I listened to the Minister for Finance, and, while listening to him I was struck by the fact that if he went in less for noise, we might get a little more sense. If he would take advice from an humble member of the Opposition, he would certainly keep off agriculture. We know he has not been a success at finance. Let him find some other subject with which he can deal. The last man in either Party entitled to talk of agriculture, the man who, by his talk, displays least knowledge of the real conditions in the country at the moment, is the Minister for Finance. Even with regard to Fianna Fáil Deputies, I am pushing the open door when I state that, owing to the tariffs imposed by the British Government, the farmers in this country are being faced with bankruptcy. The President has repeatedly shown far more appreciation of the suffering of the farmers, and the real conditions that exist in the farming community, than has the Minister for Finance. Time and again he has repeated the fact that they are undergoing hardship, that they are up against a very tough struggle, that their profits are falling as a result of those tariffs, but that they must be endured in order to bring the economic war to a successful termination.
His glib-tongued, noisy Minister gets up here at the end of July, 1933, when his own Party are in the same position to contradict him as I am, and he tries to make a case that the farmers are, in fact, losing nothing, and that the bounties are equalising the tariffs. Is one to be surprised at the bad conditions in the country when you have the important Department of Finance in charge of a man who argues that 35/- is equal to £6? That kind of twaddle, accompanied by noise and gesture, may sound well, but not to the people who are paying £6. Let the Minister advance that argument to any farmer, and he will get an answer that I would be slow to give him here. And all this on the one Vote of the year that gives Ministers the greatest scope for explaining to the Dáil and to the country what is their policy.
We had this kind of twaddle from the Minister for Finance, and we had from the President, I regret to say, as contemptible an exhibition of double-shuffling as ever took place on a front bench in any country. We had an absolute failure to face up to the facts, and we had an absolute funk to state the policy of the Executive Council. We had one step in advance, and one step back, and as a result we had a kind of stagnant twist with which we are getting rather familiar in Presidential statements latterly.
We had one statement from the President's lips this evening that stands out clearly, and I think it is a statement on which this House should ask for more information. We had a statement from the President, the man who bragged to us of all the forces at his command, that arms would not be allowed to be carried in public in this country. Three times in the course of his statement he repeated that his Government would not allow people to carry arms in public. The President is a great master of phrase; he is a great master of quibble; he is a man who, in every expression he uses, can escape either through the front door or through the back door. I think this House is entitled to a clear explanation as to why those words "in public" were added to that statement every time it was made, and it was made on three occasions. Is the President such a simple soul that he believes, looking back on the recent history of this country, that the man carrying arms to do any foul or cowardly deed carries those arms in public display? The President has more sense than that, and the President knows that there would be less harm, less evil, and less danger associated with arms, if they were carried on all cocasions publicly.
I would far rather have a pronouncement from the Government Front Bench, and I believe it would make for the safety of the country, and for the safety of the individuals who have to live in the country, if we got a clear pronouncement of public policy, compelling every able-bodied man to carry arms and to carry them openly. Such a statement would mean more safety for the ordinary citizens of this country than a sneakish Presidential pronouncement to his own allies, to his own tools, that as long as they do not carry the guns openly they are free to carry them. That statement to-night does not stand just alone. We had a previous pronouncement by the same individual that all the forces at his command would be used to prevent the importation of arms—not to prevent the use of arms, not to prevent the use of arms as a threat or argument, not to prevent the quiet secret carrying of arms, but to prevent the importation of arms. That was a safe and a smug statement, after, by his inactivity and by his spineless rule in this country, he had secured a condition where every follower of his own had already procured arms in order to intimidate or to threaten the life of others.
I am one of those who hold that neither wealth nor prosperity nor trade nor progress in any direction matters one whit if the life and property of the individual in this country are not safe. I believe all sides of this House will agree with me, that our very traditions, the very successful revolution that brought this State into being, the aftermath of that revolution, and the years that went by since are years that should warn every one of us of the dangers and evils associated with arms. They should warn every one of us what a curse it is to a country such as this to have that kind of spinelessness on top, that failure to grasp the realities of the situation, and that failure to face the dangers of the situation.
