measure of this kind. Since the outbreak of war nobody has done more to create disunity and discontent, or done more to sabotage efforts to promote national unity, than the Minister for Industry and Commerce. No one has rendered greater disservice to this nation, and no one has committed a greater crime against the organised workers than the Minister for Industry and Commerce has by the introduction of a Bill of this kind. The Minister may now imagine that with the passage of the Bill he can proceed to make war on the trade unions. He may imagine too that he will make war on the Irish trade unions.
Though I do not feel disposed to help the Minister in connection with this Bill, even at this late stage, I strongly advise him to abandon it. If his political face must be saved, well and good. We can understand the Bill having to be passed through this House in order that no further smudges may appear on the Minister's political face. The Bill might then be treated in the same way as the Minister on another occasion treated the Valuation Bill, which has been three years on the Order Paper, and in respect of which no steps have been taken even to proceed with the Committee Stage. The Minister was wise then. He told this House that the Valuation Bill was a vital one, that it was urgent that it should be put into operation, and he intimated the inestimable advantages which would accrue to poor people by its passage. Either the Minister got wise or his political chief developed a sense of political fear. Whatever the cause, the result was that the Minister was told to abandon the Valuation Bill. He might well do the same now. He might on this occasion not be rebuked. He might now intimate that he does not intend to proceed with this Bill. The sooner he gives intimation of that fact to the country, the sooner will he repair some of the damage which his swashbuckling speeches in this House, and his obviously hostile attitude towards trade unions, have created, at a time when an entirely different atmosphere is necessary. If the Minister wants to be the martial Minister, and if he wants to fight trade unions, and to fight the workers at this time, then he is welcome if he likes to try that forte.
In conclusion, I want to say that when an unscrupulous gang of employers in this city, aided and abetted by all the forces of the State, tried to smash the workers in 1913, and to use the weapons of starvation against them, they failed. What they failed to do in 1913 this Minister for Industry and Commerce in 1941 will fail to do much more signally than the unscrupulous employers of 1913.
I think I approached the consideration of this Bill with as open a mind as any Deputy, but if I had an inclination to vote against the Bill at the beginning, nothing has occurred during the debate to change that early opinion, which might have been changed. Rather have I been induced to oppose the Bill with much greater force than I should have opposed it at the beginning. So far as I can gather, there was not, from anybody in the South of Ireland, employer or employed, any demand whatever for this Bill. We have in the South of Ireland a number of small unions which worked very effectively on behalf of workers and without any serious disabilities to the employers, and, in fact, many of them, in their own way, have acted as peacemakers and have settled disputes in a very excellent manner. We feel that the abolition of these unions will not serve either the cause of the employers or of the many industries in the country, but rather that the extinguishing of these unions, and the compelling of their members to become members of one or two great unions, will do a disservice to these interests.
The Minister waxed furious on the question of English unions and, at one point in the debate, I came to the conclusion that it was because of the English unions that the Minister brought in the Bill and that it was his intention to clip their wings, if he could not altogether extinguish them. If the Minister was aiming honestly and definitely at furthering the cause of Irish unions, and at preventing as many Irish workers as he could from joining English unions, I should be with him wholly, and in any action which the Minister could take in that direction I should support him strongly, but the Minister made no case for his argument against these unions. If anything, there is a preference in the Bill for the English unions in relation to a great number of Irish unions, because this is largely a question of £ s. d. Many small unions will be unable to put down the deposit required, but there will be no such difficulty for any of the English unions that I know of. The deposit required of them will not materially affect them, and they will not give it any consideration, so that while, in effect, there is a provision in the Bill wiping out certain Irish unions, it may have the effect of driving their members into the English unions the Minister is so anxious to get rid of.
The Minister, in making his case against the English unions, quoted a rather unfortunate instance, so far as his case was concerned. If his idea was to change the views of any of us who were dubious about the effects of the Bill, he selected a very unfortunate case. He instanced a case in Cork of the member of a certain Irish union of woodworkers who, the Minister said, was refused work because of his membership of that union, at the instance of one of the great English unions, and he said that it was to remedy that state of affairs that he brought in this measure. Instead of remedying that grievance, the Minister has accentuated it, because the very union which he is out to protect and about which he waxed so furious will probably be one of the unions which will cease to exist. I am told that it is one of the small unions which may cease to exist, so that the Minister by his intervention, will probably not only prevent the members of that union from getting justice as an Irish union, but compel them to enter the larger body in England.
I believe we can go too far in the direction of centralisation in this matter, as in others. I have been a consistent opponent in this House of the great trend towards centralisation in the State, and I believe that, in this matter of trade unions, we can go too far in that direction. I believe that many of the smaller unions in the country towns and other areas, built up by workmen in their own interests, with a knowledge of the trade and the craft, were useful institutions and that their abolition will not tend to continue and extend the good relations which existed in the areas in which these unions were organised. To a country mind like mine—and I believe my views are shared by a great number of people in areas outside Dublin— the centralisation of all workers in one or two unions, one of which may be an English union, will not tend to the effective settlement of disputes, to that intimate approach between employers and employed which the small unions gave us in the local districts, and that, instead of being a harbinger of peace, will have the opposite effect.
In debates on important measures, when there is controversy as to the good or bad points of a Bill, we are wont to have the assistance of Deputies from all sides. At the beginning of the debate on this Bill, I thought we might have continued that practice. I listened to most of the speeches made during a very long and tedious debate. The Minister has not impressed me and, with one exception, not a Deputy behind him had the courage to get up and make a case for the measure. From my knowledge of members of the Government Party, I am quite certain that if there was any enthusiasm among them for this measure, the Minister would have had the consistent backing of at least four or five usually loquacious Deputies, but that backing was lacking on this occasion, and we can only assume that the measure of backing behind the Minister, if represented by the vocal support of his Deputies, is nil, and that the only reason for their support of him in this matter is the Party Whip. So far as we are concerned, we have been allowed to take our own individual views. As I say, I approached this matter with as unbiassed a mind as any Deputy, and anything brought out by the debate, so far as my understanding of it is concerned, has been rather against the Minister than for him. My opposition to the Bill has been increased tenfold by the conduct of the debate through the House and the lack of support for it from any part of the House, except from the Minister himself.
I should like to give my view. My view is given of my own free will. There was no attempt whatever, either expressed or implied, to prevent members here from making speeches on this Bill. My reason for backing up this Bill is that I am for the Government, and at this juncture, when there is such an inferno raging all over the world, I am not going to do anything which would even loosen a screw in the machinery of the Government. That is my reason. I did not enter into the merits of the Bill at all. I did not read it. I am not a bit ashamed to confess that, not the slightest bit. I have an impression of trade unions, formed many years ago. It is a long time since 1885. In that year a special commission was set up by the British Government for the investigation of the housing of the poor. That commission appointed members to meet in Dublin. There was only one Irishman on it, but he was a good one, Edmund Dwyer Gray. The commission sat for a long time. It brought in a Bill enabling corporations of the three Kingdoms to have legislation passed to help them to carry out the designs of this commission. Later on, in 1897, a Bill was passed in the British House of Commons again extending local government to this country. A year later, 1898, an election was held, and, for the first time, the working-class citizens of Dublin got the chance of electing the corporation and minor local bodies. They never had the franchise before. The corporation previously was elected by a very restricted franchise. The trades council then put up candidates in each of the 15 wards of the City of Dublin. There were three other candidates put up by other working-class institutions. I was a member of one of them. A very elaborate and fine programme of social reform was brought in by the trades council. The election was held. I was a candidate, although not originally intended to be one. The man we had selected in our institution was one of those splendid, naturally cultured, Dublin workmen. He had no chance of great education, but he was an extremely cultured man.
Would the Deputy now bring his historical reminiscences to bear on this Bill?
He cannot, Sir; he did not read it.
I am taking an advantage which might be given to me. I have not opened my lips on this Bill before. I did not want the taunt to go out that I was afraid to speak.
