FISHERIES BILL, 1923. - SAORSTÁT REPRESENTATION AT BRITISH EMPIRE EXHIBITION.

I beg to move:—

"That the Seanad is of opinion that, with a view to the encouragement of Irish industry, steps should be taken for the representation of the Irish Free State at the forthcoming British Empire Exhibition."

I will not detain the Seanad long. If they will bear with me for a few minutes I will endeavour to put the matter before them. A certain amount of disappointment has been created by the fact that this country is not to be represented at the Exhibition in London this year. A number of inquiries have reached me and my friends from various parts, and there is a general feeling amongst our friends in various parts of the Commonwealth of Nations that they would like to see us at Wembley at the British Empire Exhibition. I am not blaming the Government at all. The Government have had many calls made upon them. They have had to endeavour to make some reparation of the effects of the civil war, and they have shown a great deal of courage in the way in which they have faced the problem of reducing the expenditure of this country somewhat more within the ambit of its capacity.

They have done very important work in the financial scale, and there is very important work before them still. If the Finance Minister does not loosen his purse strings I, for one, am not prepared to find fault with him. But possibly the country as a whole might be prepared to deal with the situation itself, provided we had the good will of the Government. We do not ask from them very much more than their good will. I think the country itself is quite competent to take charge of this situation. The good will of the Government would be of considerable importance to us, because undoubtedly they can assist us in many ways; quite apart from the financial position they could assist us in other respects and give us important assistance. While not asking them to assist us financially in the present state of things. I think it would be of help if we had an expression of their good will towards this undertaking.

Now, there is no doubt about it that this country ought to be represented at this Exhibition. If we be represented, we must be represented largely by our own efforts. We have been brought up in a very bad school. For a number of generations we had been in the habit of going to the Government for everything. In the time of the British Government if we wanted a light railway built or a lighthouse erected we went to the British Government, and we expected them to help us. It was not very often that they did help us. We were brought up in that school, but we have advanced a stage since then, and we are approaching the time when we shall try to do these things for ourselves. In a matter of such importance as the representation of Irish industry in a place where it would be exhibited practically to the whole world, I think that Irishmen themselves would be well advised in taking, at all events, a larger share of the burden upon their own shoulders.

It is not for me to suggest how this should be done; it is for the practical business men of the country. It is also for the members of the Irish Labour Party who are mainly concerned in this question with our manufacturers as representatives of the industrial population, and it seems to me on this ground it might be possible to come to some understanding between the representatives of our industry and the representatives of those who are employed in carrying that industry out. My recollection in this matter goes back many years, to the most interesting Exhibition held in Dublin in 1886. I think it was called the Irish Industrial Exhibition.

As well as I remember, the Trades Union leaders of that time joined in assisting the Exhibition. It was a small Exhibition, but unquestionably it was a great success. Then we had a very admirable Exhibition in Cork. That was a larger Exhibition, but not as large as it might have been. Still, it was very representative of Irish industry, and, finally, we had the exhibition of a few years ago in Dublin, an Exhibition carried on mainly through the instrumentality of the late Mr. William Martin Murphy. That was probably the most successful Exhibition held in our time. Now, we have a great opportunity, before a wonderful concourse of people and a great display of the products of various countries, to present the exhibits of our own industries. This Exhibition in London will give us, perhaps, the best chance we have ever had of doing that. It will give us an opportunity, too, of making a strong appeal, in what is really the only market there is in the world at the present time, owing to the difficulties created in foreign countries by the exchanges and matters of that sort. It is not likely that this country in the immediate future can do business with other countries except those comprised in the Commonwealth of Nations. At all events, if you do business with them, you are sure of getting paid, and you need not bother about calculations in francs or in marks. You are sure to get paid for your commodities, and I think you ought to take advantage of this opportunity, and show our friends from the various countries exhibits from our own industries.

I am sure these people will be glad to see our exhibits, particularly those who come from a far distance. We are appealing to the best market in the world, and we can show, for instance, our American friends things they cannot get at home. We can also show them many artistic things. We make the most wonderful woollens, and we can show them examples of this industry. I have taken the opportunity of raising this question in the Seanad, because, as I said, of the feeling which has reached me from many parts that people will be very much disappointed if Ireland is not represented at the Exhibition. In view of the importance of the matter, I think our industrialists and manufacturers should be prepared to bear a considerable proportion of the burden of the cost that will be involved. I do not want to appeal to our over-worked Minister for Finance. He may have to do some other things very soon, and I do not want to ask him for too large a sum of money. I think if the business people of the country, and the representatives of industry in the country, would come together, they might devise some scheme whereby we might be represented at this great Exhibition.

It may be urged that we are too late, but I do not share that view. I am certain that if the project were started in Dublin, and that if the leaders of Dublin industry and of trade put their heads together, it would be easy to get proper representation for the country at the Exhibition, even though we are starting late in the day. I have had some experience in conducting matters in this country, and I find that we succeed best in doing what is apparently impossible, and that we succeed wonderfully well when we have to do things in a rush, and when there is a certain amount of enthusiasm and excitement created in respect of them. I think it is quite possible for the industrialists and the manufacturers of Ireland to retrieve the situation as far as the existing vacancy is concerned, and I suggest that this is a matter which the Seanad might commend to the consideration of the country. I beg to move.

