INDEMNITY (BRITISH MILITARY) BILL. - DUBLIN CORPORATION HOUSING GRANT.

I rise to move the following motion:—

"That the Seanad views with grave concern and surprise the decision of the Government to withhold the Housing Grant from the Dublin Corporation, and requests the Government to reconsider the question, with a view to rescinding their decision."

This motion merely expresses the opinion that the Seanad views with grave concern and surprise the decision of the Government in withholding the Housing Grant from the Dublin Corporation, and requests a reconsideration of the matter with a view to an alteration of that decision. I put down this motion for the purpose of giving the Government an opportunity of reconsidering their decision. I must say I was amazed when I read of the decision of the Government. I believe if the Government had given this question the consideration it deserves they would not have arrived at such a hasty conclusion. Those of us who are familiar with the housing conditions in Dublin City view the matter from no other standpoint than one of amazement. As far back as the year 1913, during a time of great industrial trouble in this city, the Government of the time appointed a Commission to enquire into the housing conditions of the working classes. The Commission sat and heard evidence, and then issued their findings. The report of the Commission disclosed an awful state of affairs. It shocked everybody, and proved conclusively that twenty thousand families in Dublin were living in rooms and houses unfit for human habitation. The Commission made certain recommendations to deal with the housing of the people, but for one cause or another no serious attempt was made by the Government then in power to deal with the situation. It is common knowledge that for 10 years the Dublin Corporation have been endeavouring to do something to end this awful state of affairs. It is true also to say that for 10 years the Government used every art and every device that the official mind could conceive to prevent the Corporation proceeding with the work that its own Commission said required to be done. It is an appalling thing to think that seventy-four thousand people in Dublin are living in one-roomed tenements. It is a shocking state of affairs to think that more than one family are living in one room. There is no respect for morality, no respect for decency. I suggest to the Seanad that if you want to have good citizens you cannot have them under the conditions in which the unfortunate poor are condemned to live in Dublin. Worse than that, the housing conditions in Dublin are responsible for an abnormally high death rate. Statistics have proved that the mortality rate per 10,000 of the population who live in single rooms is 390 as against 64 per 10,000 of the population who live in houses with 4 rooms.

I suggest to the Seanad that the Government did not give this question the consideration it deserves. The first time the President of the Dáil got an opportunity he attended to this important question of housing. I want to say here publicly that the President has done one man's part in regard to housing in the city. I must pay him the tribute that he has done more than one man's part. I have known of his work for many years on the Dublin Corporation in regard to the problem of housing, and at the very first opportunity he got when he went into power he dealt with it in no halfhearted way. He got the Government to agree to make a million grant for housing purposes in the country. Out of that grant Dublin would be entitled to something like £400,000. We were not able to do anything in Dublin because we were hampered under the oldregime by the Local Government Board. The Housing Committee of the Corporation made every effort to deal with this much delayed problem, and after very hard effort we were about to proceed with the work when, to our amazement, we found that the Government had made up its mind to withhold the grant. I would prefer not to deal with this question from the view of the cause. I would rather deal with the effect of the decision, although I have no objection to dealing with the cause, if necessary. I say, with all respect, that the 20,000 families in Dublin who are living in houses unfit for habitation should not be condemned to continue to live in these houses because of the fact that 16 members of the Corporation did a certain thing. If 16 members of the Corporation did something which is wrong they, and they alone, ought to be made responsible for their act. Surely it is not fair to visit the sins that rightly belong to 16 members of the Corporation, on the unfortunate people who are rotting in the filthy slums of the city? Surely that is not an act of government? It appears to me to be a reprisal. Further, there has been a double hardship inflicted on the unfortunate people by the action of the Government. There are in the building trades in Dublin between 3,000 and 4,000 men unemployed. There are no building operations going on at the moment; the operations are operations of destruction rather than of construction. Between 3,000 and 4,000 building operatives are unemployed, and if the Government insist on withholding the grant it will mean that these people will be out longer, and I suggest it is not good to have that number of hungry men unemployed in these times.