The Deputy is at perfect liberty to speak on the Bill.
I want to tell the House the lesson I learned from trade unions then. I am speaking on trade unions. If you wish to put me down, I will go down but I will protest. I do not see why the Deputy is laughing. There is nothing to laugh at in this night's debate. Not a single thing. I cannot see any reason for laughing. Shall I go on, Sir?
On the Bill, yes.
I am as near to the Bill as I can go. The election was held and the trade unions carried their men triumphantly in every ward in Dublin. We carried three. The programme appealed to all. There were very good grounds for that. No one could contemplate now, at this distance, the social conditions of this city at that time. Many of its aspects could not be mentioned. The conditions under which the poor lived here then could not be mentioned. Therefore we were very glad that our men were carried. The corporation met.
On a point of order, what has this got to do with the Bill?
The Deputy's introduction is somewhat prolix.
Prolixity is in order, is it?
I submit that Deputy Kelly is as close to the point as Deputy Norton was.
I am not going to do Deputy Norton any harm. Not the slightest. I have been always a friend of trade unions but I want to give the House some experience of it, just as a warning. It might be a very wholesome warning. I do not wish to take up the time of the House at all. I would not have intervened in the debate but for the observation of the member opposite. I do not know why he wanted to make that observation. Besides, I am not more than ten minutes speaking, as yet. Other Deputies here took up an hour and an hour and a half, talking nonsense.
But they read the Bill.
They read the Bill.
They were made keep to it, too.
The condition of the city was as I have stated. The corporation met in the council chamber and began its work. That was in January of that year. I must say that in the beginning they showed up well. Two or three very necessary social changes were made and, indeed, to mention them here would throw more light on the condition of this city. One reform was the introduction of an ambulance service. There was no ambulance service then of any description. There was the "sick car". You know what that means. Another reform was that the dead poor in the workhouses might be burried with religious ceremonies.
The Deputy admits that he has been speaking for ten minutes. He has not yet come to the measure before the House.
I cannot come to the Bill for a little while longer, if you do not mind. Ten minutes is not too long. I really did not want to speak. I did not come here prepared to speak. As a matter of fact, I do not want to speak in this House at all. There was a time I thought I might like it, but I did not like it and I left it there. Another proposal was that the examinations for clerkships in the council should be competitive. That obtains to-day. That was all very well, but a few months later the tempter came. There was great work to be done in Dublin, more especially in connection with the conditions in which the poor were living. They could have succeeded very well, but the tempter came and his temptation was this—make one of the members lord mayor. We were only three or four months in the council chamber altogether and they fell for it—one of the members was selected to be lord mayor. The selection used to take place in June and the actual election in December. The mayoralty then carried a salary of £3,650—an immense sum. We had the members deciding that they would contest the next election on those grounds only—that one of the members should be lord mayor. That is what they did. Unfortunately, they were tempted and, being only human, they fell for it. But we, who take a keen interest in the city and the city's affairs—and more especially in the question of social reform—remember it too well. It was years afterwards before trade unionism was able to recover itself in the city. Just remember what a power it would have been then. I would advise members here who are not past advice to remember that incident in connection with this country. It may well prove a charter for trade unions, and put them in a much more substantial position than at present. Here is a plain question. How is it that the Labour Party consists only of a handful of members here?
That history has nothing to do with the Trade Union Bill.
If I put that question to them, I am satisfied. I do not wish to speak any longer, but I am telling the truth.
I doubt whether any measure introduced here throughout the period of the emergency has aroused such widespread condemnation as the Bill which we are asked now to pass. Even the nimble mind and brazen tongue of the Minister for Industry and Commerce have not proved equal to the task of slipping this Bill across. In fact, were it not for the docile, well-oiled voting machinery which the Minister has at his disposal, the Bill never would have reached this stage at all. As has been asserted over and over again throughout the course of the debate, this Bill is unwanted by anyone, with the possible exception of the Minister and a few of his colleagues who are privileged to sit with him on the Government Front Bench. Might it not be too much to hope that, even at this late stage, the Minister will see his way to withdraw the Bill?
In view of the recent opposition to it in the House here and in view of the manifold protests that have been made throughout the country on behalf of working class interests, one might well ask if the Minister is not allowing his personal conceit and vanity to usurp his judgment in forcing through a measure of this kind. The Bill has been rushed through its various stages with indecent haste. No plea of urgency was put forward by the Minister for taking the successive stages of the Bill at such short intervals, nor indeed could there have been any such argument to support that plea. So far as I can see, the only tangible result that will accrue from the enactment of this measure will be the creation of widespread disorganisation of hosts of workers throughout the country. This Bill will sabotage and destroy the goodwill and co-operation which have been so eagerly promoted and so assiduously fostered by trade union leaders throughout the country.
The fog and haze which enveloped the Minister's mind in pressing this measure forward were demonstrated by the fact that he found it necessary to table no less than 35 amendments to the Report Stage. The Minister need not think that the slender modifications in the Bill as it at present exists will make it one bit more acceptable to the people. This vicious child of the Minister's imagination, this monstrosity let loose by the Minister on the working classes will, I hope, meet with the same political fate as awaits its master. Instead of dissipating his energies in trying to force this Bill through, the Minister might, with advantage, have turned his attention to many reforms which are urgently required. We are all aware that there are many points crying out for attention. The Minister's time, and the time of this House, would have been better used in dealing with these matters than in dissipating energies in dealing with what is now commonly known as this anti-Trade Union Bill. When the Minister is but a faded memory in this House, the trade unions which he now seeks to destroy will remain and the principles of collective bargaining which have their roots in the craft guilds of the Middle Ages, will still obtain.
At this stage of the Bill anybody is entitled to ask a question, and I ask for the production of the evidence that warrants the Minister in introducing and forcing through a measure of this character. When we are passing through an emergency, legislation of various kinds may be called for in the interests of the country and its various constituents. I think that the citizens of the country and Deputies of the House are entitled impartially to ask the Minister to produce the evidence and to show the volume of it, to warrant the forcing of this Bill through the House. If pressure comes from the agricultural community or from any other section, obviously one expects the volume of pressure from that particular section of the community to demand legislation of a particular type. Can the Minister produce to this House any demand of the workers of the country, industrial or rural? Deputy Mulcahy says that, as far as he knows, the employers themselves have not put it forward. I cannot speak for them, but I think we are entitled to get a statement from the Minister as to who is responsible in driving him to put this forward. On other stages of the Bill, he has stated in some fashion that certain trade union leaders insinuated at least that they were in favour of the Bill.
Deputy Corry was sufficiently unwise to-night—having learned nothing since the Committee Stage and having forgotten something—to suggest again that there was some volume of opinion from the trade union leaders in support of this measure. The only thing he could do was to quote from a document of last November. If he had not such a short memory, he would have kept away from that incident, as his suggestion was publicly repudiated by the Minister and by this House as being a falsehood.
A Deputy should not be accused of falsehood. As Deputy Corry did not intervene in today's debate, Deputy Keyes must be referring to an incident which took place on a previous stage.
Deputy Corry did intervene to-night.
His name is not listed.
He intervened to-night and repeated a statement with regard to me about which he was repudiated by the Minister on a previous occasion.
Surely Deputy Corry was not accused by the Minister of being guilty of falsehood?
I shall try to relate the incident for your interpretation. Deputy Corry brought a newspaper from the Library and walked up to the bench with it. The Minister said: "That is not true," and handed it back to the official. I leave the matter for your interpretation.
The Chair will not interpret. The Deputy may proceed. Did that incident occur to-day?
No, on the Committee Stage.
Why introduce it now?
It was repeated to-night by Deputy Corry, notwithstanding the lesson he got on the last occasion. That is the reason for my reference. Deputy Corry has learned nothing and forgotten something. I challenge the Minister and the Government to produce any evidence of support for the introduction of a Bill of this character from any trade union leader in the country. Trade union leaders were prepared to admit that there was room for improvement in the organisation, so as to prevent the overlapping that was taking place. That was put to them and they did not succeed in bridging the differences. As a matter of fact, as time has gone on, these difficulties have not shown themselves in anything like an acute form.
