I would like to say a word or two to express my disappointment at the way the Minister met the case, a reasonable case, which I believe I put before the House last night. Now, the Minister went so far as to indicate that he realised as well as I realised that there is a problem. In fact the Minister's speech suggested to me that he regarded the problem as being one of such gravity, of such seriousness and of such tremendous size that the Government could not take the responsibility of tackling it because of the risks entailed. He did not attempt to deny that there was a problem. I put it to him again that this problem is going to remain. I put it to him also that, if he tried to get under it, as some of us have, he will realise what a very disturbing problem this is. Apart altogether from its consequences to our economic life, in the sense, so to speak, that productivity is very considerably lower because of this lack of capital, on the land, and apart altogether from the consequences of reduced production on our purchasing capacity in town and in country, there is the other disturbing factor, the social problem, of the people on the land who are not fully occupied on the land; in fact, who are not half-time occupied on the land and whose thoughts are turned from it.
I am thinking particularly of the many small farmers whose plight I have tried to depict to the House. I am not thinking of the man with a hundred acres so much as of the thousands of small farmers who are in the position which I know them to be in, and whose boys and girls, so far as it is possible to do it, ought to be brought up to work the soil as their fathers did before them. But to-day, because the means are not with them, quite a number of the boys are turning away from work on the land. I know many of them; every Senator from the country knows them as well as I do. Some boys are signing on in the labour exchanges and getting a few shillings per week dole during the winter months. A very large number of girls are leaving the country.
The great trouble that I see is that this problem cannot be tackled by anybody but the Government. Is there anything worse in a country than people whose minds cannot be concentrated on the work there is to do? You know the mischief that idle hands can make. They are a disturbing factor in our social and economic life. They are out, so to speak, for a full life, and because they cannot get it from their little possessions at home, they are out to get it some way, and the consequence is that the Minister has to make provision in various forms from the Exchequer to meet demands that would not have to be met if the Minister would take the risks which I suggest he ought to take and provide capital to enable our land to be worked to the full by the people born on it.
The trouble I see is that, in my judgment, this problem is going to become more accentuated as time goes on. Senator Condon yesterday evening, according to the Minister's standards, apparently answered my case. I do not accept it that Senator Condon answered my case at all. I gave a number of figures which I suggested represented a picture of the country. I suggested that these figures indicated that the country is less wealthy than it had been and I am not bothering to discuss the causes now. I suggested that that situation was common not only among the big farmers in Meath, of whom Senator Condon spoke, but amongst the small farmers in my own county.
Senator Condon apparently thought he had answered my whole case by speaking, I think, of a cabin farmer who went to Meath and secured 25 acres of land, who at one time had only one four-footed beast on the land, and who was able to declare a short time ago at a meeting of the Meath County Council that he had his land fully stocked and was putting money in the bank. He was a most remarkable man, if he were able to achieve as much as that. I am puzzled to know how he managed to get all this stock on his land. One four-footed beast could not produce at all. I suggest that he never could have got it on the land but for the economic war which reduced the price of stock to a point when it was almost there for throwing away. I am wondering where he got the cash to buy. Nobody here is going to tell me that he got it off the land. He must have got it from somebody else. I can take any Senator here to dozens and dozens of farmers in my county, supporters of the present Administration, whose plight is what I have suggested and who live only two miles from my own home. With their horse and cart these men are trying to get work on the roads because there is no stock on their lands. There is work on their land to do if they had the capital to work the land. They are industrious, but they have not the means. Who is going to provide it? I say that nobody can do that but the Minister. The Minister apparently thinks that the risks are very great. I do not think they are so very great at all. I do not think that it is beyond the wisdom and the capacity of the people here collectively to devise a scheme which will meet the present situation. I suggest further that the longer this problem remains unsolved the more difficult it is going to be to solve it. There will be more waste in our economic and social life and the numbers of those who want to go away from our country will be greater. We cannot afford to lose any of them. We cannot afford to dissipate any of the resources left to us to employ, whether they be boys or girls or the soil of the country. These are things that we have to try to hold possession of and enrich our land by making the efforts of all more fruitful than they are.
I again urge on the Minister the point of view which I have tried to express. It is not a Party point of view at all. It is a point of view that is held strongly by very responsible supporters of the Administration which is in power, just as strongly as it is by me and a number who agree with me, and which is held equally strongly by men outside the political atmosphere altogether. I believe that if the Minister took time during the Recess to go to men outside of this House and of the Dáil who are talking of these things and thinking of them, and asked them to tell him what there is in all this talk of theirs and what is the justification for it, he would get information which would be a revelation to him. I am convinced that if the Minister will take his chance and pump more money into Irish agriculture more money will be put into circulation in this country, the purchasing capacity of our people as a whole will be very considerably increased, and the products of the new and old industries that the Minister is trying to put into life will increase in quantity, and in quality as well, because the people will be there to buy them with the money to buy them.