I beg to second the motion. I, and I suppose everybody here, can recall a very fine exhibition of Irish goods, especially breakfast table products, that was organised and exhibited by the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction at almost every show at which other manufacturers were invited to exhibit. I believe that the Department of Agriculture is functioning still. It surely would be rather a slur on the Government if, under the British Government, the Department of Agriculture made it its object to display the goods we have for export in a prominent and most artistic way at these International or Imperial Exhibitions, and if no attempt was made to do so by the Department of Agriculture under our own Government. I only mention that as one instance where I think the Government would be held to be at fault. Then we have a great many industries, especially art industries, of which we are very proud, and I think there should be some public body to organise a fair representation of these industries. I need not speak of those large industries for which we are famous all over the world, brewing, distilling, woollens, and so forth. Of course, for the ordinary requirements of our citizens we purchase practically all foreign-made articles. This country is a dumping-ground for the surplus manufactured goods of the world, so that I do not think, of objects of ordinary use, that we have very much to show, and certainly we have practically nothing to export. Of course, it is open to us to change all that in the future. I hope that the Government will take some action to ensure that the products for which we are famous, and especially agricultural products, shall have a fair show at this coming Exhibition.

Without desiring to speak against the motion, perhaps you will allow me to say a word or two with reference to the attitude of the Government. More than a year ago the Government decided to take part in this Fair, and, I think, actually secured a site from the management. If they did not actually do so they certainly were in negotiation with regard to a site, but as the last winter went on, and as the destruction in the country increased and the pile of debt grew, we felt, when the time for introducing the Estimates came along, that we could not commit the country to this expenditure. Consequently we decided that we would be reluctantly compelled to withdraw from the project altogether. Until about a month ago our position had not improved financially in any respect so as to enable us to reconsider the position. When the National Loan was floated and was very successful the matter did come up, but we felt then that the time for having an Exhibition that would do us credit had passed, that it was no use having a small show or a small pavilion on some very unsatisfactory site in the grounds. We felt that while very good results might have been got for the country by a good, well-arranged, well-organised exhibition in a suitable place, no particularly good result would follow if we had a sort of a scratch exhibition in a pavilion that was unimposing. I think that it is now really too late to do anything that would be useful. I am not sure of the exact date on which the Exhibition opens, but I think it is in next April. It will be quite impossible in the time that is available to erect a pavilion; it would be impossible, I think, to organise an Exhibition satisfactorily. There is also the point to be borne in mind that whereas considerable expenditure might bring good results and might impress people, a small expenditure, which is all we could contemplate at the moment, might really disimpress them, and it was really because the time is too short and the condition of the country is still so serious that we have felt unable to take part in the Exhibition.

I have pleasure in supporting Senator Sir T. Esmonde's motion very strongly, and I do so in spite of what the Minister for Finance has said, because, judging only by the avidity with which the Colonial Premiers have seized upon the sites in Wembley, the value of this Exhibition is undoubted. Two of the best sites have already gone to New Zealand and Australia, and if at their distance from the market they are seeking they still think it worth their while to be represented, it ought to be more urgent for us to take advantage of this opportunity. There is another consideration, apart altogether from the economic and commercial aspect, and it is this: If we absent ourselves from the Wembley Exhibition the internal conditions which gave rise to the absence will not be understood. We will be taken as still sulking in our tent, and sulking in our tent in the presence of the greatest collection of visitors that is likely to occur anywhere in our time. The extent of the Exhibition should be known before people lightly turn aside the opportunity of bringing Ireland possibly before six or seven millions of human beings, a large percentage of whom will be our own countrymen. There is another consideration, too, and it is this, that in the Exhibition there is already evidence of the linking-up of the Colonies to the detriment of Ireland, and there is a good deal of headway for Ireland to make up in view of the competition that is now becoming so great from Denmark and the Netherlands, countries further from England and with less rich soil than ours.

The Exhibition is to be opened in April. I do not know how long the entry list for exhibitors will be kept open, but this I do know: you can erect a tent in a week and a pavilion possibly in a month, and the difference between a tent and a pavilion is a matter of small importance. But it is an opportunity that should not be lightly passed, because the Exhibition will represent every form of national life, and the products of every form of industry, and it is abetted by immense attractions in pageants that will bring people there just as a theatre would draw them. This country would have the advantage of an immense advertisement at very little cost, and would help the people to clear themselves up in the eyes of their customers in a way that is highly necessary, because very few people know how deep the ignorance of the sources of some of our greatest commodities is in England. We may think that certain of our products are world-famous. That may be, but the world does not know where that source is. Not so many years ago I heard a soldier in a Crewe restaurant ask for a bottle of "Guinness's Twenty." I said, "Guinness's Twenty. We call that Guinness's double X in Dublin.""Just like you Irish," he said.

In the same way reasons like that make me think it is necessary for the Irish people to show where they stand with their products, and there could not be a cheaper or a more direct opportunity of getting into practical contact with the consumer than this exhibition affords.

