Private Deputies' Business. - Protection of Game—Motion (Resumed)

Debate resumed on the following motion by Deputies Halliden, Anthony and Bennett:—
That Dáil Eireann is of opinion that an adequate sum of money should be made available by the Government for the protection of all kinds of game as well as for the destruction of vermin inimical to such game and for the preservation and conditioning of mountain ranges; and Dáil Eireann is further of opinion that said sum should be derivable from the revenue accruing annually from the collection of £2 game licences, the whole amount of which is at present retained in the Exchequer.

I must admit that I am somewhat diffident in dealing with this matter. because it is a subject of which I know practically nothing. My Department has, however, a great deal of information about it. Several schemes were put up to it but no workable scheme seems to have been put up. A number of suggestions were made. One of these had to do with the appointment of wardens. An obvious difficulty arises there. How many wardens are to be appointed and who is to supervise them to see that they do their work properly? Is it the intention to cover the entire country with wardens? That would involve the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. Another suggestion was concerned with the giving in of heads of different birds and animals injurious to game. I do not think that that would be a workable proposition. My attitude is: if a scheme is put up that could be regarded as workable, I am prepared to go to the Minister for Finance and ask him to make a contribution. I imagine that he would insist on some sort of reciprocal contribution on the part of the game preservation societies. I think that it is well known that, when money comes entirely from the State and local people are not asked to make a contribution, they take little trouble to see that the money is properly expended. If a workable scheme were put up, showing how this desirable object of preserving the game of the country could be attained, I do not think that it would be difficult to convince the Minister for Finance that he should make a grant towards its cost. How much the grant would be. I do not know. If some of the societies which sent in proposals to the Department would put up a scheme which we would consider workable, I should be prepared to make a recommendation to the Minister for Finance in connection with it.

As regards hen pheasants, a Deputy suggested that we should have complete prohibition of shooting of these birds for three years. In certain parts of the country, there was a prohibition regarding the shooting of hen pheasants for a year. That was, I think, last year. At present, proposals from different game societies are before us with regard to the period in which the close season should be enforced in the coming year. A great deal will depend on the case which is put up by those societies. If those people, who are experts in the matter, can convince the Department, we shall make an Order, generally, in accordance with their proposals, as being the people who know most about the subject. Captain Giles referred to poisonous dressings. Now that cartridges are becoming more plentiful, that practice may be discontinued. Deputy Moran said that holders of 5/- licences were doing a great deal of damage and that we should make clear to them that they are not entitled to shoot game. I do not know who will stop them but we are going to put that clearly on the face of the licence. It was suggested that the Gardaí should be made gamekeepers of a sort. Somebody suggested that nobody knew better how to poach than the Gardaí themselves. I do not know whether that is true or not. A good poacher would make an excellent gamekeeper and, if you could get the best poacher in the area and make him a gamekeeper, there might be good results.

For whom is the game being preserved?

Mr. Boland

For those who take out the £2 licences, I suppose. If everybody is allowed to kill the game, they will soon disappear. Somebody must make an effort to preserve them.

You make an exception for the fellow with the money.

Mr. Boland

A £2 licence is not very costly. We know that if everybody is allowed to kill, there will be no game. I have taken note of all the suggestions that have been made. If we have some practical proposal put up, I am prepared to go to the Minister for Finance for a grant. Of course, I myself cannot promise any grant.

I think that the Minister's declaration is very fair. No concrete proposal has been put up in the course of this discussion. No proposal has been made which the Minister could accept. Certainly, none has been made which I would accept. This problem must be faced as a national problem. For years, on the Land Commission Vote, I have been drawing attention, under the sub-head dealing with the letting of moors for the shooting of game, to the conditions under which these lettings take place. I think that, ultimately, a section of that Department will have to deal with that problem if it is to be dealt with at all. The first essential is to appreciate the problem. Until you do that, you cannot provide an effective remedy. Since the passing of the Land Act of 1903, the protection of game has been disappearing year by year. When the landlord was bought out and when the entire sporting rights, including fishing and shooting, passed to the tenantry, the protection of game was nobody's business. The Land Commission, like all amateurs who never had anything to do with land, annually put an advertisement in the newspapers saying that over an area of moor situated at AB the shooting was for letting and they asked for tenders. There was not a word in that as to how many birds were on it, or how many birds should be shot on it. The man who took it could shoot on it and not leave a solitary feather for the following or any other season. That was obviously stupid. The people who put in the advertisement had no appreciation of their duty to the State, if game rights are to be of any value at all. You must look upon this with a balanced view, where millions of pounds of public funds and private investment are being spent on the building of hotels and hostels to attract tourists. Surely those buildings are not going to be in vain?

