Committee on Finance. - Vote 3—Department of the Taoiseach.


Go ndeonófar suim fhorlíontach nach mó ná £10 chun íochta an mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníochtha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú lá de Mhárta, 1970, le haghaidh tuarastail agus costais Roinn an Taoisigh.

The estimate for the current year amounted to £69,800 as against £59,500 in 1968-69. The increase of £10,300 is due mainly to salaries together with some slight addition for travelling and incidental expenses. The estimated cost of allied services, that is, the amounts provided in other Votes in respect of the Department of the Taoiseach, is down from £59,561 to £54,876, the decrease of £4,685 being due to reduced provision for the reconstruction of the State Apartments, Dublin Castle. The total estimated expenditure in connection with the Department, the Estimate itself plus the estimated cost of allied services, shows an increase of £5,615. So much for the formal part of the debate on the Taoiseach's Estimate.

This debate is normally devoted in the main to an appraisal of the economic advance of the previous year and the prospects for the coming year and it is particularly appropriate this year because we have not, at least in this term, had an economic debate as such. I will not deal with all aspects of the Taoiseach's Department, nor indeed of Government administration but if any Deputies in the course of their contributions would have any questions to ask, then I will do my best to deal with them in my reply.

As far as the economic scene is concerned, I think we can claim that on the economic and social side we had a reasonably good year and we can look back on 1969 with a good deal of satisfaction. We have maintained the comparatively high rate of economic growth of almost four per cent. Employment in industry, including building, has expanded faster than at any time during the past decade, with nearly 12,000 more jobs this year, and investment has moved to a record high level. The achievements for the third successive year of a high growth rate and the accelerated rise in industrial employment are encouraging. These are two of the fundamental objectives which the Government in their economic development policies are seeking to achieve.

The growth in investment gives reason to hope that the capacity of the community to continue this kind of progress is being maintained and indeed strengthened. All this is not to say, however, that we can afford to be smug or complacent for the future. Far from it. Economic activity received a serious setback in the early part of 1969 as a result of the prolonged strike by the maintenance craftsmen which depressed output in a variety of industries. Since then output has recovered strongly and the momentum established by the economy in 1967 and 1968 has been regained.

The overall growth rate in 1969 is expected to be of the order of four per cent which is in line with the target set in the Third Programme for Economic and Social Development. Both external and internal demands have made big contributions to the continued buoyancy of the economy. Expansion this year has been accompanied by a disimprovement on external account and the current payments deficit is expected to be of the order of £60 million. That would be £40 million if one excludes exceptional purchases of ships and aircraft.

Can the Taoiseach give any explanation for the lack of courtesy in that there are only 12 of his Party in the House for this very important speech?

That is a matter for the Deputies. They have been in attendance continuously in the House for the past day or two and they will come again. Let the Deputy not worry.

It is a grave lack of courtesy on the part of the party.

If the Deputy wants to inject some more acrimony at this stage, he would be better advised to leave the House himself.

A large part of the disimprovement in the balance of payments is attributable to increased imports of capital equipment needed for economic development. Industrial production, which was hit by the strike to which I referred and other strikes in the first quarter of 1969, increased by only three to four per cent approximately in that period. However, it recovered from this setback in the second quarter when production in manufacturing industry rose by 11 per cent and in transportable goods industries by over ten per cent as compared with the corresponding period in the previous year. No estimate of the outturn in the third quarter of the year is yet available but it is likely that production in that quarter was well maintained.

Exports made a big contribution to the continued growth in industrial production. Industrial exports in the second quarter of 1969 rose by over 25 per cent above the level in the corresponding quarter of 1968. For the first nine months of 1969 the increase in industrial exports is estimated to have been close to 20 per cent.

Little information is available as yet on agricultural production in 1969. However, taking into account the trend in cattle production and cattle output and changes in stocks, the increase in pig production and the continued rise in milk output, it is likely that the total agricultural output will show an increase over the 1968 total.

All indicators point to the continued buoyancy of activity in building and construction during 1969. Domestic sales of cement which are always regarded as a good indicator of activity in this sector rose by about 9½ per cent over the first ten months of 1969 compared with the corresponding period in 1968. Housing completions, especially in the private sector, also suggest a high level of activity. Over the first nine months they rose by 17½ per cent compared with the corresponding period of 1968. The number of housing starts in 1969 was well maintained and that will ensure that there will not be undue fluctuations in activity in this sector.

One of the most gratifying aspects of the economic situation in 1969 has been a very sharp increase in capital formation. Investment as a percentage of gross national product will exceed 22 per cent this year. This compares with 20 per cent in 1968, less than 19 per cent in 1967 and a figure of only 13 per cent at the beginning of the decade.

The importance of increased investment need hardly be stressed. It raises the growth potential of the economy by adding to capacity; it increases the productivity of our industries and ensures the continuing expansion of employment. With regard to consumption, the index of retail sales, which provides a good indicator of the trend of consumer spending, indicates raises by nine per cent to 13 per cent respectively in value terms in the first and second quarters in 1969 compared with the corresponding periods in 1968. In July and August, increases of 11 per cent and 12 per cent respectively were recorded. In volume terms, the increases were 2½ per cent in the first quarter; six per cent in the second quarter and 2½ per cent and 3½ per cent in July and August respectively. Figures for the second quarter of 1969 were distorted by a large increase in the index in May which was mainly attributable to anticipatory buying prior to the increase in the wholesale tax which came into effect on 1st June.

New car registrations pointed to a moderate level of consumer spending over the year to date. In this period, the number of new registrations was less than one per cent higher than in the corresponding period of 1968. Incomes generally are estimated to have increased sharply in 1969. The most significant development in wage incomes on the industrial front this year was the maintenance craftsmen's settlement in March under which phased increases totalling roughly 20 per cent were granted over an 18 months' period ending in June of 1970.

When the pay agreement for the building industry was re-negotiated in September, phased increases of the same order as those secured by the maintenance craftsmen were extended to general building workers as well as to craftsmen. Since then, the pattern of phased increases, totalling about 20 per cent and covering periods from 12 to 18 months is beginning to be extended to other categories of workers according as their existing pay agreements expire. Consumer prices increased by over eight per cent between May and August, 1969. This large increase was brought about by a number of factors. These included higher food prices; increased import prices; higher labour costs and additional taxation required to pay for increased social welfare benefits, farm subsidies and remuneration in the public service.

In the first half of 1969, average weekly earnings in Irish industry increased by about 13 per cent but productivity in the first quarter actually declined. This phenomenon was due, of course, to the distortion caused by the loss of output sustained during the strike of the maintenance craftsmen. In the second quarter of the year, productivity increased by 4½ per cent on average. Consequently, between the second quarter of 1968 and the second quarter of 1969, unit wage costs in industry generally increased by slightly over eight per cent. As far as prices and incomes for 1970 are concerned, I shall be dealing with them in a few moments.

The number of persons employed in manufacturing industries and in transportable goods industries rose by 11,000 and 11,500 respectively for the year 1969. In relative terms, these increases represent six per cent and five per cent respectively over the year. Unemployment, as measured by the average monthly number of persons on the live register, was 56,700 in the first ten months of 1969 compared with 57,900 for the corresponding period of 1968, a decline of 1,100 or two per cent. The magnitude of the decrease would be greater if allowances were made for certain distorting features of the live register. For example, the extension of the duration of payment of unemployment benefit and the increase in the number of over-65s in receipt of unemployment benefit. Unemployment among uninsured workers shows a similar trend—as a percentage of persons insured, it fell from 6.8 per cent to 6.4 per cent in the first ten months of 1969. Taking the 12 months moving averages, the net outward passenger movement by sea and air in each of the months of 1969 was well below the figure for the corresponding months of 1968. This is an indication that, so far as this House is concerned, net emigration has been running below the level of last year.

With regard to external trade, imports for the first ten months of 1969 rose by £86 million or 21.2 per cent., and exports by £31½ million or 11.5 per cent over the corresponding period of 1968. As a result, the trade gap widened by £54½ million. With the expenditure on purchase of ships and aircraft to the value of £15 million, to which I have referred—if these were excluded, the increase in the trade gap was approximately £40 million.

A provisional breakdown of imports according to their main use in the first nine months of 1969 shows that imports of capital goods accounted for roughly 40 per cent of the total increase in this period. Higher imports of raw materials were responsible for a slightly smaller proportion of the total and the increase in imports of consumer goods made up the balance. Export growth this year has been remarkably buoyant when account is taken of the effects of industrial disputes such as the maintenance craftsmen's strike and the strike at Tynagh mines and the lack of buoyancy of external demand for agricultural produce in our main export markets. In the first three quarters of the year, the industrial exports were nearly 20 per cent higher than in the first three quarters of 1968. The corresponding figure for agricultural exports was about four per cent. Between the same periods, industrial exports, as a proportion of total exports, came to almost 50 per cent whereas agriculture's share fell to 46 per cent. Industry, therefore, has now become the country's most important foreign trade sector.

With regard to the prospects for 1970, economic expansion is expected to maintain its momentum. As in recent years, industrial production is likely to provide the main impetus. Contributions are expected also from growth in agriculture and services, particularly tourism. A growth rate of the same order as 1969, that is, four per cent, is therefore anticipated. A disquieting factor however in the economic prospects for 1970 is the likely trend of all incomes. The current rapid upward movement appears to be in danger of accelerating. Higher prices may endanger the competitiveness of our exports at a time when demand pressures are raising the level of imports. Unless restraint in income is exercised, there is a danger that a balance of payments deficit as large as we had in 1969 will be incurred next year. I do not think we can continue to incur deficits of this year's order without damaging effects on confidence and growth prospects. A careful watch is therefore being kept on this situation by the Government and the Government will take any necessary steps to combat excessive demand pressures.

The Government's concern regarding the recent developments in prices, money incomes and external payments arises from the damage that a continuation of these trends could do to our capacity to ensure the economic and social advancement of the community. A credit policy is already doing its part in seeking to control the rise in demand. In addition, the Government are constrained to adopt a very severe approach to proposals for increases in budget expenditures, both current and capital, in 1970/71.

At the moment the Minister for Finance is engaged in an exercise with each other Minister to ensure that the capital demands of the Minister's Department will be kept within reasonable bounds and at a level that it would be possible to service. The coming year will certainly not be a year for a generous approach even to the most deserving and desirable propositions. Keeping Government expenditure increases to an absolute minimum and restraining the expansion of credit will not, however, be sufficient by themselves to offset the inflationary forces in the economy which are being carried over into 1970.

Therefore, Sir, I propose to deal, as I indicated a few minutes ago, with the prices and incomes prospects for the current year. So far as these are concerned, there is a number of considerations which I should like to put before all those involved in negotiations and fixing of prices and incomes. The real interests of the workers are best served by their getting wage increases which keep their value and are not eroded by price increases. If total money incomes, of which wages and salaries are by far the largest part, rise significantly faster than national output higher prices are inevitable. The larger the disparity the greater the likelihood that the increases in incomes will be whittled away by rising prices.

This connection between incomes and prices is clearly shown up if developments in recent years are examined. In 1968, for example, overall money incomes rose by between ten and 11 per cent. The volume of national production went up by almost 5½ per cent. The general price level rose by almost five per cent—a simple mathematical process. The present indications are that, in 1969, incomes will have risen by about ten per cent, the wages and salaries element by 13 per cent, and the volume of national production by less than four per cent and, therefore, the general price level by some seven per cent.

It is safe to say that wages and prices have gone up faster here in the past few years than in most countries with which we trade. Indeed, by international standards generally, price increases have been abnormally high. That is a distinction which I think we would prefer to do without and which we certainly do not want to retain. If this trend were to continue next year, it would have serious implications for our international competitiveness, since rising costs would make it more difficult to compete at home against imported goods and harder to sell abroad. Job security would be affected and the foundation for increases in employment and living standards would be destroyed. The present excessive gap between imports and exports could be widened even further and, then, drastic remedial action to relieve the situation would have to be taken, action that might well lead to a loss of jobs and a reduction in the number of new opportunities in employment.

The ordinary worker would also find that rising prices were reducing the real value of his increased wages and the low paid worker and the poorer sections of the community would be particularly hard hit. National output in 1970 is not likely to increase by much more than four per cent and, if the rise in income is considerably more than that, pressure to increase prices is inevitable. Even without new pay agreements, total incomes will rise significantly in 1970 as a result of increases already negotiated. If present trends on the incomes front continue unchecked, incomes are, therefore, likely to rise by substantially more than four per cent.

Although a number of new settlements have been made in recent months, wage and salary agreements covering the majority of industrial employees come up for renewal from the end of 1969 onwards, and the outcome of these negotiations will strongly affect price developments in 1970. Furthermore, the level of the settlements reached in these negotiations is bound to influence the level of claims by State and local authority employees when their agreements come up for renewal at the end of March, 1970. If the Government and local authorities have to meet a considerably greater bill for wages and salaries, higher taxes and rates may be necessary and these, in turn, will have some effect on price levels.

The Government are convinced that a continuance of the present rate of price increases must result in a serious damage to the country. Allowing for the expected growth in national production, and the fact that some inflation is bound to occur in the countries with which we trade, the Government consider that increases in overall incomes of up to seven per cent might not seriously affect our industrial competitiveness at home and abroad. Ideally we should be aiming at improving our relative trading position but, given the exceptional level of expectations that now exist, we must, for the present at any rate, concentrate on the basic need to avoid serious damage to that competitiveness.

It is, therefore, the Government's view that, when pay agreements come up for renewal, negotiations should be based on the need to keep increases in overall incomes within the limit of seven per cent in 1970. This would suggest that the desirable limit on increases in the first year of a new agreement would be roughly 30/- per adult male worker. The future course of prices is vital here. The Government recognise that the expectation of further substantial increases in prices and charges is one of the important factors causing workers to press excessive claims, and employers to be less critical of rising costs which they think they can quickly recover in higher prices.

To counter this, the Government have decided that, apart from any steps which may prove necessary on the wider economic front, the following specific steps should be taken. In dealing with applications for price increases the Minister for Industry and Commerce will have regard to the limit which the Government consider should apply to income increases in 1970. Accordingly, when assessing increases in costs which may be taken into account for price increase application purposes, the Minister for Industry and Commerce will disallow any increases in labour costs due to wage increases in excess of 30/- per adult male worker.

If settlements are made above that level, the burden should not, in the Government's view, have to be borne by the consumer in the form of higher prices. The Minister will continue to ensure that increased costs, whether for labour or non-labour items, will still be absorbed as far as possible by the firm concerned, and he will expect firms who have made genuine efforts to do this before seeking price increases. In considering applications for price increases from firms in the public sector, the Government will have regard to these factors also.

The intensification of existing price control should operate to prevent any excessive rise in profits, dividends, et cetera. The Government intend, however, to keep developments under constant review, and to take appropriate action if required. As was already announced, legislation is in course of preparation to enable the Fair Trade Commission to investigate restrictive practices in the supply of services, including professional services.

In the light of the considerations already outlined, the Government appeal for the co-operation of all concerned with the renewal of existing pay agreements, with a view to ensuring that all existing pay agreements run their course, spreading the increases over as long a period as possible, ensuring that the desirable limit of 30/-per adult male worker on wage increases in the first year of new agreements will be observed, and incorporating in the new agreements specific proposals for the raising of productivity. The desirable limit put forward reflects the Government's desire to go as far as possible to meet the workers' aspirations. I want to say that any higher figure would be fraught with danger.

It is the responsibility of all of us, whether we are in the public or in the private sector, to play our part in restoring a surer base for economic expansion in 1970. The rate of price increase and the balance of payments deficit must both be reduced and this will require the maximum possible increase in productivity, that is the efficiency with which each of us does his job, and a radical scaling down in our expectations of and demand for increased money incomes. The momentum for economic development which has emerged in this country in the past decade is a new and very valuable element in our community. It is the Government's intention to do our utmost to preserve this.

I have concentrated, Sir, only on the economic issues and I have done so advisedly because of their importance at this juncture. As I said, if there are any points in my administration generally about which Deputies want to get more information I will try to supply it in my reply.

I move:

That the Vote be referred back for reconsideration.

The economic picture which has been painted by the Taoiseach is mainly a statistical exercise reflecting the changes between the year just ending and the previous year. The figures which the Taoiseach has given and the information contained in them in no way conceals the serious situation so far as the economy generally is concerned. Indeed, some of the figures he has quoted reinforce the concern that has been expressed by a variety of bodies as well as by persons holding particular positions in these bodies. I am referrring to such bodies as the Central Bank, the Economic and Social Research Institute, the Federation of Irish Industries and so on. No later than yesterday the governor of the Central Bank again drew attention to the serious economic situation. I suppose it is true to say that no one remembers a time when the governor of the Central Bank was not issuing warnings about the gravity of the economic situation. One wonders to what extent these warnings have an effect. That is no reflection on the sincerity of any of the people who held the office or the interest and concern which from time to time they have expressed about the trends in the economy but, from the practical point of view, it is generally true to say that these warnings have little effect in altering or influencing the trend of events.

The general situation revealed by the Taoiseach's figures, and which is highlighted by the comments made by the bodies to which I have referred, is the very serious rise in prices. The problem is simply that of inflation. It is a problem which has been building up for a considerable time, a progressive aggravation of the trends that have been apparent for most of the year. Incomes have been rising faster than output; imports have been going up more quickly than exports. Leaving aside the actual trade figures, the fact is that this is one aspect of the present economic situation about which the Taoiseach has made no comment and to which there have been only brief references in the course of ministerial replies to parliamentary questions.

The fact also is that this year, for the first time in the memory of any Deputy, there have been no winter or Christmas relief grants. This means that a considerable amount of hardship has been caused to many families. Yesterday the St. Vincent de Paul Society announced that their funds had run out and today the chairman of the organisation said that the situation was the worst for ten years. It is true, and the figures available from all published economic data indicate, that prosperity exists for certain sections. But we have the serious situation that, side by side with that position, there is grave poverty. We are concerned, and the House is concerned, that this year there have been no winter or Christmas reliefs available and that since September no new small dwelling loan applications have been considered, certainly by the housing authorities in Dublin. The position in a number of county councils and other local bodies is that no new applications are being considered because the money is not available and a number of workers employed on drainage schemes and other schemes operated by the Office of Public Works have been laid off because of this shortage of money. We are entitled to know in what way is the economy being run, in what way is Government policy operating when we have this continued recurrence of stop-go policies which have bedevilled the economy for a number of years.

In many ways this year can be compared with the circumstances which existed in 1965. A number of similarities that exist justify a comparison. That year was an election year and there was an artificial stimulation of the economy prior to and during the election and a subsequent severe restrication when the election was over. The same thing is happening this year; there was this artificial stimulation and the fact that in March the Minister for Finance expressed grave concern at prevailing trends and even made a special broadcast to draw the attention of the nation to the situation that was developing. Then, as an election came closer and the Budget was introduced, the apparent gravity had receded. Now we have warnings by the Taoiseach, discussions by the Ministers for Finance and Labour, statements by the governor of the Central Bank, reports by the Economic and Social Research Institute, and comments by the Federation of Irish Industries and other bodies, pointing to the difficulties and problems which have arisen in some cases and are arising in others.

It is right to recognise the situation as it exists. Every section of the community, every political party, is committed to the idea of economic growth and the expansion of the economy as rapidly as possible. Under the Third Programme a growth rate of four per cent is required. From the figures which have been given here that growth rate is likely to be reached this year. However, the present growth rate is accompanied by very severe inflation, an inflation which, for the period between August, 1968, and August of this year, saw a rise in the consumer price index of approximately 8½ per cent.

One of the facts about the present situation which can be compared with that of three to four years ago is that, after the substantial growth in 1965, the severe restriction of credit and the steps taken to correct the economy resulted in a growth rate of just one per cent, which led to the abandonment of the Second Programme. A comparison of the indices and an examination of the facts and figures which are available indicate that the trend of the economy is in many ways similar to what it was then. It is true there are a number of areas in which progress and expansion are evident. We have expressed the view repeatedly that it is important to maintain a constant level rather than have a sharp rise at one time and a severe drop or slump at another.

Many ordinary workers now find a steep and continuous rise in the cost of living, and serious as that is for those in constant employment, it is much more severe for pensioners and others on fixed incomes. It is people in employment, people who are afraid of the effects of deflation, who are concerned at severe credit restraint and a shortage of money. Many of them who have entered into commitments or are making arrangements to purchase houses, to pay deposits or to raise loans, now find that either it is impossible to get loans or that, if they have taken out a mortgage, an intolerable burden has been imposed on them.

