INTOXICATING LIQUOR BILL, 1924. - MESSAGE FROM THE DAIL.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I have received the following message:—

“Aontuíonn an Dáil le Leasuithe 3 go 8 go huile agus 10, 11 agus 12 a dhin an Seanad ar an mBille Deocha Meisciúla (Generálta) 1924; ni aontuíonn sí le Leasuithe 1, 2 agus 9, len ar mian lei aontú an tSeanaid.”

“The Dáil agrees to Amendments Nos. 3 to 8 inclusive and Nos. 10, 11 and 12 made by the Seanad to the Intoxicating Liquor (General) Bill, 1924; it disagrees to Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 9, to which the agree- ment of the Seanad is desired.”

Perhaps Senator Douglas will see if I am right in this. No. 1 referred to in the message of the Dáil deals with the amendment inserted on his motion in sub-section (3) of Section 1 of the Bill.

I think No. 2 deals with that. No. 1 deals with an amendment to Section 1, sub-section (1). For all practical purposes they are the same amendment and one is consequential on the other. I move that the Seanad insist on amendments 1 and 2, or preferably I will move 1 and 2 together.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

You move both together. They are the same point.

I move that the Seanad insist on amendments 1 and 2:

1. In Section 1 (1) the word "or," line 22, deleted and after the word "day" in the same line, the words "or St. Patrick's Day" inserted.

2. In Section 1 (3) the word "or," line 38, deleted and after the word "Friday" in the same line, the words "or St. Patrick's Day" inserted.

I think the Seanad will act rightly if it decides on its point of view with regard to the effect of closing on St. Patrick's Day. Personally, from a fair amount of correspondence I had on the subject I believe the Seanad would be representing a fair majority of the country in its opinion on St. Patrick's Day closing. I think that if the Dáil had shown a disposition to have met the point of view of the Seanad, certainly for my part, I would not have been at all inclined as they say to put up a fight for the sake of an amendment like this—if the Dáil had given away on amendments number one and number two. In view of the position, and after the Dáil declining to agree to the three Seanad amendments, I think it would be foolish of the Seanad to run away from the amendments, particularly the first and second ones. I do not think, and I imagine that a great many members of the Seanad will agree with me, that any great calamity is going to happen the country if this Bill is held up for a period of nine months. While I would have preferred, and still prefer, that an agreement or an arrangement should be reached with the Dáil: nevertheless I think some advantage might be gained by having this matter frankly discussed in the country. There are large organisations, some representing the trades affected, and others, such as the Pioneers, prepared to try and find out what really is the feeling in the country.

That might have a healthy effect, and at the end of nine months, if it is desirable—I express no opinion—a referendum might be taken inexpensively, in view of the fact that the Seanad elections will take place in twelve months. The two could take place on the same day. It will be practical politics to have a referendum then. I do not express any opinion whether it would be desirable or not, except to say that the nine months' delay which may result from the Seanad insisting on its point of view is not a delay that we need be unduly afraid of. For these reasons, and because I believe there is a strong feeling in the country which we represent on the matter of closing on St. Patrick's Day, and also because I think the movement for the better keeping of St. Patrick's Day was part of the best spirit of the new national movement, it is a great pity the majority of the Dáil should have gone back in such a matter as the observance of that day. I think we should insist on the amendments, and I believe the Minister for Justice was correct when he said that in this matter we expressed the views of the country.

I should like to support Senator Douglas in this matter. St. Patrick's Day is one of the few days in the year on which the public-houses should be closed so that the assistants could have a real holiday. Many of the assistants do not live in the houses where they work, and it would be a good thing to enable them to have a day off to see their friends or relations. It is wrong that the feast of our patron saint should be celebrated by many people getting drunk. I do not say that the people drink as much now as they did in years gone by. The younger generation do not drink as much as was drunk by their predecessors. The soldiers in both armies do not drink so much. I think it is right that the day should be celebrated without too much drink being taken. In the big towns, of course, people like to have a pleasant time and to "drown the shamrock." That can be done without going into public houses or getting drunk. I hope the Seanad will insist upon its amendment, notwithstanding what the other House has done. In doing so, I do not think we will be going against the wishes of the people of the Free State. I agree with Senator Douglas that the day should be kept as a holiday so that the assistants in these houses could go and see their friends and not be stuck behind bars serving drink.

