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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 11 Jun 1975

Vol. 282 No. 1

Private Members' Business. - Footwear Industry: Motion (resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Dáil Éireann notes with deep concern the serious decline in the footwear industry with consequent heavy unemployment, and calls on the Government to take immediate steps to halt the decline and to get the industry going again.
—(Deputy Faulkner.)

Deputy Connolly has two minutes left.

I beg your pardon; how many minutes?

I thought it was a 30-minutes——

30 minutes, Yes. The Deputy has already used 28 minutes of the time.

Just to wind up, I must say that the contents of a letter I received today from the Minister's Department show no great relief for the footwear industry and the outlook is very bleak. It was only in December last that his Department made any effort at all to counteract the countries that were dumping in cheap footwear into this country. That was as a result of constant pressure from this side of the House. We impressed upon the Government that this would have to be counteracted and, if not, a very serious situation would arise. It has now come to a doomsday situation as far as the shoe factories are concerned.

I regret to have to say it is a very serious situation and if something is not done immediately, then I can see nothing but collapse for the whole shoe industry in the country.

I want to direct the attention of the House to the very serious situation that arises in the constituency I represent in relation to the boot and shoe industry and the textile industry. Traditionally, my constituency has been associated with textile manufacture for very many years and I want to refer to the very serious position which exists in Tullamore where the only worthwhile industry, textiles, now finds itself in the most serious situation since it was established.

On a point of order, I think Deputy Flanagan may not understand—it is a footwear motion we are on, not the textile motion.

Before I was interrupted, I was endeavouring to point out that the town of Tullamore finds itself in this very serious situation in relation to the textile industry. I would make a very genuine appeal to the Minister to take some action in regard to imports.

In relation to the footwear industry, which is of equally serious consequence to the town of Edenderry as the textile industry is to Tullamore, we find, that due to imports, the shoe industry there is in its most serious situation since it was established. I can recall many years ago when there was a thriving footwear industry in Birr. That has disappeared. It disappeared during the administration of Fianna Fáil. It is right that this should go on record. While the footwear industry disappeared completely and entirely in Birr, due to the inactivity of Fianna Fáil, we now find the Fianna Fáil Party making pleas to the Minister to take the very steps in relation to Edenderry which they failed to take in relation to Birr some years ago.

Nevertheless, there is a practical side to this. Politics ought not to be played when it comes to the livelihood of so many workers. In a town such as Edenderry where the shoe industry has been part and parcel of the life of the town, where the workers are traditionally skilled in the production of first-class footwear efforts should be made to safeguard the employment of these workers. It is hardly necessary to direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that many of these workers who are now faced with unemployment and redundancy and many of them who have lost their jobs are at an age at which it is impossible to have them trained for any alternative employment. The desire of every public representative is to see all industries thriving. There is a duty on all Governments within the EEC to take the necessary steps to protect as a sound national investment the industries which we have.

In relation to the footwear industry, some practical steps must be taken to curb the imports of footwear. We have a duty to protect the jobs of our own people and to keep an industry which is making a very worthwhile contribution to the local economy in an area like Edenderry and the other areas where the position of the footwear industry is causing great concern. I am deeply alarmed by the situation that exists in relation to the industry in Edenderry. I would highly recommend the proposals made by the trade unions representing the workers in the footwear industry. We cannot remain idle, despite our obligations to the EEC, while our own workers, in a worthwhile industry such as the footwear industry, are facing redundancy.

Our leather industry is closely linked with agriculture from the point of view of the raw material, the hides. I have every confidence that the Minister for Industry and Commerce will, at the earliest possible date—if he has not already done so—consult with all the EEC clients and explain clearly and emphatically the case in regard to our boot and shoe industry. We all want this industry safeguarded and protected. While you have imports of cheap foreign footwear these are likely to cause further and serious unemployment among those engaged in the footwear industry.

It is not outside the bounds of possibility that as a result of proper negotiations and making our position clear, the whole situation could be improved. We must stress the value of an important industry in an area in which there may be no alternative employment. We must also realise the necessity to keep active, alive and intact a worthwhile native industry. As I have said, it has connections with the tanneries, with securing and saving hides and it is of vital importance that we should make a serious effort to make the footwear industry secure so that those employed in it will not have the threat of redundancy hanging over them.

Furthermore, those people who have invested their money in the boot and shoe industry and who are shareholders of various types are entitled to look for some hope of security.

The serious plight of those engaged in the industry in Edenderry and in other parts of this country has been pointed out and I want to assure the Minister that the case that has been made by the trade union representing the workers and by the boot and shoe manufacturers has not been exaggerated. We realise that since we are part of the EEC there may be many difficulties preventing the Minister from taking the steps that he would like to take in order to protect an Irish industry, but we must make crystal clear to our colleagues in the Community that concessions must be given. If concessions are given there is an obligation on us to protect the jobs of our own people, to protect the money that has been invested by the shareholders in the footwear industry, which has served this country nobly and well since it was originally established. The Minister is as interested as any of us in this House in this matter.

I have every confidence that he will take the necessary steps to see that the jobs of those engaged in the industry will be safeguarded and that he will not allow factories to close down completely as a result of permitting the free entry of foreign footwear, not alone from EEC countries but from outside them. These imports are causing considerable inconvenience and disturbance and putting inferior goods on the market. Our footwear industry has gained world-wide recognition and can certainly boast of putting on the world market an article of which Irish industry in general can be rightly proud.