We have argued that this can only be effectively dealt with by long-term economic planning, planning which would mean a consistent approach to the problems of the economy and particularly to that of prices and incomes. One of the principal objectives of economic planning is to secure a steady rate of growth over a long period without wild fluctuations. The recent proposals by the Government and by the Minister for Finance to provide additional powers to the Central Bank to regulate the flow of money so that we would avoid these fluctuations are a step in the right direction provided the powers are used properly and effectively. If we are to have effective economic planning which can give reasonable and equitable increases in prosperity to every section of the community and avoid the insecurity and loss of confidence arising from inflation, on the one hand, or deflation, on the other, or from the continual stop-go policies, then it is important to trust the people and enable them by proper long term planning to understand and share in such a plan.

The problem this year is that the Government have not themselves taken the appropriate action because of political or party considerations. On many occasions the Government have declared their commitment to the concept of economic planning, and this was announced in the First and Second Programmes but was subsequently watered down to a great extent in the Third Programme. It is therefore worthy of comment that when the Devlin Report was recently published it contained a number of significant recommendations and comments, including this one:

It is clear that a number of Departments are conscious of the need for planning. They are neither adequately equipped nor are they organised on any common basis for this purpose.

After more than ten years of alleged Government commitment to economic planning, this is an astonishing statement. Taken in the context of the Devlin Report, it is clear that effective economic planning is not possible without major reforms in the public service along the lines suggested in the report.

One of the extraordinary developments since the report was published is the decision of the Government to refer this report to the various Government Departments for examination. This report was undertaken and the members of the committee were appointed for the specific purpose of inquiring into the administration of the public service generally.

This committee having spent three years studying the matter and having prepared a most exhaustive and detailed report recommending a number of changes, particularly that a special Government Services Department would be established, it was a surprise, to say the least of it, to hear from the Government that the report had now been referred to Government Departments for examination.

Our Civil Service system was inherited from the British and it was never suited to operate or promote industrial and economic development. The Civil Service is neither geared nor suited to the type of activity engaged in by the ESB, the Sugar Company and Aer Lingus. One of the factors impressed upon the Government I was associated with was the general question of industrial development. The Government of the time was convinced that an entirely separate organisation from the system operated by Government Departments was necessary if industry was to be encouraged and assisted on economic and social grounds. Bodies such as the Industrial Development Authority and the Voluntary Health Insurance Board were set up because it was recognised that Government Departments were unsuited and incapable of discharging that type of work. The Minister was committed to his part of the economic and social plan.

It is an extraordinary reversal—and it can only be regarded as a reversal— for the Devlin Report to be referred back to various Government Departments for their advice as to what should be done with it. The Devlin Report was prepared by people requested to investigate, report and make recommendations on the whole structure of the Government as well as make a review of the whole structure and method of operation of the Civil Service. It is impossible to imagine a more extraordinary situation, having established this committee to report into a complex problem, to have that report referred back to Government Departments. It is both natural and human that the individuals, the sections or the particular Departments affected adversely or otherwise will resist, postpone or react against the recommendations contained therein.

When we advocate plans for economic expansion, when we recommend policies for development, such as the prices and incomes policy and the establishment of a holding company for certain State bodies, thereby making economic planning more effective, we believe that some of the views and recommendations in the Devlin Report are in line with those who believe in effective action and in a concerted national economic approach to our national problems generally. Apart altogether from the issue of economic planning, the report has enormous significance for the whole national future. The situation which it reveals calls for urgent action. The report makes it clear that, because of outdated systems of organisation, large areas of the public service are operating ineffectively at present.

I would stress that this is no reflection on individual civil servants. Indeed, it has been recognised that, within the limits imposed on them by the system, our public servants have established and maintained a reputation for conscientiousness and integrity which is second to none. This fact makes it only more regrettable that their talents and efforts are wasted by the defects and limitations of the system in which they operate.

It is essential if individuals are to be expected to give of their time, to devote their talents and to make recommendations similar to those contained in the Devlin Report, that the Government should give top priority to undertake the fundamental re-organisation which the report calls for, particularly in view of the fact that this report estimates that it would take at least five years to carry out such reforms.

The first and major step recommended by this report was the setting up of a separate Ministry of Physical Planning. Admittedly, the Taoiseach announced recently that it was not proposed to establish such a Ministry. This announcement did indicate some response to the report. The report also recommended the establishment of a Public Service Department staffed and organised in such a way that it would take an independent and objective view to the whole administration of the Civil Service with regard to the changes required.

I want to refer in this debate to another major matter which has been the subject of discussion in this House and elsewhere during recent months and that is the question of the national policy on the subject of Partition. We had a very full debate on this question in October. Because the Dáil was adjourned for most of the period during which conditions were particularly bad in the Six County area that discussion did not take place during the height of the events at a time when both feelings and passions were running high but, nevertheless, the views expressed in that debate and the comments made reflected the general national viewpoint. There was general unanimity on the attitude which should be adopted and on the policy which should be operated. I do not want in any way to try to make political capital out of this matter but, since then, there have been statements by the Taoiseach and by one or two Ministers: we have had statements and counter-statements, affirmations and implications, interpretations and reinterpretations, explanations followed by assertions and further assertions and re-assertions.

This is a most serious national question and it is not good enough, to put it no stronger, that in a matter of this kind there should be this public parade and public discussion of what is, in effect, merely hair-splitting. This is a national question in regard to which national policy was outlined and endorsed here, without a division, and it is, I think, bad nationally and bad politically for individuals or political parties to try to exploit the situation. Some individuals may, I suppose, feel they have to talk, but it is time for the country to accept that, when a national policy is decided, only Parliament may decide if and when it should be changed in a particular way and only Parliament may decide what particular action, if any, should be taken in a particular way. This is national policy.

I should like to hear from the Taoiseach, on behalf of the Government, when he is replying what further steps it is proposed to take to initiate discussions with the authorities of every kind in the North of Ireland for the implementation and operation of policies for the benefit of the people in both parts of the country. We have had here discussion on the means which might be adopted, on the steps which might be taken, on the action which might follow from the adoption of particular policies: if these policies are to be effective they must be operated by the people in the north and that includes not only Unionists but non-Unionists as well. Their support of and their co-operation in the policies to be implemented must be forthcoming. If there is doubt, if there are reservations about the extent to which this part of the country is committed to that policy, then there will inevitably be less confidence in the operation of the policy.


Hear, hear.

I believe that there is down here considerable regret and disappointment because of the way in which what is described as the Ulster Defence Force has been formed. The way in which it has been formed is not in keeping with the undertakings given or the statements made on behalf of the British Government by the Home Secretary in August last. Most of us are reluctant to raise this matter but, in case silence might be regarded as consent or as acceptance of the manner in which that force is being formed and operated, it is as well that it should be clearly understood that there is disappointment and regret that the force in its formation does not reflect the undertaking that a police force for the area would be the kind of force we would regard as acceptable to all sections of the community and not a particular force, re-named but, for all practical purposes, a continuation of the very force that was so criticised and proved so remiss in the discharge of what we would regard as normal police duties.

This debate occurs not merely at the end of the year but at the beginning of a new decade. Most people are concerned that no clearer indication has been given by the Government of the result of the trade discussions which took place recently with the British Government other than what was said at the press conference by the Ministers concerned after the conclusion of the talks. We are entitled to something more than that. For a continuing period now the British Government have breached the terms of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement. The import deposit levy is a definite burden, if not on exporters certainly on the Exchequer.


Hear, hear.

We are entitled to expect and, I believe, entitled to urge the British Government to relieve the Irish Exchequer of this burden. Because of the continuation of this import deposit levy in breach of the agreement the bona fides of the British Government are called in question. We are entitled to expect that that burden should be relieved by the acceptance on the part of the British of liability for the charge which is at present met by the Irish taxpayer.

This decade is drawing to a close. All over the world—this country has not been immune from it—the decade coming to a close has been a decade characterised by protests of one kind or another. In a free democracy, any individual or any group has the right to protest and focus attention on any matter about which people feel strongly. A great many protests, however, have been negative in character. While they may satisfy the emotions of those engaged in them they do not achieve remedies or effect the changes desired. Remedies can only be effected and changes made in the ballot box. That is the only effective way of making a change or finding a remedy. Whatever changes may occur in the coming decade, one thing is quite certain: not everyone may like this, but it is a fact of political life—the only way to change the present Government is by voting for Fine Gael. No amount of camouflage, no amount of crying, no amount of cribbing can disguise it. It is a fact of political life.

If we want these changes it can be achieved in that way. Whether it is achieved quickly or not it can only be done by the people realising, whether they are ordinary voters or those involved in politics, that many of the remedies and changes which many well-meaning people wish to see adopted cannot be effectively achieved by a protest, however well-intentioned or well-disguised. The ballot box alone can achieve change by effectively providing a government with the will, capacity and personnel to bring into effect the econominc and social improvements needed.

I do not think I should follow Deputy Cosgrave to any great extent in talking about protests except to say that we are not blameless as regards protests or demonstrations because in order to get into this House, all of us from time to time, particularly at the beginning of our careers, have had election marches and public meetings at which we protested from the platform about this or that government or individual. I am not as worried as Deputy Cosgrave appears to be about those who protest against or for one cause or another. The only stipulation is that all these protests should be seen to be orderly. One of our failings, as public representatives and Members of this House, is that we have built up a kind of practice whereby when an election is over we appear to divorce ourselves to some extent from the public. I recognise not all, but some of the people who demonstrate, as people who are trying to convey a message of one kind or another. Let me emphasise that I do not condone any protest that has any element of blackguardism or disruption in it. We ourselves have to demonstrate; we have to march and make protests from public platforms in order to become elected representatives.

These protests are usually associated with the younger people and I suggest that one of the first priorities of the new Dáil should be to allow these young people to become involved in politics by giving them the vote at 18 years of age as they have in Britain.

Most people will admit and particularly, I think, political commentators, that this has been quite a good Dáil session. No party in particular can claim credit for that but I think it will be regarded as a good session despite the fact that we had in recent times what could be described as scenes in the House. This may be due to a number of factors such as the fact that there are many new Deputies here who want to make themselves heard not necessarily by way of speech but by heckling. They believe this is as good a contribution as any other in Dáil Éireann.

This is the first Estimate for the Taoiseach's Department since the general election and one would expect that the Taoiseach would render a full account of his stewardship for the past six or seven months or, since he is the same Taoiseach, for the past year. I conceive he has done that but he has done it in a manner that could not be acceptable to ordinary people and, perhaps, not to many people in Dáil Éireann. It was a statistical analysis and I do not propose in my brief contribution to engage with the Taoiseach in argument regarding these statistics because I have no reason to doubt their veracity. We know what can be done with statistics but I am concerned about the ordinary problems of ordinary people as they see them and with trying to ensure that the Taoiseach and the Government will tackle these urgent problems that arise in so many areas.

May I interrupt the Deputy for a moment? It was conveyed to me that the Labour Party in particular required an economic debate on the Taoiseach's Estimate.

That is fair enough. All I am saying is that the Taoiseach gave us a statistical list. It could be regarded as a gloomy speech. Again we have the usual performance of blaming the public for the state of the nation. Some time some government will come here and say: "We went wrong here; we should have done this that or the other in the last year or two". The emphasis in the Taoiseach's speech is that certain sections are responsible for the bad situation in which we find ourselves in regard to the balance of payments, costs, high prices and high wages. Prior to the election and particularly during the hectic days before the election campaign the Government were boasting about the prosperity of the country and the high incomes that workers had. There was never any suggestion in those speeches—I do not say there should be—that things would have to be done by way of restraint such as the Taoiseach mentioned here today. While they boasted about prosperity just before the election, and that is not very long ago, they are now complaining about its continuance, complaining about what they regarded as fact, the prosperity of people and the high incomes of farmers, industrialists, workers and salaried people.

I appreciate, although I have never been in that exalted position, the difficulties of a Taoiseach who has the responsibility of a political party or those who support him for that particular position. Therefore, he must accept responsibility for his Cabinet and the activities of its members. I might say without bias, and I have been in this House for 24 years, that I have never seen, judging from their performance in this House and elsewhere a more divided Cabinet. I am not talking about knives or about elections for the office of Taoiseach or who should have this post or that but I am talking about what appears to be a grave division on political matters.

Deputy Cosgrave mentioned, and I had a note also to talk about it, the Six Counties situation. We have endeavoured by way of question to the Taoiseach to get some clearcut policy, not from him alone but a policy in which the whole Government will agree on the situation in the Six Counties. During the awful days of August and September and, to some extent October, I think it is fair to say it appeared that there was agreement in the Cabinet on the content of the speeches on radio and television by the Taoiseach on the situation in the Six Counties at that time. The Taoiseach must acknowledge, even up to this day, the unequalled co-operation that he has got from this side of the House and, I think, from the whole Opposition but I can only speak directly for my own party. None of us believed that the only discordant note to be struck in this delicate situation would be struck by not only a member of the Fianna Fáil Party but a senior member of the Government.

This is our concern when we question the Taoiseach. Perhaps Question Time is not a very appropriate time to try to get detailed answers from him. The Taoiseach did express fears that if we had recalled the Dáil in August or September to debate the situation something might be said or done to prejudice the position. I am sure he had the Opposition parties in mind but the only discordant note struck was struck by a member of his own party in the Cabinet.

It appears that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries does not rule out the use of force in order to unite this country. I do not think there can be any equivocation about that. The Taoiseach tried admirably yesterday to cover up what Deputy Blaney meant. I have a tremendous amount of sympathy with him in his effort to curtail this gentleman and, to some extent, the Minister for Local Government, Deputy Boland, in their various outbursts at cumann meetings and elsewhere, not in this House, with regard to the use of force and the best way to try to ensure that the country will be reunited.

I do not think it would be unreasonable, even though Deputy Boland appeared to object yesterday, that a speech on such a delicate matter, a matter that is still delicate, any speech that has to be made by a member of the Cabinet, cught to be vetted, ought to be approved by the man who has a grave responsibility and should be submitted to him before a word of that speech is uttered.

It is very significant that, as far as I can gather, the recent speech of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries was not issued through the Government Information Bureau. Deputy O'Leary, when he suggested yesterday that the speech was made known to some members of the Opposition in the Six County Parliament prior to its being delivered, was virtually shouted down by members of the Government party suggesting that this was a fabrication. I believe it to be true. There appears to be something sinister in the fact that the speech was not transmitted through the ordinary channels available to and which have been availed of by members of the Government, that is, the Government Information Bureau, and that this speech that was made in the Golden Grill in Letter-kenny should for some reason that only Deputy Blaney can explain, have been in the hands of Opposition members of the Six County Parliament.

Party political speeches are not issued through the Government Information Bureau.

We never know whether they are or not. We are told on one occasion that the Minister is talking as Minister, even though he is talking at a Fianna Fáil cumann and the next time we are told that he is talking as a member of the party when he is talking to the same cumann.

A speech made on a party political occasion is never issued through the Government Information Bureau.

The Taoiseach should have seen this one.

The Taoiseach, for the second time in two or three months, had to try to extricate the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries from his difficulties. Whether or not the Minister wanted to be extricated, I do not know. It would seem from his behaviour in the House yesterday that he did not want to be helped by the Taoiseach. All of us must be gravely concerned and disquieted by that type of speech, which serves only one purpose, that is, to give ammunition to those in the Six Counties who would like a continuation of the trouble. This is the sad thing. This is the dangerous thing. It is a matter of regret, to say the least of it, that Ministers like Deputy Blaney or Deputy Boland should be let loose, virtually, to give their personal views. I submit that if they want to remain members of the Cabinet they should not be allowed to express these personal views.

The Taoiseach talked about the deep feeling of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries in this matter. Are we to understand, therefore, that there are different degrees of feeling about the Six Counties within the Cabinet from the Taoiseach right down to the last appointee, Deputy James Gibbons? I do not think the Minister should be excused in these circumstances merely because the Taoiseach thinks he has or he says he has deep feelings as to the partitioning of the country and how the problem of Partition should be resolved.

I know Deputy Blaney personally and converse with him in this House, I do not show my bitterness outside the House, but if he is going to mess along like this and do untold damage, the only thing for him to do if he has these deep feelings is to get out. In other parliaments in the world, in Britain, anyone who felt deeply about a matter and was in a minority within his own group got out. Deputy O'Leary reminds me that the same happened in the Belfast Government. I do not know whether Deputy Blaney has deep feelings in this matter or not but he did some mischief not only in the last election. He asked sections in the general election up there to vote in a particular direction or not to vote in a particular direction. Recently, again, I think it was in his Golden Grill speech, he told people not to join the Ulster Defence Regiment. He should leave advice like that to those people who are concerned in the Six Counties, concerned maybe as much as, or more than, Deputy Blaney with civil liberties.

I do know this: it conflicts with some of the views of political leaders in the north, those who were responsible initially—not Deputy Blaney or anybody in this House—for focusing the attention of the British Government and of the world on the injustices that obtained for such a long time. It would be better if the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and any other Minister in this House would leave this matter to the people themselves, let them make up their own minds, and not try to divide these people again because there are far too many divisions in the Six Counties at present and there have been for such a long time.

Deputy Cosgrave in his speech suggested that the Taoiseach—I forget whether he said it or not, maybe I am taking it up wrongly—should have some contact with the Belfast Government now. I would suggest that in accordance with his intention or his promise in the early part of the year, now that there is a period of relative calm—and I say relative calm deliberately—it would be an opportune time for the Taoiseach to pay his long-promised visit to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Wilson. It is fair to say that, apart from the trade talks that have been going on recently and in which the Taoiseach was not involved, on the question of the Six Counties there has not been any contact with any Member of the British Government since the contacts that there were by the Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Hillery, last August. Perhaps the Taoiseach, when he comes to reply, would let us know what his intentions, if any, are of having a discussion with the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

The Taoiseach made an oft-quoted speech in Tralee in which he suggested a federal solution to the problem of the division of the country. This speech, incidentally, was made outside the House.

So far, apart from reference to it in his speech in October and at Question Time here we have had no expansion of his views on the federal solution that he has in his mind. I will not say that it is, but the speech may be regarded by some people as merely a good propaganda speech made at that time. I think the Taoiseach was serious when he suggested this sort of solution and the sooner he expands on it and tells us whether or not changes in the Constitution will be necessary, the better. I believe that there must be changes in the Constitution. Merely to talk about this in one speech in Tralee so many weeks ago and to do nothing about it is not good enough. Perhaps, when he is replying, the Taoiseach will give us a little more information?

On very many occasions during the last ten or 11 years the European Economic Community has been the main topic of discussions of this kind. Those who are in favour of the European Economic Community now have their spirits raised in view of the information that comes from The Hague and that is conveyed to us on radio and television by the Minister for External Affairs. According to what the Minister for External Affairs said in recent days, negotiations for Ireland's entry will commence in June of next year. This has been corroborated by the Netherlands Foreign Minister, Dr. Luns. We should have a reappraisal of the concept of our becoming members of the EEC.

The Government have not been fair to themselves, to this House, to the public, in that they have not divulged all the information that must be available to them. I was engaged in this House last night but I understand the Minister for External Affairs said in a broadcast that another White Paper on Ireland's admission to the EEC might soon be produced. If it will be any-think like the last White Paper on the same subject it will not be of very much use. We require a White Paper which will show as far as possible the losses and the possible gains by Ireland's membership. There should be an analysis of that kind so that we can make a proper assessment in this House and so that those vitally concerned outside this House may make the necessary urgent preparations if, as we are told, we shall be in the EEC in June, 1972. The British Government, through their Prime Minister, have undertaken to conduct this sort of exercise for Britain and to give the information to Parliament. If it can be done there, I do not see why it cannot be done here. It was said that there could not be a proper assessment as far as Ireland is concerned from the point of view of agricultural prices. The information from the EEC is that by mid-January agricultural prices within that community will be fixed. We must be aware of the consequences of this step if we are to be in the EEC by 1972. The Government know the view of the Labour Party on our membership of that community. We do not like the idea and I personally do not like the idea. I regard it as a rich man's club the members of which are determined to get fatter and fatter and to hell with the countries around them. I should be a little less pessimistic about membership of a community which would take a real interest in the countries around it, in the African countries, and so on.

The Minister for External Affairs said that negotiations as far as Britain's entry to the EEC is concerned will be long and involved, whereas ours would be simple and short. Perhaps, the Taoiseach would explain that statement to us? Does it means that the British Government will act as negotiators or part-negotiators for us? Does it mean we shall ask them to look after our interests, for example, in agriculture or as far as any other sector of our economy is concerned? We do not agree that our negotiations should be simple. We believe there should be hard bargaining to secure the best protection for all sections of our community, in particular our workers. We should not be ashamed to admit our industrial weakness. We cannot compare, from an industrial viewpoint, with any of the new members of the EEC. We should not be too proud or too big to ask for special treatment not so much for those who own industry or who invest in it as for our workers who must face harsh competition from abroad. We should examine our problems realistically and honestly and drive the best bargain for our people. Of the ten countries who will be members of the new community, if the four are allowed in, ours has the lowest income per head. I do not want to flog that point. We should not appear to write down our country too much but these are facts the Government must appreciate and which must be uppermost in the minds of those who must negotiate on behalf of the Irish nation.

