That Seanad Éireann notes the supply services and purposes to which sums have been appropriated in the Appropriation Act, 1971.
Vol. 72 No. 1
That Seanad Éireann notes the supply services and purposes to which sums have been appropriated in the Appropriation Act, 1971.
This motion provides the Seanad with the opportunity we would normally have had on the Appropriation Bill to debate in detail the expenditure provided for in the Supply Services Estimates and to discuss expenditure and financial policies in general. It is not usual for the Minister for Finance to make a lengthy opening speech on the Appropriation Bill in the Seanad and I propose to follow the same procedure on this occasion. However, at the end of the debate I certainly will endeavour to deal as fully as I can with the various matters which will be raised by Senators.
We are in the unusual position this year of discussing the Appropriation Act rather than the Appropriation Bill. We are discussing it in the year 1972 and consequently it gives us the opportunity of looking back at a full year, 1971. I do not think it is any exaggeration to say that in 1971 we witnessed again a year of chaos, a year of crises, a year of calamity, a year where once more the hopes of the ordinary people of the country for political stability and economic progress were dashed and sacrificed at the altar of discord, dissent and division inside the ranks of the Government party, and the ordinary people of the country were the unwilling, sacrificial victims of the cleavages within the Fianna Fáil Party. In such circumstances I do not think it is any wonder that we emerge into the year 1972 with mounting unemployment, with a still soaring cost of living, with fairly general discontent, with an evident degree of lawlessness in the country, with a situation where there is questioning even of the value of our parliamentary institutions.
I propose to spend some time on the various topics I have mentioned. It is difficult for anyone to take any satisfaction or solace out of the performance of the present Government party over the last 12 months. Possibly those who are prepared to view the death throes of a tottering Government as something in the nature of a spectator sport can derive some pleasure and some satisfaction from the picture that has emerged over the last 12 months. If they take some kind of sadistic pleasure in seeing a once powerful party wriggling, as the Government party are wriggling in office, possibly they would be able to look with a certain amount of complacency on the present Government remaining in office for some period. But, so far as the ordinary people are concerned, they cannot see any pleasure in such a prospect.
It is no harm, in looking at the Government's performance, to recall the prospect that was held out when the present Government party were seeking the votes of the electorate approximately 2½ years ago because I think they did, in their election messages, accurately foresee what was required in this country for a period of years. They held out to the people, I think, the prospect that what was required would be supplied by the Fianna Fáil Party in Government and support was sought for the election of that party to Government on the basis that a united Government, vigorously and resolutely pursuing clearly defined policies endorsed by the people and supported by a secure majority in Dáil Éireann, was needed and that Fianna Fáil could be relied upon by the people to provide that kind of Government. There is no doubt that that message, which was included in election addresses issued by the Fianna Fáil Party, showed an understanding of the requirements of the country for the period which then lay ahead of us. We required a united Government which would vigorously and resolutely pursue clearly defined policies. How have we fared?
As a result of the most recent expulsions from the Fianna Fáil Party I think I am correct in saying that no less than six of those who were elected on the slogan "Let's back Jack." are now no longer members of the Fianna Fáil Party. While that slogan still appears on some of the dead walls in this country some of those who, less than 2½ years ago, subscribed to it would be quite prepared to go around now with whitewash and a brush and alter just one letter in it to make it read: "Let's sack Jack." That is the degree of unity that the Fianna Fáil Party have given to the people. What has been the result of their complete lack of unity, the necessity of the Government as I feel they must see it, to look over their shoulders when they are dealing with the undoubtedly difficult problems which confront this State?
We have at present an unemployment figure fairly rapidly approaching the 80,000 mark. I do not think any soothing noises made by the Taoiseach or any of his Ministers are going to calm the real fears of the people with regard to the unemployment situation. Most of the Members opposite and the Minister will agree that not so very long ago the Fianna Fáil Party lost, tragically for them and for the country, one of the people who was an undoubted realist in politics, prepared to look at problems and set the measure and the test of political performance in a real way, the late Mr. Seán Lemass. I mean no disrespect to him when I remind the Minister and the Senators opposite that Seán Lemass in his time, when he was in Opposition, set out clearly what he regarded as the test of the success of Government policy. I quote from The Irish Press of 16th February, 1957, in which the late Seán Lemass was reported as saying:
The measure of the worsening of the national situation is the increase in unemployment. That is the real test of the soundness of the policy of any government. Unless the policy of the Government is successful in putting people to work or giving a chance of getting work for all who are dependent on it for their livelihood, it is not good enough. The aim of any worthwhile policy must be full employment.
In The Irish Press, about one week later, on 23rd February, 1957, the late Mr. Lemass is reported as saying, in regard to unemployment:
The rise in unemployment during the past few months was indisputable evidence that things are wrong with the country. The policy of any government should be judged by its effect on employment. If it is putting more people into work, it is all right: if it is putting them out of work, it is all wrong. Fianna Fáil had never refused to accept that test.
I wonder are the present Fianna Fáil Government prepared to accept that test? If they are prepared to accept it, are they prepared to accept the logical conclusion that this Government have failed; that this Government are putting people out of employment, rather than into employment?
There were more people in the manufacturing industry at the end of the year than at the beginning. Does the Senator know that?
The Senator knows that the unemployment figure is fast approaching the 80,000 mark.
Tell us why.
As I said before, soothing noises from the Taoiseach will not remedy that situation and bellicose noises from the Minister for Finance are not going to remedy that situation.
It is fact, not bellicose noises.
I do not know to what extent the Government are responsible for this situation. I am not going to make the mistake of trying to tag them with entire responsibility for the situation but inside the context of the test laid down by the late Seán Lemass and, indeed, in any other test, the Government must accept responsibility for dealing with this situation. The Government must also accept responsibility for their failure to read the signs that were there to be read. It is the business of the Government to be aware of trends which are developing. It is their job, on being aware of those trends, to act in time, to take steps to remedy the situation in time, to avoid wholesale unemployment.
I want to put the point of view that either this Government were aware of the trends that were developing, and failed to take the necessary remedial action in time, or that they did not know what was happening and failed to read the signs that were there to be read. It is relevant in the context of the present unemployment situation to remind the House and the Minister that the Second Programme for Economic Expansion envisaged a rise of 81,000 people in total employment by the year 1970. By the time that that particular programme was jettisoned in the year 1967 industrial employment was about 49,000 short of the projected growth. So that even as far back as five years ago there was a warning light for the Government to see. The projected growth showed a shortfall.
The Minister will not disagree with me when I say that there were two main reasons for that, first, because agricultural employment decreased at a rate which was approximately double the rate that had been anticipated in giving the estimates in the programme, and second, because nonagricultural employment did not expand at the anticipated rate. The complete failure to reach the projected growth figures under the Second Programme was there as a warning for the Government and their Departments to see.
The Third Programme projections were also out. In 1970, in nonagricultural employment the rate of expansion slumped to a level of 5,000, from 16,000 in the year 1969; in manufacturing industries, employment dropped from a growth of 11,000 in 1969, to something like 3,500 in 1970. That was another warning light for the Government to see. There was a third, which was apparent to everyone. That was the number of business closures and consequent redundancies. In 1970 there were nearly 4,000 redundancies. In the first nine months of 1971 the figure stood at nearly 6,000, although the Industrial Development Authority estimate was something between 3,000 and 3,500.
It is also relevant in this connection to see how the present situation appears to non-politicians. I should like to refer briefly to an article which was contributed by the economics correspondent of the Evening Herald on New Year's Day, under the heading: “Political Folly Causes Jobs Crisis.” I should like to give two short quotations from this. The first reads:
The fall-off in tourism is partly responsible but the major share of the responsibility for our affairs must rest on the shoulders of those who have been shelving and putting off important decisions because of fear of adverse short-term political consequences...
Again, later in the article, it is stated:
...Economic matters are sometimes hard to grasp but what is clear is that Government action has been slow and faltering. Failure to act has been endangering people's jobs and our general prosperity. The Government does not seem to see that popularity is not the sole test of whether a policy is good for the country.
Did he specify the actions he wanted?
I am going to specify the actions we want before I finish.
Does the Senator seriously put that forward as an objective assessment? I do not think even the Senator would do that.
The Minister may possibly be inclined to regard it as more objective than my views on the subject.
I think the Senator's views would be expressed a bit more cautiously. I do not know who wrote that but the style has a familiar ring about it. I prefer the Senator's own style.
