I am glad to welcome the widely distributed opinion which is shown in this House in relation to this problem. I welcome the contributions of Deputy Byrne, Deputy O'Hanlon and Deputy Hennessy and members on our own benches, in so far as they illustrate that this problem, as a problem, has now come home to representatives of all Parties in the House and in this State. I disagree with a great deal that has been said by Deputy Byrne, which, I think, will be in the minds of most members of the House, in relation to the efficiency and the effectiveness of purely State interference in the matter. To me it is a problem which I personally have been up against the whole of my life. It is a problem which the firm to which I belonged for forty years have been engaged in an attempt to fight and solve. I am not satisfied that the solution is going to be in State action as such. The nigger in the wood pile is Deputy Good and all that Deputy Good represents. It is a fact that right through the whole industrial, commercial, financial and political machine of this country, Deputy Good and the mentality of Deputy Good exists and dominates the position. The army of peaceful economic penetration is in possession of all the key positions of commerce, of credit, and of transport.
The problem which we have to face in this country is not the problem which other countries have to face—the problem of dealing with the enemy outside our shores. The problem we have to face is the problem of dealing with the enemy who is entrenched in our own home and who pretends to speak in our name. If this problem is to be solved there will be a definite duty and a definite function to be performed by the Government. That would be a function purely and simply, in my opinion, of protecting and making effective the efforts of those who are not in the Government.
Commercial interests of all sorts and kinds are regimented behind this transport monopoly. And if you hit that transport monopoly in any single one of its widely flung tentacles in Irish commercial life, you will find that like the squid it will harden up on every one of its tentacles and you will find that you are fighting the whole machine. You will be fighting the whole machine that controls insurance, that controls larger distribution, that controls credit and that controls transport generally. The hand is the hand of Esau but the voice is the voice of Jacob—not Jacob in this case but Good. Damn good for Good, but very bad for this country.
Deputy Hennessy suggested that the Minister for Industry and Commerce could get exact figures. I believe that the Minister for Industry and Commerce does want this information. I believe quite frankly that if the Minister for Industry and Commerce could get information and if he could help he would be anxious to act upon it. I think he knows the problem. He knows that the enemy is in our own house, but what figures can he get? Their balance sheet of five per cent.? What does that mean?
Here is a very simple story. A new splendid boat came into the City of Cork for one of the members of this combine. A Cork shipper was standing on the quay with the managing director of that particular line. He said, "How much do you think that ship cost?" She was replacing a ship which was supposed to cost £60,000. She stood in their books at the figure of £60,000. The Cork shipper was told that she cost £380,000 and her cabins were not yet in her. The comment made by that managing director for the purpose of transmission to the commercial community of Cork was: "They will have to wait a long time for a reduction of the freights."
It took us four years to discover that that ship was built by themselves, and the figure at which it appeared in their books was purely a matter for themselves. We have got to earn interest upon £360,000 when that £360,000 may represent any sum, in fact, different to £360,000. You had a ship which was written down to £25,000 belonging to one branch of the Octopus. She was transferred to another branch of the Octopus at £80,000, because that was the branch that was capable of earning money on £80,000 and not because her value had changed in the slightest degree. A ship which had been temporarily upon the Irish service was converted at a cost of £40,000 or £50,000 to make it suitable for the Scotch service, and the cost of the conversion was charged up to the Irish service, and interest had to be paid upon that.
You go further through their accounts and you find that they borrow money from each other. They borrow money, at any rate, that suits them through each other, and no accountant could contest the accuracy of their accounts upon that ground. If, for instance, one of them accumulates, say, £15,000 or £20,000 profit he is told to transfer that at any particular interest which the central organisation decides to any particular branch of that organisation. He can transfer it at an interest of one, two, three or ten per cent. How can the Minister for Industry and Commerce, not knowing anything of these facts—there is no means whatever by which the Minister for Industry and Commerce can know these facts—be able to find from any particular balance sheet whether the profits made are extravagant or otherwise?
It is impossible at the present moment for the Minister for Industry and Commerce, with the whole of the balance sheet and all the information that he could possibly take from those people, to form an opinion as to what is actually going on unless he knew from inside.
