I have my own opinion as regards this fund. I have listened to the speeches which have been made on this Estimate during the past few days and the conclusion that I have been driven to is that talk is very cheap. There has been far too much window-dressing. Originally, when this fund came before the House, we were told that money would be made available for the establishment of industries in the Gaeltacht and in the West. I should like to know what has been done in that respect during the past two years with money from this fund. I do not know that anything has been done, and I think it is time to bring this fund to an end. I think that Deputy Dillon, the present Minister for Agriculture, gave it its proper name when he described it at the outset as "a slush fund." There has been political play-acting with it and nothing else. It provides a means of demoralising the people and demoralising political Parties.
I thought myself that, when this Government came into office, the present Minister for Finance would abolish it, and see that if there were any surplus moneys available they would be spent by the different Departments in the normal decent way. If that were done we would not have any of the political play-acting which there has been since this fund was established. The political play-acting was started by those on the other side of the House. I hope that it is not now going to start on this side, because if that were to happen it could be said that one side was as bad as the other. I am satisfied that since this Government is a realist Government we should face up to our responsibilities. We always knew that this fund was a fake. Therefore, I think when this Government came into power they should have abolished the fund and be honest about it. I hope that we are not going to carry the fool a bit farther, now that we are in power.
One thing that strikes me about expenditure out of this fund is that the schemes which have been undertaken have a very small labour content. They are not giving much employment to our people. In my opinion, it would be much better, instead of having this fund, if more money were made available for the Land Commission. There is plenty of work for it to do if it had the money. It could spend up to five or ten million pounds on very useful schemes. There is still a great need for bog development schemes. In my opinion, millions of pounds could be spent on work of that nature as well as on afforestation. We are not getting ahead half quickly enough. Why not spend a million or two on afforestation and cut out the slush fund? The same applies to building. Why not spend a million or two on housing and cut out the slush fund and spend the money through the ordinary Departments?
Again, in the case of the fishing industry we heard a lot about it in the last 20 years but we have seen very little money being spent in the manner in which it should be spent. Another £1,000,000 more could be spent on ports and docks and such things. Why not spend it through the Department and cut out the slush fund? The same applies to harbour development, the money could be spent through the harbour commissioners. But no, it must be all political money spent for political purposes. We are all crying out about the flight from the land, but how much of this fund is going to be spent on the land? It is going to be spent on spectacular schemes that will take people away from the land.
Take any ordinary farmer in this country with a £50 valuation and you will find that he employed one or two labourers in the past, but now he has nobody employed except, perhaps, his own family. We talk about the age of people getting married and about old people who will not give up control. How can they give up control when there is no place for them to go and when no effort is being made to remedy this situation? Is it not a fact that on every holding of 50 or 60 acres we need two homes, one for the old family and one for the new family coming in? We know the old family does not want to give up control because if it did it would have no security, but if this State has a slush fund with plenty of money why not earmark some of this to build a second house on such farm holdings and give the old people a chance to retire to the new house or let the young family move into the new house and the old people stay on where they are. Then the boy or girl getting married could take over the other house.
If we have money available why not do that, and then we would have our aged farmers stepping out of the way with the young farmer coming in and marrying at 21 or 22 and bringing up a family in a businesslike and thrifty way. He would then be content whereas at present he is not content. The unfortunate son who stays at home is 40 or 50 before he has the slightest chance of getting control and getting married and that is the cause of the flight from the land. I believe there should be a second home on such farm holdings so that we can have the two families living in harmony side by side. We do not expect a new couple coming into the house to get on with the old couple in the same kitchen. Human nature does not allow it. Let us give them two kitchens and if we do that, we will be doing something of benefit for this country.
This money should be utilised to the fullest extent on the land, for bog development, afforestation, building, fisheries and repairing of harbours. Cannot this money be spent through the ordinary Departments? And as far as we can, we should get some of the money spent by private enterprise. If we continue as we are going, I can see nothing but demoralisation on every side. Private enterprise will be squeezed dry. Why should anyone do anything when the State steps in and pushes him out of the way to do it for him? Why not let the people spend their own money in their own way? We are taxing them to the extent of £5,000,000 to have this slush fund but why not let the people have this money and spend it themselves?