The Minister for External Affairs intends to visit the six countries of the EEC. I assume he will go in January. Perhaps, the Taoiseach will give us an assurance now that, on his return, there will be a full report from him to this House and an opportunity for full-scale debate? I think the Government could be accused of withholding quite an amount of information not alone on this subject but on other subjects also —for example, the meeting last week between British and Irish representatives to review the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement. I know certain matters cannot be divulged but surely the situation should be the subject of debate? The practice in this House is very cumbersome. Either a Private Members' motion must be put down or a parliamentary question must be asked. It will take four days to elicit the reply to a parliamentary question and a Private Members' motion is a very slow procedure. In Great Britain, the Members of Parliament are informed on the following day of the course of certain events no matter how far-flung the other countries involved may be.

Would the Deputy agree that, if it is not the subject of a debate, it should at least be the subject of a statement?

Even that. It should be talked about and referred to here. What about the Minister for Housing and Planning which the Taoiseach spoke about on 2nd July? Why the delay? Has the housing crisis lessened? Has the Minister for Local Government, Deputy Boland, told the Taoiseach there is no crisis? Is there a personnel problem? Has it now been found unnecessary to make such an appointment? I do not know whether we conveyed our view on housing properly to this House and to the public. On the occasion to which I refer, it was very difficult for those in the Press Gallery to get the full facts as we could give them. When I was concluding for the Labour Party, with a limited time of 15 minutes, I was barraged by interruptions for the whole quarter of an hour.

I am not saying that we are blameless and I am sure Fine Gael could say the same thing. There was a very sinister atmosphere here on that evening. It was known that the debate was concluding at 6.15, I think it was. I saw the Minister for Local Government bring in about 20 or 30 Fianna Fáil Deputies and it was obvious that their sole purpose was to ensure that the facts as we know them would not be presented to the House.

I was further appalled that the Minister for Local Government did not make a serious effort to intervene in that debate and give his view. He deliberately avoided offering until he knew it was impossible to get in. He got in for a limited time of about five to six minutes, and no Minister could account for his activities as Minister within that limited time. I do not want to pursue that any further except to say that, because we regard the question of the lack of housing in Dublin and all over the country as being of vital importance, we put down another housing motion. It is on the Order Paper and I would ask the Taoiseach to ensure that that debate is treated seriously not alone by the Minister for Local Government but also by the Government.

I should like to ask the Taoiseach— I do not think he referred to it—about the Buchanan Report. Has any decision been taken yet? Some time ago the Government, and rightly so, said they had reservations about it. Many commissions have been set up over the past 30 to 40 years, and many reports have been made, and many reports ignored. I am not suggesting that I am in favour of all of the Buchanan Report but I suggest that, in view of its alleged importance, and in view of the importance that has been attached to it by various speakers, the Government should give some indication now as to what decision, if any, has been arrived at.

Recently there was an article in an addition of "Studies" in which a gentleman called Mr. Crotty pointed out very clearly many defects and weaknesses in the Buchanan Report. If this report has been considered by the various Departments, I would urge the Taoiseach to bring this treatise to their special notice.

I should also like to know have the Government got the same policy with regard to decentralisation of Departments. There was a suggestion some time ago that the Department of Lands would go to Castlebar and the Department of Education to Athlone. I do not know what, if anything, has been done. Here, again, we have a conflict within the divided Cabinet. It was suggested by the Minister for Lands that this is not now necessary and we had a rejoinder from the Minister for Justice, in whose constituency Castlebar is, to the effect that the Government decision stands. Perhaps, the Taoiseach would be able to act as referee between these two eminent gentlemen.

I do not think we can be quite as optimistic as the Taoiseach suggests with regard to the improvement in the matter of employment. I have not figures which are as up-to-date as the figures which are available to the Taoiseach but the figures suggest to me that, in the four years from 1963-64 to 1967-68, we had 1,000 fewer people at work in the country. It is true that we had in that period 49,000 more employed in, let us call it, industrial employment. We must also have regard to the fact that in that four years 50,000 people left the land. I would not be at all complacent about the situation so far as employment is concerned because there is no real change.

Recent information which we got as Deputies was to the effect that compared with 6th December, 1968, there are—it may appear to be a small amount—205 more people unemployed. In a situation like that it is very difficult to understand why the Government agreed—I do not know whether it was in answer to a proposal by the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Local Government—to abolish the winter relief schemes.

I am not suggesting that the winter relief schemes were an economic venture, but they did this: they helped thousands of people to have what we will all be wishing one another tomorrow night, a happy Christmas. They will not have it now. They will continue to get the dole but, these unfortunates who cannot get work or who cannot apply themselves to continuous work over the whole year, are now being told after 40 or 45 years that these schemes are gone. In the various local authorities Fianna Fáil got away with murder. I read that some of the members of their own Party said they should protest to the Minister.

Mr. Barry

They did.

I do not think those thousands who have been deprived of this employment will be wishing the Minister for Local Government or the other Ministers in the Cabinet a very happy Christmas for what he or they did to them.

I do not know whether the Taoiseach would like to comment on this, but we assume with glee that the Criminal Justice Bill has been buried. That is all I will say about that.

I should like also to bring to the Taoiseach's notice—and I know it is hardly necessary to do so because I am sure he has seen it himself—the behaviour of his Ministers at Question Time. I do not think the Taoiseach approves of it. It would be wrong for him to reprimand or upbraid some of his Ministers in public, but I trust he said something to them at party meetings or Cabinet meetings. Some Minister must have said to the members of the Fianna Fáil Party over the past two days: "We will have to stop this heckling," because they have been on their best behaviour over the past two days. We will try to reciprocate.

What I want to ask the Taoiseach to comment on is the behaviour of some of his Ministers at Question Time. I think I could mention some names. The Minister for Local Government is very reluctant, to be kind to him, and in many cases he refuses, to answer the simplest question. He gives the stonewalling reply: "I was not asked that question" or "Put down a question next week." The Minister for Finance does not do that, but it has rubbed off on to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and we get the shortest answers possible giving us no help at all. There is always a suspicion in the Minister's mind that someone over here is trying to take a crack at him. That may be so in some cases but, in 90 per cent of the cases, the Deputy wants some genuine information on some national question or some question that affects his constituency.

It has rubbed off too on the Minister for Defence to a large extent. I am making this fair criticism in an effort to ensure that what I regard as the most valuable feature—and what Mr. de Valera said in my hearing he regarded as, if not the most important, one of the most important features— in Parliament, that is the time devoted to Question Time, is safeguarded and that questions sincerely asked will elicit as much information as is reasonable for the Minister to give.

I have said that I have noted—how will I describe it?—the lull in Dáil Éireann as against some of the scenes we had in recent weeks. I can say on behalf of my Party that we are prepared to engage in reasonable debate. We know it cannot be a Sunday party meeting or anything like that but, if we can get reasonable debate, and reasonable answers, and reasonable speeches from Ministers, we will engage in reasonable debate. It is up to them because they have the initiative to create the climate and there will be a ready response.

A final matter to which I should like to refer is the reform of Parliament. This is a matter to which the late Deputy Seán Dunne devoted a great deal of his time and a great lot of his energy and he and some of his colleagues came up with a set of proposals which were worthy of consideration. I have mentioned the cumbersome machinery which we have as far as conducting debates is concerned. I cannot claim to have been here all the time but it is right to say that we have been operating the same system here for the last 50 years. This Parliament copied the mother of Parliaments, the British Parliament, but they have since made some changes especially in the matter of considering business in committee, outside the Chamber. We have done absolutely nothing, or certainly very little. If anything has been done it has not been readily recognised. There have been many changes since this Parliament was established. For instance, we did not have semi-State bodies until the ESB was established. in 1927 or 1928. People are concerned about these semi-State bodies not because they are suspicious about their activities but they want to know what is happening in them. People are concerned that there should be some liaison between public representatives and these bodies which are being provided with taxpayers' money so that the greatest amount of information will be conveyed to the people's representatives.

We also suggested that another look should be taken at the period of recess. We believe that the summer recess should be of shorter duration. We also referred to another very important matter, the right of the Opposition to initiate proposals and legislation. The Taoiseach has been here now since 1948 and he will admit that Private Members' time has gradually been whittled down, not so much because of a deliberate attempt by the Government to do so but by reason of the growing volume of business. We proposed longer sittings and consideration should be given to the proposal that much more latitude should be given to the Opposition as far as initiating debates, proposals and legislation is concerned. That is all I wish to say except to add that because of the behaviour of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and of the Minister for Local Government, and of the reluctance of Ministers to behave properly at Question Time, and particularly because of the attitude of the Minister for Local Government recently in regard to the Labour Party and the housing motion, we propose to vote against this £10 token Estimate.

The main Estimate is for £69,800.

We are very proud on this side of the House that the Taoiseach is introducing this Estimate because he is the Leader of our party, the party which the people selected to form the Government. I am not going to hold a post-mortem on the election results, other parties may do so, but it was the first election held in which our party had not got as their Leader a survivor of the War of Independence or of the Civil War. We, as young politicians, are looking forward; there is not much point in looking back to the bitterness of the Civil War and so on, and we have to look forward. This was an election which this party dearly longed to win. We went out to win it and faced the people without any gimmicks and the people returned us with a resounding majority. I suppose every Deputy has his own views and, perhaps, each Deputy may be thinking in the same way as his people before him thought, but it is the duty of every one of us to look ahead and think of the future and not to think of the slogans of the past. That will not do us any good. Deputy Corish covered the ground in regard to the general behaviour in this House sometimes and all I can say is that it takes two to make a fight and it will take the goodwill of all parties to see that we do not have a disgraceful situation again with the authority of the Ceann Comhairle being questioned regularly. There is no good pointing the finger at anybody and saying that he was responsible, and that Deputy in turn saying that we were responsible, because that would only start another row. It is the duty of all parties to ensure that the business of the House is conducted in a dignified way. That is what we are elected for.

We believe in the democratic system and it has often been said of this party, both inside and outside the House, that we are trying to suppress the freedom of the press, that we are not anxious to see certain things published which are unfavourable to us. We say, however, that we invite the freedom of the press. A free press is vital to good government and the press should be free from any interference from higher authorities. We have had a lot of talk about the visit of the Springboks—personally I have no notion of going to see them—and I should like to say that if the Labour Party were in power there would be no freedom of the press. They came into the open when in the Irish Times on 5th December a letter from them was published to the effect that the press should not report the game. That is something we must deplore. The letter was signed by Deputy Corish, Deputy Noel Browne, Deputy Cruise-O'Brien, Deputy Keating and Deputy David Thornley. What would happen if those people got into power? They would tell the press not to publish anything that was in any way detrimental to the Labour Party. We had, too, a lot of talk about Telefís Éireann and through the years we have been told that various Ministers were making telephone calls to RTE trying to stop this programme and that programme. Now the ordinary man is asking himself was there really something wrong when he sees the names of the people who signed that letter. Up to recently Deputy Thornley was a member of the “7 Days” team and when he was he said there was a censorship imposed on them but now he wants to censor the reporting of a sporting event. The people are well aware of what is happening. It is the duty of the Government to expose this or any other matter which we consider to be wrong and against our democratic system.


I am sorry to say in my constituency we lost a Labour Deputy and it was because you and a few of your friends have taken over the Labour Party from the old guard and because you have codded your leader——

This is an attack on the Ceann Comhairle.

I take it that the Deputy is referring to Deputy O'Leary?

I am referring to Deputy O'Leary, Sir. The Deputy's party lost in Cork and only one member survived and that was Deputy Michael Murphy. He survived because he disregarded headquarters; he would not put up their posters or hand out their literature because he knew his people. Now you have the new element coming in to tell us that we are only dunces in the Dáil and that they are going to clean it up. Thanks be to God they have been cut down to ordinary boys and we will keep them that way. We have also had references to the best way in which the country could be reunited. We have complete faith in the Government and in the way they are handling this question. They have the full support of the Fianna Fáil Party in what they are doing. This is probably a very ticklish——

Which of them?

The Fianna Fáil Party. We do not take things out of context. You people in Fine Gael have been doing considerable in-fighting for some time and some of you have not reappeared. That is your own business and that is probably the way you will stay.

Our policy on the reunification of our country is well known, but lately it is very popular for people to say we should make certain changes in our Constitution. The Constitution was adopted by our people many years ago. In this country we believe our society should be based on the family unit, but the first thing that is suggested by anyone wanting a change in our Constitution nowadays is that we should have divorce. Will that better us in any way? We have newly elected people, some of the fair sex, who are saying this. I am disappointed that they should have this outlook so early on. We have our own heritage in Ireland.

On a point of order, may I point out to Deputy Meaney that the suggestion about divorce originally came from Mr. Seán Lemass, who had just relinquished office as Taoiseach, and he was entitled to make the suggestion?

That is scarcely a point of order.

I am well aware of that, Sir.

Those of us who believe in the survival of the family unit will oppose any change.

The Deputy should talk to Mr. Lemass about it.

There is a great deal of talk about unemployment. It is estimated that 10,000 people leave the land each year. There is a rising population and we have not got more unemployment. That being so, it is obvious that there are more people being employed and more self-employed people in the country.

We are not ashamed of our housing record down the years. There is an ever-increasing number of houses being built. In Cork city, where tenants applied for houses that had been built by the corporation, the NBA and all the rest, they stipulated that they wanted their houses in a certain place. It is no longer a case of: "I want a house at all costs," but: "I want a house in a certain district; otherwise I will not take it." The people of Cork city have shown by their choosiness that the Government have the whole problem of housing under control.

In regard to the EEC, the hard fact is that, if Britain joins, Ireland must also join, unless we are to be left out on a limb. That will mean hard work, and the Irish people are well able to rise to the occasion. The Opposition will blame the Government if they see anything going wrong, just as they blame the Government when they see a factory closing down. It has been hurled across this House: "What about Potez?"; but these Deputies will not look at all the factories that are being built around the country and providing a great deal of employment. This is all due to the Fianna Fáil Party who started the industrial drive in Ireland, and the people who have elected them know that will continue as long as they are in power. There would be no airports here were it not for this Government. In the days of the Coalition Government those who were in charge closed our airports and sold the planes because they were bankrupt. Where would we be in the modern world if we had not aeroplanes to take people from place to place quickly? What would happen to our tourist trade?

It is very amusing to hear Fine Gael Deputies saying their party are anxious for power, that they will bring about great social changes and so on. In their publication The Just Society one of the most important proposals was the national pensions scheme. I should like to quote from column 1306, volume 242, of the Official Report of Wednesday, 19th November, 1969, where in Private Members' Business Deputy P. Belton moved the following motion under the title “National Pensions Scheme”:

That Dáil Éireann favours the establishment of a comprehensive national pensions scheme based upon insurance contributions by all persons with income to create an adequate system of social security to provide for people in old age, sickness, disability, unemployment and for dependants on death.

As the House knows, it is necessary to have a seconder for the motion, but there was not one of the 49 Fine Gael Deputies on the benches over there to second Deputy Belton's motion. They are the party who are trying to convince people they really want power. Where were they? This has not been explained. They did not believe in what they were saying or, if they did, they were not there to back it up. It is no wonder people down the country often say: "The Fine Gael front bench have no desire for power. Most of them are well off enough".

Deputy Corish referred to changes in Dáil sittings. We country Deputies do not mind coming up here every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and working for 20 hours, but we do not believe in being knocked around by urban Deputies by having to sit here on a Monday and Friday. They can see their constituents here in Leinster House and can drive out to their branch meetings within 20 miles of Dublin at night. The people who elected us are entitled to see us from time to time, and we should not be asked to spend more time away from our constituencies. We have no objection to prolonging the sittings on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but we will oppose any move to have sittings on Mondays and Fridays.

The people who returned this Government did so in the belief that they would keep on the road on which they had started. This was our election manifesto. There were no promises, no gimmicks. As long as we are here the recipients of social welfare and others in the lower income group know they will get an increase with each Budget. They could not trust another party to do that if they were in power.

There has been a great deal of criticism of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. He is a thorn in the side of the Opposition, especially when they contest by-elections because only once ever has he lost. The Fianna Fáil Government believe in helping out the farmers, especially the small farmers, and there are thousands of small farmers. Despite what Deputy Cosgrave said about there being a place for the 400 acre farm only, I believe otherwise. It is easy for a person to say that in an industrial country in which the people who leave the land can immediately find a job in industry but, in our set-up, it is the duty of the Government to help the small man and each and every subsidy paid is being channelled in that direction.

I will not detain the House any longer but I want to say how proud we are that our leader was successful in the general election. As I said at the beginning of my speech, it was the first general election fought in which no party had as its leader a survivor of the War of Independence. We are going into the 'Seventies with confidence and I have no doubt, unless some miracle happens for the other side, that we will be going into the 'Eighties again with the country still thriving.

With the exception of some rather childish errors, the speech made by Deputy Meaney could have been made by his father. I have never heard such a similar approach. That does not mean to say I agree with it. I violently disagree with it. It was a typical Fianna Fáil approach; in my constituency there are 3,000 small farmers, 2,000 workers and 1,000 people related to people who got shot in 1922. There are other statistics engraved on the mind of a man like Deputy Meaney.

We have heard a great deal about the Springboks tour. We all deplore the fact that there is discrimination in South Africa, but I have come to the conclusion that 15 men on one side and 15 men on the other, all young, rolling around in the mud, have nothing on their minds but where they are going to get the prettiest girl and take her out for a meal as soon as the match is over, and I am afraid that is not political. If I am not at the Springboks match I shall be out hunting and anyone who wants to protest about either can protest away.

Turning now to my serious contribution, I think this country is on the verge of great changes. Many of us have been interested in the Common Market for some years. Some of us who have gone to Europe to see what is happening there realise that this is not a free trade organisation. It is, in fact, a tariff duty organisation, such as we have here, except that a club of six is erecting these tariff walls against everybody else. We had experience of this with our exports of cattle to Germany. We were producing a very nice competitive situation between customers for our beef cattle both in Britain and in Germany. When the cattle numbers in the EEC started to improve, and it seemed as if Ireland was competing with the EEC countries there was a veto on the export of our cattle to Germany, with disastrous results for our cattle trade during the next nine months and we have not got back in there yet. The common external tariff has excluded us. Nevertheless, it is true that international changes which have taken place indicate that we are moving closer to the EEC. When I was at the Council of Europe in the last couple of years I remember a very brilliant paper by a Frenchman called De Preaumont who instanced the difficulties of Britain and how they could become a nation with the economic strength to enter the EEC with the balance of payments running in their favour. That has been done in a most painful way for Britain and in a most painful way for us. The import deposit scheme was painful for all countries exporting to Britain but it has been done. The French view at that time was that it could not be done within 12 years.

The traditional opposition to Britain's and Ireland's entry into the EEC in the person of General de Gaulle has been removed. I do not accept this as meaning that we will get in without any trouble at all. When meeting these politicians my experience was that both the de Gaullist and the anti-de Gaullist were anti the assimilation of Britain and Ireland into the EEC and the reason was a very obvious one. France is almost a self-sufficient nation. She is a great agricultural nation and a great industrial nation unlike Britain, which was described as a nation of shopkeepers. If we watch our balance of trade and our balance of payments, to use the words of politicians of other days, we must export or expire, but that position does not hold with France. That is the reason why France did not want the advent of a new agricultural country like Ireland, with a fair production from our lands, or the advent of a new industrial country like Britain. Another fact to be taken into consideration is the higher cost situation in France. People were going to England to buy goods and smuggle them home. In this high cost situation Britain would have been in serious difficulties in relation to the cost of her food and her farm subsidies but as long as the complete industrial wage structure was not turned upside down France would be in difficulties if Britain went in because of the ability of Britain to export to France at a lower cost than France could produce at. Two examples are £1 for a pound of lamb and between £11 and £12 for a dress for a girl aged about thirteen in Galleries Lafayettes which could be described as the Clerys of Paris. This adds up to the situation where it does not suit France to have Britain and Ireland in, even at this stage.

I think the Taoiseach will find there will be still another chapter and another following that before we end up in the EEC. We have to hoist our sails and set our course. It is my considered view that there is nothing else we can do. We might have desired to live in splendid isolation, but the truth is that we have not lived in splendid isolation for the past 20 years. There was the old Fianna Fáil victim of Sinn Féin going across the border looking for employment in industry and agriculture.

There was the statement by Deputy Frank Aiken that we would be far better off if every ship was at the bottom of the sea. If people do not get the standard of living they desire they will emigrate not from the need of a job but for the desire for a better standard of living and that has happened over the last 20 years. We were not living in splendid isolation and we might as well accept the fact that financial and social assimilation, not national assimilation, with the greater States of Europe will proceed willy-nilly whether we like it or not.