Since the commission report, from which the Minister has so copiously quoted, nothing has happened of a character which would warrant any interference with the trade union movement. That has been particularly noticeable since the commencement of the period of emergency. Yet, the Minister is not content with introducing a Bill which we consider unwarranted; he introduces a Bill of a most objectionable character. It is not a Bill to promote unity and harmony in the trade union movement, but one to promote discord. It indicates that the Minister has no sympathy whatever with the trade union movement. That is disclosed, too, by his attitude and statements during the progress of the Bill. The Bill itself was bad, but the statements which the Minister has made will remain as cankers in the minds of trade unionists as long as he remains in office. Workers cannot look with confidence to a Government of which he is a responsible spokesman as having any sympathy with trade unions or what they stand for. There is a very serious divergence at this juncture on the part of the Government when they say that the trade union movement, with its admitted faults, is not an admirable and necessary instrument in the conduct of industrial affairs.
We say that this Bill, even in the amended form in which we are asked to pass it to-night, does not aim at the improvement of the trade union movement but rather at its disturbance and dislocation. With its penalties, the Bill is going to drive small unions out of existence, without providing any suitable machinery to replace them. Small unions in the cities and towns carried on good work unostentatiously. They did not figure very much in the limelight, but they conducted their affairs well and succeeded in building up and maintaining reasonable standards for their members. Disputes were avoided by their wise and timely intervention between the workers and their employers.
These unions will cease to function for one reason only—that they cannot put down the necessary deposit. They are being driven out of existence. I have already spoken frequently on behalf of the old craft unions, and I shall not repeat what I have said. An effort has been made to render their position less impossible by reducing the deposit figure, but the figure will, in my opinion, still be impossible, and many of them will go by the board. The Minister has no regrets in that respect. If the Minister has no regrets for the passing of these old craft unions and the disappearance of local unions and trades councils, which did so much to promote industrial peace, the country, as a whole, will have reason to regret that they were put out of existence.
The Minister showed no evidence of preparedness for the realities of the situation when he found it necessary to make so many amendments to the Bill while it was passing through the House. These amendments may have eased the pressure, in some instances, but the vital defects remain. Fundamentally, the principle on which the Bill is built is the placing of a premium on non-unionism as against trade unionism. That principle cannot be obliterated by any amendment. It puts a premium on house unions and com pany unions, which will be the property of the boss. It is designed to increase the slave mind, one of the things which the trade unions have endeavoured to combat. They are proud of having imbued the workers with a spirit of independence and manhood. Now, the workers are being driven into the hands of the boss. They can negotiate with the boss, but they know that they have no weapon or machinery left to enforce their demands, no matter how just or right they may be. They cannot have recourse to the strike or the picket. They have been robbed of these rights during the progress of the Bill. Deputy Kelly went back to 1885. It is a pity that he was not more relevant, because I should like to hear the completion of his statement. The Minister goes back to 1825 and robs the workers of the hardly-won rights obtained by them in successive measures during the years that have intervened. I wonder how Deputy Kelly, with the sympathy he has expressed with trade unionism, and which I believe he feels, can conscientiously square his support of this Bill—which, he says, he has not read—introduced by the Minister—a Bill which strikes at the heart and vitals of the trade union movement— with the support of that movement which he helped to build up himself.
I have regard for the unity of the country.
Many other Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches are equally sympathetic with the trade union movement and what it stands for but they are being steamrolled by the Party machine as we are being steamrolled here. The Minister was looking for some kind of public utterance which would give him courage to put this Bill through. He was looking to Drogheda last week and he referred to-day, in passing, to something that happened at Drogheda. I was at Drogheda and I am prepared to grant him any satisfaction he can get out of the proceedings there. The opposition of Labour's Parliament to this measure was unmistakable and unequivocal. The floor denounced the platform because we did not take sufficient steps in opposition to this execrable Bill and its accompanying Order No. 83. Not one out of the 206 delegates had any use for the Bill, even in its amended form. The Minister has, probably, received private reports regarding the proceedings at Drogheda. I challenge him to produce any evidence to show that he has the backing of any trade union or trade unionist for this measure. If that be so, where are we under a democracy? Are we, in the name of democracy, to force on, probably, 250,000 workers an unwanted and objectionable measure of this kind, for which there is not a title of demand or support at a juncture when the Minister would be better employed endeavouring to smooth the hard path which the emergency and the war situation have opened up for our people. On previous occasions, I told the Minister what I thought of his action. I tell him now that he is doing a bad thing for the country. The trade union movement will survive this Bill and all the machinations in connection with it and will be thriving when the promoters of the Bill shall have faded away.
We have; after a stormy passage, reached the final stage of this Bill in so far as the proceedings in this House are concerned. It will later go to the Seanad and after that one wonders what is going to happen. If I know the trade unionists of this country—and I think I do—I think the Minister is going to have a very unhappy time as soon as this Bill becomes the law of the land. During the course of Deputy Davin's speech, the Minister made certain jibes about the Irish Trade Union Congress which met in Drogheda during the past week. I know there were differences, material differences, amongst the delegates in Drogheda last week—healthy differences, differences arrived at in an effort by every delegate there to do something in the interests of the working class but there was no difference whatever, not a title of difference, in the minds of delegates as to what they thought about the Bill that is being now pushed through this House. Every delegate there who spoke on the Trade Union Bill, without equivocation of any kind, denounced the Bill and every section of the Bill and demanded that the new executive of the Trade Union Congress, when it was elected, should take all steps necessary to prevent the Bill from being put into operation. There was no question at all about the reception given to the Bill.
As I said a moment ago, the Minister made certain jibes about the Trade Union Congress. The Minister of course was not in a position to know what actually happened at the Trade Union Congress because, as we all know owing to the scarcity of newsprint at the moment, proceedings of that kind are not getting the publicity that one would like to see. It is therefore impossible for anybody who was not at the congress to understand what really happened at the congress. What I want to emphasise however is, that the jibes of the Minister are in very bad taste. The jibes of any Minister of the present Government would be in very bad taste so far as the Trade Union Congress is concerned. I remember in 1919 or 1920—I forget exactly the year—I was present at a meeting of a Trade Union Congress held in the Mansion House in Dublin when An Taoiseach, or Deputy de Valera as he then was, came there and got a good reception as the head of the Sinn Féin movement of that time. He told us that he did not want to interfere with our deliberations but he asked for the co-operation of the trade union movement.
He got the unanimous co-operation of the trade union movement, and if he did not get the unanimous co-operation of the trade union movement, Mr. Seán MacEntee would not be here to-day as Minister for Industry and Commerce, piloting a Bill through the House to cripple the trade union movement. Therefore, I say that it comes very badly from the Front Bench of a Party which asked for and got such co-operation from the Trade Union Congress in 1919 when it was so badly needed.
In the course of the Committee Stage of this Bill, the Minister in one of his fits of temper, told us that the object of this Bill was to strengthen Irish trade unions and that he was doing something to clip the wings of the English trade unions. But his immediate predecessor apparently thought differently. Deputy Lemass at Waterford said certain things which would give the lie to the present Minister for Industry and Commerce. I think I would be right in saying that Deputy Lemass, the present Minister for Supplies, had a good deal to do with this Bill before he left the Department of Industry and Commerce. Certainly this Bill was not conceived only during the lifetime of the present Minister. In the course of his speech at Waterford the Minister for Supplies said:
"It is noteworthy that no critics of the Bill have particularised their objection to it except one union which objected because the Bill did not put an end to the operations of British unions here. Despite that, I was surprised to note some officials of British unions associating themselves with the agitation. It is common knowledge that these British unions expected that the Bill would put an end to their operations in this country and that their Irish officials were overjoyed to find that, instead of putting them out, the Bill recognised and consolidated their position."