I wish to support the motion. As far as I can see, there does not seem to be any desire on the part of any section of the community to have the publichouses opened on St. Patrick's Day, with the exception of the licensed trade. It was stated at a recent meeting of that trade that severe losses would be sustained if the public-houses were closed on that day. It seems rather peculiar that that is the only trade that complains of losses on that day. Does not every other trade and industry lose to the same extent? In this particular trade they are only asked to close on three days out of the 365. God knows that is not asking too much. Still, that trade complains that it would be destroyed if the houses have to close on St. Patrick's Day. I think it would be unworthy of the dignity of the Seanad if it did not stand by its amendments.

I think it is incumbent on us to do what we can to see that the national festival will be celebrated in a manner consistent with our national self-respect. I will certainly vote for the retention of the amendments, and I hope the Seanad will agree to do so unanimously, so that such action will have an effect on the opinion of the country.

Question—"That the Seanad insist upon amendments 1 and 2 inserted in Clause 1 of the Bill"—put and agreed to, Senator McEvoy dissenting.
AMENDMENT 9.
Before Section 12 a new section inserted as follows:—
"(1) From and after the 25th day of September, 1927, it shall not be lawful to carry on any business (except the businesses hereinafter expressly authorised) in the same building as that in which the business of the sale of intoxicating liquor by retail for consumption on the premises is carried on, unless the portion of the building in which such sale of intoxicating liquor is carried on is structurally separated from and has no internal communication with any portion of the building in which any other business (except as aforesaid) is carried on.

I beg to move that the Senate insist on amendment No. 9. It was not my intention to move in this matter but Senator Moore is absent, and he and I had some discussion on this matter. He told me it was his intention that the Seanad ought insist upon amendment 9, notwithstanding whatever action the Dáil may take in the matter. For that reason I rise to move it. If the Dáil had shown a reasonable attitude towards amendments 1 and 2, I would not move to insist upon this. In view, however, of the attitude of the Dáil, it is important that both these questions should be before the country. There would be a disposition on our part not to insist on amendment No. 9 if the Dáil had respected our position with regard to 1 and 2. In the meantime I think we ought to insist on all three amendments. There are practically two and a half years to elapse before the section will come into force, and during that time a great deal can be done in making these structural alterations. We have read that the Dáil is setting up a commission to go into this whole question of the sale of liquor, and for that reason I think it would be a very useful thing to have this section reinserted by the Senate, if only for this reason, that it will show the point of view of a very large number of persons in the country.

I have received a very large number of letters, not from temperance associations, though I have met them as well, but from various other people, and all these are in favour of the provision for the structural alterations. I think it is extremely desirable that in such reductions as will take place, preference should be given to those who have made these structural alterations between now and the findings of the commission. I think this section serves a useful purpose. My considered judgment is that in view of the action of the Dáil it would be wise for us to insist on this amendment No. 9 standing part of the Bill.

I second that. One particular question I would put to the Minister, and that is how the Minister is going to control the prohibition of the sale on credit of intoxicating drink in a grocer's shop?

I find that I have to vote against the motion of Senator Douglas. Unfortunately, I was not present in the Seanad when this amendment was passed, and, unfortunately also, the number of Senators present that day was very small, as has been admitted by Senator Colonel Moore. I think there is nobody in the Seanad or in the country who agrees with the principle of mixed trading. We all know that it leads to a great many abuses. In the matter of this amendment it is the question of confiscation that I am against. I think really that what was said during the debate on this question on the last occasion when it was debated here was the proper view, and that was that it was a question for a commission to decide. The publicans are blamed for all the drunkenness that takes place in this country. Now, the publican supplies what I might call the more democratic drinker in the country. I notice that the Minister never said anything in the course of the debate, so far as I have read, of the irregularities in the matter of the supply of drink in this country. The fact is that our lady friend drives up in her motor car or carriage and goes into a chemist's shop to get a prescription made up, but she can also take away with her a bottle of port, not wanting in quality, and I suppose drink consumed in one's home can affect a person's head just as well as drink consumed in a public house.

