That a sum not exceeding £138,760 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1950, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for External Affairs, and of certain Services administered by that Office (No. 16 of 1924), including a Grant-in-Aid.
I should like again this year, at the outset of this debate, to urge that, in relation to our external affairs, we should develop, as far as possible, a non-Party approach. Fundamentally, there is no difference of policy between the Parties in the House in relation to our external policy. My function, therefore, is to give effect to the best of my ability, to the general policy upon which the Government and all Parties in the House are agreed. In doing so, I shall always welcome suggestions from Deputies as to the best means of achieving this purpose. Likewise, I shall always be prepared to give the Leader of the Opposition any information which he may wish to have; or to discuss with him any aspect of the work of my Department he may wish to discuss.
From the point of view of the Department of External Affairs, this year has been one of tremendous importance in many fields. Events of paramount importance have occurred in the course of the year, both in our relationship with Britain and in the international field generally; the passage of the Republic of Ireland Act, the Atlantic Pact; the passage of the Ireland Act in the British Parliament; the launching of the Council of Europe; the increasing importance of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation; the making of trade agreements and the development of cultural relations. These were all events that cast tremendous work and responsibility on our small Department of External Affairs.
Before proceeding further, I should like to pay special tribute to the staff of the Department for the manner in which they responded to the extra calls which are being constantly made upon them by the pressure of events and by the resulting additional burdens. They work with untiring energy and are always prepared to sacrifice their own time in order to carry out the additional burdens that have fallen on the Department. Indeed, for many officers of the Department it has become routine matter to have to work until the late hours of the night, as well as during week-ends. I cannot praise their self-sacrificing enthusiasm and devotion to their work too highly; many times I have been reminded of the spirit and enthusiasm that prevailed in the national movement. It is, of course, this type of spirit that should prevail in a small foreign service such as ours at times of crisis. In present circumstances I see no hope of the work of the Department becoming lighter. On the contrary, if we are to perform our functions effectively in regard to the Council of Europe, the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation and Partition, as well as the many other functions which fall on the Department, the work is bound to increase. In these circumstances, additional staffs are essential.
In the midst of all the work that has had to be performed by the Department in the course of the year, I have been very thankful indeed that the Russian veto on our admission to the United Nations Organisation has been maintained. Frankly, the prospect of having to provide representatives at another international body such as the United Nations Organisation and to have to attend yet another series of international conferences, was frightening in existing circumstances.
I need hardly refer in any detail to the events leading up to the passing of the Republic of Ireland Act. The House is already fully informed on all these matters. This period was a crucial one from the point of view of the Department, as many steps had to be taken, very often in a non-spectacular way, in order to ensure that on and from the 18th April last the Republic of Ireland would be internationally recognised. As the House learnt, official recognition was accorded, and in every case messages of recognition and welcome to the Republic of Ireland were received.
Arising from the passage of the Republic of Ireland Act, a number of matters still remain to be dealt with concerning the exchange of citizenship rights. In particular, in the case of South Africa and India, special agreements concerning the exchange of citizenship rights still remain to be concluded. I hope in the near future that we may have an opportunity of opening discussions concerning these questions.
Since the passage of the Republic of Ireland Act, a number of countries have expressed their desire to extend diplomatic representation to Ireland. In particular, the Government of India propose to open an embassy in Dublin. Discussions are also proceeding concerning the opening of diplomatic or consular missions here by Norway and Egypt.
I do not think that it is necessary on this Estimate to deal with our attitude to the Atlantic Pact and to the Ireland Act which was passed by the British Parliament. The Government's attitude on these matters has already been made clear to the House on other occasions. To a certain extent, the introduction of the Ireland Bill in the British House of Commons exactly one month after the signature of the Atlantic Pact emphasised the wisdom of the Government's decision in declining to adhere to the Atlantic Pact without a clarification of the attitude of the other nations concerned regarding the territorial integrity of Ireland. As the House knows, the Atlantic Pact was intended to guarantee the territorial integrity and political independence of the participating nations. It is, I think, of some significance that within one month of the signature of the Atlantic Pact, Britain should have, unnecessarily and without justification, introduced a statute in its Parliament reasserting her claim to a portion of our territory.
In our view, and I think I can say that I am speaking for every member of this House, the essence of democratic rule lies in the right of the people of a nation to determine democratically by their free votes, their form of Government and their internal affairs, without outside interference. It was the infringement of this rule which was largely responsible for the last war and which is now responsible for much of the tension existing in Europe to-day. Interference in the affairs of another nation, whether it be by Germany, Russia, or Britain, is destructive of the basis upon which democratic Government rests and can only lead to friction.