The Government had many other ways of meeting the situation than by the action they took. I suggest there were many ways of dealing with it other than the method they have adopted. As to the cause of the action of the Government, the position ought to be made clearer. I have no hesitation in dealing with the matter from that standpoint. The Dublin Corporation for some months past have been considering the question of the payment of allowances to the dependents of men who have been arrested. As far back as last September the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the Corporation, after having this matter under consideration, sent a report to the Corporation. When the report came before it the Corporation decided to refer it to the Law Agent for advice, and the Law Agent advised, and the result of the Law Agent's advice was that he went over the ground covered formerly with regard to the payment of wages or allowances to the relatives and dependents of men who had been interned or imprisoned. The Corporation dealt with this, not from the point of view of payment of allowances to dependents of men in prison. The decision of the Corporation—and I want this thing to be clearly understood, because the position, in my opinion, has been wilfully misrepresented—was to make an allowance of half-pay to the dependents of untried prisoners. I suggest that the position has been wilfully misrepresented. Reading the public Press one would be of the opinion that the decision of the Corporation was to pay allowances to the dependents of every man in prison. That is not the position. The decision of the Corporation was that an allowance of half-pay was to be made to the dependents of untried prisoners. In the case of men in custody, the payment of the allowance was to cease immediately on these men being found guilty of an offence and convicted. We understood under the oldregime that, according to the law, a man or a woman was innocent until they were proved guilty, and I think that a man or woman is innocent, or ought to be regarded as innocent, until convicted. They ought not, at any rate, to be prejudged. What are the facts? As far as I can ascertain there were about 55 employees of the Dublin Corporation arrested, and of these 15 have been released. I venture to say that, if these people are innocent, the other people still in custody may be equally innocent.

These 15 men signed the paper and were released, the others did not.

Senator Mrs. Wyse-Power, a colleague of mine in the Corporation, for whom I have great respect, says that the 15 men who have been released signed the paper. That brings me to another point in the case that I want to put forward at the Seanad. One would imagine, reading from the newspaper reports and the statements made, that any person in custody who signs a paper will be immediately released. I want to say that that is not a correct representation of fact. In the newspaper statements which appeared dealing with the question, the decision of the Corporation was deliberately and wilfully misrepresented by stating that half-pay was being given to people who would not sign the form. I have in my possession a letter from a boy of 16½ years of age to his mother; I know the boy's father and mother well. This boy of 16½ years of age, in a letter to his mother, states——

What position does this boy hold? Is he an employee of the Corporation?

I understand he is not.

Well, then, what has he to do with the matter under discussion?

I think I am entitled to make my statement without an interruption of this kind. Senator Mrs. Wyse-Power stated that the men at present in custody would not sign the form. I say that is not the position. I have in my possession a letter from this boy to his mother. It is dated the 17th of November last, and is addressed from Wellington Barracks. The boy states, in the course of his letter to his mother, that he had signed the necessary form, that he was never a member of any organisation, and that he expected to be released. That boy is still in custody. That proves, I hold that the mere signing of the form does not secure a prisoner's release. Therefore, I say the continued detention of these men in custody is not because they have not signed the form. As to the merits, or otherwise, of the decision come to by the Corporation, I am not going to argue the matter at any great length. The case I want to make is this, that I believe the Government have made a great mistake in coming to such a hasty decision on this all-important question. I believe we would be doing the Government a good service by asking them to reconsider this question, because I honestly believe they did not give it the consideration it deserves. I believe, also, that it is not fair to inflict injury and hardship on the unfortunate poor people who are suffering and dying in the slums of Dublin. Statistics prove that the high mortality in this city is mainly due to the bad conditions of housing in the city. Therefore, I think the Government made a great mistake in coming to a decision to withhold these grants, and my motion simply requests that they would reconsider the whole matter, and alter their decision. As I stated before, the Government have many ways of dealing with the situation other than by withholding the grants for housing.

I beg to second the motion.