Does the Chair wish me to report progress?
It might be more appropriate in case the Chair was inclined to take the Minister as concluding the debate.
Business suspended at 6.5 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.
Before the tea break I dealt with the present unemployment situation as I see it. It is right to refer briefly to the views which have been expressed by the Taoiseach on the situation and which are reported in the newspapers today. According to a report in the Irish Independent which I have before me, the Taoiseach at a meeting of the National Executive of Fianna Fáil said that the rising level of unemployment had been the subject of considerable comment recently. He said it was right that that situation should be of concern to all and the Government fully shared that concern but it was wrong that there should be alarm or fear for the future or to feel that the Government were inactive at the present time. I do not think that any statements of this sort by the Taoiseach are going to allay the fear of unemployment and redundancy in the minds of the people. The Taoiseach did indicate that steps would be taken by the Government and he announced that he intended to have further discussions with employer and union representatives in the coming weeks. He also dealt with certain steps the Government had taken.
I believe the present situation requires something more than what people might regard as a proposal to discuss and examine the situation. I do not want to be an alarmist with regard either to the unemployment figures or the economic position in the country generally but it seems to me that when you have unemployment figures in the region of 80,000 it is not unreasonable to view the immediate future with a very large degree of concern. I know it may be suggested that it is a fairly normal pattern that you reach a peak of unemployment at the end of the year and during the first month in the New Year and gradually things sort themselves out, that coming into February or March unemployment figures start dropping and employment figures start rising. I hope that some such pattern will emerge this year but I am not entirely optimistic about it. I do not think in the present situation, having regard to free trade and the obvious build-up of competitiveness against us, that we can necessarily rely on the usual pattern being followed this year. It is necessary for the Government to take urgent and, if necessary, drastic action in the employment field.
Before the tea break I indicated that I proposed to refer to the suggestions that have been made by the Fine Gael Party in this connection. I should like to do this in a non-political way. It is to the credit of the Fine Gael Party that they issued a responsible and constructive statement on this matter. The nine points in the programme they have suggested to the Government are all points to which the Government should give both serious and urgent attention.
It has been suggested by the Fine Gael Party first of all that employer/ trade union discussions should take place at once to secure a postponement of any further redundancies that are threatened at the moment, to enable a period of time for investigating the possibility of maintaining employment or providing alternative employment in firms where the question of redundancies arises. Secondly, there should be a review with the various people concerned regarding likely future redundancies. The aim of that would be, in conjunction with the Industrial Development Authority, to secure an expansion of alternative employment in the areas likely to be affected. That obviously involves doing some arithmetic, making some explorations and investigations as to where and in what areas redundancies are likely to crop up in the fairly immediate future. We suggested that there should be provision, by means of legislation, for at least a month's notice of redundancies and dismissals. As regards the meat trade there should be a review of the subsidy arrangements in order to maintain employment in the industry, pending expansion of output and employment expected under EEC conditions. We suggested, and I think this is a point to which the Government must give urgent attention, that the relevant provisions in the Free Trade Area Agreement with Great Britain should be invoked for the purpose of imposing temporary restrictions of imports of goods where increased imports have reduced internal demand for domestic products and have brought about an appreciable rise in unemployment.
We suggested a reduction in bank interest rates pro rata with reductions in the Central Bank discount rate and interest rates in Great Britain. We suggested also that there should be a major recruitment drive both for the Garda and the Army. I propose dealing later with the position as regards the Garda Force in this country. I simply want to refer in the context of the Fine Gael proposals to my own view that there is urgent necessity, quite apart from the impact on the question of unemployment, for a major expansion in both the Garda Force and the Defence Forces in this country.
We suggested also that the proposed reduction in company taxation should be brought forward so as to release additional funds for expansion of investment and employment and the restoration of the cuts in the programme for the construction of schools, hospitals, roads, drainage and so on.
All of those are constructive proposals. All are proposals that would help in the difficult situation that exists at the moment as regards employment. I do not think that the kind of statement which the Taoiseach has made could be regarded as helpful. I have referred earlier to the tests of good government which were laid down by the father of the Parliamentary Secretary who is in attendance here at the moment. The present Government have not measured up to those tests. It is true, I suppose, to say that Fianna Fáil did make one valiant effort to reduce the numbers of registered unemployed, and as a result of it they lost a Deputy in the Dáil, when they tried to withdraw the dole from the small farmers. Other than that, I do not know that there has been any outstanding example of Fianna Fáil activity in this field.
I notice that the first item in the Appropriation Bill, as it was issued, relates to the Houses of the Oireachtas. In my opening remarks I mentioned that there was a questioning of the value of our parliamentary institutions. It would be a mistake for us to blind ourselves to the fact that that position obtains and to the fact also that there is a questioning of the position not only of this House of the Oireachtas but of both Houses. It would be a mistake for us to assume that, because those who went before us established parliamentary institutions here in a sound and firmly-based manner, those institutions are safe for all time. We should face up to the fact that there may be those in this part of the country who would be quite prepared to brush our parliamentary institutions aside. There is a definite responsibility on all Members of Parliament today, and a particular responsibility on the Government, to ensure that we are not going to allow parliamentary democracy to die in Ireland, that we are not going to allow the Parliament of this country to become, or be regarded as, irrelevant.
There is a danger that Parliament is being regarded as irrelevant by a number of people in this country. The persistent attitude of Government Ministers in ignoring Parliament to a great extent in the making of important announcements and in refusing to encourage discussion of important topics in Parliament is having the effect of kindling the kind of questioning that is going on as to whether our parliamentary institutions, established with so much sacrifice in the past, are still relevant in the 1970s. Certainly, if either the Dáil or the Seanad come to be regarded merely as institutions for rubber-stamping Government decisions the people are not going to have the kind of respect for parliamentary institutions that is required in order to have proper parliamentary democracy functioning in this country. Far too often we have witnessed the spectacle of Government Ministers choosing outside functions, whether they be dinners of chambers of commerce or meetings of units of the Fianna Fáil organisation, to make important announcements that should be made in Dáil Éireann.
We have recently come to the stage where not only have important decisions been communicated to outside bodies by Government Ministers but they are even now leaving it to their backbenchers to do it at Fianna Fáil meetings.
To the Irish, not the Canadians.
Unless this kind of thing stops how can we expect the ordinary people of this country to have respect for Parliament when the Ministers supported by the Senator who is interrupting me show that kind of disrespect to the representatives of the Irish people assembled in Parliament? I am talking now principally with regard to the other House of the Oireachtas.
So far as this House is concerned, it is not new that people question the value of the Seanad. I have had experience of both Houses of the Oireachtas. It is not the first time I was a Member of this House and I have had considerable experience of the other House of the Oireachtas. I should like to say, without being patronising, and not just because I am a Member of this House at present, that the experience I have had of this House convinces me that it is well worthwhile having a second House of Parliament in this country. The standard of performance of Senators generally, certainly while I have been a Member of this House, has been exceptionally high. Notwithstanding that, the encouragement we get from the news media is minimal and the methods for election to the Seanad are farcical.
I hope the Senator is going to relate this to Government administration.
Yes, eventually. I think the power that this House has is virtually non-existent. That may be the trouble. The way in which the Government, and let me say Senators supporting the Government, can contribute to the continued existence of this House is by not becoming what I class as "pinafore" politicians. You will remember the Gilbert and Sullivan lines. I have forgotten who was the character who "always voted at his party's call and never thought of thinking for himself at all".
The only power that this House has is the power of persuasion. It has been able to do quite a good job by persuading Ministers to accept amendments where we know that even if we insisted on amendments being carried if they were rejected by the other House that the three months postponement or whatever it is does not really make any bit of difference. But if Senators — this applies particularly to Government Senators — were determined not to become pinafore politicians, not merely to vote at their party's call, we would get the kind of contributions for which the Seanad could be notable and has been notable in the past. I do not want to strain the patience of the Chair any further in that respect.
I believe there is a certain amount of danger in our own attitudes in relation to this House and in relation to the other House. However, there is a much graver danger to the future of parliamentary democracy in this country if the laws made by the Oireachtas are flouted and if the Parliament is not prepared to insist as firmly and as forcefully as may be necessary that there will be only one law-making authority in this country, and that we will only have one Army and one Garda force. If we do not insist on that, then the flouting of the laws of the Oireachtas is likely to pose a much greater threat to the two Houses of the Oireachtas than even the kind of atmosphere which can grow up if Houses of Parliament are not treated properly by the Government or are regarded as irrelevant.
