Seanad Éireann - Volume 21 - 21 July, 1938
Extension of Vocational Organisation.
Debate resumed on the following motion:
That, in the opinion of the Seanad, a small commission should be appointed by the Government to examine and report on the possibility of extending vocational organisation by legislative or administrative action.—Senators MacDermot and Tierney.
The Taoiseach Eamon de Valera
The Taoiseach: I was very sorry I was not able to be here to listen to the speeches delivered by the proposer and seconder of the motion, and if other Senators wish to speak on the motion I should prefer to wait and hear what they have to say.
Mr. Douglas Mr. Douglas
Mr. Douglas: The difficulty is that we understood that the Taoiseach would have an opportunity now, so as not to take up his time, and those of us who intended to take part in the debate were reckoning on its taking place after the Bills on the Order Paper had been disposed of.
The Taoiseach Eamon de Valera
The Taoiseach: So far as I am concerned, it is simply a question of saying that I am in favour of the motion, because, whatever view may be taken of it, I cannot see that any harm can be done in having a commission set up to examine the question. It does not commit anyone in advance to any particular viewpoint or to any of the findings, because we have no idea what they may be. The resolution, as it stands here, is “That, in the opinion of the Seanad, a small commission should be appointed by the Government to examine and report on the  possibility of extending vocational organisation by legislative or administrative action.” The only question is whether it should not be somewhat wider in its terms of reference than it is—whether there might not be some other methods of encouragement. I am sure, however, that whatever methods of encouragement might be adopted by the Government could be included in the two terms “legislative” or “administrative.” Personally, I have no objection, and no member of the Government, so far as I am aware, has any objection to such a commission being set up. It would be of great importance that this matter should be examined home to see how far the fundamental ideas are capable of being applied in our country and in what direction they might be best applied. If it is simply a question of our view, we have no reason at all to object to this motion being passed, and, if it is passed, we will implement it.
Mr. Hayes Mr. Hayes
Mr. Hayes: Could the Taoiseach give us any idea as to what type of commission he thinks would be suitable? I think that only one of the speakers on the motion made any suggestion on the matter. In the absence of any statement to the contrary, it seems to me that what is contemplated is that the Government should appoint a commission. I take it that is what the Taoiseach understands from it and I wonder what kind of a commission either the movers or the Taoiseach have in mind.
Sir John Keane Sir John Keane
Sir John Keane: My difficulty about the motion is that the mover, and probably to some degree the seconder, hung this on to the question of a better Seanad. I do not think that is implicit in the motion itself. It was suggested— I may be wrong—that it is due to the defects of our vocational organisation that the Seanad is not of the character some people would like to see it. I do not agree with that. I think, so far as vocational organisation is concerned, that there is no serious fault to be found in its approach to a Seanad. It is the method of election that has been at fault. The vocational organisations put on the panel quite a lot of what I  personally considered satisfactory candidates, but in many cases they could not survive the process of election.
On the general question of vocational organisation, that is another matter and it opens up a very big question indeed which will require a lot of thought and, I suggest, a very big change in public opinion before it can take practical form. If I might suggest it, the best example we have of the full operation of vocational organisation is that in the Church of Ireland. There is no doubt that the peculiar conditions there lend themselves to cohesion. But, in that body, you have certain powers of legislation very much in the sense of a self-governing vocational body. I see great difficulties in extending that to the agricultural industry, but so far as the approach can be made, it is along those lines I think that you should try to work, to build up a vocational organisation of such a form that a large number of questions within the sphere of agriculture could be referred to what you might call an agricultural Parliament, no doubt with overriding powers and veto by the Dáil. The same with industry. Of course, as we all know, that is very remote. We can only work to that in a very slow and tentative manner, but that would be the ideal at which we should aim. So far as a commission could help in thinking out all that, it would be all to the good.
Mr. Douglas Mr. Douglas
Mr. Douglas: One reason I did not wish to speak until we had some indication of the view of the Government was that, if they were not prepared to accept the general idea of a commission, alternative suggestions might be made. I am glad that the Taoiseach indicated that, at any rate, the idea would be favourably considered. It seems to me that Senator Tierney was quite right when he said that the two questions, the question of extending vocational organisation in the country, and the question of a Seanad which might be elected more or less on vocational lines were two distinct questions. I would not like to see them mixed up in the reference to any commission. I read very carefully the two speeches made and was particularly impressed  by the line taken by Senator Tierney. I, at any rate, did not get his ideas as clearly from listening to him as from reading carefully his speech, which I think is worthy of study whether you agree with it or not.
