Perhaps you can afford to. That total loss of 380 head of cattle is made up of 56 cows, 42 two-year-olds, and the remainder of yearlings. That is a district in which the farmers would be expected to meet their liabilities to the Minister's Department just as farmers in any other district are expected to meet their liabilities. In that district, at the present time, the Ministry is pressing the farmers to meet their obligations to the State. I am not going to go into Deputy Crowley's figures as regards Kerry, nor am I going to go into the figures given in this Dáil from Leitrim and sent up, I understand, through Cumann na nGaedheal, showing the conditions there. I do reaffirm that the problem still exists, and that it is not going to be solved by the method the Minister employs. The Minister has to face that fact, as has every other Deputy. I do not think that we can be satisfied to pursue a policy of drift. We have given this method five months—since June last—to see what the result would be. How far have they gone? The Ministry has paid over £3,500 in five months. The losses are now 12 months old. Very few of them have been replaced, and they cannot be replaced, if the Government do not consider that it is their responsibility to come to the assistance of the farmers in some way or other.
Now the Minister will ask what else is to be done. When the debate on this question took place in the Dáil in June last, I stated that I was prepared to do everything I could to help. I also pointed out to the Minister that I felt that his method was not going to get the country out of the difficulty. I felt it my duty to issue that warning, and I regret to have to say now that what I prophesied then has turned out to be true. That is no satisfaction to us. It would be much better if we had been able to get these societies brought into existence—to get them functioning and to get enough money through them to enable farmers to re-stock their lands and carry on. We have not succeeded. What is the alternative and what can be done? In these days, when some members of the Government Party and a great many outside this Dáil altogether seem very keen in trying to offer a solution for the difficulties the agriculturist has to meet: in tendering advice and suggesting new agricultural policies, all the time pointing to the one thing, or claiming the one thing—that the Government must come to the help of the farmer in some way or other— I want to give it as my opinion that it is no use for any party in this State to make the pretence of trying to solve the difficulties of the farmers either now or in the future by new methods in agriculture or by any change in the agricultural policy while such a problem as the present one exists, and while no real effort is being made on the part of responsible Ministers of the State to come to the assistance of farmers in a way that is going to be a real help to them. It is very difficult to make farmers believe, when advice is tendered and suggestions are made about what is to be done for them and what they ought to do for themselves, that many of their advisers and counsellors are sincere in their advice at all.
The Minister smiles when I make reference to the district to which I referred as the half parish in my constituency. It is the half running along the River Erne. In Northern Ireland across the Border the losses to the farmer were just as great as in the Saorstát. Now at the very time when the members of the Saorstát Government seemed to be very keen to help the farmer one would expect that the Government of the Saorstát would be prepared to do, at least, as much for the farmers of the Saorstát as the Government of Northern Ireland was not only prepared to do, but did, across the Border. The Minister is aware how the Northern Government met this problem and the efforts that they made to try and solve it. I have here circulars issued by the Government of Northern Ireland showing the methods that they were to employ to try to help the farmers in their districts over their difficulties. With permission of the Dáil I will read them. This is from the Ministry of Agriculture in the Government of Northern Ireland:—
"The Government has decided to consider applications for loans at 2½ per cent. interest, from bona fide farmers who, owing to the unfavourable season, have incurred losses of live stock since the 1st of October, 1924."
"Loans will be granted only for the purpose of replacing such live stock losses."
"Loans will be issued through the various Northern Ireland Branches of the following Banks:—Bank of Ireland, Belfast Banking Co., Ltd., Hibernian Bank, Munster and Leinster Bank, National Bank, Northern Banking Company Ltd., Provincial Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank."
"Full particulars regarding these loans together with forms of application can be obtained from any Branch of the Banks mentioned above."
"Forms of application will not be issued direct to intending borrowers by the Ministry."
"Applications on the prescribed form should be made immediately and no application received in the Ministry after the 31st August, 1925, will be considered."