The visitors will come mainly, in a climate like ours, in the months of June, July, August and September. The best money in the tourist season is in August and September, and the very best in August. The only things you have to offer a tourist in the way of sporting rights during August and September are fishing and grouse shooting. I am profoundly sorry to have to say that my experience is that grouse in the main has disappeared, for the reasons I have indicated, through this policy of the Land Commission. They are the big owners of grouse shooting rights and have handled this in such a way that they have no conception at all as to the actual number of birds on any shoot of theirs, by not having a gamekeeper there to give the Department the approximate number of birds on it and the approximate number that should be shot, leaving a stock for the future years.

The Department will have to go further and import fresh stock regularly. It is difficult to be dogmatic about wild birds. In spite of the books that have been written about them for years and years, by men who gave their lives to the study of fish and birds of all kinds, it is impossible to say how and why these things work out. However, in the main, grouse now have become, in my opinion, inbred, as regards the stock that remains. You come to a point where your bird stock is going fairly well, but you reach the point where there has been no importation of fresh blood and then the decline is sudden, when breeding is so acute. For the last six or seven years the reduction of grouse on the moors has been particularly conspicuous. The ordinary man will explain that it is due to the non-destruction of vermin. In a sense that is true and explains the case, but it does not fully explain it. One of the main causes of the rapid decline now is the continuous inbreeding since 1912 or 1913, when the effect of the 1903 Act was felt, plus the effect of the 1909 Act, and then the landlords, having made up their minds that their day was finished, were finished also with the sporting rights. The whole thing became everybody's concern—which meant it was nobody's concern.

The first thing necessary is the destruction of vermin. It is pure waste of time to talk about the preservation of grouse, as they are not there. What is left is a mere skeleton, not worth being preserved. On account of the inbreeding there will be no virile development, so you must at once import new blood from Northumberland, Cumberland and Scotland. That was always done regularly about November, when I was a youngster.

We have heard various suggestions, all well meant, on the creation of stock farms. It is positively ridiculous to talk about setting up a farm for the preservation of grouse breeding. You have to assume that on a given day you import 50 hens and 50 cocks and let them out on the farm. Where will they be to-morrow? Instead of that, they must be taken in crates on a lorry over a moor and you let two out here and another two the distance of the Phoenix Park and another two some miles further on, but not more than two at any point. You must do it in the evenings, so that during the night they will settle down in the heather and get the atmosphere and not fly away. If you let more than that out together, they will fly off and no one knows where they may land. The propagation of grouse on a farm cannot be done.

Then we have the destruction of vermin. The war is over and there are plenty of guns and ammunition. The foxes which develop rapidly can be destroyed just as rapidly. During the war, they became a serious problem and turned even from hens to killing sheep and lambs. Then the farmer's son on mountain and hillside is directly involved. He did not care so long as it was his mother's or his sister's hens but when it came to killing his lambs he pricked his ears and got his gun or went to the chemist and got some strychnine to kill them off.

As to importing fresh blood, are the conditions in Northumberland and Cumberland as they were 35 years ago, when anyone at all could get a crate of birds? Have things gone wrong over there? I do not know how the landlords are getting on, but when they were preserving in the way I used to know, thousands and thousands of birds could be got and every five minutes the dogs would be on top of a covey. On one of the finest moors I have been associated with for the last 55 years, I do not think the two best guns in Ireland would get ten brace of birds in a day. I saw a party of two guns shooting 17 birds. That is the general position.

I know practically every moor in Ireland, having been up and down the whole country after dogs. I can tell the Minister candidly I have no interest whatever in it but the interest of the country, in the sporting rights of the country from the tourist point of view. I keep dogs, but keep them just because I like them and not for the destruction or shooting of birds. I never want to shoot a bird. We must approach the Department of Lands and get them to set up a section like the Fisheries Section attached to the Department of Agriculture. The machinery must be as simple as possible, as this can be done very simply by appointing some local game protection association or some committee of laymen in each district where there is a moor and let them appoint gamekeepers.

The Minister is afraid that it will cost a lot of money. It need not do so at all. The landlords who formerly owned these shoots did it very cheaply and Deputies from country areas will know what happened. The landlords gave some farmer's son or some small farmer who occupied a strategic position on the moor, from the point of view of watching the approach of poachers, the sum of £5 a year, which he was very glad to get, to preserve the game. We need not set out to let people know that we have a highly valuable possession, because, if we do, it will push up the price of its protection; but it can be done quite simply. The machinery is there that will effectively do the job. The Land Commission now is the absolute owner of the sporting rights conveyed to them and there are also the rights asserted by the Government in regard to turbary which make the appropriate Government Department complete owners of bog lands and this matter of protection should be made the responsibility of the Department of Lands. There are plenty of men associated with these little societies who would do the job voluntarily because they are sportsmen, and, whatever may be said about us anywhere, we are all sportsmen and will do things for the sake of sport that we would not do for any other reason. The Land Commission could get these men to act voluntarily in this matter.

