I am always very reluctant, in view of my position in this House, to censure public servants, but in the present instance the matter, to my mind, is so monstrous, and shows such a gross lack of the duty which the Department's inspectors have to perform, that I feel it my duty, representing the cattle trade and the farming industry, to call attention to this as a matter of urgent importance. The big November fair in Tipperary was held on Tuesday, and a number of cattle exporters attended for the purpose of buying stock for certain markets in Great Britain, principally the York market which is held on Thursday. It is usual at all fairs that cattle bought are shipped the same night. If the cattle bought in Tipperary on Tuesday were not shipped that night, they could not possibly catch the markets for which they were intended on Thursday. Something like 500 cattle were loaded into a special cattle train at Tipperary for the North Wall, but owing to a break down on the Great Southern Railway at Templemore on Sunday night, service on the line was dislocated and the cattle were delayed in reaching the North Wall. They did not reach there until 7.30 on Tuesday night. The Department's veterinary staff was notified that the cattle were in transit, but notwithstanding that they left their work at 7 o'clock and refused to wait to inspect the cattle for shipment. The action of the Department's staff has caused serious loss and inconvenience to cattle exporters. When the cattle arrived at the North Wall, instead of being inspected and sent on to the boats to catch the markets where they were to be sold, they had to be sent four or five miles into the country or put into pens and yards at the North Wall, or into sheds and other places for the night, and possibly for a week because they would not be shipped until night. In many places it will be impossible to ship them to-night to meet markets, in consequence of the restrictions in England, under which cattle there for more than three days have to be kept in quarantine for a week. This is a very serious matter.
Even at the Kilkenny fair to-day there were reactions of the attitude of the Department's officials in not having the cattle shipped, and a large number of buyers were not in the fair. It will also tend to glut the market next week and be a serious loss and inconvenience to exporters. All the loss and inconvenience will react on producers and farmers. There cannot be a particle of excuse for the three or four, or whatever the number, of veterinary surgeons who attend the North Wall not having remained on duty to faciliate the principal export of this country. No excuse whatever can be put forward. If the dockers at the North Wall refused to work late on the ships, the management of the shipping companies would dismiss them. Here we have well-paid officials —I am not saying they are over paid— refusing to facilitate the trade of the country, leaving their work at 6.30 or 7 o'clock and refusing to inspect cattle for shipment. Many of the exporters travelled to Tipperary perhaps on Monday night's mail train in order to do their business, and possibly they invested a good deal of their capital in the stock that they bought there. Their capital is lying at the North Wall or is in yards, pens or paddocks about Dublin, and will have to remain there for a week, for the simple reason that they veterinary surgeons refused to remain on duty for an extra hour or hour and a half in order to inspect the cattle.
It is a monstrous state of affairs. It is not the first time it has occurred. They have a rule at the North Wall that, with a few exceptions, the gates are closed at 6.30 and no cattle are allowed in after that hour. I contend that that rule is all wrong, and that the Department should insist on there being no definite period, or that when cattle are held up in transit coming from fairs, and when the shipping companies are prepared to keep their boats late to take the cattle, the veterinary surgeons should remain to inspect them. I am not saying that they should not be paid for such work. If the veterinary surgeons wanted payment, many of the exporters would have paid from £15 to £20 each to have the cattle inspected. I cannot see a particle of excuse for what happened. Whatever the cost of overtime may be, I am sure the cattle trade would be satisfied to pay five times the amount that the Department would have to pay, in order that the cattle would be shipped in time for the markets.