Last week we were discussing the question of our application to the EEC in conjunction with the applications made by the other countries who are also anxious to join the Community. I was comparing the remarkable similarity between the approach of the main Fine Gael speakers and the main Fianna Fáil speakers. However, perhaps, it was not so remarkable. At present the application has been formally made and the opening speeches have been made by our Minister as well as by the other Ministers. That being so, this debate takes on a different complexion entirely because now we are talking about something which is in the course of operation.
From the very start we in the Labour Party were of the opinion that it was a mistake that this Government should give the impression that they were terribly anxious to become members of the EEC. We had statements such as "If Britain does not go in, we will go it alone" and this was followed up by other people who said that if Britain go in we will have to go in, and various views in between were expressed. If Ireland is to become a member of the EEC the people of this country should be made aware of what is likely to happen. They should be made aware of the things that will favour them and of those which will be very much against their interests. It is only fair to ask the Government about these points. The Government have given the impression that if Ireland enters the EEC the people of the country will benefit enormously.
A former leader of the Labour Party, the late Deputy William Norton, used an expression which could not be improved upon as a description of what is likely to happen. The late Deputy said: "It would be an excruciating experience for the Irish nation." That is exactly what the position is today. I was listening at 1.30 p.m. to the news bulletin and to the statement made by Deputy Dr. Hillery, Minister for External Affairs. The Minister has gone back to saying that we are prepared to go in and we have no qualms about it. Perhaps it is a good thing to put on a bold face. Some members of the present Government have become expert at putting on bold faces under very severe circumstances. It is not fair to tell the people that everything will be fine and that all our worries will be over once we go into the Common Market.
A number of people have spoken at length during this debate. I do not wish to drag out the discussion too long. The late Deputy Seán Dunne said that if a person had something to say he should say it in a quarter of an hour or else he should go out into the middle of a field and say it to himself. The late Deputy said that after he had made one of his long speeches. I will try to make my remarks as brief as possible. The position as we see it is that if Ireland enters the EEC we will be guaranteed the same prices for our products as those guaranteed to countries already in the EEC. Irish farmers and industrialists are being told things like this which are so much in their favour. They are not told that the agricultural advisers in the EEC are trying desperately to find some way of cutting down on certain products which are being overproduced.
I spoke before about butter and milk products. On 31st March last there was overproduction of one million tons of butter in the EEC. We have overproduction of butter here and have been attempting to get rid of it by almost giving it away to various countries and by subsidising it heavily to our best customer, Britain. In fact, the EEC countries seem to be in the position where they cannot give it away. This may seem odd in a world in which there is so much hunger. Milk and milk products are already overproduced and they represent our main products in agriculture. The solution to this problem of overproduction in the Common Market is being considered. The Mansholt solution is to pay a subsidy for the slaughter of milch cows. I do not know how the Irish dairy farmer would react to that suggestion. At one stage the Fianna Fáil Party were responsible for the slaughter of calves but apparently the slaughter of cows is now being considered.
Beet and wheat are both main crops in this country. They are not required in the Common Market because there is overproduction of these crops. France in particular has tremendous overproduction of wheat and the only way they can get rid of it is to use the European Agricultural Fund to send it outside the Common Market. General de Gaulle negotiated a deal with Red China a few years ago. A large amount of wheat is being given to them at the expense of the other countries in the EEC. There is a shortage of beef in certain parts of Italy. It is said that the Italians do not eat the type of beef we produce. There could be a change in the type of beef produced. That might be a relatively simple matter. The farmers of this country cannot live on beef production alone. The sale of beef to the EEC will not keep many people on Irish farms.
The Irish type of farming does not appear to be acceptable to the EEC because of the size of the farms. Some people believe that an economic farm should consist of at least 200 acres. Mr. Lemass, when Taoiseach, said he thought that was a good idea, but nobody ever explained to the small Irish farmer how the small farms could be converted to large 200 acre farms. That could only be done by getting rid of many small farms. People have been leaving agriculture at the rate of 12,000 per year over the last few years. Apparently, in the EEC the numbers will be increased substantially.
Deputy Dr. FitzGerald interrupted me the other evening when I was talking about how difficult it would be to increase the farms and said I did not approve of group farming. I pointed out that I had not heard anybody in the Fine Gael Party saying he was anxious about the introduction of group farming but I admit that Deputy Tom O'Donnell mentioned it on a number of occasions. I did not hear anybody in the Fianna Fáil Party talking about group farming. Recently, if anyone started talking about group farming somebody, particularly in Fianna Fáil, would come out and brand whoever made such a suggestion as being some type of communist.
Under the terms on which we are going into the EEC, we must increase substantially the size of the farms and get rid of the people working on the farms. I was in agreement with the Minister for Lands when he said that the solution to the small farm would be to have part-time farmers with part-time jobs elsewhere. This is completely contrary to what is suggested under the terms of the EEC membership. Deputy Seán Flanagan and myself will find ourselves out on a limb if the people go headlong for the idea of the 200-acre farm and have no regard for those who must get out of the small farms. There are many large farms in my area. Some of them have been broken up. Very few people have been left with 200 acres. The man who got 150 acres was supposed to have given away a lot of land in the west of Ireland. Perhaps he did.