I think that gives the lie to the statement of the Minister for Industry and Commerce on the Committee Stage of the Bill. I do not want it to be thought that I want to see any handicaps imposed on English trade unions because the so-called English trade unions operating here have Irishmen in charge of them, Irishmen who proved themselves Irishmen all through the years from 1916 to 1922-23. We had men like the late Senator Thomas MacPartlin, who was secretary of an English trade union, the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers, and who, I think we can say, gave his life in the cause of Irish freedom. Although he did not actually die in the conflict, I think it can be truly said that he died in consequence of the strenuous work he did all through his life in the cause of Irish freedom.
The same can be said, I think, of the late William Partridge, who had a long service in the movement and who was an official of an English trade union. We were lectured here this evening by Deputy Tom Kelly.
I did not lecture you.
You made a desperate effort to do so.
I did not.
The Deputy admitted he had not read the Bill. I cannot understand a man like Deputy Tom Kelly, who has always been known as honest Tom Kelly——
Cut that out.
I cannot understand his voting for a Bill without having read it. One would have thought, seeing that there was such a lot of controversy about the Bill during its passage, that he would have taken the trouble to read it.
There was no necessity.
I remember a famous occasion here when Deputy Kelly said, during an election, that his advice to the people was to vote early and to vote often. Twelve months ago an appeal was made by representatives of all Parties sitting in this House asking for unity in the face of a common danger and asking that certain Defence Services should be set up here. This Party and the trade union movement generally, I think it can be said, entered fully into the spirit of that movement and made the appeals they were asked to make by the Government. The result was that all sections of the community rallied together and there were formations of the Local Defence Force, Local Security Force and Air Raid Precautions. Quite a number of people of the working class also joined the National Army for the period of the crisis. This Bill, since it was introduced, has been responsible for more disunity than has prevailed in this country for a considerable time. Those of us who are in the trade union movement and in the Labour Party, for the past three or four months since the introduction of the Bill, have found ourselves obliged repeatedly to ask people to remain in the Defence Forces and not to come out of them because of the fact that the Bill was introduced. That is the position in which we find ourselves now. We do not want to see disunity in the country but we feel perfectly satisfied that if this Bill passes its final stages and is put into operation it is going to have a serious effect on the unity of the country.
I think it was on the Financial Resolution of the Bill that the Minister denied a contention of mine that it had been agreed over 12 months ago that all contentious matters should not be discussed during the emergency period. There are two Bills on the Order Paper for a number of years. The Valuation Bill has been on it almost four years. That was a highly contentious measure, and there were very many disagreeable scenes in discussing a number of amendments that have been carried to it. Another Bill which has been a long time on the Order Paper is the St. Laurence O'Toole Hospital Bill. There was certainly a great division of opinion so far as that was concerned. Certain people, especially Dublin Deputies, could not come to agreement on many points of the Bill, and it was agreed that, as it was so controversial, it be held up. It was submitted by Dublin Deputies that it was absolutely necessary that the Bill should be passed through as quickly as possible in order to provide hospital accommodation. Nevertheless, although that was admitted by everybody, because of the fact that it was controversial it was hung up, and it is still hanging.
When we appeal to the Minister to leave over the further consideration of this Bill because of its controversial complexion, he turns the deaf ear. I suggest that he should leave the Bill as it stands, keep it out of the Seanad, and not have it further considered until the emergency passes. I do admit that there is reorganisation required in the trade union movement, but the Minister knows the Irish people as well as I do. He knows we always were, we are, and we always will be people with a rebellious spirit. We are not going to be coerced by the Minister or by any other person, so far as the trade union movement is concerned. Arrangements are being made for a nation-wide rally, and the Minister will hear before very long the voice of the working-class people raised against this despicable measure.
As one who has some knowledge of the feelings of the workers with regard to this Bill, I seriously suggest that the Minister should suspend its further consideration until the country has passed through the present crisis. I was in Drogheda in 1919 at a trade union congress, and I was at Drogheda last week. The only trouble at the congress last week arose out of the delegates, the rank and file of the congress, finding fault with their officers for not acting more vigorously in their opposition to this measure. I have some knowledge of the mentality of southern workers, and I know that day after day they have been pressing us to take more vigorous action against this Bill. Suggestions have been made as to what should be done about the working-class people who are in the Defence Forces, what should be suggested to them, and what they should do under certain circumstances. We have members of various unions giving voluntary service in the Defence Forces, and they have expressed themselves very definitely with regard to this measure.
We are passing through a very grave crisis, and we are likely to face a graver situation in the future, when we will have men and women looking for food, and for the fuel to cook that food. In such a period I suggest that the Minister would be wise to suspend this measure. I am appealing to him as one who has some experience of dealing with the working classes. I have some knowledge of what they are thinking about this Bill, and in all sincerity I suggest to him that he would be very well advised to put this legislation aside for as long a period as possible.
I wish to join with other Deputies in opposing this measure. I think that the Minister should accept the advice that has been tendered to him by at least two speakers. If he does not withdraw the Bill, at least he should not send it to the Seanad during the emergency period. The Minister and his colleagues some two years ago asked for unity, and they got that unity. I think the Government will agree that they got all they appealed for. He now comes along with this measure which, I think, is the nearest thing to a dictatorship that was ever introduced—at any rate, it must be the outcome of a dictator's mind. To me it appears to be a confiscatory measure, an effort to confiscate the funds of the trade unions, to value the work of the trade unions purely on their financial standing.
We all know there are small unions representing various types of workers and these unions have done very valuable national work. To my mind, this measure is a denial, a negation of liberty. The Minister endeavoured to create the atmosphere that this Bill was going to stop strikes. He said there were too many strikes in the country, and I think that was admitted by many Deputies, but there is nothing in the Bill to prevent strikes. In conjunction with this Bill we have the Emergency Powers (No. 83) Order.
That does not arise on the Fifth Stage of this Bill.
I am afraid that when this Bill is passed other Bills of a similar character will follow. When you take this measure in conjunction with the order to which I have referred, you realise the justification there is for the great resentment that has been caused all over the country. I think, as Deputy Hickey has said, that the time of the Government would be better occupied trying to devise means to help those of our people who are suffering very great hardships. What is the position existing to-day? We have an increasing cost of living, a scarcity of fuel, a scarcity of light and growing unemployment. The Minister and his staff would be better engaged trying to find remedies for these evils instead of, in a grave period of emergency, interfering with a movement that has done valuable work in days gone by for the people of this country, a movement which, I feel confident, will continue to do excellent work, irrespective of what the Minister may do in this House.
This Bill was designed to deal with one of the problems which affect the industry and commerce of the country. The Minister indicated that the steps that are now being taken are designed to prevent stoppages of work, such as have occasioned very considerable loss to the country, to the people engaged in industry, and to industrialists generally. To the average citizen it appears that whatever opposition to this legislation there may have been here on the part of persons closely in touch with the trade union movement, the opposition outside is even stronger than was originally expressed by Labour Deputies here. The Bill is going to become the law of the land. Whether it will achieve the purposes the Minister has in mind, we shall have to leave the future to decide.
I suggest to the Minister that he should not bring the Bill into operation for 12 or 18 months, and that, in the meantime, he would introduce a measure providing that before either a lock-out or a strike would take place the matters in dispute should be subjected to arbitration. If, after the arbitration was held, there was dissatisfaction it should then be open to either party concerned to have the strike or lock-out, as the case might be. That method has been tried in other countries. In the case of one country it has been the law for some years. The country in question has a population three times larger than ours. Over the last five years the number of working days lost there has been less than the number lost here. The anomalies which this Bill is designed to remove are such as that, in the normal course, they ought really to fall for solution to trade union leaders and trade unions themselves. If that has not been attempted up to this it may, to some extent, be said to be the misfortune of the trade union movement.
