I think it will be agreed that we have reason to be disappointed with this Estimate. When the Parliamentary Secretary was appointed it was thought that there would be considerable development in these various services. Some short time after the Parliamentary Secretary took office he circulated a statement intimating what he would do. When one re-reads that statement now and compares it with the Estimate for this year the result is disappointing. According to that statement, the Parliamentary Secretary was about to do this, that and the other. There was hardly anything one could imagine that had not been conceived but, in spite of all the conceptions, the Parliamentary Secretary has brought forth very little.
I shall read some of this statement to remind him now of all the things he had intended to do and to relate it to the Estimate he has now introduced:—
"In almost every area I visited the volume of emigration had increased very much in recent years and everywhere the necessity of making industrial employment available was impressed on me. I believe that the introduction of the Undeveloped Areas Bill will be of considerable importance in this respect. The House will shortly have the opportunity of debating this in full."
This statement was issued prior to the introduction of the Bill dealing with the undeveloped areas.
"The fuller and better utilisation of our natural resources was repeatedly stressed. In this connection I believe that expansion and development of fisheries is of primary importance and I am actively in close co-operation with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, who is in charge of the Fisheries Branch of the Department of Agriculture. I am paying particular attention to increasing the productivity of land in these areas"—
that is, in the Gaeltacht area—
"and with this end in view, the inter-departmental committee has under consideration the co-ordination of schemes under the ægis of different Departments and branches of Administration. For example, the land division and rearrangement problem, particularly in Connemara and Mayo, has a detrimental effect on the proper utilisation of land and the deriving of benefits under land reclamation and other improvement schemes by tenants of rundale holdings."
I wonder was that paragraph written in all seriousness? The late Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon, was twitted here by the Fianna Fáil Party when he tried to do something for that area. What has the Parliamentary Secretary done for the area during the past 12 months? Obviously he has done nothing. I think we should at least have had from him to-day a statement as to what he intends to do in the near future. What does he propose to do with the land in Connemara? He referred to-day to subdivision. Does he intend to further subdivide the land there? What does he mean when he talks of subdivision of the land in Connemara? What one should really aim at in that particular area is the enlargement of the present holdings. If that is done, what will happen to the people who are displaced?
"A special sub-committee of the inter-departmental committee has been set up to undertake co-ordination of effort and pressing forward of land division and other improvement schemes."
Land division down in Connemara! I think it was a Galway Deputy who waxed eloquent in relation to Deputy Dillon's land project and referred to Deputy Dillon rolling the rocks in Connemara down into the sea. Apparently Deputy Dillon made an attempt to put the rocks somewhere. The Parliamentary Secretary does not say what he will do with the land in Connemara.
"It is hoped that many necessary, outstanding and desirable works, including marine works which have been under consideration in the special employment schemes office will be undertaken at an early date."
I am interested in a little marine work and have been interested in it for a number of years past. I had a parliamentary question down about it to-day. I had hoped that this work would have been undertaken years ago. It might be interesting if I now read the reply I got to-day. I asked the Minister for Finance to-day if agreement has been reached between his Department and the Donegal County Council as to the character of the marine works to be constructed at Portaleen for the accommodation of fishermen. The answer I got was:—
"The answer is in the negative, but it has been agreed that a hydrographic survey should be undertaken as a necessary preliminary to the formulation of any proposal for works in Portaleen. It is hoped to carry out the survey within the next two months."
That is a matter upon which I had hoped the Department of Finance and the Donegal County Council would have reached agreement long ago, and I was hoping that any day now work would commence. Nothing has been done. The Parliamentary Secretary was to be the great co-ordinator between all these Departments. His would be the duty of turning on the tap to supply the steam needed to heat things up properly and get them going.
The statement from which I was quoting goes on:—
"I found an increasing demand for the extension of the rural electrification scheme to the Gaeltacht."
Of course, rural electrification does not come within the Parliamentary Secretary's purview at all. If he confines himself to the things that are really relevant and pertinent to his particular office he would of course be a real asset. He should not interfere in matters that do not concern him. Rural electrification is being energetically pursued by those who have been appointed to deal with it, namely, the Electricity Supply Board.