If one looked at a parish 20 years ago one could count on one hand the number of people who had been to the continent and even to Lourdes. The possibility now is that you could almost count on one hand the number of people who have not been to Europe and the fact of the matter is that the world is becoming smaller.

I do not accept that the Government, during their long term in office, have prepared the country for the changes which now face us. I agree there was nothing we could do except enter into an agreement on the lines of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement. I am hinting that the next three years are going to be extremely critical. The reductions in tariffs which occur on the 1st July of each year are now reaching the stage where competition is coming up from our home market for British goods. I read an article in the Sunday Press last week which had a table showing an index of the volume of exports of certain commodities from Britain to here. The table was an extraction from the normal trade figures. I found that where we had been importing goods worth £150,000 in previous years they were now reaching the value of £700,000 and £800,000.

One realises that we are no longer in splendid isolation and the next three years will be extremely critical. The only good thing is that they will give us time to prepare for our assimilation into Europe and that assimilation will not just be a rough throw into a cold sea but rather a wading out through the shallows to breast the waves.

As I said, Fianna Fáil failed in preparing our economy for free trade within the European Economic Community. The first proof of that is the fact that where the necessaries of life are concerned this is a higher cost country than Britain and the real reason why France does not want either Britain or Ireland in the EEC is because our cost structure and Britain's cost structure are lower than theirs. Our cost structure for essential commodities is higher than Britain's. Britain has a large industrial population and a small agricultural one and Britain can, therefore, subsidise agriculture and have the benefit of cheaper food. The housewife on a limited income is better off with the same amount of money in Britain than is the housewife here. The result is that my good colleagues in the Labour Party must, if they are doing their duty, seek higher wages. The best situation that could obtain here would be if we had in terms of £sd lower wages here than those elsewhere, provided these lower wages could buy more commodities. If we had a virile situation with better living for our people and a satisfied populace, with lower export prices, then we would be, as the saying goes, sitting on the pig's back. Unfortunately, such is not the case.

I am no humanist—I will not be with the Springboks; I will be out hunting—but I can see the problem of my friends in the Labour Party from the point of view of wages. I meet Labour across the table. I have to resist demands in order to keep my own head above water and maintain employment in the companies in which I am involved. I can, however, see the problem of the unfortunate housewife. I do not suggest that her husband drinks or gambles too much, but the ordinary housewife is put to the pin of her collar to make ends meet. At the same time, our export costs are higher than the costs at which the same goods can be produced in Britain. I do not know so much about the continent, but in places like Italy one finds that the buildings are slighter than what we require; and there they do not have great heating costs. They also seem to have a great number of young people working. Production is very high in electrical appliances and so forth. In certain parts of Europe there will inevitably be an abundance of low cost goods, low cost goods which will be sent in here and which will hit the home industry and, therefore, employment.

We have simultaneously this high cost and a chronic shortage of capital. There is an incentive to foreigners to come in and establish industries; in 1975 there will be no more tariffs between Britain and Ireland and industrialists can manufacture here and send their goods to Britain, Industrialists coming in here look for capital within the country. At the same time, we are trying to adapt our industries, spending money we have not got, and all this has placed a very severe financial strain upon our economic structure. The Government have tried to ease this in various ways. The Minister for Finance has been borrowing abroad. When one borrows abroad the interest goes back abroad and there is no tax paid here, whereas, if you borrow here, you get the interest every year and that interest is subject to tax within the State and that tax goes straight back into the State coffers. It is like a wage increase. It is estimated that 33? per cent of every wage increase goes back into the State coffers. Again, the profits made by industrialists here go out of the country and, allied to those profits, there is freedom from tax for new exports.

The State is providing a service at great cost and deriving no revenue of any kind. I do not object to this. It is in line with the times in which we are living. There is nothing we can do about it. If, however, we had good housekeeping and a virile economy, with slightly lower wages and better living conditions, I would view the 'Seventies with far more optimism than I do. About three weeks ago I asked the Minister for Finance a series of questions as to the extra amounts borrowed by the Government from the commercial banks. The figure I got was around £230 million. We have the situation now in which ordinary overdraft accommodation will be scrapped and one will have to take a loan based on repayment of principal and interest. An ex-Deputy of this House told me that there are men in certain trades who need large sums for about a month; under this new arrangement they will have to take the sum required for the whole year and pay interest on it. Presumably they will have to try to invest the money for the other 11 months in which they will not require it and they will more than likely lose on the rate of interest. One can visualise an Ireland in which the bankers will disappear. The evolution will be the bankers making more money, the Government taking more off them and less available for the business man who wants to expand and cannot do it. Indeed, if they had pigtails they might get a better reception.

It is important that we should meet the challenge of the 'Seventies and freer trade. I do not go with the Taoiseach's complacency at all. A large volume of development is due to the foreign industrialist who can, any time he likes, close down and throw 200, 300, 400 or 500 people out of employment. We have created a situation in which industry, agriculture, tourism and allied industries are the big sources of revenue, plus the invisible sources like emigrants' remittances and tourist spendings. As far as agriculture is concerned, we are now being asked to move over to the production of beef. I know a bit about this. I know what you get out of it. If you did nothing but beef it would be a gentleman's occupation without a a gentleman's income. I understand you would need an accountant at the moment to work out what you get for your creamery milk. There are actually four moves involved in finding out what you get and the probable price next summer will be around 1s 6d a gallon.

I remember catcalls across this House when a certain price was guaranteed but it was a damn sight better price than the unfortunate farmers will have to accept next summer. These are the two fundamentals in farming—production of milk and consequently calves, and production of beef. I agree that mixed farming is the only hope but we are now being told to get out of one and into the other. The one we are to get out of is the one that produces the raw material for the other, that is the calf. At the same time farmers are faced with the situation, not accepted by Fianna Fáil, of higher fixed charges on every enterprise. Your accountant will tell you of these fixed charges, rents, rates and taxes that must be paid. If you farm a certain number of acres you cannot do without a car any more than Deputy Tully or Deputy Donegan can do without one. It is an additional but necessary expense. There are various other things among the general overheads that you must have and all these have resulted in a situation wherein many farmers cannot get a net profit sufficient to live on.

One thing that Fianna Fáil can accept is that there is no better man to live on his fat for five, six or seven years than the farmer. Fianna Fáil made them do it in the 1930s. The farmer just keeps fewer cattle or gets rid of a man, does not clean drains or does not fertilise and just gives the wife whatever money he has. That is not the way to face the challenge of the 'Seventies or get the production we require.

I have mentioned high costs in tourism. There is an enigma on the Continent: if you go to a high-class hotel you will be "skinned" but you can go to the small café at the corner and have an excellent meal. You can live as the people do in the country, inexpensively. Here, we have designed the extension of our tourism on a high cost basis. I think that is wrong. One of the best things we did was the introduction of the car ferries which, in the case of those running to Britain, will mean that a large number of British industrial workers will come here with their cars, wives and children or friends. They do not want a high cost holiday. We have a scheme of farmhouse and guesthouse holidays which has not been emphasised and we also have a system, which is minimal in extent, whereby caravan sites and places are provided where people can get a good room and be allowed to have their children, who are not very welcome in hotels in the high season, with them. While trying to develop that sort of tourism we do something incredibly stupid like giving £300,000 to a fellow who is a Fianna Fáil candidate and gets 600 votes at the next election. I understand he had 600 cars working for him that day. I suggest we are completely wrong in this. What we should do is to develop tourism, as in the case of everything else that is to be developed, based on the people of the country, not on the wallahs in Dublin and elsewhere but on the people of the country who were there four generations ago and will be there four generations hence. We can do that by developing low cost tourist holidays. While we are getting a boom in tourism at the moment because of the novelty of the new car ferries and so on, car ferries are being provided in tens to the Continent and in five years time it will be an accepted thing to drive on to a car ferry at low cost. We must anticipate that. The Government have gone entirely wrong in this matter of tourism, which is one of the four important things on which to base the future, in basing it on a high cost structure.

I would have expected the Taoiseach to advert to the problem of the exploitation of the land of Ireland. We have a Minister—and Ministers may be discussed on this Estimate also— who says that the Ministry of Lands will be in Castlebar. We have the new Minister for Lands saying it will not. He further says that they are now going to copy the policy that Deputy Clinton produced a few years ago and amalgamate Agriculture with Lands. The Minister for Lands is absolutely right. If I go into a country pub in my constituency and find ten people at the bar and eight of them apply to me for land, or to Deputy Faulkner who was Minister for Lands or to Deputy Aiken or perhaps to the Deputy from Meath, they have about one chance in a million of getting land. That is a situation that can no longer be tolerated. Ten years ago I said that the Department of Lands should be turned upside down and I was gently chided by the then Deputy Dillon who said it should not exactly be turned upside down. He went half-way with me and said perhaps it should be turned sideways.

A marvellous thing was done in 1948 when Irish land was drained and we had the opportunity to exploit it. Since then we have sat back and tried to cod people that they would get land from the Land Commission. Only one in 50, perhaps, got a bit of land but not enough to live on, with the pretence, which was not true in most cases, that it was the Fianna Fáil politicians who got it for him. There is only one way in which the land can be exploited for the good of the people and that is by the amalgamation of the Department of Lands with the Department of Agriculture whereby with a long-term plan we can get the very most that can be got for our people and provide a decent living for those doing the job. When we enter the Common Market the best of French cheese will be sold at Drumcollogher for small money. We must accept that the antediluvian methods we have been employing are out and we must face a different world for which we have not been properly armed by Fianna Fáil.

As a Border Deputy I have been most interested in the Northern Ireland situation in recent months. It is disastrous that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries should, having first stated his opinions, seek to fortify them with a second speech in complete revolt against his leader. The sign of a good politician is that he fights within his party for what he wants, but fights for the good of his party realising that it is that party that does the work, not the individual. When he finds himself in a minority he withdraws from the discussion. Men on both sides of the House have done this many times over the years. But when you find the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries saying things like: "We cannot rule out force" when his leader has said "No force", where are we going?

My problem in this regard is that I can understand how things can be said and can be retracted but I cannot understand how they can be said and not retracted and how people can give radio and television interviews afterwards and blandly look you straight between the two eyes and say "There is no difference between the Taoiseach and me". This has to do with the philosophy of Fianna Fáil. There was a certain gentleman who is not here now and who, if he had a saintly presence himself, always had a devil sitting about three benches behind to throw the dirt. That is the Fianna Fáil philosophy. I do not want to be too hostile but it is true and everybody who was here knows it is true. Is this what is happening now?

I began by assessing the mind of Deputy Meaney who was working out how many old IRA, how many small farmers, how many humanists and so on were in his constituency and how it would be possible to make a speech that would pay dividends with all of them. Is this what is being done by Fianna Fáil? I met a Fianna Fáil councillor who is a good friend of mine during the election at a time when the first three results that had come in were not very satisfactory for Fianna Fáil who had lost one seat and had lost votes. I asked him what he thought. He looked at me and said: "Forget about it all. These things do not matter. Wait until the good—" this was a terrible thing for a Fianna Fáil councillor to say "—ignorant, republican constituencies start to come in."

I do not believe it.

I never told a lie in this House and I never will.

Who is the councillor?

People are not to be named.

I will name the councillor the first time I meet the Deputy in the passage and he can go and ask him and he will find I am telling the truth. I prefaced my remarks by saying that he was a friend of mine.

He is not here to defend himself.

I am merely talking at this moment about the philosophy of Fianna Fáil which even permeates the intellect and the mind of Fianna Fáil friends of mine. That is the philosophy of Fianna Fáil and I suggest that the situation is that the Taoiseach stands undisturbed——


The man who repeats it is as bad as the man who made the original statement. There are no ignorant republicans. They are men who did their bit for the country.

As far as he was concerned the position was that those decent men who did their bit for the State were regarded by him as people who—as far as a policy was concerned, politics and all the rest of, whether you were better or worse off did not matter—were certain to vote for the Fianna Fáil Party as long as Fianna Fáil catered for their philosophy. I am not charging the Taoiseach with this but there are a great many of the Fianna Fáil Party who are extremely happy with the situation. The man in the saddle has clapped his posterior tight to the leather and has said that we are not going in by force but somebody else—and there is another, the Minister for Local Government, not too far away from him—in the Fianna Fáil Party says that we are not discounting force, we might go in yet; up we will go and gallop in. Fianna Fáil have always catered for the republican element, even though they had no right to cater for them. These things happened before I was born. Now they are catering for decent old men and their families who believe that Fianna Fáil. God save the mark, is the republican party. That is the philosophy of Fianna Fáil and that has succeeded over a long period. The words said to me typify that situation and the man sitting in the Taoiseach's seat is the man who knows that as well as the bread he ate this morning. That is the republican philosophy of Fianna Fáil. Two of their Ministers were 2,000 votes behind me and I will be 3,000 in front of them the next time.

Then there is the question of the financial support of Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil to get this support from the different places, as per young Deputy Meaney's speech, had to be suffering from major schizophrenia which split them, not in two, but ten. We now come to the financial support which must be got from the chosen few. The philosophy of Fianna Fáil is that if you are in business it is very foolish not to be among the chosen few; you must be a member of Taca and whatever benefits you get, industrial grants or anything else, come from Taca and they will not be as good if you are not in Taca. This of course is all eye-wash of the worst description.

The people who run the Industrial Development Authority. An Foras Tionscal, and the other sources of industrial and agricultural grants and the Department of Agriculture, are decent people applying the law decently and properly and there is no foundation for this allegation. The philosophy of Fianna Fáil is that in the profit and loss account of a business there must be included a subscription to Taca or the business will not get the next advantage but that if it does include such a subscription the business will get the next advantage plus an extra 1/- in the £. This is the way that Fianna Fáil got the votes.

The Deputy should be ashamed of himself.

Then there is the question of jobs in factories. I told the story of my political activities.

Tell us about Deputy Richie Ryan.

I will tell another story about political activities. On the day of the last election I arrived at Ballsgrove in the town of Drogheda and found a very decent, meek gentleman who was representing Fine Gael outside the booth surrounded by three large "thulls", to use an expression that Deputy Dowling may know. From within this circle this man said to me to go in, that they were trying to third degree an elector who was a continental. He told me what country he was from, and so forth. I went in and found an unfortunate presiding officer being accosted by two more large Fianna Fáil "thulls" and they were saying that this continental was on the list and had to vote. I told him the law and the presiding officer looked up his book and he ruled.

On a point of order, does this come within the scope of the debate on the Taoiseach's Estimate? Does this story about people representing a party at a polling booth come within the scope of the Estimate? If the Deputy has nothing else to say he should decently sit down.

I came around the corner and there were six further continentals who were working in a firm that had got a large State grant. They did not know Fianna Fáil from Fine Gael from Labour. They were brought there to vote for the man who got them the money. That philosophy will be killed if it takes every breath in our bodies to kill it and every one of you knows perfectly well that that is what you breed on and that is what you feed on.

Did the Deputy take out the gun on the poor itinerants?

I heard Deputy Dowling make his maiden speech and —this is where you get back to the garnering of the votes—included in that maiden speech was a long reference to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a long reference to the Legion of Mary and a complaint that a garda who had got a bronze medal in the Olympics had gone back to his barracks at 4 o'clock and was put on the beat at 5 o'clock. He was looking for the garda vote, the Legion of Mary vote and the St. Vincent de Paul Society vote.

I got them all.

That is the philosophy of Fianna Fáil.

You got no man elected in the constituency. So, the Deputy is against the Legion of Mary and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. We know where he stands.

I am now going to finish on the main theme of the philosophy of the Fianna Fáil Party. Why is the Taoiseach the Taoiseach since the last election? This Fine Gael Party will go it alone and be the Government after the next election.

With what leader?

With Deputy Liam Cosgrave as leader.

Deputy Ryan or Deputy O'Higgins, Deputy Cosgrave or yourself?

On a point of order. May I point out to you, Sir, that the Parliamentary Secretary and Deputy Dowling have been consistently interrupting Deputy Donegan? I do feel that they should have some regard for the dignity and decorum of the House.

I am delighted to see the Deputy in the House. He has been below in the courts—the vineyards.

The Chair would ask Deputies to address their remarks to the Chair, which is the proper place to address them. Interruptions are disorderly from any side of the House and do not add to the tone of debate.

I shall endeavour to be extremely explicit and direct. The reason why the Taoiseach is leading the Government is relevant to the Estimate for his Department. I now intend to say why and I have prefaced my remarks by saying what will happen at the next election. He is Taoiseach because a pretty sly campaign made it impossible for Fine Gael to gain an overall majority. To know whether or not it would be possible, it was necessary to study the voting figures in every constituency to find out how many of the constituency results could be changed by the smallest percentage in votes. Fine Gael could have got an overall majority with a very small percentage increase in the votes they got. Fianna Fáil did not win the last election on their policies or on their performance in Government but by selling the line that it would be impossible for Fine Gael to get an overall majority. They also sold another line. They sold a dirty deliberate lie that certain people in the Labour Party were, if not Communists, very pink. They took news out of context. I have said again and again in the country that it was quite improper, quite untrue and quite unfair. It also reacted against the Fine Gael Party. People became afraid of the Labour Party. They were influenced by what Fianna Fáil said about it. There was, too, the whispering campaign in the pub. The people feared there might be some sort of difficult situation and they thought it better to vote for Fianna Fáil. It was a sly, despicable manoeuvre.


If Deputies would speak to the Chair and have less interruptions in the House, it would be better.

Deputy Meaney started off with how you try to corner the votes from all sides. Fianna Fáil have played that card too many times. I want to nail this so that it will not happen again and if I have to make the same speech 20 times I shall do so until all the people of this country, with the aid of people who feel the same, realise that this is a democracy; that it does not require a large change in the number of votes to change the Government; that what matters is policy and the belief that people will carry out that policy. On that basis, Fianna Fáil should not be in office.

The people believed Fianna Fáil.

I had intended to make only a few very general remarks but, since I was referred to by name by Deputy Meaney, I should like to take up one or two points with reference to myself and my alleged views. There is also the general point, which bears upon what Deputy Corish and others have said, about decorum of this House. I am a new Member and I am the first to accept this. The Taoiseach's speech, if not particularly inspired, was definitely dignified. He was followed by a speech by the Leader of the Fine Gael Party which was comparably dignified and, in turn, that was followed by a speech by Deputy Corish of the Labour Party which, again, was comparably dignified. Then, from two rows behind the leaders of the Fianna Fáil Party one back-bench member stood up armed not merely with the statistics of the history of the national struggle but also with predictable references to, for example, divorce and to Communism and to individual naming of people.

I happen to feel particularly strongly about the visit of the Springboks. This is my first time to speak on the Estimate for the Taoiseach's Department. I am informed that it is a wide-ranging debate covering all aspects of Government policy. I did not realise quite how wide-ranging it was until I had the pleasure of hearing the recent speeches. As a citizen of a country which, for very many years, experienced exploitation, discrimination and injustice, it is not inappropriate that I and many of my colleagues in the Labour Party should be members of the Anti-Apartheid Association. Members of the Fianna Fáil Party are members of it and likewise are members of the Fine Gael Party. This is our right. For reasons of conscience, I do not feel it possible to attend the match to be played at Lansdowne Road. It will be a sincere deprivation to me because I am a rugby follower. If a journalist, in the course of his professional involvement in a trade union, took a decision that, in conscience, he should not go to a match and cover it, our point in signing that letter was to argue that he is entitled to make that decision and that no editor should be permitted to coerce him into covering it. I would defend to the last the right of free reportage of any event provided all the political content and all the innuendoes attendant on that event are taken into consideration. I would also defend Deputy Donegan's right to go to the match, since he is so misguided as to wish to do so. I will be outside with a picket. I shall salute him courteously and I trust he will reciprocate. I have as much right to stand outside as he has to go inside.

I do not want to go back to the hoary business of the "7 Days" team. Does the fact that I was a member of the "7 Days" team prove that it is a sort of Labour Party conspiracy? I am president of Dublin University boxing club. Does that make it a Labour Party conspiracy? I am a member of Westland Row choir. Is everything I am a member of a Labour Party conspiracy? I do not think I have to go over the hoary ground again to make the point that one can have certain political sympathies and at the same time be able to practise objectivity and impartiality as a journalist. Perhaps this is a concept Deputy Meaney is not capable of understanding. I understand it. I do not think this sort of smear tactic is really necessary.