I ask the Minister to note my concern because I realise the circumstances of the workers of Edenderry. I share the sentiments that have already been expressed by other Deputies in relation to this matter. It is a matter in which there is no room for playing politics: you cannot play politics when the jobs of our people are at stake. This is a time when we should all cooperate, all join together and if there is any assistance or co-operation which we can give the Minister it should and must be given to him in order to strengthen his hand abroad that he may obtain the approval of the other EEC member States for any action he may take to safeguard the footwear industry. Unless some steps are taken by the Government the future is bleak not alone for the workers who are employed in it but also for the shareholders who have invested their money in the industry and also for those connected with the tanneries and the sale of oils in this country.

I am very discouraged and perturbed about this situation. That is why I am adding my voice on this motion. I have every confidence in the Minister's ability to make it very clear that it is our duty to protect our native footwear industry and that all we can do will be done to safeguard jobs and to endeavour to bring back into productive employment those who have already lost their jobs in that industry. I fail to understand why, when we have such an excellent home market, the footwear industry should have been sabotaged by the import of inferior footwear from countries outside the EEC. We cannot close our eyes to these facts: action must be taken and the sooner the better for all concerned.

Lastly, may I appeal to the Minister to solicit the co-operation of trade unions and those primarily interested in and concerned with the advancement and the promotion of Irish industry in encouraging our own people in so far as is possible to buy Irish and leave the foreign articles on the shelves. It is our duty to do that. I feel that the Buy Irish campaign has not caught on. Why, I do not know. Perhaps it requires to be brought more forcibly home to our people or perhaps we have lost pride in what our own workers can do.

I ask the Minister to renew his efforts in regard to the campaign for the promotion of Irish footwear. The jobs of our people are at stake and due to these imports the trade is in a very precarious position. Nobody wants to see factories close because of the serious loss of employment for so many people.

I ask the Minister to interest himself actively in this matter and to see whether there are any further ways in which action can be taken to restrict imports or if he can impose a high rate of levy on such imports. Something will have to be done and the sooner it is done the more secure will be the workers in the footwear industry. There will be scope for further investment in industry by people who desire to invest money in such a project.

In speaking in support of this motion my mind goes back a little over six months when we debated a similar motion. On that occasion the motion read: "That Dáil Éireann deplores the failure of the Government to protect the footwear industry in this country." Prior to and during the course of the debate on that occasion we got the impression that the Minister was not aware of the serious consequences which beset the footwear industry. In the course of his replies to questions he stated that he had arranged for a task force to come here from the EEC to examine the footwear industry. At that time we understood that it was going to be dealt with as a matter of urgency but we find, six months later, that instead of an improvement in the situation it has deteriorated considerably. In no area has the impact been felt so much as in the area which I represent, and particularly in Carrickmacross. We are very, very concerned about the plight of the industry there. We had a factory which employed more than 200 people; distress signals were flying six months ago and a couple of weeks ago the crunch came and the factory has now gone out of production.

When we in the northern part of County Monaghan thought of Carrickmacross we always considered it a part of our county in which there was ample employment, and for many years there was full employment. When the late President, as Minister for Health, came to visit his constituency to speak at functions or at Comhairle Ceanntair, we always impressed on him the necessity for the establishment of additional factories. It was his proud boast on many occasions that there was not one employable person on the dole in Carrickmacross. There was also work available for women who wished to obtain employment. In fact, we had not got enough workers for all the work that was available so we had mini-buses and coaches transporting women into the factories at 4 o'clock to work until 10 o'clock.

When we look at the picture at present, on Friday, 30th May, the number of people registered as unemployed in Carrickmacross was more than 500. This is the change which has taken place in a short time in the north eastern part of the country. At one time there were some 900 people in industrial employment in the Carrickmacross area and advance projections were for an additional 200 jobs. This, of course, has not materialised and we now have the situation where there are 500 people signing up in a small town with a population of 2,000. That is a sad reflection on any Government; it is a sad reflection on any Minister for Industry and Commerce.

Deputies representing the area joined with others interested in endeavouring to right the situation. I would ask the Minister not alone to give assistance and to impress on the IDA the urgency of getting those footwear factories reopened, but also to fufil the promise to start up additional industries. We were promised a factory of 10,000 square feet, but a factory of this size would not be large enough to absorb all the unemployed. This should be treated as a matter of extreme urgency.

Government speakers are giving the impression that there is no hope for the footwear industry nor, indeed, for other small industries. If there is no hope, it is because of the Government's failure to take the necessary action. There is evidence that small industries in the North are coping better with inflation than are the larger industries. The chief executive officer of the local development association in Northern Ireland stated quite clearly in a letter a few days ago that the smaller companies there are better able to cope with the present economic situation than the larger ones. When one keeps in mind the particular problems of Northern Ireland arising from the troubles during the past four or five years, it can be realised what a severe test they were for industry. The chief executive officer says that the small companies have flexibility and effectiveness which give them a better chance of survival.

Last night here the Parliamentary Secretary referred to the fact that at various times in the past many people had warned of the dangers from free trade competition that were facing the footwear industry. It was known that most industries would have difficulties. Our industries always have problems. They have faced many difficulties since they were set up in the thirties by the late Seán Lemass. Dealing with problems is a normal part of industrial life, but problems should be dealt with by the Government. It is their function to meet these problems. If the Government are not equal to the task of attending to those problems, the natural thing is for them to move over and let those who solved problems before, those who had the capabilities and who have the capabilities yet, handle the industrial problems. The Parliamentary Secretary last night went back to the early sixties relating the troubles that would beset the footwear industry. He gave statistics. In 1973 when the Coalition Government took office our exports of footwear were in the region of three million pairs. It has been reduced by 50 per cent since that.

