This Supplementary Estimate provides additional funds for the repatriation and maintenance of destitute Irish persons abroad. This is an aspect of the problem about which we have spoken and expressed concern for some considerable time. The attitude of the Government has always been that if Irish persons get into financial difficulties in Britain or elsewhere and require assistance the services available at the Embassy there will ensure that they are provided with a passage back to this country. That attitude was criticised on many occasions as being inadequate, unfair and unsuited to the problems which affect a number of Irish persons who get into economic or financial difficulties. The Minister for Labour announced last year at the opening of a new employment exchange that it was proposed to introduce some scheme, the details of which have not yet been published, to provide assistance for Irish emigrants who get into difficulties.
The problem has two aspects: there is the need to provide guidance and information at certain centres for Irish people seeking advice, and the need to provide some means whereby those who become financially embarrassed can be assisted and, to whatever extent possible, rehabilitated. This problem mainly concerns Irish emigrants in Britain. While, no doubt, cases occur of Irish people getting into difficulties elsewhere, most of the people who leave this country for countries other than Britain have arrangements made to find employment or have contacts through which they secure positions either in advance of their emigration or shortly after arriving.
The time has come to review the procedure which has been in operation. It is true that a great many active and well organised voluntary organisations in Britain, many of them Irish associations or organisations in which Irish people play a significant part, provide assistance for and guidance to people seeking such assistance or advice.
However, some form of recognised information and advice or welfare centres should be established in conjunction with the Irish Embassy in the main centres in Britain. Obviously it is beyond our resources to establish welfare centres in all cities, but there are key places such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and London where large numbers of Irish immigrants traditionally go to seek employment, where in many cases they keep in close touch with each other. It is mainly in the places I have mentioned that the particular problems occur and that is where such centres should be established. This type of assistance should, of course, be associated with the voluntary organisations which already work there and which, as I say, have given very considerable help and, indeed, material assistance in one form or another to Irish people needing it.
The other problem which has been discussed here is the lack of any form of control on young persons going to Britain. The most serious aspect of the whole question is: The moral and other dangers and personal risks of all kinds that confront young persons going to Britain without any family connections, in many cases without adequate guidance from parents or guardians, who, merely on a contact, possibly a friend or some other contact, travel to completely new environments where conditions are entirely different from what they are used to. I do not want to labour or exaggerate the gravity of this situation, but it is serious. Most Deputies who have been dealing with this problem and those religious and social groups who have been devoting their time to this work in Britain have all adverted to and expressed concern about this particular problem. This is a problem the solution of which must involve some form of control. Because of the administrative difficulties involved and because of a reluctance to impose control, Departments and, for that matter, Governments have shied away from tackling the problem.
Once people reach a certain age, or are beyond what is normally regarded as the age of total dependence, then obviously neither the State nor any institution can provide safeguards other than those which their own experience or the experience of others makes it possible for them to operate. There is considerable evidence that many children or 15 or 16 years of age, and even younger, emigrate to Britain annually. Estimates have put the proportion of our young people who emigrate at that age and who become social and moral problems at a very high figure indeed. I am sure there would be general agreement to operate some system of control even if that involved the issuing of permits or certificates of some sort to the effect that these young people in that particular age group have either their parents' or guardians' consent to go or are going to some suitable and safe home or hostel under the control of a reputable organisation or, in the case of a household, family or person, that that household, family or person has the approval of the parents or guardians. There is, of course, the possibility that this system of control would be abused. It is a fact that it would not be 100 per cent effective, but that is no reason why such a system should not be introduced.
The other aspect of this matter is the making available as widely as possible of detailed information based on economic and social conditions in particular centres in Britain. The information service of the Department does supply worthwhile information and facts about certain matters, but much more detailed information is required. Emphasis should be laid on the acute problem of accommodation in the large centres of population in Britain. The shortage of accommodation has long caused concern to the voluntary organisations. It has been the subject of comment, oral and written, over a lengthy period. If advice were provided about the prospects of particular types of employment, the accommodation available or the difficulties in securing suitable accommodation, that would naturally be of great assistance to prospective emigrants.