Finally, Deputy Meaney plummeted to the point of the defence of the family unit, as if the back bench of Fianna Fáil have the monopoly of defending it. How low can you sink? Do I have to say here that, like the great majority of the Members of this House, I am a follower of a religion which believes in the family unit and which does not believes in divorce; that I accept the rulings of this religion and, at the same time, I think an argument can strongly be made, in a pluralist society, that divorce should be made available constitutionally to those whose religious beliefs entitle them to think they are entitled to have it? There is nothing despicable, Communist, neo-Trotskyist or Maoist in arguing that. The argument that the special position of the Catholic Church should be removed from the Constitution has the blessing of Cardinal Conway. The arguments on divorce were first put forward coherently by the committee on constitutional reform. This is the kind of smear which it is useful to throw at a member of the Labour Party. If such arguments are to be discussed in this House, could they not be discussed at the level of the debate on the North of Ireland which was of a consistently high level from all sides of the House? For example, I remember Deputy O'Kennedy's distinguished contribution. We should get away from this kind of smear or the next thing is that it will not be permissible to come into this House without wrapping a rosary beads around one's fist first, to show one's credentials. I am as dedicated to the sanctity of the family unit as Deputy Meaney and I think that goes for the majority of my colleagues and for the majority of the Members of this House.

The impression was given to me that, in a sense, the Taoiseach took this opportunity to provide, as it were, a keynote speech to the nation, a sort of State of the Nation address which would carry some inspiration, some message, some total review, the kind, for example you get in Congress in the United States.

I am not being personally offensive to the Taoiseach when I say I think that what we got instead was a recital of economic statistics which could have been circulated in tabular form to the House without the loss of illumination of any kind whatsoever. I personally do not think this is adequate. I agree with Deputy Donegan. We are facing a very challenging year and I do not think this is adequate as an address to the nation, a last annual review before this Parliament adjourns for the Christmas Recess.

I think it would not be unkind to say of the Taoiseach that what he was doing was painstakingly reading through a Civil Service brief, a point which brings home yet again something which I and others have written about and spoken about—I have spoken about it in this House and will speak about it again—that is, the danger, it seems to me, of the excessive co-relation between Government policy and a single stream of advice emanating from a single Civil Service. I do not mean any disrespect to the individual members of the Civil Service.

One of my favourite beliefs has always been that one of the best guarantees for the maintenance of democracy has been the existence of two sets of economists. It seems to be a function of this country very often to have only one. However, the Taoiseach gave us this brief, this recital, and it was, of course, an extremely optimistic recital as one would anticipate, and as he is entitled to present as the leader of a political party if not, perhaps, as Taoiseach of this nation. May I suggest that the amount of optimism which ran through the recital is not totally justified at this juncture.

In the four years that lie ahead in which the Government have got a large and substantial majority, on which I congratulate them, we have a major debate facing us about the future shape of Ireland. The fact remains true and incontrovertible that between 1864 and 1966, 7,399,000 people were born in this country and 3,653,000 of them emigrated. This is a pattern which has not been fully reversed as yet. Will we be able to reverse it in the next four years? We have a right to approach this as a deliberative assembly because, certain incidents to the contrary notwithstanding, it remains a fact that this is a deliberative assembly, not simply a confrontation of victors and vanquished in which the victors are entitled perfunctorily to dictate the policy and the vanquished are permitted at intervals to ask parliamentary question to which they may or may not get replies.

This is a deliberative assembly and in our deliberations we suffer from the embarrassment that a vast number of question marks hang over Government policy in the whole area, and in particular in the area of economics upon which the Taoiseach chose to concentrate. Within the past two years sundry commissions have been established to which Deputy Corish in particular referred. The Buchanan Report, the Devlin Report, the FitzGerald Report spring most immediately to my mind. When Members of the House press about the status of these reports they do not get clear answers. When they ask if they will get an opportunity to debate these reports they do not get clear answers.

It is impossible for us to proceed with our deliberations without knowing what these answers are. The Taoiseach emphasised, correctly, the rise in employment which had taken place in manufacturing industry. This is in line with the estimated change in population and employment in Ireland predicted by the Buchanan Report for the year 1986 when it was anticipated that employment in agriculture, forestry and fisheries would have dropped by 48 per cent, employment in manufacturing and mining would have risen by 74 per cent and employment in building and services would have risen by 30 per cent.

It is I think fair to ask whether this whole change in the emphasis on the pattern of Irish employment is one which this House wants to accept. We are concerned here with the status of Ireland, the quality of Irish life, and the distribution of Irish men and women, and we have a right to ask the question: Do the Government accept the kind of thinking which permeates the Buchanan Report and permeates some of the NIEC Reports, which seems to imply a radical redistribution of population in Ireland so that it becomes located around a few growth centres: the national capital, two national growth centres and six regional growth centres with the remainder of the country, effectively speaking, an increasingly depopulated hinterland?

When we press the Government on this question we get two kinds of answer. If an election is imminent we are virtually assured that every hamlet from here to Malin Head will be a growth centre. When an election is over, effectively speaking we are told: "The Government will give you the answer in due course." I have actually heard that marvellous phrase "in due course" used in this House in reply to the question: "When will the Government give the House an opportunity to consider their decision upon the Buchanan Report?"

In that self-same report the emphasis is upon a whole change in population by sectors. Is this the quality of life and the kind of Ireland to which we are looking forward; a major shift of population towards the eastern seaboard and towards these certain selected growth centres? Do we want this to happen? Do we want a situation to arise in which the population of Dublin, for example, increases between 1966 and 1986 by 42 per cent, a situation in which the population of the entire east of the country increases by 32 per cent, a situation in which outside the main growth centres and the main towns in the rest of the country there is a ten per cent diminution in the population? Do we want this to happen?

We are not being given an opportunity to debate this. Many of us in this House would feel that we do not want it to happen and that we would much rather see a determined central effort made to preserve many of the traditional patterns of Irish living. which some Deputies on that side of the House seem to think are their private preserve. What has become of that report? What is its status? Why has a condition been reached where even the economic correspondent of the Sunday Press—which, like Deputy Donegan, I also read—was able to write an article last Sunday asking: “Whatever became of Baby Buchanan?” What has become of Buchanan? We are entitled to ask.

One of the privileges of power is the right to make decisions. Deputies on that side of the House have this power and, in a democracy, it is correct that they should have it, but it is not just the right to make decisions; it is the obligation to make decisions even when these decisions are sometimes unpopular. The Government are slipping up by failing to take the people into their confidence and provoke what is necessary: a major debate about the kind of country we want to live in. Do we want everything to happen by accident? Do we want a certain kind of society, a Dublin-orientated society, a rather shoddy society, a rather chromium-plated exhibitionist society to develop more or less by accident because we are largely influenced by developments in the British market?

It may seem strange that I, as a Dublin Deputy and a Dubliner, should argue in this way, but I assure the House I am quite sincere. I personally do not want to live in an Ireland which, effectively speaking, consists of Dublin and a hinterland from which people commute backwards and forwards along autobahnen most of which, if the Buchanan Report is to be believed, seem to stop somewhere around the Shannon. I do not want this to happen. Nor do I believe that we won our freedom in order that the pattern of life here should develop purely accidentally. That belief does not make me a communist. That is what is happening.

In a paper published only the other day by Dr. Michael Ross of the Economic and Social Research Institute, it was pointed out that Dublin enjoyed the highest income lead in 1960. It increased that lead over half as fast again in the intervening period as the average in the other 25 counties. It was pointed out that there had been an 11 per cent growth in the population of Dublin in the last five years, three times that on any other county.

Much is often made of the fact that for the first time the population is remaining static or moving forward infinitesimally but the point is also made in the report that if Dublin is excluded from the figures for Ireland the total population figure represents a fall of 53 per cent instead of a rise of 2.3 per cent. If Kildare, Wicklow, Meath and Louth were excluded the decline would be twice as large, 1.07 per cent. The pattern in those figures shows what is happening in the community. When Ministers and Deputies on that side of the House have finished talking about their heritage and traditions and their dedication to the small farmers, and speak as if the Labour Party had no interest in small farmers, they should realise that the country is drifting into this situation year by year—and Government action is not being taken to stop it—where not merely are we an economic offshore island of Britain but the rest of the country, with the exception of a couple of growth centres, is becoming a kind of tourist hinterland, a vast dormitory suburb for the Dublin area. Again, the average income rise in Dublin was 22 per cent over that of the nearest county in the same period. Next in line were the four counties which contained the largest towns, Waterford, Cork, Louth and Limerick. The five counties of Connaught plus Cavan, Monaghan, Longford and Donegal, had the lowest income rates and the highest population decline.

We can fairly ask, as we see this country drifting away from the traditions and off-derided pattern of the Sinn Féin past, do we want this kind of Ireland? I can think of no subject which is more serious for the national agenda for the next four years, and which is not being adverted to in this House, or certainly has not been adverted to since I became a Deputy; we are not being given an opportunity to debate this question, whether we want Ireland to fall into this new and unfamiliar pattern, this sort of sub-American, sub-British pattern in which small farms become a thing of the past. I confess to having a great deal of sympathy with the feelings which I know the Minister for Industry and Commerce possesses and which the Minister for Lands not merely possesses but somewhat inadvisedly, in view of his party, enunciates in public. Their view of Ireland is a rather different view to that contained in the Buchanan Report. The view in the Buchanan Report is consistent with the view contained in the FitzGerald Report and is also a view consistent with the manner in which the economic future of this country is drifting along and the relatively marginal growth which is a by-product of a general pattern of western European growth. This is something on which the Taoiseach congratulates himself that it is taking place, something which is changing the face of the country even as we are looking at it. Yet we never ask ourselves the question: do we want this?

One of the functions of Government is the taking of difficult decisions. Successive Governments for many years have managed to evade facing up to those items on the national agenda: What kind of Ireland do we want to live in? What kind of demographic structure, what kind of farm unit do we want? They have managed to evade this, but they will not evade it in the four years ahead because the answer has to be found in that period. They have the power to take these decisions and they have the obligation but so far they have not lived up to that obligation, as may be seen in the euphoric-like, dry and listless statistics supplied by the Taoiseach. It may also be seen in the Third Programme. A very distinguished economist—it would not be fair to mention his name—once said of the different programmes that the first was all principles and did not have any statistics; the second was all statistics but left out the principles, and in the third they found that statistics would not work, so they took out the statistics but did not put back the principles, with the result that there was nothing in the Third Programme at all except a kind of descriptive summary of the aids available to develop industry. This is a very fair criticism and very relevant.

This brings me to a point which I want to treat differently to the way in which Deputy Donegan treated it, as he said he wanted to be provocative. It is the philosophy of the Fianna Fáil Party. It always seemed to me that Fianna Fáil fall into roughly four periods: the period from 1926 to 1932, when they were essentially a small farmers' party; the period from 1932-33 up to about 1938 when the major steps forward were taken to build up tariff-protected, private enterprise, and, to some extent, State enterprise; thirdly, the period of the war and the years immediately following it which were necessarily years of marking time and, fourthly, the period we face now, when we are entering into a whole new context, the context of free trade. That seems to me to be a context which the Government are approaching both philosophically and economically unprepared to give the nation the guidance to which it is entitled. The traditions of the party, the traditions which get them elected from time to time, are rooted in the small farmers of the west, but the practice of the party is to acquiesce in a situation in which employment in agriculture is steadily and alarmingly diminishing, in which the whole pattern of production is going over to industry and in which we are moving towards conditions of free trade in a state of semi-unpreparedness.

In this context a great philosophical debate, a great moral debate should be taking place in this independent nation as to its future character, but it is not. One reason why it is not is because I do not believe the Cabinet is united on this issue. It is fashionable to speak of divisions in the Cabinet in a derogatory sense, but I do not mean to speak in that way. There is a clear-cut distinction between the kind of Ireland which the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Lands envisage and that which some of their colleagues envisage. The hardy annual of the EEC was brought up. It may be correct, as Deputy Meaney said, that if Britain joins the Common Market we must do the same. This may seem to be the only realism. I would not suggest the members of the Labour Party were so obscurantist as to deny a hard economic fact like that. Are we preparing ourselves for this challenge? What has become of the interest that lay behind the Committee of Industrial Organisation? What has become of the interest that lay behind the Second Programme? It seems to me that these have been ground down and that the Government now rely solely on exhortations. An incomes policy, serious planning, are things of the past and as a result a great question mark hangs over the jobs and livelihoods of the self-same industrial workers about the increase in whose numbers the Taoiseach boasts so much.

In the article by Mr. Crotty in “Studies” to which Deputy Corish referred, he said:

Perhaps the most significant fact in the whole of this report——

The Buchanan Report again.

——is that those foreign firms which were here before 1962 and which replied to the questionnaire indicated that they expected to reduce the numbers they employed by 22.4 per cent in the five years 1967 to 1972. The seemingly clear-cut lesson to be deduced from this would appear to be that it is easier to attract outside firms to Ireland than to keep them here.

If that is true in the conditions where some measure of tariff protection still survives, how much more true will it be in conditions of membership of the European Economic Community? Here I agree with Deputy Donegan.

Are we preparing for this? It is not just a question of statistics which the Taoiseach has put forward so drily and which I suppose it would be fair to say I am putting forward rather drily too. These statistics affect ordinary human beings, ordinary people in factories, who will be injured if we are unprepared to face up to this challenge just as the small farmers of the west are being injured at the moment by the refusal of the Government to face up to the challenge of mounting a great national debate on the future character of this island. What are the Government doing? I was able to take only a few notes of what the Taoiseach was saying, but I could not help noting one thing he said when he was alluding to price increases:

We will expect firms to make increasing efforts to avoid price increases.

The very note of that—Expect firms to do this, expect firms to do that. What if they do not? What if they sell out to British combines? What if they do not send back the questionnaires that are sent out to them? What became of the high hopes of the CIO years? What is being done, apart from pious exhortations, to make sure that when the cold blast of full competition hits us, the honeymoon is not then over and we find exactly what we have walked into?

It is often thrown at us on these benches here that we want to nationalise everything, that we want to socialise everything, that we want to communise everything. This is completely untrue, but what I do suggest is that the version of the free play of the market which the Taoiseach's administration has followed so slavishly over the last few years is simply tantamount to an abdication in large degree of responsibility to prepare this country for conditions which will vitally affect the lives and happiness of ordinary workers. The recent changes in the IDA, belated changes, are one of the few examples I have seen of an attempt by the Government to take a slightly more constructive, directive role in the development of private enterprise industry.

One does not have to be an extreme socialist to feel that it is the role of a Government in a country as small and as open as ours to protect the livelihood of ordinary workers by doing something slightly more than making pious exhortations to industry to prepare itself for conditions of competition. The fact that one does not have to be an extreme socialist to believe this is shown by the fact that Deputy Donegan believes it too, and whatever else he and I have in common, I do not think either of us are extreme socialists in that respect.

As I say, a great question mark hangs over all this. We do not get any answers. We are told that when the answers are processed we shall be given an opportunity of debating them. When the Government have decided what to do with the Buchanan Report we shall be given a chance to say whether we like it or not. When the Government have decided what to do with the Devlin Report we shall be given a chance to say whether we like it or not. This is just not good enough. On this annual occasion when we get an opportunity of reviewing the state of this nation, we are entitled to slightly more information about the intentions of the Government in relation to this country of ours.

Another point raised was again in regard to the Devlin Report. Whatever became of what was a very far-seeing idea of the former Taoiseach, the then Deputy Seán Lemass, that each arm of the Civil Service should regard itself as a development division? That idea seems to have died a death as well, or does a question mark hang over that as well as over the report?

Over the next few years we will have to have a great debate about the quality of life of ordinary people in this country, because when the statisticians are finished talking, when the Taoiseach has finished reading the statistics figures of change, change means one thing essentially; it means that the people in the middle get hurt: people whose jobs cease, people who are too old to be retrained for other branches of industry, the sick, the homeless, these are the people who are ground between the wheels of the free economy to which the Taoiseach's Government are so totally committed.

I had a case in my own constituency —I am not trying to make a constituency plug: it is quite a sincere case —of a man of 60 years of age who was thrown out of work after 40 years with a certain firm because that firm had been bought up by a British combine. His entitlement after all this was to something like £340 under the redundancy payments scheme. Owing to the fact that I was a personal acquaintance of the managing director of the firm I was able to get him another £250, what one might call a copper handshake; one certainly could not call it golden.

That man at 60, after 40 years productive service, was simply thrown on the scrap heap. Retrain him at 60? A man who has been a porter, retrain him to be a technological expert of some kind or other? Really? That is the kind of person who gets hurt and that is the kind of person who is on the conscience of this nation and for whom the Government have an obligation which, in my opinion, their bland laissez faire attitude to economic statistics is showing they do not accept.

Through all this we are helping to bring into disrepute the whole parliamentary system. I am not setting forward, as Deputy Meaney seemed to imply that I would, to lecture my elders and betters on how Parliament should be run, but I might respectfully suggest that some of the protests to which Deputy Cosgrave referred are occasioned by the fact that, rightly or wrongly, people outside this House have got the impression that its debates are irrelevant to them, that they have no chance of winning social justice for themselves through the available channels. It would be tragic if political rights so dearly won were to be brought into such disrepute, and I think we here have a tremendous obligation to make sure this should not be done.

There are a couple of other points I wanted to make but time is running short. In general, may I just support the plea for a reform of Parliament, for the greater involvement of committees and for the improvement of the entire conditions of work of the Members of the Dáil?

Repeatedly on both these benches and on the Fine Gael benches pleas are made to the Government for the establishment of phenomena like ombudsmen, civil bureaux, social advice bureaux and all that sort of thing. These pleas are always resisted. Questions are asked by myself, Deputy O'Connell and others—indeed, Deputy Dowling had a question about this here today—asking the Government to make available to the people simple booklets on their housing rights, their social welfare rights and so on. Behind all these questions lies a desire on our part to get away from the question by which, as anyone who attends the public galleries of this House regularly is aware, this House is almost continually empty because all of us are driven inexorably to complete in writing letters for constituents about housing or about farm grants. As the Budd judgment so correctly pointed out in 1960, our function here is essentially as legislators. The very emptiness of these benches, which is not necessarily a reflection upon the quality or the relevance of what I am saying, demonstrates this point adequately. As Deputy Burke said in the context of the debate last night, he was not able to be here because he was receiving a number of deputations. Far be it from me to criticise Deputy Burke.

There are a few committees meeting at the moment.

I can see legitimate reasons why Members cannot be present all the time, but people know perfectly well what I mean, and off the record every Member of this House will agree there is a certain validity in what Deputy Donegan says about the peddling of illusory favours in which we compete on the whole network of the constituency clinic. This sort of thing has a slightly deceitful and shoddy side to it and every effort should be made, in the interests of the dignity of the House, to get away from it. I am not suggesting that the individual Deputy does not have individual responsibility to his constituents—of course he does. What he should not do is to try to persuade them that he is capable of doing favours for them which he is not capable of doing. This goes on all the time.

The subject of Christmas cards has come up quite a lot in this session. Like every other Deputy, I get Christmas cards thanking me for getting people houses. These Christmas cards embarrass me. I know perfectly well that the officials of the housing department of Dublin Corporation are not going to do me or anybody else any favours; they are going to play the game by the rules. However, we are all engaged in this great competition.

This is deliberative assembly, not just a competitive one. I think the Taoiseach should use his majority with humility. I think he should listen to suggestions from this side of the House which are made in a non-partisan way. We are asked to be constructive often enough and I think such suggestions as the setting up of social bureaux and the greater use of the Dáil are two useful suggestions put forward from this side of the House.

In concluding, I shall return to my central theme. Over the deliberations of this Dáil hang a great number of unanswered questions. What about Buchanan? We do not know, we will not be told. What about Devlin? We do not know, we will not be told. What about the FitzGerald Report? We are not quite sure except for the hints we got in the course of the Health Bill. What about the university merger? We do not know and they do not know either. What about the new Ministry of Physical Planning and Development—is it on or is it off? What about reforming the Constitution? We do not know. What about the whole case of Ireland? How will the population be distributed? What will the country look like in ten years time when the life of this report will already be exhausted? All these questions must be answered in the lifetime of this Dáil.

We have had the start of a very great debate on this subject and I think it is going to be a tremendously important one. Even if we were not to ask the Government to answer these questions members of the EEC are going to make them answer and the British will also make them answer. The cold draught of competition will also make them answer them. They will have to get off the hook of power. I would suggest, therefore, that they approach their task with a certain humility. It is easy to deride the old virtues. I see many virtues in the old homespun, honest poverty of the Fianna Fáil of the 'Thirties—of the de Valera epoch. It had a certain pride and a certain self-respect about it. Whatever disadvantage this country started off with, at least it started off with a homogeneous society with a close balance between country and town. If that pattern is to be disturbed, if we are to move into a new ridge, particularly a new urban ridge, let us debate it and let it not just happen in the stealth of the night.