There is a certain body interested in artists, of which I am Chairman, and we had this matter before us at the last meeting, and there was exactly the same difference of opinion there as we find here now. We found out that invitations from the exhibition reached various artists at the end of last September to send in their work. We have been carrying on some correspondence with Ministers to find out whether the work of Irish artists would be classified with the general mass of English artists and other artists from different parts of the Empire, or whether they would be treated separately, and exhibited in a different room. I do not know whether we have had any satisfactory answer yet. It is possible it is too late to have them separated in a separate room, and that they would go along with others from different parts of the Empire under the head of "British Artists." If they went into a separate room we would have very distinct possibility for Ireland. About 16 years ago Sir Hugh Lane gave an exhibition of Irish Art in London, and it was discovered that some of the most famous artists were Irish. If our artists now had not the opportunity of exhibiting separately they would be driven back in the public estimation. At the same time we were not sure but it might be too late now to organise a separate Irish art section, and to bring into it men like Orpen and Lavery and Shannon, and if we could not recover these men we would have an Irish section that would not fully represent us. I am very much in favour of having Ireland represented at an Empire exhibition, but I am very anxious that the representation should be adequate, and I confess I have not before me any facts upon which I could feel assured upon that subject.

I should like to submit some views upon this subject. I take it the object of the resolution is to put some pressure on the Government to establish Free State representation at the Wembley Park Exhibition.

I was not finding fault with the Government. We did not ask them for financial assistance. It was rather to the public opinion of the country we were looking.

How does the Senate come in then? It is hardly our duty as Senators here to dictate to the business community. If we pass this resolution who will be affected by it? That really seems to me the whole point. I do not think we should pass this resolution unless we wish that it should have effect. But I am told that it is not directed to the Government at all.

We hope to attract the attention of the business community to it.

Well, as a business man I will tell Senator Sir Thomas Esmonde what we have done. I went into this matter about a year ago when it was first mooted. At that time the prospects of Wembley Park were not what they are now, and probably the Free State Government, when they began looking into it, might have had doubts at that time whether it would be well to spend money on it. But since that time the management has got into excellent hands, and I think there is no question but it is going to be a great success.

We decided months ago we would exhibit, and we went into the whole question. I found our Government had gone into the whole thing. I was told all about how it had looked into it, and what the cost would be. I take it that if our business community, to which I presume Senator Sir T. Esmonde is referring, wanted to go into it that it should have taken it up at that time, and should have pressed the Government if it wanted to go into it. I did not hear of anybody pressing the Government at the time that it would have been of use. I spoke to some members of the Government about it, and I had to admit their case was sound. They had not been pressed by the business community, as far as I know, and the expense would be considerable, and the finances of the State would not warrant it. I agreed that the Government was right, but we decided that so far as our own personal business was concerned, to aid our export trade, we would take a site, and that decision was made months ago. I doubt very much indeed whether, if the business community in the Free State now choose to look for a site, that they could get one that could give us any kind of show. There is no use in going in for a small, wretched kind of thing. If it is to be of real benefit, the Chambers of Commerce in Dublin, Cork and Limerick should get a small body of business men to go over and examine the question immediately and see if they can get a site, but it will cost a good deal of money. I cannot see how a lot of our industries, that is, the smaller industries which belong to the different parts of Ireland which come under the head of Irish industrial products, can get represented now to push forward glass and carpets and all the different things that we ought to be exhibiting. If we only decide to go in to-morrow, I am sorry to say that if you send over your business men now they will bring back a report that they could not find a site that they could recommend to Free State manufacturers. I am sorry to say that to Senator Sir T. Esmonde, but I am dealing now entirely with the business community, because I believe the Government has a justifiable case for the position in which they stand. If the business community wish to take it up, they will have to act at once. Our money is out on our own show at present, and it is a very costly business.

My only object in raising this question was that we might have a discussion on it, and if the people say they want to be represented there that they could be ready in time, and that they should take off their coats at once and see about it. I am obliged to Senator Jameson for his very practical statement, and for his useful hints on the subject. I did not venture to make any suggestions in the course of my remarks, for I am not in a position to make them to gentlemen who thoroughly understand their own business, but I cannot withdraw the resolution. I think the resolution will do no harm whatever and may do good, and may bring the Chambers of Commerce together to make investigations and something may come of it. Seeing that we have treated the Government very nicely, I think the least thing they might do is that the Minister might get up and say "this thing has my blessing." He has not done that, and, therefore, I will ask the Seanad to agree to the motion.

Motion put and declared carried.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Might I suggest to Senator Sir T. Esmonde the tremendous importance of following the hint he has got from Senator Jameson, and that is without the least further delay invite the Chambers of Commerce to send over competent persons to report whether the thing is now feasible. While I think it is most unfortunate that we are not to be represented, I am greatly afraid that having regard to the demands for space we are too late, but it is not too late to ask the Chambers of Commerce to send over competent men and have that matter ascertained.

I quite agree.

The Seanad adjourned until Wednesday, 16th, at 3 o'clock.