He asked us to clarify our intentions as to whether we would break the rules. He threw the challenge over to us last night. I should like to say to him that Italy at the time they broke the rules had an inflation rate of 24 per cent. Now their rate of inflation is considerably reduced while we have climbed to the top of the inflationary league table. He said that about 76 per cent of the footwear was coming from the UK. When challenged on this he said it was coming in by the back door, that it was production from countries outside the EEC. It is the responsibility of the Minister to ensure that our markets are not lost and that our workers do not suffer by the imports to this country via England from countries outside the EEC.

Twelve months ago the Minister had been pressed to take action on this matter. At that time he claimed, and I suppose he will claim again here tonight, that it was in Brussels and the EEC that the problem originated. He rejected the suggestion of a restriction on the importation of cheap footwear from countries outside the EEC and said that it would be a bad thing to take unilateral action or to look for special conditions for our footwear industry. Those are the words the Minister used on the last occasion, although England, France, Germany and Italy have all taken unilateral action.

I want for the record to say that that is not true.

Why was it considered necessary in their case? They broke the regulations or if they did not break them they bent them sufficiently for their own needs.

That is not true.

The Minister for Finance some time ago did not balk at twisting the regulations regarding the EEC Regional Fund or that seemed to be his intention. This would indicate that other members of the Government may feel like giving this twist to a regulation when it would suit them to do so.

We had a great deal of talk here last night by Government spokesmen about rationalisation of the industry and the failure to adapt in time to the EEC conditions. The truth is that it is not EEC produced footwear that is creating the greatest problem for this industry. That is accepted. It is cheap footwear from countries outside the EEC. I am not satisfied and I think very few people in the constituency that I represent are satisfied that a sufficiently strong case has been made in Brussels for the protection of the footwear industry. The footwear industry does not object to competition. There seemed to be an implication or a hint by Government speakers that the industry did object to competition. The industry has been meeting keen competition on the home market and it has been selling abroad against stern competition for a long time.

There is another charge that I would reject very clearly, that is, that the workers in this industry are not competent and capable. While Government speakers have stopped short of putting the blame for the state of the industry on the workers, the inference is there in their speeches. I claim that they are competent, capable workers. In many cases there is a family tradition of working in the industry.

What do we get from the Government when we point out the obvious that not alone have some footwear factories closed, the remainder on part-time, but that the industry is in danger of disappearing completely? All we are getting from the Government are sympathetic sounds, nothing concrete and nothing definite, to help the industry over this period. It has been asserted by people in the business that before long, probably within 12 months, many of the ills and problems now besetting the industry could very well have disappeared because of the total disappearance of the industry. In that case we would be at the mercy of foreign producers. We would find that people would have to pay much more for their footwear than they do now.

The Parliamentary Secretary dwelt all the time on the sixties and seventies, on what should have been done when Fianna Fáil were in power. The footwear industry has to meet new challenges. There are new trends in design. The Minister is naïve if he thinks that anyone will believe that if there was a problem in the industry in 1960 it did not surface until 1975.

It was apparent and the Deputy's party did not do very much about it.

How many factories closed?

The speakers on the Government side seem to be in a desparate scramble to avoid blame for the death of this industry. They do not worry whether it dies or not but they would not like to be made responsible for the death at the inquest. They would now like, as they did last night, to try to channel the blame to a party who were aware of the position, who took steps to foster industry, who under the leadership of Seán Lemass ensured that we were fast becoming one of the greatest industrialised small nations in this part of the globe. The blame must certainly lie with the present Government for their failure to tackle this problem 12 months ago when the signs became first apparent.

Not only is there that sad situation in Carrickmacross but I do not think Monaghan is getting a fair share of the cake from the IDA at this time. I have made this case for Monaghan regarding industrialisation on a number of occasions. I made it when the IDA representative was present at a meeting of Monaghan County Council and no serious attempt was made on that occasion to refute the facts that I listed. I would say now to the Minister that we will have to have immediate action if the footwear industry is not to collapse completely.

The Minister will probably say that we are making a case for the survival of an industry and for aids to an industry without putting forward an alternative. I think that an alternative and recommendations for the salvaging and alleviation of the footwear industry were put forward. The unions who put forward those recommendations felt that they did not get the sympathetic consideration which they deserved. They were listed on a previous occasion.

The managers or owners of factories in the shoe industry claim that a lot of the problems they are facing have been due to the increasing costs and enormous overheads which they have had to meet over the past number of years. A number of those overheads were because of lack of action or by the Government allowing those massive increases in the ESB and CIE charges, in postal charges and insurance—in many cases it was 40 and 50 per cent of an increase. That is what the men who over the past number of years have been endeavouring to keep the industry going had to contend with.

There was no genuine effort made to implement the recommendations that were submitted to the Minister, that all imports of footwear from outside the EEC should be curtailed. There is still this flow of footwear from England. The second recommendation in the submission was that imports from inside the EEC countries should be in line with exports from Ireland in the preceding year. In the context of 1975 we would expect that the year 1973 would be taken, in which there were 3.1 million pairs, or 35 per cent of the total Irish market. The people in a position to know claim that had the Minister been able to ensure that this export market in the region of 3.1 million had been kept at their disposal they would not face the problems that beset them at present.

The journal Business and Finance referred to the Minister's speech in the Dáil where he referred to inefficiency in both the ESB and CIE. He is quoted as saying that one must ask in the event of over-manning whether one wishes that there be a reduction in the labour force at this time. He said he did not think the Opposition wanted that because if there is any reduction in the manning level, extra charges will be put on social payments because people will be out of work. He said that if one situation is balanced against the other it can be seen that it is cheaper to maintain people in employment in these circumstances.