My name has been mentioned in this discussion, and, I must say, very unjustly. I made a certain statement at the Dublin Corporation meeting the day the discussion was on about signing the paper. I stated that, if any employee of the Dublin Corporation who was in jail signed the paper, and the Government refused to release him, I would reconsider my position regarding such a man's dependents. I am in that position still. We have no knowledge that any of the 55 employees of the Corporation who are in custody, with the exception of the 15 released, have signed the paper. I desire to repeat the statement I have made, that if any of these men sign the paper, and the Government then refuses to release them, I will then consider my attitude as to the payment of allowances to their dependents. Senator Farren, with whom I agree on many questions, but differ with him on this, has, I think, entirely exaggerated the situation as regards the housing grant. The plans and everything else are in course of preparation, just as if this edict had not gone forth from the Government. I think the discussion to-day is a little out of order, and I am going to move an amendment, because on Monday next the Dublin Corporation will have an opportunity, and Senator Farren will have an opportunity of reconsidering the vote that has already taken place on the question. On Monday there is a rescinding order of the decision already come to down for discussion, and to it are attached the names of 27 members. I beg to move the following amendment: "That this motion be postponed until the Dublin Corporation has an opportunity of discussing the matter." I think a great deal of the heat and unpleasantness that has arisen will possibly pass away when the situation comes up for review on Monday next, and I think it is rather a pity that details should be gone into now. During this debate one would really think one was at the Dublin Corporation meeting. To some of us it is rather pleasant sometimes to get away from them. Without saying any more, I now beg to move my amendment.

AN LEAS-CHATHAOIRLEACH

The amendment of Senator Mrs. Wyse Power is: "That the discussion of Senator Farren's motion be postponed until the Dublin Corporation has had an opportunity to discuss and reconsider its decision with reference to the payment of the dependents of its employees in gaol." I take it if that were seconded and carried this motion would then come on the Order paper.

I beg to second the amendment for the reasons stated by Senator Mrs. Wyse Power, and also for the further reason that our discussion of this motion would necessarily be restricted, because it would be a very difficult matter, in fact it would be almost impossible, to discuss the motion in the terms in which it is set out without trenching on the question of administration. Seeing that we have no responsible Minister in this Seanad, I think we should not touch the question of administration. In the terms in which the motion is set out, the matters are so closely linked that I fear there could be no full discussion of the whole question, because of the restriction under which we labour.

I want to oppose the amendment, because I do not think that anything the Corporation does next Monday or anything it did last Monday has anything to do with the case. Most of the members of this Seanad are not members of the Corporation, and the question we are discussing here is the terms of the resolution—whether we think it was right or whether it was sufficiently well considered before the order was sent out that these grants would be stopped. I think after the facts that have been placed before us in connection with the whole position of housing in Dublin, along with what we already know as to the condition of housing all over, that when a hasty decision is come to like this, which will keep back the provision of houses for the people, we have a right to consider that matter without considering what may happen next week or next month at the Dublin Corporation. On these grounds alone I will vote against this amendment. I had hoped that this matter would have been discussed merely from the point of view of whether the stoppage of the grant was a wise action on the part of the Government or not, and that we would not have any reference to what happened last week or what may happen next week in any other place but this. I thought that was the line upon which Senator Farren would go, and that we would not have this other matter brought in at all. I think that we should try and look at the position purely from the standpoint of whether it is good for the country or not at the present time to stop grants such as those and come to a decision, and that we would be better advised than in bothering about what may happen next week or next month at the Dublin Corporation. The real matter is whether it was a well-advised policy, whether we are of opinion it was come to too hastily, and whether we think that the Government ought to be asked to reconsider the position. It is not a question of whether we are going to criticise harshly the action taken by the Government at a particular time; but we can say as a Seanad whether we think that they were hasty in their action or not, and that they ought to reconsider the position if we think it is going to be detrimental to the carrying on of the country in general. That is the position I feel in, that it is detrimental to the country as a whole as well as to Dublin City in particular, and for that reason the Seanad ought to be directly interested and give a decision to-day without adjourning it. If we adjourn it to see what the Dublin Corporation does, then our decision and our discussion at the next Seanad meeting will be based upon what has happened at the Dublin Corporation, and not on the question of whether we think it was right or wrong. I think we ought to avoid that, because it is bad work to be made little of, say, in the Dáil; but do not let it go through the country that the Poor Law Guardians and the Dublin Corporation are the leaders, because we will be far behind in the procession if we let them go ahead.

