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.