This Bill has been very severely criticised in the House. Some of the criticism might be less severe if Labour members ever had responsibility for the administration of the country in the same way as the Party now in power has that responsibility. Prior to accepting the responsibility of Government, partisans are disposed to put forward a cure for almost everything that affects the interests—individual, sectional, or national—of the country. After the assumption of power people get sobered in their views with regard to finding an easy solution for all sorts of problems, and are perhaps less liable to make promises. It is the misfortune of the Labour Party that it has not had that experience. That is one of the lessons which has been learned by the Party now in office. In consequence of their experience, the members of the Government have now quite a different approach to a number of problems which affect the country to that of ten years ago. It is now the desire not only of the trade unions but of members on all sides of the House and, I should say, of practically every section of the community, that an effort should be made to compose those industrial disturbances which occasion such great loss to the families of those who are engaged in them and to the country as a whole.
If some method, other than what this Bill proposes, could be found, it might help to bring about in a peaceful and amicable way a settlement of such differences as might arise. My suggestion is that prior to a strike or a lock-out there should be arbitration. If the parties concerned consider that the terms proposed are unsatisfactory then let them be free to have either a strike or lock-out, as the case may be. I think the Minister should try that method for 12 months. If it is found to work well, it might be continued for another 12 months. In the meantime it is possible, even probable, that the anomalies which it is hoped this Bill may remedy or improve might find their improvement within the ranks of the trade unions themselves. It is quite possible, even probable, that the Minister will not get any support for that suggested method of settling these matters from the Labour Benches, and for a very good reason—much the same reason as that which affects the settlement of disputes between nations. When the representatives of nations assemble at Geneva or some other place they are all willing to settle, but their trouble is that when they go back to their respective countries they fail to carry the people with them in the settlements they are ready to make. The suggestion that I have made appears to me to be much more likely to bring about industrial peace than the provisions in this Bill, and, on the whole, to receive a less hostile reception from those who have criticised this measure.
The Minister, when introducing this Bill, said that one of its objects was to prevent industrial unrest through the country. During the whole of the discussions on the Bill the Minister did not give one single proof that there was any such thing as industrial unrest in Éire. I know he takes up the attitude that when he introduces a Bill his aim is to see that it will be put into operation. At the same time, the Minister must be aware of the feeling that prevails amongst trade unionists at the present time. On an earlier stage I indicated that so far as this Bill is concerned I was awaiting a decision from the men directly concerned—the Trade Union Congress—and would obey it.
I realise that hard words have been spoken in the discussions on the Bill because members have felt that this was not the time to introduce such a measure, together with Emergency Powers Order No. 83 which prevents even the lowest paid workers getting an increase in wages. My record will prove that I have never advised men to do anything that I was not prepared to do myself. I am not now going to give any advice to the House in connection with the trade union movement. The Trade Union Congress got its orders, and the trade unions are going to consider what actions they will take in connection with the Bill. That may create further trouble in the country, but that remains to be told. The Minister must be satisfied that this Bill does not meet with the approval of any trade unionists in Éire. It has met with no support from any Labour member. The manner in which the Minister went about the Bill—the coercion—did not meet with the response that, in the beginning at any rate, he expected he would get for it. He is now going to get the votes of the members of his Party in support of it —most of whom have neither read the Bill nor any section of it.
I have not made any threats in connection with it. I have my own views about it. If the Minister wants a continuation of the co-operation that the Government have received up to the present, if he really wants the co-operation of all trade unionists and is anxious that the Bill should meet with the approval of the trade unions, he should between now and the consideration of the Bill in the Seanad consult with the representatives of the Trade Union Congress. He should endeavour to have a conference for the purpose of getting an agreed measure, one that would meet with the approval of every trade unionist and of the people generally throughout the country. Of course the Minister may say that up to the present there has been very strong criticism of the Bill from Labour members not alone in the House but outside the House, but I am sure the Minister does not object to criticism if it is constructive. Knowing the feelings of the people throughout the country, knowing that within the next week I will be engaged on work in connection with this Bill outside the House, together with all the Labour leaders throughout the Twenty-Six Counties, I join with Deputy Hickey in appealing to the Minister to postpone putting this Bill into operation until the obnoxious clauses have been removed and some agreement has been arrived at.
The Minister said that this Bill is necessary, but every trade unionist has a different view, and there should be some endeavour to reconcile those two conflicting views. It is not the first time there has been a conference when the unity of the nation required it. We have those silent members on the Fianna Fáil Benches, who have never read the Bill before to-night, but surely it is not too late even now to have a conference for the purpose of arriving at an agreed measure. There is no necessity for the Minister to read through all the reports of the Trade Union Congress. The scoring of debating points on either side is not going to improve the position at the present time. Criticisms from this side of the House or from the Minister in replying are not going to make the Bill any more acceptable to the trade union leaders outside. If the Minister understands the situation he must realise that the only one who will have a grievance if this Bill is postponed is the briefless barrister who is to be appointed at £500 a year. I am sure there is nobody either on the Government side or on our side who wants this Bill at the present time. We have urgent work to do in the country in the next five or six weeks, instead of taking up the attitude which we will be forced to adopt if this Bill goes through. I am not saying that by way of threat, but certain opposition will have to be made against this Bill outside the House. Surely we do not want that in the next five or six weeks, when we could be engaged on more important work. Is the Minister prepared to be a big man, to admit that there may be bad points in the Bill as well as good ones—we say that the bad points outweigh the good ones—and to do what Deputy Hickey and myself have suggested?
Deputy Cosgrave has talked about arbitration. I have been connected with trade unions for 25 years, and I say that we have never objected to arbitration. When there is a dispute between employers on the one side and workers on the other, we think it is a very good thing that there should be a delaying period, a steadying period; probably by the time you have arbitration, feeling on both sides will have calmed down, and you will get the acceptance which you would not have got at the outset. Speaking for myself, and for the other members of this Party, I say that we have never in our lives objected to arbitration. We have been prepared to do anything for peace. We have never advocated strikes where they could be avoided. Having suffered as I have done in connection with disputes, I am the first to advise against them. I know what it is to be in Mountjoy in connection with strikes. I have had experience of the consequences of disputes under the previous Government as well as under this Government, but if this fight has to go on I am prepared to take my place.
I know the serious effect this Bill is having in the country. We know what may happen when the passions of 500,000 or 600,000 men are aroused. I do not want any party outside this country to have any excuse for coming in here at the present time, and I say that the Minister would be doing a national work if he did not insist on forcing this Bill through. He may put this Bill on the statute book, but he may not be able to put it into operation. I appreciate the Minister's difficulties, but he must appreciate the difficulties of the Labour members, and he has not smoothed them in any way by the introduction of this Bill. Things have been said here which probably would have been better left unsaid. The Minister wants to get his pound of flesh by putting the Bill into operation, but it will not bring industrial peace to the country. Its effect will be quite the opposite. We know that there are certain people who have no love either for the Labour Party or any constitutional authority, and we know the advantage they may take of the position if the Minister tries to force this Bill through the House.
I do not agree with anyone who says that trade unions will be suppressed; from my knowledge of trade unions and organised labour, I say that trade unions will not be suppressed. In every walk of life you have people with Labour sympathies. The Minister is aware that one of the leaders was prepared to resign from a very important organisation if this Bill went through. There is no use in the Minister saying that that was because those men were losing their jobs. We do not want any more men losing their jobs at the present time. The Minister has asked the co-operation of the Trade Union Congress in meeting the industrial situation in which large numbers of men will be thrown out of their jobs owing to the shortage of material, and I am certain that both sides will come to an agreement on that problem. At a time when that problem is to be solved by agreement between all parties is it wise to bring in a measure of this kind which will not make for co-operation? I am not making any appeal to the Minister through cowardice, but because I know the serious effects which the putting into operation of this measure will produce. Why put it into operation until there is a conference with men who can speak with the authority of the Labour movement of Ireland? The Minister has met them recently on other matters. Why not have a conference with them now, and postpone the putting into operation of this Bill until some measure of agreement has been arrived at in the interests of peace and, above all, in the interests of the country, which are more important than the interests of any Party?