Most of our farmers have between 20 and 50 acres of land. In congested areas there are many such farms and it is difficult to make a decent living on them. The suggestion that it would be possible to implement the EEC proposals even in County Meath does not appear to me to be feasible. Yet we say we are prepared to accept everything the Common Market countries demand and the treaties of Rome and Paris without further consideration.
What will be substituted for the dairy industry and for the wheat and beet industries? Probably the beef industry will be able to look after itself but the number of persons required on farms will be greatly reduced. We must ask the question whether this means there will have to be a big upsurge in industry.
I have already mentioned in the House that a number of Deputies had a discussion with a group of French industrialists who were interested in starting industries here. While the industrialists were prepared to agree that up to now the Government here had been offering certain facilities to industrialists by way of grants, tax remissions and a plentiful supply of labour, they pointed out that if we enter the EEC we will not be able to continue those concessions and, therefore, there is no point in industrialists coming here with a view to gaining them.
The industrialists I mention were not prepared to accept the assurances some members of our party tried to give them that that was not the case and that the concessions could continue for some time. Some of them were honest enough to suggest that the Common Market idea now, contrary to what was some years ago, was not to improve regions where there was much unemployment by setting up industries. They found this was not working out and that the only solution was to take the unemployed to areas where work was available — to the cities in Germany, France and Belgium. They did not seem to think there was any hope whatever of improving regions such as the west of Ireland.
One of our members asked if there was not a possibility that special provisions would be made for certain areas and suggested the subsidisation of transport to areas far from the centre. The industrialists' reaction was that it would not be profitable to bring raw material into remote areas, manufacture the goods and transport them back to the centre. They stated that if we claimed entitlement to subsidisation of transport to remote areas, Central European countries would be entitled to subsidisation for sending products to Ireland. Some people apparently have convinced themselves that the EEC is Utopia and that if we rush headlong into the Community we will not have any further worries. However, our party have gone into this matter very fully and we are convinced that it will be, as Bill Norton said, "an excruciating exercise".
The question of whether our industries will stand up to free trade competition is another matter which must be considered. If the people who are leaving agriculture and those who are unemployed could be given jobs in industry there would be something to be said in favour of entry. However, it appears industry is having a difficult time with the operation of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement and if we cannot stand up to this agreement how can we deal with complete free trade with such industrial giants as Germany and France?
It has been suggested that there is no unemployment in the EEC. I was interested to read in the European Newsletter of 19th June, 1970, an article entitled “Activities of the Community in 1969”. In this article there was a statement made by a M. Girardin who expressed concern at the increase in unemployment, particularly among the younger age group. He urged the setting up of adequate vocational guidance centres and he deplored the lack of co-ordination between vocational guidance and occupational training. The article might have been written about Ireland, in fact, it was about the EEC, where everything is supposed to be perfect and where it is suggested there is no unemployment.
I was in Brussels last year and was surprised to find men who I thought would be employed in industry working at what in this country would be termed menial tasks. They told me that there was no other work available for them. This also gives the lie to the suggestion that there is no unemployment in the EEC. Therefore, we should be very careful from the point of view of agriculture and industry before joining the Community. This morning the Minister for External Affairs stated that we were prepared to accept everything. To me, his words meant that we were all square with any of the countries either in the Common Market or now applying for membership. I only wish he was right.
There has been much talk here and elsewhere about the negotiations or what must happen with regard to Ireland's entry into the Common Market. Let me again refer to the European Newsletter of 26th June, 1970, where reference is made to the opening of negotiations. It states:
The arrangements for the opening of negotiations with Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Norway are now completed. The opening session will take place at the Kirchberg, the European Centre in Luxembourg on Tuesday, 30th June.
Firstly, M. Harmel, President of the Council and Foreign Minister of Belgium will speak and then M. Rey, President of the Commission. Mr. Barber for Britain, Dr. Hillery for Ireland and the Danish and Norwegian Foreign Ministers will reply. It is expected that the other Foreign Ministers of the EEC Member States will then make statements. It should be underlined, however, that the negotiations proper will be conducted from a common standpoint with a single spokesman for the Six. The first working session with the British will take place on July 21st and with Ireland on September 21st, both in Brussels.
So much for the reply that was given here today by the Taoiseach, to the effect that it did not matter whether the two discussions took place together —that the negotiations in both cases would take place at the one time.
The arrangements made for the negotiations and for the entry of Ireland into the Common Market have been kept from the people. I consider this a mistake, particularly because of the fact that before we can sign any agreement we must have a referendum to decide whether the Irish people are prepared to accept the terms of reference with regard to our Constitution. Are we prepared to make at least seven different changes in the Constitution? Some people have said that the constitutional changes suggested were not of great importance. Let me refer to one of the changes. In Article 5 of the Constitution it is stated that we are a free democratic republic. This must be changed.