I say, as I said before, that this country can only be saved one way or the other. It can only be saved through a courageous Government— backed up by all those great services which the President spoke about, and for which I have, I think, more respect than the President—insuring that no man is allowed to possess or carry a gun, whether he carries it in public or not; or alternatively, if the Government is not prepared to protect individuals from the secret menace of the secret gun, then it should insure that at least there is equality, that every man is bound to carry his gun and to carry it openly. There would be no such thing as street murder; there would be no such thing as murder on the public highway, if every man going on the highway was, by law, the possessor and carrier of a gun. I do not particularly desire that state of affairs, but I do urge that it has got to be one way or the other. That kind of weak-kneed pronouncement, whistling one tune to the Dáil and whistling another in the ears of the armed men outside, is one of the greatest curses that could be inflicted on a country. That kind of left-handed incitement to individuals to carry guns, provided they do not carry them in public, is one of the most damaging statements that could be made in a country such as this, in times such as these.
If any mistake was made by the President, if the repetition of that particular phrase was made in error, or the clear meaning it had to this House —and the clearer meaning it will have to the organisations outside this House—was a mistaken one, I hope, before this debate ends that either himself or some responsible Minister on his behalf will get up and clear the air; that we will get a clear declaration, which would be the first since Fianna Fáil came into office, that the law as it is made by this Dáil and as it exists in the country is going to be carried out by the Government; that the criminal who commits a crime in secret is going to be dealt with as rigidly and as strongly as the man who does it in the open, and that it will be made clear that membership of any organisation, whether it has politically aided the Government in the past or not, is no excuse for defying the laws that are made by this Dáil, and no excuse for defying the laws that are supposed to be administered by that Government over there.
We got from the President a long lecture on how to negotiate. I submit, and I think everyone in this House will agree with me, that he is the one man in this country who is entitled to deliver a lecture on how not to negotiate. He may have his good qualities. He may have many great characteristics, but the outstanding success of that man in life was never associated with negotiation. At home or abroad—and Members of his side as well as Deputies on this side know that—on no single occasion in the public life of the President has he ever brought a negotiation to a successful termination. Even negotiation, not between two countries in the depths of an economic war, when passions are roused and people are hurt and injured, but with regard to divisions and dissensions inside the camp of his own followers every time he put his hand to negotiation he made the situation worse, and the tragedy of the last 18 months is that a man who might be successful in other directions but who has been repeatedly proved an abject failure as a negotiator, jostled away from the negotiating tables better men in that line than himself who took control when he himself had failed as he always did before. That is the man that stands up here to-night to deliver a lecture on how to negotiate. Following on that, it was not right or in keeping with that atmosphere when the Minister for Finance gave us a lecture on agriculture and agricultural prices. "Like master, like man." But I think that we ought really to discuss the situation as it exists and to settle down to try and realise that the present situation between this country and England is harmful and injurious to both countries, and that the longer it lasts the more both countries will lose, and, like any drainage test, where the bigger fund is, that country can afford it best and that country can hold out longest, and that the dominating point of this squalid, unnecessary squabble can only be the financial annihilation of the greatest industry of the country.
We heard the Minister for Finance last night telling us that industry in this country was rather lop-sided, that when Fianna Fáil came into office they found a lop-sided condition of industry —some 85 per cent. being agricultural and the balance industrial, and their first big attempt to alter that position was to wipe out, in fact, the 85 per cent. industry that was paying. You probably equalised the proportion of profit-making industry in agriculture as against the rest by bringing down the profitable percentage of agriculture to some 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. to balance the other, but I suggest that is not good business, I suggest that is not sound national economy, and I suggest that the Fianna Fáil Government, now close on two years in office, should have long ago—in the first year —seen where these reckless, insane kind of actions were leading the country. Perhaps it could be excused on the ground of political history and insanity. But in the second year of their office the responsibility should have begun to steady them a bit, and they should see that they have got to wake up to the fact that if all countries adopted the attitude of the President towards negotiation this world would be in one chronic state of wilderness; that if Government Ministers and representatives of different Governments with a controversy between one country and another adopted the same policy as he adopted in this country no controversy could ever be settled by peaceable means, or, in fact, there would never be a settlement.