Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 15 Feb 1956

Vol. 45 No. 13

Decentralisation of Industry—Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
That this House is of opinion that the policy of the Government should be actively and urgently directed towards securing the decentralisation of industry and administrative control generally throughout the country, and, towards securing as far as it is found practicable henceforth the diffusion of sites for new industries throughout the provinces.

When I moved the adjournment of this debate, I was dealing with a few points made by Senator O'Brien. Senator O'Brien, on this particular motion, has taken up an extraordinary attitude, namely, that nothing whatever should be done to interfere with the normal flow of industry in whatever direction circumstances influence it.

I will quote, in order not to be accused of misquoting, exactly what he said. In column 606 of the Seanad Debates of 9th November, 1955, Senator O'Brien said:—

"The point I want to make is that both types of protection—national protection and local protection—are really distortions of the natural pattern of localisation, in which industry would be directed into the area where it would naturally be directed because the cost of production in the area is below what it would be somewhere else."

In other words, he is making the case that no steps should be taken to divert industries away from wherever a potential industrialist feels inclined to place them. In other words, if an industrialist wishes to locate his factory in the Dublin City area or somewhere adjacent to Dublin, because of all the natural advantages there, the State should not intervene to induce or encourage him to go elsewhere.

He did not say the State should not intervene.

That is exactly what he did say.

Read it again.

If the Senator wishes to controvert that, I will quote other extracts from his speech to confirm that particular point. He stressed the advantages of Dublin:—

"There are other advantages perhaps even more important than those—a good water supply, good drainage and sewerage, good supplies of power and light."

There are a number of quotations I could give. He seeks to establish the viewpoint that industry should be allowed to find its location normally, rather than be directed or induced elsewhere. But the Government's predecessors in office took an entirely different view and they sought, by legislation, to divert industry elsewhere, and in the Undeveloped Areas Bill they provided certain rather strong incentives to manufacturers to go west of the Shannon, to certain defined areas known to be congested. There was at the time, and has been since, a considerable amount of criticism of that legislation, on the ground that it was ineffective. I do not think it has been completely ineffective, and even since this motion appeared on the Order Paper, we have heard of a fairly substantial industry being established in one of the western towns. It would seem to indicate that the inducements that were provided in the Bill are having, slowly but surely, an effect, and potential manufacturers, seeing the advantages, are inclined to avail of them. That is, of course, what anyone might expect.

I think Senator O'Brien is quite wrong in his statement that we are distorting the natural picture, as he said, by inducing industry to go elsewhere than Dublin. I do not think that the tendency on the part of industrialists to come to Dublin is what could be regarded as a natural tendency. It is, if you like, a distortion brought about not so much by natural advantages, natural geographical or geological advantages in Dublin City as by political events. It is true that the port of Dublin has a certain attraction, but so, too, have other ports.

Dublin was historically selected as the political centre of this country, first by the Danes, then by the Normans. It was almost by external forces, if you like, but it was established as the centre of government, and, being the centre of government, it naturally attracted money and wealth and a certain amount of security in troubled times.

The result was that industries moved in that direction and that tendency has been aggravated since the establishment of this State, because now, with our own Government, with all our Departments centralised in Dublin, there is a big circulation of money in the city that leads business people to move into that area and industrialists follow. There is a very large consuming public and a large volume of available workers in the city. The tendency is, on the whole, undesirable if pushed too far. It is all right to have a fairly substantial capital city in a small country such as this, but we cannot allow the whole population of the country to be concentrated in this one capital city, and already the tendency has moved altogether too far. I think Senator O'Brien is a voice crying in the wilderness when he seeks to persuade us to leave things as they are and not to take action to prevent that tendency.

Another extraordinary development occurred which cuts across the whole purpose of this motion, if the viewpoints expressed were accepted. I am referring now to a statement made by the Minister for Agriculture in Rome as reported on 9th November, which, by a remarkable coincidence, was, I think, the same day as that on which the Seanad was discussing this decentralisation motion. He said, as reported in the Irish Independent:

"If the United States and the British Commonwealth were to take the lead in establishing a new commonwealth, with guarantees of free passage of men, money, and goods, we could forget about the world surplus."

