The Minister in charge of the Bill is engaged in the Dáil answering questions, but he will be here shortly.
Veterinary Surgeons Bill, 1930—Committee Stage.
As practically the same point arises in amendments 2 and 3 on Section 31, might I suggest to Senator Colonel Moore and Senator Comyn that the House should debate the question on the amendment in the name of Senator Colonel Moore? There is very little difference between the two amendments. The date suggested in one is 1st January, 1933, and the date proposed in the other is 1st January, 1935.
I would prefer to have my amendment debated after the amendment in the name of Senator Colonel Moore has been discussed by the House.
I merely make the suggestion. The Senator is perfectly within his rights in insisting that his amendment be taken separately.
I do not think that the two amendments ought to be taken together.
I take it that Senator Comyn is not prepared to throw in his lot with Senator Colonel Moore and have the two amendments debated together.
I am not disposed to do that.
That being so, we will now take Senator Colonel Moore's amendment.
I move amendment 2:
Section 31, sub-section (1). After the word "register" in line 38 to insert the words "Provided that, on and after the 1st day of January, 1933, no person shall be registered in the register who has not satisfied the Council that he possesses a competent knowledge of the Irish language."
I suggest that the consideration of the amendment be deferred until the Minister in charge of the Bill is in attendance.
As I have already stated, he will be here shortly.
In proposing this addition to Section 31 I think it is desirable to point out to Senators, some of whom were not here, and some of whom, perhaps, have quite forgotten the matter, that on the 1st May, 1929, a Bill came from the Dáil making it obligatory after a certain time that legal practitioners must have a conversational knowledge of Irish. That Bill set out that legal practitioners should have such a degree of oral and written proficiency in the use of the language as would be sufficient to enable them properly to conduct the business of their clients in the Irish language. Section 3 provides that no person shall be admitted to practice as a barrister-at-law in the courts of Saorstát Eireann unless such person has satisfied the Chief Justice that he or she possesses a competent knowledge of the Irish language. There are other sections which I do not think it is necessary to bring into this discussion. I think that even those who are, perhaps, generally opposed to the Irish language will admit that it is more necessary for a veterinary surgeon who has to go into the Gaeltacht or into other districts where no English is spoken, and give instructions for the treatment of animals, to have a knowledge of the Irish language. It is more necessary for them to possess a knowledge of Irish than it is for barristers, who practise in Dublin, or at all events, in the large towns. If it was necessary to make Irish obligatory in the one case, it is certainly more necessary to make it obligatory in this case.
I need not go into the question of Irish being the recognised language according to the Constitution. A great number of Senators know that sufficiently well, and I have no doubt they will vote for this amendment, just as they voted on many other occasions in favour of the Irish language. On the other hand, there are some Senators, perhaps, who are not favourable to the Irish language, and who will hold their opinions no matter what proposal is put up. It may possibly be pointed out as an excuse that this proposal is too precipitate, and that it would not be fair to certain candidates. I would like to point out that my amendment will not come into operation for eighteen months. A person starting now, and possessing no knowledge of Irish can easily learn enough of the language for all purposes within a period of eighteen months. If a student cannot do that, then he ought not to be allowed to enter the profession.
I am sure there will be very few students of that sort. I may remind Senators that twenty years ago Irish was made compulsory in the National University. All these people who have been through the National University in the last twenty years have at all events some knowledge of Irish, unless they chose to forget it afterwards. For primary schools Irish was introduced as a compulsory subject eight or nine years ago, and for the intermediate it was made compulsory three years ago. Therefore, every boy and girl has been learning Irish for at least three years and, when you add another one and a half years, making a total of four and a half years, you may safely assume that practically everybody in Ireland has been or ought to be learning the language.
This amendment will not come into force, if it is now adopted, for eighteen months. If veterinary students cannot speak Irish moderately well, even in a hesitating sort of way, after four and a half years study, it is not worth their while to wait any longer. This matter ought not to be dealt with on party lines and I will not try to raise it on those lines. I hope it will be kept quite separate from party associations.
I will ask Senator Comyn to move his amendment as an amendment to Senator Colonel Moore's amendment.
I am sorry that a short time ago I was not in a position to fall in with the suggestion which came from the Chair. If it had been a matter of my private inclination I would have done so. I am, however, of the opinion that there is a difference between the two proposals, a difference of considerable importance. I gave undertakings before I came to the Seanad that I would move my amendment in its present form. I hope that the Chair will accept that as my reason for not accepting the suggestion that was made to me.
I am sure the House will appreciate that.
The amendment which I propose is as follows:
Section 31, sub-section (1). After the word "register" in line 38 to insert the words "Provided that, on and after the 1st day of January, 1935, no person shall be registered in the register who has not satisfied the Council that he possesses a competent knowledge of the Irish language."
In other words, you wish to delete 1st day of January, 1933 in Senator Colonel Moore's amendment and to substitute therefor 1st day of January, 1935?
Yes. I commend my amendment to the Seanad as being essentially reasonable in two respects. I ask that the knowledge of Irish shall only be such as the heads of the veterinary profession consider sufficient. The student shall only satisfy his own council, the heads of his own profession, that he has a competent knowledge of Irish. I have fixed on the 1st January, 1935, in order to allow practically four years for the acquisition by students or prospective students of a competent knowledge of the Irish language. I think that is not unreasonable, seeing that in all our schools at the present time Irish is one of the important subjects of study. When the Bill providing that legal men should have a competent knowledge of Irish was before this House, I gave as my reason for supporting it the ground that it would be of advantage to the nation, and certainly to the advantage of the language, that it should become not merely the tongue of little scholars lisping it at school, but that it should become the tongue of educated men. My object was to give to the language of our country the status which it deserves.
In my opinion that is the only way in which the Gaelic language will be made a literary language. It was the way in which the English language was redeemed after its eclipse in the period following the Norman conquest of England. It was a despised and degraded language, but after two or three hundred years, in Oxford and Cambridge and elsewhere men banded themselves together and studied the Saxon tongue. There were amongst them people closely associated with the princes of England. There was amongst them Chaucer and, even greater than Chaucer, Sir Thomas More, who, I understand, had some associations with this country. It was men like those, writing in the English language, who first popularised that language. It was because of their efforts that the English language ultimately prevailed. I hope in the same way to see some of our professional men, barristers, solicitors, doctors and veterinary surgeons, acquiring a knowledge of the Irish language, a love of that language and a complete mastery of it. In the process of time I feel that some literary men amongst them will arise and in that way Irish will regain the position it once attained. I hope to see that stage reached before my days are ended.
As regards the veterinary surgeons, I think there is a further reason why a knowledge of Irish should be insisted upon in the case of those who intend to practise in the Free State. It is a remarkable thing in connection with English that it survived amongst those occupations which are agricultural. Old British words survived to designate occupations and matters relating to agriculture. In the same way the Irish language has survived in all its purity in relation to matters agricultural. We have in existence Irish terms relating to cattle, and particularly to diseases in cattle. I am supposed to know something about the English language, but I am free to confess that there are many diseases of animals which I know only in the Gaelic language. I do not know any English equivalent for a disease which we in the West callgalar craptha. Then again there are two kinds of murrain in cattle. If you go to the Islands of Aran, they never heard the words dry murrain or red murrain, but they heard mún fola, meaning red murrain, and bruitleacháin, referring to dry murrain. There are numbers of other Irish words dealing with other diseases. As regards staggers in sheep, cama ghalar is the phrase they use in relation to that form of disease.
A herdsman comes along and he sees a beast suffering from a certain disease. He knows that disease by its Irish name. He goes to the local town, sees the veterinary surgeon and asks for a bottle, a drench, a pill, or whatever it may be. The veterinary surgeon asks him what is the matter with the beast; from what is it suffering. The herdsman knows very well in Irish what the beast is suffering from, but he does not know the English term. There are various symptoms and various stages in the course of a disease which are known by Irish words, and if the man is not able to explain to the veterinary surgeon he cannot get the proper advice, and the veterinary surgeon will have to go twenty or thirty miles in order to see for himself what the trouble is. For those reasons alone I think it is desirable that my amendment should be accepted. That request is not at all unreasonable.
There are other reasons why my amendment should be accepted. When we give privileges to any section of people, when we place them in a sort of close corporation and give them special powers, the least we may ask of them is that they should know the language of their own country; that they should assist in giving a status to that language and in helping to make it the language of a cultured people. That is my main reason for putting forward this amendment. My second reason is based on the necessities of the case. I hold that a man cannot do his business properly in the Gaelic-speaking part of our country unless he has some knowledge of the Irish language and unless he knows the Irish names of diseases and plants and other matters. I have put in the year 1935 in order to show that in all things we are reasonable and we desire nothing that is impossible from students or anybody else.
The position in the Free State at the present time is that you cannot be a veterinary surgeon unless you pass a certain examination which is set up by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in London. That position appertains to all parts of the British Isles. The whole matter has been fought out, and that particular college has refused either Cambridge or Oxford or any other educational institution the right to permit a man to become a veterinary surgeon. When you set up this Chair in the National University for the purpose of giving degrees in veterinary science for the Free State, if you think students should have a competent knowledge of Irish you should then impose the necessary conditions. Students passing a course of veterinary science in the National University will only have the right to practise in the Free State. When that position arises Senator Comyn's amendment might very well be discussed then.
It will be the fact then. A student cannot go into the National University without having Irish.
Is it not possible to get a degree in veterinary science without going through the National University?
At the moment, yes; but that situation is not going to last.
How long will it last?
As long as it will take to get a Bill through both Houses transferring the college to the National University.
That is my point. You will have a Bill coming up here later on, and in that Bill you can insert a provision making it necessary that the students shall have a competent knowledge of Irish. At the present time nobody can become a veterinary surgeon unless he has the degree of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in London. If you carry this proposal to-day how are you going to insist that the Board of Examiners will see that the people who go for the degree have a competent knowledge of Irish? I am not opposed to the idea that veterinary surgeons should know Irish, but I think the proposal could be better introduced when the Bill comes on later to which reference has been made. As regards the terms for describing various diseases in animals, in my part of the country we do not worry whether the terms are in Irish or in English, what we consider most important is the best method of getting the animals cured. When the Minister brings forward his Bill to transfer this Chair to the National University, then we can have this question of Irish settled one way or the other, and probably Senator Comyn will be in the position of carrying the idea which he has submitted now.