We have nothing in the country at present to offer the men who come in in August and September as visitors except the prospect of sitting in a hotel and they are not content to do that and will go somewhere else. The question is how this matter of preservation is to be done effectively. There is no use in the Minister asking for sums of money, no matter how big, if they are to be handed over to some of these local bodies perhaps to be squandered and perhaps to get into the hands of men who are not sportsmen at all but who merely want to create some new racket, and we are quite good at that sort of thing. It should be done on a voluntary basis, outside the cost involved by the provision of a gamekeeper who will not cost a large sum. There are men who go out through the sheep every day, who are on the move around the moor every day and who can tell you to within ten or a dozen birds how many are on a moor on a given day. These men will be glad to get £5, or whatever sum will cover their rates and annuities. There is not a district in Ireland in which men of that type, men who have been amateur sportsmen in the true sense all their lives, could not be got to do this work voluntarily.

These are the problems: the destruction of vermin and the restocking of the moors. Pheasants are quite a simple matter because they can be easily reared. It is possible to buy the eggs, have them hatched and rear thousands of young birds in the one year in one meadow. Upwards of 2,000 young pheasant chicks can be reared in one area of 10 or 12 acres, but grouse are a different matter. The only way in which that problem can be met is by getting them from Northumberland, Cumberland and Scotland. The question is who is to get them there. There is no use of talking at present about game preservation, because, in the main, there are no game to preserve, so the game must be got and I suggest that those Deputies who have spoken on this subject should put their heads together and put up a proposition to the Department with a view to having a section set up for dealing with it.

We have seen recently millions of money being invested to attract tourists, but there is no use in spending that money unless we can take full advantage of it and reap the full harvest. For the last 50 years, since America became a great industrial country, industrialists from that country have been coming to England and Scotland and have paid huge sums for shoots. We have no such attractions to offer these men at the moment. There is not one grouse shoot in this country for which I would ask any visitor to pay a price.

Serious allegations have been made against poachers and I have no defence of the poacher to offer. I have been associated with a moor all my life. It is a moor from which grouse have completely disappeared and in the last ten years I should say that not five brace of grouse were shot by poachers there, so that the position is not due to poachers, but to other causes, these causes being vermin, inbreeding and no restocking. I do not know of a solitary bird having been imported into Donegal since 1913. For over 30 years not a solitary drop of new blood has come in there, so that we have to start at the bottom. We are down at rock-bottom and we must create the machinery to enable us to get back. It can, as I say, be done quite easily, and our policy should be to have that machinery as a permanent substitute for the work done by the landlords. These landlords were all absentee landlords and when their interest in rents disappeared, they disappeared, and now there is nobody to do the work they did, and did well and very cheaply for themselves. They reaped the benefit at the time but they provided a source of money for the country and there is no reason why we should not do the same. Do we intend to do it?

I am not prepared to vote for handing money over to private individuals for the carrying out of this work. It should be done by the Department of Lands, the Department vitally concerned. That Department is also planning huge forests which will involve such game as pheasants, which are wood birds. Nobody can touch these forests but the Department and there is, in addition, an enormous acreage of moor on which they own the sporting rights, and these are paramount reasons for the Department adopting what I have urged on every Estimate for the Department of Lands. It is a step which is long overdue, but, when something does not press too hard, one is inclined to put it on the long finger. I do not believe in putting this matter on the long finger. It is a matter which was always urgent from the point of view of tourists coming to this country, because all that the man with the big money, the man who can afford to pay any price in reason, who comes in the months of August and September, and mainly in August, wants is a good service, rivers well stocked with salmon and moors well stocked with grouse—he has gone before the partridges arrive.

These are the things for which he is prepared to pay big money. We have not got them now, but they are potentially there. A small sum of money will do it. In my opinion, it is not a question of money; it is a question of a simple and efficient machine that would carry that out. I suggest to the Minister that he should not bother going to the Department of Finance until he first sets up the machinery to do that. Then he can appeal to the Minister for Finance and, of course, to the country and lay the foundation of what will be a great national asset in the future.

I was particularly interested to hear the views of Deputy McMenamin because, in case the Minister in charge of this particular debate might not know it, I think it is no offence to any other Deputy to say that on this subject Deputy McMenamin is the greatest authority that ever graced this particular building. I do not suppose there is a moor in Ireland, north, south, east or west, that he has not walked over behind setters or pointers or some particular form of game dog. Certainly, he can talk with broad national knowledge on this particular subject. Any of the rest of us, at best, can only speak from either parochial or county experience.

I think it is within the knowledge of every one of us, even the youngest here, that feathered game has practically disappeared from this country and, in so far as it has not already gone, it is disappearing very rapidly. The first cause of that is that, in an official sense, game is, in fact, nobody's business. When we deal with game in this House, it is always an unfortunate Minister for Justice who is sitting opposite, merely because it impinges to some extent on the law.

Mr. Boland

And who knows nothing about it.