I would ask the Minister in the context of that statement to make an effort to salvage not alone a third of the jobs in Carrickmacross but to salvage 100 per cent of the jobs. The feeling in that area at present is that a slip was made, that there were grants available to set up training factories. It was availed of by the firm of Armagh Shoes. I believe that some of the employees in the Carrickmacross area may be seeking employment there. There were substantial EEC grants available for setting up factories on a short-term basis at least as training factories, and it is felt that even at this late hour he should look into that matter to see if there is any possibility of assistance being got from the EEC to set up a training factory in Carrickmacross.

Mention was made by a previous speaker regarding the amount of hides. We seem to be in a very advantageous position in this regard but we do not seem to be making any use at all of this raw product which is essential to the footwear industry.

On 10th December, 1974, I put down a question to the Taoiseach about the amount of hides that were processed here and the amount of hides which were exported unprocessed. His answer on that occasion was that the raw hides salted and dried comprised 14,238,000 kilos, pickled or limed hides 194,901 kilos and leather 5,372,913 kilos. That was happening in a time when we were exporting about two-thirds of the raw hides being sorted and dried. In a time when we had tanneries lying idle in Monaghan, when we had another tannery in need of development, not alone from the point of view of floor area but also from the point of view of equipment at that particular time we had those hides being exported and, in many instances, the leather was being reimported later. That is one matter I would ask the Minister, in the light of the serious employment position at the moment, to take into account and ensure that raw hides are not exported but are treated here at home and converted into leather.

Time is now up.

Have I 35 minutes, a Cheann Comhairle?

The mover of the motion, or someone whom he nominates, will conclude at a quarter past seven. The Minister has up to a quarter past.

I intend to try to put the situation, serious as it is, into context because I understand, I think, the desperate plight of the people unemployed in the footwear industry. I understand it also from the point of view of an Opposition and, while it provides an admirable opportunity for thumping the Government, there is a danger of doing damage by exaggerating the actual situation. He is here to hear me say it, and I want to quote chapter and verse; Deputy Connolly last night fell into that because the danger is that one creates such a state of despondency in the industry itself that there is a drying up of investment and a drying up of confidence which can be desperately damaging.

He said, for example, that imports were accounting for 70 per cent of the home market. I have to tell the Deputy seriously that—it is not my figure; it is a Departmental figure— his figure is much too high but imports have grown much too rapidly. I accept that, but my figure is less than 60 per cent; it is 57.3 per cent in fact. That is one example. Let me give a second example from the same speaker on the matter of employment. I am not trying to minimise the seriousness of the situation but I want to try to put these figures to which Deputy O'Malley made some reference a minute ago, into context because we had a progressive development of free trade. In 1969 there were 6,161 people in employment in footwear and by 1973 that number was down to 4,900. The drop had been of the order of 1,200 people. The drop from 1973 to now is less than that. Deputy Connolly said there were 6,000 in 1973 and 3,000 now; he suggested a halving in those years. The figures I have—they are not mine; they are official figures—show that there were 4,900 then and there are a little over 4,000 now. I know that some of those are on short time but, nonetheless, that indicates that employment in the industry did not halve. It fell from 4,900 to 4,000, which is much less than the Deputy suggested. My purpose is not to try to minimise the difficulty but to try to put into context the real situation. If Deputy Leonard says anybody on this side is suggesting there was no future for small industries, or for the footwear industry, I do not think that that suggestion was made and Deputy Leonard should not put words into our mouths. Nobody on this side of the House ever expressed that opinion. It seems to me a false and dangerous opinion.

In regard to the immediate prospects of the industry too, there is danger. Very briefly I want to quote from the April issue of the monthly industrial survey of the Confederation of Irish Industry. This is the reply of businessmen about their own businesses. They may not be hard statistics but they are a very useful guide to attitude. But the months of production ensured in the leather and footwear industry there was .4 months in February, .8 months in March, 1.1 months in April. I believe there has been a subsequent deterioration in that trend which was almost three times as much time and production ensured in April as in February, but I am suggesting that over those three months there was actually a little bit of improvement. I do not want to overestimate that but let us, please, on both sides try to put the thing into context.

I want now to turn to a speech that contained many errors. It was a serious speech by Deputy Faulkner. I do not have the Official Report but I have the transcript in unfinalised form from the Editor's office. I want to refer to it but the quotations will not be from the Official Report and so I cannot give a volume or a column number. I shall be referring to a number of things he said because there are very profound and fundamental misapprehensions of quite a serious kind. Whether generally held or not, it is still damaging to have them bruited abroad. I quote:

The Minister is apparently satisfied that his only contribution to the help of this industry is to say that the EEC rules are there and he can do nothing.

That is a travesty of my belief and it is a travesty of what I ever said about the industry. I want very briefly, indicating concern, to try to outline the range of activities. I will come back to this business of the articles of the Rome Treaty and of our Accession Treaty later on, but now let us try to give some sort of indication of the scale of action and the scale of concern.

I want to talk about the matter of grants and to say, by way of a reply to Deputy Leonard again, though I am not at the moment going to deal with his speech, that there is no limit to the grants available to the industry from the IDA. There is no limit to the training grants. They have to be applied for by viable entities. But we have put no limit and the whole finances of the IDA and AnCO and all the rest of them are there to help the industry with viable enterprise. I want to put that on the record. In fact, the adaptation grants outstanding at this time are almost £¼ million, re-equipment grants from the IDA. These are not grants for new industry but to help existing industries. Adaptation grants outstanding are almost a £¼ million. Re-equipment grants are fractionally under £½ million and that does not include another category of grant that I will talk about later.