I support the amendment, because I think this motion is simply an invitation for us to reduce ourselves to the level of the Dublin Corporation. I can understand Senators who have supported this motion wishing to say nothing about the effect of it, and painting a lurid picture of the conditions of housing in Dublin. I submit that they are responsible for the Government stopping the grant, these men who voted in the Corporation for giving half-pay to those 55 innocents who are referred to as untried prisoners, but who, we read in the daily Press, were taken because they left their employment and took a hand in wrecking the city, causing the citizens the loss of millions of pounds, and causing unemployment to thousands of working men and women. I would like that Senator Farren would find out the concern and the surprise with which those people who are walking the streets of Dublin idle to-day looking for a job view his action and that of his associates in voting half-pay to those who are responsible for their present plight. I think the most disgraceful of all the many disgraceful things that have happened for the last twelve months is for public representatives to stand up in the Corporation and vote half-pay to people of this sort. It is all very well to talk about their being untried, but they have had an opportunity of signing the paper, and 15 of them have been released. There is no reason why the other 40 of them should not be released if they did the same thing. If an intelligent foreigner landed in this country a couple of weeks ago, and if he picked up a paper and read in one column the very eloquent manifesto of Senator O'Farrell denouncing the murder of the railwaymen in Tralee, and read in the same paper an account of where Senator Farren voted for giving half-pay to the associates of the political organisation that was responsible for the murders in Tralee, I wonder what he would think. He would think, and think rightly, that a country whose public representatives were so supine and invertebrate was unworthy of freedom, and would go down in disaster and disgrace. I would suggest to the Labour Party that it is time for them to cease speaking with two voices. Let them either be men or mice. They should abandon this line of policy, which even their own followers say leaves them open to the charge that they are simply playing for safety.

AN LEAS-CHATHAOIRLEACH

There are two members of the Government present, the President and the Minister for Local Government. I do not know whether they want to address the Seanad or not.

I regret I was not present when this motion was introduced. It is, I think, unnecessary to say that this is a request that the Government could not possibly reconsider. Twelve months ago the Provisional Government, just getting into control of the administration of this country, pending an Election, earmarked a huge sum of money for the purpose of enabling local authorities to build houses for the working classes. The proposals of the Government at the time contemplated building in one year one-fifth of the entire number of dwellings that had been constructed during the previous fifty-six years by Urban Districts throughout the entire area of the Saorstát. I think that no useful purpose would be served by entering into a discussion of the merits or demerits of the present Irregular offensive. Suffice to say that it is admitted, I think, by every sound economist both in this and every other country, that no nation has had war made upon its vital interest with such utter disregard of every principle of morality or good government as this country of ours has had to suffer during the last twelve months. During all the period I think it will be admitted that the Government has acted with as much forbearance as the circumstances of the times permitted, or, perhaps, as any other Government ever acted during the entire history of the world, and is at all times willing and anxious to meet these men as brothers again, and wipe out their offences, to forget the damage that they have done, and to endeavour to work together again for the benefit of the country.