It would be more appropriate if the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who is concerned with tourism, the Minister for Agriculture, who is concerned with the economic existence of the farmers, and with fisheries, or the Minister for Lands should deal with this particular subject. Deputy McMenamin traced the disappearance of feathered game back to a period about 30 years ago with the disappearance of the big landlords. I know that on a big estate neighbouring our own small place at home there was a big landlord. He spent a round sum of £1,000 per annum stocking his place with pheasants and, incidentally, stocked the whole parish. Even in the worst year he never lost money; in the best year he never made very much. But he stocked really the whole parish with pheasants for that expenditure and, on a two-days' shoot, recouped the full expenditure.

When this particular motion urges the expenditure of certain money in order to restock the country with game and preserve the game when the country is restocked, I do not believe that it is asking the Government, or public funds, or the pool suggested to take an unwise gamble. I believe that any money spent in that particular direction will certainly be returned a hundredfold directly and indirectly to the State. I remember a time as a boy when, in the third week in August, I would see traps coming back, one, two and three in the week, with scarcely room for the passengers on account of the numbers of grouse in each trap. I know these hills since I was a boy. I am certain that I am not saying anything inaccurate when I say that it is almost 20 years since I saw any grouse on that particular chain of hills. I have gone over them with dogs time and time again and it is fully that length of time since I saw any grouse. I know places where, as a young man, I spent many days shooting on tracts of mountain; but it is 15 years since anybody, be he a man carrying a licence or a poacher, thought it worth his while to carry a gun there, because the game has gone.

On the other hand, I am familiar with a fairly large tract of land in the County Sligo in which a few people got interested because they saw the game rapidly disappearing from Sligo and Donegal. They got interested in an area of, possibly, eight square miles, which happens to have water on two sides. They got the local farmers interested, in so far as the son of the house here and the son of the house there got £1 or £2 a year to keep poachers off. There was not a bird on that particular stretch. In the first year they let off ten chicken hen pheasants and two cocks. The following November 12 months I saw 50 birds taken off that stretch of territory. The expenditure was about £7 per year and whatever the cost of a dozen young birds would be. Each of that dozen young birds was ringed with a number before being let off and, actually, of the first lot of colonists, only two of the total bagged were ringed birds. The place was well preserved. The hawk and the weasel were kept out by the local farmers and their families being interested in the experiment. The type of poacher that would shoot a young bird out of season or shoot a bird on the nest was not let near the place. Within two years that was in fact as valuable a pheasant shoot as could be found in the whole of Ireland. At the time I speak of there was only one lot of young birds let out. There was no great expense incurred. There was the interest of the local people and just a tiny Christmas box to the agent here and the agent there to keep the poachers off.

The suggestion in the motion is that the revenue derived from the £2 gun licence in each game district should be allocated towards the protection of game. In the ordinary Departmental, mathematical way, people may sit down with pencils to work out that in such and such a county it only amounts to £40 and in another county it only amounts to so much. That is not the way to look at it. The way to look at it is, what it could amount to and what it would amount to if the game laws of this country were generally respected and adhered to.

Many years ago when game existed and when there were big individuals here and there interested in the game of a county, there were game protection societies. I do not know how many times, as a youth, I ran the gauntlet, afraid of being challenged for a licence, but certainly one would not go one mile of any public highway or convenient to any public highway without some authorised person coming along asking for your licence. It is an unheard of thing in recent years, in fact I would be inclined to say in the lifetime of this State, for anybody carrying a gun to be asked to produce his game licence. Everybody knows— and I am not saying it just to please the Minister opposite—that the Civic Guards in this country are overworked but you can carry a gun through any town or village in Ireland during the open season and not a man or woman will ask you to produce a game licence. If that particular bit of comparatively dead legislation were revived, and if farmers and others were interested in game protection, if hotel owners, publicans, shopkeepers, workers, as well as land holders, were educated into believing that game was a valuable asset in any district, valuable to the hotel keeper and to everybody in the place, by attracting tourists, if that kind of education, through propaganda, were disseminated throughout the country, then the number of game licences in any particular district would be multiplied one hundred fold.

There is a hotel that I used to stay at a number of years ago and to which I go occasionally now during the fishing season. There are plenty of people there for the fishing season because the fishing is preserved and there is State interest in fishing. Everybody has realised that fishing is a big national asset and a great attraction to the sporting visitor. During the fishing season, that hotel is packed, mainly by people interested in fishing. When I was a young doctor, just qualified, I spent a couple of holidays there. At the time I was more interested in shooting. During the shooting season you would have to book a room weeks in advance on account of the number of visitors there for the rough shooting. There has not been one feather of game seen there, I am sure, for the best part of 15 years. I have not heard a shot fired after game for a considerable number of years. Game has completely disappeared. I was particularly interested in the suggestion of Deputy McMenamin with regard to inbreeding and the necessity for restocking, for the simple reason that I know that grouse, which I know far less about than pheasants or partridge, have disappeared over thousands of square miles of this country.