I want to consider for a moment the position of the Garda force. Next month will be the 50th anniversary of the establishment of an unarmed Garda force here and after 50 years we could ask ourselves how does the force stand. It is only about three months ago that there were headlines in the newspapers referring to a Garda revolt. There certainly has been in the minds of the people a picture of very grave discontent in the force and that is a neartragic situation particularly at present. I do not talk politically when I say that now after 50 years all of us on both sides of the House can join in a tribute to those who were farseeing enough at a time of danger, at a time of civil war, nevertheless to establish our police force as an unarmed Garda force and were big enough to give as the direction to that force in their infant state the message that they were servants of the State, not servants of any political party.
The then Minister for Home Affairs had to play a large part in the establishment of that force and he sent a message to that effect to the Garda force at the time they were established. That message was quoted in the Evening Herald of 22nd December, 1971. After 50 years it is well for us to recall the spirit in which that force was established. The message which was sent to the Garda force was:
The internal politics and political controversies of the country are not your concern. You will serve with the same imperturbable discipline and with increasing efficiency any Executive which has the support of the majority of the people's elected representatives. Party will, no doubt, succeed party in the ebb and flow of the political tide.
New issues will arise to convulse the nation. The landmarks of today will disappear. You will remain steadfast and devoted in the service of the people and of any Executive which it may please the people to return to power. That is the real meaning of democracy — government of the people by the people, through their elected representatives. It is the only barrier between mankind and anarchy.
I do not think any of us would say that our Garda force has ever willingly or knowingly departed from that standard. Any of us who have made any effort to familiarise ourselves with the working of the force will realise that so far as they are concerned the same kind of spirit which inspired them at the beginning, at their inception, is still there. But we cannot avoid seeing that inside the Garda force even quite recently there has been what I think to most of us would be disturbing feelings and views held in the sense that it seems to be clear that some members of the force at any event think they are not giving the kind of service to the people which they want to give but that it is not their fault that that situation exists.
I want to refer to an article in the Sunday Independent of 10th October, 1971. Just a few months ago there was an investigation carried out, presumably for the purpose of writing this article, and the article was entitled “Garda Revolt”. I do not want to quote the entire article which is fairly lengthy, but the following appears in it:
Another Garda, referring to the startling statement by the Dublin Area Committee of the GRB, that "armed men are robbing at will and holding the country to ransom" stated that many of the young members of the force had lost their pride in the service because of this sorry situation.
It goes on, presumably from the quotation from the garda referred to:
"We want the public to know that they are not getting value for their money from us but equally we want them to know that it is not our fault," he said.
"The real culprits are the people at the top — they are just not allowing us to do our duty."
Then the article goes on:
This raises the delicate subject of veiled political interference in Garda crime hunting, particularly in the case of the spate of armed bank robberies.
Most rank-and-file gardaí are firmly convinced that such interference takes place. In fact, during our investigations we were told several times that one high-ranking officer sympathised with the activities of at least one illegal organisation.
Whether such allegations are true or not is immaterial, the fact is that they are believed and are having a disastrous effect on the morale of the force.
That is a tragic situation. It is particularly tragic when we have the known situation existing across the Border. I shall say a few words about that later.
I feel quite sure that the Government are concerned to see that the Garda force, and indeed the whole machinery of the administration of justice, will measure up to the standards that have always marked the force as outstanding as a Garda force on the one hand, and outstanding for the administration of justice on the other. It is rather a pity that 50 years after the establishment of the Garda force that kind of article can appear in a national newspaper. Even if the Parliamentary Secretary, or the Minister, or any speakers on the opposite side of the House, were to say that all this is poppycock, that there is no foundation for the portion of that article that I have read out, the mere fact that a situation has arisen where there was known to the public generally to be discontent inside the Garda force, where a section — how representative it is I do not know — of the Garda force felt impelled to issue a statement of the kind which they did issue, and where an article of that sort can be written, is disturbing, to say the least of it.
I read in The Irish Times of the 28th of last month an editorial dealing with the general position. I have forgotten whether it arose out of Cardinal Conway's remarks. I thought that this leading article was one to which the attention of the Government should be directed. I am not particularly influenced by what I read in newspaper editorials but I am conscious of the fact that by and large when newspaper editors write their editorials they have probably written them from a feedback of information and of feeling which they are getting from various sources. So that when a national daily newspaper comments on a situation in a deliberate, balanced and weighty way I think it is worthwhile calling the attention of the Government to it.
I just want to read a few extracts from this editorial in The Irish Times of 28th December. Perhaps I should read the last paragraph first. It says:
The security of the State itself depends on a police and judicial machine which not only functions smoothly and swiftly, but is seen to do so. Political activists are not the only danger to the Republic. In the ordinary way of the administration of justice too many flaws have become apparent. A searching look at the whole machinery is one of the most urgent problems facing the Government and the people.
I cannot but say "hear, hear" to that, because it corresponds very closely with the views which I hold and have been seeking to express here. This article commenced with the paragraph:
Quite apart from any potential threat from illegal organisations, there is a general lack of cohesion, and in many places a definite breakdown in co-ordination, between the various parts of the justice machine in the Republic. The machine has become run down; it needs an overhaul.
Then a little latter:
At national Garda level there are several problems. There appears to be an impression among the gardaí that they must observe various undefined political considerations. There is a feeling that the heads of the force have come under heavy political pressure. This not only manifests itself in political offences but also in civil and ordinary criminal cases.
I have no evidence which would enable me to say that the impression referred to in that paragraph is justified or warranted, but it is up to the Government to ensure that that impression, which apparently is there, is erased and that the Garda force, which was established 50 years ago, is put in a position where it can say firmly and with conviction that each and every member of the Garda force will do and will be entitled to do his duty as a member of the Garda Síochána without the slightest fear or danger of political pressure from any side. I am certainly prepared to presume that the Government are doing their best as regards matters which are of concern to the people in connection with law breaking. It seems to me that the Government's best is simply not good enough.
It is common knowledge to all of us that activities are going on in this country which the Government want to put down and which, apparently, they feel unable to put down. I want to give one slight example. I have heard the views of the Minister for Justice in connection with the difficulty of dealing with the wearing of military-type uniforms. I have heard the Minister advancing the difficulties. How do you distinguish, for example, a boy scout organisation from a paramilitary organisation in trying to frame legislation to deal with military type uniforms? The way to deal with this is for the Government to put their cards on the table and to invite, if necessary, the assistance of all parties in the Oireachtas to solving this problem.
I know — and I am not above reminding the House of this — that there was a time when a Fianna Fáil Government were dealing with constitutional opposition and they were not afraid, and did not hesitate, to bring in a Uniforms Bill.
This matter seems to relate to new legislation which may not be discussed on this motion.
I am not going to advocate new legislation. For the moment I want to remind Members of old legislation.
The fact that it is old legislation does not make it relevant. Administration only may be discussed on this motion.
I am loath to be deprived of the opportunity of reminding the House that this House stood solidly against that and, the day after they rejected the Bill, a Bill was introduced to abolish this House. However, I would make this plea to the Government. Whatever problems they have with regard to overcoming the difficulties they face, if the difficulties are administrative, if they are legislative, or whatever they are, it will help them and the country if they are prepared to put all the cards on the table. Let us see the difficulties and let us see how those difficulties can be overcome.
Unfortunately — and I think it is necessary to say this — many of the problems which we are facing in the field of law enforcement, and in the field of orderly administration and orderly Government, have to do with the question of violence in the North and the danger of a spill-over into this part of the country. Cardinal Conway recently referred to the boiling volcano of potential violence that was contained by a thin crust. The Bishop of Raphoe in referring to the violence which had been almost entirely confined to the North said it was now overflowing into the South. He referred to callous men, and said callous men were now prepared to plunge the whole country into anarchy and strife. In that situation possibly many of us — and I am quite prepared to fault myself for this — may have been overcautious in our references to violence in the past for fear of any words we might speak accidentally making a bad situation worse, but I am not sure that the time has not come when there is a responsibility on all of us who occupy any position in public life to make our positions absolutely clear.
