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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 15 Jun 1967

Vol. 229 No. 5

Agriculture (Amendment) Bill, 1967: Report and Final Stages.

Bill received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Unfortunately, there has been a dispute between the Government and certain voluntary organisations for the past eight or ten months. We have pointed out in the past the valuable amount of work these voluntary organisations have done for agriculture here. We pointed out it was based on a firm foundation of co-operation, sitting down around the table, threshing out difficulties. It is impossible to have a firm foundation based on the wrangling, feuding, and fighting, which, unfortunately, we have had for the past nine months. Voluntary organisations such as the NFA, the ICMSA, Muintir na Tuaithe, Macra na Feirme, the Countrywomen's Association and others have done trojan voluntary work over the years. We think they are being provoked in this Bill. There is no denying that the idea of the Bill is to keep those organisations, particularly one organisation, from getting representation on the committees of agriculture. Since there has been no further escalation, even at this late stage we would appeal to the Minister to withdraw this Bill and let everybody in this country get on with the work.

We are facing a difficult period in the history of our country. Next week we start negotiations to enter the EEC. We cannot say that will be a bed of roses for our farmers or for our industrialists. But we can all say that if we are to succeed in the future, be it in agriculture, industry or labour relations, all sections of the community should be pulling together and working in harmony. I hope there is a good prospect now that that may happen. Now that we have a certain amount of peace and we are all hoping there is an end to this unfortunate business, if the Minister proceeds with this Bill, there is a danger again of his throwing petrol on the smouldering embers and starting the fire all over again. Nobody wants to see that happening at the present time. We should appeal—and it is in the best interests of the agricultural community and of the country as a whole—to the Minister, even at this late stage, to withdraw the Bill and not proceed further with it.

I would really love to accede to the request of Deputy L'Estrange, particularly when I know that he either does not believe what he says or has changed his mind and will not admit it because he, as a member of a county committee of agriculture, condemned the 1964 amendment and sought to have it removed some couple of years ago. He is quite entitled of course to change his mind as we have changed our mind. If he has had a change of mind and if he does not now believe what he believed then, there is no harm in saying so.

The idea that this Bill should be withdrawn merely because there has been a dispute with a farmers' organisation does not make a great deal of sense to me. Surely the enactments of this House do not have to depend on whether or not there are rows or have been rows with any organisation? The House passes legislation, and I hope will continue to do so, as it sees fit, regardless of whether or not there are disputes or have been disputes.

Apart from that altogether, I can see no reason whatever why, if the organisation in question or any other organisation has worthwhile persons within its membership to offer to committees of agriculture, such persons cannot be taken on to the committees and give service to the community and to the country. There is no barrier being placed against their being taken in. There is no specific mention in the Bill of any particular organisation. Why it should be felt that one particular organisation is in any way being pinpointed in the Bill is more than I can understand.

The freedom of the new county councils to elect their committees of agriculture is a reversion to what has been the practice down the years and, indeed, to the manner in which the present committees of agriculture were composed, that is, freedom to elect all outsiders, with the exception of one councillor. This is the only obligation that there has been and the only obligation that there will be in future. Surely, this facility and this freedom is all that would be required? Indeed, if the amendment of 1964 is taken, as many measures passed here very often are taken, namely, that when a figure is stated, as there was in that amendment Act, that 50 per cent of the membership must be outsiders, what is stated to be the requirement very often turns out to be the rule whereas in our present situation the figure might go to almost 100 per cent outsiders, if the council so desires. This freedom is there and this freedom will continue.

As to the suggestion about aggravating anybody with this Bill, if people like Deputy L'Estrange see aggravation or provocation in it, I am afraid I cannot help that. The Bill is there. It is simple. It is a reversion to what the position was. I think it is a proper thing and I commend the Bill to the House.

Maybe the Minister would agree, like his predecessor, to forget about it for two years and we do not know what would happen.

To forget about it for two years is to forget about it until the approach of the next local elections, which is said to be five years and might be seven.

And could be ten and might be never.

Question put and agreed to.