I was very much interested in Senator Wilson's statement. Surely the amendment makes it perfectly clear that we do not want to compel students to have a knowledge of Irish either to-day or to-morrow? The idea is to give a reasonable time to those students who are taking out courses in the veterinary college or anywhere else to acquire a knowledge of Irish; the idea is to give them an opportunity of finishing and not to handicap students who are finishing the last year. That is my chief objection to Senator Colonel Moore's amendment. As regard the student of veterinary science who is taking out his last year's course, it would be hardly fair to thrust Irish upon him at the last moment. It is difficult to expect a man in that position to qualify. I would prefer if Senator Comyn's amendment specified that students should satisfy the Minister for Education that they have a competent knowledge of Irish.
The Minister's statement opens up a new vista, namely, that it is the intention to bring in a Bill whereby graduates for veterinary science will go through the university, and the university will be empowered to grant them degrees. In that case the ordinary operation of Irish will apply. Senator Wilson has referred to the British Islands. I do not know whether this is still portion of the British Islands, but I would like to think that even the worst of us would feel that, as portion of this particular island, we are cut off from what is politically referred to as the British Islands.
There is one advantage that I see in connection with this amendment. It may be regarded as a mean advantage, but in view of a statement made by the Minister here I think it is only a come-back on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, arising out of the terms of the agreement which has been signed by the Minister and the British representatives. The Minister stated last week: "We have been asked why we have not a reciprocal arrangement. The answer is that we could not get it." I have every sympathy with the Minister if he could not get a reciprocal agreement. I have every objection to certain clauses contained in the schedule and the agreement, and I intend to oppose them. It may be that the agreement was the best the Minister could get, but surely an agreement that really overrides, as it does, the Constitution of the Free State is something that is, to say the least of it, humiliating to the people of the country? I suggest to the Minister that by this method of making Irish compulsory on the veterinary surgeons who are going to practise in Ireland we are protecting our own veterinary surgeons who graduate from our own university and we will be in as close co-operation with the veterinary surgeons in Ireland as the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in London are in with respect to the students who take out their degree. That is the one economic and political advantage that I see in this matter.
If this is the best agreement that we can get from England—and I am quite satisfied that what the Minister says is true—then we ought to endeavour in every way we can to protect our own interests. I feel that Section 2 of the Schedule is humiliating. Apart from national reasons and apart from the fact that this Bill will bring the veterinary surgeons into harmony with the lawyers and with other sections of the community, I suggest that this amendment is well worth while considering if only from the point of view that we will be protecting ourselves in this country to the extent that Irish will give us protection.
I am opposed to the amendments. Of the two amendments I prefer Senator Comyn's, but I am opposed to both of them. I do not know if I am one of those whom Senator Connolly referred to as the worst of us, but I may say that I have never been and cannot be in any way opposed to the development and spread of the Irish language. I have been, however, always opposed to the notion that you can spread the Irish language by making lawyers, veterinary surgeons and others learn it compulsorily. I am quite convinced that the one way in which we can never achieve what Senator Comyn has outlined here to-day is every year or every eighteen months to find some profession that happens to be concerned with a measure here and insert in that measure a provision to the effect that the council or body controlling the profession shall decide whether the person entering it has a competent knowledge of Irish.
I am opposed to the amendment for that reason. I am also opposed to it because I believe that if you are going to allow all sorts of different bodies in this country to set up a standard as to what they consider is a competent knowledge of Irish, you are not going to help the development and the spread of the langauge. You will not in that fashion make it a language of which one would be proud to have a knowledge. This amendment proposes that the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons shall judge whether or not a student has a competent knowledge of Irish. Why should the council of a college with headquarters in London be asked to decide that question? In my opinion an amendment of this kind is not good for the development of the Irish language.
I rise to support Senator Comyn's amendment. I see a difficulty in administering the section, if it is inserted, owing to the fact that the members of the council may not have a competent knowledge of Irish. I would be in favour of the suggestion that the decision as to whether or not a student has a competent knowledge of Irish should be left to the Minister for Education, as was done in the case of other professions which were associated with measures passed through the Oireachtas. We are now considering the setting up of a purely Irish register of veterinary surgeons. We are anxious to bring the profession into line with other professions. I think compulsory Irish should be laid down for those who are entering the profession at the moment and they should carry their training in the language right on to the period of qualification. If Senator Comyn would alter the wording of his amendment so as to permit the Minister for Education instead of the Council of the Veterinary College of Surgeons to be the judge as to whether students have a competent knowledge of Irish, it would be more in accordance with my wishes.
I understand that it is not possible having regard to the agreement that is in the Schedule. Perhaps the Minister will let us know whether it would be possible to have the Minister for Education substituted for the Council.
The whole of the amendment, no matter what words are substituted, would be against the agreement.
That shows that the agreement, although it is the best the Minister could get, is not up to the mark.
The Senator does not understand it yet.
My attitude to this Bill and, therefore, to this amendment, is that it will tend to give to the veterinary college that is to be set up in Ireland privileges which the veterinary profession have hitherto had, but not to extend them. My own amendment would be in that direction. There is no case made for an extension of the privileges of the profession; we are not going to extend the privileges. I am not prepared at this stage of the proceedings to agree to imposing new obligations. I am, therefore, opposed to the amendment on the Committee Stage of the Bill, whatever I may say on the Report Stage, when I am aware of the result of the discussion on the amendment.
If only for the sake of consistency, I am going to oppose this amendment. I sympathise with the Government in their difficulty because if lawyers have got to know Irish, why not veterinary surgeons? Politics, however, are necessarily composed of inconsistencies and that distinction follows as a matter of course.
I oppose this amendment. Supporters of the amendment have used as an argument the fact that legal practitioners are required to have a competent knowledge of Irish and, therefore, they ask, why not veterinary surgeons? There is no comparison between the two professions and there is no ground for that argument. There is no similarity between the work of the vet. and the lawyer. What we want are the best possible men as veterinary surgeons. If this amendment was passed, it might mean the exclusion of the best men. We want to see close co-operation between the Irish veterinary authorities and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Senator Comyn used the argument that a great many diseases from which cattle suffer are only known in Irish to certain farmers. That is all nonsense. Every farmer in the country knows how to explain in English, as well as in Irish, to a veterinary surgeon or a chemist what is wrong with his beast. There is no common sense in the Senator's argument.
I bow to my friend's greater knowledge on that subject.
At the present time, if there was not complete understanding between the British Board of Agriculture, and the veterinary authorities in this country, we would be in a very difficult position. It is more necessary to have competent veterinary surgeons than competent lawyers in this country. We are completely dependent on the attitude of the British Board of Agriculture in regard to the exportation of our live stock. If they had not absolute confidence in our veterinary surgeons, we would have been in a sorry plight in the past, and if they have not confidence in them in the future we might equally find ourselves in a difficult plight.
To vote for either of these amendments in its present form would be an absurdity. The idea of setting up, as Senator Douglas pointed out, the Veterinary Council as a body capable of judging what is a competent knowledge of Irish would be the last word in humbug. This Council will be, in the main, constituted of men who may have a very good knowledge of their profession, but who will have no knowledge at all of the Irish language. To say that they shall lay down what shall be a competent knowledge of Irish, is certainly very funny. They might decide that if a man calls a calf "bó óg" he has a competent knowledge of Irish, or that if a veterinary surgeon asked a farmer what is wrong with his "capall" instead of his horse, he has a competent knowledge of Irish. This is reducing the Irish language movement to the limits of absurdity.
Seeing that Senator Comyn seemed to be speaking with some authority on the subject, I thought he had considered the drafting of this amendment seriously. But now it is actually suggested that serious consideration has not been given to it, and that the Minister for Education should be brought in in respect of this particular subject. I myself can only believe that this is one of the periodical demonstrations that are considered necessary. It is one of the things that are making the progress of the Irish language difficult. One finds a certain difficulty in opposing anything proposed by those from whom patriotism radites, because one will be denounced as lacking a national outlook, and all things that a good citizen should possess. But I like to be practical in all things and, certainly, this is not a practical or a serious proposition—to authorise a body of people, who themselves have no knowledge of Irish, to decide what is a competent knowledge of the language.
We have been informed that a Veterinary Chair will be established in the National University, and as Irish is compulsory in the National University students must,ipso facto, have a knowledge of Irish in general in order to qualify for the veterinary profession. Either making Irish compulsory in the National University is a farce or it ought to be a sufficient qualification. My own opinion is that what students learn of Irish going through the schools and in the university is just about of the same value as was what we learned of French and German in preparing for the intermediate examinations. We received a smattering of those languages, which we did not use after leaving school and so we forgot all about them. That is the experience of those who have gone through the schools and through the National University and who have got very high marks in Irish. They come away and do not use the language and there is a waste of energy. That cannot be helped. If they lived in Irish-speaking districts, the result would be different. But to think that we are helping the Irish language, except by demonstration, by adopting measures of this kind is certainly very childish. I have great sympathy for the man, young or old, who believes honestly in his heart that he is helping the Irish language by this means. He can popularise himself and hold himself up as a venerable patriarch and patriot whose example every young person should follow, but I think he is making a mistake. That was all right for propaganda purposes when other conditions obtained here but, so far as practical restoration in our time of the Irish language is concerned, that is simply worse than useless.
Before the debate proceeds further, as there has been a good deal of talk about the substitution in this amendment of the Minister for Education for the Council, I should like to point out that Senator Comyn desired to have the name of the Minister for Education inserted but was ruled out of order. To make that change would, in my opinion, out of order. The Bill got a Second Reading and specific mention was made of the Council. The substitution of the Minister for Education would be definitely out of order and Senator Comyn was advised of that. The fact that the name of the Minister for Education does not appear in the amendment is not the Senator's fault.
I am thankful to the Chair. I did not wish to interrupt the oration of Senator O'Farrell.