The pamphlet goes on:—
"As announced recently by the Tánaiste, the Government has decided to place in my charge the administration of Gaeltacht services and has appointed me Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands in order to invest me with the necessary authority. I believe there is room for improvement and expansion of these services. The excellent standard of Gaeltarra Eireann products has made them outstanding in a highly competitive market, and it is my hope that increased output will make available to Gaeltacht residents opportunities of greater employment."
That paragraph is quite true. For the last ten or 15 years the Department has revolutionised the production of the goods until now they are of the highest possible competitive quality. The spinners, dyers and weavers producing these goods are to be congratulated on the progress that has been achieved. As a result of the disastrous 1914-18 war and the general economic slump, resulting in a total lack of demand for textile goods, we got into the habit of producing inferior stuff and destroyed the market until, ultimately, nobody would buy it at all. I am glad that this marked improvement has taken place in these goods. They are of the very highest and very finest quality. There is one thing that the Parliamentary Secretary could do. There is nothing of more importance than to see that the goods produced are of the very highest quality and of the highest standards in design and quality. If he does that, he will be doing a really good job for the Gaeltacht. He should not be talking a lot of nonsense that he is talking in this pamphlet.
The pamphlet goes on to emphasise that the preservation and expansion of the language and of the Gaeltacht itself is of primary importance in the work of the office. Let us be quite serious about this. I have some contact with the Gaeltacht. I know it for a long time. It is one of the tragedies of my life to witness the continuing and continuous decline of the Gaeltacht, both the Fior-Ghaeltacht and the Breac-Ghaeltacht. I do not see anything in this Estimate, that will stop that decline. The Parliamentary Secretary says that he has visited all these areas. I hope he keeps his eyes open and sees what is going on there from day to day. I hope that even this year he is taking note of the continuous and rapid drain of the young boys and girls from these districts. As many as 600 of them have left these areas in one day and have crossed to England. Is the Parliamentary Secretary going to preserve the Gaeltacht in Birmingham and Coventry? Is that what he has in mind? Or, is he going to tackle this enormous job that is involved here and that must be undertaken? This Estimate will not do it. It does not even make a beginning. This Estimate in fact is retrogressive and shows no evidence of progress with regard to the promises the Parliamentary Secretary makes in that circular.
There are the promises. We come now to the achievements. We have the Parliamentary Secretary telling us of the marked and very substantial decrease in the provisions for the Department this year. He attempts to justify that by telling us that last year there were provisions for stockpiling. I do not know if the Parliamentary Secretary has any practical knowledge of running a substantial business. While I have not been trained in Fords, I have some experience. It strikes me that the amount of stock provided for here this year, or even last year, is not excessive even in normal times when one relates the cost of the raw materials for textiles to current world prices.
While the Parliamentary Secretary ascribes the difference in the amount provided this year and the amount provided last year to stockpiling, he does not in fact indicate the difference in the price paid for wool in the year 1950 and the beginning of 1951 as against the price of raw wool for the current year. According to Australian market reports, the price of Australian wool in 1951-52 as against 1950-51 shows a decline of approximately 50 per cent. Related to the number of bales sold in Australia and New Zealand for the two years, the price they got in Australian pounds is down by roughly 50 per cent.
When the Parliamentary Secretary attempts to justify the sum provided this year as being equal to the sum provided for the year before, in order to confirm that statement and to give us evidence of the veracity of that statement, he should have given us the relative prices paid in the two years.
There is another thing that has been troubling me for years. These factories are soundly established now and surely we have reached the stage when we should introduce costings, to put them on a commercial basis. Then the House and the country would know exactly how they were being run and how their costings related to comparable industries. This is a special division, not doing it on a commercial basis but making provision for congested areas and providing work for people there, but that is no reason why the industries should not be put on the very soundest commercial basis. It would show private people engaged in the same business that we were not over-subsidising them out of their money and producing goods to compete with them in the market and also a desire on the part of the Department to be efficient. It would show that they were not using the money of their competitors to subsidise them unnecessarily. We have reached the stage when it would be a good idea to have detailed costings with regard to these factories. When one looks at these figures with regard to wages and salaries, etc., apart from the salaries and wages of the employees from the manager down to the ordinary workmen, and relates these two things, it strikes one that it is exceedingly top-heavy, to put it mildly.