If that is an expression of governmental policy, we may not only forget about the world surplus, but forget about the Irish nation, because if men, money and goods are to be freely exchanged, I am greatly afraid very few men, money or goods would be left in this country. The country would be flooded with foreign goods from the big industrial centres of Britain and America. The men and the money would be forced out of the country, and we would have a very peaceful, unoccupied and deserted nation here. There would be no population left to make any trouble.

At any rate, taking the matter seriously, if that policy were to be put into operation, it would force the population down to about half of what it is at present. That would be the natural result. However, it is not clear yet whether that Minister was expressing governmental policy or his own peculiar views, and that is a matter that is required to be cleared up. If I might refer to this as James's Epistle to the Romans, I hope it will be commented upon, perhaps, by the Parliamentary Secretary because it certainly is against everything that this motion seeks to establish. This motion seeks decentralisation of industry and population, and that decentralisation can only be brought about by governmental policy in inducing and encouraging the wider distribution of not only industry, but agriculture and administration. Under the heading of decentralisation, agriculture, industry and administration must be considered, and I will deal with them in that order.

I object to the line the Senator is taking. Agriculture has nothing to do with this motion.

Senator Cogan is in possession.

I do not want to comment on Senator Burke's interjection, because he might get offended and go out, and I would not like that. I think he does not really understand the position. Senator Walsh discussed decentralisation in regard to land at a considerable length and in a very constructive way. It was also, if it may be remembered, discussed by the Commission on Population and Emigration, and Most Rev. Dr. Lucey commented at considerable length on the concentration of agricultural population in a few areas known as the congested districts and the complete depopulation of very large areas throughout the country. He did suggest that it should be Government policy to promote better and more even distribution of agricultural land. Decentralisation arises in regard to agriculture. Every farm is, if you like, a small factory, where the soil, in the first place, is converted into plant food and the plant food, again, is converted into animal produce. It is desirable that those agricultural factories should be widely and evenly distributed over the country.

Is the Senator drawing on his imagination when he is attempting to relate that argument to the motion? He had better read the motion.

If the Chair thinks that, I do not intend to develop the point much further, but it is true that Senator Walsh developed this at some considerable length, and there is no need to repeat the points he made. In referring to this suggestion of encouraging more even distribution of land——

The Senator is not in order in proceeding along those lines.

I do not intend to, but I do not intend to make this point, that it is desirable to have a higher standard of living amongst those who are living and working on the land in order to promote the decentralisation of manufacturing industries, because if you have a prosperous rural population in any particular area there is an encouragement to a manufacturer to set up his industry there, since there will be a number of prosperous consumers for the goods he produces. On the other hand, agriculture may also be directly related to decentralisation in this way: some of the industries most desirable at the present time are industries which process agricultural produce, and, therefore, a higher degree of efficiency, better credit, better distribution of the land, though I cannot mention that, would lead to the establishment of more small rural industries. I will pass then, from agricultural decentralisation and move on to industrial decentralisation, which is possibly the main feature of this motion.

It is the only feature of the motion, Senator.

Yes, Sir, except that I thought administration was also referred to, to a certain extent.

There is no reference to agriculture—that is the point I wanted to make clear.

At least it is implied. With regard to industry, I have indicated that the Undeveloped Areas Act was a step in the right direction. It is yielding results. I do not think those results can be expected to occur in one week or one year, but they are certain to develop, and we may take it that, as a result of the inducements offered, new industries will spring up in the areas that are so favoured.

Those of us who do not live in what are known as the undeveloped areas cannot help feeling a little perturbed, in as much as there will not be a tendency for potential manufacturers to go outside those particular areas where State aid is given. I think, therefore, that the main factor for the promotion of those industries outside those particular areas is local effort and local finance, as far as possible. I think it will need a tremendous effort to induce people in our provincial towns and in small villages to think seriously about the development of productive industry in their centres.

We have, unfortunately, a long tradition of disinterestedness, or perhaps hostility, to industrial development here, and that tradition has to be broken down. It is a tradition which does not exist in Britain, where normally every young man has had skilled employment, and it is his ambition to have a factory of his own. I had experience some time ago of meeting a young Englishman and his one ambition was to start a factory, though he had very little capital. He had, however, the spirit of enterprise. He interviewed some officials of the Department of Industry and Commerce and told them of what particular line he was thinking. They told him that the line he was thinking of was already overdone in this country and how much he was up against, if he followed it. He did not allow it to affect his ideas and he established in a small way an industry here which has continued to grow, slowly but surely. That just shows that, if we had more of this type of person in this country, enterprises would spring up here and there throughout the country. That particular industry has been established in a small village where there is not much employment or natural advantages for young men.