Our sole claim is that the Irish people should be allowed to determine their own affairs democratically and of their own free will, without interference by Britain. The fact that Britain succeeded, over 25 years ago, in retaining a corner of our island and that she has since occupied it, in no way entitled her to divide the historic Irish nation and to pretend that our island now consists of two separate nations.
British propaganda often seeks to justify Britain's attitude on the ground that Britain is merely protecting a minority. This, of course, does not bear examination. In the first place, in an area approximating four of the six counties which have been cut away from us, there is a majority in favour of unity with the rest of Ireland; the nationalist population in these areas is coerced, undemocratically and against its will, to remain separated from the rest of Ireland.
We have no wish or desire to in any way penalise or interfere with the civil or religious liberties of those who in the north-east corner choose to describe themselves as the "British King's men". On the contrary, as has been repeatedly stated, we are quite prepared to afford them any constitutional guarantees that may be reasonably required to allay any fears, real or imaginary, that they may have. We cannot, however, accept the claim of a small minority supported by Britain, to divide our nation in defiance of the express will of the Irish people.
The continuance of Partition and of Britain's support of it is a constant indictment of democratic rule in this part of the world. We urged that this was a matter which should be discussed between Ireland and the nations participating in the Atlantic Pact. We felt that, if the concept of co-operation and democracy was to be given any reality, one of the first essentials was to remove from the midst of Western Europe this dangerous undemocratic anomaly. The first essential of co-operation is obviously the removal of causes of dissension. We regret that, no doubt through Britain's influence, our suggestion even to discuss these matters was not accepted.
I have noticed in the papers recently reports to the effect that the State Department of the United States in Washington had stated that American policy would not allow President Truman to intervene between Ireland and Britain in order to secure the ending of Partition. I am fully aware that that has always been the attitude of the State Department; indeed, it is a matter about which I cannot complain, as the question of American policy is essentially one to be decided by the American people. I cannot help, however, regretting that the leading democratic republic in the world to-day should not at least take an interest in and assist in ending a situation which, in addition to being undemocratic, is dangerous and damaging to the unity which should exist in the democratic world.
While I know that the United States Administration did not intentionally desire to do so, its attitude of indifference in the matter has been and is being construed by the British Government as a definite encouragement for Britain's interference in our affairs and for the continued denial of the right to self-determination by the Irish people. That is evidenced by the fact that before the ink on the Atlantic Pact was dry, the British Government felt at complete liberty to reassert by statute its claim to interfere with the territorial integrity of Ireland. It is even being suggested now that the United States have, under the provisions of the Atlantic Pact, undertaken to defend Britain's invasion of our territorial integrity. In these circumstances, it would not seem unreasonable that the United States should at least offer its services for the purpose of bringing about a discussion and an ultimate solution of this question.
Partition is the sole remaining issue between Ireland and our neighbouring isle. Its solution would end the century-old struggle that the Irish people have waged for liberty and self-determination. It is obvious that, by bringing about a solution of this question, the United States would render a service, not merely to Ireland and Britain, but to the democratic world.
It does seem extraordinary that in this era there should be a reluctance even to discuss grave problems that mar the enthusiasm and unity of the democratic peoples. I know that we are but a small nation and that Britain is a powerful one, but I cannot believe that that consideration alone should stand in the way of a democratic solution.
One of our most important tasks in relation to Partition and to Britain's interference in our affairs is to make our point of view known in America, in Australia, in New Zealand, in Europe and in Britain itself. I have no doubt that if the issues involved were clearly explained to world opinion and particularly to those who help to form world opinion, this denial of democratic rule could not survive.
Unfortunately, we have suffered from a wall of silence and often, indeed, from misrepresentation concerning Partition and matters which so frequently marred Anglo-Irish relationship in the past. As we are not and can never be —at least in any foreseeable future— stronger militarily or economically than Britain, our only weapon in present circumstances is world opinion. A portion of work in relation to Partition falls, naturally, on the Department of External Affairs, and for this reason, as well as because of the growing volume of work in the other spheres of the Department, it has been found necessary to increase the staff, both in the Department itself and in some of our posts abroad, particularly in the United States.
An indication of the inadequacy of the provisions we are able to make can be obtained by the comparison of the expenditure by Britain on her foreign representation and public relations services overseas. This year sums amounting to nearly £26,000,000 have been allocated for this purpose in Britain. I know that Britain's expenditure is not comparable because of the disparity in size and population, but the comparison of our expenditure on external affairs with that of comparable countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, South Africa and New Zealand shows that our expenditure is much lower, very much lower indeed, both in relation to Government expenditure as a whole and to the national income of these countries.
One of my main staffing difficulties has been due to the lack of recruitment in the past. We have taken into the Department a number of new young third secretaries in the course of the year, and a further examination is to be held shortly for some additional third secretaries. Unfortunately, because of pressing staffing needs, many of them will have to be assigned to duties without having gained the experience which I would have liked them to have gained in different divisions of the Department. We are trying to make up for this lack of experience by arranging a series of lectures in the Department.
