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 theSunday 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 blandlaissez 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.