Move on again. Let us say for a moment that we are going to send a competing service into the city of Cork, into Dublin or some other place. You will find that every single piece of property on the quay, every economic loading berth, is backed by property which is owned by the combine or those interested in it, and you can only buy it against a covenant not to use it for shipping purposes. I have seen dozens of those contracts. If I buy a piece of property on the Cork quays at present I find I can use it for rearing antelopes. I cannot use it for coal. I cannot use it for shipping; I cannot use it for storing grain. That sort of thing has been going on for a considerable number of years, and that invisible stranglehold is there. If you send a ship to Dublin City to load in competition with a ship that has an economic berth you are beaten from the day you go in. We send in some more ships in competition and first, there is a rate cutting. After the rate has been cut for a certain time there is an attempt to buy you, and generally that is successful, because a good many of the lines that come in to compete come in to be bought out.
A man came to me in Liverpool one time and told me he was running a ship to Ireland for a particular and specific purpose. I knew his financial position to a hair. He asked me if I would not come in with him and I said "No." He said "Why?" and I said "Do you know what you are up against?""I think I do," he said. He added "What do you think I want?" I said "In the first place, you will not get an economic loading berth." He said "I think I can get over that," and for certain reasons which were very exceptional reasons for a time he did. Then I told him the second thing that would happen, assuming that he could do that, was that he would be beaten out by the weight of money. He said "No, I will not. I am going deliberately to restrict myself to a small trade. It will not pay them to break their freight price on their gross traffic for the small amount that I am going to do." I said "Wise man." Then I said "The third thing that will happen will be that you will be bought out. You cannot be frozen out, you cannot be beaten out, but you will be bought out," and his answer was, "Mr. Flinn, what do you think I am going in for?" and he was bought out.
That is the history of a good deal of the competition. Anyone who knows anything about what has been occurring in Ireland for the last few years will be able to identify three, four, and possibly five, enterprises of that kind. Then you find the man who cannot be shifted like that. There was a line coming into Cork from the continent, so the Octopus came to him and said: "You are coming into Cork in competition with us," and the man said "Yes, I am.""Well," said the Octopus, "You call at Havre." He said "Yes.""Well," said the other, "we do not and if you are not out of Cork next week we will call at Havre," and he cleared out of Cork. The idea that it is easy for anyone to go into competition and to get away with it, having regard to the existence of these people's far-flung commercial associations, their covenanted rights in harbours and, above all, the support of Deputy Good—the idea that it is easy for us to get through that stranglehold certainly shows a lack of knowledge of the position.
Now I will come to what I call the Deputy Good element. In the City of Cork the local representative of the Octopus charges 6s. 8d. for each consignment coming in for clearing it through the customs, whether you clear it or they clear it. If you do all the work they still charge you the money and the commercial community in Cork have apparently not been able to solve that little riddle. You would imagine they would protest and kick up blue blazes about it, but this is actually what did happen. At a meeting of a certain trade at which the question was raised as to the 6s. 8d. for which nothing was being done in this particular case, because it often paid the people to clear the goods themselves, the suggestion was made that they should protest. Do you know what that body actually advocated? They advocated not that the 6s. 8d. should be reduced, but that it should be increased, that they should be asked to pay more for that service. And why? Because that charge was a heavy charge upon people who were getting small consignments, small parcels of goods, but it was a protection for those who were engaged in the larger trade of distribution and it paid them to use the shipping companies for the purpose of hitting their smaller competitors.
One of the methods which most people have in relation to getting over the Irish shipping difficulty is to set up a company with Irish capital to run the shipping end. In the first place you have to remember that when you tackle the Cork Steam Packet Company, the British and Irish, or any other of the twenty-two companies which are associated, you tackle, roughly speaking, £250,000,000. Remember that that is £250,000,000 of fighting money, and unless you are prepared to put into the pool an amount of money which can stand up to that fight, do not imagine for a moment that the mere question of business efficiency or anything else is going to enable you to win through. Certanly not, particularly if you have at the head of your major importation and exportation services in Ireland men of the mentality of Deputy Good, or men of the mentality of the Dublin Chamber of Distributors who do not want anything of that kind.
It is not the putting up of money that is required; it is the pooling of traffic. It is a question of the putting up of traffic under conditions in which that traffic can be held to that particular new organisation in spite of the bribes, the menaces and the sabotage which will be immediately and directly used against it. If our Irish shippers had a different mentality to that of the O.B.E., if they had a different mentality to the N.C.O's of the army of economic penetration which are called the Chambers of Commerce, whose grip economically in this country is so complete that they have not got even a petty commissioned officer here, the situation would be altered. Mr. David Barry's name has been mentioned. I merely take him as an example—an office boy——