Nomination of Deputy Patrick Smith as a Member of the Government—Motion.


Go gcomhaontaí Dáil Eireann leis an Taoiseach d'ainmniú an Teachta Pádraig Mac Gabhann chun bheith ina chomhalta den Rialtas.

That Dáil Eireann approves of the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy Patrick Smith to be a member of the Government.

I strongly urge Dáil Eireann to do nothing of the kind. We are apparently called upon to bid a fond farewell to Deputy Patrick Smith's predecessor after 15 glittering years. My God, what a 15 years! When the present Minister for Agriculture, Dr. Ryan, took charge of agriculture in this country, we had a flourishing industry.

Dr. Ryan's administration is not before the House.

Surely the administration of Fianna Fáil and of the members of that Party are before the House?

No. The question before the House is whether Deputy Patrick Smith should or should not be a member of the Government.

Surely I can argue that, bad as Dr. Ryan was, Deputy Smith would be a damn sight worse?

The Deputy was not so arguing. He was proceeding to discuss the administration of Dr. Ryan.

I propose to show that Dr. Ryan was a catastrophe, but the other man would be an avalanche.

Because he is from Cavan.

I propose to argue here to-day that we are asked to approve of the appointment of Deputy Patrick Smith to carry out, for the remaining two years of Fianna Fáil administration, the policy of wheat, beet and peat which has left us without bread, sugar and fuel. Deputies remember the days when we were told that the policy of national self-sufficiency was going to ensure us against all dangers.

The policy of national self-sufficiency does not arise.

Is that not the policy for which Deputy Patrick Smith is to be appointed?

It is not stated in the motion that Deputy Smith is to be Minister for Agriculture. He is to be a member of the Government and that is the motion before the House.

Surely we all know that he is to be appointed Minister for Agriculture, or are we to proceed on the basis that nobody knows why he is being transferred into the Government? I want to know whether this House agrees with the Taoiseach that we ought to appoint Deputy Patrick Smith to preside over the policy of wheat, beet and peat which means no bread, no sugar and no fuel? What is the record of the policy which, so far as I am aware, Deputy Patrick Smith has announced it is his intention to prosecute if he is drawn into the charmed circle of the Fianna Fáil Government? An agricultural policy which has resulted in landing us all to-day in the position in which we have no bread, no sugar, no eggs, no butter, no bacon, no flake oatmeal and no burnable fuel.

Does the Deputy think that this is a discussion on the whole Department of Agriculture?

This is a discussion as to whether we agree with the Taoiseach in appointing Deputy Smith a member of the Government for the prosecution of that "codology".

What the Deputy calls "codology" is not the matter before the House.

The appointment of Deputy Smith is the greatest piece of "codology" ever brought into this House. He is thoroughly unfitted for the position of Minister for Agriculture. He is thoroughly unfitted for that position by the very fact that he has announced his adherence to the fraud, the contemptible fraud, of persuading our people that if they stand for the farrago of nonsense which Fianna Fáil economic policy has transpired to be, they will be protected from the shortages and difficulties which other nations in the world have had to undergo. He is bound, as I understand it, by undertakings given by him to maintain the absurdity of the policy of national self-sufficiency interpreted through the Department of Agriculture in order to secure our people against want, rationing, or hardship in respect of any of the things which are normally required to keep body and soul together. National self-sufficiency——

The Deputy is back again. National self-sufficiency may be a general policy of the Government. But general Governmental policy does not arise under the question as to the fitness, or otherwise, in the Deputy's opinion of Deputy Smith for the post of Minister for Agriculture. General Governmental policy and its administration over the last ten, or more years, is apparently what the Deputy desires to deal with.

Sir, I submit with respect that I am perfectly entitled to discuss Deputy Smith's competence to maintain the present fraudulent policy of national self-sufficiency during the next three years. I am submitting that the matter is so grotesque that it would now require a very much more intelligent man than Deputy Smith to maintain the fraudulent pretence that such a policy can have any value good, bad or indifferent. Have we learned anything from the past 15 years through which we have gone? Does it mean nothing to the Deputies of this House that the outgoing incumbent in office, pledged to the task of wrecking the live-stock industry——

I am not prepared to hear the Deputy on the events of the last 15 years.