The main Estimate for External Affairs for the year 1949-50 shows an increase of expenditure of £20,225 on last year. Apart from increases in Civil Service remuneration, the additional expenditure arises almost entirely on three heads. In the first place, a full year's provision is now made for certain posts (in the European Recovery Programme section and at The Hague) for which only partial provision was made in last year's Vote. In the second place, provision is made for the creation of certain new posts at home and abroad and for the filling of vacancies in existing posts. Finally, there are the normal salary increments and minor increases in allowances abroad to meet higher living costs. These three heads between them account for over £16,500 of the increase in the Vote.
In addition to the main Estimate, I am also asking the Dáil to approve a supplementary provision covering an expenditure of £53,800. This Supplementary Vote provides for the making of Grant-in-Aid advances up to a total of £25,000 to the proposed Irish News Agency. The rest of the expenditure is required to cover certain important additions which I propose to make to the staff of the Department, as well as to the staffs of the legation and the consulates in the United States and the High Commissioner's Office in London.
Taking the main Estimate and the Supplementary Estimate together, I am asking the Dáil to provide for an expenditure on external affairs higher by £74,025 than that provided last year. I should say quite frankly that I do not feel called upon to make any apology for this increase. We cannot expect to make political headway abroad and attain our national aims unless we are prepared to tackle the task of putting our point of view across much more actively and vigorously than we have done in the past. I hope that the Irish News Agency will prove an effective and valuable instrument for this purpose. But our official missions abroad have also a useful and important role to play.
Nowadays there are very few diplomatic missions which have not a Press attaché or an information officer or a member of the diplomatic staff specially detailed to deal with Press and public relations. Some countries, in addition to providing special officials for this purpose at their embassies and legations, maintain elaborate information services in foreign countries for the same purpose of making their policies and points of view better known. When I came into the Department of External Affairs I found that this country, which has an important national objective to achieve and requires for its successful attainment all the sympathy and moral support that it can rally throughout the world, had none of these things. We had not as much as one Press attaché, one information officer or one public relations officer abroad.
Some of our most important missions abroad were so understaffed that their members were unable to get away from their desks to maintain essential contacts with the outside world. The headquarters of the Department itself was in the same position. The staff were overwhelmed with the mass of work arising in the ordinary course of Departmental duties, and there was little or no provision for the steady systematic work which must be done if our major objectives in the political field are to be achieved.
In this connection I was interested recently to read in the current report of the Canadian Department of External Affairs several references emphasising the functions of diplomatic missions in regard to public relations. Indeed, I could do no better than to quote from this very excellent report to give to the House an indication of some of the work which I hope that our Department will be able to undertake in the near future. I am quoting from the current report of the Canadian Department of External Affairs:—
"The main responsibilities of diplomatic missions abroad are to inform the Government of events in the country in which they are situated and to interpret their significance; to safeguard Canadian interests; to conduct negotiations with the Governments to which they are accredited; to assist in spreading accurate information about Canada; and to represent the Government of Canada formally and informally on all occasions....
Information about Canada distributed from Ottawa is effective only if it is brought before the people in other countries for whom it is intended. In large missions, the information officer, and in small missions the head of mission and diplomatic secretaries, must maintain constant liaison with the agencies of Press, radio and film. They must be ready to answer any demands for information about Canada and, when necessary, must try to stimulate such demands.
Foreign affairs to-day are not the exclusive preserve of Government, but are of direct and vital public concern. The provision of public information about Canada to other countries is therefore an integral part of the conduct of Canada's foreign relations. There is a similar need to provide information within Canada on Canadain policy in international affairs.
Through the Information Division, the Department facilitates the flow of information about Canada to other countries. To assist diplomatic, consular and trade officers abroad in meeting the needs of the Press and public, daily, weekly and monthly bulletins and other special publications are compiled and distributed. Photographs and graphic material are supplied for Press, display and educational use. The Department also has a reference service to deal with inquiries of a general nature from abroad, and is responsible for certain aspects of educational and cultural relations with other countries. Information services are provided for important international conferences, and close liaison is maintained with other public information services of the Government in relation to information abroad.
News about Canada is disseminated abroad through the Canadian diplomatic missions. This is of particular importance in the world news centres of New York, Washington, London and Paris, and occupies a considerable part of the time of information officers at these posts. Press releases are issued by all missions on Canadian subjects of special interest to the countries concerned, and arrangements are made for Press, photographic and film coverage of national events. The Department and missions abroad also make arrangements to facilitate tours of Canada by prominent foreign journalists. Such arrangements include advice on itineraries, distribution of documentary and illustrative material, and assistance to the visitors in making contacts with Government officials and private individuals."