Senator Comyn has given us a nice lecture on the subject of literary Irish, but what literary Irish has to do with a cow doctor or a pig doctor I really do not know. He says that it will take four or five years to acquire a knowledge of literary Irish. Therefore we must wait for cow doctors with a knowledge of Irish until then. That seems rather ridiculous to me. I am sorry to have to differ from the Senator, with whom I generally agree, but on this occasion I do differ from him. I need not discuss the speech of Senator O'Farrell, because his views on the subject are known. I expect he will continue in that condition for many a year. Another question was raised by Senator Wilson. He seems to forget that there are to be two registers— one the general register, and the other the Irish register, which will include only people practising in Ireland. It is only for the latter register that we propose this amendment. We do not propose that it apply to those who qualify for the British register. Unfortunately, Senator Comyn has given, I think, pledges to certain people outside. That is a thing which I never do, because I think it is a very unwise proceeding and handicaps a person very much. As regards the time allowed for learning Irish, practically every candidate will have had four or five years', or perhaps eight or nine years', study of Irish before he comes up for this examination. It seems to me that the difficulty of learning Irish is grossly and absurdly exaggerated. Anybody who cannot learn French or any other language in a couple of years, or even in eighteen months, is not a very intelligent person. I do not say that a person can obtain a literary knowledge of French in that time, because that is extremely difficult, or that he could obtain a literary knowledge of Irish in the same time. But a cow doctor can obtain a sufficient conversational knowledge to enable him to go down and talk to a countryman about the condition of his cattle, sheep or pigs. If he cannot learn that amount in eighteen months I do not know what he could do. He will probably have had several years' study of Irish before then. I think this amendment ought to be accepted.
It appears to me that the speech made by Senator O'Farrell ought not to be allowed to pass in any deliberative assembly. I never impute motives to any member of the Seanad. I think I would be degrading myself and degrading the Seanad if I were to impute unworthy motives to Senators who put down amendments intended to improve measures that come before this House. Senator Colonel Moore, when this Bill came before us, suggested that it was a very curious thing that the Bill passed through the Dáil and was going to pass through the Seanad without the introduction of any clause dealing with the Irish language. The moment he said that, it occurred to every member of this Party that what he had said was reasonable. Senator Colonel Moore thereupon put down his amendment to include a section providing that Irish should be an essential qualification for veterinary surgeons practising in this country. My amendment was intended to modify what might be called the rigour of the Senator's proposal and to give two years extra to the students. Senator Colonel Moore is a venerable old hero, and he and those before him have a splendid record as Irish Nationalists. It comes ill from younger men to jibe at him or at his sentiments, or to impute to him unworthy motives. That is quite wrong, and I hope it will never occur again so long as I am in the Seanad. If it does, some people may learn that there are others in the Seanad who have sharp and biting tongues.
I should like to add my protest regarding the remarks of Senator O'Farrell. They are typical of Senator O'Farrell. He is one of those sleek, smug gentlemen who sit here and give forth platitudes which mean nothing. I have already expressed my opinion of him. He is typical of the class he represents—the British Trade Union crowd—and I do not know anything more contemptible than what we have seen of him here. I want to point out to him that we on these benches, representing Fianna Fáil, have never, as he says, catered for popular sentiment. We have even been on the unpopular side—the side where it was not the smooth road that faced us. On the contrary, Senator O'Farrell has attempted in this House to cater for elements that were neither Irish nor national, and those elements let him down.
I think I have reason to protest against the last statement made by Senator Connolly. I merely stated that I thought this amendment was impracticable and was one of the periodical demonstrations in favour of the Irish language which were doing the language more harm than good.
Did you refer to a patriarch?
Did that refer to Senator Colonel Moore?
Perhaps the Senator will listen to me. I did not interrupt him. I said I had qualms of conscience—or words to that effect —about entering into a conflict on a matter of this kind with these venerable people from whom patriotism seemed to radiate.
It never radiated from you.
I do not think that there is anything particularly offensive in that and I was not aware that there was anything in it which would call forth the rather cheap theatrical demonstration for which Senator Connolly has distinguished himself on more than one occasion here. A man in his position of responsibility should be rather slow to get up and make the type of speech he has just made—a speech which might be all right on an election platform or at a street corner, but which is certainly not appropriate to this House.
Mr. McGilligan rose.
The Minister will close the debate.
We are in Committee and I assume that the Minister is not going to close the debate. If anybody wishes to reply, I think he would be entitled to do so.
I have replied.
We can speak three times in Committee.
I think Senator Wilson is quite right in the point he has made.
I am glad that Senator Connolly appears to have learned something about the Bill since last day. I notice that Section 2 of the Schedule is still humiliating. He said that last time, after saying he had not read it completely and after demonstrating that he had not understood it. On my taking him through two clauses, he announced that he was satisfied, but "the iron has entered into his soul." I do not know from whom he got his lesson during the week-end. Comparisons have been made here with the legal position and from that the deduction is made that what is good enough for the lawyer should be good enough for the vet., forgetting, first of all, the distinction between the two professions and forgetting, secondly, what is exactly the position with regard to the veterinary profession and what is going to be the position with regard to it very soon. The legal people are marked out by the fact that they form much more nearly a portion of State machinery than any other profession. They have themselves marked themselves out in this way, that whereas entry to most of the other professions was governed by a university which had, in the main, Irish as a qualification, the lawyers did not require this qualification.
On the detail of the amendment it is, as Senator O'Farrell and Senator Douglas pointed out, something approaching humbug to ask the Council —a Council which is going to be composed, in the main, of people who have not had to go through the learning of Irish themselves—to decide whether an applicant possesses a competent knowledge of the Irish language or not. You could go only one step further in absurdity and say that Senator Moore and Senator Connolly should decide if applicants have a competent knowledge of Irish. If the theory of Senator Colonel Moore is correct, he could qualify as examiner in two years, which is giving him six months more than he thinks is required for anybody else.
Could not the Council get the opinion of a competent person?
That is not in the amendment. I want to point out the absurdity of asking the Council to satisfy themselves that applicants possess a competent knowledge of Irish. It would be only a little more absurd to ask the two persons I have mentioned to decide that.
The Council can decide on evidence.
I am dealing with the amendment as the movers of it explained it to this House. If they forgot anything they can explain it later.
We made the matter plain.
We are told by Senator Comyn that these candidates are to have a literary knowledge of Irish and that this amendment will mean an addition to the knowledge of Irish in the country. We are told by Senator Colonel Moore that the amount of Irish the Council should require would be such as would enable a veterinary surgeon to talk to a farmer about the diseases of his cattle, and that that could be acquired in eighteen months. We are told, on the one hand, that the Irish language is to be advanced, that arising out of this amendment we are going to get some new scholar, and, on the other hand, that the amount of Irish which will be required will not be a burden on anybody—that, in fact, it will not help the study of the Irish language.
Senator Comyn divides his amendment into two portions. One portion deals with the cultural side, which Senator Colonel Moore does not approve. He does not think it is necessary. The second portion was introduced because there are certain parts of the country where it would be necessary to have a knowledge of Irish in order to understand from a particular person what his cattle were suffering from. When we come to deal with cow doctors afterwards I suppose they should be required to have a competent knowledge of the Irish language, since it is going to be required of the registered practitioner. A knowledge of Irish is going to be required from the generality of practitioners—I might almost say from a hundred per cent. of them. What is the situation with regard to the veterinary profession at the moment? Senator Wilson is correct. Entry to it is governed by a particular examining body, which does not reside here, which has refused to accept conditions which are peculiarly appropriate to this country, and which will certainly not accept this condition. If they do not accept it, then the whole agreement, in so far as it affects these people, goes. That is what Senator Connolly means by "getting back" on these people. We can "get back" on them by saying: "We will not have this agreement." That is the type of victory which Senator Connolly sometimes wins.
What is going to be the position with regard to the people who are to be veterinary practitioners? The Veterinary College is to be transferred to the Dublin College of the National University. The legislation in regard to that has been prepared. These people will have to matriculate before they go into a university that demands a knowledge of Irish. We are going to establish a faculty in the university. It will take its place as one of the ordinary faculties, and the examinations will be dove-tailed. People will get, at the end of the course, two degrees. At the final examination, supervised by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, they will get the M.R.C.V.S. They will also get the Irish degree, and for that they will require to have a knowledge of the Irish language. If this amendment were appropriate at all, it would be on the Bill transferring the College of Veterinary Surgeons to the National University. The National University has no faculty for which Irish is not required in matriculation, and that is going to be the system here. That will apply to the generality—in fact, I think to a hundred per cent—of the practitioners.
There will be two ways of entering the veterinary profession in this country. One will be through this examination, which will give, I hope, two degrees. The other will be through the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. It is conceivable that somebody who dislikes Irish strongly, or who finds it impossible to make it up within the eighteen months that Senator Colonel Moore considers to be the maximum period necessary, may go to England and take out the M.R.C.V.S. degree there, come back and practise here. He is going to be entitled to do that. Senator Colonel Moore said his amendment was not directed against these people, but only against those who are going to qualify under our own authority. There is no necessity for the amendment then. These people will have to go through the Dublin College of the National University, and there Irish will be essential. The only people from whom a knowledge of Irish is not to be required are those people not registered who are still going to be allowed to practise—the people under Section 46, who, being owners of live stock or farmers, or farm servants, may still perform operations. I should like to know if Senator Colonel Moore, or Senator Comyn, will insist that these people, who will not be on the register and who will not have to pass matriculation, shall be required to have a competent knowledge of Irish. I would welcome that.
I was not surprised when Senator O'Farrell said that it was ridiculous to expect the Council of the Veterinary Surgeons' profession to satisfy themselves that candidates possessed a competent knowledge of Irish. I was, however, surprised that the Minister, who is himself a professional man, should say that the section is ridiculous on that account. I would trust the Veterinary Council to carry out this law as implicitly as if each of them had a highly competent knowledge of Irish. If the law required them to see that students had a competent knowledge of Irish, I feel sure that they, being professional men—the heads of their profession—and being expected to do a certain thing would do it and would employ competent examiners to ensure that their students would be so qualified. Therefore, there is nothing at all ridiculous in the amendment. My amendment, as it was first framed, provided that the Minister for Education should be the person to be satisfied. I was, however, content that they should satisfy the examining body of their profession. The Minister seems to have a frightful "down" on cow-doctors.
It is not having a "down" on them to ask them to learn Irish.
He seems to have a special antipathy to the unfortunate, harmless, useful, cow doctors.
Is it an injustice to them to ask them to learn Irish?
The cow doctor has the language of the locality in which he was born. That is the locality in which he practises his profession and, whether the language is English or Irish, or a mixture of both, he knows it and he is, in fact, an authority on the particular dialect of the place where he practises his calling. Therefore, I am not in favour of requiring the cow doctor to have a university degree or a university qualification in Irish.
I will put Senator Comyn's amendment, which reads as follows:—
Section 31, sub-section (1)—After the word "register" in line 38 to insert the words "provided that, on and after the 1st day of January, 1935, no person shall be registered in the register who has not satisfied the Council that he possesses a competent knowledge of the Irish language."
The House thought the Chair would put it as a definite amendment.
My amendment is being put as an amendment to Senator Colonel Moore's.