Does any Deputy in this House think that Deputy Patrick Smith, on becoming Minister for Agriculture, can operate the policy to which he is pledged in order to procure for our people the bread, sugar, fuel, bacon, butter and flake oatmeal which they cannot now procure? The time is past when you can persuade people that they can have these things from their own internal resources and unaided by outside sources. The task which Deputy Smith is going to be given is that of perpetuating that fraud and to go on persuading our people that these things are true. Is the House, confronted with that situation, to sit silent? Deputy Patrick Smith knows as much about agriculture and the agricultural industry of this country as the leg of that chair. He is now being asked to take over a Department which controls the very foundation of the whole national economy of this country at the same hour as the secretary of that Department, Mr. Twomey, is going into retirement. Surely, the House must face up to the realities of the situation. It is no disrespect to a distinguished public servant of the highest possible qualifications and integrity to say that Mr. Twomey's successor in that Department is not primarily an agriculturist but is primarily an administrator.

I do not think the qualities of civil servants should be discussed in this House.

It is a most delicate and difficult situation, Sir.

I know it is, and it has never been done before.

What are we to do?

Obey the Chair.

Follow Parliamentary procedure of making the Minister responsible and leave the civil servants out of it.

I fully recognise the propriety of such a course in ordinary circumstances. But what are we to do? The two men who have been operating the agricultural industry in this country for the past 15 years are now about to be changed. Others are going to take their places. I do not think the best friend of the outgoing Minister could maintain that he is a competent agriculturist, but he had a certain support behind him. We are now faced with an incoming Minister and a changing balance. I am scrupulous to say that it is no reflection on the powers of the incoming civil servant——

The Deputy apparently wants to establish a precedent by discussing civil servants.

No, Sir, I do not.

Then what else is the Deputy doing?

If you take that view, Sir, then I depart from it.

I think that is the view the House would take. It is most undesirable that the qualities of civil servants should be discussed here.

We are now faced with the position in which the man, who is going to be placed in charge of the Department of Agriculture, knows less than nothing about agriculture at this crucial and difficult time when the havoc of the last 15 years must be repaired. It is shocking that this House should be asked to accept that situation as a fait accompli.

I put down a series of questions to-day directed to eliciting whether, while Deputy Patrick Smith was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, he did employ or cause to be employed in the Department over which he presided a number of persons for reasons ulterior to their merit or qualifications in the posts to which they were appointed. When these questions were addressed to the Minister, the Minister placed upon his present Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy O'Grady, the obligation of answering them. In each case, in fact, Deputy O'Grady has refused to answer them and he did not choose to make inquiries as to whether the persons to whom I referred had in fact been brought down from County Cavan as a reward for their political services.

I now allege that, while the Parliamentary Secretary was in charge of the Board of Works, a number of persons were, in fact, brought from County Cavan and afforded an opportunity of getting employment in one grade or another as labourers, park keepers, or rangers in the Phoenix Park, the Botanic Gardens and St. Stephen's Green, which would clearly indicate to any rational person that the fact that they derived from Cavan—the Deputy's constituency—contributed in no small measure to the reason for their employment by the Board of Works while he was in control of it. I invite the Parliamentary Secretary to inquire into the circumstances of when and why Mr. Lee was appointed park ranger in the Phoenix Park and installed in Rose Cottage there. I suggest to the House that before the House accepts the nomination of the Taoiseach of Deputy Patrick Smith to the responsible position of Minister for Agriculture, it ought to be satisfied that under his direction no question can possibly arise as to his intervention for the purpose of securing employment in that Department for citizens of this State on no better ground than they were political supporters of his in the constituency which he represents. It is common knowledge in this country that that type of thing has gone on on a widespread scale. I suggest the time is now opportune to examine and find out whether these cases are open to that interpretation; and, if that is not the true reason for these appointments, to make manifest the true reason as to how these persons, resident in County Cavan, were transported to Dublin for the purpose of being employed in these positions, so that those who are under the impression that they were so transferred for no better reason than that they had done political service for the Parliamentary Secretary in County Cavan may be convinced that it was not for that reason but for the reason that when a park ranger, or gardener, or labourer was wanted there was in County Cavan one special man which no labour exchange in Ireland would dream of passing up.

I invite this House to say that on no grounds of declared intention or past performance is Deputy Patrick Smith a fit person to be Minister for Agriculture in this or any other Government. I invite the House to say that they know of no member of the Fianna Fáil Party at the present time who is fit for that office. It is true that technically we are discussing the question of whether he is to become a member of the Government or not. I do not think that matters a fiddle-de-dee. What does matter is the thing which, in fact, we are discussing, namely, as to whether in the next two or three years he is to preside over the Department of Agriculture. I regard such a prospect as horrifying and I most strongly urge Dáil Éireann to declare emphatically that, whatever the Taoiseach may choose to do in the sphere of his own Government, we will have neither hand, act nor part in so grotesque an appointment.