Then, again, there are shops in the city called dairies, usually called after some famous flower—"Hyacinth," the "Bluebell," or "Tulip." These so-called dairy shops do a kind of huckster business. They sell milk, butter, margarine and so on. I was quite surprised, passing some time ago one of these, to see the window of one particular shop full of bottles of wine. Of course, a chemist's business is quite a proper one to run on its own. I do not see why it should be allowed to sell wine when there is a very large industry in the country, very heavily taxed, for that business and for the sale of drink. Why should such an industry be compelled at the present time to provide large structural alterations when such a condition is not imposed on the chemist? I think it is a question for a commission to inquire into. We all know we have too many licences in this country; investigation by a commission would be one way of doing away with some of them, and then we might hope that the licensed trade would be more profitable and there would be less temptations and less irregularities connected with it. I will vote against insistence by the Seanad on this amendment.

I desire to support what Senator Nesbitt has said. I voted in favour of this amendment originally, but I am very reluctant to do so now in view of the fact that we have insisted on our St. Patrick's Day amendment. I think it would be more satisfactory and more likely to win approval in the country if, after insisting on our St. Patrick's Day amendment we do not insist upon this. After all there is a commission to be set up, and if it is to be of any good it is bound to result in some legislation. If so, there cannot be any advantage in insisting now upon a point that cannot be carried into effect for two and a half years. If the commission is going to result in legislation that particular reform can be embodied in it if the people of Ireland so desire. I think we would be doing nothing derogatory if we did not insist on our amendment now.

I would like to say a few words in reference to what Senator Nesbitt has stated. He talked of confiscation but he did not develop his argument with regard to confiscation. He simply mentioned confiscation and stated that it was confiscation for the Seanad to put this amendment into Clause 12 of the Bill. Apparently he has the cause of the publicans very much at heart in regard to this matter, and his argument is that there is going to be a commission, but it will take a very long time before that commission reports and I do not think that this matter should be deferred until the commission reports. My experience is that commissions report long after the matter is necessary to be dealt with, with the result that the evil goes on and remains for a good number of years. The Senator brought forward an argument against a dairy shop, and he said he was astonished to find that one particular dairy shop was selling wine. I do not know where that particular shop is. I would like to know.

It would be very interesting to see a shop for the sale of milk and cream with all sorts of wines in the window. I wonder whether there was wine in the bottles or were they merely an attraction to induce people to buy Dublin milk. Now, these structural alterations, according to the amendment, need not be done for two and a half years, and how anybody with an idea of common sense can say that that does not give these wronged publicans sufficient time to make these structural alterations, or how anyone can talk of that as confiscation baffles me. I do not suppose that anyone wants a wall of three feet thickness put up between the grocery shop and the counter where drink is sold. The structural alteration that the Minister talks about would be merely a good strong wooden partition that people cannot get through, and I cannot imagine how anyone can describe that as confiscation. The publicans have two and a half years to make this alteration and I think that is quite sufficient. Notwithstanding what Senator Douglas said, and notwithstanding what Senator MacLysaght said, that because we insisted on the one amendment we should give way on another, we should insist on this amendment.

Compromise is essential to politics, but this is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of controlling drunkenness and drink traffic in this country. I do not want to make a Second Reading speech, and therefore I can only touch upon the fringe of this whole matter. This question is exercising the minds of people not only in this country, but all over the world. Look at America. What they have done there was done on a sudden, and there was nearly being war over the matter. I quite allow that the Ministers are right; they must take this matter piecemeal, and I have pleasure in supporting the motion that the Seanad insists on its amendment.