As far as I am concerned I unequivocably and unambiguously would stand and do stand against violence. I am prepared to condemn it North or South. I do so in the knowledge that, if the activities of men of violence were to succeed in bringing territorial unity to the country, those of us who speak as I have just spoken would be regarded as frail and broken reeds and that the men who advocated violence would be those who would be idolised and lionised in Irish history. Nevertheless, I take the view that what is important for the people of this country is not mere territorial unity. Many people would even go to the length of recording themselves as being prepared to reject mere territorial unity unless, at the same time as we get territorial unity, we get the kind of unity of hearts and minds with fellow-Irishmen in the North that has been the prayer of generations of Irishmen and Irishwomen. We should support the Taoiseach, as I do, when he spoke out and made the point quite clearly that every bomb and every bullet in the North further postpones the day of the kind of real unity that is desirable for the people of this country. All the parties in the Irish Houses of Parliament have rejected a policy of violence for the ending of Partition.
It is rather tragic that this Government should feel that they have to look over their shoulders in dealing with the question of Partition and our relationship either with Great Britain or with the people in the North of Ireland. It is particularly tragic because it should be unnecessary. The party for which I speak have more than once gone on record as expressing their willingness to co-operate in trying to ensure that the Irish Parliament speaks with a united, strong voice on these matters. To the eternal credit of this House of the Oireachtas let it be said that, on a motion proposed by me on behalf of this party, we unanimously accepted the idea that there should be that kind of co-operation and that kind of meeting between the political parties here in the South. Certainly, I do not want, and no one in my party wants, to allow the situation in the North to be used as a political football of any description here in the South.
On 10th August last, in moving the motion to which I have just referred, I said — I think it is worth repeating because it expresses my own conviction and I am quite sure the conviction of my party on this matter — at column 62 of the Official Report of the Seanad Debates of 10th August, 1971:
... Being an Opposition party, we are very deeply conscious of a definite sense of responsibility in this matter. We have already made it clear — and I should like to make it clear again — that in no sense should any of us, in Opposition or in Government, regard the northern situation as something which should become the plaything of southern politics. I have no wish, nor have any of my colleagues any wish, to traffic for party political purposes in the sufferings and anxieties of our fellow countrymen in the north.
That certainly remains my conviction, and it remains the conviction of every member of my party.
There are a couple of other topics upon which I should like to touch fairly briefly. In connection with the Common Market negotiations that have been going on, and the referendum that is to be held, I should like to say something that will provoke a certain amount of raised eyebrows in the opposite benches. I say it in all sincerity for what it is worth. A great number of people have doubts with regard to Common Market membership. A great number of people have a very firm conviction with regard to the idea of European unity. Probably an even greater number of people than either of the other classes feel that if, for no other reason, then as a matter of economic necessity, if England becomes a member of the Common Market, we also should do likewise. We are arriving at a situation now where we are within a matter of weeks of the treaty or agreement of accession being signed. We then have to submit the matter to the people on the basis of whatever Constitutional Amendment Bill is eventually passed.
I am afraid there is likely to be a very large vote against the Common Market. I want to see this country going in for particular reasons, one of which is that I believe that it would be economic insanity to stay out if Britain goes in. However, judging from current feeling, there is likely to be a large vote against going into the Common Market. This is where the raised eyebrows will come in, but I say it in absolute sincerity. If the Government have the same kind of conviction that I have about the desirability of our entry into the Common Market, the best contribution they could make towards carrying the referendum and enabling this country to become a member, would be to quit office, to get out of Government.
What I am afraid of is that there will be a very large protest vote which will manifest itself in a vote against the Common Market, but which will, in fact, be a protest vote against the continuance in office of the present Government. I say that with absolute sincerity. Members opposite who know the feelings in their own parts of the country will probably, in their own hearts, agree that what I am saying is correct. There is the feeling there — I am not trying to apportion blame — that Fianna Fáil have been too long in office, and that they have lost control of the situation. There is the feeling there that Fianna Fáil have made a "haymes" of things since the last general election.
I suppose a Coalition with one party opposed to entry would get us in.
A feeling of protest and resentment will manifest itself by people voting "no" to entry into the Common Market when, in fact, what they are voting against is the continuance of Fianna Fáil in office. I said that I would get raised eyebrows. I even got raised voices from that statement but I am making it quite sincerely.
The only other thing I want to mention, and I intend to mention it very, very briefly, is the appalling increase in the cost of living. A short time ago we changed over to pounds and pence, instead of pounds, shillings and pence. The pound note is supposed to be worth 100 pence. In fact, over the past three years, in terms of new pence, the pound note is now worth 70p instead of 100p. The cost of living has gone up by about 30 per cent in the past three years. I had a look at the Government's Third Programme for Economic and Social Development which was to span the years 1969 to 1972. In paragraph 26, the last sentence in the introductory portion reads:
The Government's aim is that the end of the programme period will see Ireland economically much stronger, socially more concerned and psychologically more prepared for membership of the European Community of Nations.
Today in the situation that I have described — and I doubt if any of my friends opposite will seriously challenge anything I have said — can the Government feel in any way happy or complacent that the aims which they set out in the Third Programme have any possibility of taking concrete form or effect within the coming year?
I find myself in agreement with some of the points made by Senator O'Higgins. I agree that the Seanad is an institution well worth having. Anyone who has been a Member of this body during the past couple of years will concede that much. I go along with him in the article he quoted from a newspaper counselling to the Garda many years ago that internal controversies should not be their concern. I am afraid that I do not agree with him in his references to the Common Market.
I should like to explain to the Senator that I do not mean any discourtesy by leaving. I have been called out but I shall be back.
I have not studied deeply the subject of the European Community but the negotiations which have been carried out to date by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Hillery, and his advisers are, in my view, and in the view of many others somewhat better than one might have expected. Senator O'Higgins referred to people having doubts about European membership and of other people having convictions about it. I am one of those who has a conviction about membership.
When we had a debate on the question of the EEC I expressed the view that the first consideration when approaching this question was what would be the best and wisest course, from a philosophical point of view, that this nation should take. I believe a sense of conviction should convince people in the forthcoming referendum on this question and it is up to those of us who have a genuine sense of conviction on this issue to pass it on to others.
One of the questions around which my mind has been turning, relating to our progress over the years, is one to which I resent giving my time. This is the unfortunate situation in the North of Ireland and its affects on every aspect of life and administration in this part of the country. I resent having to speak on this as there are so many other things one could talk about constructively. But, having thought over this for a number of weeks, I find that this is probably the most important topic with which one could deal. I am very conscious of the problems which have arisen and are arising in relation to unemployment and redundancy and other aspects of our current affairs but I am more conscious of the dangers that are inherent in the present situation for our people in the North and for ourselves.
Our Governments have had to carry two burdens since the establishment of this State. Ordinarily speaking the work of a Government in a State which had just achieved self-government would be the major task which is ongoing here of reconstructing the country, of developing industry and trying to bring a country which had been neglected for a long time into the mainstream of modern life.
A second task was placed on the present and former Governments, the appallingly difficult task of trying to contend with a situation of disunity and division, both geographical and human, and the responsibility of bringing about some form of political reconciliation among our people of different religions, political outlooks and traditions.
Reading over the history of the past 50 years, one of my greatest regrets is the very great loss of time, energy and, indeed, life that has resulted from that disunity. Many young people have had their energies diverted and have lost their lives over this issue with no apparent benefit to the country.
I am not referring only to the position which existed over the past two years. One can go back in history to the origins of division and to the pogroms in Belfast in 1922 and 1935. How much better would it have been if the lives of all these people, both north and south, and their energies had been directed towards the good of the Irish community as a whole. This is the main burden which has to be carried by any government in the Irish Republic.
I do not know if the Cathaoirleach will permit me to go much deeper into this question but it is important to government and to the Oireachtas that a question of this kind should get some airing. Some of us have been reluctant to say anything about it in recent times because there was a hope that through our diplomatic services, through the ordinary channels available to a Government — which have been used, I am sure, to the fullest extent during the past 12 months — some element of commonsense in the relationships between this country as a whole and Great Britain would have been found.
This question was discussed in this House some months ago and at that time we undertook not to say too much about it in case anything which might be said would in any way cause the situation to worsen or impede any negotiations which might be taking place. It seems obvious now that representations made by our Government have not made any headway with the present British Government.
If the Cathaoirleach will allow me briefly to analyse the situation which I believe we face here on the national scene, it may be of value to this House and to others.