The position is that whatever misconception may have been entertained, I originally took Senator Comyn's as an amendment to Senator Colonel Moore's. If Senator Comyn's amendment is carried, then Senator Colonel Moore's goes by the board. If Senator Comyn's amendment is not carried, Senator Colonel Moore's stands, and I shall have to put it. That is the position.
- Michael Comyn, K.C.
- Joseph Connolly.
- Thomas Linehan.
- Colonel Moore.
- Joseph O'Doherty.
- Séumas Robinson.
- Sir Edward Bellingham.
- Samuel L. Brown, K.C.
- Miss Kathleen Browne.
- R.A. Butler.
- Mrs. Costello.
- John C. Counihan.
- James Dillon.
- James G. Douglas.
- Sir Thomas Grattan Esmonde.
- Sir John Purser Griffith.
- Thomas Johnson.
- Sir John Keane.
- James Mackean.
- William John Molloy.
- James Moran.
- Joseph O'Connor.
- John T. O'Farrell.
- M.F. O'Hanlon.
- L. O'Neill.
- Bernard O'Rourke.
- Dr. William O'Sullivan.
- Michael Staines.
- Thomas Toal.
- A.R. Vincent.
- Richard Wilson.
I will now put Senator Colonel Moore's amendment.
In my consideration it is not worth putting the amendment now.
I would like to ask the leave of the House to withdraw the amendment 4 that stands in my name. I intend to raise the whole question on the Report Stage.
I beg to move amendment 5:
Section 46. To delete the section and to substitute the following new section therefor:—
"46.—Any person who falsely represents himself as being a registered veterinary surgeon or as being a veterinary surgeon or by the use of any colourable imitation of either of these terms represents himself as being a qualified veterinary surgeon shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine in respect of a first offence not exceeding twenty pounds and in respect of any subsequent offence to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds."
My amendment is to delete a section that stands in the Bill and to substitute therefor another section. The new section which I propose would, if inserted in the Bill, make the position of the veterinary profession as strong and secure as it has been; that is to say, it would prevent any person possibly representing himself as being a registered veterinary surgeon or as being a veterinary surgeon, or, by any of these terms, representing himself to be a qualified veterinary surgeon. That is the present law. As I said several times, I am quite prepared to stabilise that position for the veterinary surgeons, but I think that the proposal in the Bill which I seek to have deleted goes much further than securing the position of the veterinary profession. There are other amendments on the Paper which, in effect, aim at what I seek to do. If I may refer, for instance, to number 6 on the Paper, I think it will have the same effect, but would not quite so positively re-establish the position of the veterinary profession.
I am not very much concerned as to the form that the Bill in the final stage will take, provided that it does not increase the privileges of the veterinary profession and strengthen their monopoly.
The objection I have is because the veterinary profession is so very small in numbers. As I said at an earlier stage, if there were anything approaching a sufficient number of veterinary surgeons to do the work thoroughly that is required to be done, even with the aid of farmers and farmers' servants, then something might be said for re-establishing the position and authority of the present members of the profession. But when it is suggested that we are making it an offence for people who have right up to date been practising certain surgical operations—paying attention to cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, horses—that only those who are directly servants, keepers of animals, or people who are not keepers of animals, but who are quite familiar with the treatment of animals, will be prevented from continuing what they have done hitherto, a different situation arises. Many stock keepers in the country look to these people for aid and assistance in the keeping of stock.
I do not think it is necessary at this stage to give instances, of which there are very many, even within my own very limited experience, but I can point to numerous instances of men who have been habitually called in to aid and treat sick animals who would be prevented under the terms of the section as it stands. The section I intend to put forward in place of the section which is in the Bill will ensure that the veterinary profession will be protected in all its privileges; that it would be an offence for any person to act as a veterinary surgeon who was not such. It would still make it possible for the farmer or stock keeper to call in the aid of the smith, the cattle drover or the shop assistant, as happens in some cases, to do work that he has been doing for quite a long time and doing successfully. I think I shall not prolong my statement at this stage, but will simply move the amendment.
I am sorry that the Minister is not here to give us advice on the amendment that Senator Johnson has moved.
He has been called away to a Dáil division, and has sent me a note to that effect.
If this amendment of Senator Johnson's is carried it will satisfy me as far as safeguarding the interests of the farmers and also the veterinary profession is concerned, and it would not be necessary for me to move the other amendments which appear on the Paper in my name. I am sure it is the feeling in the House that Senators are not desirous that any section should appear in the Bill which would interfere with the farmers in the carrying on of their business, while at the same time securing to the veterinary profession all the rights to which they are entitled. I am really doubtful as to which method is the best to carry out that idea; whether it would be the adoption of Senator Johnson's proposal, or to leave the section stand and have it amended as I intend to ask the House to amend it afterwards.
As regards the persons whom the farmer might be entitled to call in to assist him in the treatment of his cattle, I think there should be no conditions except that the person doing this work should not represent himself to be a veterinary surgeon, and should not be entitled to recover fees for the work he had done. I should like to see it definitely defined in the Bill that it would not be unlawful for him to accept remuneration if it were given him by the farmer, or person whom he has assisted in the treatment of his cattle. In the case of the human being there is no objection to any person rendering first aid, and in the case of cattle I think that the same rule should be observed. As I said before, I am sorry we had not the advice of the Minister on this matter as to whether he would be willing to accept any of those amendments, or the subsequent amendments on the same subject.
I wish to support the amendment proposed by Senator Johnson, because I think it is very reasonable. Having a life-long experience in the treatment of cattle, and being acquainted with farming in the country, and diseases to which all classes of stock are liable, I think it is quite a reasonable amendment to put forward. It is quite a novelty for me to see all these amendments introduced. So far as I can draw any conclusions, I believe there is no necessity existing for any change with regard to veterinary services. It is very well known and quite the custom in the country that the people who generally deal with any diseases in cattle are the herds in charge. There is always some local herd in the district who is asked to look at a cow or bullock, or for that matter any animal that may be affected, and treat it, and there is no question of interfering with the rights of the veterinary surgeons at all. Of course, if farmers wish to get expensive advice they are welcome to do it. At the same time people are satisfied with local treatment; they are accustomed to ordinary diseases that occur, and they are satisfied to use their own treatment in a way that would not be looked upon as any infringement of the etiquette of the profession dealing with these things.
I am more or less surprised to see the threat of a £100 fine and would be glad to see it eliminated from the Bill entirely. It is not necessary. It is interfering with the freedom of the people and dictating to them what they are to do. It is more or less an irritating thing to have this brought in now. One would think that people could not get along in the world at all unless they had legislation for every tittle-tattle that occurs. I wish to see this reasonable amendment adopted. Senators Johnson and Linehan have dealt with the subject in a way that should not be objected to on the part of the Government.
I would like to point out to the Senator that the herd is allowed to practise under the Bill.
Yes. The word is "herdsman." They are generally called by that name in the country. It does not mean because he is not a herd that an ordinary farmer could not have the same authority.
But the farmer is in also. They are both in the Bill, without any amendment.
I do not think the Minister understands what a herd is, because a herd is not in the Bill. The herd who might not be in anybody's employment would not be in the Bill.
He would not.
That is the point. He may have a substantial practice and he would be excluded under the Bill. Therefore the Minister was misleading the House.
I understand the arguments that have been used in connection with this amendment are to the effect that the present numbers of veterinary surgeons are insufficient. No Bill could be accepted which closed the practice with regard to livestock to all except those who are qualified veterinary surgeons. That is not the measure. The measure is that there are certain things reserved for the qualified man for which he alone may register himself and hold himself out as being entitled to practise and for which he may recover fees. As far as practice is concerned, you get the stockowner, the farmer, or the servant of either. That is the number, and not the small number of veterinary surgeons, that has to be thought of in this connection. Think of the numbers of cattle that Senator Johnson submitted on the last reading. Think of those in relation to the people who under this Bill are entitled to perform an operation or administer medicine, the performance or administration of which is incidental to the usual care and management of any animal. To do these operations and administer these types of medicine you have not alone a small number of veterinary surgeons but, outside that, you have every farmer and stock-owner and their servants.
We could even enlarge this. Senator Linehan gave us one group. The Bill could be enlarged by specifically mentioning the various categories or groups. To base an argument upon the number of veterinary surgeons in the country is a fallacy. The Bill includes those people and, in addition to that, every farmer in the country, every stock-owner and the servant of every farmer and stock-owner, and these are going to be allowed to perform operations or administer medicine if these are incidental to the usual care and management of animals of that class. That is the position. If it is going to be enlarged—and possibly it will be enlarged—let it be enlarged in reference to certain classes of people. If I misled the House, it was unintentional. I took it that it was a herd in employment was referred to. If he is in employment, and his employment is dealing with animals, it shall not be unlawful for such a person to carry out operations or administer medicine.
The man with a sort of reputation for dealing with certain types of cases but who at the moment is out of work, who has no animals and no land of his own and is not entitled to be called a farmer or the servant of a farmer or stockowner is excluded. The Bill can be enlarged, but I ask the House not to enlarge it so as to destroy the whole framework of the measure. If the Seanad wants to include a man who does not own stock, who is not a farmer and who is not the servant of a farmer or stockowner and who is not qualified then what sort of a man is he? I want to get some definition of him.
Why not avoid having categories of such persons and simply say "any person"?
I could not agree to that. If, for instance, there was to be a rigid application of the Anaesthetics Act it would cause more difficulty than anything that is contained in this Bill. Up to date the enforcement of that Act has more or less lapsed. There was a prosecution the other day in Clare under it. For many years past it has frequently been brought home to people in authority the extreme cruelty that accompanies the carrying out of certain operations to cattle. The Anaesthetics Act is there at the moment, but it has hardly ever been operated. If it were operated rigidly it would cause more difficulty to the community than anything in this Bill.
Is it the Minister's contention that this Bill when it becomes an Act should be more rigidly enforced than the Anaesthetics Act?
The position is that the Anaesthetics Act has not been enforced at all. We have the position that people get sentimental over the sufferings caused to animals. There is an agitation for the use of the humane killer, about horses being shipped for export and generally in regard to the inhumane treatment of animals. But when an attempt is made to regulate the profession which deals with the treatment of animals we are asked not to do anything—not to go further than the present situation. I do not want to go to the point of doing anything that would hurt the farming community in its ordinary occupations. If the regulations set out in the Bill appear to be too rigid and it is thought that they are going to impose a difficulty on the farming community then let us get a description of other regulations that might be made. Let us have regulations that will bring the various classes of people referred to under control. I felt that the amendment I introduced in the Dáil included all people who had to do with land, livestock, or were the servants of farmers or stockowners. Men temporarily unemployed, who do not keep animals for profit and who are not farmers and so on, are restricted from performing certain operations.