I think that one of the reasons why nothing on these lines was done in the past was that there was a recognition, or approval, of emigration. Irrespective of how we may feel, as individuals, about emigration, emigration is a social and economic fact. Emigration will continue. It is, as I say, a social and economic fact and, as such, it should be faced. We have an obligation to do as much as is humanly possible to help our emigrants. It is not possible, of course, to provide for every contingency and for particular cases. The kernel to the problem lies in the danger of young persons emigrating without their parents' or guardians' consent and without adequate information about conditions in particular centres in which they are at the mercy of social and economic conditions totally differend from those to which they have been accustomed and in an environment which is alien to their normal experience. There is, therefore, a vital necessity to supply facts about housing, employment and conditions generally.
The manpower section which the Department of Labour is in process of organising is, of course, vitally interested in and concerned with this problem. Its success will depend not merely on the availability of employment but also on the adequate training, or retraining, of Irish emigrants who are anxious to return home if suitable vacancies occur. It was with considerable interest that I read the statement of the Minister for Labour at the time. Like many others, I am disappointed that so little has been done in the interval. So far as one knows, no actual steps have been taken to date to implement that proposal. If the Irish Embassy in London and the various offices I suggest compiled information then it should be possible for the manpower section of the Department of Labour to have available for Irish emigrants in Britain details of vacancies here and information about prospects to facilitate not merely their return but also their retraining where that might be either advisable or necessary.
This is a Supplementary Estimate and one is therefore confined to some extent in regard to matters relating to general policy. One of the criticisms made about the foreign service generally is the fact that information on trading conditions is not sufficiently widely disseminated or given to organisations and firms here which are anxious to have that information. Part of this problem is bound up with the activities of CTT and, indeed, is intimately concerned in many ways also with the work of Bord Fáilte. In many ways it appears to me that, with the increase in the activities of Bord Fáilte, and the development of the services provided by CTT in respect of trade and commerce, and the extension of CTT into areas other than the dollar area to which they were originally confined, the services which the Department provided in a number of cases either no longer exist or are being covered by three separate bodies: in respect of tourism and all it connotes by Bord Fáilte; in respect of trade by CTT; and in respect generally of information as well as trade by the Department of External Affairs.
The need to co-ordinate effectively the areas of operation of these different national agencies should be examined with a view to seeing where they impinge on each other, and to what extent the services overlap. In a number of cases the offices abroad of Bord Fáilte and CTT and the staffs are in the same building. Of course, the embassies and legations are separate. The need to make the maximum possible use of the resources which are available involves some system of coordination and co-operation. It may be that some of the criticism which is expressed from time to time against one or other of these agencies, is because the persons using them and persons seeking information or assistance find that they have applied to one when in fact they should have sought the assistance of the other.
When trade loomed as a major question after the war, during the period of the inter-Party Government, at one time we concentrated on advising our embassies to exert to the maximum extent the effects which the staff of the embassies could make in respect of trade and the development of trade, and in giving the advice and information which was sought by exporters and traders here as well as in channelling on to persons abroad information which they sought about trade prospects here.
Since then CTT has developed and, although in a number of cases we have trade attachés or officials assigned to specific duty on trading matters—this applies particularly in certain embassies—there has been a substantial development of the facilities and services provided by CTT. Here again it seems to me that the need is to co-ordinate the services and get the maximum benefit out of the limited, taken as a whole, number of staff and, at the same time, to use to the maximum advantage the fact that we now have a different type of set-up from that which we had ten or 15 years ago.
The other aspect of the information services to which I want to refer this morning, is the question of making known our attitude on particular problems. Over a long period we have raised the matter of assistance to people affected by the war in Nigeria and Biafra. There is, no doubt, widespread national concern because of the large number of Irish missionaries, Irish teachers and Irish lay people who have given most valuable services in places like that, and in the area where there is continued fighting. It is outside the province of this debate this morning to discuss this matter at any length, but I feel one of the matters that have caused concern to many people here is the apparent inability to do much to resolve this problem. Of course this is a very complex question. As has been stated in the course of discussions here and elsewhere, there are many hands operating to stir up trouble and to continue to stir up trouble there.