There are considerable practical difficulties, almost insurmountable difficulties, but if a suitable commission was prepared to give time to study the problem, apart from the question of a vocational Seanad, I think it might be of considerable value. At any rate, having regard to the general ideals which were accepted fairly well by all sides in this country some 15, 16, 17, 18 years ago, it seems to me that there is a duty upon us to consider the problems put forward in this resolution, and more particularly in the speeches on the resolution. I would hope that, so far as possible, persons like most of us here who have taken an active part in politics, if not excluded from the commission, would be very definitely in a minority, because I think it is a matter on which we would have to get entirely away from politics as we have known them in the last 15 years. We have a number of divisions which seem to be largely unnatural.
I should like to see those of us who may happen to be here after the next election appointing a committee of our own to consider amendments or improvements in the method of election, which was referred to by Senator Sir John Keane. I think that that would be a thing apart, and that it would not be necessary to wait in respect of it until you had a detailed report from a commission of this kind. That is one of the reasons why I should like to see the two things kept distinct. An expansion of vocationalism would have to be brought about by a policy carried over a considerable number of years. There would be a lot of difficulties to be surmounted, and I do not think you should necessarily wait until that is achieved before making an attempt to rectify the things which have not worked very well in connection with the election of the Seanad. I am glad that the Government is prepared to accept the principle of this resolution, and I think that the Seanad should approve of it without a division.
Mr. O'Callaghan Mr. O'Callaghan
 Mr. O'Callaghan: The extension of vocational organisation is very desirable. It may, or may not, give us a better Seanad. It may, or may not, give us a better Dáil. If carried to its logical conclusion, it may deprive this House of the services of the proposer and seconder of this motion. That, of course, would be a step in the wrong direction. What I propose to say, I want to direct to two vocational organisations in connection with agriculture —the Dairy Shorthorn Breeders' Society and the Beetgrowers' Association. I shall first deal with a small portion of the work carried on by the Dairy Shorthorn Breeders' Society. Anybody going through the City of Dublin will see the tramcars and buses decorated with “drink more milk” slogans.
That was brought about by representations made to the Minister for Agriculture by the Dairy Shorthorn Breeders' Society. The drink-more-milk campaign will have a very great effect on the health of the nation. It will do away with patent medicines and doctors' bills. People will have more money to spend and they will be more cheerful. It may even bring about the setting up of a milk bar in Leinster House where, under the influence of milk cocktails, Party bitterness will entirely disappear and a new spirit will supplant the old. I am just relating this small section of the work of the Dairy Shorthorn Breeders' Society to illustrate the good that an association of that kind might do for the State and for the people.
There is, then, the Beet Growers' Association, which some people seem to overlook. It has a membership of 30,000 beet growers and speaks for some thousands of grain growers. Most of the beet growers in the West of Ireland are small farmers. The average acreage is about one and a half per grower. It is a little more in other areas. I tell you that to illustrate the fact that the labour used is family labour; not paid labour. In the other areas, the acreage is a little bit greater but not much. Seventy-five per cent of the beet grown in this country is grown by family help. The difficulty with the beet growers is the question of price and not the setting up to  guilds or organisations of any kind. The Beet Growers' Association have had considerable difficulty in getting a price to which they would be agreeable. Some experts seem to have advised the Government that sufficient acreage would be got at the price which is being offered. That advice was wrong and it has done considerable harm to the industry. There is a shrinkage of 12,000 acres in this year's beet crop and, unless the crop is a very bountiful one this season, it will be very difficult to get beet for 1939.