With regard to Senator Linehan's amendment we hold that nobody except a registered man ought to pass himself off to the public as a registered man. I think there is no disagreement on that. The second point is that only a registered man should be entitled to use the law courts to sue for payment and get enforcement of it. If Senator Linehan thinks that under this Bill people who are not qualified cannot accept payment then that is an incorrect view. They can accept payment but they cannot enforce payment.
That was the law up to 1921.
And would be the law if certain parts of this Bill were not to be passed. This Bill really repeals all the existing law except in so far as keeping the agreement alive, and then the provisions in the Bill operate. I ask the Seanad to consider carefully amendments which if accepted would wreck the framework of the Bill. Senator Linehan on the last day referred to a certain type of operation. He said that under the provisions of the Bill a smith would not be allowed to treat a horse in the manner that he described. I have since investigated that and feel certain that it would not be held to be a veterinary operation within the meaning of the Act. Senator Wilson referred to the case of men who had been accustomed to treat cattle, but who at the moment are unemployed. We can meet that case, but what I am anxious to know is if there are any other cases.
I fear that sub-section (1) of Section 46 would debar a chemist or druggist from prescribing medicine for cattle. We all know that these men have been accustomed to do that. Some of them have more experience in that respect than many veterinary practitioners. A farmer goes to the local chemist and says there is something wrong with his cow. When the chemist hears what the farmer has to say he may give him a red drench or a powder for the animal. These men are really specialists in that particular line, and I think it would be a pity if, under the provisions of this Bill, they were to be debarred from prescribing medicine for cattle.
When that question was raised in the Dáil I introduced an amendment on the Report Stage. Sub-section (1) of the amendment dealt with the recovery of fees. Sub-section (2) provided:
Nothing in this section shall deprive any person who is entitled by law to keep open shop for the sale of poisons by retail of the right to recover any moneys properly charged for veterinary medicine supplied, or recommended and supplied by him, provided such moneys so charged do not include any charge for recommending such medicine.
That, I think, would meet the case of chemists and druggists. The Dáil held that sub-section (2) was going too far, and I agreed to its deletion. I provided in that sub-section that the people referred to by Senator Wilson could make no charge for recommending medicine; that all they could do was to charge for supplying the medicine. If the Seanad wishes it can adopt that sub-section. I will take it to the Dáil and argue it there again.
I am still not convinced that the Minister has the right to prevent anybody who is competent to relieve animals, even though they are not farmers and do not possess the qualifications mentioned in the section, from doing work they have been engaged at for years. I think there ought to be no restriction as to the person who might be called in. The real qualification, so far as the farmer is concerned, is that the person called in is competent to relieve the animal. Severe penalties are provided in the Bill in the case of an unqualified person who holds himself out or represents himself to be a veterinary surgeon. No such person can recover fees in the courts. That provision ought to be sufficient to ensure that the veterinary profession will have secured to it all the rights to which it is entitled. When anything happens to an animal on a farm time is a very essential matter. An animal that might be cured in the first half hour after getting sick might be beyond recovery after that period. The farmer will not have time to look for a person to attend to the animal who has all the qualifications required under this Bill. He will send for the nearest person who is likely to be of use. I suggest that person should be any person the farmer thinks is capable of doing the work, and that all these restrictions in the Bill dealing with qualifications ought to be removed. I do not know whether that can best be secured by Senator Johnson's proposal or by later amendments. I think that in the case of animals, as in the case of human beings, there should be no obstacle to any person rendering first aid provided he is competent to do so.
I think I can claim that I am as much interested as any member of the Seanad, if not more so, in protecting those local practitioners. I know the valuable and the useful work they do. I have read this section very carefully and I think that Senator Linehan need not have any apprehension as to the effects of it. These local men do very good work. They never hold themselves out as being qualified practitioners. They are usually in the employment of some local person as a herd and are undoubtedly very skilful. I do not want to say that they are more skilful than veterinary surgeons, but the methods adopted by some of them seem to be more effective. In my part of the country we have a number of them. As a matter of fact, I have in my own employment a most excellent man, and if there was any proposal in the Bill to prevent them continuing the good work they have been doing I would strongly oppose it. In view of the statement made by the Minister, and of the limitations in the section, I do not think that we need have the slightest cause for fear.
When I first read the section I must say that I had much the same opinion of it as that expressed by Senator Wilson and Senator O'Connor, but on looking into it more carefully since and having heard the Minister's statement I do not think there is any necessity for the amendment before the House. The Minister said that he would meet the two points that were put up. I think that is sufficient.
It is highly desirable that when a profession is established it should be hedged round with certain privileges and certain advantages. Otherwise, men will not go to the trouble of studying for that profession and getting qualified. I think Senators have not sufficiently considered this point: that once veterinary surgeons are qualified there are a number of positions in connection with the inspection of factories, the inspection of animals, positions under the various county councils and the Department of Agriculture, salaried offices of various kinds, that they only will be qualified to fill. That will be a great advantage for the veterinary surgeons. There is, and there ought to be, a prohibition against any person holding himself out as a qualified man unless he is a qualified man. Nobody objects to that. But I think that the Minister, in his care for this new close corporation that he is setting up, has not had sufficient regard for the necessities of farmers and the class of people who are engaged in the care and management of cattle.
I submit that Senator Johnson's amendment is very reasonable. It provides that any person who falsely represents himself as being a registered veterinary surgeon shall be liable for a first offence to a fine not exceeding £20, and for any subsequent offence to a fine not exceeding £50. That is quite right. What I say is wrong is that impediments should be put in the way of farmers whose cattle get sick suddenly. Senator Linehan has made a point that perhaps other Senators have not considered sufficiently. It was this, that a cow may get sick, and within half an hour that cow will be dead unless it is attended to. I have seen that happen several times in my experience. There is no means of getting a veterinary surgeon, but the farmer can get other men to attend to the animal. Senator Sir Walter Nugent is a reasonable man, and I would ask him to read Section 46 again.
I have just read it.
I would ask the Senator to read sub-section (3) of that section. In my opinion it is most unfair to farmers and must have been framed by people who have no knowledge whatever of the peculiar difficulties of farmers who live long distances from towns where there are veterinary surgeons.
If the Senator reads the sub-section and takes it in conjunction with the promise made by the Minister he will find that every necessary safeguard is provided.
I submit that the sub-section would never have been put in by anyone who understood the peculiar difficulties of farmers and the sudden attacks from disease that cattle get, sudden attacks which must be remedied at once. Let us take a case. I used an Irish phrase earlier in the day. Suppose an animal gets what is calledgalar craptha or, as it is sometimes called in English, cramps. It is to deal with cases of that kind that Senator Linehan wants to have provision made.
I hold that the sub-section as it stands meets every possible case.
If I can show to Senator Sir Walter Nugent that it does not meet one very wide class of case I hope he will support our contention. The person who is usually called in when a beast gets a sudden pain or weakness is neither a farmer nor a person who keeps animals for profit and is not the servant of either.
I do not want to interrupt the Senator, but in addition to the sub-section as it stands the Minister has already agreed to meet the case of a man who has been in the habit of treating cattle and is not at present in employment. As far as I can see that would meet all the types of people who operate in any part of the country. None of these people have ever made the claim that they are qualified practitioners. It is only right that should be said on their behalf. They are an extremely honest, decent, respectable body of men. Not one of them would say that he was a qualified practitioner. It is only very seldom that they accept any reward. They come in and they give their services voluntarily. The owner of the cattle may give the man a present and he will be entitled to do that in the future. I think these men are perfectly safe under the Bill as it stands. If there was any proposal to interfere with them no one would be more keen in opposing that than I would.
With the indulgence of the Chair I am perfectly certain that before we conclude we shall succeed in hammering out a provision that will meet with the reasonable requirements of the veterinary profession and the reasonable needs of the farmer. But I say, with great respect to Senator Sir Walter Nugent, that he does not seem to apprehend the meaning of sub-section (3). To give immediate relief to a beast the man called in might be neither a farmer nor the servant of a farmer. Very frequently he is a man who has never been in domestic service at all. He is sometimes a man who perhaps has a little farm. He acquires great experience in attending the cattle of large farmers. Senator Sir Walter Nugent mentioned that there are many such men in his district. He is the type of person who is eminently qualified to give immediate relief in a case such as that referred to by Senator Linehan.
I believe the Minister is anxious that all interests should be considered. We are anxious, of course, that the veterinary profession should be protected. There is the point that the man who could give immediate relief to an animal would be prevented from doing so under this section because of the fact that he was never in domestic service at all. I call the attention of the House to the words of the sub-section: "any operation or medicine the performing or administering of which is incidental to the usual care and management of animals of that class." We have not been very precise about some of these matters that have been adverted to. Perhaps it is just as well. The matters which are in my mind and, I think, in Senator Linehan's, are somewhat outside the usual care and management of animals. There are two objections to that sub-section. First, the person to give immediate relief to an animal need not necessarily ever have been a servant, and the other is that the operations are somewhat outside the usual care and management of animals.
Is it incidental to the usual care?
I do not think it would be.
Would the Senator give us an example?
I think when this section comes up for construction that stress will be laid on the word "usual." Therefore, in the course of a discussion like this I do not think it would be wise for us to settle the actual phraseology. I think this is a matter for further consideration, seeing that everyone is of opinion that the veterinary profession ought to be protected and that no undue hardship ought to be inflicted on the farming community.
If it is possible, I think the Minister ought to allow the section to stand, to have it further considered by Senator Linehan, Senator Sir Walter Nugent, Senator Johnson and himself. Of course, Senator Johnson is in control of his own amendment and can do what he considers best. If he presses his amendment I will support it.
I would ask the Minister to include the word "herd" in the definition section. It is an expression that is well understood in the country. Senator Sir Walter Nugent mentioned that he had a man in his employment who is a first-class herd. Every member of the House quite well understands that when farmers' animals get sick the usual custom is to call in a herd or one of those other men referred to. The employers of these herds never object to their going to render whatever assistance they can to farmers' cattle. They are all very good men. Seeing that their employers do not object, I do not think that in the legislation we pass here we should do anything to prohibit herds from continuing to render the good service that they have given in the past in the treatment of farmers' cattle. On this matter it might be well to act on the old saying: "Let well enough alone."