Deputy Dillon's remarks suggest that the motion that is on the Order Paper is opposed and may become a matter of division. I therefore would like to say that I regard this motion as simply a formal motion on the part of the Government, being part of the appointment by the Government of a new member of the Government. I accept it. It is rather clear that the proposed appointee will occupy the position as Minister for Agriculture but, nevertheless, I do not feel it is an occasion for debate either on the personality of the individual or on the subject of agriculture or agricultural policy. In this House the matter of agriculture is of sufficient importance to keep clear, to the greatest possible extent, of personality and, while you might suggest, Sir, that we might discuss on this motion the fitness of Deputy Patrick Smith to be a member of the Government, I do not think we would be serving any useful Parliamentary or public purpose in discussing the qualities——

I hope the Deputy or the House did not misunderstand me. I was trying to direct Deputy Dillon on to certain lines. He was going on the wrong ones.

I have not the slightest apology to make for anything I said.

The Deputy is not asked to apologise. The Chair did not agree that the line he was taking was relevant.

We regard this motion as a matter of formality and we have no intention of entering into a discussion on the merits of Deputy Smith to be a member of the Government. That will disclose itself in time. In the meantime, we consider the action the Government has taken to-day as a formal action on the part of the Government. It is entirely their responsibility and we have no material to discuss here except perhaps the personality of Deputy Patrick Smith and I do not see any point in discussing it.

I take it the motion that the Taoiseach has moved is the result of the setting up of two separate Ministries under an Act passed by this House some time ago. I do not intend to go into personalities as far as Deputy Smith is concerned or to discuss his fitness or otherwise for the position of Minister for Agriculture which, in the absence of more definite information, we all presume is the post to which he will be assigned. I think Deputy Dillon is all astray in his outlook on the matter. I think the Taoiseach has at last realised the desperate muddle and bungle that has been made of agriculture and at this late hour is trying to make amends.

You are an innocent poor creature.

Perhaps I am.

Go bhfoiridh Dia ort.

Deputy Dillon has described the last 15 years as disastrous. There is no gainsaying that.

Hear, hear.

Absolutely no gainsaying it. All we can do is to wait and see, if Deputy Patrick Smith is appointed as Minister for Agriculture, what he will do. Let us earnestly hope he will make a better job of it than his predecessor did. At the moment we do not know what knowledge he has of agriculture. I will not say, like Deputy Dillon, that he knows as much about agriculture as the leg of a chair.

I said "less."

Perhaps he does or perhaps he does not. However, I think it is a good sign that, even now, the Government are realising, first, that agriculture is the backbone and main-stay of the country and, secondly, that it is time some more competent person than the ex-Minister for Agriculture was put in charge of the Department.

I object very strongly to the manner in which this matter is brought before the House. We are asked to approve of the nomination of Deputy Patrick Smith as a member of the Government. We are not told what function he is to perform as a member of the Government or what Department he will control. We are in fact more or less obliged by the terms of this motion to express our opinion of Deputy Smith's personality and qualifications to be a member of the Government. Having regard to the personnel of the Government, the qualifications required are not very high and I am far too polite to enter into a discussion now on the qualifications of Deputy Smith or publicly to examine his conscience. It would have been more appropriate if this House had been given an opportunity of hearing what Department Deputy Smith will control and the policy he will pursue when he takes control of that Department and of expressing. an opinion upon that policy. In the manner in which the matter has been narrowed down the only thing Deputies can do is to protest against the whole business.

I was greatly interested in the questions asked by Deputy Dillon to-day in regard to public appointments. This House will have to take very grave notice of the manner in which officials are recruited into the public service. It is not a fair answer to the question raised by Deputy Dillon to say that the Minister, or the Parliamentary Secretary, as the case may be, does not know anything about the origin or past history of persons appointed to public positions. Surely it is the duty of whoever makes appointments to inquire into the past history of the persons appointed. There ought to be some system of competition, outside the control of the political Party in power, governing appointments to public positions and if it was only on account of the unsatisfactory manner in which these questions were dealt with to-day, we should be reluctant to support this nomination, but when we consider the more serious point, that the whole future of agricultural policy and of the Department of Agriculture will be placed under the control of Deputy Patrick Smith, I think we cannot give that man a vote of confidence.