I should like to go through these accounts in detail. Materials are down by £100,000. I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary could give us the quantity of either wool or yarn represented by that £100,000 in relation to the £200,936 provided for in 1951-52. In sub-head D (8), there is £96,274 provided for materials for spinning. Is that raw material taken out of the item of £100,000 in D (5) or is that a duplication? I should also like to know what is the meaning of sub-head D (9). While these are only token sums, I do not see why they should be there. They only inflate the Estimate and serve no purpose. As to sub-head D (10) (1)— Materials for Dyeing and Finishing— does that relate simply to dyeing materials belonging to the dyeing department or has it anything to do with any of the other materials referred to in the other sub-heads?
I now come to kelp and seaweed. For some years I had the hope that this could be developed as a substantial commercial item. I had always hoped that it could be used in an unrefined way for feeding stuffs. There is no doubt as to its feeding qualities for stock of all ages, from calves to cows, and for horses. We have been told that we are to be limited with regard to the imports of feeding stuffs and, with the present price of maize and linseed oil, particularly linseed oil, I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should put it to the technicians in the Department whether bulk supplies of this material could not be collected and sold in a raw condition to those mills which hitherto produced a compound feeding stuff for farmers. They should be asked whether they could not make use of this material to raise the standard of the very poor quality of feeding stuff which they are now turning out. It would be a simple process to have a proportion of this material mashed up in a mill and a quantity of it added to these feeding mixtures which they are now producing. It would enormously increase the feeding value of these feeding stuffs.
As it now stands, this whole branch is a purely nominal thing. When you take the sum of £19,000 for the purchase of kelp and seaweed and find a sum of £11,835 for costs for the handling of £19,000 worth, it seems out of all proportion. I find it difficult to justify a transaction of that sort. The transport and storage of it cost £8,000. One cannot help being coerced to the conclusion that the cost of salaries, wages, etc., is completely out of proportion to the amount of money produced by way of Appropriations-in-Aid. I seriously suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary, as he is now, as it were, confined to this special branch, that the whole thing should be reorganised from top to bottom and an attempt made to put it on a sound commercial basis. I am not blaming the Parliamentary Secretary, because this was a thing which was being built up. But, now that it is established, we owe it to the taxpayers, especially now, when everybody finds it so very hard to live, that we should not unnecessarily waste any of their money. I am afraid that if you could get an ordinary taxpayer to analyse this Estimate, he would be very wrathful with this House for producing an Estimate of this kind, having regard to the amount of money spent on salaries, wages and allowances in relation to the Appropriations-in-Aid, that is to say the material produced. The service rendered to the community, rather than the salaries paid, is the test of an organisation of this kind. People think that all this money goes into the Gaeltacht and gives employment there, but that is not so. Only a fraction of it goes there, and we should aim at sluicing the major portion of it into the Gaeltacht areas for the purposes for which it is voted. A lot remains to be done in that respect.
We have a central depot for marketing these goods, and perhaps it is an organisation which is indispensable, but, from the business point of view, it would be worth trying what other large manufacturers do with regard to the sale of their products, that is, to give persons who are experts in the marketing of textile goods the agency for these goods. These are articles of the highest quality. They are competitive in quality and, so far as I know, in price, and it should not be a difficult matter to market them. I wonder if the Department has considered approaching it on those lines which would dispense with this central depot for marketing them. I cannot see what advantage this depot can have over a competent agent trained in the handling and marketing of textile goods. These people have been trained in the textile business from the very bottom, and know all about it, and they would probably be keener than officers of this depot because there is a limit to the extent to which these officers can go. They are, in the main, civil servants, and always have to keep in mind the fact that they are civil servants. I suggest that it would be worth considering whether or not the marketing of these goods should be handed over to agents.
I understand that there are agencies, but to what extent and in what capacity they act, I do not know. The central marketing depot is here in the city, but I should like to know if the goods are in fact sold through agents, because there is a substantial item for commission set out here, and I take it that that is in respect of the sale of these goods. I am curious to know where they come into the picture. Are they the instruments of the central marketing depot? Do they sell the entire goods in that central depot or do they sell some other products of the Department, such as those made in depots scattered throughout the country where a department teacher teaches girls to knit, to make gloves, socks and so on? Is it such goods these agents dispose of or do they dispose of the entire products of the Department? Are they a type of subagents who receive the commission set out here? I make that suggestion for what it is worth because it would be quite futile for me to get up here and criticise unless I had some constructive suggestions to make. There could be a substantial saving in the cost of the central depot and the marketing of these goods, and the Parliamentary Secretary could sluice back some of the money to the districts which were intended to benefit from the provision of these moneys.