The matters or events in Northern Ireland arise only in this debate in so far as they may be matters of Government administration here, such as external affairs or something of that kind. We cannot, on this particular Motion, discuss the general situation in Northern Ireland.
The Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Foreign Affairs are within the Appropriation Act?
Yes, but the Chair is anxious that any discussion of events in Northern Ireland should be related to the administration of one or more Government Departments here. In other words, they should be matter over which he or Government Ministers should have responsibility.
The Taoiseach is carrying responsibility in this. I believe I am entitled to point to the sort of problems the Taoiseach has inherited, and with which he is dealing almost on a 24-hour basis at present. I believe I should refer to them.
The Senator may carry on by all means but he should bear in mind simply that this is a debate about Government administration. The Chair is not pulling up the Senator but reminding him that it is a matter of administration we are discussing on this motion.
The Chair has me in a difficulty now. I do not want to——.
The Chair suggests the Senator should carry on. The Chair is not telling the Senator he is out of order but merely reminding him of the requirments of order.
Perhaps if the House will bear with me I may be allowed to——
The Opposition will not object anyway.
It is necessary to clear the air on this problem of disunity. I will be as brief as I can. Disunity between the Unionists of the North and ourselves developed earlier in this century when it became apparent to our Northern Irish Unionists that there was a danger that the British Government, in 1912, might allow some degree fo democracy to take root in Ireland, even the very diluted form that was embodied in the Home Rule Act. It was obvious in 1919 when Unionist representatives refused to attend Dáil Éireann that they had no intention whatsoever of accepting democratic institutions. It was obvious also that the British Government in the 1920 Act intended to support the Unionists in their attitude. This is an Act that was put through the British Parliament at a time when Britain, having refused to acknowledge Dáil Éireann, was at war with most of Ireland. Such an Act being passed during a war between most of this nation and Britain, imposing two parliaments on two different parts of this country without our free consent, can hardly be deemed to be legitimate from our point of view. Moreover, to have hived off six counties of the province of Ulster in such a way as to keep in that area almost half a million Irish people of Nationalist feeling together with upwards of a million people of Unionist outlook, giving therefore a permanent majority to the Conservative Unionist Party of that area, was, I believe, a mistake, and the cause of the troubles today.
Time has proved that such an artificial set-up was simply not workable. It should be acknowledged in passing that some British and Unionist politicians of that time saw it as a temporary device which should eventually lead to a unified political structure in Ireland. Among those who believed this at the time were Winston Churchill and James Craig. Earlier on, in 1917, Lloyd George had believed also that he would have little difficulty in bringing about a settlement of the Irish question. This is the position which has brought about the problems of today because the mistakes of the past have come home to roost. The trouble is we are the ones who are bearing the brunt of those mistakes, that is we, meaning the Unionists and the Nationalists in the North of Ireland; and possibly, as Senator O'Higgins suggested, there may be other consequences.
The Unionist Party are in a position to resolve this Irish problem. The present conflict is a source of danger to the entire island and also to Britain. Conflicts that are not resolved do not simply go away. They tend to widen and, as each incident leads to another, moral standards are put aside. It does not really matter very much whether it is one of the different IRA groups, the UVF or the SAS who are responsible for the bombings of premises in which innocent Irish civilians have been killed. These things are happening because a situation exists in which they can happen.
Senator O'Higgins has mentioned the question of the use of force. Many years ago I expressed the belief that force is not the means whereby unity could be brought about in this country. I do not believe one can win the loyalty and enthusiasm of Northern Unionists or Protestants by attempting to compel them. That is not to say that in certain circumstances I, like any other individual, would not engage in or support the use of force; but it would have to be a choice between two evils, the use of force being the lesser of those evils. Force, in my opinion, in the confused circumstances of the North would be a completely desperate act and could only be a disaster for Ireland and for the people of Ireland.
At this stage I should like to express sympathy with the relatives of those who have died in the North of Ireland during the past 12 months. Many innocent people have died simply because they happened to be in a particular place at a particular time. There are many young men and some women who have lost their lives because they had been led to believe that their actions were the way to serve Ireland, because they had been taught that the only way to bring unity to their country was by killing and destroying.
I have a great deal of sympathy also for those who are in the police force in the North of Ireland and even indeed for the relatives of members of the British Forces who have lost their lives. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the situation as seen from any side, most of these people have been carrying out their duties as directed. They must carry out the policy of the present British Government. They have little choice or alternative to obeying orders. The situation is rather tragic in many ways so far as some of these young soldiers are concerned because, first of all, they were welcomed as protectors by people who feared, and justifiably so, sectarian and community strife which was being unleashed on them by a small number of misguided extremists. The same British troops are once again regarded and treated as the enemy simply because the politicians, who were given a breathing space in the autumn of 1969, failed to do anything about the situation because apparently they lacked the courage and the imagination to bring about a political settlement which would lead to permanent peace and a final end to the history of antagonism between Ireland and Britain.
I consider it extremely foolish for Britain to believe that she can solve the present problems in the North merely by putting down militants of whatever IRA group are concerned and by suppressing national feeling. It is extraordinary that almost 50 years later one finds a British Government employing British troops — who have, you might say, been in barracks in the northern part of our country and have not been engaged with the civil population since 1923 — to take, so far as one can see, the place of the Ulster Constabulary, of which everybody, or almost everybody, in this country was glad to see the end. It may be possible for the British to do this for the time being by employing the strength of her army and perhaps to bring about a reluctant and sullen peace. I have stated that I do not support the use of force but I cannot see that the policy that is being employed at present by Britain will solve anything. No one can believe seriously that those young people who have seen their fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers go to their graves in the past year as a result of British action, will become good United Kingdom British citizens.
However much talk there may be about solving the Irish problem by peaceful means, it is obvious that so long as there is no prospect or even a glimmer of hope of unity or a unified approach to Ireland, then those who believe that force is the only way to right national wrongs will from time to time win a measure of support for such policy. Until a political solution, however long-term, is worked out, there is every prospect that there will be a repetition of violence after each interval of uneasy peace.
What the Unionists have to do is to create a situation in which the Nationalist population, for which they have responsibility at present, will not have to depend on force for their defence. I cannot see any way in which the minority in the North can have security except in the context of an agreed and acceptable political solution for Ireland. Indeed, the Unionist majority in the North of Ireland can hardly hope to have any sense of security. I understand some of the problems facing Unionists but these are problems that they must face up to. They have, for a long time now, allowed themselves to depend on fear and a false type of propaganda to retain office. Many of the less-informed in the Unionist camp have been taught that we intend, in some way or other, to dominate them. They have been persuaded into believing that our attitude towards them is the very same as the attitude that they find among extreme Republicans or extreme Catholics whom one might find in a few areas of the North. This is a type of political propaganda that has bedevilled relations between the two communities in the North. It has in many ways done considerable damage to the prospect of reconciliation between us and the majority within the Six County area.
We should take every opportunity to let it be understood that we have no intention of attempting to exercise any sort of domination over the Protestants of Northern Ireland. On the contrary, our whole tradition here is the very opposite to this. Our attitude towards all minorities has always been one of fair play. I suppose that the last thing this nation, or this part of the Irish nation, having experienced domination for so long, would wish to do would be to try to impose a similar type of domination on others. I think that the time is overdue when Unionist leaders have a responsibility to correct falsehoods of the type I have indicated, which have been part of their political propaganda machinery. There are also many Unionists who believe in the link with Britain. I do not propose to go into this question too deeply. Unionists of British descent are entitled to an appearance of sympathy towards their country of origin but having been here now for more than 300 years, their first obligation ought to be to Ireland. As I understand it, some of my ancestors came from Britain in the 17th century although I have not been able to establish the accuracy of that report. Certainly a report which appeared in many papers 50 years ago that Cathal Brugha was a York-shireman was completely mistaken.