The disappearance of grouse is certainly not due to poachers and only to a very tiny extent attributable to inroads made by vermin. Grouse is far too alert and far too lively to be caught by the ordinary poacher. I do not suppose there is any living man that could say with truth that he ever saw a sleeping grouse. Any other form of game, partridge or pheasant, it is easy to walk up on resting in his sleep and is an easy target for anybody who is sufficiently unsporting to shoot him as a sitter on the ground. It is rarely that chance will be given with grouse.

I would ask the Minister to convey to the appropriate Department, and I think a number of Departments are concerned, the suggestions that have been made in the course of this debate. Everyone thinks his own suggestion is a sensible one. There may have been a number of unwise suggestions made but there certainly have been a considerable number of sensible ones. It is in the interests of the nation as a whole, not only from the point of view of tourists, but from the point of view of the denizens of this particular island, that any facilities we had in years gone by for our own entertainment, for our own benefit and for our own material welfare, should be preserved and retained as far as possible and revived, where simple measures and inexpensive steps are all that are required to revive them.

I am interested in this motion from the point of view of seeing exactly what the movers of it are coming at. In the first place, we are to restock with game. Who is going to own the game? We are told about the people who would gain—the local publican, the local hotel keeper, the gentleman in the city with too much money in his pocket who wants to go out for a day's sport. We are told about all of those. We are also told about the gentleman who is going to come in to buy a few of the clothing coupons that are scarce enough and to buy up the already dear clothing; of the people who will come in to eat some of the rations of the people that produce the rations, and all the rest of it. What about all those? We are not told what benefit this will give to the ordinary person in the country. Deputy O'Higgins told us about the farmer's son who will get £1 or £2 a year for watching his neighbours and keeping them off the track. The ordinary farmer of this country has a 5/- licence so that he can shoot crows and thereby preserve enough wheat to keep the drones of this country fed during the winter.

The idea now seems to be that the farmer who takes out a 5/- licence will have a Civic Guard popping his head over the ditch in order to see if the farmer will be idiot enough to go outside his boundary, and if he does he will be caught. Who will own the game that will be preserved, and who will benefit from all this? There are many coursing clubs established. I happen to be a member of one. They preserve hares and the farmers themselves have a little sport coursing. The farmer's son goes out with a couple of greyhounds and enjoys himself. But this is entirely different. Nobody will pretend to me that pheasants live on air. They will feed on the farmer's crops, but if the farmer's son happens to go outside the boundary of his father's land, there will be a Civic Guard waiting there to prosecute him; that is, if he can manage to remove himself from the local publichouse, where he is watching to see if an unfortunate man can be caught drinking a pint.

The farmer helps to feed the tourist.

What with?

With steaks.

The Deputy does not mention bread, which has been rationed for our people. If you enter a Dublin hotel now you would think you were at the Tower of Babel. There is room for everyone except a citizen of this country. Of course, if you have not sufficient money you cannot go in there; indeed, you would need to be a millionaire. I do not see how this proposal can benefit anybody. There are some individuals who have plenty of money. They can take out a £2 licence, hire a motor car on a Sunday and go out into the country shooting pheasants and other game. One would not be surprised to see some of these gentlemen shooting a sitting hen or even tame ducks in the course of their travels. They do not mind so long as they can go home with a full bag, wild or tame.

I do not see how any benefit will be conferred on the agricultural community who help to feed the pheasants and other game. There may be something for the little boy or the scout who watches for the pheasants. You will have every man watching his neighbour. I think the Minister for Finance could find some other use for public money besides spending it for the purpose of increasing the number of pheasants and other game. I heard Deputy O'Higgins mention that it might mean £1 a year to a farmer's son for watching his neighbour. I cannot see who else will benefit by this thing.

The tourist business is overdone in this country. You have every half-starved foreigner chucking himself in here to fill his belly, and you have the workers of this country rationed in order that the visitors will have enough. It is about time somebody said that.

This is one of the non-political matters that come before the Dáil and for that reason it might be possible to get general approval for what is suggested in the motion. I think Deputies realise that this is a national problem. There may be different views as to the desirability of encouraging tourists, but, assuming that we desire to maintain our tourist traffic, because of the people in the country who are engaged in the hotel business and who derive their livelihood from tourists, then we must see that unless the visitors get some form of amusement or sport they may decide to go elsewhere. The tourists who have gone to places like Connemara, Mayo, Donegal and portions of Cork, will not go there again unless they have some sporting facilities.

Leaving aside the question of tourists, there is a distinct advantage in preserving game and in endeavouring to make game available for farmers and others in different areas. In many parts of the country gun clubs exist. The members of these clubs are drawn from all walks of life. You have people from the local towns and villages combining with the farmers, over whose land they shoot. In other years the landlords preserved the game. Portions of their estates were protected so as to provide shooting facilities. These facilities were usually restricted to the landlord and his friends. Where gun clubs are established the members can now shoot over the lands formerly owned by the landlords.