I have already explained to what extent the Government were committed as regards the proposals made to local authorities throughout the country. In the case of Dublin I think that the sum earmarked for housing was in the neighbourhood of £400,000. In other words, if the municipality of the capital of Ireland were in a position to put forward housing proposals to the extent of something like three-quarters of a million the Government was prepared to pay £400,000 of that amount. It is some time ago since I had the figures in my possession, and I may be making a mistake just now as to the actual amounts. In any case, the number of cottages that was to have been built was in the neighbourhood of 1,000 for the City of Dublin, and anybody who has studied the housing problem in Dublin knows what an immense contribution that would be towards remedying the state of affairs that, perhaps, has no parallel in any country in the world. Knowing all that, some of the employees of the Corporation of Dublin took up arms against the Government, looted shops, and destroyed one of the finest thoroughfares that we have in Ireland. The proposal made now by the Dublin Corporation, having all these facts before them, is to remunerate these men, by giving them half-pay. I cannot see for my part any justification for it. I cannot see any moral sanction for it. I cannot see how any law could justify an extravagance of that kind. It may be that the families of these men have suffered for the sins that have been committed by the bread-winners. That is, unfortunately, one of the disadvantages of sin, that it spreads out its tentacles to others than those who commit it. What, then, is the position of the Government with regard to a matter of this sort? That we are to subsidise a local authority to the extent of £400,000, and that we are to go on pouring out this money that is subscribed, not alone by the Urban District, but by the agricultural districts, and subsidise those who are making war, not alone upon the agricultural districts, but also upon the municipal districts throughout the entire nation. It is not a matter to which I think any Government in its sane mind could possibly give consideration, much less a favourable decision.

In one area alone where this municipality of Dublin erected 200 cottages at an enormous cost (I think some thing like £600 or £700 per cottage), and which is returning a rental of approximately 30 per cent. of the annual outgoings, quite a number of young people have been occupying these cottages subsidised by the rates of the city, and making war upon the Nation at the same time. The time comes when fathers, as well as Governments, have got to correct any delinquencies of their children, or subjects, or citizens. This is a case in which every effort has been made to placate people who are in arms, people who have no moral justification for the acts that they have committed; people who have scorched and burned and killed children; people who have no respect for the most cherished possessions of the Nation, which have been sent to the flames; people who have no respect for age. One of the most respected members of this Seanad, who had no qualms of conscience about putting his life in jeopardy, hesitated about putting the shame on the Nation of destroying the priceless treasures he has collected during four score years. That is too much for him. He could stand the threat to his life, he could put his life in jeopardy, but to say that the Nation that gave him birth had so little respect for culture, is a thing he could not stand. I cannot see any justification for putting forward this resolution. The Government cannot act both ways. It cannot pour money to assist a municipality to do its duty and to discharge its obligation to the public, and at the same time subsidise those who make war upon that municipality and attempt to destroy the life and property of the Nation.

So far as I am personally concerned, and I think those of my colleagues who think with me here are concerned, our views upon Irregular activities referred to by the President and by other speakers are pretty well known. I would like emphatically to repudiate the suggestion of the Senator on my right (Senator McLoughlin) to the effect that we have ever spoken with two voices. We look at this, personally I look at this, altogether from a different standpoint to that taken by the supporters of the amendment. I am not going to defend the action of the Dublin Corporation. Heaven forbid that I should ever be asked to defend the Dublin Corporation in regard to many things that it does. I would say, however, that that body has, through a lack of backbone on the part of many supporters of the Government in the Corporation, brought itself into contempt in recent months. It was deplorable to find a corporate body of that kind trying to conduct its business with a roaring mob in the gallery. First they seemed to be of one persuasion only, but recently they are pretty well mixed. One does not wonder if sometimes a number of people stay away, and if those who are there sometimes do things that in normal circumstances they would not do. As has been pointed out by the mover of the resolution, there were means by which the action of these Corporators could be dealt with by the Government. The particular people responsible could be very effectively dealt with if they had done wrong. What one does not like is the suggestion of reprisals by a responsible Government on people who were in no way responsible for anything that happens at the Dublin Corporation. Now, I would ask those who are supporting the amendment that they should take a more manly course than the one they have taken and face the music. If they think this resolution should not have been introduced here, and, having been introduced, should not have been passed, why not adopt the manly course of voting against it? Why move an amendment suggesting that it could be brought on again? I think the speeches made in support of the amendment are very largely speeches which tend to defeat it.