It is to be regretted that the Estimate shows a decrease. When we deduct the amount of money provided for the purchase of machinery this year for one purpose and another from the total, we find that the decrease is very substantial. With regard to the wool in stock, most of it would not have been bought recently. I take it that some of it would have been purchased last fall or early this year, and at the time the Estimate was prepared, wool had not fallen in price to the extent to which it has fallen now. I should like to have an accurate figure from the Parliamentary Secretary as to the amount of wool represented by the £200,000 last year and the £100,000 this year and the price paid for it, so that we could get a clear view of the actual reduction in the Estimate this year as against last year.
Kelp does not seem to show very much development either. Is it that the people along the coast are not going in for this kind of work, that they think it too laborious, which in fact it is not? What is the position of the external market for sea rods, together with the internal position? At one time, there were great hopes that these sea rods would be extensively used for the production of fertilisers and I should be interested to know what amount, if any, the fertiliser manufacturers are using now. During the past year, the cost of fertilisers, owing to increased cost of wages, freight and insurance, jumped about 50 per cent., and if the Parliamentary Secretary could push up the amount of money involved in that sub-head, he would be doing very good work. I do not see why that should not be done. Young men in the Gaeltacht areas would in the evening when they are substantially free be far better off doing that job—if I may say so to them, and I am not afraid to say it—than slouching around the roads. There is nothing better for anybody no matter who than a good healthy hard bit of work. Certainly they would be far better at that than stuck in a picture-house somewhere, in a poky hall with bad ventilation.
In relation to the promises made by the Parliamentary Secretary on taking over this Department and the performance, I think that this House and the country cannot be anything but disappointed. It is the old ordinary Estimate and indicates nothing but stagnation. No hope is shown in it under any one heading or any one sub-head, and I think we must really say that it causes disappointment, one might add bitter disappointment, in view of the promises made when the Parliamentary Secretary was specially appointed to take over these areas. We had better just be honest and quite frank about this matter. We should not go on codding ourselves or pretending to cod ourselves and pretending also that we are codding the country. We may go on trying to cod the people but you cannot cod them. It cannot be done and it will not be done. We are not living 60, 70 or 100 years ago. The young men and women of these areas are far too intelligent now. They have a good education. They read the papers and have the wireless. They are just as keen as anybody anywhere else and more so because the conditions of their life make them so. They have a keener, higher intelligence than other people I am not saying that by way of flattery. The Department of Education would confirm that statement about them in relation to young people in the rest of the country. The very conditions of their life make them keener and more intelligent. Surely it is a piece of supreme codology for this House to attempt to make them believe that we are doing something for them, not only for now but with a long view, which will enable them to live a healthy life in reasonably constant employment and in the future give them a home in the area which the Parliamentary Secretary proclaims he is going to resuscitate, reanimate and re-emancipate. That is not in this Estimate and there is no sign of it. Certainly I am not going to cod myself into believing that it is in order to flatter them or to get applause. It is not in it.
Some people, perhaps, would tell us that we are only wasting our time, that these people are inherently lazy, that there is no use in doing anything for them, because they will not do anything for themselves. It is only roughly 150 years since they were driven from the good lands of Ireland into the hills and bogs of Donegal, Galway, Mayo and Kerry. They were thrown there helpless and penniless, and have eked out an existence through those years. They reared large families and gave them whatever education was available in the local national school. They paid their debts, and if they were not fit to pay them while the children were being reared, they ran accounts, and when the children grew up and earned money, the money came back, and every penny of those accounts was paid. They reclaimed the bogs of Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Clare. Surely it is an insult to these people to tell them they are afraid of work, lazy, not worth doing anything for.
No matter what anybody says, if we mean to preserve these people, if we are honest about doing anything for them, we must do it well. No haphazard action will do. To be employed for one month or two will not satisfy any young man or woman. They do not demand good wages for a period, but they want continuous wages, so that young men and women can get married, build a home and have a continuing income with which they can rear, feed and clothe children.