The big estates were divided, but the division resulted, in many cases, in no protection being given to game. Areas which formerly were preserved are now being cultivated. While it is desirable that these areas should be put to better use, I think if a determined effort were made by members of gun clubs, and they got assistance from the Gardaí, it would be possible to preserve them and so make available suitable ground for the preservation of different types of game.

Deputy McMenamin has described, in considerable detail, from his wide knowledge and experience, the requirements essential for the rearing of grouse and pheasants and other birds, together with the measures that should be taken to replenish stocks. Assuming that an effort in that direction is desirable, and that Deputies are prepared to urge on the Minister and the Government the advisability of adopting some plan which will ensure that whatever facilities exist will be maintained and, if possible, improved, then I think the suggestion in the motion is a reasonably good one.

It may be argued that it is not desirable to devote public money to purposes such as this and that the benefit to be derived, from the point of view of the people in general, would be limited. While that is so, the suggestion in the motion and the plan which is there put forward are, I think, reasonable because unless people, who take out £2 gun licences, are provided with some opportunities of game shooting, the number of such people will decrease. The fact that people from cities and towns visit certain areas for shoots or that even local people go out shooting, means that extra money is circulated in one way or another in that area and the farmers and other people in the locality benefit as a result. If the number of holders of £2 gun licences decreases, there will be a corresponding reduction in the amount of money in circulation in such areas. I think that approximately £40,000 is available in revenue from that source each year and if the holders of these licences are provided with sufficient attractions in the way of game facilities in various localities, the sum derived from these licences can be devoted with beneficial effect towards defraying whatever cost may be involved in increased game preservation.

I think it would not entail any considerable cost if, first of all, the gun clubs are prepared to make an effort, but it must be a national effort because if the effort is confined to scattered localities, it will merely result in vermin going from one locality to another. In fact in many places when scald-crows or foxes are disturbed, they migrate to other localities in which they are not subject to the same disturbance and where they can breed under more favourable conditions.

First of all, I think the attempt at the extermination of vermin should be made during the breeding season. If, for instance, scald-crows are sufficiently disturbed during the laying season, they will have less chance of producing eggs. Foxes also could be poisoned during the breeding season. One very successful method of dealing with foxes, on uplands at any rate— and the foxes to be found there are usually the most destructive type—is to inject or dose a dying sheep with strychnine. Subsequently, when the sheep dies and the carcase gets into a state of putrefaction, the odour will attract foxes from a very wide radius, in fact from distances as far away as 15 or 20 miles. I have known cases where very large numbers of foxes were destroyed in that way. If the wind is sufficiently variable, it will veer round and the foxes from different localities will be attracted there. There are numerous other methods but that is one way in which foxes could be destroyed.

I think Deputies generally, but particularly those from the West and from Donegal, will realise that game is disappearing rapidly in certain areas. Certainly, my experience visiting the West is that at present there is practically no game there. It is as easy to preserve game as it is to preserve fish; in certain respects it is easier, and I think people in the country generally prefer shooting to fishing. Farmers and farmers' sons in many cases are given special facilities in gun clubs. They are not called upon to subscribe as much as ordinary members because naturally if they allow shooting over their lands they are entitled to special consideration just as, in the case of hunts, farmers are called upon for a smaller subscription or in many cases for no subscription because of the inconvenience which they suffer owing to the packs being allowed to hunt over their land.

I think a national drive might be made through the gun clubs supported by the Gardaí in the various districts. The Gardaí, I imagine, would be prepared to give assistance voluntarily rather than by direction because in many parts of the country the Gardaí partake of any shooting available during the season.

I would suggest that this is a problem which affects the Departments of three Ministers. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is interested from the point of view of the tourist traffic, the Minister for Lands is interested because of the damage occasioned by vermin to trees, and the Minister for Justice is interested from the point of view of the revenue derived from licences. If these three Ministers would co-operate with local gun clubs, I think a determined drive could be made to eradicate vermin, but, as I have said before, it must be a national drive. Local drives made in the past have merely resulted in transferring the problem from one part of the country to another. Experience shows that when foxes, scald-crows, stoats or weasels are driven from one locality they multiply rapidly in another locality where they are not subjected to the same pressure. The problem then presents itself anew for the people in that district.

I think the House generally is in favour of some effort to preserve and improve whatever game facilities are available. An abundance of game would benefit everyone in the locality where it exists. The farmers would derive an income from the visitors who shoot over their land and the local shops and smaller hotels would also benefit financially. This country in the past was famous for the sporting facilities which it afforded and I think every effort should be made to improve the present position. It is, of course, questionable at the moment whether it is desirable to encourage tourists from abroad. There are different views on that matter and it is quite reasonable that there should be but, leaving foreign tourists out of the question altogether, I think it would be in the interests of the rural parts of the country to encourage people from the towns who are prepared to visit these areas to partake of the sporting facilities available there.

