I have not finished with this. I want to move, at this stage, that this Vote be now reduced by £100. I am not going to cover the ground I covered last night. I am going to see if I can give a few more reasons as to why I am asking for this reduction. My main point is because of what I may call the mal-administration of these moneys during the last financial year. I have here the Official Debates of the 5th December, when this estimate was under discussion. I had not at that time anticipated anything like what afterwards occurred. I did feel, perhaps, that there was a possibility of districts not getting fair play, apart from political considerations altogether. I did not honestly think that political considerations would weigh, but I did fear that districts would not get fair play according to the distress that existed and the number of unemployed. I suggested then to the Minister for Lands and Agriculture that there was a danger that the best would not be got out of these moneys. I said:
"I do not know whether it is proposed to spend the money through the county councils or what the method will be, but this is a point of view that should be kept in mind, and if it were possible it would be right to go as far as trying to ascertain through the present clerks of district councils or some other way how many people there are in town and country who are prepared to work, and who want work, before any scheme would be devised for the relief of distress in any district. If you have a thousand men who want work in one district it would not be fair to spend the same amount in that district as where there are only 200 men."
That was the view I put forward. The Minister, in his reply, said:
"I want Deputies to remember also that the Land Commission could not guarantee to find work in every district where there are unemployed. Deputy Baxter suggested that we should get a census of the number unemployed and give work to them in strict proportion. Deputy Cooper made a suggestion that we should go in for drainage work like that at the Owenmore, but any farmer will tell you that you cannot work on a drainage scheme in winter, and especially in this month (December). On the other hand, you have Deputy Cooper's suggestion that we should concentrate large sums of money in one particular district, and, on the other, Deputy Baxter's, that there should be an exact census taken of the unemployed, and that the money should be divided accordingly. We can do neither. The Land Commission can only spend money where they have work. They will take into consideration as far as they can that a certain area is poor, and that, consequently, money should be spent there, if we have work there. But they cannot do it in that entirely accurate and scientific way that Deputy Baxter suggests. Neither do they propose to do it by concentrating all the money in one little area."
I do not think any system at all was employed as regards discovering the number who wanted work and the amount of distress existing, or anything else, in the districts where the money was to be spent. There was no discrimination between the man who had no work and the man who might be thought to be well off. There was no discrimination like that. As a matter of fact, I think I am putting it clearly when I say that there was no system followed in the allocating of these works, or any attempt to keep in mind the amount of distress that existed in a district, or whether the work was necessary or not. There was no discrimination between the people who ought to be employed and the people who ought not to be employed. At least, that was not the basis on which the money was allocated. I say, as I said last night, that the money was allocated, distributed, and spent from the political point of view.
I made a reference last night to the publication of the notice of a public meeting on the occasion of President Cosgrave's visit to Cavan. I have since been able to secure that notice, and I will put the notice to the House. I will let the House see what it contains, and I will leave the House to judge whether it does not sound more like a Government proclamation than a notice convening a meeting of a political party.
This is on the 7th of February. I want to point out that the debate on relief took place on 5th December. On the 5th December the Minister suggested that there was no possibility of taking the census that I suggested. I do not know whether the Minister will say now whether or not he was in a position between the 5th December and 7th February to have the census I suggested taken. I think sensible men will agree that it was easily possible. The notice of the meeting is headed "Cumann na nGaedheal." It says:—
President Cosgrave will visit Cavan on Sunday, 8th February, and will address the meeting, already announced to be held in the Town Hall, Cavan, at the hour of 3 p.m., in support of Dr. O'Reilly, Cumann na nGaedheal candidate for Cavan. Dr. O'Reilly, the candidate for Cavan. Mr. J. J. Walsh, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs; Mr. Hogan, Minister for Lands and Agriculture; Captain Henry Harrison, and Mr. Eamon Duggan will address the meeting.
What follows is the important part:
All deputations will be received by the President from 2 to 3 o'clock in the Farnham Hotel. The meeting will start at 3 o'clock sharp. A County Convention will be held immediately afterwards, at which the President will preside. Let each Cumann have its proper representation present, so that its area may now be attended to by Commissioners recently appointed to deal with land inspection and distribution, and also have their claims investigated for their share of money to be expended on relief works in areas where destitution exists.
Deputies on the Government Benches may smile, but I ask any Deputy if that is not more like a Government proclamation than anything else. Is it not more like a statement that would appear outside the Gárda Síochána barracks, that representatives of a Government Department would come down officially to take a census of what the conditions were? Is it not more like a statement of that kind than a publication that should appear on behalf of a political organisation.