I am glad that the Taoiseach is here because we have not had an opportunity of telling him what the position is. The powers that be say that the man who lends his money is entitled to his due reward. They say that the factory worker is entitled to get what he gets. They say that the cost of sugar must not be increased to the public and that the State cannot give any further help. They say that, after full provision is made for depreciation and reserves, the beet grower can get the rest. The position is an anxious one for the beet grower who is anxious to get the industry going. He finds himself at the wrong end of the stick. We have been discussing the formation of guilds and several ways and means of getting a price that will induce the farmer to grow beet. We have in the current issue of the Beet Growers' Journal an article from a very distinguished churchman on the formation of guilds in connection with the Beet Growers' Association. That journal was sent to 30,000 or 35,000 growers and was read by them and their families. In that way, we have done a lot to educate public opinion about the formation of vocational bodies. A motion will be discussed at the annual meeting in connection with this matter and any member of this House who cares to go and listen to it will be provided with a seat in the distinguished strangers' gallery. Three factors, in my view, govern the sugar industry. One is the man who lends his money—in other words, the capitalist. I do not call him a capitalist because plenty of small men lent small sums for the setting up of the industry. Then, there is the factory worker and, then, the beet grower. A  vocational body composed of these three factors would seem to be a desirable way of controlling the industry but the difficulty the beet grower has is that he will be coming in as the underdog. He regards the other people as being well away and he does not regard himself as being on the same plane. The only difficulty we have in connection with the setting up of that guild to control the sugar industry is the question of price. I hold that the beet grower is the backbone of the industry and that he should not play second fiddle to any of the other component parts.
The setting up of a commission may not be the right means of developing vocational organisation. I know the way the Dairy Shorthorn Breeders' Society was set up. It was got going by half a dozen people who put their backs into the work. If we had sufficient civic spirit, and if we had a little more national pride, there might not be any need of a commission to deal with vocational organisation. Vocational organisation is very desirable, but whether or not the setting up of a commission is the proper means of approaching it, I leave the House to judge.
Mr. Quirke Mr. Quirke
Mr. Quirke: I find myself largely in agreement with Senator Sir John Keane, so far as this motion is concerned, in so far as he says that too much stress was laid on the system of electing the Seanad. This question of a system of election for this House was under discussion for several months. During that time, very little in the way of suggestion that was of any use came from any quarter. As always happens, the best hurlers are on the ditch. If anybody can suggest a better method than the method which has been in operation up to now, I am sure the Government will be quite pleased. The present system is far from perfect, but I believe that it is the best system that could be found under existing conditions. I am not against the setting up of a commission, for the reason that I believe that the discussion of this motion will create a better atmosphere so far as the development of vocational organisation is concerned. With all due respect to the proposer and seconder,  I think that the motion is not properly worded. I do not believe that vocational organisation can be developed by legislative means. I believe that it will have to be a natural growth. The atmosphere at present is more favourable to this purpose than it has ever been for the simple reason that vocational organisation should be the natural outcome of the activities of a native Government. As a result of this commission and as a result of the activities of some of the Senators who have been sent here by vocational bodies, that atmosphere will spread and, even within the next year or two years, even if we did nothing further about the matter, we should have considerable development in that direction.
I think that there was very little of value in the speeches made by the proposer and seconder of the motion. They rambled from the subject. I believe that a commission can do very little of itself to achieve our purpose, but that the setting up of a commission, combined with the discussion we have had, will induce people to talk about the matter. They will find that useful work has been done by some of the Senators sent here by various bodies and they will realise that it is up to them to organise themselves into groups and send men here who will look after their interests. At the same time, some of the men sent here would be well advised to keep away from politics. Political speeches in this House by men sent here by vocational bodies will have a tendency to prevent development of opinion in the direction which we seek.
Mr. Condon Mr. Condon
Mr. Condon: I consider this a most fascinating subject, particularly as we can all talk with extraordinary wisdom about it, seeing that few people know very much concerning it. So far, the speeches have been good. There was, certainly, a shock for all of us in the proposing of the motion. We are used to shocks in this House after the major shock of the dissolution of the Dáil, which meant that we, as a body, were about to be dissolved before we were familiar with the upholstery of the place. After that, we can get over any shocks. The seconder of the  motion ought to have got a shock when he heard all that was said by the proposer as to what he considered the gravamen of the resolution. It seemed to me as if Senator MacDermot wanted the mountain to go into labour to produce a mouse—a new mouse. He was much distressed about the character of this House. Evidently, sensitive people, with high vocational qualifications, could not bring themselves to do the ordinary, vulgar things that have to be done to become members of this House. They could not be expected to go out in public and canvass or do anything like that.
If I am a member of the electoral college, I can see, and so can Senator MacDermot, circulars on my table every morning from some of these vocational experts, these people who were so busy and so remote from the people, so removed from the ordinary vulgarities of life. Anyone who receives these circulars will note how these very remote people can speak of their own exceptional qualifications and hold forth on the benefit it would be to the nation to have them elected to this Seanad. If Senator MacDermot had read some of these circulars he might, perhaps, change his mind. I tell the Senator that these people are not at all so remote from the ordinary vulgarities of life as has been suggested. I know they are very valuable people, but there is no doubt that if there is any possibility of their getting here by any means then they will get here. But these are the men that the Senator had in mind when he was speaking of a vocational Seanad. That is really what it means, the mountain in labour and it produced a very trifling thing.