I have quoted this to indicate the scope of the work which the information section, which is about to be set up in the Department of External Affairs here, will have to cover.
I have now drawn up a scheme of staff reorganisation designed to restore these deficiencies. I propose, in the first place, to create a third post of assistant secretary at the headquarters of the Department, and to add to the four existing divisions, concerned with economic and commercial affairs, European Recovery Programme, consular matters, and general administration and protocol respectively, two entirely new divisions—one to take charge of political questions—to be known as the political division—and the other to take charge of information and publicity—to be known as the information division. As regards our diplomatic and consular representation in the United States, I am proposing to make substantial additions to the staff of the legation in Washington. In addition to staff required to deal with European Recovery Programme work, which has grown to considerable proportions, I propose to add to the legation a new post of counsellor, with a third secretary to assist him, to deal exclusively with public relations work. The Supplementary Vote also provides for the creation of a new post of public relations officer at the Consulate-General at New York, and for the appointment of vice-consuls at the consulates at Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, where the existing pressure leaves the consuls in present circumstances with no time for anything except office work. As regards London, provision is also made for a new post of counsellor rank, the occupant of which will be concerned exclusively with public relations work and will have a third secretary to assist him.
As I said, I do not feel called upon to apologise for these staff arrangements. To my mind, they are greatly overdue. We are only doing what other countries have done years ago. Nor, I think, can the proposals be criticised on the ground of economy, for the falsest economy in the world is to establish an official machinery and then to fail to get value out of it by starving it of the funds required for its full and effective functioning. That is, I am afraid, what we have been doing in the past.
In introducing this Estimate last year, I pointed out that our expenditure on the Department of External Affairs represented less than one-third of 1 per cent. of our public expenditure, and that it has been less than the expenditure incurred by some great Powers on one individual mission. I think that the total cost of our Department of External Affairs is certainly much less than the cost, say, of the British Embassy in most of the big capitals. In my view, it was the paucity of our expenditure on representation abroad rather than on its size which called for explanation or defence. I feel that that position still holds good, even with the increase which I am now proposing.
I should add, of course, that, in addition to the work to which I have so far referred in my statement, a tremendous amount of additional work has been cast on the Department in the course of the last year or a year and a half on account of the Economic Co-operation Organisation, and that the Department had to handle a considerable volume of work which it had, not to handle heretofore and which, of course, overburdened the existing staff in the Department.
As the House will have learned, the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Relations at the end of January last has filled a void in our relations with other countries. Practically every country has various official bodies whose function it is to make known to other countries the cultural life of its own country. We have suffered in the past from not having any such body. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my deep appreciation to Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy, who is the chairman of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Relations, and to each of the members of the advisory committee, for their public spirited work on this committee. This voluntary committee has worked untiringly in the discharge of its functions and has been of very considerable assistance to me.
It is a new experiment in the administration of Departmental work, but one that has worked very successfully. I feel that in many other spheres, Government Departments might well avail of the voluntary services and advice of public spirited citizens with a specialised knowledge. The advisory committee has not merely tendered advice, it has also undertaken actual work.
Expenditure out of the Grant-in-Aid for 1948-49 totalled £2,600. This included an advance subscription (roughly £1,790) for 20 copies of the reproduction of the Book of Kells which is being prepared by an eminent firm of Swiss publishers; a grant of £250 to the Gaelic League of London towards the expenses of installation of new premises; a grant of £300 towards the publishing expenses of the Review on Celtic Studies published in Paris and edited by Professor Vendryes; and some preliminary expenditure on photographs which are being selected by the committee for exhibition abroad and for general publicity purposes.
It is proposed that this photographic exhibition, containing a general survey of present-day Ireland, should be sent to the U.S.A. in the autumn for display in the principal Irish centres. The committee is also working on a scheme for the issue of a series of pamphlets on Irish cultural activities, beginning with one on the theatre by Michael MacLiammóir. Professor Denis Gwynn has agreed to act as general editor of this series of pamphlets. It is hoped that it will be possible to publish French and Spanish, as well as English editions of these pamphlets. A book on Ireland for schoolchildren in the U.S.A. and Commonwealth countries is also being planned. Another long-term scheme is the building up of a library of short documentary films on Irish life and activity. Arrangements for the production of one such film are at present under consideration.
Other schemes in hand include arrangements for Irish participation in the International Folk Music Festival to be held in Venice next September: the encouragement of the production of better gramophone records of traditional Irish music; the donation of books to foreign libraries; and the issue by the committee of monthly notes on cultural activities in Ireland, for distribution to Irish societies and other appropriate organisations abroad.