In regard to loans, there are, of course, substantial loans from Fóir Teoranta also but I simply mention these as an indication of the scale. The loans for existing trading firms are more than £½ million, £600,000 from Fóir Teoranta out at the moment. People may think that is not enormous, but it relates to an industry giving employment to just on 4,000 people. There are, therefore, substantial commitments of public money. I simply put that on the record as an indication of concern and commitment. Other things are available. There is IDA, SFADCo and so on; there are those services and grants and loans and Fóir Teoranta moneys. There is the very profound and admirable effort all over the world of Córas Tráchtála continuously available to generate exports at a time when one half of the difficulty is that demand in the markets that we export to is shrinking very rapidly. There is a magnificent effort and, of course, I want to reiterate, that is available to the footwear industry and is being utilised by the footwear industry, not with as good results as we would wish but certainly with some results. That is on the effort.

The commitment of money and personnel to CTT is greater than it has ever been. In the matter of footwear, of course, the whole business of design is extremely important, and mention has been made of the design quality. We are in an area here where things change very quickly, where there is an extremely labile movement of fashion and where, in practice, small units have great difficulty in anticipating changes. I am not commenting on quality. The quality is very good but to keep up with the latest moment of fashion is very difficult.

There is a subsidised design facility available through Córas Tráchtála and the Footwear Fashion Institute. I do not want to dwell on this. I just want to indicate that it is there and it is a commitment. In the National Productivity Committee there is a confidential evaluation service, which is offered to small businesses on a confidential basis, which is a management advice service to enable them to try to identify their difficulties and to overcome them. If that identifies a weakness there is the technical assistance grant which is 50 per cent of the cost of a consultancy, aimed at improving financial management, marketing, design, productivity and all of the other aspects. This is a continuing service.

I want to say a word about the surveillance mechanism. There are two parts to this, one of which is the mechanism operated by the Revenue Commissioners. Companies have to obey the rules formally, but the Revenue Commissioners have been doing an extremely meticulous job since it was requested of them, in verifying documents, seeing the necessary documentation is scrutinised, is provided and is in order. In addition, we have now the introduction of the surveillance system, which was not introduced as quickly as I would have wished, but it did have to have the approval of the commission. We have now implemented it and the goods subject to surveillance may only be imported on an import document. The import document must be made on the appropriate form. The application must be made in respect of each consignment proposed to be imported. A separate import document is required for each consignment. The appropriate invoice and certificate of origin in respect of each consignment must be produced with the application. At the introduction of the scheme there will be a mechanism to avoid disruption. Import documents will be issued automatically to correspond with the application form unless there is a reason for doubting the honesty and accuracy of it. This is a surveillance mechanism as rigorous as any that exists in the Community.

I will come back a little later on to articles numbered by various Deputies and I hope I will give them their right numbers when I come to them.

Deputies may believe me or not, but I am solemnly putting this on the record of the House after careful checking and careful scrutiny. Last night Deputy Faulkner said that the simple facts are that not one of the EEC countries adhere strictly to the rules when their own vital interests were at stake. I want to say, formally for the record of the House, that there is no example of a member of the Community breaking the rules for more than a matter literally of days or a very small number of weeks before instant retaliation has taken place and the matter has been resolved. There is no instance where the rules were broken and that party was unpursued by the authorities of the Community and left with that situation continuing. There is no instance of it.

We may talk briefly of what the Italians did. The Italians introduced an import deposit scheme but they did it invoking Article 109, which deals with the balance of payments crisis and they were entirely within the rules. The French tried to do something recently about wine and the book was thrown at them. They undid it, again within a matter of days. I repeat that that statement, widely repeated and widely believed, is simply not true. If Deputies do not believe me they can go to other sources of information which they may think less biased than I am. I have found that the rules are not by-passed and ignored by the member states. They are very rigorously upheld. This is simply a matter of fact.

Deputy Faulkner came back to the matter of Italy and talked about Roy Hattersley, and he said that Italy was not pressed for the full implementation of the regulations. In invoking Article 109 in a balance of payments crisis Italy was within the rules of the Community. Why do we not adopt a similar attitude to that adopted by Italy? I quote from this unrevised text. Because we do not have a balance of payments crisis. I hope the Deputies on the other side of the House are not suggesting that we have. If they want to make that suggestion, or want to suggest that we pretend that we have a balance of payments crisis for the sake of invoking Article 109, I hope they will ponder on the repercussions of that on the economic health, and on employment.

The Taoiseach said we have a very serious one.

We have a very serious economic situation. A deficit of £300 million is a serious situation.

Order. The Minister's time is very limited. He is obliged to conclude at 7.15. Let us hear him out.

I want also to mention the suggestion last night in regard to the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement, and I am quoting: "The British did not like the re-imposition of the quotas, and they told us so, but the industry got from the decision the boost it needed". Any fairminded person reading or hearing that sentence could only conclude that the re-imposition of the quotas by Ireland at that time was unilateral against the wishes of the British. I want to say for the record that that interpretation of what Deputy Faulkner said is not true. It was done with the agreement of the British after discussion. That is a matter for the record.

Mention was made of our dumping laws and it was said that they needed further scrutiny. We are operating under dumping laws—I am not criticising them; I am just putting it before the House—introduced and passed by our predecessors. I would say, in praise of them, that they went to the limit, in drafting and framing these laws, of what was possible in the light of our international commitments under GATT. Every country would like to fiddle the dumping laws to protect its own industries, their international guidelines and international rules. We have to obey them under GATT and we now have further commitments. Our predecessors in Government went to the limit in their anti-dumping legislation of what was permissible under our international agreements. I praise them for it. Those are the laws that I am trying to operate and I cannot make them any stiffer within the guidelines of the international game in this matter. I am operating them to the full. It is not a matter of unilaterally making them tougher. We are operating under what was a reasonable piece of legislation which we cannot make any harder.