Senator MacDermot's speech was very discursive. I think in that speech he dealt with all subjects. Indeed he omitted very few things. He did not touch on bimetallism nor on the breeds of poultry but he dealt with nearly every other subject one could think of. He touched on the Pope, and I was afraid for a time that he was going to take serious action with regard to His Holiness. However, in the end he was very nice to the Pope, and I am sure His Holiness will be very glad when he hears about it. We have been told  that the Pope's Encyclicals have been very widely read, but that they had been misunderstood. Anyone who had not read these circulars and was not acquainted with what was in them would begin to think that they were such mysterious things that the ordinary man could not possibly understand them. Now the fact is that the Pope's Encyclicals were entirely inspired by concern for the people. They were written in such a way that even the common people could understand them —they were so immensely clear. In these Encyclicals the Pope said really necessary things, and he said them in a plain way. I have read them and I am familiar with them. There is nothing in them that an ordinary person could not understand.
When the first Encyclical was published over 40 years ago it received as much attention that time as if it had been written by me. Then the world had not broken the skin of the Dead Sea fruit. The world had not known the Great War. The world had not understood how wretched the organisation of society was and what terrible possibilities for evil lay in society as it then existed. As I say at that time the world had not broken the skin of the Dead Sea fruit, and this great Encyclical was almost wholly ignored. It required a further Encyclical from the present Pope, Pius XI, to draw further attention to it. He suggested that the vocational organisation of society might be remedied. He drew attention to some of the dreadful things that were about us. If one turns from the fashion parades in Grafton Street or George's Street, examines the position in the slums and inquires into the life that obtains there, he will understand something about the Pope's Encyclicals. The conditions are bad in our slums but they are a thousand times worse and more infamous in countries that are very much richer than ours. In some of those very rich countries people are born into conditions that are certain to ensure that they will be maimed in mind, body and morals for the rest of their lives. Hundreds and thousands and even millions are born into such conditions as these all the time while  we have been preaching Christianity.
Senator MacDermot's concern seemed to be with getting ideal electors. I do not know where these ideal electors are to be got except down in the Kildare Street Club. But when we get these ideal electors the Labour Party will not exist any longer. That appears to me the big thing that he sees in this motion. The Labour Party and the Farmers' Party will disappear. I think that in itself would be a disaster. No matter what vocational conditions obtain human nature will not change. There will always be greed and avarice in the world. Once we had the Guild system. The Guilds became vicious, so that greed and avarice and other abuses grew up in them, and they needed correction. It may be just the same with this vocational organism that we hope to see established in the future.
I think it is absolutely necessary that society should organise itself on absolutely different lines from the present. Most of the people to-day are simply living under serf conditions or in slave conditions. The people who are depending on casual labour are in a slave condition. Let us consider the position of these people, and if we do we will find their position is really worse than that which existed under the old slave conditions. I remember it was a shock to us all when we read long ago that John Mitchel had taken the part of the Confederates in the American Civil War. In that Civil War John Mitchel was on the side of the South. He wanted to maintain the slavery system. Now, Mitchel was an enlightened man and a great lover of freedom, but he gave his reasons for the stand he took up on the American Civil War. He said:—
“Here you have a mass of black labour which at present represents so much chattels to the men who own it. These new people in the North who discovered that slavery is such a dreadful thing want the slave owner to free his slaves in order that they are to be thrown into an already over-crowded labour market where the slave will have no  value except that when he is worn out he will be replaced by another man.”
John Mitchel's reasoning on that occasion was borne out subsequently by John Ruskin. In that matter John Mitchel showed himself a man of extraordinary vision.
To-day you have in the world much worse conditions than the slave conditions of the American negroes. Now, in this State of ours we have a wholly undeveloped country. In anything that we have to decide to do in the future it would be well that we should remember that the normal development of Ireland had been obstructed for centuries. As G.K. Chesterton described it, the whole trouble was that we had no government here. It was not a case of having a bad Government or a good Government. What we suffered from was really the determination of another people to annihilate and wipe out our people. That was their policy for centuries and that policy had had its reactions. In a hundred years our population had been reduced by something like 50 per cent. We have counties like Meath that I represent with a population of half what it was 50 years ago. Now that country is wholly undeveloped.