A grant was also made to the Royal Society of Antiquaries this year to enable it to invite distinguished scholars in other countries to its centenary celebrations, which have been held, and a grant is also being made for the purpose of organising a summer school for foreign students coming to Ireland.
That is a summary of the principal activities of the Cultural Relations Committee. From the experience I have gained of their work, I am satisfied that they are fulfilling a useful function.
There are so many matters of practical concern to be dealt with on this Vote that I cannot prolong my remarks by attempting to deal with political developments taking place in the world to-day, unless they affect us in a special way. There is one development, however, to which I must refer, and that is what appears to be a concerted attack on religion generally in the Communist-dominated States of Central Europe. As the House knows, many Church dignitaries have been subjected to what can only be described as persecution, in both Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The campaign against the Churches has not been limited to an attack on the Catholic Church but, of course, the Catholic Church has been the principal victim of this persecution.
The House is already aware of the steps which were taken by me in relation to the arrest and imprisonment of His Eminence Cardinal Mindszenty. The refusal of the Hungarian Government to allow any representative of the Irish Government to have access to the Cardinal was, in itself, proof, if further proof were required, of the methods which were being used in relation to the arrest and trial of Church dignitaries.
The refusal of our request can only have been dictated by a desire to conceal the circumstances surrounding the arrest and trial of the Cardinal.
I feel that, in voicing our abhorrence of this religious persecution, I am expressing the views of every member of the House. In addition to the fact that we are a predominantly Catholic nation, our whole history has been one of struggle for the achievement of civil and religious liberty. Civil liberty and religious freedom are the essential pillars of democratic rule. No nation, therefore, has a greater right to make its voice heard in this matter than Ireland.
There is another development to which I feel I should refer, because although it is taking place on the other side of the world and may appear to many people of no direct interest to this country, it does concern us in a very special way and creates anxieties and problems for my Department. I refer to what is taking place in China and in the Far East generally.
As most Deputies probably already know, the Far East is a great field of Irish missionary endeavour. Not only in China, but in Korea, Hong Kong, Burma, Malaya and other parts of the Far East, there are hundreds of Irish priests and nuns carrying on the work of spreading the gospel for which the people of this country have, from the earliest times, had such a strong vocation. The spread of Communist influence throughout the Far East is a most grave development from the point of view of these Irish missions. It is not merely that from the point of view of the conduct of their churches and schools and the freedom of movement they require for their work, the future is becoming increasingly uncertain. We know that, from the point of view of the missionaries themselves, this must be the most grievous prospect. There is also the fact, however, that, having regard to what has happened elsewhere, the personal hazards which missionary work must always involve, to some extent at least, must be greatly increased.
Anything that my Department can usefully do to help in this situation will be done at once. I am at present considering the possibility of appointing consular representatives, at least on an honorary basis, at one or two points in the Far East with a view to bringing the usual passport and consular facilities within closer reach of our citizens in the Far Eastern zone. I am only too ready to consider any other form of official action which would be likely to prove of advantage. I know, however, that what will always come first with those who have devoted their lives to this work will be, not their own personal safety, but the possibility of continuing the work of their missions as long as it is possible for them to do so. We can only hope that the danger which now seems to threaten them will not materialise and that the prognostications of those who expect that it will still be possible to carry on the missions satisfactorily under the new circumstances may prove well founded.
There is one other political development also far away—this time, in the Middle East—to which I would like also to refer.
On the 15th June last Deputy Cogan asked me a question about our attitude on the question of the protection of the Holy Places in Palestine. I told him in reply that I had had the matter under constant consideration for a considerable time but that I was not in a position then to make any detailed statement about it. I informed him, however, that the Irish Government strongly support the demand which has now been voiced so clearly and widely throughout the Christian world that the Holy Places in Palestine should be suitably protected, that free access should be ensured for all religions and that, with a view to guaranteeing the attainment of these aims, the whole area of Jerusalem should be placed under international control.
I doubt whether I can add much to that statement at the moment, beyond stating that we are consulting other like-minded States which, like ourselves, are not members of the United Nations, on the question whether there is any action which we can usefully take to support and advance the demand for the protection of the Holy Places which has already been made within the framework of the United Nations Organisation.
As Deputies already know, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution on the 11th December last setting up a conciliation commission consisting of representatives of the United States, France and Turkey to make detailed proposals for a permanent international régime in the area concerned, including recommendations concerning the Holy Places. The commission were asked to request the political authorities in the area to give appropriate formal guarantees as to the protection of the Holy Places and freedom of access to them and to present these undertakings to the General Assembly of the United Nations for approval. The commission is due to report to the General Assembly at its next session in September. The conciliation commission is still negotiating with the Arab and Israeli authorities so that, so far as the United Nations Organisation is concerned, the whole problem is for the moment sub judice.