I believe the make-up of this House is political and no serious, self-sacrificing effort is made by the House to do the honest thing by the people. If such an effort were made, I think you could cut taxation by almost 50 per cent. Instead, year by year we increase taxation and the State must spend this here and that there and let private enterprise do nothing at all. I believe our people could carry a bigger load in their own way if they were let alone. But no, we must play-act here in a big way with public money. I believe we are squeezing private enterprise dry and leaving our people soft and flabby and good for nothing. If we allow the people to spend the money where it is needed in improving their own houses and the position of their own families, we will get better returns.
Talking like that in a materialistic age, is, I suppose, just foolishness or what is called whistling against the wind. I do not believe in any money being easily obtained; I believe it should be got the hard way. This slush fund is only something to dangle before the people. One always knows when an election is coming. Roads are repaired, fishery industries are to be started and bogs are to be opened up. Then you have the election and the road repairs stop; the bogs that were opened close down and the fishery industry never starts. Still the slush fund is there to be talked of year in and year out. I think it is sickening to have this social security, these doles and slush funds and all these things. I think we are leading the people completely astray in this, the grandest little country on God's earth with its good, Christian people. They are being demoralised by this House because that is what I see going on here.
Why not face up to it in a big way, in a manly way, and cut down taxation where you can, and not have those funds lying there? There was £5,000,000 in the Fund last year and I think only £1,500,000 was spent. One thing I do know is that none of it was spent in my county. Why have it lying there idle? Why not leave it in the people's pockets where it would be far better? There is too much spectacular nonsense going on. Take my county—not one penny of this fund ever came to us, or ever will. We were never earmarked for it. What about Meath where, because of floods, we had 23 bridges wiped out and it will cost £30,000 to repair them? We are putting up £30,000 to repair them and we want no slush money from anyone. I wish the people of the country elsewhere would do the same, but they will not. I think in my area we are as poor as any others.
I see migrants who are supposed to come to my country from very poor, primitive areas, and yet when they arrive they are found to be as well off as anyone else. In fact, they seem to come up with big bank accounts and compete with and beat the Westmeath and Dublin men on the markets. Still we have to subsidise them. We in the eastern parts are getting nothing. Take my own area, in Laytown and Bettystown, where there is a grand strand and health resort, and not one penny was ever spent there or ever will be spent because vote-catching money is not needed there. The politicians must get down to the other side of the country where vote-catching is very necessary, or to the City of Dublin where vote-catching is necessary, but along the eastern coast there are only a few votes and the attitude is: We will spend nothing there. We never get a penny.
I hope the present Minister, who appears to be realistic, will close down this fund, and let the money we have be spent through the normal channels. When you start this slush fund you start an executive of officials to work it and you must send them scurrying all over the country and you find after two years there is only £1,500,000 worth of work done. I would like to know what executive staff is required to work this fund and what they have cost? The same thing occurs in the county councils where you have this red-tape, civil service mentality. The attitude seems to be that, when this money is there, you must get a big staff around about it and see what they can do about it. When the thing is wound up there is a lot of scurrying but nothing is done. A lot of money is wasted on pure nonsense.
Is that what we got our freedom for? Are we doing the best thing by the people? I want this slush fund cut out. We struggled for a purpose; we struggled in order to be enabled to allow our people to remain in their own country, and rear their families; we did not struggle so that they might be for export. We are not making the slightest effort to stem this flow from the land. The people are flocking from it. If this slush fund was used on it, it would stop a few gaps. If we do not do something how can we expect our men to marry at 20 or 25? If we wish them to do so, then give them a second house on the holding; at least give them a fair chance of building a second house on that holding. Then when they marry and rear a family you will have the population increasing once more. There is no effort being made to do anything about this problem. If we are in earnest about changing the economy of this country, let us do our duty and cut out the slush fund. Any money we have to spend should be spent through the Departments in the ordinary way, in the interests of the people, so that politics and play-acting may not play any part in the building up of this nation.