Deputy Dr. Thornley asked what kind of society we wanted. Perhaps, I should answer him by saying what kind of society do we deserve? The Fianna Fáil Party have laid down their policies plainly and they have shown the people what type of society it thinks we need. On most occasions the people have backed us at the polling booths. We have laid down priorities in all the spheres which affect the lives of our people. We have a clear picture of what we want to achieve. The Fine Gael Party have their own policy of what might be called laissez faire economics; the Labour Party are socialists but we are with the modern parties in western Europe in that we do not accept a completely free enterprise society, nor do we accept any kind of State capitalism. We try to weave the two together. We passionately believe in free enterprise but, if this is not adequate in certain cases, we feel the State should step in. No doubt the Fine Gael Party would say they did the same thing with the Sugar Company and the Shannon scheme but the big difference is that Fianna Fáil shows a clear way ahead and that is in keeping with the aspirations of the people.

In addressing the House today the Taoiseach gave a report of his stewardship. We have a sound basis for believing that we are making continued progress. This is evidenced by statistics. We also believe we have the will to lead and to create the society which we want to see created. The aims of our party have not been changed. Certain details may have had to have been changed because we sometimes have to alter our attack. We are able to prove how far our policy is succeeding. Deputy Dr. Thornley mentioned Constitutional changes and such topics but I am not going to take him up on those. I should just like to say how irrelevant his party can be. People are looking for houses and better jobs and yet issues such as the reform of the Constitution are brought up here. We should be considering how we can build more houses, how we can create more jobs and how we can create better social welfare benefits because these are the things the people want. I believe we can show that we are making progress towards this ideal society in so far as any society can be ideal. If I speak on housing at some length I do not want to suggest that I am any more interested in the problem than members of the Fine Gael and Labour Parties are. I know there are Members in both parties deeply committed to trying to solve the housing problem. However, I accuse them of suggesting that there is some very quick way to end this problem.

It is unjust to the people waiting for houses to put the idea into their minds that Fine Gael or Labour could solve the housing problem in 12 months, as one Member said here last week. It is wrong to say to a person with two or three children, living in overcrowded conditions, that if it were not for the Fianna Fáil Government he would have a more palatial place in which to live. The solution to the housing problem will be found through tears and toil and sweat. We must face the fact that there is no short cut. Despite the Government's magnificent record in the housing drive we still have a long way to go. I believe the major problem will be solved within the next five years, but there will always be some problem and it is sheer hypocrisy to pretend that anyone can solve the problem overnight. In a city like Dublin, with a growing population, there will always be some housing problem.

The Taoiseach's speech should be taken as the headline for what we will do in the next few years. The Government have laid the foundations. In the publication "Housing in the 'Seventies" the total number of houses erected last year is stated to be over 13,000 for the whole country. The Third Programme for Economic Expansion aimed at 14,000 houses per year. Even at that figure we will still have to elevate our sights. We will have to do better if we are to bring the problem into manageable proportions as quickly as possible. All this will cost money. Last year we spent £52 million on housing. Compared with other countries it may not seem a very large sum but, taking into account our resources, it is a reasonable sum, though it is not as big as I should like it to be.

We have the plans and the machinery to go ahead with housing but we must make sure, first of all, that all those involved, from the Government right down, have the will to tackle the problem in the way in which it should be tackled in order to put an end to what I would regard as our greatest social evil. Housing is the root cause of many of our evils. If the housing problem is solved then one can make more progress in the sphere of juvenile training and improve health. Housing should be our main target for the 'Seventies.

I stressed that there is no easy way. We live in a free enterprise society. If we want land for housing we must buy it. If we want workers to build houses we must pay them. These are truisms. Very often they are not recognised. There are some who advise confiscating land. That is something we do not do. Neither have we any intention of trying to control labour. The building worker has the same rights as any other worker. It is only by a combination of effort and goodwill at Government level, at labour level, and at employer level, that we will get real results.

There are other social evils besides lack of housing. There is the plight of the aged. We have made great strides in improving the lot of the old but we are still not doing enough. We can do more provided we are prepared to make sacrifices so that we can increase the pensions we pay to the aged, provide them with better accommodation and home care. It has been said that the mark of any civilisation is the way in which it treats its old people. This is something we must keep in mind because we will be judged on what we did for our old people. Again, it takes money to do these things and it takes a great effort, but I am convinced that people would willingly pay the taxes necessary to improve still further the lot of the aged. I am very conscious of the tremendous strides made by the Minister for Finance in his Budgets in recent years to better the lot of the aged. We must make the old amongst us realise that they are part of our society and we are not giving them a pension just to keep them quiet; we are giving these extra benefits because we regard them as valuable members of our society.

Deputy Dr. Thornley said that the time of Deputies is taken up writing letters about houses for people and so on. Unfortunately, that is the case. I do not think it is true, however, as was suggested elsewhere, that we try to create the impression that we can get houses for people. Anyone who suggests that, and it was suggested outside of this House, is not quite right in his mind. If that were the case we would be plagued with applicants for houses. I should like the Department of Local Government or the local authorities to publish a notice to the effect that the allocation of houses is a managerial function. A Deputy or a councillor may make representations but he has no say in the allocation of houses. It may be a small point. If we had sufficient houses people would not come to us but, in fairness to Deputies, I think the fact that we have no say in the allocation of houses should be stressed.

Another problem in our society is that of industrial relations. It is less easy of solution than housing, but I think everyone will agree we must do better than we have done up to this. From 1965 to 1968, 2,000,000 man days were lost through industrial disputes. Somewhere someone had gone wrong. Had wiser counsels prevailed on one side or the other, or on both, these losses might not have been incurred, the economy would not have suffered and men and women would not have suffered by industrial disruption. So long as human nature is human nature one will never get complete agreement but, if other countries in Europe can have better records than we have, we will have to see where we are going wrong in our industrial relations and what we can do to improve them.

The last speaker referred to people who get crushed in a free enterprise society. The weak man will get crushed. He will get pushed around. We believe in a free enterprise society because in such a society a man is given some dignity, a dignity he does not have in a totalitarian society. That is why we strive to create a free enterprise society.

I said last week that there is a tremendous reservoir of ability and goodwill in trade unions. I do not know how one can harness this in order to achieve that which we all seek to achieve. We must try to better the way of life of all members of our society. That is what we are here for. Unless those who create wealth and the employers' side come together—both may have the same high ideals—and work harmoniously together the small and weak man will be pushed around. There is no need for anybody to be pushed around if we can get down to debating fundamental rights on each side and have the goodwill to achieve the common good. I have seen evidence of great ability and goodwill in the trade unions. Perhaps, when we go into Europe there will be a chance to use these qualities in a much wider sphere but whatever happens in this respect we, the people, must see how we can, by every possible means, improve our record of industrial relations or, perhaps, I should say human relations. Basically, industrial relations are human relations. A man who gets a job in a factory does not change. He may be more conscious of his surroundings and the great pressure on him and may fight hard to better his conditions but it is the same man who on Sunday walks out with his wife and children. Because of pressures exerted in the industrial age he reacts strongly and, perhaps, not always wisely. Probably, he does always act in the direction he thinks is right.

It is easy to speak here about the great society we want to establish and to a man without a job or to anyone living in overcrowded conditions it may sound airy-fairy. This is a national Parliament and we must generate energy and guidance and leadership so that the people will recognise that this is their Parliament, that they voted for us and sent us here. In fairness to our record in the House we seldom fight, unlike some of the Continentals who go much farther.

Parliament, despite its shortcomings, has the respect of the people although there are people, particularly in Dublin, who lose no opportunity of fastening on to the grievances of any section of people and saying: "We can cure this or that; Parliament is irrelevant." This was said in pre-Nazi Germany and democracy fell there. That is how democracy can be brought down. Once an institution is subject to ridicule it is easily brought down but the agitators are only a small percentage and if people are convinced that we are doing our part in trying to lead them into the perfect society we need not fear any agitators. They will pass. Perhaps, in some cases they have a degree of sincerity but they are easily preyed upon by those who are more subtle. We must ensure that our society is moulded to the pattern on which most of our people agree. This is a Christian society and we have a great duty to ensure that we accept principles that will give a man dignity, provide him with a living and a decent home in which to raise a family and educate them so that nobody will have to leave our shores for want of employment. We must justify our existence. If we strive for these things we can achieve many of them.

Last week we had a big discussion on housing with quite a lot of interruptions but the facts are that Dublin Corporation need about 8,000 houses to end the problem completely. The population is growing continuously and if we had 8,000 houses this year we would want more next year. Also, obsolescent houses would have to be replaced. In the next five years Dublin Corporation will build 22,000 houses which will leave a good margin for population growth and obsolescence. On the Government side we can say this is what we did in the past year, as the Taoiseach has outlined it; these are our plans for the coming years and, because we have done tremendous things in the past, the people will have confidence in us in the future.

Deputy Thornley referred to a Cabinet split. I am a member of the Party and not one of our 74 members is aware of a Cabinet split. We would welcome some information on it from Deputy Thornley. From the day of the inception of Fianna Fáil it went forward united towards certain goals. There is no great secret about this. If you are a member you believe in its policy and ideals and if you do not, you leave. Members of the House have left the party and we did not try to hold them. If you are in the party you accept its principles; it is a voluntary party. You work for its principles. The Cabinet works and sets a good example. These are the people we have here. There is no split whatever. We might disagree because we would like to have much more money for housing and for social welfare and to provide a much better quality of life for the people. We are striving towards those ends and I believe, with God's help, we will achieve them.

I should like to see a dispassionate debate on this Estimate. We have an opportunity of studying what the Taoiseach said today and looking at what is happening and the progress that has been made. The Taoiseach painted an economic picture today which did not impress anybody. He did a bit of whitewashing and gave some statistics that did not impress me. When he comes to reply I hope he will have some further information to give and will answer some of the questions raised by those who spoke.

We hear gloomy forecasts from time to time about the economy. This has been fashionable during the past six months. It is important that the people should realise and should be informed of the position. In the past few weeks economists and financial experts have been saying that we are in a very serious position. The Taoiseach has also made statements in this regard. Last March the Minister for Finance appeared on television and informed the people that the economy was in serious danger. His word was generally accepted. The Fianna Fáil Government decided to set an example for the working people and reduced their own salaries. In any serious economic crisis it is to the working people that the Minister for Finance appeals to refrain from seeking an increase in wages and to tighten their belts. The Government reduced their own salaries by ten or 15 per cent. This was all right. The people accepted this as a serious gesture. In turn the leader of the Fine Gael Party called the party together and we decided also that we would set an example. I do not know what happened in the interim between the appearance of the Minister for Finance on television and the introduction of his Budget in the House. On the occasion of the Budget the Minister told the people to whom five or six weeks earlier he had forecast gloom and said danger signals were looming and that they should tighten their belts and not look for any increases in wages, that they never had it so good. It is well for us to examine this discrepancy.

Shortly after that there was a general election in which the people were informed that everything was rosy and that that was due to Fianna Fáil management. The people were told that they never had it so good.

Now there are forecasts of serious economic crises and the Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach and the governor of the Central Bank appear to be alarmed. There is restriction of credit. It is obvious that we are in the midst of a crisis. The unfortunate thing is that the people do not accept this as being serious or as being real because they have been misled too often. It is a case of the Minister for Finance and the governor of the Central Bank crying "wolf".

I have been impressed by some of the speakers in this debate tonight. I should not like to create acrimony or to introduce a discordant note but as a public representative I feel it is my duty to say that I am perturbed by the complacency of Fianna Fáil speakers. I am sure the last speaker was sincere when he was talking about the magnificent housing record of the Fianna Fáil Party. I am saddened by the fact that, approaching another Christmas families are living in hovels and very little has been done in relation to the itinerant problem. The old age pensioner is not able to provide comforts for himself out of his pension of £3 15s a week.

In this connection I should like to pay tribute to the many voluntary organisations, particularly the St. Vincent de Paul Society which comprises professional men, working men, farmers and all classes of people, who try to provide for the less well off sections of the community. I have seen members of this organisation visiting the aged and providing dinners and comforts for them at Christmas. Were it not for the assistance provided by voluntary organisations there would be many more people hungry and destitute this Christmas.

Regardless of the party to which he belongs, every Deputy receives representations in relation to the Christmas relief schemes. I live in an area which benefited every Christmas from these schemes. Under these schemes extra money was put into circulation and the workers engaged on them got a cheque two or three weeks before Christmas which enabled them to provide additional comforts for the home for Christmas. The fact that these schemes are not in operation this year will cause considerable hardship. Extra money is needed by families at Christmas-time. The money formerly derived from relief schemes will be sadly missed.

My main purpose in speaking in this debate was to refer to agriculture. There should be a clear-cut statement made in regard to agriculture. A discussion of agriculture necessarily involves a discussion of the rural community. The situation now, particularly in relation to the dairying industry, is that farmers do not know where they stand. There is more lip service paid to the problem of the small farmer than there is to any other problem. The problem of the small farmer has become a political cliché. The denudation of rural Ireland is alarming. It is time the problem was tackled and a survey carried out as to the reasons why people leave rural Ireland, why so many farms are abandoned every year, why so many doors are closed. In my experience there is only one reason for this and that is the fact that this generation of people living on the land are not prepared to accept a standard of living that is not comparable with that obtainable in other occupations.

A serious and determined effort must be made to provide attractions in rural Ireland to keep the people living there, to provide a healthy rural community. It militates against the rural town and the rural village when families leave the land. In many parts of rural Ireland, people are deprived of rural electrification. Deputy Meaney, in a question tabled for answer here today, brought out that it would cost a certain man who wanted an extension of electricity supply £566. There are no water and sewerage supplies in many parts of rural Ireland. Furthermore, the social life there is poor. The sooner something is done about all of that the better for all concerned.

We must provide for families living there, particularly small families, a reasonable cash income; adequate outlets for ambitions; some kind of part-time farming, as was mentioned here recently by the Minister for Lands. That is one way of helping to solve the problem. Mention was made recently of vast areas of marsh land in the West of Ireland and land suitable for nothing but afforestation. The afforestation drive must be intensified. This can provide employment for people living in rural areas.

At the outset, I mentioned the problem in relation to the farming community. I referred particularly to that of the dairying industry and the creamery milk producers. Over the years, Fianna Fáil Ministers for Agriculture have been exhorting our farmers to increase their efficiency by better farmyard layout; big expenditure in providing self-feeding silos; milking parlours and so on. Certain farmers, as a result, specialised in milk production to the extent that they were able to produce the maximum amount from their land. What happened? The Minister recently introduced this phased increase in the price of milk.

I want to blame the Minister particularly. He is confused here between the big farmer and the big milk producer. The big milk producer is not necessarily a big farmer. They are now suffering a reduction in the price of milk because they took the Minister's advice—some of them even on borrowed money. They have invested so much that now they find themselves being penalised. Neither NFA nor ICMSA was consulted before this was introduced. Co-operation is the key to agriculture. We must have co-operation in production, in marketing and in management generally. One would require an auditor or an economist or some such person to discover what exactly the phased increase involves. Surely there is something wrong when the Minister introducing a scheme which will affect so many people did not see fit to have discussions with the farming organisations involved?

I do not want to open old sores or to revive bitterness. However, in the recent past, a former Fianna Fáil Minister for Agriculture had a severe clash with our farmers.

Sorry. Correction. The NFA.

One hundred thousand farmers marched into this city. It must be a very strong organisation. Since then, the Minister has not co-operated or had any worthwhile discussions with them. If we are to survive as an agricultural country there must be consultation between the Minister, the Department and the farming community.

Our entry into the EEC has also been mentioned. It is now clear that we will be entering it within the next few years. What preparation, what advice, what guidance are our farmers getting from the Minister and his officials to enable them to compete in this very competitive market? I have an interest in the farming community. I am a farmer myself. I do not say this in any derogatory way: the Minister should forget about the past. He should forget the differences he had with the farming community. He should have a permanent liaison officer between himself and his Department and the farming organisations. He could have no better man than his Parliamentary Secretary who, in my opinion, has very little else to do. I would suggest to the Minister that this is very important. With the advent of our entry into the Common Market it is vitally important in the interests of the farming community that we should have consultation and co-operation between them and the Minister and his party.

The farming community will not accept bureaucratic control and dictation from Merrion Street. They were incensed because they were not consulted about the matter I already mentioned. We have many problems in this country yet we hear people speaking about the magnificent housing and other records of Fianna Fáil. A Deputy from my constituency was the first Fianna Fáil speaker after the Taoiseach, and he lauded the Fianna Fáil Party for the progress they had made in industrial development, in agriculture, in housing and in social welfare. He condemned the Fine Gael Party and the inter-Party Government for not doing this or that. It is a shocking indictment of the Fianna Fáil Party if they have nothing else to say than: "We are doing better than the inter-Party Government or the Fine Gael Party." I am not concerned with what the inter-Party Government did. I am not concerned with the attitude of the Labour Party. Whether they are pink or red or what they are does not concern me. That is a matter for them. What I am concerned with is what is to happen in this country in the years that lie ahead.

The same Deputy said that their record in industrial development was excellent. I readily concede that in the past few years we have had some industrial development and that some worthwhile industries were set up in certain parts of the country. It is rather extraordinary that a Deputy from the constituency of mid-Cork should say that the record of Fianna Fáil in industrial development is magnificent or excellent. He lives just outside the town of Millstreet. I live just outside the town of Macroom. Those two towns are starved for the want of some kind of industry. Before the general election the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Deputy concerned and the Fianna Fáil candidates in the constituency had a list of industries. In Macroom we were to get three industries. In all fairness I could not say what Millstreet was to get. So far we have not got them in Macroom.

The Minister for Lands spoke about providing industries in rural Ireland the other day and he specifically mentioned the setting up of industrial estates in the west and in other parts of the country. I have no doubt that the industrial estates in Shannon and in other places are excellent, but I think that industries should be provided in the towns rather than creating a centre and bringing people to work from 35 or 40 miles away. You cannot have part-time farmers if they have to travel that distance. One would have thought listening to the Minister for Lands that this was something which had appeared on the horizon recently but this is something that should have been tackled ten or 15 years ago. Industries should have been provided in the towns because in the west and the south-west some of the towns are becoming ghost towns.

If you have a rural community you have a town. If the people in the rural community are earning the money it is being spent in the local town. You can judge the prosperity of any town by the number of pay packets handed out on a Friday night. We have some towns that have become highly industrialised and there is prosperity as a result but, on the other side of the coin, we have towns like the towns I mentioned in which the position is very serious. Small shopkeepers can no longer make a living. Their business is being taken away from them by supermarkets and big concerns, but they are still paying rates in Cork County at £5 in the £. I do not know whether Fianna Fáil speakers have the same experience I have of people who come week in and week out and ask for time to pay their rates. They leave their demand notes and you have stacks of them every year. Every year it gets progressively worse because there are people in towns and villages who are paying rates on high valuations which they cannot afford to pay. Then we hear talk about prosperity and progress under Fianna Fáil.

I am not pleased with the progress that has been made and I am not pleased with the poverty amongst us. I believe there is hidden and concealed poverty amongst us. Our people are proud. They want to be independent. They do not want to look for charity. They do not want to look for assistance from anybody. At the same time, we have the very dangerous position of an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, with the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer.

To revert to industrial development, I have reason to believe that so far as the siting of industries is concerned there is a lot of political meddling attached to it and that political influence is used. There are some of the get rich quick people, some of those people who are in a very strong financial position, coming from my own constituency even, who can be seen moving in certain circles here in the corridors of Leinster House from time to time. I am appalled that this should be so because we must have decentralisation of industry. If we want to keep our people at home—and this is our duty—we must provide employment for them. I believe that this is the position which obtains in my constituency. I am sorry to have to say this here, but this is what is happening under my own two eyes.

As we are coming to the close of the year and we are about to enter the 1970's it is right to assess where we stand and where we are going. The Taoiseach made a bold and brave effort to convey that an air of prosperity existed but we know that all is not well with the country, that there is concern over our economic position and that the idea of prosperity is overrated. The stark reality is that there is an economic crisis and a growing imbalance in external trade. Imports show an excess of £55 million over exports in the period January to November when they were £88.7 million higher than for the same period in 1968. Even those of us who only have a rudimentary knowledge of economics know that our prosperity depends largely on increasing exports, bringing about equilibrium in our balance of payments if not increasing exports to the extent that we would have a profit.

The present trend is a dangerous one. It was indicated by the Minister for Finance when in last April he was truthful enough to go on television and tell us of the impending economic crisis because of our inability to make ends meet in regard to world trade. Unfortunately, that truthfulness was discarded in a most dishonest fashion shortly afterwards for purely political purposes and instead a picture of a stable and progressive economy was conveyed for general election purposes. Now we have the stark reality of having to face up to this imbalance and all that it implies. It is accompanied by the usual inflationary trend which results in a fall in money values and sends the prices of goods and services spiralling upwards.