Every month one can read in one of the most useful publications published here in Ireland a series of articles showing the difference between the use we make of our land and the use that Belgium is making of its land. Belgium has something like 7,000,000 acres of land. It has over 1,000,000 holdings. We have 17,000,000 acres of land, that is 10,000,000 acres more than Belgium, and we have 230,000 holdings. We have one-quarter of the number of holdings and 10,000,000 acres more land. What is really happening in the country is that extremely little use is being made of our natural wealth. But we need not turn in an emergency way to vocationalism or anything else to remedy that. We have, I know, big leeway to make up. As I say we have prime land practically undeveloped. We are producing only one-quarter of the wheat which we require for our people. Yet we have something like 100,000 people unemployed and the  people from the rural parts are crowding into the towns. We were told yesterday that the country workers are crowding into the towns. There is for that a very good reason and that is that the people who hold the land have no intention of employing labour on it. Their whole purpose seems to be something on the principle that obtained in the consolidation of farms, 80 or 100 years ago when village after village was wiped out and the land laid out in such a way that cattle could be turned on to it and need not be seen more than three times in the course of a year. That is the use that is being made of our land.
The first thing I would ask the National Government to deal with is to see that the whole land of Ireland be put to the service of the people; that the people should be put back on it and should be given a chance of living a normal life in the country places. We have no normal life in the country places. Take the education of our young people. Most of the young people go to the elementary schools until they are 14 years of age. Just then when they are in a position to learn something, when they are just trained in the technique of learning they are taken away from the schools. From that until the very end of their careers there is not a soul to bother about them. That is true of 99 per cent. of them. There is a shameful wastage of the best of material. This sort of thing is, in a large measure, the cause of the wrongness of mind of so many of these people. These unfortunate people develop on entirely wrong and wretched lines. They have wretched sources for their development. There are so many injurious papers and then there is the wireless business that is utterly unhelpful to these people. They are abandoned at the age of 14 to become ignorant slaves and certainly not getting much of an opportunity to live virtuous lives. That is a problem on which this nation should concentrate.
We have heard a lot about vocational education or technical education, Senator Tierney was alarmed for fear we should take his resolution as meaning technical education. Technical education was one of  the things that were introduced into this country many years ago. Ninety per cent. of the people associated with it were shams. Such things as lace-making and sprigging were taught and things that were utterly wasteful. That was really of no service to the country and it touched only a very slight fraction of our people. It did not touch at all the people who leave our elementary schools at the age when they should be taken up by a Government and made into useful citizens. These young people were really abandoned; there is no doubt about that. I am interested in this proposal in one respect. We are said to be in need of a different Seanad from the one we have got. Now the one we have is an admirable one but I am sure it will be changed in a few weeks' time.
What we really want are correctives to the present organisation of society under which a big number of our people are simply committed or condemned to lives of shame, misery and suffering. There is no doubt about that. That is the horror the Pope foresaw when he suggested that correctives be applied 40 years ago. If the world had listened to him then things might have been different. Instead he was treated with contempt. Then the full horror came along; the masses of the people revolted and we have these terrible scenes which we hear of nowadays, these terrible conditions that obtain in Spain and Russia, which were brought about by popular revolt but which the originators of the revolt never foresaw. They started out with the idea of securing freedom for the people who had been ground to the dust. These horrors may possibly be in store for us in Ireland if we ignore our trust and our duty.
I certainly think that this subject should be examined in the fullest possible way, examined in every possible detail, to see if it is at all possible to spare our country from the horrors which other countries have suffered. We must remember that the masses of the people were ignored as dirt. There was absolutely no concern for them. In recent years some little concern has been shown. We have got down to the  matter of the minimum wage for agricultural labourers but still we have people quarrelling about it. We have got down to the question of looking after widows and orphans and there are people quarrelling about that, describing it as an unspeakable burden. We have shown a little bit of humanity in our government but we have heaps of protests. Well, we have an example of the unspeakable horrors which have been brought about in other countries by the fact that the sufferings of the people were ignored. The fact that this reorganisation of society has been recommended by His Holiness should give us a lead, for His Holiness has centuries of wisdom, a tradition of wisdom, behind him in these matters, and his lightest word is worthy of consideration. I do not want to enter into the various considerations so singularly ably put forward by Professor Tierney but I think it will be generally agreed that we should have an exhaustive enquiry into the possibilities of the reorganisation of society along some other than the present system, under which the masses of the people are simply being exploited to the advantage of a few.