As I said at the beginning, I have no support of any kind, but the greatest contempt, for the method of warfare which has been waged during the last four or five months against the people, but I think that these unfortunate people are suffering quite enough from those who are waging that method of warfare, without having further reprisals taken upon them by the Government, to whom they look for security and protection. The President, I think, has somewhat over-estimated the effect of the decision of the Dublin Corporation. One would imagine that it was incidents of that kind which were causing the present deplorable state of affairs to continue, while he knows well, and everybody here knows well, that other quarters must be looked to for the real responsibility for the continuation of the present state of affairs, and that departments for which the Government are responsible are in themselves very largely to blame, either through incompetence or otherwise. One has only to read the newspapers to-day to find that a body of men attacked Nenagh Workhouse at 1 a.m., removed the inmates, and set fire to part of the place and created terror through the town, while it was 6.30 a.m. before the soldiers, who were stationed less than ten minutes walk away, arrived on the scene. While this is the state of affairs, and this is the way in which the Army, for which we are paying very dearly, conduct their business, and the manner in which they discharge the duties that are allotted to them in protecting this Nation, is it any wonder that the present state of affairs is continuing? Therefore there is no use in making a mountain out of a molehill and imagining that actions such as the Dublin Corporation's would mean helping the present state of affairs to continue. That is not so, in my humble opinion; but one of the principal causes is the absolute incompetence of the Army charged with the protection of the Nation.

I think Senator O'Farrell is right in one thing. I think it is a mistake for the Seanad to deal with this matter by way of amendment by postponing it for anything that might happen in the Dublin Corporation. I think, taking care of its own dignity, that the Seanad ought to deal with the motion yea or nay. After such a discussion as we have had to-day, and after the President has been down here and has explained to us the policy of the Government, and why they have taken the action they did, I think it would be most unseemly if we deferred the whole thing to next week, and I doubt if Senator Mrs. Wyse Power had that in her mind. The question has now gone beyond what she meant, and she would probably be quite content if we took a vote on the question now as to whether the Seanad did or did not approve of this Resolution. I think the discussion that we had at the beginning of our proceedings to-day as to the relations between the two Houses ought to make the Seanad very careful how they rush into the position of beginning, by passing resolutions, to lecture the Government of the day, which has had, no doubt, the support of the Dáil for what has been done. Our position so far is very undefined. If we were to pass this Resolution, after we have heard the speech which the President has made, there is not the slightest doubt that this Seanad would be passing a vote of censure on the Government, and we must face that. Senator Farren spoke about the wretched housing of the Dublin poor. I suppose there is no one in this Seanad who knows much more about that than I do. I happen to carry on my business in one of the poorest districts in Dublin, and I know where my own workmen live and what the surroundings are. I walk every day through the middle of some of the worst slums in Dublin, and have for many years of my life protested and done whatever I could. Everybody knows that we can do nothing to help that sort of thing. As far as that part of the speech of the Senator is concerned I have no doubt at all that every Senator here knows full well how awfully the Dublin poor are housed, but with all that knowledge this is not the time or the place to raise that question and to ask us, because the poor people of Dublin are wretchedly and miserably housed, to interfere in this mighty question which is now before the nation. Why is no building going on in Dublin? Every man amongst us knows that it is because as fast as a building is put up it is pulled down again, and the Government stands for this, that until we get peace, until men who are going to spend their money have a reasonable prospect of getting a return for it, there will be no prosperity either for labour or capital or anything else in this country, and for this Seanad, having that before them, in the slightest way to throw an aspersion on the Government and say that they are not doing everything that human beings can do, as we know they are, would be, to my mind, a stab in the back and an injury of the worst description. It is on that ground, and on the ground that this Seanad must take a high stand and say what they believe, that this Government is acting rightly and honourably, and with the very best ability of any set of men that could be got together. For that reason they should say "No" to the Senator's proposal, not because we do not understand what the conditions of the poor are, but because if the Seanad were to support this Resolution now and take action against the Lower House, against the Government of the day, they would be laying down grounds for many a quarrel and undermining any chance of our ever taking the place which I hope to see the Seanad definitely occupying in this country.

When I moved this amendment I really believed that Senator Farren would have agreed to it and postponed the discussion of his motion to a more suitable date, because the root of the trouble will certainly be discussed and rescinded. Only for the vote of the Dublin Corporation this resolution would not have been here, and that was really the reason I proposed the amendment, believing that Senator Farren would have sufficient commonsense to fall in with and accept it. The discussion has now travelled far and away beyond both my amendment and the motion, and if the Seanad agree I will withdraw the amendment, and we will have a straight vote.