Deputies may have in mind different standards as regards these matters. But that is my standard. It may not be the standard of some of the Government Deputies, but I take it that it was never the intention of any man standing for this State, that its affairs should be administered by, or through, a political organisation. Whether the Executive Council gave countenance at that meeting to that policy or not, I do not know. I was not there. I do not know exactly what happened. But they gave countenance to it when they appeared at a meeting of which notice was given in those terms. The policy that was afterwards pursued certainly gave definite indication that they not only countenanced that policy at that meeting, but that they assisted and facilitated the spending of thousands of pounds later. I said last night that it was only men who were members of the Government organisation who had anything to say at all to the districts in which money was to be spent. The Government organisation representatives in Cootehill district, Bailieboro' district, Cavan district, and down through West Cavan, could take an engineer by the arm, go into different districts, and allocate the moneys that were to be spent in these districts. I do not know whether the Deputies I see on the other side of the House stand for a policy like that or not. I am stating what is a fact, and if any members of the Ministry challenge me to produce any further facts, in accordance with Deputy Johnson's suggestion, I will be only pleased to do so. I say that that policy was pursued down there. The money was allocated and spent by a political organisation. In how far officials of the Minister for Lands and Agriculture, who came down there, had instructions to "work in" with that organisation or any other political organisation, I am not aware. I do not know what their instructions were. I am just stating exactly what did happen. I was requested to.
As I said last night, I sent in 40 or 50 communications from all over the county. I was requested to do so, and to ask to have the money spent in these districts. Every single communication I received I sent to the Minister for Lands and Agriculture. I left it to him, or those under his authority, to decide what should be done. In one very particular case, I was invited, with my colleague, Deputy Cole, by a representative body of men—clergymen and men of different religious persuasions —to go into a certain district, see the conditions in the district and see whether we considered it advisable to start certain works there. We went and saw. We considered that these works might be carried out.
Deputy Egan was later in the same locality. We considered works which could be carried out, and we both reported what we considered ought to be done. I can only say this, that what we reported ought to be done was not done, but what the political organiser of the Government Party later considered should be done was done in that district. The money was not spent where we thought it might be spent. It was spent, not on a river, but in draining the bog of a certain individual who was considered to have a good deal of political influence in the district. I will go a little farther with this just to prove conclusively the policy that is being pursued and in order that I may be able to hear from the other side of the House whether, in permitting this thing to continue, Deputies stand for honesty and clean administration in public affairs. I have here another report of a meeting which I propose to refer to. To a certain extent I can see that it is a little outside the scope of this Vote. Inasmuch as I expect the Minister for Lands and Agriculture will have something to say in reply to this, I quote it as another instance of the policy that is being pursued down there, and also in order to prove that the political organisation there has taken upon itself to say, and feels that it is in a position to say, what should be done.
I have here, in the Cumann na nGaedheal column of a weekly paper, the report of a certain branch meeting. I will pass the report over to the Minister if he wants to see it. The report states that a meeting was held in the hall, and that arising out of a report from the delegates who attended the public meeting addressed by Mr. Hogan, Minister for Agriculture, at Ballyconnell, Mr. So-and-so, who interviewed him on the question of land distribution, restoration of evicted tenants, and the heavy death rate of cattle and horses, with the suggestion that Government aid should be given to those who are unable to replace their losses by way of a grant or loan, received the following communication from Mr. Hogan, which was submitted to the meeting:—
"With further reference to my letter of the 20th February to you on the subject of lands in which Kildallon Cumann was interested, I have been informed by the Land Commission that the lands of Aughnacreevy have been referred to an inspector for a report, and that the lands of Dring and Drumlara, which are subject to a Poor Law annuity, are now under consideration.
The Report continues:
"Mr. Hogan also wrote that evicted tenants should forward to the Secretary of the Land Commission a brief statement of the circumstances connected with their eviction, giving the name and the areas of land, name of landlord, and stating how and by whom the lands were at present used, with the request to have their cases considered. With regard to the serious matter of fluke disease, the matter was having the most earnest care and attention. Some grievances in connection with the old age pension were discussed, and particulars of circumstances forwarded through our Organisation for further consideration. The branch unanimously decided to ask"—this is the point I want to call attention to—"Mr. O'Rourke, county Secretary, to either attend the next meeting, or call in the meantime and make out a scheme of distribution of Dring farm similar to that made on Aughnacreevy farm."
What do you think about that? That is the sort of thing that is going on. I am finding no fault with the Minister's communication. It was straight and candid, and what I would expect the Minister to send out. The point I want to make is this: that here are lands that apparently there is no intention of taking over. A decision is arrived at, and a certain individual is put down as doing what the Land Commission forsooth are expected to do when they get the authority to do it. There is no appearance, even from the Minister's point of view, that the Land Commission will very soon have authority to do that. That is the sort of thing that is going on all over.