IRISH FISHING INDUSTRY.

I desire to propose the following motion:—

"Considering the flourishing condition of the Irish Fishing and Fish-curing Industries during the existence of the Irish Parliament, and their discouragement and decay since the Union, it is desirable that at an early period a Committee or Commission be appointed to report upon the state of those industries and on the best methods of promoting their prosperity"

My attention was first called to the condition of Irish industries through reading some Blue Books of the 18th Century pertaining to the English Realm, and the object of those books apparently was to discover why it was that the Irish Fisheries were prospering and gaining a hold upon the market superior to that which the British and Scottish Fisheries possessed. The facts which I shall mention cannot be impeached for partiality, for they are all statements of English merchants and officials. First, you find that about the middle of the 18th Century the Irish fishers were even then alert and expert. For example, a Mr. McDonald of Scotland brought some Irishmen over to teach the natives there how to make kelp. Another gentleman at another time brought some Irish fishers to the North Hebrides to teach the natives how to cure fish, and, finally, to the Shetlands Irish fishers were brought to teach the natives how to proceed to the wider seas. At that time they had only small boats containing four men who would go out for eight miles, or larger boats containing eight men, who would go out for twelve miles. They brought up Irish ferries then containing twelve men, who would go out a much greater distance.

Then as regards the expertness of the Irish fishers at that early period, their advantages increased with the incoming of liberty and independence under the favouring guidance of an Irish Parliament. It has sometimes been stated that the Irish industries were fostered by too lavish bounties. Now, this is absolutely untrue. Those English Blue Books stated that, notwithstanding the fact that the bounties in Ireland were much lower than those given in Britain, the Irish made better use of them. They were more aptly applied as well as economically spent. Then, again, their alertness was remarkable. Salt then was a precious commodity, and sometimes special cargoes of prize salt came to the ports in England. In one case, for example, English merchants complained that when a cargo of prize salt came into the Port of London, the Commissioners there would not allow it to be transhipped and carried along the shores of England to other ports. While they were discussing that matter a Cork merchant stepped in and bought the whole cargo and carried it off to Cork. There was smuggling of salt and smuggling from Ireland, because Ireland seems to have succeeded in obtaining a superior quality of that material. Then again, with regard to the mode of curing, it was alleged that the Irish mode of curing was much superior to that of Scotland or that of England. And again, it was alleged that the probity of Irish merchants told greatly in favour of the Irish produce in markets abroad, because whereas it was found that in many cases fish cured and packed elsewhere than in Ireland were found to have their weight augmented by the presence of stones and other materials which were not edible, Irish fish were always chosen of the best, and only the best fish were allowed in the casks, so that though the casks were smaller than the casks of English or Scottish fish-curers, they fetched a higher price. The Irish commanded the trade, so far as trade was allowed by the navigation laws of that period, which as you know, restricted the trade. They commanded the trade of the West Indies, and not only was the fish trade a success there, but meat-curing was also a success, and the produce was greatly preferred on account of the reasons which I have given, and which are in the Blue Books of the English Reports to the Committee of the House of Commons. For these reasons, therefore, I beg to propose the resolution. Since the Union these industries have greatly decayed. At that time Ireland had a Highland fishery, and Ireland's boats were on the Highland seas. They had also a fishery in Newfoundland. They even started a whale fishery there. Newfoundland at that time was governed in a peculiar manner not favourable to Irish fishers, because Lord North wrote to the Governor of Newfoundland saying that he did not wish that the country should be settled. Instead of its being a British fishery it became a Colonial fishery. Lord North made the statement: "Whatever they ask for raw, give it to them roast, and whatever they wish for roast, give it to them raw." In that way he tried to treat Newfoundland as a kind of country containing only persons of English descent or birth. However, merchants brought over Irishmen there, and neglected to send them back according to the law, and the consequence was you had an Irish colony there where a British colony was discouraged and prevented and an Irish fishery established there which was practically a colonial fishery of Ireland. These are the reasons for which I propose this resolution. Since that time the trade in these industries has been decaying and disappearing, and instead of our boats going into other seas, the boats of other countries come into our seas, and the wealth of our Irish waters is carried into foreign lands.

I have great pleasure in seconding the resolution proposed by our respected friend. No one is better qualified than he to speak to us on this subject, or indeed upon many other matters touching the material development of Ireland, which he has treated in his own fascinating works which I have done myself the pleasure of reading. This is a subject in which I take a very deep interest, but I shall not make a very long speech upon it now. We shall have very many more opportunities for discussing it later on. It is a subject of which I have made a study and in which I take a great interest. It is a subject of great interest for our people, and one in which there is a mine of wealth for the country.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

It may interest Senator Sigerson, having regard to the manifest concern he takes in the matter and the historical review he has given us, to know that the Government, I have been so informed, are actually engaged in the formation of a Ministry of Fisheries. This is one of the primary matters the Senator has mentioned, and perhaps that information may satisfy him.

Yes, certainly.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I take it then the object of your motion has been accomplished, and you do not wish to pursue it further?

My friend would like to congratulate the Government on the establishment of this Ministry.

Perhaps the Senate could assist or co-operate with the Government in this particular matter, which is of very vital importance to the country at the present time. This is a matter that has been delayed longer than it should be. Fishermen are in a very deplorable condition, and they are suffering mainly from the want of instruction, the want of boats and tackle, and the want of co-operation in curing and finding suitable markets.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I am quite sure the new Ministry will be only too delighted to get in touch with any member of this Seanad who is able to give any information or assistance.

I would like the resolution to be put to the Seanad and passed, or put on record.

Motion put and carried.