It is in this context that I want to accuse the Government of dishonesty and dereliction of duty. Not only have they tried to cover up present dangerous trends but they have also shown a complete disregard for the steep increase in the cost of living which is causing widespread hardship among thousands of people, especially the poor, people on fixed pensions, the unemployed and old age pensioners. It does not require a public inquiry to tell us that profiteering is widespread, that profiteering, exploitation and usury is rampant. We are aware of the human misery that goes with this kind of insidious social evil. More and more this country is becoming an exploiters' paradise. We are, possibly, the last remnant of a purist, capitalist economy, with no restraints of any kind, in which the profit motive is supreme, in which the strong emerge and the weak go to the wall. The previous speaker was correct when he said that eventually this creates two classes and a situation in which the rich become richer and the poor, of whom we have very many, become so much poorer.

The Government have imposed no restraints on the prices of all kinds of commodities over the past 12 months. Although we have had talk about the Fair Trade Commission and a prices and incomes board, all of this was a shabby pretence and the Government have not been able to come to grips with spiralling prices. The fact is that over the past 12 months the cost of living increased by over eight per cent. I am not aware of any preventive measure which is in operation. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has given the green light to almost everyone to have "a go", the sky is the limit, and, consequently, we have had serious exploitation. It is becoming progressively difficult for the average working-class family to live; the average wage is no use any longer. The average housewife is distracted trying to make ends meet from a meagre wage packet of an average of £12, trying to meet the high cost of food, fuel, lighting, clothing and so on. This applies even in the area of essential foodstuffs. I do not want to hark back to the days of Coalition Governments. It nauseates me to hear members of the Government harking back to the Coalition period. The last Coalition was in office over 12 years ago and a new generation of men and women have grown up. Yet we hear references to rabbits in Rineanna or to a ship or a plane that was not built or bought in the dim distant past. It is like talking about the economic war. These issues have no relevance whatsoever at this time.

The Coalition Governments did have the humanity to realise that in financing the affairs of this country the essentials of life should be adequately safeguarded and they therefore provided the food subsidies. This was a humanitarian and generous act proper to a Government of that day, that they would cushion the impact of the cost of living on the weakest section of our community, the very poor in our midst.

I thought the Deputy was making the point he did not believe in talking about the past.

The Deputy should be permitted to make his own speech.

I said it was nauseating to have people year after year denigrating the Coalitions. These people seem to forget some of the things about the Coalition Governments, who ensured that the prices of bread, butter, tea and the other essentials of life were held at a stable price. When Fianna Fáil got back into office, one of the first things they did in 1957 was to remove these food subsidies.

Eight million pounds.

Since then prices continued to spiral. Despite the fact that there is no control of prices, all the evidence is that in respect of every commodity one wishes to mention there has been a very considerable increase. It is not sufficient to say, as many Ministers on the Government benches have said from time to time, that prices will find their own level. This is a good capitalistic cliché. This is the laissez faire, free trade mentality of the Fianna Fáil Party. Many of them are concerned with the profit motive and derive their very high standard of living from this insidious procedure. When there is no control, prices will rise and unfair profits will be garnered in.

It is also true to say that prices cannot find their natural level in a situation of growing numbers of monopolies, cartels and interlocked companies. The situation has been precipitated by the admonition of our Government in respect of gearing ourselves industrially for the advent of free trade. It is farcical to suggest that prices will find their right level and show some stability when you can have price fixing of the kind practised by the cartels and monopolies. I want to deplore the situation where prices are allowed to increase in this fashion without the proper utilisation of the Fair Trade Commission.

I want to accuse the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who is primarily responsible, of a dereliction of duty in this regard and of imposing unnecessarily grave hardships on our people. He has rendered our money virtually valueless; the value of the £ is dwindling rapidly. We cannot blame housewives for complaining bitterly that they cannot make ends meet. We cannot blame trade union officers for seeking increases in wages because trade unionists all over the country are requiring something to be done quickly to maintain their living standards. Deputy Moore in his earlier remarks implied—again this is the kind of snide remarks we have to contend with— that all the labour troubles of this country were the fault of the trade union movement or of the Labour Party or of personalities in it. The officers of the trade union movement, indeed most of our working class people, have shown great restraint and responsibility in spite of the exploitation with which they had to contend over the past 12 months.

We can well understand the need for extra income. Unfortunately this inflationary trend will continue because of the failure of the Government to deal effectively with the problem. When we hear the Government talking about an incomes policy, in which many of us believe, it must be perfectly clear that the incomes policy is not designed to exploit the worker and will not involve a standstill on workers' wages, with no regard whatsoever to this important area of prices, profits and other earned incomes. All these factors must be taken into account if we are to talk coherently and logically about an incomes policy.

I deplore the economic situation in which we find ourselves with a widening gap in our balance of payments. This inflationary trend in relation to prices and the serious fall in the value of money inevitably leads to a credit squeeze on the part of the banks. The credit squeeze is on now and it is affecting many essential services. It is evident in many State Departments also that money is no longer available for certain essential works and services. It was admitted today in the House that at least £250,000 has yet to be provided by way of grants for hotels in respect of work completed for some considerable time. Bord Fáilte is virtually bankrupt. Members of local authorities know full well that it is becoming more and more difficult to find money for such essential services as housing and piped water supplies. Not only is it difficult to find money for these essential services but a restriction has been put on loans for the purchase of old houses. I want to make the distinction between new houses and old houses. By reason of a directive from the Minister for Local Government the money which was so freely available a few months ago for people wishing to purchase houses on the property market is no longer available. Restrictions have been brought in here to conserve money for new houses, as if the people buying the old houses were not housing themselves.

The restrictions mean that in order to secure a loan in the future the people will have to be approved applicants for re-housing by the local authority. They will have to prove to the county manager, or some such person, that they had sought and failed to secure this money through the building societies and the banks. Many people who would re-house themselves by availing of a loan from the local authority are now precluded from doing so, and this is to be greatly deplored. The vested cottage, the small house and the small plot of land advertised for auction in the local paper are no longer within the means of the average man or woman. Once again the buying of houses has become the prerogative of the rich and affluent. I am referring here to houses in the region of £500 and £1,000 to £2,000.

I think the Government should seriously consider the desirability of legislating for a minimum wage, to provide reasonable standards of life, to enable the family to pay a normal rent, provide heat, fuel, light, clothing, food and all the essentials of life, below which no family would be allowed to fall. This is prevalent in other countries and I think we should consider it seriously here. It is an accepted fact that very many working-class people are extremely low earners; it is an accepted fact that our social welfare code and the kind of benefits we provide are totally inadequate. I agree with previous speakers that old age pensions, widows' pensions, unemployment benefit and the like are proven to be grossly inadequate by the fact that there are so many voluntary societies obliged to rescue these unfortunate people. I am thinking of such societies as the St. Vincent de Paul and the meals-on-wheels organisation. The amount of money which is paid out each week by local authority assistance officers to supplement meagre allowances is also an indication of the inadequacy of wages.

This is a country, unfortunately, where unfair profits, exploitation and extortion are widespread. Ours is essentially a soulless, capitalist society where the profit motive reigns supreme. The signs are that the poor are getting poorer all the time. Our people are becoming more and more burdened by direct and indirect taxation. We have the turnover tax, the wholesale tax, income tax and the usual taxes imposed at Budget time. We also have the burden of rates. The Government should make up their mind in respect of cushioning the impact which rates have on our community. We have suggested that a practical way of doing this would be for the central Exchequer to meet the cost of the health services which constitute the greater part of the rates in most counties. The matter is becoming more and more urgent because the inhibiting effect of the rates burden is precluding many small local authorities from providing the normal amenities which a progressive authority will normally engage in. We have stagnation in essential services such as housing, water supplies, lighting systems, scavenging services and the like. We can see the withering away of small urban areas by reason of the burden of the rates as a tax.

The advent of income tax is having a most inhibiting influence on our working-class people. It is a pity that more regard has not been given to the matter of increasing income tax allowances. Income tax allowances for single and married people, dependent relatives and the like have not been increased in the past nine years since the inception of PAYE. PAYE is no longer the painless extraction of taxation that many of us thought it would be in the early stages. It is an excruciatingly painful experience for the working classes to have their pockets rifled each week under this system, with no regard to increases in the cost of living and no advertence to the need to increase allowances. It is high time we had a fairer and more equitable system of income tax, with proper allowances for dependent relatives and others. I know for a fact that the working classes are very embittered. On every £ over £6 5s per week tax has to be paid. It is absurd that a married man should be taxed on every pound over £10 per week. It is high time we looked at this inhibiting, stultifying tax and gave our people a better deal. It is very difficult to understand why the farm labourer should have to pay income tax while his employer is not obliged to pay any tax. I have pointed out this anomaly in the past and I appeal now to the Taoiseach to give a fair deal to our working-class people and to ease the burden of income taxation, thereby stimulating production and encouraging our workers to avail of incentive schemes designed to bring about higher productivity. It is inhibiting to be asked to work harder or to work overtime when the worker knows that all he is doing is handing over an increased amount in taxation to the Revenue Commissioners.

Deputy Creed referred to the farming community and I support what he said in that regard. I should like to compliment Deputy Seán Flanagan, Minister for Lands, for his courageous statement here recently. He said that the Land Commission, as at present constituted, does not any longer serve any useful purpose and that it should be merged with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Many of us have seen the wisdom of such a merger for some considerable time. It is quite obvious to me that the pool of land available is quickly drying up. There is a shabby pretence on the part of the Land Commission that they can provide land for congests and uneconomic holders. Not only is the land not there but, even where some land is available, the Land Commission have taken no initiative and have failed to acquire such land. As public representatives, we have seen vast tracts of arable land swept from under the noses of the Land Commission because of their dilatory approach and the land has been acquired by land barons. There are very few estates left in my constituency and whatever chance there was of these lands being acquired for division for the relief of congestion is gone because of the dilatory approach of the Land Commission; the estates have been sold privately or by public auction, the Land Commission taking not the slightest interest in their disposal, despite prior notice to them by many of us in public life. There are at the moment two estates in my constituency, estates to which I have referred on many occasions in recent months by way of parliamentary question. There is the Price's estate at Cashel and the Constable estate at Ballypatrick, Clonmel. It is many months now since I referred to these and I know full well that, despite the strongest representations by public representatives of varying political views, and by way of deputation to the Land Commissioners from aggrieved smallholders in the area, the Land Commission has not yet taken any positive steps to acquire these properties.

The Deputy will appreciate that details do not arise on this Estimate.

I appreciate that. I merely want to put on record the dilatory approach of the Land Commission in vital matters of this kind. I fear that the Constable estate will now be allowed to go by default because of indifference and, possibly, because of political connivance. We shall watch events very closely.

I merely wish to indicate my support for the Minister's logical contention that it is far, far better to embark upon the extension of afforestation rather than to pretend that we can solve congestion through the medium of an archaic system called the Land Commission.

I think it is fair to say that the record of the Government in regard to housing is essentially a sorry one. I have already referred to the inability to get money for either housing or piped water. Regional water supply schemes in my area have been held up for a long number of years because of the Minister's inability to provide the necessary money and because of that, we have had to revert to providing water by way of group schemes. We have many admirable schemes with water provided to large numbers of houses. This is very commendable. It was originally intended that these areas should have a regional water supply scheme, but day by day these schemes are becoming less important and less urgent. In providing group schemes we are, of course, destroying altogether the idea of implementing regional water supply schemes. This is to be deplored. Deputy Blaney, when Minister for Local Government, was a great believer in regional water supply schemes and he admonished local authority representatives here on many occasions to go ahead with such schemes. We, in my constituency of South Tipperary, had one of the finest records, if not the finest, for our progressiveness in extending piped water schemes. There has been a deliberate change of policy by the Minister's successor, Deputy Boland, who is now admonishing us to provide water by way of group schemes. This is having the effect of holding up the programme we had prepared for the extension of water by the more practical and extensive method of a regional scheme.

The Chair does not wish to interrupt the Deputy but matters which are the responsibility of other Ministers should not be discussed in detail on the Taoiseach's Estimate.

Because we are approaching Christmas I want to advert to the possibility of a rainy season and the fact that last year we had a very high rainfall which resulted in widespread flooding in many parts of the country, including my own constituency. This flooding brought great hardship to many people and inundated large areas of arable land. It was extremely disconcerting that we were unable to get assistance from any Government Department and any steps taken to relieve flooding and ensure that it would not recur had to be taken by the local authorities out of their meagre resources from the rates. I sincerely hope the Taoiseach and the Government will consider the desirability of reintroducing the Local Authorities (Works) Act to assist local authorities to cope with this growing problem of flooding. I hope we shall have no recurrence of the rainfall and flooding of last year.

I should be guilty of dereliction of duty if I did not say that many people in my constituency, in Clonmel, Cahir, Ardfinnan, Newcastle, Carrick-on-Suir and many other places greatly fear a recurrence of flooding of this kind. It is a matter of great concern to me as a public representative that we can do so little for them in the local authority. I urge the Taoiseach to take some practical step to deal with these local problems and I know of no better way than to reintroduce the Local Authorities (Works) Act under which minor drainage and work of this kind, clearing up flood points, repairing and building bridges as required, replacement of roads and footpaths damaged by flooding, could be undertaken. My county derived some £17,000 in one year by way of grants under that Act and that was very useful in dealing with the problems I have mentioned.

I do not want to delay unduly but the 'Seventies may well see us a member of EEC. I do not believe we are properly equipped and prepared yet for the economic battle awaiting us there. Despite the long notice we have had of this development we are very vulnerable and my party are as fearful as ever of the inroads that would be made on our economy as a result of free trade with the EEC giants. I am concerned about the complacency with which the Taoiseach and the Minister for Industry and Commerce face this prospect. They give the impression that all will be well and that we shall benefit greatly as a result of entry. In the long term I do not doubt that this will be so, but in the meantime they are ignoring reports of various committees established to examine our capability to compete in free trade circumstances. They are ignoring reports of the Committee on Industrial Organisation and other cogent facts in regard to the tremendous impact our entry may have, especially in the initial stages, on our economy. Despite adaptation grants and other worthwhile State aid, I am concerned that so few industrialists availed of these grants, that so few have taken the precaution to equip themselves to meet the sterner competition and that so many are so obviously ill-equipped and are likely to go to the wall quickly. I am not so worried about the owners of these establishments because I know they have provided for themselves, but I am concerned about the thousands of workers likely to be rendered redundant as a result of the indifferent and callous approach of these industrialists.

The Government have done their best to alert these people and it is not their fault that they have not got a response. These industrialists are acting not only irrationally and irresponsibly but are acting against the best interests of the country when they fail to accept warnings and avail of facilities to equip themselves against sterner competition. As the protection barriers go and industrialists are exposed to free trade, industrial graveyards will exist in many towns and cities. He is a foolish man who does not realise the tremendous economic strength of many industries in Britain and EEC. Many of these industries that I have seen at first-hand are capable of supplying the total needs of this country for a year on the basis of a few days production.

We are not against joining other countries in Europe but we are against going into this situation unprepared, depending on the crumbs that fall from the table of the financial barons in Brussels. It is far better to acknowledge our position as an underdeveloped economy and seek special terms. We are not equipped for this battle which, as far as we are concerned, is a battle between a giant and a pigmy and I do not have to say who is the pigmy. We shall have other opportunities of discussing this matter in detail but we expect the Taoiseach to keep us fully informed of all developments in regard to our entry to EEC. In particular, we want to be consulted about the terms of entry because I am under no illusion: entering the Common Market involves not merely an economic alliance but a political alliance also. There will be a United Nations of Europe, with its own Parliament, its own defence force, its own foreign policy. It is obvious that inherent in this is a shedding of our autonomy as a nation and that this Parliament may well be undermined by membership of that greater community. It is not merely an economic alliance. There are serious political connotations also and this House expects to be consulted before we enter into an arrangement of this kind.

Unfortunately, we cannot enter the 'Seventies with anything like the hope and enthusiasm which the Taoiseach sought to convey in his speech this evening. With the widening gap in our balance of payments of ever £50 million and the other factors to which I have referred we have nothing to gloat about. We have much to be concerned about as to the future role of this country.

On the other hand, we in this party have our programmes and our policies indicating what we will do in the 'Seventies. We will avail of every opportunity in this House to see to it that our programmes and policies, which are designed to secure the nation and our people, are implemented in so far as possible in the legislation that is passed by the Oireachtas.

I had not intended to take part in the debate until I heard the speeches made by Deputy Creed and Deputy Treacy. I was tempted to take part in the debate by the gloomy speeches made by these Deputies. These speeches were typical of Fine Gael and Labour in trying to create the impression that this was a poor, downtrodden country, suffering great poverty. I thought that the Opposition parties would have learned the lesson from the last general election that such tactics do not work and will never work because the Irish people are well able to assess the position.

Both Deputies made great play of the fact that the Minister for Finance has no occasion warned the people of the position of the economy and they suggested that he had changed his mind in this regard, that he had created a picture of prosperity in order to win the general election which did not conform to the statements he had made in the previous March.

The Minister for Finance never said that the economy was in other than a sound condition but he did warn the people as to how the economy could suffer if wages and salaries got out of hand and if our industries did not keep abreast of the times. His warnings have always been heeded; the people have always rallied round. The Opposition seem to bemoan the fact that the people heeded the warnings, as they will again, realising that if the economy does not continue to progress it is the poor people who will suffer most, not the wealthy people or the moneyed classes who are able to look after themselves in any situation that may arise. There is no danger that the people will not heed the Minister when he issues a warning. The people realise that it is to safeguard their own future that such warning is issued. They know that a warning will come from the Fianna Fáil Government in good time, long before the wolf is at the door, and that a Fianna Fáil Minister will be honest with them at all times and will not allow the economy to go into reverse and sink to the depths it reached in the years of the Coalition Government when jobs folded up and factories closed, when 100,000 were unemployed and 60,000 emigrated. They know that a Fianna Fáil Government will not allow this to happen.

Deputy Treacy mentioned the housing position in our constituency of South Tipperary. In case anybody should be misled by what he said I should like to point out, as his colleague from that constituency, that we are proud of the number of houses that have been built in the constituency and of the fact that all those houses are occupied.

The Chair must again point out, as he has already pointed out, that details which are the responsibility of other Ministers would not be in order on the Estimate for the Taoiseach's Department. The Chair has been trying to keep the debate in line with that principle.

I am not going into the matter in any detail but I just wished to correct an impression that might have been created by Deputy Treacy's speech.

Leave that to the people.

The people dealt with it in the last general election and the people of South Tipperary dealt with it very effectively indeed. They were the judges, as the Deputy rightly said, and they gave their judgment in no uncertain manner, as they will again when the occasion arises.

Emigration and unemployment have been referred to. We are very thankful that under a Fianna Fáil Government emigration is today down to a trickle and that we have almost reached the stage where no one need emigrate for want of employment, that the majority of those who now go away do so of their own free will. We are proud of this. We are proud of the fact that there is no unemployment worth mentioning at the present time.

There was a great cry made by a previous speaker about the suspension of the Christmas relief grant this year. We have now reached the stage where the same need does not exist for this type of relief. We are very thankful for this and for the fact that there is practically full employment in our towns. It is wrong for any Labour Deputy or anybody else to try to create the impression that the workers of this country are being exploited by the industrialists that were mentioned here. This is a wrong and mischievous impression. That is not the position. Above any country in the world, there is great harmony here between workers and management. Deputy Treacy knows this to be quite true, especially with regard to the industries in his and my constituency. It is very wrong to try to create an impression of employers taking advantage of workers. Such a suggestion can do nothing but harm. No good can come of it because, in any industry, there must be co-operation and understanding all round if there is to be progress. That is why I resent any attempt to create the wrong impression with regard to management and worker.

Prices were mentioned. We know that the prices of many commodities are rather high. We can be thankful our people are earning the money to enable them to purchase these commodities in their own country. The Minister for Industry and Commerce was criticised for allowing price increases to take place. He does so only after a thorough examination has been carried out and he is fully satisfied that, if an increase in price did not take place, the workers in the industry would suffer. Perhaps the Deputies who made such criticism are not too worried about finding or continuing employment for our workers. Fianna Fáil are interested in providing employment for our workers in their own country. This has been, is, and will continue to be our first consideration.

Deputy Treacy said he resented that Fianna Fáil Deputies had the habit of mentioning the years of the Coalition Government. In spite of that, he did the same himself. He said prices had soared since that time. Wages and social welfare benefits have increased greatly since that time. The Opposition Parties would like us to forget the years of the Coalition Government. It is 12 years since we had a Coalition Government. The results of the recent general election prove conclusively that our people have not forgotten the years of the Coalition Government and will never risk another such government.