I think that, in this matter of promoting new industrial developments, the technical and vocational schools could play a leading part, in that they could inspire their students with a desire to help in the promotion of new industries. They could, if you like, create a public opinion among the young workers in favour of such industrial development. They could do a very useful work in that sphere, and, in addition, they could give their students the technical skill that is essential in the promotion of potential industries in their areas.

There has been in recent weeks or months a development which may or may not cut across this whole policy of decentralisation. That is the tendency to encourage foreign capitalists to come in here and establish industries. It will be, I believe, extremely difficult to bring these industrialists to the areas where we think they should go. As a matter of fact, if a potential industrialist from abroad is to come here, it will require a big effort on the part of the Government to ensure that he will not add to our problem of over-centralisation, so I think that, if that development takes place, the strongest pressure should be put on such manufacturers to locate their industries in areas where it is desirable to have them from the national point of view, rather than centre them more in one big area.

The same thing would occur to any Government in regard to our sea ports. I think the policy of the Government should be wherever possible and as far as possible to ensure that foreign goods being imported or goods being exported should be to see that ports other than the port of Dublin are utilised. Without taking unduly from the city, it would be wrong to centre all the shipping of this country in the port of Dublin. Therefore, all the harbours along our coasts which are quite suitable should be promoted.

One of the methods by which decentralisation could be carried out effectively is through the larger State companies. While it is not always possible in the case of private enterprise, the Government certainly should be able to ensure that, when a large State company is set up, its operations should be decentralised. I think the sugar beet industry set a very desirable example in that respect, inasmuch as, instead of establishing one great factory for the whole country, they established four. It might have been even better if they had established five, but at any rate there was a certain amount of wise distribution in that case. It is true that one of the factories has been disappointing in regard to the supplies of raw materials which they have been able to secure, but I think that the efforts to increase the supplies there should not be abandoned. I think that propaganda and publicity directed in that direction should be used to get the people to grow beet in the area and keep the factory going. I know that every farmer large and small supports the sugar industry and even the cottage tenants have grown beet extensively. The efforts have been so great that the case has been made that disease has occurred on these crops because of the continuous growing year after year of sugar beet. Many of these small land holders with less than one acre are disappointed that they are prevented from continuing to grow it.

Another development over the years which was, I think, desirable was the promotion of wheat growing. It had the result in County Wicklow, and possibly in other counties, of opening up flour mills which had been closed down, and I think there again there are people who would say that these small mills are a burden on the community, inasmuch as they cannot be altogether as efficient as the very large units of production.

Nevertheless, looking at the matter from a national or social point of view, I think they are desirable. In small villages where they are located, they provide useful and remunerative employment for workers and should be preserved. The industries which could be, and should be, promoted under a decentralisation plan are those which depend on agriculture for their raw materials.

Modern trends are moving more in the direction of processed foods of every kind. This opens up big possibilities for manufacturing industries based on agriculture. Almost every product of the farm can be processed and marketed in a condition that will not be dependent on an immediate market. For such things as vegetables, poultry and eggs, the market can be evened out, or the products preserved till the markets improve. They can be transported considerable distances, if better markets are available a long way away. In those particular directions, there is an opening for decentralisation.

Again, in regard to mineral development, the successful exploration work carried out by Mianraí Teoranta in Avoca during the past seven years has shown that, if we are prepared to spend a certain amount of money on exploration, we may succeed in uncovering greater mineral deposits than we thought existed. In regard to this particular enterprise, we understand now that all of the £500,000 that were expended will be returned to the State. That gives the State £500,000 to utilise in further exploratory work, whenever it is deemed to be desirable. I have heard, moving through County Wicklow in particular, local traditions of the existence of various types of mineral in practically every part of the county. There has been proof of considerable deposits in the Tinahely area, in the Glendalough area, and in many other areas. Whether they are sufficient to justify further development or not is a matter which can only be proved by exploration.