Somebody must be selected for this vacancy which has been created by the transfer of Dr. Ryan to the new Ministry of Social Welfare. The members of this group supported the proposal of the Government to establish that Ministry and they are, therefore, under an obligation to support any nomination of the Government to fill Dr. Ryan's place. I do not know whether the Taoiseach proposes, when replying to the speeches that have been made, and particularly that made by Deputy Dillon, to say anything about a change of policy so far as the Government's agricultural policy is concerned. It is obvious that the new occupant of this office, which is one of the most important in the Ministry, will have to review the situation in the light of the experience of the last 15 years and, also, in the light of the shortage of essential food supplies. I have a considerable amount of sympathy with the new occupant of this important post. I daresay that future policy—if it is not going to be that of the past—will be a matter for the Government as a body.

Many Deputies believe that this is a one-man Government, and that the head of it—who must be a strong man —does not believe in having a stronger man in that Government. If that is to be the attitude it is immaterial what member of the Fianna Fáil Party is put into the Ministry. I have no personal objection whatever to the Deputy who has been named for this important post. I have very limited knowledge of him, but having listened to him on a number of occasions, I believe that he knows something about agriculture. He is a practical farmer, but he has to be guided on policy by his colleagues. Having voted for the establishment of a Department of Social Welfare, I wish the new Minister, who is taking over that responsibility, good luck in the job and, accordingly, I believe it is our duty to vote for the proposal put forward by the Taoiseach.

In view of the decision, ruling out discussion of other resolutions, I think it is a pity Deputy Smith is not present, so that he would be able to tell us what line of action he proposes to take in order to improve agricultural conditions in the future.

He does not know. He has not been told yet.

Some people are inclined to attack the Department in certain respects with regard to agriculture, but taking everything into consideration, I must say that Dr. Ryan while there was very approachable. I believe that his sympathies were with farmers but, in my opinion, as Minister for Agriculture, and a member of the Government, he was too timid for the Party with which he was associated. In so far as the members of the Government are concerned, there was no agricultural outlook, their idea being to industrialise this country. Dr. Ryan was not strong enough for that. What I would like to discuss with Mr. Smith is what his intentions are——

Deputy Smith. I should like to have Deputy Smith here to tell the House his intentions for the future. I hold that the Minister for Agriculture should not only be a Minister but should be the Taoiseach, and leading the country, because agriculture should be the first industry and everything else after it. The people are well aware of the fact that our national, social, and industrial economy rests on agriculture, and on dairying, and for that reason they should know what the intentions are for the future.

With regard to the resolution itself, it is strictly in accordance with the Constitution, and a proper one to bring before the House, which has to approve of members of the Government. It is the duty of the Taoiseach to assign the separate Departments, and the point for the House now is to approve or not of my nomination of Deputy Smith as a member of the Government. Any other motion would not be in accordance with the Constitution. It has been suggested that I should indicate to what particular Department it is my intention to assign Deputy Smith. We had that question discussed on a few occasions, and I think after the general election, when the new Government was going to be formed. The Constitution was deliberately adopted in the particular form in which it is, so that we had better leave that question entirely a separate one.

The Dáil decides whether certain Deputies should be members of the Government. The position is that as members of the Government they are the supreme executive group under Dáil Éireann and, as members of that group, have most important functions, apart altogether from the administration of their Departments. Questions of general public policy are discussed and decided by that group, and I can see certain circumstances in which it would be desirable even to have a member of the group who was not assigned to any particular Department, who would be without portfolio, because of certain qualities which he might possess as a general adviser, or for his knowledge of Governmental problems in general, such as have to be decided at Government meetings.

A member of the Government has then two functions, the chief function being to give his views and indicate his decision governing public policy, and the other being to act as administrator of a particular Department. It is the Taoiseach's responsibility to decide amongst his colleagues who shall be put in charge of the administration of a particular Department. I do not mind saying—I think it is generally well known—that it is my intention, as has been indicated, that Deputy Smith, when he becomes a member of the Government, should be assigned to the Department of Agriculture. I want to say personally that it is with extreme regret that I contemplated Dr. Ryan's departure from the Department of Agriculture. He has been in that office for a very long time, and for the most difficult economic period in our recent history. When we came into office there was agricultural depression over the whole world——

Except Ireland.

In Ireland, too, the Deputy should know that. There was depression from 1929 to 1932.

I say that the economic war made it.

The economic war kept £5,000,000 of Irish money here.

Seeing that there has been a ruling that this is not the occasion to discuss policy, I will merely say that Dr. Ryan took over office at a most difficult period and during that period he steered that Department well.