Before the Government accorded de facto recognition to the State of Israel last February, I asked our representatives both in London and Washington to approach the diplomatic representatives of Israel in those capitals and to acquaint them with the degree of concern felt by the Irish Government as to the future of the Holy Places. The replies of the Israeli representatives in both places were reassuring and justified the hope that, when final details of the peace in Palestine came to be settled, the Government of Israel would agree to the putting of the Holy Places under an international régime affording the guarantee to which Christian feeling throughout the world attaches so much importance. I feel that I may properly take advantage of this occasion to make a special appeal to the Government of Israel on this matter.
We know how cruelly and unjustly the Jewish people have suffered from intolerance and persecution throughout the centuries. I, personally, am glad that the pages of our history have never been stained with anything of the kind. On the contrary, I think we can claim that our common suffering from persecution and certain similarities in the history of the two races create a special bond of sympathy and understanding between the Irish and Jewish peoples. Speaking from that point of view, I venture to make a special appeal to the Government of Israel to meet the just claims of the Christian world for an international régime guaranteeing the safety of the Holy Places and freedom of access to them. I make this appeal in the certain feeling that an act of generous statesmanship by the Israeli Government in this matter will do more than anything else could to bridge the gulf between Christian and Jew which has been responsible throughout the ages for so much hatred and suffering and which we in Ireland can, I think, justly claim to have been more successful in closing than most other Christian countries.
In conjunction with the other economic Departments concerned, a special effort has been made in my Department during the year to expand the outlets for Irish exports abroad by means of trade arrangements and agreements with a foreign countries. Having regard to our participation in the European Recovery Programme, this effort has been particularly directed towards the expansion of our trade with the other participating countries in Western Europe. The results have been encouraging, and justify the hope that, given the necessary effort and enterprise on the part of Irish exporters, outlets can be developed and maintained which should be of great value, especially to our expanding industries.
In addition to the trade agreement with Great Britain signed last July, which has already been discussed in detail by the Dáil, we concluded a trade agreement with France last June and another with the Netherlands in September. Both agreements provided for the supply of certain essential commodities to this country, and for the admission into the countries concerned of specified quantities of Irish industrial and other products. In addition to these two agreements, we had trade discussions with Sweden, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Western Germany and other countries in Western Europe—all with the same purpose of ensuring supplies essential to our economy at the best obtainable prices and of developing outlets for our own goods abroad, particularly the products of our manufacturing industries.
The trade discussions with Sweden resulted in an agreement which was signed about three weeks ago. A new agreement was also entered into with France last week. I hope that an agreement with Western Germany will be signed in the very near future. Although our discussions with some of the other countries I have mentioned did not—and, indeed, were not expected to—result in formal trade agreements, it was possible to make with some of them informal arrangements designed to expand our trade exchanges on a mutually satisfactory basis.
The statistics of our exports to Western Europe reflect the results of these negotiations and agreements. Taking the figures in round thousands, our exports to the Netherlands, which were valued at £26,000 in the first five months of 1939 and £309 in the first five months of 1948, rose to £494,000 in the first five months of this year. Our exports to France, valued at £8,000 in 1939 and valued at £63,000 in 1948, respectively for the first five months, rose to £85,000 in the first five months of this year. Sweden and Italy furnish further examples. Our exports to Sweden, which were only £8,000 in 1939 and £31,000 in the first five months of last year, exceeded £87,000 in the first five months of this year. The corresponding figures for Italy are: £5,000 in 1939, £11,000 last year and £74,000 in 1949 for the first five months. The figures for Spain are £4,000 in 1939, £36,000 in 1948 and £67,000 this year; and for Belgium £27,000 in 1939, £361,000 last year and £387,000 in 1949 for the five-month period in each case.
In other words, the general picture of our trade with the other Western European countries participating in the European Recovery Programme is one of development and expansion. Merely taking the six countries for which I have given specific figures, the expansion during the last year represents a new market of roughly £400,000 for a five-month period, or £1,000,000 in the year.
No doubt, some of these additional exports consisted of cattle and other agricultural products for which we have normally no difficulty in finding a market. But they also included substantial quantities of textiles, plasterboard, industrial abrasives, smoked fish, and many other manufactured and mineral products. The importance of the facilities so gained was that they enabled these products for the first time to enter and gain a footing in markets which had hitherto been closed to them.
I am glad that Irish exporters have already been able to take as much advantage as they have of the new opportunities secured for them in this way. But, of course, the value of these openings must ultimately depend on the Irish exporters themselves. The supply of Irish goods available for export is increasing in range and quantity. I realise that this imposes a responsibility on my Department and the other Departments concerned to ensure that our exporters are not denied the outlets abroad to which they are fairly and justly entitled by the operation of official restrictions. But for the rest the country must depend on the effort and enterprise of the exporters themselves. Given that effort and given that spirit of enterprise, I am confident, on the basis of the experience we have already gained, that, by careful study of the requirements of foreign markets, by close attention to costs and quality, and by business-like methods in dealing with foreign customers, we can ensure the continuance of the tendency which has already established itself in our export trade and consolidate our position in these new foreign markets to the advantage of our whole economy.
