I know that our good friend, Sir Horace Plunkett, whom we are all so glad to see here amongst us, is anxious to have the opportunity of referring to one subject, a matter to which he attaches, and rightly, I think, very considerable importance, and which he wishes to mention now by leave of the Seanad, because he is on the eve of his departure to the United States, and he may not have the opportunity for a considerable time to come unless he gets it this afternoon. If there is no objection on the part of the Seanad I will now call on Sir Horace Plunkett.
STATEMENT BY SIR HORACE PLUNKETT.
The brief statement I desire to make is suggested to me by the motion which, at our last Session, Senator Moore had on the paper. For good reason he withdrew it, but with its spirit we were all in accord. He was anxious that each of us should apply ourselves to some definite service. I am leaving this week for the United States, and I wish while there to obtain certain information upon two matters which, I think, will be of value to the Seanad.
The first arises from a statement by the Chairman on Monday. You, Sir, told us that we should need on our staff an officer with technical qualifications for drafting Bills and amendments—in other words, I take it—a parliamentary draftsman. We shall also require a specialised library—even the ill-fated Irish Convention had to supply this need. It has occurred to me that it would be a fine piece of work for us to provide such a library for both Houses, and I wish to suggest that we should inquire into the character, scope and working of an American institution known as The Legislative Reference Library. Its story can be told in a few words.
The late Dr. Charles McCarthy, perhaps the ablest political thinker Ireland has given to America, was some years ago employed by the Public Library in the State Capital of Wisconsin at Madison. The Legislature sits in the same building, and Dr. McCarthy was constantly consulted by the legislators of both Houses upon the way to give legislative or administrative effect to the wishes of themselves or their constituents. This brought home to him the urgent need for a specialised library where accurate information upon the world's legislation and administration can be obtained. Sir Courtenay Ilbert, one of the highest living authorities upon parliamentary procedure defines the object of the institution, which he has greatly praised, as being "to supply the needs of the amateur legislator in the least possible time." I hope I tread upon no toes. Lord Pryce also told me it was an admirable institution. The proposal I have to make does not go far, but I trust it will be in the right direction. I am prepared, if my colleagues are interested in the project, to go to Wisconsin and get for them the full details of the character and working of this institution.
Another small service I could combine with this enquiry. It relates to our agricultural policy, which will have to be considered in connection with the abnormal economic conditions in which the Irish people, their Parliament and Government will now have to work out their own salvation. The situation, as I see it, presents these outstanding features. When peace comes and reconstruction can be seriously undertaken we shall find industrial and commercial conditions in a deplorable plight. With many of their buildings and much equipment wrecked, with expert staffs dissipated, trade connections severed, confidence and credit banished, we cannot hope that our manufacturers will be able to bring about a rapid industrial revival. Commerce in its larger aspects is similarly situated. But when we turn to agriculture—ever our chief resource—things are not so bad. After all, the land is there, the workers are there, the live stock is there. Nor has there been any serious destruction of agricultural buildings and machinery. Trade connections will be easily restored. as there is a constant demand for the entire product of the industry. I hold, therefore, that the vital, practical need at the outset of reconstruction will be the best policy of agricultural development that can be devised. Here I think we can give a good deal of help to the Government, and I hope to make a small contribution.
The British Government has undertaken to announce at an early date their agricultural policy. One who is likely to be engaged in formulating this policy told me the other day that an inquiry would have to be made into the agricultural policies of the chief competing countries. He mentioned the United States, Canada, and the Argentine. Now it happens that Irish ideas have played no small part in recent developments of agricultural policy in the United States. I speak from knowledge when I say that those who are working out the problems of agricultural depression at Washington would take pride in supplying us with information upon the remarkable developments in the agricultural policy of the Federal and State Governments in the last few years. I should be glad to get this information for my colleagues in the Seanad. But I need not tell you that if I were able to say that the Irish Senate required this knowledge it would greatly increase the interest of those who possess it in imparting it to me.
In conclusion, may I say a word upon the spirit in which I have asked the indulgence of the Seanad for these brief observations? I fully recognise the danger of precedents which may lead to irregular debate and waste of time. But I feel strongly that, while we cannot do very much at the moment, there will be no limit to the opportunities for public service which this body will be able in the near future to render to our country. I do not agree with those who complain of our restricted powers. I am glad that we must rely upon such qualities as may prove necessary for whatever influence we may exert. I cannot imagine a country or a time more clamant for disinterested public service, and I am proud to be associated with so many who are here for no other purpose.
I am sure it is the wish and desire of the Seanad that Senator Sir Horace Plunkett should. when in America, make the necessary enquiries into the two matters he has mentioned, that is with reference to the possibility of introducing here a library on the system of the one he has mentioned, and also the making of enquiries into these matters so vital to our agricultural interests. I take it we are all agreed with that.
Before we passed that, I should have given Senator Irwin an opportunity of moving the appointment of his Committee, because we have resolved that a Committee be appointed. If Senator Irwin is now in a position to propose the names, his Committee can be appointed.
I have sent in a small list.
The names proposed are:—Senators Sir Thomas Esmonde, Sir John Keane, Sir Nugent Everard, Mr. Butler, Mr. Bennett, Sir Horace Plunkett. You have not. Mr. Irwin, put your own name down. It is necessary that you should be on it.
Mr. Irwin's name was added to the list.
Do you propose these names?
I beg to second the proposal.
I think it would be better to omit my name, as I am going away and the matter is urgent.
I suggest, Sir Horace, that you allow your name to remain on, because this thing cannot be done in a day. This matter will require a considerable period of time before it is adjusted. I think you will find that we will not have made very much progress by the time you come back. I take it the Seanad is agreed that the following form the Committee which, by the resolution just passed, we have agreed to appoint:—Senators Sir Thomas Esmonde, Sir John Keane, Sir Nugent Everard, Mr. Bennett, Sir Horace Plunkett, and Mr. Irwin.
I move the inclusion of Mr. Michael O'Duffy's name.
I accept that, with great pleasure. I regret having omitted Mr. O'Duffy's name.
With the addition of Mr. Ml. O'Duffy's name, I put it to the Seanad that the Committee nominated be appointed.
In connection with the statement made by Sir Horace Plunkett, I think it is only due to him that the Seanad ought formally to pass a motion giving him authority to act, on behalf of the Seanad in America, in the direction indicated in his speech. I formally move:—"That the Seanad gives authority to Sir Horace Plunkett to move in the United States in the direction indicated in his statement before the Seanad to-day."
I beg to second that motion.