Many of us here in the Twenty-Six Counties have mixed origins and probably some in common with Protestants of the North of Ireland. I do not think, however, that we have any doubt that the country that comes first in our affections is Ireland. I would not wish to cast doubts on the motives and reasons for assumed loyalty to Britain on the part of some Unionists. I find it difficult to believe that such motives in most cases are none other than expedients to suit their own party political circumstances. It may be also that many of them are influenced by bigotry and to some degree by fear. Whatever their motives may be they have no right to allow their attitudes to stand in the way of peace and reconciliation in Ireland. This question of origins has been over-used in the Northern situation for party political purposes, in order to maintain power on a permanent basis. The same technique has been employed in the matter of religious differences. So far as origins go, Terence McSwiney wrote that if all the people on this island were descended from a neighbouring island a time would come when we would want to order our own affairs and make our own decisions without interference from the other island; just as when a young man leaves his own home and founds his own home he will not allow his parents or his wife's parents to interfere in his home. At least he will make some fairly strong protest. I am sure the great majority of Northern Protestants do understand that their situation is merely a part of the evolution of life. They must know from our own common history here in Ireland that the Act of Union was brought in here by Britain — one might say bought in — because she feared that the members of the old Irish Parliament, who were mainly of the landowning classes, were becoming too independent. From England's point of view there was a danger that the members of the Irish Parliament might be tempted to put Ireland first. To begin thinking for themselves and for the country of their birth would be a normal and a natural thing to do. I believe that if it were not for the confused situation in the North of Ireland, the situation in which two religious groupings are locked in together, the Northern Protestants would long ago have naturally evolved towards independence of thought and action. They would want a situation in which decisions for their country would be taken in their country and not elsewhere.
Great stress has been laid in recent times on the principle of democracy. Senator O'Higgins referred to this in relation to our democratic institutions and I entirely agree with him. Democracy, as we understand it, is government by the majority with the consent of the minority. Built into it is a guarantee of regular free elections so that if people want to change governments they can decide to do so. As we know, such a system can be tedious and at times frustrating, not only to the majority but more often to the minority, that is to the Opposition, particularly when there are not frequent changes in government. It may be a frustrating system for providing for the management of the affairs of the community but it is at least tolerable where all other systems can become intolerable. So far no better system has been thought up by man. I, for one, support that system because it is the only way in which man can hope to be spared from tyranny and brutality. I am also for it because through it is built up in a rather tedious and slow way free institutions of State, developments of all kinds which endure.
It has been said quite frequently of late that nothing in Northern Ireland should change without the consent of the majority. While I agree that we should seek a solution to our problems in Ireland by peaceful means, and in this context we have got to get the consent of those living in Northern Ireland, it would be hypocritical on my part to pretend that I believe Northern Ireland is a democratic entity. It is, as I have said, an artificially created area under the 1920 Act and in this context the majority is always the same. That majority is, as we know, a minority in Ireland. In the context of the geographical situation of the Six Counties, to speak of a majority within that area is to preach sectarianism because the majority in that area cannot be separated from the Orange Order and the Unionist Party. It is a political certainty for one political element and for that element alone. It is this artificial situation to which I have referred that was created by Britain as a way out of our dilemma in 1921. It has over the past 50 years slowly built up frustration and anger against injustices and political discrimination culminating in the nonsectarian civil rights movement in the North.
While I am concerned to emphasise that I do not agree with and do not approve of the sort of physical force activities taking place in the North, I am bound to point out the causes of such activities. In 1969 when the Unionist administration was faced with demands for justice, being unable to concede those demands, the uncontrolled sectarian element, who were a part of the authorised security forces, attacked the virtually defenceless non-Unionist minority so as to crush and silence them. It was because the Unionist regime could not control their own extremists within and outside of the forces of law and order that Britain was forced to send in her army in 1969 to protect the civilian population and prevent a bloodbath. It was following this that Britain's and the Unionists' major mistakes were made. As I said earlier, from September, 1969, until autumn, 1970, Britain and the Unionists were given a breathing space in which to effect a political settlement that would solve the Anglo-Irish problem and set Ireland on the path to peace and unity. Despite all the representations made from here, representations from us who sought a reasonable, peaceful settlement, no serious effort was made to come to terms.
It is difficult for me to understand how any politicians in Ireland or Britain could have imagined that British troops could be expected to maintain law and order permanently in non-Unionist or nationalist areas. The non-Unionist areas are, in fact, the greater part of the geographical area of the Six Counties. How could anyone imagine that such a situation could continue? There were bound to be Irish people who had tolerated Unionist rule because of the situation in which they found themselves earlier, confronted by the special constabulary and other methods of keeping them in order. How could anyone expect any other reaction to British troops? There were bound also to be British soldiers who would taunt what they call — I quote —"Fenian bastards" in the non-Unionist areas in Belfast and in other parts of the Six Counties. One account which I read, given by a newspaper correspondent visiting Germany last year, is sufficient to indicate the stupidity of British policy. He related a remark made by British soldiers in Germany which said that they were looking forward to being sent to Northern Ireland where they would "have a bash at the Paddys".
This was a situation that was wide open to exploitation by any element, idealistic or otherwise. Time and time again the Government here, the political parties and organisations political and otherwise both North and South called for political talks but nothing was done. The extreme Unionist grip was too strong and Britain was too weak and indecisive. Is it any wonder that today you have several self-styled elements calling themselves IRA engaged in vigorous, effective and very often indisciplined action to ensure their ends? Whose responsibility is this? In 1969 there were next to no IRA, or so I am informed, in the Six Counties. There was a sort of traditional image of an IRA. Where did they all come from? Certainly not from the Republic. I believe they came into existence directly as a result of the stupid policy or lack of a far-seeing policy for solving the Irish question.
Some British politicians, even in the seventies, are again proving that they have never been able to understand Ireland, or what is meant by an Irish nation. I believe they forget that we are a western European nation like themselves who are entitled to order our own affairs without British interference. It is easy to see where the IRA came from, because from the accounts I have read and what I have seen, British rule in the North of Ireland at present in fact amounts to a reign of terror in non-Unionist areas. For a considerable time now British security forces have been locking up any men that they find in non-Unionist areas and not only locking them up but roughing them up. What possible result could you get from activities of that kind by the army of another country? I wish that the Conservative politicians would realise that this is neither India, nor Africa nor Burma of a century ago, that this is Ireland, that Ireland is a nation and that all the people of Ireland, North and South, Unionist or non-Unionist, Nationalist or Republican, have one thing in common: they are Irish and their identity is Irish. To these ordinary people in the North what does the British Army do? They lock up many ordinary people because they happen to live in non-Unionist areas, with only one possible result, I would argue, that the people they lock up will then decide to join the IRA because they have no other means of expressing their feelings.
I am not tilting now at British troops who are being ordered to do things; I am trying to point at the people who have political responsibility for these actions. These troops have been sent into Catholic working-class areas at night and have been preventing women and children from sleeping. I would submit that this kind of insane policy for which Britain is directly responsible is the one certain way to ensure that violence will continue and that the self-appointed militant forces of the IRA in the North will increase.
Britain and the Unionist Party by their negative, "not-an-inch", unimaginative, stupid policy have opened the way to chaos and tyranny of one kind or another. I hope that those who are responsible for a policy of force, either in order to draw the British Army into conflict or to defend people against attack, are aware that this country is more valuable and the safety and future of the people of this country are more important than they are, however many of them there are. Any armed element, be it the IRA, whichever one of them it is, or the UVF, which is not responsible to an elected authority, can quickly become a menace to a community and to itself. I think it is very important that we should here in the Twenty-six Counties realise this fact. In the situation that exists at present, as a result of continuing British negligence since 1921, it is only Ireland, the Irish people and their livelihood that are suffering. Untold damage is being done, not only to prospects of employment, but also to the future happiness and peace of mind of countless thousands of innocent people, including children.
This has all to come to an end sooner or later and it is the responsibility of the elected representatives North and South and of those in Britain, where the real power lies, to come together and to hammer out an honourable solution, because there will be little to boast about if what can be said about the militants, be they Republicans or Unionists or British, is that they succeeded in bringing about a peace by destroying the whole place.
A great deal has been said in recent times about constitutional problems and religious forms and social service benefits. While these are important, I believe that more important still is the question of attitudes towards one another in this country. The constitutional differences and social service disparities that exist now did not exist in 1921, but the attitude of intolerance and bigotry amongst some Protestants in the North did. If there is a willingness to change, if there is a willingness on the part of Northern Unionists to face up to the realities of life in Ireland today and to play their part with us in the future of this country, constitutional and social service problems can be resolved through mutual discussion and agreement. What is most needed is the will and courage to come to grips with the real problems of attitudes. While Unionists refuse to talk to us there is little that we can do about the attitudes of the non-Unionist minority in the North. What can we do when we are not allowed to speak for them, to influence them or to exercise any authority whatsoever over them?