I desire to support the amendment moved by Senator Johnson. In my opinion, no case has been made for interfering with the activities of the men under discussion, men who attend to cattle and horses in their local districts. This country, as we all know, is celebrated not alone for the breeding of hunters and 'chasers but for their schooling. The word "usual" is mentioned in the sub-section. If in the course of schooling a horse it met with an accident, that would then become a matter of urgency and would be quite unusual. As far as I can gather, a strict reading of the sub-section would mean that nobody could be called in to attend that horse except a registered veterinary surgeon. The same point would arise in cases of parturition. It would be a matter of urgency to have them treated immediately. The nearest veterinary surgeon may reside a long distance away, with the result that the owner of the cattle has to depend on the help he gets from these local men, who have long experience of the work. As a rule they are men of very great skill. It seems rather curious that in a Bill of this nature it should be considered necessary to introduce a section that might be deemed to refer to them at all.
These men have never objected to giving their services whenever application has been made to them, and it is a pity that there should be any sort of odium cast upon them. If there is any tendency to interfere with them some alternative service will have to be provided. It was mentioned that there were categories of various classes of people who would be permitted to attend animals. These categories included stockowners, farmers and their servants, and it was stated that the list would be quite comprehensive. It must be remembered that there might be only one of these people in a large area who would be sufficiently qualified, in an amateurish sort of way, to deal with animals. In that way the comprehensiveness suggested as being in the Bill is something of a misapplication. As I have indicated, if you interfere with the existing system some alternative service will have to be provided in the way of veterinary dispensaries or something of that nature. Perhaps some alternative service will be suggested.
I think Senators are unduly frightened as to what might happen under this Bill when it becomes law. As it was introduced, the Bill looked rather bad for the herd or for the farmer. As it stands at the present time, I do not think there is much reason for fear in regard to the herds, farmers or ordinary cow doctors being allowed to perform the usual operations that they have been in the habit of performing. I still believe that the Minister is right and that we want some protection, not from the herd or the farmer, but from the type of person who poses as being competent to look after animals. The veterinary surgeons really require protection against this type of person. The Minister has already quoted a case. It occurred in my part of the country—North County Dublin— where we are supposed to be very intelligent farmers. A bookseller posed, not as a veterinary surgeon, but as a professor. He went to a great number of very intelligent farmers and he pointed out to them that there were all sorts of things wrong with their cattle and then he performed operations. Under this amendment such a man could not be prosecuted for performing those operations. He did not pose as a veterinary surgeon; he merely posed as a professor. All he could be found guilty of would be cruelty to animals. There should be some method of dealing with that class of man. I have discussed this matter with a good many members of the veterinary profession, some of whom were instrumental in drafting the Bill. They have no intention whatsoever of prohibiting the ordinary herd or farmer or the farmer's employee from dealing with livestock just as they have been doing all along. They really want to get after the type of man who poses as a professor and carries out operations on livestock. There should be some provision left in the Bill to prevent that class of man performing operations on animals when he knows nothing at all about them.
Senator Dillon referred to the phrase "usual care and management." I could not follow the argument. Is the Senator afraid that certain accidents might happen which would not be incidental to the usual care and management? Is that the point?
According to the terms of the section, these men—a farmer or other person who habitually keeps animals for profit, or the servant of any such person—could only attend to operations or the giving of medicine in cases incidental to the usual care and management of animals. To my mind that would not include urgent cases, cases of emergency. Let us take, for example, a sudden accident or cases of parturition with mares or cows. These would not be covered by the section.
Is it that the Senator is afraid that the word "usual" might be interpreted as ruling out emergency cases?
I think there are too many faults in Section 46 as it stands to make it amendable within reason. I think it is necessary to make it clear what some Senators who have spoken do not seem to be quite aware of, that a farmer, stockowner, or the servant of either would still be entitled under the Bill as drafted to treat, care for and administer medicine to animals. I want to draw attention to the undoubted fact that in many parts of the country that I am personally aware of there are people who would not come within those categories. These people for years have been called in by farmers to do operations, and to administer medicines, and are now going to be debarred. From my own very limited experience I can illustrate my meaning by naming three types, and farmers and stockowners here will, I am sure, know about others. I will speak of a smith as one person I have in mind, who is called upon by people from all around to administer to certain classes of cattle in certain classes of sickness. He would be debarred by this Bill as it is drafted. I will take another case, the case of a drover. He is not employed by any person, but he does specific little jobs. He has various little contracts. He drives twenty, thirty or forty cattle from one place to another, and he is paid per head. He is not employed in any formal or legal sense. He is merely paid for a job. Yet he is called in to do work connected with the treatment of cattle. The third type is the assistant to a shop-keeper. He might be in the shop for years. The shop might be a place where ironmongery is sold; a general dealer's shop. Amongst the articles retailed there are medicines of various kinds for animals. This particular man would be well-known to all the farmers around as rather knowledgeable with regard to cattle. Very often, indeed, he would be called upon to give treatment or to advise how cattle should be treated. He gives physical attention to particular animals in particular circumstances. Those three types are within my own knowledge, and they will be all debarred henceforth from dealing with the work they have been doing for years because of this very heavy penalty.
The Minister referred to Senator Linehan's illustration and said that he had been advised that such an operation would not come under the category of being an operation which only a veterinary surgeon could perform. I read in Lord Halsbury's book dealing with the Laws of England a reference to a smith who was not a veterinary surgeon who described his establishment as a veterinary forge. He was penalised because of the fact that he had violated the law by announcing himself to be competent to perform veterinary operations. I think, on that illustration, Senator Linehan's example would undoubtedly be appropriate to his objections. As Senator Wilson has pointed out, sub-section (1) is probably as damaging to the interests of the farmer as sub-section (3); that is to say, it is going to make it an offence for hundreds of shopkeepers in scores of towns to provide medicines for animals that they have been doing for generations. "It shall not be lawful for any person to practise or to represent or hold himself out, whether directly or by implication, as practising or being prepared to practise veterinary surgery or veterinary medicine..." If a farmer goes to a shop-keeper who sells glauber salts or any combination of medicines for animals, and describes certain symptoms and then takes the advice of the shop-keeper, it would be very difficult to deny that that shopkeeper is guilty of practising veterinary medicine. Under this Bill such a practice would be prohibited. There are scores of towns where the only place a farmer can get advice and medicine from is the general dealer's. Under this Bill that is to be prohibited. I reaffirm that the right way to treat this whole business is to re-establish the position of the veterinary surgeon as a professional man. Senator Counihan spoke of a "professor" in North County Dublin. Of course he would be penalised under the amendment because he would be representing himself as a qualified veterinary surgeon. The very term "professor" would bring him within the prohibition.
He might be a professor of elocution.
He was setting himself up as being competent to practise veterinary surgery. Because I realise the danger of sub-section (1) I think that the amendment put forward by Senators Linehan and Connolly would not be sufficient. It would still leave this sub-section (1), which prohibits the sale and practice of veterinary medicine in the way that I have described. The Minister referred to a suggestion made in the Dáil that will make it possible for a chemist or druggist to sell veterinary medicines. I hold that fully five-sixths of the veterinary medicines are not poison, but under this proposed amendment the Minister is going to allow only the man who is licensed or who is authorised to sell poison, such as a chemist or druggist, to provide medicines for animals. There are scores of villages and small towns in the Free State where there is neither a druggist nor a chemist. The case for deleting this section and re-establishing the position of the veterinary surgeon is, I think, unanswerable. The Minister was not present during portion of the discussion, and he quite reasonably took up the information that was conveyed to him. I am not over-stressing my references to the number of veterinary surgeons. I know that the Minister's answer will be that though there are only 280 odd veterinary surgeons throughout the country, 60 of them being in Dublin, there are very many thousands of farmers with their servants, all of whom would be allowed to attend to animals. But if a man has been in the habit in a particular locality, where there is no veterinary surgeon, of dealing with the sickness of animals, who is neither a farmer nor the servant of a farmer, he is prohibited from dealing with sick animals. There are not enough veterinary surgeons to replace those people who have hitherto been free to carry out these duties.
If veterinary surgery was so greatly extended as to be sufficient to ensure that a qualified veterinary surgeon would be within call in any locality within a reasonable distance, then the case the Minister is making would be satisfactory. In the circumstances of to-day it is absolutely unsatisfactory. I cannot think that it is going to be possible within reason to draft any definition which would include the categories that ought to be brought into the Bill. I do not know whether the Minister would agree to "any person who has hitherto been in the habit of treating animals"—whether he thinks a definition of that kind would be of any value. I think it would not be of the slightest value, and it would only make the Bill useless as a preventive of incompetent handling of sick animals, and, presumably, that is the theoretical reason why the Minister is introducing this scheme. I think the Seanad would be well advised to confine its attentions in this Bill to re-establishing the position of qualified veterinary surgeons, but not to prevent those who have been in the habit of treating cattle and other animals from carrying on the duties to which they have been accustomed.
Before I deal with individual points I would ask the Seanad to consider what has been done in the other House in regard to this measure. This, of course, is not a Party measure, and in the Dáil it was discussed at considerable length. Certain amendments were brought forward and they were fully discussed. This Bill emerges from the Dáil as the best Bill that that House could think of. It represents what has been accepted by people who were in conflict on many points. There are certain points upon which the two Houses may have to get together, and it seems to me that it would be a wise thing for the Seanad to consider certain matters with which the other House refused to deal. It would be advisable, I think, to consider certain amendments that were put down for consideration on the Report Stage in the Dáil and to see what their fate was. I have listened to a discussion regarding the people who are likely to be penalised by any restrictions, if there be restrictions, imposed under Section 46. Senator Johnson has given certain illustrations; a smith has been referred to by Senator Linehan, and references have been made to a herd, a general dealer and a drover.
And a farrier. Did you ever hear of a smith and farrier?
The smith and farrier have been talked of. We can enlarge this section to bring all these in. The better thing would be to enlarge it by some extension by way of class and allow licensing within that class. We could say that a licence would be issued by the Minister for Agriculture after consultation with the people concerned. I wonder whether the particular operation to which Senator Linehan referred on Second Reading would count as a veterinary operation? I have been told that the view is taken that no court in this country—I am not speaking of Halsbury or the law which he was administering—would hold that illustration to be a veterinary operation. But there is the risk that it might be; that the judgment might go forward, and consequently we might have to protect the smith. The smith, the farrier and individuals within that class can be protected. We distinctly thought we had met the case of the drover. We did not use the word "employee" because we thought that "employee" would limit the category. We considered the case of the servant who would know something about veterinary operations and medicines; the person who would be engaged about the land and about animals, and we tried to bring in that class of person. We did not want to set out that that sort of person must possess animals or land, because that might be an unwise restriction. Therefore we referred to farmer or stockowner or the servant of either. We want the word "servant" to cover a man who would be brought in to an operation for a farmer on a particular beast. He would be an employee, but we did not want that to count, because it might mean throwing open the gates to everybody.