I think the Minister, having heard the appeals from the entire Opposition in the House for the postponement of this Bill and the setting up of some kind of arbitration, particularly in the present emergency, would be very wise to take that course. Deputy Cosgrave has said that there has been even stronger opposition to this Bill outside the House than inside it, and to anybody who has any knowledge of what is happening in the country, that is perfectly apparent. Deputy Everett has suggested that it is a Bill which the Fianna Fáil Deputies do not want. I do not think he is quite correct in that. I would go so far as to say that the support of the Fianna Fáil Deputies was far stronger outside the House than inside it, because several of the Fianna Fáil Deputies flew into the highest flights of literary imagination in support of the Bill, and wasted quite a considerable amount of newsprint on it. It is that type of defence of the Bill that has caused more doubts than anything else in the minds of the people who might have been prepared to accept the Minister's statements in regard to it. There is one thing which I want to make quite clear. It was suggested by Deputies in this House, and possibly the suggestion appeared more strong because there is no Labour representative in my constituency, that the workers there were in favour of the Bill. I want to say strongly, and as strongly as I can possibly say it, that, as far as I know, the workers of North Cork, organised and unorganised, are every bit as vehement in their opposition to the Bill as anybody in this House or outside it.
I had hoped that the Minister would have availed of the various stages of the Bill to have met, in some way, the protests he has received from all parts of the House. The Bill, as I stated when speaking in opposition to it on the Second Reading, is one that, in my opinion, is doing nothing more than giving a licence to work. No cognisance at all is taken of the wonderful methods and the great constitution by which trade unions work for the protection of craftsmanship. The Minister has ignored that completely. The Bill has had a very stormy passage, and one would have thought that the Minister would have made some effort, at any rate, to cover most of the points that were the chief basis of opposition. Even now, I should be glad if the Minister could see his way either to hold up the Bill or to make some renewed effort or try to devise some means, which would be suitable to himself, to produce something that would be more acceptable, not alone to the trade union people themselves, but to industrialists.
Naturally, when suggestions are made to me to meet the general view of the House in regard to any proposal, I would, if I could, accede to the request. But I cannot agree to drop this Bill, to which a considerable amount of Parliamentary time has been devoted, for it, in my view, affords the only assurance the country can have that the Irish trade union movement, which is so vital an element in our industrial economy, will seriously devote itself to that task of rationalisation and re-organisation which every responsible representative of that movement admits to be overdue. I cannot agree to drop this Bill—because that is what is being put up to me: to drop this Bill—which has the support of the Irish people. Let us remember that if I am here as Minister responsible for this Bill, if the measure has reached the stage at which we are now going to decide whether it will pass or not, it has reached that stage because, in the Division Lobby, I have had the support of those who speak for the majority of the Irish people, no matter what the circumstances of today may be. I am convinced that I have the support of the majority of the representatives of this House, not because they are bound to me by mere Party ties but because, having listened to this discussion, they do feel that there must be some instrument which will impel the Irish trade union movement seriously to consider its own condition and to remedy the abuses which, as I have said before, all admit to exist.
Now, I have been told that the conditions in this Bill are completely unacceptable to the Irish trade union movement, but I read, upon the authority of a man who, in my humble view, has rendered as signal service to the workers of this country as any person who has been associated with it from its very inception—I have it on the authority of a person, who has been four times President of the Trade Union Congress, that no matter what Bill was introduced there would be opposition to it. I am going to quote now from the report, which appeared in theIrish Press of the 17th July, of the speech of the presiding chairman of the Trade Union Congress, which is as follows:—
"They could understand that no matter what the proposals in the measure were there would be an outcry from the superfluous unions which they all wanted to see liquidated. These were sure to protest against the surgeon's knife, but apart altogether from these `fifth wheels of the coach,' and the grounds of their opposition, there was a strong feeling against Government regulation of trade unions."
So, apparently, merely on grounds of principle, no matter how sagacious, no matter how prudent, no matter how easy the regulations which we proposed to introduce—and I contend that in this measure we are proposing the minimum that is necessary in order, as I have said, to induce the Irish trade union movement to do what it has so many opportunities of doing, but has signally failed to do—I contend that we are doing the very minimum, as I say, to secure that reconsideration of its own position by the movement—no matter what we do, no matter how far-sighted, how sagacious, how unirksome these regulations may be, on grounds of principle they would meet with a certain amount of opposition from those who represent the official side of the trade union movement in this country. By their very nature they are bound to oppose any compulsion to make a change, and it is not to be wondered at that the official element in the trade union movement have opposed this Bill when the memorandum, to which I have so often referred, the Irish memorandum that was submitted to the special conference, had, as one of the points which was brought out in it, the difficulties which would be encountered from the official element in the trade union movement by any body of men who tried to get that movement to put its own house in order. In that memorandum we have this statement:—
"In interpreting the terms of reference on the above lines, the commission were fully cognisant of all the great difficulties inherent in the proposals, not the least of which difficulties to be encountered will be the fitting into compatible office the various officials who will have to be moved about on the re-organisation."
Accordingly, as I have said, because those difficulties exist, as I think is admitted here, the movement of itself and of its own initiative has not been able to do what the far-sighted and the thinking men in the movement feel ought to be done if Irish trade unionism is to meet the changed circumstances of our times. It is because of these personal issues that I feel, and I think most people who have considered this problem will agree with me, that the compulsion and the urge to bring that reorganisation about must come from outside.
Now, how do we propose to create that compulsive force? By the very simple expedient of saying to the multitude of unions, with all their conflicting interests, which now constitute the conglomerate of the Irish trade union movement, that there is one simple condition—the simplest that could be imposed; one which carries in it, I think, the least possible objection in principle—that you, an organisation purporting to represent a body of workers and proposing to serve their interests, can at least give this justification for your existence: if your workers have to call upon your organisation for help, you will be in a position to help them financially. If we cannot conduct that sort of inquisition, which even the components of the movement itself have feared to undertake, into the individual affairs of each union, there must be some sort of public indication that the union concerned is a well-managed and effective organisation. The only sort of public indication that can be given in that regard is an earnest, if you like, of the union's financial stability, which, to my mind, carries with it, too, an implication that the affairs of the union have been conducted in a responsible way.
That is a test which is not applied to the trade union movement alone; it is a very common test in all the affairs of life. If people propose to undertake works of responsibility, they are often asked to give some bond, some indication, some earnest, some financial guarantee of their ability to fulfil the responsibilities which they are taking upon themselves. A contractor has very often to enter into a bond, to give some financial guarantee; an insurance company has frequently to do it. All sorts of people entering into all sorts of contracts have to give that sort of indication as to their financial stability and as to their capacity to fulfil their undertakings and their engagements to those with whom they make them. That, as I say, is a very common thing. I do not think that any thinking worker, any reflective man in the working classes of this country—and it is full of them—will say that the Government are doing any injustice to the workers of the country when they require that those who purport to organise the workers of the country should at least show to the workers themselves, as well as to the Government and to all others with whom they may be concerned, that they have so managed their affairs that they are able to fulfil the simple financial requirements of this Bill.
If an organisation which purports to speak on behalf of 5,000, 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000 workers is asked to put into the custody of the court a sum varying from £1,000, as it is now in the Bill, to £10,000, how does that adversely affect the interests of its members? Is it any injustice to an organisation with a membership of 20,000 workers that at least that organisation should be in a position to put down £10,000? That £10,000, remember, remains the property of the members of the organisation, and I think that the fact that it is there is some guarantee that that organisation will fulfil its obligations to its members as well as to everybody else.
I cannot for the life of me see how the fundamental proposal in this Bill, that before a body purports to represent the workers of this country, purports to take a very active part in determining the course of the industrial development and organisation of this country, it should put down a substantial sum of money, can possibly be misrepresented as an attack upon the rights and conditions of the workers of the country. I am perfectly certain that if this issue were put to the Irish working-class people—mind you, I have a fair idea of what has been happening in Dublin and elsewhere—they would say that, at any rate, the Minister was only asking what they themselves would ask their unions to do if they had the power, as this legislation has the power, to compel them to do it——
Have a vote.