The Unionists and the British cannot handle this problem on their own, they need help in order to bring peace to Ireland. If Britain, like ourselves, is in earnest about her role in the future of Europe, it is imperative for her to put matters between herself and Ireland in order. The former warring nations of Europe, particularly France, Germany and Italy, despite centuries of quarrelling amongst themselves, have resolved their differences and put an end to war between one another. Britain is giving a very poor example as an aspirant to membership of the European Community at the present time, in my opinion. The example of the European nations should be a good example to us and to Britain and we ought to be able to learn from it.
In the matter of relations between ourselves in the Twenty-six Counties and the people — especially the Unionists — in the Six Counties, following on the publicity the world has seen, there is throughout most countries, I believe, a general consensus in favour of the obligation on Britain and on the Unionists to meet us and to put matters in order. This should pave the way for eventual unity and so end terror and repression by anybody in Ireland. It does not matter from what quarter it comes. Terror and repression is terror and repression whether it comes from so-called authorised forces or from self-appointed forces. I hope that I am not pessimistic in regard to the present-day Unionists. I know many of them and find it difficult to understand their attitude. It is not impossible to understand it: this is an acceptance of a theory of life that went out of date — certainly in this part of the country many, many years ago. However, I am afraid that I am not very hopeful. It does not seem to me that, in so far as I know them, they are willing to make any substantial changes. I believe that it would be better for them and for Ireland if they were able to move out of their 17th century colonial attitude towards us and towards Britain. I do not think they are capable of change so long as they have the unqualified support of Britain and of British military power. If they are unwilling or unable to face up to realities, then I believe that it is the duty, the obligation and responsibility of Britain to go back to square one and do what she has done in other colonial areas. She should announce her decision to negotiate a phased withdrawal by agreement, as she did in the case of Cyprus, Aden, Singapore and all the other vast colonial areas she at one time occupied. She has got to find a way quickly out of her untenable position in the North of Ireland. She should try to extricate herself in such a way as to make sure that she leaves goodwill behind her. As time goes on goodwill to Britain in this country is falling to the lowest level in over 50 years. If the northern Unionists are not prepared to meet us, then the matter rests with Britain. Meanwhile, I believe that it is our duty to maintain absolute national self-discipline in the interests of all our fellow countrymen — and I mean all our fellow countrymen in the North of Ireland, as well as here — for the sake of the future of our country.
In the North of Ireland — and I have been there recently — the situation is one of enforced government without the consent of the governed. The whole principle of democracy is that you are prepared to accept the Government that is elected. I maintain that it is impossible for upwards of 40 per cent or more of the community of that area to have confidence in the existing Government. This is a situation that Britain has to deal with because this is a situation that would never have developed were it not for the mistakes that were made by Britain over 50 years ago. It is possible for institutions of State to keep law and order in normal accepted democratic communities such as we have here. Any self-appointed groups claiming the right to use arms can be dealt with. This is largely because the elected authority have the support of the public. When a situation exists where the elected authority have not got the support of a large body of the community the way is open to militant elements, and this is what is taking place in the area known as Northern Ireland.
I do not think that we in the South have anything to apologise for in the manner in which we have conducted affairs during the last 50 years. In a situation where such a large body of citizens of a country were cut off from the main body and where discrimination has been practised continuously, and is admitted by public commissions to have been practised, the fact that we have maintained stability of government and stability of parliamentary institutions here, of free institutions, is something for which all who have been participating in politics deserve some credit. For instance, one should consider the history of Europe during this century and should note the manner in which the grievances built into the Treaty of Versailles were used by Hitler to gain power in Germany. Looking at the situation that was created here 50 years ago, it can easily be seen what might have happened if there had not been in democratic politics individuals of the calibre of those who have been in power during that period. This is the sort of situation that Britain, either through weakness, through design or through negligence, imposed on us.
I should like to suggest that the fact that militant elements say that they seek unity cannot in any way invalidate the perfectly legitimate national aspirations of the people of the Twenty-six Counties, aspirations that are supported by all political parties here in the South. I should say that if Britain continues on her present course, which is involving her in the complete alienation of hundreds of thousands of Irish people, then I would consider that somewhat more vigorous methods may be necessary in order to encourage British Ministers to change their minds. I am not referring to force. I do not want to see Irish Unionists with whom we hope to find reconciliation forced to unite with us against their will, nor do I see any value to Ireland in involving ourselves in conflict either with the Unionists or with Britain. The fact that we do not support the militant actions of both IRA groups does not mean that we should be indifferent to or ignore British military action against Irish people.
We should take steps to inform Britain that in view of the fact that their case is not accepted by us — I refer to the 1920 Act which states that Northern Ireland is a part of Britain — we are not in a position to condemn outright violence in the north without taking into account their responsibility as generators of this violence. We should also draw attention to the danger of confrontation on the Border which might take place as a result of the extraordinary activities of British Forces.
There are other steps which might be considered. We may be reaching a point where we as a people, the Government and the Opposition, might consider further steps to bring the situation regarding the actions of British Forces to the attention of other people and other Governments. A point may be reached where patience, perseverance and the niceties of diplomacy may be inadequate. Since we are unable to effect a change in British policy by diplomatic means and we are not prepared to deal with her by force and since we are not permitted to raise the question at the United Nations because of what is called international law, the Taoiseach and members of the Government, and perhaps Opposition leaders, might consider booking passages to every capital city in the world in order to call Press conferences and let the world know what is going on in the North of Ireland.
Even if we cannot bring Conservative leaders in Britain to their senses and remedy the wrong they are doing to us, we can make a determined effort to expose the position and, if necessary, embarrass them in every country in which they would wish to be respected. In this way we may be able to make ourselves heard and help to bring about the change needed in Britain to enable the Anglo-Irish problem to be resolved permanently.
Senator Kennedy rose.
Is it in order for Senators to read their speeches? I am new to this House and I should like to know.
The Chair has not observed any Senator reading his speech.
Then the Chair must have been sleeping.
I ask the Senator to withdraw that implication against the Chair.
I withdraw the remark but——
I want to speak briefly about the most serious and important problem confronting tens of thousands of the citizens of the Republic. How are they to live on a starvation income? In the Seventies we need a complete change in the whole concept of financing and organisation of our social service code. Stop-gap measures imposed at a moment's notice in critical unemployment situations or other emergencies are just not good enough. What we need is a complete review by the Government of our social service code with a view to ensuring a better and more equitable distribution of the wealth of this nation to those in dire distress and more particularly in respect of those who have become unemployed as a result of the Government's incompetence or failure to provide employment.
The gap between the better-off and the poor is widening every day. It is not true to imply, as so many governmental spokesmen do, that entry into the European Economic Community will result in a sudden social welfare bonanza. In the Common Market it depends on each national government how progressive and how comprehensive their social welfare standards will be.
Three years ago when this country re-activated our application for membership of the Common Market it was found that the percentage of our income devoted to social services was by far the lowest in Europe. Here are the figures in respect of the Six and in respect of the Republic:
Republic of Ireland
To take another comparison, three years ago the percentage of the UK GNP devoted to social services was 12.4, more than twice our figure. Everyone will agree that these figures reflect a most deplorable attitude on the part of the Government of this allegedly Christian country, especially at a time when unemployment and redundancies have reached critical proportions.
These statistics may have made little if any impact on this House so perhaps I will be permitted to translate these statistics into flesh and blood and bread and butter matters, in one respect only.
One month before Christmas a member of the union I represent, with many hundreds of his fellow workers, became disemployed as a result of the close down of the plant in which he was employed. This man is married and has five children. His total income from the State during Christmas week was £12.15. Therefore, the total daily income of the family was £1.72. The income per head per day of the family was 24p. Therefore, if not one penny of that income is devoted to housing, rent, clothing, schooling, household utensils, furniture, et cetera,but every penny is devoted to food alone, and if each member of that household is provided with only three meals a day the most they can spend on a meal per person is 8p. This is a reduction to flesh and blood, to bread and butter of the conditions of tens of thousands of our people. I am sorry the Parliamentary Secretary is not with us at the moment because he is an active trade unionist and he could confirm all I have said. He will confirm also that the cost of providing a meal to the inmates of our prisons and our mental hospitals is not 8p a day but ten times 8p a day.
