When I moved the adjournment of the debate on Friday last, I was endeavouring to show how the real issues in the debate were shelved, in the speech that I followed, and I want to say, at the outset, this evening, that I consider it a very unworthy practice to endeavour to draw red herrings across the path of a debate of this importance, by trying to drive it into channels where side issues are continuously referred to. Not one single word of Deputy Gorey's speech was directed to the consideration of this motion. Not one single reference to the subject matter of this motion was contained in his speech from beginning to end. He contented himself, in the absence of any argument, because that is the assumption, or any useful contribution to the subject of the motion, with drawing the old red herrings we have heard in every utterance of his in this House, since 1923, across the track again.
On that point, it might be well to mention that we have had in this country, for a very considerable time, almost complete industrial peace. We have no strikes; we have very few disputes of any kind, and we have, in addition, low wages. Wages have been reduced steadily for a number of years, and I think it is fair to say also that conditions under which men work in this country have not been improved. We have, at the same time, an increase in the amount of unemployment, and if Deputy Gorey, in his statement on Friday last, wishes to justify the line he has taken in this debate, by references to France, America and other countries, he will very easily find that what has happened in France, and other countries, and the things that he has referred to as having had to be done there, will not bear out his argument. France is notably a country of low wages, and yet, unemployment is increasing steadily there, and has assumed very big proportions. The huge bread lines in the American cities to-day were not created by high wages. The appeal of American employers, the American Press, and economists interested in the solution of economic problems there has altogether been directed towards preventing reductions in wages an a consequent reduction in the purchasing power of the people.
I sincerely hope that before the debate closes we will have, as the President indicated to-day, a definite statement as to the immediate remedy to be applied to the awful position that exists in the country at present, and that we shall have an indication of how soon measures to deal with that position will be put into effect. The position all over the country is a terrible reproach to public representatives of all kinds. On that point I want to say that as far back as 1924 and 1925 the then leader of this Party indicated in this House the desire to co-operate with the employers towards the consideration of a solution of this question. That offer was backed up by the production two or three years ago by the organised workers in the building industry of a definite plan on paper as to the extent of their co-operation in dealing with this matter by way of a national scheme of housing that was then mooted. I do not think there is any member of this Party who would not go very far in helping towards the solution of this question and who would not be prepared to go to the very farthest limit to show that Labour recognises fully its responsibilities and its duty in this matter.
I had an opportunity, as every Deputy had within the last two or three months in his own constituency, of seeing how far the ravages of this plague of unemployment had permeated the homes of the people. As recently as Monday last, dozens of people were appealing to members of the County Council in the county I come from, at a meeting of the Board of Assistance in Clonakilty, for recommendations to obtain work on a small road improvement scheme which is starting in that area. Dozens of people in that district are going to be disappointed, and dozens of people were disappointed, in their appeals to the public assistance authority for some temporary relief to enable them to keep body and soul together and to maintain their wives and children at some level not much better than the starvation level. None of us have forgotten what we have seen in the homes of the people when we went to ask for their votes during the election. We have seen poverty-stricken homes; we have seen disappointed, miserable and depressed mothers in the homes, and we have seen, in the homes, and in the streets, and attending the schools, large numbers of hungry children. Personally, I felt that it was asking a great deal of people in that condition to record their votes for anybody. They have reached the time when they have practically given up all hope and when they begin to think that one Party in this country can do nothing for them any more than any other Party, and that generally there is not much desire to do anything. They feel that they have been completely abandoned. I urge the President to show by his declaration this evening that it is not the intention of the Government to abandon people of that description, but that it is his desire to give them some indication that they have still some right as citizens and that the obligations he has accepted of giving them work or maintenance will be honoured immediately.
I explained on Friday last one or two directions in which immediate relief could be given, because the need is terribly urgent. I would draw the attention of the Government to the opportunity of giving sanction to schemes suggested by various county surveyors for the national reconstruction of our secondary roads. I urge the Government also to consider what can be done in the matter of drainage work and the reclamation of land. The drainage legislation passed since 1925 has been practically a dead letter in a good many counties. I have yet to hear of many schemes, and indeed of any scheme in some places, being put into effect as a result of that legislation. I urge the Ministry to take the earliest opportunity of indicating by their own policy a line for local authorities to copy by embarking on work of that kind. Work of that kind is done in a small way through the Land Commission Improvement Vote at the most unsuitable time of the year. The Relief Vote associated with the Land Commission is expended usually from some time around Christmas until the end of the financial year. Work of that kind that I believe can be very usefully and reproductively done should be carried out during the summer when it is possible for people to do it well. The result that would follow from such schemes would be useful. I suggest that the President might consider utilising the Land Commission Improvement Vote as soon as he is in a position to do it, and to continue the expenditure of that money during the present hard and depressing period.
There is very little more for me to say on the question because I assume it is going to be dealt with by the mover of the motion and by various other Deputies. I should like, however, to say that I have never known conditions to be so severe for such a large number of people in my constituency as at the present time. I have pointed out certain instances of that. I say now, what I said in this House more than once, that it is particularly unpleasant to be parading the misery and poverty of the people here, but this is the most suitable place where we can get an opportunity of advancing reasons which may compel a speedy attempt at a remedy. What has happened in a certain portion of West Cork will happen in another portion of West Cork in a few days, when in the town of Bandon sixty men, representing a wages bill of £130 a week, will be thrown out of employment if something is not done in consequence of the closing down of a certain industry. That will be the last straw for that town which has been practically ruined in the last three or four years. One thing that strikes me about the appearance of that town, comparatively prosperous some time ago, is the number of people one finds all over the town with no work to do and with dependents most of whom also have no work to do. Nothing that can be discussed in this House is more important than this question of unemployment, and I submit to the President that if he received one mandate conclusively at the last election it was a mandate to deal with the question of unemployment. I believe that mandate overshadowed any other issue. I entreat him as representative of the people of this country in his capacity as President of the State to deal with it effectively and without further delay.