As I have already indicated, the work related to European Economic Co-operation has cast a very heavy burden on the Department. The work under this heading falls under three main heads:—
Economic Co-operation in Europe generally—These involve, in the main, the subject matter of the discussions which take place at meetings of the Ministerial Council of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, on which I represent Ireland.
We have played a fairly active part on this council and have, throughout, urged that the function of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation should be to plan production and distribution in Europe so as to avoid many of the economic conflicts which have disrupted European economy. Largely because we are a small country with no axe to grind in the economic field, and with an independent viewpoint, we have been able to be of some service both to the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation and to the concept of economic co-operation. Very often it has been my lot to be critical of the lack of progress made on the broader issues of policy. I have felt throughout that the tendency was to concentrate on the division of American aid and that it overshadowed the real problems which should be examined. Events have, I think, justified the fears which we have so frequently made, publicly and privately, at council meetings.
The second division of this deals with the division of aid and programme. Our economy was not organised for this type of work and it has entailed a heavy burden on the economic Departments and on my Department. Forecasts and projections of our imports and of our economic position have had to be made systematically. Quite apart from the debt of gratitude which we owe to the United States for their co-operation and generous aid, we should be grateful also to them for the mere fact that this economic survey and planning has had to be undertaken. I think that it has made all the Government Departments and the public more conscious of our economic problems. The work in the economic division of my Department has been extremely heavy and I cannot praise too highly the officials who have had to labour untiringly in order to keep pace with the duties cast upon us by the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation.
The third portion of the work relating to economic aid in Europe consists of the realisation of targets. The task of giving effect to the various targets we have set for ourselves falls, of course, principally on the Departments of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce and Finance. We are merely the channel through which the programmes are centralised and co-ordinated.
A detailed statements of our activities in connection with the European Recovery Programme from the 1st April to the end of December, 1948, is contained in the first two progress reports to the Economic Co-operation Administration which are being published in the form of a White Paper, and copies of which are being laid before the Dáil and placed in the Dáil and Seanad Libraries. Our activities for the first quarter of the current calendar year are fully described in the third report to the Economic Co-operation Administration, which is likewise being printed and will also be presented to the Dáil and placed in the Libraries of Leinster House.
In common with all other participating countries, Ireland submitted to the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation last November a long-term programme covering the period 1949-1953. This document was published in the form of a White Paper, which was presented to both Houses of the Oireachtas in December. Its main features and the main conditions necessary for its implementation are set out in the foreword to the published text. Our principal contribution to European recovery is to be made in the field of agriculture. The importance of this contribution is shown by the fact that, on the one hand, agricultural production in the participating countries has been lagging by comparison with industrial production and, on the other, approximately 37 per cent. of the total import expenditure of all participating countries in the year 1948-49 is on agricultural produce alone (i.e., food and feeding stuffs). Production of the most important agricultural products during the current year is much lower than in pre-war years, with the exception of a few items such as potatoes, sugar and fish. It is calculated, however, that even in three years' time, production of most agricultural products in the participating countries will not be sufficient to meet more than the prewar scale of demand (having regard to the increase in population) whereas, if the present level of prosperity is maintained, the effective demand is likely to be considerably higher. Indeed, approximately 40 per cent. of estimated imports by participating countries from all sources in 1952-53 is represented by food and feeding stuffs; and almost one-half of this percentage (approximately £600,000,000 worth) is estimated to be dollar expenditure. Consequently, the more agricultural products Ireland can produce and export to participating countries, the greater will be her contribution to the European Recovery Programme.
I have not dealt with the major world problems in so far as they affect the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, as I think that, if necessary, this will be more appropriately dealt with separately on the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation Vote.
At the risk of extending these introductory remarks unduly, I have to refer briefly to some aspects of the Department's administrative work during the year.
The number of passports issued during the financial year 1948-49 was 15,325, as compared with 14,643 in the previous 12 months. The increase reflects a tendency towards increased travel to the Continent for holiday and other purposes.
Freedom of movement between the countries of Western Europe is, of course, not only an objective but an obligation of the countries participating in the European Recovery Programme, who undertook—in article 8 of the convention signed in Paris last year—to "co-operate in the progressive reduction of obstacles to the free movement of persons". Our practice and policy as regards passports and visa requirements has been determined in the light of our obligations under this article. When I introduced this Estimate last year, we had already concluded reciprocal agreements for the abolition of visas with eight countries of Western Europe —Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. During the year, we added a further visa abolition agreement to this list—that with Iceland. That brings the total of the agreements we have concluded to nine, but Deputies may notice one omission from the list which will be of practical interest and concern to people in this country intending to visit Rome during the Holy Year. I mean, of course, the case of Italy.