There was a quotation, again from the French Premier, suggesting that something remarkable was being done by the French, but the French are doing exactly what we are doing in this context. What did the French Prime Minister do? First, he affirmed the important role of the textile industry. We have no quarrel about that. He then said that the French Government would press the EEC to conclude a bilateral agreement. What do you think every country in the Community has been doing? We have given the right to conclude agreements with third countries from the individual members to the Commission and they guard that right very carefully. Individual member states cannot conclude agreements with third countries. I say that as a matter of fact. If the Deputy does not believe me, if he thinks we can make direct approaches to these countries, will he please verify the facts? He then urges them to get on with it. Everyone has been urging them on, in their agreement with Taiwan, in their agreement with Hong Kong, in their agreement with South Korea. We got an intervention because we thought the agreement with South Korea was going to take too long. We got a special arrangement for Ireland. Of course, he can urge them to get on and make this bilateral arrangement that will help us all. We can concur. I can say "Hear, hear" to the French Prime Minister. It does not matter a bit. He said—I am quoting Deputy Faulkner again—"what prevents us from adopting a similar attitude to the French in relation to our footwear and textile products?" We have a similar attitude to the French. The French are not doing things in this difficulty and neither are any of the other member states. They are not doing things that we are doing.

I should like to refer to the Articles of the Treaty of Rome and of our Accession Treaty. In Article 108 of the Rome Treaty, if people read the opening sentence of it, they will see that it is inappropriate to the circumstances we are in. The opening sentence from the official text of Article 108 of the Rome Treaty reads:

Where a member state is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with difficulties as regards its balance of payments,

People must be quite clear that they want us to declare that and must face the repercussions of what it does to our employment, our industry in general, our freedom of action and our overseas borrowing. I suggest that we do not want that. Article 109 refers to where a sudden crisis in the balance of payments occurs. That is the opening line. Articles 104, 108, and 109 are not appropriate, I assure the House. The other Article mentioned is Article 135 of the Accession Treaty. Article 135 (2) states:

On application by the State concerned, the Commission shall, by emergency procedure, determine without delay the protective measure.

I have gone to them under Article 135 and they have told me, to my great annoyance and disappointment, firstly, that the Commissioner was responsible and then reiterated the next day that it was the will of the Commission as a whole that there was no mechanism there that we could invoke.

That does not give me any pleasure, but I am telling it as it is. People have to face the consequences of asking us to invoke these in circumstances that could only produce wreckage, chaos, damage to our industrial exports, and foreign relations. We need desperately the goodwill of the importing countries, and they can give us a much greater thump than we can give them. The same size of reduction might be tiny for the British market but might be enormous for our market. We can get a casual belt from some of our important importing countries that could do terrible damage to our exports and employment. It will not make any difference to them because our section of their trade is so small that they can do it easily, but it really hurts us. Do not ask for that lightly, but if this is being asked for in a deliberate and conscious way, please read the rules, please talk to the Commission. Do not take my word for it if it is thought I am hanging in the traces and do not want to act or have not tried to act. Do not believe me, but for God's sake do not ask us to invoke mechanisms that will come back on top of us and damage us. I know the Opposition do not wish it, but if that is done lightheartedly we damage our standard of living and we do not get anything that is any good.

In regard to our Buy Irish Campaign, in the pre-Christmas situation we had a short-term Buy Irish Campaign, not on a large scale. I felt that for many years we had buy Irish campaigns and everybody wanted them. I do not want to make a political issue of this but people were a bit cynical and hopeless about them and did not think they would work. They felt it was a reflex ritual thing to be done when one could not think of anything else to do. It is a serious thing, and I got a small committee of very good people who took some months to study the matter and recently gave me a good report. I want to pay tribute to a number of individual sectors which are carrying on their own work but that is not the concerted campaign. It has not petered out because I could not launch it until I got serious thinking about the way to get at all the purchasing sections of the community such as industry, farmers and retailers who were never approached before. It is not a Government scheme. It is not my scheme, but we got some good hard working thorough people to think about it very hard. I got a good report and I believe that, if people do not knock it, and put it down, we can have it endlessly continuing, because we need it in the Community, a deeply researched Buy Irish Campaign. I do not like that name but I have not thought of a better one. I do not want to hear it knocked and I do not want the people to say that the brief thing just before last Christmas was the Buy Irish Campaign. It was not. It had not been researched and organised then. I do not want it thought that that was the result of the labours of the people who worked so hard and well.

Dumping has been mentioned. On 10th January I referred the matter to An Coimisiún Dumpála and I say, with great regret but not with great surprise, that An Coimisiún Dumpála got all the information they possibly could and they came to the conclusion that the available evidence does not substantiate the allegation of injurious dumping by the countries concerned. The Commission pointed out that footwear imports from the countries alleged to be dumping represented only 5.59 per cent of the Irish market. For individual countries the market was much less, generally below 1 per cent. In other words that mechanism is not a serious mechanism. I accept the seriousness. I am not now uncovering piece by piece a package though I am profoundly convinced that in regard to the industry and inflation a package is necessary. I affirm that, though I am not now uncovering the bits of it piece by piece.