AN LEAS-CHATHAOIRLEACH

The amendment is withdrawn by leave of the Seanad.

As I intend to vote for the motion I would like to make my position clear. I quite agree with everything that Senator Jameson said about the Government doing their best in an exceedingly difficult position, but at the same time the Government is not perfect, and in this particular case I believe that they have made a mistake. I am not sure that I would have thought it a good thing to bring this motion on, but as it is here, and as I think the Government have made a mistake, I am supporting it. I feel sure that theirs was a hasty action, notwithstanding what the President said about subsidising the local authority. There is no doubt that this is a national question. It is almost the most important question in the country, and anything that could cause building, especially in Dublin, where we have the slums, to be retarded by a single day I thoroughly oppose, and I believe that the Government's action will have that effect. In fact, it amounts to a reprisal, and I believe myself that by surcharging members, or by some other way, they could easily have shown their disapproval. The reason I stand up now is to make it perfectly clear that I thoroughly disagree with the Corporation in giving half-pay to those people, and I want to make that quite clear, for fear I should be thought to be voting on their side. Somebody mentioned the signing of the paper, and said that people signed it and did not get out for a long time. That is perfectly true. On the other hand, people sign the paper, get out within a week, and are back again in arms, some of them within three days from that.

AN LEAS-CHATHAOIRLEACH

Senator Farren has the right to reply if he wishes.

I am not a bit sorry I raised this discussion, notwithstanding all I have heard from the different speakers, including the President. I am still convinced that the Government made a mistake, and I repeat that you have no right to inflict an injury on innocent people, and that the action of the Government in this case is not dealing with the people responsible, but is inflicting needless hardship on the unfortunate people, who were in no way responsible for what happened at the Dublin Corporation. I do not want to go over all the different points made by the various people. The President told us of all the terrible things that are happening. I am not in sympathy with the terrible things that are happening. I wish to God that such things could not happen in this country, and that we would not approach them from the point of view of vengeance on one side or the other. Lord Wicklow, at the last meeting of the Seanad, suggested that it would be a good thing if we opened our proceedings with prayer. I think, also that it would be a good thing if we did, and that we should look at these things not, on one side or the other, vengefully, but from the broad point of view of Christianity. I say it is not in a Christian spirit that you are going to inflict untold misery and hardship on the unfortunate people who are living and dying in the Dublin slums. That is not good Government, but an act of vengeance—a reprisal on innocent people. Senator Jameson says that he knows the slums—that he walks through them. But, did he ever live in them? I did. I know what they are. And if he lived in them, as I lived in them, he would not condemn these unfortunate people to exist in them another single day. It is all right to talk about sympathy; but sympathy ought to be put to a practical test. I say that the people in the slums of Dublin are in no way responsible for what has happened, and, therefore, it is not an act of government to victimise them in the manner in which it is proposed. I would be prepared to deal with this question from a practical point of view, and without any political bias. I am not animated by any political bias. I do not want to get at the Government. I am animated only with the one desire, to see things going in this country as we would all wish and hope to see them going. I suggest that action such as this on the part of the Government will not tend to bring about the state of affairs that we all desire. I do not think there is any need for me to say more on the matter, only just to mention that I put down this motion with one object in view. I believe that the Government were wrong in the action they took, and why I put in the motion originally was simply to get an expression of opinion from the Seanad, but the Chairman of the Seanad informed me that under the Standing Orders I could not hand in such a notice of motion, and he amended it, and added the last lines. The motion, as I drafted it, simply expressed concern and surprise at the decision of the Government in withholding these grants. The Chairman insisted on altering it, and he added the additional words. I put it down with the object of helping the Government, and I believe, from the volume of opinion heard here to-day, that the Government made a mistake, and I believe that if the Government continue to act on these lines they will come to realise that they have made a mistake.

Motion put and negatived.