Last night I was endeavouring to direct the attention of the House towards, what I would consider, the inconsistency of the Government in connection with the affliction of fluke disease which came upon our cattle. In June last the Minister for Agriculture stated that on account of the abnormal visitation of this disease in various districts he considered that it was his duty to make some advance towards helping farmers who had lost their stock. To make good his efforts a Vote of £100,000 was passed and the Minister for Agriculture advised that that could best be employed by the institution of credit societies in those areas which the disease had ravaged. Four or five months afterwards we are here, in this motion, pointing out that these credit societies have failed to do what the Minister intended they should do. Therefore, we are asking that an alternative method should be used for helping those farmers who have been afflicted.
What is the Government's method? To bring in an amendment which is merely a reiteration of a truism, a reiteration of what we all agree to, in the hope that it will by that means side-track the motion here. That motion of Deputy Baxter's positively asserts what is a fact, and the amendment by Deputy Tierney, on behalf of the Government, is merely a parliamentary trick to side-track the issue. Of course we all agree that credit societies are good. That is not an answer to our motion. We want you to give, at least, good terms to the farmers whose losses are well known. You have yourselves agreed they exist; unless they did exist it would not be the duty of the Government to interfere. We say that you ought effectively to use the money voted by the Dáil and not hold it up indefinitely in the furthering of those schemes of credit societies which undoubtedly will be good, but which will not be effective in the emergency which now exists.
Those are the reasons why I cannot accept the amendment. It is said that the farmers should not be always looking for State aid. I agree. We should not always be looking for State aid; but this is a case where it is admitted by the Government that State aid is necessary. From my own experience I have known other Governments, in cases of drought in other countries, to come to the aid of the farmers. Here is a case where you agree that help is needed. Your method is wrong and we ask you to change your method. Give us these short-term loans which have been so effectively used in the north, and by which means the money voted by the Dáil here may be put into proper use.
A sum of £3,500 has been loaned in four months. The need is there, but the farmers are placed out of employment and there is no hope of their being able to make a living. The period has lapsed when whatever money that could be made on the farm would be available for credit societies. Yet, with all the activities of the Minister and the organisation society at his back, with the help of the Deputies on these Benches, and with the help of the Deputies of the Cumann na nGaedheal, he has been able to start only eight societies and loan them £3,500. Is that able to meet the case that exists and for which the money has been voted?
This is an effort to stop the allocation of money and to give the help needed. If the Government thinks that by this method they are going to escape the blame—for they are blameable for inaction—and if they think that by persevering in this slow-going motion they are going to escape censure, you may take it that they are mistaken. There is a feeling in the country amongst the farmers—I wonder how the farmers on the Government side will counter that feeling— that the Dáil's efforts to help them in their distress have been nullified by the inert action of the Government.
Northern Ireland, with its small resources, can give short-term loans through the banks at 2½ per cent. Why cannot this Government, having voted £100,000, do the same, or better? What is wrong with this Government? We agree that credit societies will help; but they will not help in the emergency which at present faces us, and for that reason I have no hesitation whatever in objecting to and voting against the amendment.