The drover was also considered. It was certainly intended that the section would cover the drover. If he is not covered we will see that he will be covered. The general dealer is in a different position. I brought forward an amendment in the Dáil, and one will have to understand the distinction made in the Dáil before the effect of the amendment can be properly understood. It was agreed that these people, who simply handed down bottles of proprietary medicines from shop shelves, were not practising veterinary medicine or holding themselves out as so practising. It was only where a man recommended something and made it up himself that he would be considered as practising medicine. Where those two things would be combined you might then hold that a man would be practising medicine. As far as the general dealer, who merely handed down bottles of proprietary medicine, would be concerned, he would not be practising veterinary medicine.
Suppose a general dealer said to the farmer, "Your cow is suffering from this or that trouble, and here is the proper bottle for you," in what position would he be?
If a man comes to a general dealer and says that one of his animals is suffering from a certain complaint, and the general dealer then sells him a bottle of proprietary medicine, I am given to understand that that is not practising veterinary medicine. I wonder will Senator Comyn argue that that is practising veterinary medicine? We had under consideration the case of a chemist or druggist into whose place a farmer would go. The farmer would detail the various symptoms that he observed in the case of the sick animal, and he would get an opinion from the chemist or druggist as to what he thought was wrong with the animal. He also would get an opinion as to what would probably cure the animal. That prescription would then be made up.
A chemist or druggist might sometimes be less competent than the average general dealer.
The general dealer simply hands down something from a shelf. If it is found that the general dealer, by doing what I have mentioned, is practising veterinary medicine, it can be met. I am informed that it is not practising veterinary medicine. I cannot argue the thing further at this stage. Certain people in the Dáil who were rather keen on opening the door a bit wider for the purpose of facilitating another class of person objected that it had been opened far too wide, and on that basis a certain clause was struck out. The Seanad may decide to reinstate it, and the question can be argued all over again. I think some attention should be paid to the very long debate that took place in the other House on a series of sections. I will again offer a suggestion that I previously offered after a consultation with certain veterinary people. It is in connection with the operations that might be performed. I suggested that we might include in the Bill such other operation as the Minister for Agriculture might determine, after consultation with the interests involved. The point is that within certain categories licences might be granted by the Minister for Agriculture after consultation.
Another point concerned the limitation of the type of operation. Senators Comyn and Dillon have doubts about the phrase "incidental to the usual care and management of animals." We looked for a phrase that would be as wide as possible. I do not know what virtue there is in the word "usual." It seems to have caused Senator Dillon a certain amount of anxiety. I do not see very much virtue in it and if there is any anxiety about it I would be prepared to drop it. It was really to meet the point of practices that are generally followed and operations that are ordinarily performed. The word "usual" slipped in and I do not think it has any force as a restriction, particularly when the Preamble is "... any operation or medicine the performing or administering of which is incidental to..."
If the literal meaning of the word is considered it is certainly a serious restriction, because there might be cases of urgency to be treated.
It might certainly affect a case of urgency.
As a matter of interpretation the question is whether the word "usual" in that context will have the result feared. I recognise no virtue in the word, and if there is any great anxiety about it I am prepared to drop it. The wording of the section would then be "incidental to the care and management of animals." I will consult the draftsman on the matter in order to see whether the phraseology runs correctly. I accept the principle of taking out the word "usual."
I have dealt with animals that have been sick. I have a very good veterinary book and I can generally tell, from custom, what is wrong with an animal. I take out a certain prescription from the book and then I go to the general dealer's or the chemist. I cannot see, even under Section 46, that I or the general dealer or the chemist would be breaking the law.
I believe not.
It is quite clear that neither in this House nor in the Dáil is there any suggestion of Party interests in connection with this measure. If the Seanad is prepared to adopt amendments it would be a likely and very desirable thing that as between the two Houses there should be a consultation to arrive at a satisfactory arrangement in regard to the wording of sections. Unless the House does make amendments there is no possibility of that consultation and, therefore, we must make amendments preparatory to the possibility of a consultation between the Dáil and Seanad.
Perhaps it might be well to leave this amendment over until the Report Stage. Something might be agreed to by that time.
If he wishes, the Senator could bring forward new amendments on the Report Stage.
If there is to be something in the nature of negotiations— which I think there ought to be, judging by what the Minister and Senators have said—it would be a mistake for the House to adopt any amendment now; it might make trouble. It would be better to adjourn the consideration of this amendment until Report Stage.
Except you accept what the Minister says, and strike out the word "shall."
That may not be enough. I suggest that Senator Johnson's amendment stand over until Report Stage.
And in the meantime?
My point is that we cannot negotiate with the other House until this House has decided on its own policy.
The House can adopt the Senator's amendment on Report, if no better way can be found out of the position.
When the House has expressed its view in Committee the Minister may make certain counter-propositions. That would bring the matter clearly into order, but if we do not pass the amendment, when Report Stage comes the Minister will not know what is the view of the House.
There is nothing on which the Minister does not know the opinion of the House on this question. Every aspect of the matter has been debated. The only person who seems to be recognised as completely incompetent in regard to this Bill is the farmer. He knows nothing at all about anything. He does not know how to treat a beast, he does not know where to buy medicine, and he cannot buy it unless he goes to a general dealer. A man who has been a farmer for a number of years must feel that he has been an imbecile and must remain an imbecile.
When this Bill is passed, that looks like it.
As I hope the general view of the House will be sought now, I should like to say what I feel about the matter. I think we should have regard to simplicity. I have listened to the Minister, and his proposals appear to me to be making the matter more and more complicated. Senator Johnson's amendment is exceedingly simple. It provides that we should protect the veterinary surgeons and, after that, that we should let anybody come in and help and advise in the case of sickness of animals. That seems straightforward.
I have not heard any plea on this question for women. Is it not possible that a farmer' wife or a farmer's daughter might be fully competent to go in and advise in the case of sickness of animals? That class of person is not covered at all by the section. Cannot we take a broad view of the matter? The tendency of legislation is to get more and more complicated. The result of making all these restrictions is to render judicial interpretation necessary and to bring these matters into the courts. The amendment we have before us is perfectly simple. It protects the veterinary surgeons, and it leaves the other people free.
Senator Johnson desired to raise some question on Section 2.
Section 2 starts off by saying:
The agreement set forth in the First Schedule to this Act is hereby confirmed.
The point I desired to raise was raised in the other House, but was not, I think, dealt with satisfactorily. It is a point of some constitutional importance. It is true that in the case of the Dentists Act and the Medical Act the same phrasing appeared in the agreement which was made between the Free State Government and the British Government. I am quite prepared to take my share of the blame for not having sought to make a correction at the time these two Acts were being passed. "Better late than never," though "better never late." Section 2 of the First Schedule begins in this way:
Subject to the provisions of this agreement and notwithstanding anything contained in the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922... the constitution of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons under the Charters and the Veterinary Surgeons Act...shall be deemed not to have been affected by the establishment of the Irish Free State.
I think that that is most unfortunate phraseology, to say the least—to say that we pass legislation incorporating an agreement which states that, notwithstanding anything contained in the Free State Constitution, certain other things in the way of Acts, Orders and Agreements shall not be affected. I have no doubt that the intention is perfectly sound, but I contend that the phrasing ought to be very different. If we stated that the Act confirms the position which has hitherto prevailed it would be all right, but to put in a phrase stating that notwithstanding anything in the Constitution, certain Acts, Agreements and Charters shall continue of effect, seems to me to be most unfortunate. That form of phrase should not be allowed upon our Statute Book.
I think that the explanation lies in the practice of the British Parliament. There being no written Constitution there, any Act of any year can be said to supersede an Act of any previous year. But that is not our position. Any Act of this Parliament, or any regulation made under an Act of this Parliament, is not effective if it overrides or goes outside the Constitution. To ask us to say that notwithstanding anything in the Constitution, certain Acts, Agreements and Charters will continue of effect, is surely asking us to state a thing in a manner in which it ought not to be stated. I do not know if anything can now be done as regards this point. If anything can be done, I think it ought to be done. Inasmuch as this Act cannot become effective until a corresponding Act shall have been passed by the British Parliament, it seems to me that it is not too late to have this formal agreement amended. In any event, I want to make a protest against the form of words employed and to express the hope that this is the last time an agreement in this form of words will come before this Chamber.
I must express my admiration of the extraordinary industry which the Senator has displayed in scanning this Bill and agreement. I am greatly surprised that he, a man who is not supposed to be a lawyer, should have put his finger on the spot. Senator Johnson called attention to the phraseology of Section 2 of this Agreement which states "Subject to the provisions of this Agreement and notwithstanding anything contained in the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922 or the Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1922"...the constitution of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons under the Charters and the Veterinary Surgeons Acts and the powers formerly vested in or imposed on the College shall continue. It was extremely interesting to me to learn that Senator Johnson supposed that the reason why Section 2 was phrased in that way was because it accords with the English view. So it does accord with the English view. The reason why it accords with the English view is that, according to the opinions of lawyers, according to the decisions of judges and of courts even in the Free State since the passing of the Constitution, that Constitution is amendable by any Act passed in the Oireachtas whether the Constitution is mentioned in it or not. That is the reason.
I shall recall to the mind of the Seanad remarkable proof of that. In troubled times, a Public Safety Act was passed here. That Public Safety Act did not purport to amend the Constitution. When it came for interpretation before the court, I pleaded that the Act itself was a breach of the provisions of the Constitution and was illegal. It was contended against me by the present Chief Justice, who was then Attorney-General, that it was not a breach. It was decided by the Court—the old Judges, Ronan, Molony and others— that the Public Safety Act was inconsistent with the Constitution, but that being subsequent to the Constitution, it repealed the Constitution so far as it was inconsistent with it. That was the view held by Judges Ronan, Molony and others. That is the English view and that is the reason why sub-section (2) is drafted in that way. I am surprised and delighted that Senator Johnson has given so much care and attention to matters of that kind.