I would suggest that a determined drive should be made to improve these facilities. One result of this motion might be that the Minister and his colleagues who are directly concerned in this matter will co-operate with the local clubs in the preservation of game. If members of the Dáil who are interested are prepared to instruct localclubs—either gun dog associations or whatever other sporting associations are in existence in the various localities—to unite in a national drive and to co-operate with the authorities, then I think the facilities which are there can be exploited to the full and preserved for the benefit of the country generally.

I hold that, if the Minister takes a sympathetic view of the motion, he can improve very much what I regard as a very valuable national asset. I was glad to observe from suggestions put forward that the motion has met with approval from practically every member who spoke, with the exception of Deputy Corry. Deputy McMenamin's suggestion about inbreeding doing a lot of damage must be very clear to even the youngest member of the House. If something could be done along the lines suggested by Deputy McMenamin it would go a long way towards increasing grouse and pheasant, two classes of game that have practically disappeared from the countryside. A sum of over £20,000 is collected each year in game licences. I think that amount will decrease for the simple reason that the number of game licences taken out will correspond closely with the amount of game to be taken. Only very few take out a game licence for the purpose of poaching or of slaughter for the pot, as we say. If there was more game in the country more game licences would be taken out, and it is quite possible that this sum of £20,000 would soon double itself. If a small sum of money were given by the Minister for Finance on the lines suggested in the motion for the protection of game it would, in my opinion, be money well spent.

It would certainly result in increasing the amount of game. The sum asked for is practically negligible, although, of course, Deputy Corry will tell us that it could be spent in other ways. I wish very much that the Deputy would use half as much energy, as he used here to-night against this motion, with the Minister for Finance on the very important subject of drainage, because I do not believe he was sincere in what he said against the motion. He is a very forceful speaker, but as I say I do not believe he was sincere to-night. When speaking I noticed a merry twinkle in his eye which gave me to understand that he had not his heart in what he was saying.

What kind of a humbug are you?

He deplored the motion simply because farmers' sons will get £1 a week or something like that. I do not agree with that.

That is the only argument for it.

I would not hold with that. I think it is a grand thing and a fine thing that to-day—and I am not the most ancient member of this House—we can see a farmer's son paying £2 for a game licence and going out to take game. I saw the day, and so did Deputy Corry, when no farmer's son could do that—in the time when the landlords and others held this country. That is not such a long time ago. I can tell Deputy Corry that, if he comes down to the County Mayo, he will find plenty of small farmers' sons—some of them perhaps on the dole—who have taken out a game licence for the purpose of supplementing their income during the winter months when they cannot find employment. I know some neighbours of my own who, as a result of doing that, are able to go a long way towards keeping their wives and families in food. The small farmer's son has just as much right to take out a £2 game licence to shoot game as the big man. I hold it is a grand thing that we see the day in this country when the small farmer's son can do that, and not be overridden and terrified by the ascendancy class that we had here 25 or 30 years ago.

Deputy Moran when speaking said that a lot of damage was done by the 5/- permit holder. I do not agree with him. In my opinion the 5/- permit holder is not such a good shot. He certainly will not do near as much damage in the course of a year as a pair of scald-crows and some hawks will do within a period of 24 hours during the breeding season. I might also say that foxes are doing very serious damage. I think a very useful day's work would be done if all permits for game licences went hand in hand with the destruction of vermin. Scald-crows, hawks and foxes do a very considerable amount of damage to poultry and lambs. Foxes play havoc with lambs. Almost every county committee of agriculture in the country pays a premium for the head of a fox. In my county we pay 7/6 for each fox that is killed because of the damage foxes do. Scald-crows and hawks do great damage to poultry. They are a constant scourge. If, as I say, the two things were taken hand in hand—permits for game licences and the destruction of vermin—it would be a very good thing. A scheme of that sort would tend to increase game in the country and at the same time would do away with the vermin which is causing such extensive damage in the farmyards and fields of the farmers throughout the country.

There is one other point. It is a question which I would ask the Minister for Justice to take up with the Minister for Lands. When the Land Commission acquires farms for subdivision it happens, in very many cases, that it retains the game rights over these lands. In other cases it passes on the game rights to the previous owner of the land. In the former case, I would ask the Minister for Justice to make representations to the Minister for Lands to give Irish nationals who take out a £2 game licence first preference when it is selling its shooting rights over the land it holds. In the other case, where the original land owner holds the game rights, the results are very damaging so far as the game on these lands is concerned. I happen to know that from personal experience. What happens is that even if the tenants take out a game licence they have not the right to shoot game on the land. The result is that the tenants and the previous owner of the land get so careless that the game on the land is allowed to be killed or slaughtered or destroyed. They take no interest in the matter.

As regards the first case, my suggestion is that the Land Commission should give first preference to Irish nationals for the shooting of the game over the land on which the Land Commission itself holds the game rights, and that in the second case the Land Commission should insist on taking over the game rights from the person from whom they acquire the land and do something to preserve the game on it. The present position is that the former owner may be living out of this country and is doing nothing to preserve the game. The game may be running over the land of the farmer occupiers and yet they find that even though they have taken out a £2 licence they have not the right to shoot it. There is a great deal of carelessness caused in that way. I hope that the Minister will be able to do something in regard to these matters.