The ship on the rocks!

During the recent war were it not for the policy that he maintained and stood for, many a person in this country would be hungry.

I agree with you. How many people are hungry to-day?

The present shortages in this country are due to the fact that we have not yet advanced far enough in our policy of national self-sufficiency.

On a point of order. The Taoiseach is discussing policy now but the Ceann Comhairle ruled that it was not to be discussed. I submit that the Taoiseach should not disobey the ruling of the Chair when Deputy Dillon and others were prohibited.

In the shortest possible way I wanted to show my dissent from the statements that were made by Deputy Dillon. It was not I who introduced this subject. Deputy Dillon spoke about Dr. Ryan as a catastrophe or something of that sort.

That was the very word.

On the contrary, it was well for this country that there was in charge of agriculture a man with the knowledge, the experience and the general ability which Dr. Ryan showed when he was conducting that Department. It is, I say, with extreme regret that I have faced the necessity of changing him from that Department and the reason he is being changed is because the new Department requires at the beginning——

There is not a word about Dr. Ryan in this motion.

There was a reference to Dr. Ryan. The Deputy took occasion to introduce Dr. Ryan's name.

I believe Deputy Dillon was out of order in doing so. While the Chair has ruled that policy should not be discussed, I think it might allow a passing reference in connection with this new appointment.

I repeat that it is with extreme regret that I see Dr. Ryan going to another Department. The reason he is going to that Department is because I believe he can deal efficiently with it; it requires a man of his ability and experience to deal with this new Department.

With regard to Deputy Smith, his national record is well known and his record as a member of the House for some 20 years is well known. Therefore, I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything about him. I wish the attitude taken by some Deputies had been the attitude taken by the leader of the principal opposition here; that was the proper attitude to take on an occasion like this. There are other occasions on which policy and like matters could be dealt with. I do not propose to say anything further about Deputy Smith beyond mentioning that he has been in the office of Parliamentary Secretary and he has got considerable experience of administration in that office. He is a practical farmer and I believe he will approach the task that confronts him in a capable manner. I agree with the suggestion of one Deputy that he is entering the most difficult and probably the most important of all the Departments. I believe he will do himself credit in that Department and I have the greatest confidence that the House will support my nomination.

Is it or is it not true that, since Deputy Smith became responsible for the Board of Works, an undue proportion of persons normally resident in County Cavan have been employed by that body?

That matter does not arise.

Is it the truth?

Every time anybody who can even remotely be regarded as being associated with Fianna Fáil gets into a position, it is suggested that he has been put into that position improperly.

The Deputy has made a filthy suggestion, one well worthy of him.

Our supporters represent one-half of the community, roughly. Therefore, out of every two positions that would be filled we ought to get one; that is in the nature of things. On the average, it cannot be otherwise. If you had a list of names you ought to be able to pick out every second one on that list who would be a supporter of Fianna Fáil, otherwise the list would not be representative of the country as a whole.

The County Cavan is not half the country.

Who was it suggested that half the appointments were from County Cavan?

I do not know.

The Deputy does not know?

I said an undue proportion.

I do not believe that is accurate.

An undue proportion was what I said.

I do not believe there is any truth in that part of the Deputy's statement.

At any rate, that matter does not arise.

May I raise a point of order?

The question before the House is:—

That Dáil Éireann approves of the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy Patrick Smith to be a member of the Government.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá: 67; Níl: 11.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Dan.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Buckley, Seán.
  • Butler, Bernard.
  • Carter, Thomas.
  • Childers, Erskine H.
  • Colbert, Michael.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Crowley, Honor Mary.
  • Daly, Francis J.
  • Davin, William.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Everett, James.
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Friel, John.
  • Furlong, Walter.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Humphreys, Francis.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kilroy, James.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Loughman, Frank.
  • Lydon, Michael F.
  • McCann, John.
  • McCarthy, Seán.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • McGrath, Patrick.
  • Moran, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Murphy, Timothy J.
  • Norton, William.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Connor, John S.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Loghlen, Peter J.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • O'Sullivan, Martin.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Rice, Bridget M.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Shanahan, Patrick.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Walsh, Laurence.
  • Walsh, Richard.


  • Anthony, Richard S.
  • Beirne, John.
  • Blowick, Joseph.
  • Cafferky, Dominick.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Commons, Bernard.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Donnellan, Michael.
  • Halliden, Patrick J.
  • Heskin, Denis.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Kissane and Kennedy; Níl: Deputies Dillon and Cogan.
Question declared carried.