Social welfare benefits were mentioned. Quite a lot remains to be done in this field of endeavour. We are proud that each and every worthwhile social welfare benefit enjoyed by our people today was introduced by a Fianna Fáil Government. In recent years, our economy has been on such a sound basis that we were able to give greater increases in each Budget than on any previous occasion. With our present Taoiseach at the helm, backed by a Fianna Fáil Government, our economy will continue to expand and we shall be in a position to give further increases to the most needy and weakest sections of our community.

My colleague from South Tipperary, Deputy Treacy, decried the low benefits in the social welfare field and then went on to complain of the high rates of taxation. He complained also about our methods of taxation. This type of thinking and this type of action illustrates the Coalition Government mentality. We all know that, to increase social welfare benefits, we must get the money in and we must collect that money. Of all the people who have come into and gone from this House not one has yet discovered a gold mine out in the lawn or at the back of this building or anywhere else. There is no such gold mine.

There is a printing press.

If there were a gold mine, it would have been found long ago. It is extraordinary, therefore, that we continue to hear carping criticism of our social welfare benefits and, in the same breath, a moan about the taxation our people have to bear. Fianna Fáil are the party of reality and we have come to be recognised as such. This is why the people have trusted us, election after election. This is why they ensure Fianna Fáil will not be put out of office—at least until the people feel there is another party capable of taking their place. That is something which is not even on the horizon, as yet. Therefore, Fianna Fáil will be here to lead the country for many years to come.

The speeches of Deputy Creed and Deputy Treacy were the only two I had the opportunity to hear in this debate. Both referred briefly to agriculture. They referred to the lip service being paid to our small farmers down the years. I will be the first to admit that a lot of lip service has been paid to the small farmers down through the years and that action should have been taken long ago to ensure a greater proportion of the subsidy to agriculture went to the smaller type of farmer.

Hear, hear. It is about time you were convinced of that.

We have taken steps in this direction.

Too late.

We have completely derated the small farmer of £20 and under and have introduced a sliding scale up to £33. We have now taken the same step with regard to milk prices. We have been criticised for doing so. Deputy Creed said the dairy farmer does not know where he stands under Fianna Fáil and that we had encouraged those people to go into milk and, when they had become efficient producers, we reduced the price.

Is that not true?

Of course it is true.

That is very far from the truth.

What is the truth?

A farmer producing 60,000 gallons of milk can do so cheaper per gallon than the farmer who produces 7,000 gallons. Therefore, he is still gaining far more than the small farmer. We know that it would be the policy of the Fine Gael Party to look after the large farmer. It would be in keeping with the policy of the 400-cow farm they announced at their Ard-Fheis.

More of the ballyhoo.


We cannot proceed on the basis of interruptions. If Deputies are allowed to make their contributions then opposing points can be put by opposing speakers.

Hear, hear.

I was asked if it was not true that Fianna Fáil had lost interest in the agricultural community. I would point out that it is not true. Even with the present rate of subsidy, a farm producing 60,000 gallons of milk will be receiving a subsidy at the rate of 10d a gallon, which represents £2,500. Who can say we are neglecting any farmer while we are subsidising him to this extent? At present over £80 million in subsidies is given to the farming community; £31 million of this is given to subsidise the dairy farmer. When one considers those figures and remembers that the total subsidy to the farming community in the last years of the Coalition Government was only £26 million I think any reasonable person will admit that Fianna Fáil have indeed shown their very great interest in our farming community.

I was challenged to give proof of the interest of Fianna Fáil in the farming community. There is the proof and, if further proof is needed, we can supply it as well. We realise that the small farmer, if he is to be given a reasonable living on the land, must be given more and more of the subsidies available to this section of the community. Unlike the Fine Gael Party we will not encourage the small farmer to come off the land, and we will not encourage the 400-cow farmer. This is not our policy, if it is the policy of Fine Gael. I do not know what suggestions they might have for getting rid of the farmer. It might be to shoot him or something like the method that was suggested in relation to the itinerants. I do not know.

This is most unlike the Deputy.

The Deputy could start with the calves and cut their throats.

We are proud of the fact that we have had the support of the farming community down through the years and that that support has continued to increase. Opposition Deputies like to play up the fact that there is a row between the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the farming community.

It is a fact.

They know there is no such row.

The Deputy just said it is a fact.

They know full well there is no such row but they want to create a row.

A Deputy

The Taoiseach says there is.

Ask T.J. Maher.

The Deputy who is in possession should be allowed to speak.

It was shown in no uncertain manner in the last general election when we got the support of the farming community. In supporting us they were supporting our Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries because they approved of his policies, and that surely gives the lie to the Opposition parties who say that the farmers have a row with the Minister. They have no such row.

He will not even meet the NFA.

There may have been a row between the agricultural organisations and when they have sorted out their difficulties—and the Minister is asking them to do this—he will be available to them at all times.

He has refused to meet all the organisations.

Going into the details of any estimate which is not the responsibility of the Taoiseach is not in order in this debate as has been pointed out a number of times tonight by the Chair. Deputies should not go into details of estimates.

Do you not agree, Sir, that the farmers of Waterford and South Tipperary should know the exact position?

The Chair expresses no opinion except in regard to order.

Surely misrepresentations must be corrected?

Deputies will have an opportunity of contributing to the debate and they will be able to dispel any doubts if they think they exist.

Deputy Creed mentioned the lack of support by Fianna Fáil for the farmers and I want to point out in no uncertain manner that Fianna Fáil have the confidence of the farmers and will continue to have their confidence and will continue to look after their interests. Rural electrification was also mentioned. We are proud of our achievement in bringing electricity to rural Ireland. The Opposition parties would like us to forget that, when they were in office, they cut the subsidy for rural electrification completely and brought that most essential work to a standstill. It was not until Fianna Fáil got back into office——

The Chair must remind the Deputy again that he must not go into detail.

Does the Deputy know that there are working men in this country who are being asked by the ESB to pay a £260 deposit before they get electricity? What is he talking about?

I do know that only for Fianna Fáil no one in rural Ireland would have electricity. It is due to our policy that there is rural electrification today.

Do not tell us that Fianna Fáil brought the light to Ireland. St. Patrick did that.

The Deputy did not see the light yet.

The Deputy in possession should be allowed to make his contribution.

The people have seen the light with regard to the Opposition we had in this House. Deputy Treacy mentioned the Department of Lands. He mentioned two estates in my own area and pointed out that the Land Commission were making no effort to acquire them. For his information, the Land Commission have issued notices of their intention to acquire both estates and they will be going to a hearing very soon. I hope they will be acquired for the relief of congestion.

I thought the Deputy said they were acquired.

The Chair is not interested in details. The Chair must rule this out of order.

Will the Deputy say specifically that these two estates will be acquired?

The Chair has ruled this out of order.

The Land Commission have issued notice of their intention to acquire them.

I know that.

Both estates will be acquired by the Land Commission.

The Chair will insist——

The Deputy is chancing his arm.

——that rules of order must be obeyed. Otherwise the debate cannot proceed in an orderly fashion. The Chair appeals to Deputies not to discuss details by way of question and answer across the House, but to stick to the terms of the general motion.

The amount of money available for regional water schemes was also mentioned. Piped water is very essential in rural Ireland in particular and I want to put it on record that more money is being spent by this Government on the provision of water in this year than in any previous year. We are proud of the progress that is being made in this field and we look forward to the day when every home in rural Ireland will have a water supply.

Deputy Treacy bemoaned the fact that we were coming to rely on group water schemes but, whether the water is put into a house in rural Ireland through a group water scheme or a regional scheme, so long as the water is put into the house, and so long as the family are relieved of the drudgery of drawing water, we are quite satisfied. We want to ensure that this progress will continue. I can give Deputies opposite an assurance that it will continue under Fianna Fáil. In order to do this work it will be necessary to ensure that sufficient money is collected by way of taxation or otherwise because the money has to be found. It has to come out of the pockets of the taxpayers and the rate-payers. There is no fairy godmother to provide it.

Is the Deputy advocating increased taxation?

I am not advocating any increased taxation but I am pointing out that you cannot have these services without paying for them. This was something the Opposition tried on the electorate not so long ago, but they should be aware that the electorate were not fooled by such tactics. It will be useless to follow this road in the years ahead because it is not going to get them anywhere. They will have to be more realistic in these matters.

Concern was expressed about our entry into the Common Market and there was an expression of no confidence in the ability of our workers to compete in this sphere. This again is typical of the Opposition parties. We on this side of the House have every confidence in the workers. If they are given equal opportunities, they will be able to compete with people anywhere in the world. We have every confidence in their ability to do so. Within the Common Market we will be able to hold our own. It is wrong to say that we are going into the Common Market willy-nilly and cap in hand. Under Fianna Fáil this country has progressed to such an extent that no longer have we to go cap in hand to anybody. We are well able to hold our own and long may the people keep Fianna Fáil and the Taoiseach in office to ensure that we will continue along that road.

As this is my maiden speech in this House I should like to say to you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and to the Ceann Comhairle that it is my intention while a Deputy to co-operate with the Chair in every way possible. I hope that my patience will not be exhausted. I was amazed recently at the bad manners exhibited in this House and the total disregard for this Parliament. It certainly amazed me to learn that people here could join in a shouting contest. Those who made it possible for us to sit in this House, who made the necessary sacrifices for us to do so, would scarcely have viewed the proceedings here with respect. My remarks are made not in anger but in sorrow. I hope that Deputies from all parties will show respect for the Parliament and not have it stated in the newspapers, as it was rightly stated, that the Irish Parliament is a shambles. There were periods when I thought that the rule of Parliament was disappearing. Fortunately, whether it was the approach of the Christmas season or otherwise, things have calmed down somewhat. I hope that in the future we will not have a repetition of what happened during the past month.

I am saying this in all honesty and sincerity and I do not want any political kudos for it. As a matter of fact some time ago a Deputy of my own party asked me "what do you think of me" and I replied "I think there is only room for one like you in every party". This is a serious matter and one I intended to raise when I got the opportunity. My respect for the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, through his conduct of this debate, has increased. He is a man of honour and principle and I hope while he is in the Chair he will conduct business as he has done this evening, in an impartial manner to everybody. The Ceann Comhairle, who is also a man for whom I have great respect and who is fundamentally a peaceful man—he may have sat on those benches across there and it is hard to blame him——

The Deputy will appreciate that the Taoiseach is not responsible for the Ceann Comhairle or the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

I just want to finish this. I am sorry that the Ceann Comhairle is not here because I would pay him the same respect as I am paying you, Sir. Whoever occupies the Chair has the bounden duty to accord fair play to every Deputy no matter to which party he belongs. I hope that you, Sir, and the Ceann Comhairle will continue to do this. It is not enough to give fair play but you must be seen to give it; it must be seen that any Deputy who stands up will have the protection of the Chair to say whatever he likes within the rules of the House.

At this stage, Deputy——

It is not disorderly to praise the Chair.

Perhaps the Chair is blushing at my remarks. I should like to say that if we go into the EEC we will have to conduct our Parliament in an orderly way. I have had the honour to represent this country in Europe and if the people there witnessed the conduct in this House recently they would not have much respect for it. I have seen representatives of 12 countries putting their cases and I can assure the House that business is carried on in an orderly way. If what happened here were to happen there, there would be uproar and revolution.

There are some comments which I should like to make about our agricultural policy. I represent farmers and it was probably a majority of farmers who elected me. I am not going to attach blame to any Fianna Fáil Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. When Fianna Fáil came into office originally they could not agree with the farmers. Recently a farmer said to me: "When Fianna Fáil came into office they put us in the front line trenches"—we remember that famous phrase; this man happened to be a Fianna Fáil supporter—and he added "They must have forgotten us because they left us there since." The farmers have remained in the frone line trenches from 1932 to 1969. However, every Fianna Fáil Minister for Agriculture tried to do his best but the trouble was that each one was more responsible to his party than to the farmers. I claim that any Minister for Agriculture should be a farmer and should be interested in their business. Down through the years we know of the family feud, if you like to call it that. Every Fianna Fáil Government from the start antagonised the farmers. Whether they intended it or not, they antagonised them with an economic war. They brought them down to such a level that the majority of them sold out for little or nothing or emigrated. It was all very well to tell us one month we had financial troubles and then to say a few months later that we had turned the corner. Everybody knows there is a serious shortage of money. If the members of the front bench of Fianna Fáil would admit there is no money for certain schemes everybody would be satisfied that we cannot get blood out of a turnip. But they will not admit it. Fianna Fáil speakers have said they are responsible for increasing the number of people in gainful employment. Everybody knows the Government have stopped the contributions to local authorities for work during this lean labour period before Christmas. The people who depended on this money will have to rely on the St. Vincent de Paul Society or other organisations like that. It is in the headlines of the newspapers this evening that the St. Vincent de Paul Society, for the first time, are out of money. They spent all the money they had in relieving distress and we are not within a week of Christmas yet. They are appealing for funds and I hope they get what they require to enable them to do what the Government could not find a paltry few thousand pounds to do. The Minister over there may say the situation could change between this and Christmas. I hope it does and that they will give these Christmas grants that the local authorities need so badly. There are fewer people employed now than there were this time last year.

The ESB was established in 1924 and a lot of good work has been done since. However, in the past couple of years the number of people who have had an electricity supply connected has been very small because of the high service charge and rents being imposed on them. In my country I have had numerous appeals from people trying to get the ESB to supply them. Some of these houses have been wired for the past five years. These people have the same right to electricity as people in other parts of the country. We know the advantages of having electricity in the home. Without it a farmer cannot work the various machines that are required to produce milk of good quality, and the housewife is also at a disadvantage. Instead of raising loans for this, that and the other, would it not be better to raise a loan to connect every house in rural Ireland with electricity? We are trying to build up the tourist trade and yet guesthouses built years ago are still awaiting electricity.

In regard to agriculture, account should be taken of the developments in other countries so that there will not be, as there has been in the past year or two, a surplus of milk. Everybody knew years ago that in the Common Market countries there would be a glut of dairy products. We were told there was a market for everything and we started increasing milk production here. Now we are selling butter in North Africa for 1/- a pound while we are charging 3s 6d for margarine. This sort of thing would not happen if we had a Minister for Agriculture who was directly concerned with the farmers, who took advice from them, who made a point of meeting them, and who, even though he might not be able to give them everything, would go as far as he could. Now we are trying to switch from milk to beef. If this had been done four or five years ago when all the signs were there we could have spared the finances of the country and been prepared for what is happening now.

The Agricultural Institute have done much good work for the farmers. The results of every experiment they carry out should be relayed back to the farming community as quickly as possible. We are living on the exports of our agricultural produce. Beef is our principal export. The Minister should, with all the power available to him, ensure we have the best stud animals in this country for the improvement of our beef. With proven bulls there is no doubt that we can breed the best stock in the world.

The Minister for Local Government is treating the local authorities in a shameful fashion. The General Council of County Councils meets in Dublin every year and since Deputy Boland came into office he has not met them once. On two occasions he sent up his Parliamentary Secretary, but the Minister himself has refused to meet the elected members of the local authorities. I would avail of this opportunity to invite him to meet members of the local authorities and to discuss their problems with them. After all, that is what he is there for. He is elected the same as every member of a local authority is elected. I appeal to him to meet the General Council in the future.

I do not want to take up the time of the House, but as Blueshirts were mentioned by certain Deputies this evening I want to say that I was a Blueshirt all my life. I was one of the first to wear one, yet the people of West Cork have elected me to Dáil Éireann in my sixty-eighth year. I am one of hundreds and thousands of people who wore Blueshirts. When the history of this country is written the people will be grateful to the Blueshirts for giving them freedom of speech. Because I am a Blueshirt I do not feel in any way an outcast; I am just as good an Irishman as anyone else. I do not think any aspersions should be cast on the Blueshirts; fifty per cent of the people of this country have worn blue shirts or blue blouses.

I should like to say to the Ceann Comhairle that, while I am a Member of this House, I can assure him of my co-operation at all times.

This debate, in the shadow of Christmas, is always one which arouses a good deal of interest and I do not think this year is any exception. The occasion of this debate gives those of us who do not have opportunities to intervene, except when presenting our own Estimate or legislation, an opportunity to take part in the debate, to look back on the year that has passed and to look to the future to see what we might expect. Nobody can deny that for the Fianna Fáil Party this was an exciting and eventful year. It will go down in history as the year when all the political prophets were confounded. One would expect that we should now settle down to a good deal of constructive criticism. I do not know how relative the Blueshirts or the cutting of the calves' throats are at this stage. The last speaker was the first man I have heard in this decade defending the Blueshirts. I have a great deal of admiration for his courage. I thought the Brownshirts and the Blackshirts, which went into oblivion, had been completely forgotten. Most people are ashamed to mention such things nowadays and, in fact, these things are not very relevant on the eve of the 'Seventies.

While I do not think anyone in this House at any time will stand up and say, "We have now got everything we want," I do think we have a great deal to look back on with pride and a great deal to give us courage for the future. I suppose it is the duty of Members of the Opposition to say if things were going badly, but when they use all their adjectives and superlatives to condemn the efforts being made, to paint a gloomy picture, few people are likely to attach much credence to their efforts. I think this has been amply demonstrated by the way the public have responded to the appeal of the Opposition on many occasions in the past. I am not satisfied we are making the progress we should make, but I think we have made remarkable and spectacular progress in recent years. Irrespective of what we may try to say here, whether it be genuine or for propaganda purposes, I do not think it escapes the real evaluation of the public or the proper assessment of those well aware of the situation in the country today.

Everybody in this country is better off this year than he was last year. That progress has been continuous in the years immediately past and the signs are that it will continue in the years ahead. Certainly, we could not have had much greater progress than we have had and I should like to turn my attention to that point. I do not think anybody with the most elementary knowledge of economics can fail to see that the standard of living of all our people, even those who claim to be in the poverty class—who are the subject of articles by some of our journalists—are much better off than they have ever been.

Remember, whether one calls it poverty or something else, living condition are relative and people who might not be regarded as affluent here might be regarded in other countries as very weathly indeed. Conditions are improving every day for more and more people. That is most important and it is our aim to increase the opportunities for those seeking employment. Everybody, irrespective of party affiliation, naturally wants to see full employment. This is the goal towards which we are all striving. This is what we are all anxious to achieve and it is towards this our every effort is directed.

We are not alone in having a problem of a declining employment in agriculture. This is a world-wide problem and we, in common with better-off countries, have to face the problem. However, the rate of increase in industrial employment and in the distributive trades is most encouraging though I should like to see the rate accelerate. It is healthy to be able to record a four, a four-and-a-half to a five per cent increase in gross national income each year but we would be happier if we could record twice that figure. I do not believe this is impossible. We all claim to be very patriotic and very anxious to do what is right. If everybody put his shoulder to the wheel and made a concerted effort towards bringing the country to that state of development in which we would have full employment that would be the most patriotic duty anyone could undertake. If we reach that point we could then turn our attention to improving a great many things from the point of view of living conditions and the living standards of our people.

We have made important strides towards full employment, particularly in the last year, and it is not generally recognised, I think, though employers will immediately agree, that there is a shortage of female labour in many areas. There is a shortage of skilled labour. Not one skilled person is unemployed today. The occasions on which that statement could have been made in the past are very few in number. We are hoping in the immediate future to bring back skilled personnel who have emigrated.

In my Department, the national manpower service, which has just got under way, is now turning its attention to career guidance, to training and retraining for industrial employment, to manpower forecasting and to the replacement of redundant personnel. We have assembled some very interesting data, data upon which we can base a proud hope for the future. While Opposition Deputies may choose to spread gloom and despair, I prefer to look at a brighter horizon and think of the promise in the years ahead of greater progress towards that important target of full employment.

Workers and their unions could be a much greater help in speeding up full employment. Although some will say that our past record in industrial disputes has not been a good one, it has not, fortunately, hampered the expansion of the economy to any serious extent. We could, of course, be much better off and have a much greater expansion if we could stand out as one of the few countries with little, or no, industrial strife. Unfortunately, that has not been the position. The year just ending will go down in history as one in which we lost the greatest number of manpower days yet. This is something we cannot take lightly. The trade unions have a very big responsibility, a responsibility they acknowledge, but there are things beyond their control in industrial relations and, if something is not done to ensure that control rests with the leaders of the unions instead of on the shop floor, the progress we have been making will be slowed down. Indeed, we could reach a crisis.

I should like to appeal now to all concerned to accept the schemes which have been formulated for the purpose of finding a way out of industrial trouble without resorting to extreme action, action which results inevitably in loss to all concerned and to the national economy. Trade union organisations have, I think, nothing to fear for the future from the point of view of what might be regarded as threats to organised labour. We are leaning over backwards to ensure that workers get a fair deal. By international standards we are a highly unionised country and that in itself is an assurance that workers will get a fair deal provided they permit leadership to remain in the hands of those whose duty it is to lead them. We have, thank God, excellent trade union leaders who are appreciative of the situation.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.