There was another matter that was mentioned in the course of the debate, and that was the famous Ferguson car. I understand that efforts have been made to have that car manufactured in the Six Counties. How far those efforts are likely to be successful, I do not know, but I think it would be a glorious idea if the promoters of this company were induced to establish their factory—and, of course, it will be a very large one—right on the Border between the Six Counties and the Republic. Such an industry would become a unifying force for the nation. That might not come completely under the heading of decentralisation, but at least it would be a development which everyone would favour. The Ferguson car, I understand, will have many new and revolutionary features. It is a car that will go not only backwards and forwards, but sideways as well. It would be an ideal State car for Coalition Ministers.

I am afraid the Senator has not got the spirit of the motion. It would be desirable if he would relate these arguments more closely to what is stated in the motion.

I have dealt at length with the decentralisation of industry and I think that the State, by inducement and incentive, must do whatever is possible to promote that decentralisation. Encouragement must be given, not only to manufacturers or potential manufacturers and businessmen, but also to potential workers in those factories, and a new spirit must be created in our rural areas directed towards the establishment of new industries.

With regard to administration, it is, perhaps, one of the least desirable features of self-government here that practically all our Government Departments are established and retained in the City of Dublin. This, of course, applies not only to Government Departments, but also to large State companies. I think that here is a field in which direct action by Government can lead to a considerable amount of decentralisation.

There are two lines which decentralisation could possibly take. One is to locate certain Departments in large towns or cities removed from Dublin. The second line, of course, would be that each Department would locate considerable branches of its service outside the City of Dublin. That would be, I think, a desirable course, and it is one which appears to be possible. I know that there would be some difficulty, perhaps, in having one Minister with his Department in Cork, and another with his Department in Galway, with, perhaps, another in Waterford or Wexford. I think, and particularly so in a Coalition Government, it is difficult enough to keep Ministers together and promote unity, without having them widely separated.

It was hard to keep you in any Party, anyway.

Mind you, Senator L'Estrange and I were members of one Party at one time and he was the first that deserted and went over to a political Party.

That is not an issue in this motion.

It is not, Sir, but it has been introduced. As we are on this, I was rather shocked to notice that recently, when some substantial grants were given to certain agricultural organisations to finance their activities, one of the first developments was to set up a headquarters, very substantial headquarters, here in the City of Dublin. I think they should have set an example in the direction of decentralisation, but apparently Dublin is the great magnet that attracts all types of people, even those who try, and are trying successfully, to build up a representative national farmers' organisation.

The Government should seriously consider sending some of the less important Departments out of the city, if not the larger Departments. It might be a bad thing to have Ministers separated from each other, but I see no reason in the world why the headquarters of Departments run by Parliamentary Secretaries should not be removed from the city. The Department of Fisheries, the Department of Forestry and many others could certainly be moved to some other centre. The Land Commission, which is a body that does not require very much ministerial intervention and which acts independent of the Ministry, should have its headquarters set up elsewhere than in the City of Dublin.

By promoting distribution of that kind, a trend would be established opposite to that which operates at the moment, and we would even possibly give a lead to other bodies. There are many very large public companies and very wealthy bodies, including banks, insurance companies and bodies of that kind having large offices in the city, which could very well take themselves away to some other large town such as Clonmel, Carlow, Arklow, or any of those places, where they would have substantial accommodation and where they could do their work equally well.

On the whole, the motion is worthy of support and I do not see why anyone could oppose it. It is one thing to accept a proposal such as this and it is another thing to give it practical effect. Passing a pious resolution does not get us very far. I should like to hear whether the Government have some serious plans in mind for development along the lines indicated by this motion.

The House agreed——

Is this a point of order?

It is a point about the business of the House. It was agreed to take the Wireless Telegraphy Bill, if it were completed in the Dáil, at 7 o'clock. The Bill was taken in the Dáil, where the proceedings were formal. Perhaps Senators would be willing to interrupt business now in order to take it.

We agreed, when the House reassembled, to take it when this debate concluded.

If the proceedings are not very prolonged—the measure took only five minutes in the Dáil—it would be simpler to take this Bill now, with Senator Crowley's consent.

Debate adjourned.