That is the same month that we were debating the problem here, and decided to vote £100,000 for the solution of this problem in the Saorstát. There is a further circular which was issued in August, and which is as follows:—
"The Government of Northern Ireland has varied in certain particulars its scheme of short term loans to assist bona fide farmers who have suffered losses of live stock. The latest date for lodging applications for these loans with the Ministry for Agriculture has now been extended from the 31st August to the 30th September, 1925. A further concession has been made in the matter of repayment. Instead of all loans being repayable on the 31st December, 1925, the repayment date will be the 31st December, 1926, and any loans already made which terminate on the earlier date will be renewed automatically to the later date. Forms of application, with particulars of the scheme and so on, will be available at all banks in Northern Ireland."
And it goes on to say:—"Loans will be granted only for the purpose of replacing live stock losses."
I have a communication accompanying that from a citizen of Northern Ireland stating that the farmers in his district get loans of from £15 to £200, Now the poverty-stricken Government of Northern Ireland, with its very limited resources, and what we are supposed to believe as its very little consideration for agriculture, can see its way to make arrangements with the banks, most of which are functioning in the Saorstát, to loan out money to the farmers at 2½ per cent. to enable them to re-stock their lands. If a farmer in the Saorstát sought a loan from a credit society he would have to pay 5 per cent., and no loan could be available from a credit society if the farmers of the district, whether they had it or not, did not come along to establish a credit society by paying down their money. That is the real reason why these societies are not set up. The Minister is conscious of the fact; he shakes his head, but my experience of the district I went into—and I took a particular interest in it, because it was one of the worst—was this: I had there all the men who wanted to borrow, but not one man who wanted to lend. They do not want to let out their money on loan simply because they were going to lend the money to their neighbours to re-stock their lands, and if they had money—and a few of them might have—they were not going to do any such thing, and the result was that in no district was it possible to get men together prepared to put down deposits to establish one of these societies.
It is up to the Minister to show what the real magnitude of the problem is, what the real losses were, what the value of the cattle lost is. He has got to show how that loss can be replaced, so that we can hope to stimulate production, or he has got to show what he is going to do to stimulate production, or what the Government party proposes in this way to stimulate production, or if anything is to be done. The Minister has got to show, too, whether it is sound policy or not, to put the hard-working farmer, who has been unfortunate, on his feet again and enable him to carry on this work and pay his way, and the Minister has to look at the other side and see what the consequences are to be if that is not done. Who has a greater obligation to the farmer than the Government? I admitted, in other debates, that the difficulties confronting the Ministry in the matter of short term loans and the difficulty in administering these would undoubtedly be great. The Minister, I know, will ask how we are to get the correct returns; how are we to know the man who really lost, and he may raise other points, but I say if the Ministry had gone about their work when the tillage returns were being collected by the Gárda there would be very little trouble in getting the correct returns to show what the losses were. If we have to get men to make affidavits to show whether they sustained loss or not that could be done.
I say what the Government of Northern Ireland have done for the farmers of their area should be done by the Government of the Saorstát for the farmers here. The farmers of the country expect it of the Government. I hope the Government are not going to say no. I hope they will accept the situation as it is and try to find some solution of it. If the Minister is not going to offer any addition to the offer already made he might as well withdraw his offer, but at the same time he will have to recognise, as I recognise, that the problem still exists, and if that is so, it is the Minister's obligation to try and solve the problem, and if he does not face his responsibilities in the matter I do not see how any other party in the State can do anything in the matter.
One does not want to go further now than to try and represent things as they really are. When the Minister moved towards the establishment of credit societies, I undertook to do my best in that direction, as I felt they should get every chance. They have got every chance. As far as I am concerned I did, at least, as much as any Deputy, and a good deal more than many Deputies on the Government Benches. My efforts have not met with success, and I come here to say that the problem still exists, and to ask the Dáil to say that some other means must be employed by the Minister to solve the problem.