The speech we heard from the Minister is a disappointment to say the least. We have been told nothing that we did not already know. The speech in its tone and content is very similar to the speech which he made here in the House on a similar motion on 4th December, 1974. The thinking of the Minister, and the Government, obviously has not developed in any way since then. Since then a lot of our footwear factories have closed down. The most recent one was reported in yesterday's papers, Donaghy's of Drogheda are in liquidation after having an enormous loss, so much so that not alone will the shareholders get nothing but the unsecured creditors will not be paid.

Limerick was once a major centre of our footwear industry. The last remnant of it, Limerick Uppers Limited, is closing next month and the last 85 workers left there are to be let go. They are the sort of things that are happening. The position is the same in Edenderry, Dundalk and Carrickmacross. I was in Carrickmacross less than two years ago—at the election to the Presidency of Erskine Childers—and I visited two shoe factories. They were bursting at the seams and were tremendously prosperous. There were hundreds of people working in them. I remember being conscious of the fact that there was such a vast number of people in what I thought were rather small and old fashioned factories; a tremendous air of prosperity; and that was only November 1973. Not one person is working today in the footwear industry in Carrickmacross. The Minister tells us all the same things and the gist of his story is the same as it was on 4th December last and it is to the effect, that if we had never joined the EEC we would not be in this trouble.

I repudiate that. That is dishonest. I did not say that.

If one reads between the lines of what the Minister has been saying in December, 1974, and again today, nobody could conclude other than the fact that he uses the problems of the footwear industry, the textile industry and the clothing industry here as an excuse to do down the European Economic Community on the basis that these industries would not be in this trouble if we were not in the EEC. The EEC have all sorts of rules and regulations which stop him doing anything about it and remember I told you not to join the EEC, seems to be his attitude.

That is disgraceful and ridiculous.

The Minister is suspect.

It is significant that the man with whom the Minister for Industry and Commerce had most discussions outside this country on this problem is Mr. Peter Shore——

Not true either.

——the Minister for Trade in the United Kingdom who has exactly the same views on the EEC as the Minister for Industry and Commerce here and who, like the Minister for Industry and Commerce——

Do not be silent. Do not be dumb. Do not be a slave.


The Minister tells us that Italy did not break the rules, that she had a balance of payments problem at the time she brought in all these import controls which have proved to be so very successful. He also tells us that we cannot use articles 108 and 109, which Italy used because we do not have any balance of payments crisis.

Today at Question Time Deputy Colley put it to the Minister when he made a somewhat similar statement that the Taoiseach had recently made a statement to the effect that our balance of payments situation was the worst in the EEC. The Minister alleged that Deputy Colley misquoted the Taoiseach. The Minister was partially right. Deputy Colley did slightly misquote the Taoiseach; in fact, in a significant way he misquoted him, because what he said the Taoiseach had said in relation to the EEC he had said in relation to the OECD, which is not nine countries but 24, as the Minister well knows.

Is the Deputy suggesting that we declare a balance of payments crisis? Is that what he wants?

Would the Minister be good enough to cease interrupting me and I will read the precise quotation from the address by the Taoiseach, Mr. Liam Cosgrave, T.D. at the annual dinner of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry at the Burlington Hotel on Thursday, 23rd of January, 1974, page 4:

We shall have to balance the national books by a phased reduction in our balance of payments which, relative to GNP, is now the highest among the OECD countries.

The highest among 24, all the EEC countries being also in the OECD. There is the Taoiseach of this country, the Leader of the Government of which the Minister for Industry and Commerce is a member, and he says we have the most serious balance of payments deficit in the OECD —24 countries all over the globe, and according to the Minister for Industry and Commerce of the same Taoiseach's Government we have no problem at all.

I did not say that either.

Articles 108 and 109 set out quite clearly what we can do. Under article 109 we can take protective measures without having to go to the Commission. Such measures must cause the least possible disturbance and so on in the functioning of the Common Market.

In what context are we to take protective measures?

Would the Minister be good enough to cease from interrupting me constantly?

The Deputy should be allowed to speak without interruption.

I will have to name the Minister.

Therefore, we have proved by the very words of the Taoiseach himself that the sort of conditions which were necessary to enable Italy to take the measures she did exist here in this country at the present time. Nonetheless, the Minister refuses point blank to take those measures. It is interesting to see an article by Paul Tansey in The Irish Times of today on this very question. It is headed: “How beneficial are Import Controls?” It describes, in particular, the success of the Italian scheme which they undertook on the strength of their poor balance of payments, which proportionately and as a percentage of their GNP was less serious than ours is at present. It is interesting to read in that article how extremely successful it was, how GATT found nothing wrong with it, how the EEC apparently found nothing wrong with it, and it brought tremendous benefit to Italy. Let me extract a couple of short quotations from it:

Italy introduced a system of import deposits affecting imports from all sources in May, 1974.

Later in the article it says:

The Italian scheme was abolished last March, but it has played a not insignificant part in improving Italy's economic performance, a performance that is now being referred to as Italy's economic miracle.

The article then goes on to set out the figures in relation to our balance of payments and to show how very bad they are, how extremely serious they are and proportionately worse than Italy's at the time she had to introduce the special import deposit scheme. The article ends up and I quote the last paragraph. I am sorry I do not have time to quote more because it is very interesting and helps in a substantial way to make the case we are endeavouring to make in the course of this motion and we endeavoured to make six months ago:

In view of these circumstances it is difficult to envisage any of the international economic organisations objecting to the introduction of some form of import restrictions by this country, at least on a temporary basis. The time is opportune to introduce them now as part of the economic package currently being considered by the Government.