Some two and a half months ago following on the disemployment of two and a half thousand members of my union alone — the overall figure is a great deal worse — my union wrote to the Taoiseach and asked him to meet a delegation to consider the critical unemployment and redundancy position which had arisen. The Taoiseach replied to the effect that as redundancy and unemployment affected all unions and was a national problem he would be prepared to discuss it with representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the central trade union movement. A meeting was arranged and the Taoiseach apparently considered it so important that he had almost the entire Cabinet with him. I headed that delegation on behalf of the trade union movement. I opened the proceedings by asking the Taoiseach could he agree that the basis of the discusions should be, first of all, that a critical situation existed. The Taoiseach refused, and so did his Ministers, to accept the discussions on that basis. They said in effect: "Crisis, what crisis?" Because they refused to recognise, accept and deal with the problem as a crisis the discussions did not get very far.
Last weekend my union learned that many hundreds of its members had lost their jobs in Denny's bacon factory in Waterford and other plants throughout the country. We summoned an emergency meeting of the executive of the union to consider not only the Denny situation but the national situation. We had all the facts and figures before us. We came to the conclusion that, if the situation was critical two and a half months ago when we met the Taoiseach, it was now ultra-critical. We immediately despatched a telegram to the Taoiseach asking him to recall the Dáil to consider this crisis. We ended our telegram with the following words:
We urge you in the name of the 81,000 unemployed Irish men and women and in the name of their dependent children and relatives to bring the Dáil together to deal with this subject in emergency session as a matter of major and national crisis.
That telegram was sent to the Taoiseach on Friday last. We received no reply. Last night, as Senator O'Higgins has mentioned already, and read extracts from the report, the Taoiseach made reference to this at a meeting in some part of the country. This afternoon a letter was delivered to me. I received it here in this House. It is a reply from the Taoiseach's Private Secretary which states that, as Dáil Éireann is to meet in the ordinary way on Wednesday week next, the Taoiseach feels that no substantial advantage could be gained by his requesting the Ceann Comhairle to summon the Dáil for an earlier date. It says that the Government have already taken various steps to safeguard existing employment and to create additional employment and that further action will be taken by the Government as appropriate.
Whatever one may say about the impractability of summoning the Dáil, what can one say about the complacency of that letter? The Government have already taken various steps to safeguard existing employment. Some hundreds of my members at this very moment have lost their jobs in Denny's factory. What steps has the Taoiseach or the Government taken? What kind of letter is this? As far as I know and as far as the Denny workers are concerned and all those others who have been laid off in recent times, no steps whatsoever have been taken. No steps have been taken, contrary to what the Taoiseach says, to create additional employment. I know of no steps. This will be our reply to the Taoiseach.
Last night in advance of this reply the Taoiseach did attempt a reply at a public meeting. Senator O'Higgins has already referred to this. In one part of his speech the Taoiseach said that in part the present difficulties are due to international events and economic slowdown in the United Kingdom. It seems to me that the Government's excuse not only for unemployment but for a whole host of other ills and failings is an economic shake-up in the United Kingdom, the United States or Europe. They are using the argument that we are reflecting here the unemployment in the United Kingdom. They cannot have it both ways. Is the point being made by the Taoiseach that all the rotten things, the unsatisfactory things in life in the United Kingdom — unemployment, redundancies, crime — are all naturally reflected in our way of life but not the fact that the United Kingdom and other European countries have much higher social standards than we have? We take the worst; we reject the best. This is no answer whatsoever to the crisis. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary, because as an active trade unionist I know he is fully aware that a critical situation has arisen, that he endeavour to impress upon the Government the desirability of treating it as a crisis situation.
This evening's Evening Press says “Jobs crises”. The Irish Times, the Irish Independent,the Northern papers, the British Press all say “Crisis in the Irish Economy”. Everybody knows there is a crisis except the Government.
What about 1957?
I want to conclude by endeavouring to impress upon this House, and through this House, the Government that, unless something is done immediately to remedy the very grave situation that has arisen, workers not already threatened by unemployment or redundancy or short-time working, indeed workers who are working overtime at present, will decide that they are not going to work themselves out of jobs. They are going to slow down. They are going to refuse to work overtime. They are going to refuse to work productivity schemes and anything which may result in their becoming redundant.
That is a very negative attitude. Surely the greater the production the greater opportunity they have for employment?
Of course, it is up to the Taoiseach and to the Government to endeavour to convince workers otherwise.
We want the co-operation of all sections.
At the moment they contend, with a great deal of justification, that they are in fact working themselves out of jobs.
The £20 million will not take effect until early spring.
The £20 million is not enough. This brings me to a very important point. Like Senator O'Higgins I do not think any Member of this House — certainly I am not doing it notwithstanding what you may take from what I have said already — or any Member of the other House should attempt to make political capital out of the crisis at present. At a time when so many thousands of our people are being forced to emigrate I do not think anyone should attempt to do such a thing. I am very concerned that, first, this crisis is with us and has been with us for some time and, secondly, because I can see that the Taoiseach and the Government do not, in fact, recognise it as a crisis. Unless one recognises a problem one cannot solve it.
The tendency when trade union delegations meet Government Ministers or the Taoiseach on this has been a refusal to recognise the seriousness of the problem. They are not prepared to discuss it and if, finally, we get them to discuss it they say it is because of the economic situation in England or because of something that happened in the United States. They do not come up with any suggestions and finally they say that they are as anxious as we are to ensure full employment, better wages and conditions for everybody. I would accept that any Government should want this. Then they ask what suggestions have we now to offer to help. The answer is that the trade union movement is not the Government, neither is AnCO, neither is the Industrial Development Authority. It is the Government's responsibility. Nevertheless, we should not adopt a negative attitude and if we have any proposals we should be prepared to place them before the Government, but will the Government implement proposals?
What, for instance, can be done about Denny's? This plant is due to close down in a few days leaving many hundreds of people unemployed. What alternatives have those workers to emigration? The Government have asked for suggestions. I would suggest that the Government take over Denny's and keep it working until they are in a position to provide alternative employment. Is it, in fact, necessary to close down Denny's? I would suggest, also, that in addition to the £20 million injected into the economy of which, as the Irish Independent said today, only approximately £5 million went into industry, the Government should inject a massive sum — Donal Nevin of Congress has suggested £20 million but I disagree with him as I think it needs even more — into industry. These are suggestions which we can put to the Government and which we are prepared to put to the Government in a rational, realistic and, indeed, in a friendly way if the Government will recognise that a crisis exists.
On a point of correction, £8½ million went directly to industry.
I was a little disturbed by some of the points made by Senator Kennedy when he mentioned the withholding of overtime and the Denny's case. Mr. Carroll, on the "7 Days" programme last week, made practically the same point. I do not want to minimise the present situation but I felt that the labour movement had quite a part to play in assistance and in the giving of advice to the people to create more job opportunities and to lower the unemployment figure. We need the co-operation of the people and the trade union movement if we are to tackle the problem.
If we go shopping at present we will observe that up to 60 per cent of the clothing and textiles on sale are foreign made. It is necessary to examine the labels on those goods in order to ascertain whether they are English or Irish products. This is one field in which we all could play a very large part if we insisted on buying Irish. Let the foreign products come in, but if we insist on buying Irish we can eventually phase out the foreign articles. By doing so we would be creating greater employment here. It has saddened me recently to observe the quantities of English and foreign-made clothing being sold in this country. They are being sold to the detriment of our Irish workers. We have had a recession in the textile industry during the last 12 months but I have not heard of any effort to encourage the people to buy Irish products. Such an effort cannot be successful unless we have the backing of all sides.
Over 20 years ago I spent six or seven weeks in Denmark. While I was there I toured some of the industries. I spent two days in an industry which exported quite a lot of its produce to Ireland. I discussed with them their marketing priorities. We like to keep the best of our produce for ourselves and just export our surplus but we can never make a prosperous nation by doing so. We must export the best to foreign markets and keep the remainder for the home market. There is only one industry in Ireland doing so, to my knowledge, at the present time. Denmark is often quoted to us as an example, but they keep the second and third grade pork at home and sell all the best abroad. The same with all their milk products. They are able to deny themselves milk because they know it can be exported. They know how important it is to export. They never use wheaten bread. They use rye bread because it can be grown on the worst soils in bad country. It was a cheap bread and they could not export it, so they used it for themselves. That is what happens in a country which has often been held up to us as an example of what we should do.