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Seanad Éireann debate -
Monday, 28 Jul 1924

Vol. 3 No. 17


We had a full debate to-day, and a discussion on every clause that anyone wished to speak about, and to deal with it again seriously on the Committee Stage does not seem to do any good. On each point we had merely statements about the general policy. I do not think that by leaving it over we will get any changes made that will justify us in postponing it, and having had such a long debate this afternoon, I think we might let it go through the Committee Stage.


I hope that the House will take that course, in view of the conditions under which we at present must carry on, but that it will not be allowed to create a precedent, because, in view of the enormous magnitude of the sums involved, and the public interest at stake, I do think it would be greatly to be regretted if these matters did not receive in the future fuller and more expert consideration. I am only putting that out for the sake of saying that I realise that we are brought up against this to-day, and that the course suggested by Senator Jameson is the only one open to us. But I think that when we resume work after the Recess the Seanad would be well advised to take this whole question into consideration, and to see how better or more suitable opportunities for the consideration of these Estimates for public services could be obtained. For the moment I dare say that we have no alternative to the course suggested by Senator Jameson.

I propose: "That the Standing Orders be suspended for the purpose of enabling the Appropriation Bill, 1924, to be put through its remaining stages.

I second the motion.

Question put and agreed to.

I raised a number of questions with regard to the Ministry of External Affairs, and I would like to know if the Minister can reply. If there are some which might be embarrassing to hear, I do not want to press him, but I think there are some which certainly would admit of a reply.


I noticed that the Minister himself was anxious to reply, but I think I cut him short.

I was not here when the Senator was speaking, but I have a note of some of the points he raised. I think he questioned the whole existence of publicity. Publicity I regard as rather a temporary service. I think the Senator said that this country is not like a patent medicine. It is not, but it is a business institution. We are, at the moment, a new business institution, and apart from positive publicity there is a negative publicity. There is a very large and powerful interest directed to the giving of misinformation about this country. The Department of Publicity exists not so much as an advertising concern, but as a channel through which reliable information about this country can be given. It does a great deal of work that way, and you will notice from the Estimates that something less than a half of the cost is for publicity services inside the Government. It is really a Record Office. It has been said that it was merely a Press cutting agency. It is nothing of the sort. It maintains a permanent record, for all departments, of matters which in the future may be of interest to them. In various trade organs and periodicals we arrange to have certain honest information given about this country.

I consider that that is necesary, for the time being at any rate, while we do labour under the disadvantage of being new. The Senator also raised certain questions about our representatives abroad. In a great many cases I inherited them from the previous Dáil. The salaries vary because some men have been longer employed than others. We intend to have a system of transferring a man from one place to another. The Senator mentioned the fact that we have a rather bigger establishment in Brussels than in Paris, and that our representative in Brussels is paid more than our representative in Paris. That is due to the fact that we have a representative who has been with us since 1919, whereas in Paris at the moment there is only an acting representative, not a permanent man. The Senator said that our representative in Paris did not seem to have the same privileges as are accorded to the diplomatic representatives of other countries. Our representative to Paris, it must be understood, is a Departmental and not a diplomatic representative. He is there representing our Department, and although I think it could very easily have been arranged in the circumstances that the Senator mentioned that he should have had the same privilege as the others, still there is a very definite distinction between an officially accredited diplomatic representative and a Departmental representative.

What does the Minister mean by a Departmental representative?

He is a representative in Paris with credentials from the Department of External Affairs to represent that Department. He is not an accredited representative with full powers from the State to the Head of the French State. I want it also to be understood that the work of these representatives is more in the nature of what I might call a watching brief. This country, up to the present, has not really been in a position to do a big trade with any other country than England. We are only getting this country organised to some extent, and most countries in the world are in a state of flux owing to the varying exchanges. That is how it happened that the office in Berlin was closed. We cannot hope at present to do a big trade with Germany. By that I mean selling them goods as distinct from buying goods from them. The officers in all these countries have to watch for openings and possibilities, give indications as to developments, and as to what lines would find a market in these countries. In Germany the whole conditions vary from day to day. They were kaleidoscopic.

We saw quite clearly that the office should not be in Berlin, but in a big port such as Hamburg. It seemed inadvisable at that moment to open a new office in Hamburg, whereas after the lapse of some months it made no difference to the ultimate state of things, because, in a short time, Germany changed from the cheapest country in the world to the dearest, and under these circumstances our representative could get no permanent information for us. I will be guided in this, of course, by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and when things become more stabilised and we think we can do immediate business with Germany, our representative there will be able to watch the course of events and give us indications that will be useful to our traders. We have a bigger institution in Brussels than in Paris. The office in Brussels, from the point of view of trade, as it has worked out, has been much more successful than in Paris. Belgium is one of the most highly industrialised countries in the world, whereas we are one of the most exclusively agricultural countries in the world, and we have been doing comparatively a great deal of business with Brussels. But the fact that a man in one place has a bigger salary than a man in another has no special signification, because these men will be changed from place to place as it suits us. As to the general deportment of Irish athletes in Paris, I am afraid I cannot take responsibility for that, except that, as the Senator has mentioned it, no doubt it would encourage athletes to cultivate rather better form the next time they go.

Is there not a consul and a representative in Paris?

No, there is only a representative. We get into the habit of using the word "consul" very loosely. The word "consul" should only be applied to a man who has received an exequatur. So far, we have not any, but this matter is under consideration. I think it is rather important, and our general line at the moment is that in certain chosen capitals we will have men who will be described as commissionaires, probably, and then we may seek exequaturs. It will be a matter of consuls or commissionaires, and in other countries it will be more suitable to have honorary representatives with powers of commissionaires.

I should like to bear testimony to the deportment of our accredited agent in Paris. I had the honour to represent Ireland at the Pasteur Anniversary, and I had the pleasure of meeting our accredited agent. I found him to be one of the best representatives that could be found. He had tact, alertness, efficiency—in every respect was a credit to the country which he represented, and was highly esteemed by the officials of the country to which he was accredited.

The Minister made a statement that is of some interest to me about the returns I asked for to-day. He said his Publicity Department would be the department to look to for departmental information. If I applied for the information I required to this department—about what steps are being taken to reduce the number in industrial schools or to justify the expenditure on them—could I get it from that department?

Do I understand that there is only one representative in Paris? Formerly we had two representatives, both a consul and a representative.

There was never a consul in Paris, as no representative of this country has received an ex-equatur. There was a trade representative who defalcated—anyway who made off with some of our property and allied himself with Mr. de Valera.