We will leave that.
I will help you to get it.
The Deputy helped us to get two general elections and neither of them was very satisfactory to his Party. He was responsible for the election of 1933 and for the election of 1938, and they ought to cure him of wanting general elections.
The worst thing I ever did in my life was to make a Minister for Industry and Commerce out of you in 1932. It was a national tragedy.
I was not Minister for Industry and Commerce in 1932. I was Minister for Finance.
Minister for Finance then.
However, it is not what happened in 1933 and 1938 that is the issue, but it is the fact that, in my belief—and I think I am as good a judge of political feeling in this country as Deputy Norton is, and I think the 77 members who sit on the Fianna Fáil Benches are a great deal better judges of the feeling in this country than Deputy Norton is, as their contacts are much more widespread and general— if these issues were put to the people of the country— and I am not proposing to put them, but apparently Deputy Norton is calling for a general election——
On a point of explanation. I think there has been a misunderstanding. The Minister was referring to an election. What Deputy Norton wants is to put it to a vote of the trade unions.
I beg your pardon.
Or the other thing, if the Minister likes.
I do not want to have to try to get Deputy Norton to clarify his own mind as to what he wants. I want to get on with my argument. I was saying, if these issues were put straight to the workers; if they had an opportunity of considering them in all detail, or if they were put fully before them, as they might be from an election platform, and if this Bill were explained to them with the same frequency as it has been misrepresented by Deputy Norton and his followers for the past five or six weeks, I have not the slightest doubt that the result of an election in 1941 would be even more disturbing to Deputy Norton than the result of the 1938 election.
The Minister ought to be managing an ostrich farm.
The fundamental principle in the Bill is that before trade unions exercise their powerful influence on the lives of everybody in this country, trade unions which operate, not merely to affect the lives and the livelihood and the interests of their own members, but the reactions of whose policy may be experienced in every household, they should deposit moderate sums, ranging from £1,000 to £10,000, before undertaking the very important task of organising the workers of this country into sectional organisations which admittedly have one purpose. I am not suggesting it is an ignoble purpose, that of organising these workers in their own sectional interests.
I am not saying that it is an ignoble process. It is a humanitarian ideal to lift people of one's own class, to improve the conditions of livelihood, to get for them the best that can be got out of this life, and particularly when it is confined mainly to industrial workers, as the Irish trade union movement, of necessity, must be. Nevertheless, it is a sectional interest, and that is the whole justification for its survival, and the force which makes for its survival is that these sectional interests should predominate.
I think that, when we look at the position and power of the trade union movement in this State, and when we realise the reactions which its policy may have on the lives and livelihood of every household in Ireland, we must, at least, ensure that there will be a sense of responsibility in the Irish trade union movement, and in all the components of it. In saying that, I am not suggesting that, as a whole, the trade union movement is not a responsible movement. I say quite readily— and I repeat very readily and very sincerely what I have said since the debate on this Bill began—that it has shown, since the outbreak of war, at any rate, a deep sense of responsibility. I do not believe—no matter what has been said here for the purposes of the inner politics of the trade union movement, or what may be said from trade union platforms in Dublin, Drogheda, or elsewhere—the workers of this country, no matter what firebrands may say, are going to lose that sense of responsibility. I have heard repeated in this House short-sighted statements, ill-considered statements, suggesting that, if this Bill is passed, the Irish workingmen who have gone into the various defence organisations in this country, and who have banded themselves, not to protect me, not to protect Merrion Street, or Leinster House, but their own homes and their own families, are going to withdraw.
Who said that? Give us the quotation. Deputy Corish did not say that.
Here we are. This is a quotation from a speech which was made at Drogheda.
A Labour delegate— not a representative of a union in this country.
The Minister was giving the impression by his words that these suggestions were made by a Labour Deputy in this House. Let him withdraw or produce the proof. Do not go to Drogheda.
We will deal with Drogheda first.
Withdraw the statement or produce the proof.
On a point of order. The Minister made a certain statement. He said that certain statements were made in this House and he mentioned the name of Deputy Corish. When asked to produce evidence——
The Minister mentioned the name of Deputy Corish in connection with an allegation he made in this House. When asked to produce proof, he produced some speech that was made at Drogheda, thereby running away from the charge impliedly made against Deputy Corish.
Will the Minister produce that statement or produce proof? It is a serious allegation to make against a Deputy and it should be proved or withdrawn. Is the Minister going to withdraw that lying statement?
My name has been mentioned in connection with this matter. I want to say very definitely that when anybody came to me and said that they should withdraw from the Defence Forces in consequence of this Bill, I told them to do nothing of the kind. I opposed action of that kind every place I went in the country. I do not agree with it, if it is suggested by a responsible Minister that I did so.
Is that lying statement withdrawn? A serious allegation was made. I assert it is a lying allegation.
And only it was challenged, it would be on the records.
I know what I said. Am I going to be allowed to continue?
You are not going to be allowed, until you withdraw.
I withdraw no statement that I did not make. I do not admit that I made it.
I demand a withdrawal from the Minister. I did not make the statement at all. On the contrary I have been doing the opposite. The Minister says he will not withdraw so I will stand until he does.
I am not going to withdraw a statement I did not make.
You made a lying statement.
You made a damnably lying statement and you are going to withdraw it. I am as good an Irishman as you are, and I am as long in the Irish movement.
Is the Minister withdrawing the statement?
The statement, as heard by the Chair, was to the effect that certain statements had been made in the House by persons who alleged that, if this Bill were put into effect, efforts might be made to get certain persons to withdraw their allegiance from the national movement. I did not hear Deputy Corish's name mentioned in connection with that statement.
The Minister did mention Deputy Corish's name.
The Minister said that the statement was made in the House—that was the vital point—and that reference to it had been made in the House by members of the Labour Party.
May I repeat what I did say?
Is the Minister withdrawing the lying allegation he made?
I am not withdrawing anything I said.
You said that I made the statement that men should withdraw from the Defence Forces. I think as much about them as you do and I did as much to form them as you did.
Deputy Corish will sit down.
I will not sit down until he withdraws.
The Chair must rule the proceedings here and the Chair did not hear that imputation made.
We cannot help that.
I heard it.
And it has gone on the records.
The Chair can only rule on what it heard, and the Chair did not hear that statement made.
I have to defend myself, and I am not going to allow the Minister to proceed. I can leave the House, but he is going to withdraw that statement.
I am not going to withdraw anything.
The Minister will withdraw the very definite statement that we advocated the withdrawal of people from the Defence Forces, in connection with which he mentioned my name.
I did not.
It is on the records of the House.
Deputy Corish will sit down and allow the Minister to continue.
Tell the Minister as well as me to sit down.
Both will sit down. The Chair has already said that it did not hear the imputation made against Deputy Corish. The Minister says definitely that he made no such imputation. In face of that, the Chair does not see any necessity for such heat.
I did say that it had been suggested that people would leave the Defence Forces.
You did not say anything of the kind, and you are going to withdraw the statement you made. I will be put out of this House, or you will withdraw that statement.
Deputy Corish must allow the Minister to proceed.
I will not let the Minister proceed until he withdraws that statement. I have a reputation as well as the Minister, and I am not going to have it said that I tried to divide the Forces of the State when the State was in danger.
The Deputy must obey the ruling of the Chair.
I will, but I will stand up every time he stands up, until he withdraws.
The Minister has explained that he made no such imputation, and, in the face of that——
We all heard it, and it must be withdrawn.
Will the Deputy allow the Minister to explain?
No. We will allow him to withdraw.
He can have his division now, or withdraw.
I want to finish my speech.
Deputy Corish must sit down.
If the Minister has not got in his mind what he has alleged against me, he will withdraw.
I am not going to withdraw.
Any Deputy will say that he definitely mentioned my name.
I did not allege that Deputy Corish had been endeavouring to induce persons to withdraw from the Defence Forces. I did not make that allegation and I am not going to withdraw it.