That is absolutely true. There is no question about it. Still we have a reluctance to act. If the action we had advocated in December, 1974 had been taken, look at the difference it would have made to this industry, to the clothing and textile industries. Look at the factories that would now be open that are not open; the people who would be in employment now that are not in employment. Still we got tonight the very same speech from the Minister for Industry and Commerce that we got on 4th December, 1974, namely, the EEC is to blame for the lot: "Only for them and their rules and regulations I could do something about it."

I think we have proved conclusively by using the very words of the Taoiseach that if the Minister and the Government have the will and the desire to act now, they can do it. The figures are there to prove it and the Taoiseach's own words are there to prove it. I am afraid they have not got that will or desire. At least one member of the Government is prepared to let this industry and other industries like it go down and down and down, as they have over the past six months. If they deteriorate at the same rate as they have since we had this motion down last December over the next six months, then there will be no footwear industry in six months' time, and let us face up to that fact.

The Minister made reference to the situation in relation to buy Irish, and Deputy Faulkner had very strongly recommended this in his speech last night, as he did in December. The Minister tried to justify the fiasco that the so-called Buy Irish Campaign of last December proved to be by saying that there was no work or feeling put into it in the past, that it was not to be regarded as a proper campaign and so on.

They did not really mean it.

They did not really say it. You have to filter the distortions of Deputy O'Malley.

In column 971, Volume 276, of the Official Report of Wednesday, 4th December, 1974, the Minister, in reply to the very same point by Deputy Faulkner, said, and I quote.

The planning is reasonably well advanced and on next Wednesday morning we will be able to launch formally something that is reasonably well planned, which is realistic and involves wide sectors on the question of "Buy Irish".

It was the greatest fiasco of all time. I think they gave this unfortunate committee £2,000 and told them to do the best they could, and the whole thing fizzled out in a week or two. We heard nothing since but the Minister told us today that no planning or thinking went into that, but there are his words of 4th December, 1974, to prove the situation beyond all doubt.

We have heard that the French Government are doing no more than we are doing with this new production that came out today, these two statutory instruments. The French Government have had this surveillance method in operation from, as far as I can ascertain, 1971, when the first of the directives was passed by the Commission. In case anyone thinks that these two regulations, which the Minister made on 30th May but to which he did not refer or publish until today—for some reason presumably connected with this debate—are a control on imports, they are not because the licences must be given automatically. Everyone is entitled to get a licence so long as he fills in the form correctly. There is no reason to believe that these two statutory instruments published today and coming into effect tomorrow will have the slightest effect except that those who were wary about filling in the forms will be delayed. Otherwise, under the Community directive licences must be issued within eight days and nothing can be done about that.

Since the Minister for Industry and Commerce assumed office there has been in that Department a general feeling of inertia and of indecisiveness. With particular regard to the Minister it has been a constant repetition of vacillation, inability to make up his mind about anything.

Six months ago the Minister was urged to take action in regard to the footwear industry. He has done absolutely nothing since and factory after factory has closed. Still, even today, with the facts staring the Minister in the face, he tries to prove by juggling figures around that the facts do not exist and that they are figments of Fianna Fáil imagination. The Minister is vacillating and he will continue to do that until there is no footwear industry left. If the rate of decline over the past six months continues the situation of not having a footwear industry will be reached. If it is any consolation to the Minister, he will then be able to go along—with his own reasons—and tell the people concerned that it was all the EEC's fault, that is was the EEC which they joined that let them down.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 55; Níl, 63.

  • Allen Lorcan.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Barrett, Sylvester.
  • Brady, Philip A.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Brosnan, Seán.
  • Browne, Seán.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callanan, John.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Carter, Frank.
  • Colley, George.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Connolly, Gerard.
  • Cronin, Jerry.
  • Crowley, Flor.
  • Cunningham, Liam.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Vivion.
  • Dowling, Joe.
  • Farrell, Joseph.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • French, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Denis.
  • Gibbons, Hugh.
  • Gogan, Richard P.
  • Haughey, Charles.
  • Healy, Augustine A.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Lalor, Patrick J.
  • Leonard, James.
  • Loughnane, William.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • Lynch, Jack.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacSharry, Ray.
  • Meaney, Tom.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Murphy, Ciarán.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connor, Timothy.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Power, Patrick.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Timmons, Eugene.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Walsh, Seán.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Wyse, Pearse.


  • Barry Peter.
  • Barry, Richard.
  • Begley, Michael.
  • Belton, Luke.
  • Belton, Paddy.
  • Bermingham, Joseph.
  • Collins, Edward.
  • Conlan, John F.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Cooney, Patrick M.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Costello, Declan.
  • Coughlan, Stephen.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Crotty, Kieran.
  • Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Desmond, Eileen.
  • Dockrell, Maurice.
  • Donegan, Patrick S.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dunne, Thomas.
  • Enright, Thomas.
  • Esmonde, John G.
  • Finn, Martin.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan).
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hegarty, Patrick.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Burke, Joan T.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Clinton, Mark A.
  • Cluskey, Frank.
  • Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
  • Jones, Denis F.
  • Keating, Justin.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Kenny, Henry.
  • Kyne, Thomas A.
  • L'Estrange, Gerald.
  • Lynch, Gerard.
  • McLaughlin, Joseph.
  • McMahon, Larry.
  • Malone, Patrick.
  • Murphy, Michael P.
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Leary, Michael.
  • O'Sullivan, John L.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Reynolds, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, John J.
  • Spring, Dan.
  • Staunton, Myles.
  • Taylor, Frank.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Toal, Brendan.
  • Tully, James.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Lalor and Browne; Níl, Deputies Kelly and B. Desmond.
Question declared lost.