As the mover of the motion I am very glad to find that the Minister is sympathetic towards it. I was also glad to find that the members of the House generally have given it their unstinted support with, of course, the one distinguished exception of Deputy Corry. I would be rather disappointed if Deputy Corry endorsed anything that I proposed in the House. The Minister has stated that he would like to get suggestions from interested parties throughout the country as to the best means of expending money on game protection and on the destruction of vermin, on the condition of our mountains and on all other details that pertain to effective game preservation throughout the country. We have 57 game protection associations in the country which have been duly recognised by the Minister for Justice. I think that those associations would form a very useful medium for the expenditure of any money that may be voted by the Minister for Finance for the protection and preservation of game. They contain a number of voluntary workers. They hold their meetings yearly, and make every effort to preserve game by employing gamekeepers.

Efforts are being made to destroy vermin but, as Deputy Cosgrave said, these efforts are not always effective, because they are not carried out on a national scale. I happen to be very familiar with the organising and conduct of game protection associations in my district in North Cork. It is interesting to find that our association consists primarily of farmers' sons, agricultural workers and other people in the rural areas. We have some 70 or 80 members and, when the 12th August comes along for grouse-shooting, they assemble at a particular place and are assigned their shooting area over the 25,000 acres of mountain we have preserved. We pay gamekeepers a nominal sum. All the poorer members who live on the mountainside get some little remuneration out of our funds each year. That small amount of remuneration is of help to people with low valuations, because it very often enables them to pay their rates on the mountain. Each of them acts as a potential gamekeeper. The more birds we find on the mountain, the more we pay the person concerned. The great drawback under which we suffer is shortage of funds. Since so large an income is derivable from the payment of the £2 licence fee, it would be but fair that an equitable portion of that money should be spent in helping those voluntary workers who are doing their best to preserve the game.

As Deputy McMenamin wisely said, it would not be advisable to do anything that might lead to a lavish expenditure of money—public money, as some people call it. Actually, it is not public money. It is money handed in by the sportsmen themselves for the £2 licence. It can only be described as "public money" because it goes, year after year, into the Treasury.

I think that any help given to the associations should be given on a contributory basis. If each game protection association puts up a certain sum of money, the Department of Finance should contribute a sum proportionate to that. If an association produces a certified account of their receipts, the Minister for Finance should, I think, contribute £2 for each £1 shown in those accounts. There are already 57 associations and there is one national association throughout the country. There is an association in Munster in addition to several other local associations. I believe that any money given to those associations, which are controlled and directed by trustworthy sportsmen, would be well spent. If each association of, say, 50 members could show that it had received in fees or contributions from members a sum of £50, then I think that the Government should come along and make a contribution of £100. That would mean that there would be an expenditure of £150 per year in that area. That would be well-spent money, and it would be recouped, because the number of £2 licences would automatically increase. No grant should be paid to any association which did not give some assurance that they were active and that they were prepared to spend the money wisely and well.

The Minister has asked members of the associations or members of the House to come together and put up practical suggestions. If the Minister would decide on letting the associations have the sum of money I suggest on a contributory basis, it would, I think, meet the position for the present. I should like to tell those who spoke in pessimistic mood about the proposal that the amount of pleasure given to local people by these clubs during the winter months is enormous. That is a grand thing—and I speak from experience. In my own locality, there were periods when neither farmers' sons nor workmen dared fire a shot. The place was entirely preserved by the landlord class. They have passed away and now the tenant farmers are the owners of the game. This could be made a great source of wealth as well as a source of pleasure to our own people. What is needed is that the associations get the encouragement I suggest.

I am very pleased with the manner in which the Minister has met us. I have been in constant communication with his Department for a number of years and I take this opportunity of testifying to the courtesy which I have always received and to the practical manner in which they have accepted suggestions from the organisations throughout the country. If the Minister cannot see his way to agree to my suggestion, I and the other members who sponsored this motion would be very glad to form a committee of the House, or to act on committees appointed throughout the country, to place further suggestions before the Minister for his approval. I think that we have done good work in helping to focus public attention on the potentialities of game protection associations, when properly organised, and in directing the attention of the Government to the possibilities of this sport, both from a national and international point of view, because it is bound to have an effect in attracting tourists to the country. I should be very glad to meet the Minister later if he does not approve of the suggestion I made regarding grants on a contributory basis, and to discuss alternative schemes with him. I want some earnest from the associations that they themselves will do something. I do not want money lavishly spent and I do not want any racket created by this proposal. If associations do not give earnest of their desire to be useful in this regard, I should not be prepared to help them. I wish, again, to thank the Minister for the sympathetic manner in which he received this motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.