Could we not now get from the reporter what were the actual words used?
You are getting it from the Chair. The Chair has already ruled that it did not hear such an imputation being made, and the Minister has explained that he made no such imputation. I think that explanation of the Minister ought to be accepted.
On a point of order. The Minister did mention that Deputy Corish made that statement, and, before he mentioned his name, he was asked who had made it. He mentioned Deputy Corish's name and immediately was not so sure that he did make the statement.
On a further point of order. He took up a document to read an extract from it which he thought would justify his statement.
Which was made in Drogheda.
He referred then to what was said in Drogheda.
I was going on to say——
You are going on to say no more until you withdraw.
I must have the right——
I must have a withdrawal.
The Deputy is behaving in a thoroughly disorderly manner. The Chair has already ruled that the Deputy's name has not been mentioned in connection with this matter at all. The Minister has explained that he did not mention him in connection with it.
I said that I did not allege that Deputy Corish had been inducing people to withdraw from the Defence Forces. I have said that. I was going on to mention the other fact which Deputy Corish himself had given evidence of in this House, that people were trying to organise a withdrawal.
Did the Minister not say that that course was advocated in this House? Does he understand resentment against such a statement?
Do I understand the Chair to say that the Minister did not state he heard ill-considered statements made here suggesting the withdrawal of members of the Defence Forces from those forces? Is it possible that the Chair did not hear that statement, because certainly everybody else did?
The Chair did hear the statement mentioned by Deputy Murphy, but the Chair emphasises that the Minister did not use Deputy Corish's name in connection with it.
We heard it here.
He was asked who it was made it, and he said "Deputy Corish."
Having reached that point, is it not an indisputable fact that the Minister was asked the name of the Deputy who made the statement? May I put that question with all respect?
The Chair did not hear that portion.
Leaving Deputy Corish out of it altogether, the Minister ought to say now what Deputy made a statement of that kind. If he does not know of any such Deputy, he should be graceful enough to withdraw the statement.
That is another aspect of the matter. Deputy Murphy has come to the real kernel of the question. The statement was made by the Minister that certain insinuations were made from the Labour Benches that persons would be asked to withdraw from the Defence Forces, if the Bill went through. I did not hear the name of Deputy Corish mentioned and the Minister says he did not use his name in such connection.
We heard it.
The Minister, having made the allegation that such statements as I have referred to were made in the House, proceeded to quote from a paper which had nothing to do with what took place in the House.
He mentioned my name when he was asked.
He said: "Here we are", taking up a paper, when asked who made the statement. The Minister did mention Deputy Corish as having made such a statement.
Oh, yes, you did.
I mentioned Deputy Corish, because I remember distinctly——
Is the Minister going to withdraw?
No, I am not going to withdraw. There is nothing to withdraw.
Well, I am going to stand on my feet until he does.
Deputy Corish has had explained to him already that the Chair did not hear such an expression and the Minister denies having made it.
We heard it here.
May I remind the Minister——
The Minister has explained that he did not use it, and that explanation must be accepted.
He was asked who made the statement, and he said "Deputy Corish."
He has not got the common decency to withdraw or to prove it. Common decency demands that he do one or the other.
May I suggest that the Minister did say that some members of the House made statements of the kind? The Minister has refrained from mentioning who they are. I think he ought to withdraw an imputation of that kind, if he is not in a position to prove it.
It is a criminal charge outside the House.
The Minister's conduct is not in accordance with the rules of fair play.
If I am to be asked to adduce evidence as to the making of ill-considered statements——
I insist on a withdrawal.
——I can only point to the fact that statements were made in the House which the censor felt called upon not to permit the newspapers to publish.
After being prompted by the Minister. Is the Minister going to withdraw?
The Minister is now endeavouring to quote, in respect of the statement he made, a statement made in the House by Deputy Corish and by me, to the effect that if this Bill were passed we would do our best to advise trade unions not to look for negotiation licences under the Bill. That was one thing; but no suggestion whatever was made by this Party, or by any other member of the House, that persons would be advised to withdraw from the Defence Forces. The Minister knows that he has made a lying statement, and he has not the manliness to withdraw it.
Does the Minister deny having made the statement?
What I said as to ill-considered statements having been made in the House? Not at all. I still think that some of the statements made in the House were rash and ill-considered.
So do I—the reference to Moscow for instance.
And the talk about revolution. Does the Deputy remember the talk about revolution?
The Minister did well out of one revolution.
The Deputy was not in it.
After your Mallow speech, it was not a bad thing either.
Sir, I suggest that the country is expecting more from us than this. I would suggest to the Minister to withdraw the statement he has made. He has made that statement and he cannot deny it and surely he is big enough to withdraw the statement he has made. I was one of the first to ask who made the statement and the Minister said, "Here we are," looking for information from a document, and quoting Deputy Corish's name.
Oh no. I started to read this and I said, "Here is a statement made at Drogheda."
I want a withdrawal.
I did not say "Deputy Corish said."
The Minister did say "Deputy Corish." Various people heard it.
Deputy Corish must keep order. The Chair never heard any imputation on Deputy Corish's name with that matter.
The Minister has made a lying allegation and he must withdraw it.
If this is the position, as sometimes happens——
Is the Minister going to withdraw the lying allegation made against Deputy Corish?
The Chair made a ruling.
The Chair did not give a ruling. The Chair did not hear.
The Chair is not in a position to give any ruling on the objective truth or the objective untruth of any statement made. If the Chair hears anything which is out of order the Chair will rule accordingly, but I heard nothing except what I have explained to the House. In these circumstances the Deputies ought to resume their seats and allow the Minister to conclude.
It is not a question of order. It is a question of the Minister making a lying allegation which I resent. Is he going to withdraw?
I am not conscious that I have made any lying allegation.
We are perfectly conscious. We want it withdrawn. It is a serious matter and we want the Minister to withdraw.
Deputy Corish must keep order. The Minister explained he has made no such allegation.
I say he did and other Deputies heard him.
The Deputy must keep order.
Does that mean that although a reflection of that kind is made on Deputy Corish, who is a well-known national figure, he can get no redress in this House simply because you did not hear the remark?
The Minister explained that he made no such remark. I must accept his statement.
We heard it.
I say the Minister made an allegation and I want it withdrawn.
It is quite obvious that Deputy Corish does not want——
Deputy Corish wants nothing but a withdrawal.
He will not get a withdrawal from me in the terms he is asking for.
He made a definite allegation and he was asked to withdraw.
It is quite obvious that Deputy Corish does not want this debate to go on.
I was prepared to sit down until the Minister made that statement.
Do I understand from the Minister that he did not make the statement that members of this House suggested the withdrawal of members from the Defence Forces?
I am not going to say that I did not——
Did you make that statement? Do you deny making the statement that members of this House were suggesting withdrawing members from the Defence Forces?
I do not know what Deputy Hickey thinks he is, but that is not a point of order nor is he a cross-examining lawyer. I am going to say this, if I will be permitted——
You are going to say nothing while I am here.
Deputy Corish must keep order.
I heard the name mentioned. It is a charge that could not be made outside this House and it ought not to be allowed at the present moment. I heard it. I was sitting here and I heard it.
So did they hear it but they will not admit it.
I am damned sure he would not make it outside.
It is a disgrace to the House if they allow the Minister to get away with it. It is a shame to have such an allegation made against any honourable member of this House.
Will the Deputy sit down?
He wants to be put out, too.
I do not want any such thing.
Will Deputy Byrne please keep order?
I heard it.
The disorder came from behind Deputy Byrne.
The Chair has heard the whole circumstances surrounding this incident.
The Chair did not hear.
The Chair did not hear that particular allegation. At all events, the matter must be allowed to drop.
We want a withdrawal.
I cannot ask the Minister to withdraw anything he denies saying and which I did not hear.
Let the Minister go to the Rathmines Town Hall and make that statement. We will deal with him.
I am putting the question.
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