I have given this amendment such thought as I could. I did not vote upon the original matter, so I more or less am free now. I think the difficulty of enforcing this upon the country is very great, and if enforced it would inflict great hardship, not only on the owners of the public-houses but on people who frequent those houses. I am not satisfied that the change is altogether desirable, and I think it is one of the questions on which the country ought to be able to make up its mind in the period of time that will elapse between now and when the commission will report. I know many houses in the West and South of Ireland which are largely grocery establishments, and in regard to which a tremendous hardship would be inflicted on the people if they are compelled to close, as they would be if we insist upon this amendment. They have very little accommodation and they are so small that they could not put up a substantial division. We know the contentions that arose out of putting up shutter divisions in the past, and similar contentions have and would give trouble to the community. For that reason I cannot support the motion to insist on our amendment.

I also oppose the motion to insist on the amendment. A great deal of hardship would be inflicted on many people if this amendment was insisted upon, by reason of the fact that it would not be possible for them to make these huge structural alterations. A great many people are not in the position of the Earl of Mayo, who could have three or four, or ten entrances to his place. Many of these shops in the country would have to be rebuilt, or reconstructed, and even if they were reconstructed they could hardly provide two entrances. These places belong to the people and they are as dear to many of them as the greatest castles in the land are to their owners, and to inflict this hardship on the people would be quite wrong. I do not care about the two years. What is the good of two years?

It is two years and a half.

Two years and a half or a dozen years do not make much difference. What is the use of two years and a half if people have not the money? I say it is not fair, and the Government have no authority from the people to put this matter forward. All the talk we hear about the vice of drunkenness and the encouragement of drink comes from people who never went into a public-house and who know nothing about it. It is altogether exaggerated. Senator Douglas talked about having the country behind him. I deny that he has the people of the country behind him. He has men behind him who communicated with him, and men who are in favour of prohibition and confiscation, but he certainly has not the majority of the people of this country behind him. I should like to see this matter referred to the country and a vote taken upon it, and then we would know how many people will go in for this confiscation. There is no use of talking about high ideals to be aimed at in these public-houses. Many houses cannot be structurally altered. They are too small, and the attempt to do so would destroy the living of people, and I am certainly not out for that and will vote against the insistence of this amendment.

May I say a word of explanation as to what was stated by the Earl of Mayo. The Earl of Mayo criticised me for not developing the confiscation argument to a conclusion. What I meant was, and everyone knows the fact, that licences being attached to houses increase their value, and the owner has a certain vested interest in the premises, and to deprive him of this would be a great hardship. It is economically impossible in the short time at his disposal and without any compensation that he could make these alterations. A great many of these houses in the country are run by a family—that is, by the husband and the wife and daughter and so on. If certain structural alterations are insisted upon it means that they would have to pay a staff and that is another hardship. The Earl of Mayo talked about what is done in dairy shops——

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

The Senator cannot go into any further explanation. This is not an explanation but a reply.

If the Earl of Mayo chooses I will bring him to a dairy shop and if he stands he will see for himself.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

The question is whether he would stand after he comes out.

Question—"That the House do insist upon amendment No. 9 inserting a new section before Section 12"—put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 16: Níl, 9.

  • James Green Douglas.
  • William Barrington.
  • Samuel L. Brown.
  • Mrs. Eileen Costello.
  • Countess of Desart.
  • J.C. Dowdall.
  • Sir Thomas Grattan Esmonde.
  • Sir Nugent Everard.
  • Thomas Farren.
  • Sir John Griffith.
  • Cornelius Joseph Irwin.
  • Sir John Keane.
  • Earl of Mayo.
  • Colonel Maurice Moore.
  • Mrs. Wyse Power.
  • George Sigerson.

Níl

  • Thomas Westropp Bennett.
  • Richard A. Butler.
  • John C. Counihan.
  • Edward McEvoy.
  • Edward MacLysaght.
  • James Moran.
  • George Nesbitt.
  • John Thomas O'Farrell.
  • William O'Sullivan.
Motion declared carried.