I do not understand the point that is being raised at all. Certainly Senator Comyn has made no argument which requires answer——
I am supporting Senator Johnson's view.
In supporting, one is generally expected to adduce arguments. I have not heard any.
You have heard enough.
I have heard the Senator indicating a point of view which he says accords with the English view. I have never yet heard of any English judges pronouncing upon the particular matter which Senator Johnson raised. I have heard the courts— even the courts under the new régime —discuss the point as to whether or not the Constitution is amendable by a statement in an Act which is not precisely aimed at the amendment of the Constitution. I do not know whether or not that is Senator Johnson's point.
I was only trying to solve the doubts in Senator Johnson's mind.
I was not anxious that the Senator should do that.
I do not even know yet what Senator Johnson's point is. If it is that he objects to the form of words employed and that those words are to be got out of this agreement, then I do not consider that matter sufficiently important to warrant the opening up of negotiations again about this Bill. The making of this agreement involved a good deal of trouble and I would not be prepared for the reason given here to restart negotiations. The wording does not seem to be obnoxious. If I were entering upon the making of an agreement to-morrow and this phrase was suggested, I would accept it most willingly. I see nothing obnoxious in it. It validates things which were invalidated simply by the establishment of the Free State. The agreement simply states that notwithstanding anything contained in the Constitution certain things shall be deemed not to have been affected. I cannot see anything obnoxious in the phrase. In any event, it would be impossible to get it out of this agreement.
Can we have legislation notwithstanding the Constitution?
Most decidedly and if there is any constitutional lawyer who says that that is not so, he should make his point now.
It is rather dangerous to speak on this subject at all. I am inclined to think that I probably misunderstood Senator Johnson. I thought he was raising the point that we were confirming an agreement in a Schedule of the Bill which stated that, notwithstanding anything in the Constitution, certain things would take place and that in the Act itself we did not say "notwithstanding so and so." That is what I thought he was raising—that Section 2 of the Bill only confirms the agreement but does not make the agreement law.
Though not expressly set out as an amendment of this Constitution, the Bill is an amendment of the Constitution.
On behalf of Senator Bagwell, I move amendment 1:
Section 23, sub-section (1). To delete in line 32 the words "authorised or."
This amendment has for its object the prevention of what I might call Ministerial interference with the discretion of the Veterinary Council. The administration of the Act is confided to this Veterinary Council, which, when it is finally established, will be a very responsible body, administering the affairs of the profession. Their functions under the Bill are of two sorts. Some of their functions are mandatory. They are required to do certain things by the Bill, and if they do not carry them out they certainly ought to be required to carry them out. Compulsion should be brought to bear on them in respect of these things either through the Minister or through the courts. There are, however, a great many functions under this Bill which are purely discretionary, which the Council may or may not do, according to their own wise discretion. Take, as an example, Section 36, which gives to the Council the power to remove from the register the name of anybody who has been guilty of professional misconduct, and also power to reinstate a member who has been struck off. That is purely discretionary and ought to be left entirely to the Council. I do not think that the Minister ought to have power to interfere with the exercise of a discretion of that kind. The amendment, therefore, deletes the words "authorised or," and leaves in only the acts and functions which are required by the Bill to be done by the Council.
I do not think that the Minister need be at all anxious about the deletion of the words "authorised or" because the word "may," where it is applied to a public body which has to discharge a public statutory duty which involves the interest of the entire public, will be read as "shall." Therefore, if there are any of these functions to be discharged by this Council in respect of which the word "may" is used, and which are of that nature, they will be compulsory, and will come within the power of the Minister, even though the words "authorised or" are excluded.
I think there is danger in this matter. I am influenced by the example that Senator Brown has given the House. I know that the General Medical Council are very slow to move, even where an abuse exists, unless a complaint is made. It would appear in many cases to be invidious for the person who is best qualified to make a complaint to do so. It might be looked upon as professional jealousy. In the circumstances, I think it would be better to leave it to the discretion of the Minister to bring forward cases of abuse of that sort, which might otherwise be permitted to continue.
I agree with what Senator Dowdall has said. The explanation given by Senator Brown ought to persuade every member of the Seanad that the Bill, as it stands, is quite right.
In this House we certainly do get extraordinary points of view, and we find ourselves on extraordinary sides. Here we have a section which permits the Minister to do all the things which are authorised or required to be done by the Council—in other words, which permits the Minister to go in and be the Council. Senator Brown thinks that that goes too far, and he wants to give the Minister power to do only the things which the Council must do under this Bill. He wants to prevent the Minister having power to do the things which the Council has an option to do, which they do not do, and which the Minister wants to make them do. Senator Comyn wants the Minister to have complete power to come in and act for the Council under this section, which Senator Brown proposes to limit.
I think that Senator Dowdall rather missed the point. Senator Dowdall was under the impression that the Minister might bring forward complaints for the purpose of administrative action by the Council. If he reads the section he will find that it does not deal with that at all. This section neither gives the Minister power in that respect nor takes any power which he may have from him. It would not take away from him any power which he may have to make a complaint. The question here is one of the Minister assuming the rights of the Council, which he can do in all respects according to the Bill, but which, under Senator Brown's amendment, he could only do in so far as things are definitely required to be done by the Council. Senator Comyn's attitude is inconceivable to me, because the section gives some Minister—probably the Minister for Agriculture—power to come in and act for the Council.
It is quite interesting to hear the views on this Bill. Sometimes I am tempted to think of the comparison between proposals of this kind and the corporations that have been set up in Italy in recent times. There, the head of the State retains to himself always the power to say "yea" or "nay." That is what Senator Comyn is asking should be reserved to the Minister. If I were to do that it could be understood, but I cannot understand Senator Comyn doing it.
I might be in favour of good laws.
This means centralisation of authority in the hands of the Minister. The debate has been quite interesting and I would like to hear the Minister's view.
[The Leas-Chathaoirleach took the Chair.]
I would like to get this in a concrete way. Cow doctors may now practise in the country. It is questionable if they can hold themselves out as entitled to practise. Under this Bill any offence under any section may be prosecuted at the suit of the Council. Senator Comyn and Senator Dowdall want to have the Minister for Agriculture to decide whether or not the Council should prosecute. Section 34 enacts: "Whenever a person registered in the register is convicted in Saorstát Eireann of treason or of a felony or a misdemeanour, or is convicted outside Saorstát Eireann of a crime or offence which would be a felony or a misdemeanour if committed in Saorstát Eireann, the Council may erase the name of such person from the register." Senator Comyn and Senator Dowdall want the Minister to have the last word in that also, and if the Council do not act he may get rid of them, or may insist that they do act.
Senator Brown says that "may" means "shall." I do not agree with him.
Not in that case.
It is certainly a reversal of public form in this matter. I argued the subject matter of this amendment with Senator Bagwell before. What we wanted was a certain touch between the Minister, who would be expected to be interested in the proper carrying out by the Veterinary Council of the responsibilities thrown upon them, and the Council. Particularly in a case like this, where there is no direct Government representation, where the personnel of the whole Council shall be elected by the practitioners, it may be a good thing to have touch between a Minister of the Government and the Council. On the whole this matter is not very serious. It is only proposed to take away certain portions of the power and to remove the words "authorised or." I presume certain consequential changes will follow upon that. As I read down the section, I see things described as "necessary or appropriate." The words "or appropriate" might have to go out. Then there are the words "for the proper exercise of the functions or the proper discharge of the duties conferred or imposed on the Council by this Act." I am not sure that some little amendment would not be required there. I take it the intention of the amendment is to indicate what Senator Bagwell had in mind. In so far as it leaves, in the end, the Minister with a hold over the Council as regards the matters they are required to do, that is the main thing we wanted to achieve. In so far as the Minister could exercise any absolute power over them in matters that they were asked or authorised to do, there is no serious reason why he should retain that power. I am prepared to accept the amendment. It may require looking into to see how the remainder of the section will read. I should like to point out a type of reaction to it. In the other measure which will have to be brought forward incorporating this Veterinary College in one of the colleges of the National University, I think it would be necessary to insert provisions regarding the appointment to the Council of people representing that university or that college. When the Council is being re-made at that time—as I think it will have to be re-made in order to allow this university body to have representation on it—it may be necessary to provide for a Government representative on the Council. That would give certain Government touch with it and would ease the whole situation.
Perhaps it would be better to let the amendment stand over for the Report Stage.
I am taking it that the amendment has been accepted in principle.
It is better to have the amendment moved and then the consequential ones can be made on the Report Stage.
I will put the amendment, which reads: "Section 23, sub-section (1). To delete in line 32 the words ‘authorised or.'"
I move amendment 9:
Section 47. To delete the section and to substitute the following new section therefor:—
47. (1) Any act of thing that would be an offence under this Act if committed by an individual shall be an offence if committed by a body corporate.
(2) If a body corporate commits an offence under this Act, such body corporate shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine in respect of each such offence not exceeding fifty pounds and the manager and every director of such body corporate shall also be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine in respect of each such offence not exceeding fifty pounds.
It is rather in keeping with the last amendment. It depends on what is meant by practising veterinary medicine. The section, as drafted, would make it unlawful for any corporate body to represent or hold itself out, directly or by implication, as practising or being prepared to practise veterinary medicine. I think that would prohibit any of the proprietary firms that the Minister mentioned in a previous discussion from advertising their medicine as suitable for certain sicknesses. One need not indicate the name of any outstanding proprietary medicine firms which frequently advertise their remedies for various classes of ailments.
The proposal is to delete the section as in the Bill and to insert another section which says: "Any act or thing that would be an offence under this Act if committed by an individual shall be an offence if committed by a body corporate," and a penalty would follow to every member of the directorate and the manager. You are getting at the person responsible. If there is any ground for thinking that the firm that I have in mind—long established and well-known—dealing in animal medicines of various kinds, sheep dips, sheep dipping materials, sheep diseases, horse remedies and so on, should be brought in, then we ought to make a change in this section, and I think all legitimate aims are covered by the new section which I propose.
I do not know what the law is. It would take a good deal of consideration to determine what the situation is now.
If there is any doubt in the matter I will postpone this until the Report Stage. With the permission of the House, I will withdraw it and bring it up on the Report Stage.
It is a necessary consequence on the amendment that has been passed, because that amendment prohibits an unauthorised person holding himself out as a registered veterinary surgeon. This Bill has repealed all the Veterinary Acts and nothing is now prohibited except, I think, holding oneself out without authority as a veterinary surgeon. Nobody can practise veterinary surgery or medicine unless he is registered.