We have been in negotiation with the Italian Government for some time with a view to the relaxation of travel restrictions between the two countries. I have had very much in mind, in connection with these negotiations, the fact that there is likely to be a very considerable volume of travel from Ireland to Italy next year and that onerous passport and visa restrictions would inevitably impose a certain amount of inconvenience and expense, not only on members of tours and pilgrimages, but also on those responsible for their organisation. Our conversations with the Italian authorities, therefore, have related, not merely to the abolition of visa requirements between the two countries, but to the recognition of the collective travel certificates which have been found in practice so valuable a facility in the case of pilgrimages and similar organised travel groups. I am glad to inform the Dáil that I have recently heard from the Italian Government that the Italian Government are agreeable in principle to the conclusion of agreements covering both these matters, and I hope to be able to make a further announcement on the matter in the very near future.
There is another country in connection with which I have been giving special consideration to our visa regulations, and that is the United States. As a general rule, visa abolition agreements are reciprocal in character. I can understand, however, that, in view of their settled immigration law and policy, and agreement providing for the total abolition of visa requirements between the two countries would probably not be a practical proposition for the American Government. The principle of reciprocity is not sacrosanct, however, and, to my mind, it is becoming more and more anomalous that, at a time when we are all concerned to increase our dollar earnings and to encourage tourist travel from the United States to that end, we should continue to exact visa fees which operate in effect as a tax deterrent to any American tourist contemplating a visit to this country. No doubt, the abolition of visas or visa fees in respect of American passports would involve a not inconsiderable loss of Exchequer receipts on this Vote, but, taking a larger view, we could reasonably anticipate, I think, that any loss we incurred in that way would be more than offset by the benefits to be derived from an increase in our American tourist trade. I am, therefore, examining our visa regulations in their application to American passports from that point of view, and I hope to be able to make an announcement on the subject in the near future.
Still dealing with the general administrative work of the Department, I might mention briefly that I have also under consideration at the moment, and have had for some time past, a modification of our procedure in connection with the recovery of estates of deceased persons abroad for the benefit of Irish beneficiaries. Considerable sums of money are recovered for claimants in this country by the Department each year, but I am not sure that the procedure which has been followed is not unduly complicated, imposing an unnecessarily heavy burden of work on the Department and the consular officers abroad and involving the performance by them of functions which would be better and more properly performed by lawyers. A scheme to simplify the whole system is now under consideration, and, in connection with this, I am bearing carefully in mind representations on the matter which I have received from the Incorporated Law Society.
From the foreign affairs point of view, this might be called the multilateral age. In the past, international relations were mainly conducted by one Government dealing with another—in other words, by direct dealings between Government and Government on a bilateral basis. Foreign affairs were a simpler matter then than they are to-day. You only had to consider the point of view of one Government at a time, the progress of discussions was not unduly hurried and the limitation of the negotiations to two parties kept the connected documentation down to manageable proportions.
Nowadays international life has become multilateralised. Literally, hundreds of different aspects of international relations have become the particular concern of special international organisations, each of which has its own secretariat, deals with all its members at the same time and on the same footing by means of conferences, commissions and other kinds of meetings, and, for this purpose, prepares and circulates a considerable mass of documentation which has to be examined, analysed and disseminated in the Government Departments of each of the participating countries.
Although the new method has, no doubt, its merits, it has, especially for a country like ours, its disadvantages as well. One of these is the formidable burden of work which the task of keeping up with the activities of these international organisations imposes on the Departments concerned in the participating countries. In our case, the burden does not fall altogether on my Department. We share it, according to the subject matter, with the other Departments concerned. But, whereas each of the other Departments may be concerned with only one or two or three of these foreign organisations, my Department has inevitably to be concerned, in some degree at least, with all of them. During the year we were represented at 28 international conferences. We signed or ratified the same number of treaties or conventions. Every conference we attend, and every agreement we sign, imposes on my Department a new accession of work, varying from the examination and consideration of lengthy reports and draft conventions down to the preparation and execution of the documents, required for the accredition of delegates and the signature and ratification of whatever obligations it is decided to accept. The work involved is not of a kind which attracts public notice or attention, but it represents a material addition to the existing calls on our rather limited staff resources.
I have dealt with most of the different branches of the activities of the Department. There are some aspects, possibly, that I should have dealt with at some greater length, particularly those in relation to the present crisis in the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. However, if Deputies desire further information on any of these matters, I shall be glad to reply to questions in the course of the discussion or to make the information available when replying.