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.