Professor Johnston Professor Johnston
Professor Johnston: I agree with the proposer of this resolution that the question of promoting vocational organisation in this country is quite separate from the question of the best method of constituting this Seanad. At the same time, I cannot help feeling that if the existing vocational bodies were given the right to elect, as well as the right to nominate to this House, nothing would contribute more effectively to the growth of vocational organisation in the country. I remember as an example of that, in connection with the recent elections to the Seanad, I heard for the first time of the existence of a body known as the Limerick Cottiers' Association. It was brought into existence not because it was given the right to elect, but because it was given the right to nominate to this body. I think on that analogy that when a smaller right than the right to elect, the right to nominate, produced such an effective result, the  right to elect would produce even more effective results in inducing professional and other bodies to attempt vocational organisation. I think that a vocational body, if it had the right to elect, would be likely to use that right in a somewhat less partisan manner than is inevitable when the right to elect is given to an electoral college in which the elements of Party organisation are necessarily present. Mind you, I am not deprecating in any way the existence of Party organisation because I think Party action is a necessary adjunct to the machinery of democratic government. When you have a democratically-elected machine functioning you are bound to have Party organisation and a Party spirit and it is so necessary to the working of democratic government that I would not regard it as an evil. But everything reacts in accordance with its nature. There is an Irish proverb which says: “What can you expect from a pig but a grunt?” What can you expect from a democratic popular assembly, given the right to form an important part of the electoral college, but that when they come to elect Senators, they are bound to be influenced by Party considerations, and that they are not likely to choose precisely the same people as the vocational body itself would choose?
I think most people outside of this House would agree that it is desirable that the element of Party spirit, which is necessarily strong in the other House, should be kept as far as possible out of this House. In a democratic assembly the various sections of the community there represented engage in a struggle in which the interests commanding a majority, generally speaking, get their own way. If it so be that the interests which triumph are also the interest of the nation as a whole, it is well, but it is quite conceivable that the interests which triumph in that democratic assembly may not be exactly coincident with the interests of the nation as a whole. It is, therefore, desirable that there should be a corrective to that spirit, and I think no better idea for correcting that  partisan spirit has been arrived at than the idea of developing the vocational spirit which, as I say, is quite separate and distinct from the partisan spirit.
The object of vocational representation is not that the people represented should further their special interests or should attempt to get away with anything which is in their sectional interest and is not in the interests of the nation as a whole. The object is that they should contribute their specialised knowledge to the deliberations of the Seanad; that they should seek, as far as possible, to enlighten public opinion and the Oireachtas as a whole, as regards the lines along which national interests must be pursued as against interests which are clearly partisan. I have nothing but admiration for the personal relationships which exist between us in this part of the House and you on the other sides of the House, but, at the same time, I cannot help wishing that the Party spirit was rather less evident. Occasionally it breaks out, although we may strive to restrain it. If the Party spirit were rather less evident, and the vocational spirit rather more evident, then the general tone of this assembly would be improved. Sir, I do not want to appear to be reading a lecture, but I do want to urge that we should consider the question of attempting vocational organisation, and, at the same time, not lose sight of the possibility of improving the general lines along which this House is at present constituted.
Mr. Hughes Mr. Hughes
Mr. Hughes: I am not inclined to oppose the setting up of this commission, but I must say that I am not of opinion that there is any practical solution for this great problem of vocational organisation. Senator Douglas, to my mind, got very near to the kernel of the situation when he said that it was not possible to get away from political questions in public life. References have been made to trade unions and to their place in vocational organisation. Trade unionism was founded for a certain purpose, and it did achieve a large amount of good. It has, as some people are inclined to put it, taken the workers up off their knees,  but is it not strange to find that, as it developed and as time went on, quite a small number of people could use the organisation, formed for the purpose for which it was, for purely political purposes? I am saying that because I believe that it is absolutely true. Other organisations formed for other purposes will undoubtedly be used in the same way under present circumstances in this country, because we cannot at this stage get away from political matters. Perhaps, in some years to come, in ten or 20 years' time, we shall have reached a stage when a practical solution can be found. As I say, I am not opposing the setting up of a commission, but I believe that such a commission would find itself up against difficulties and snags, and that it will have to realise the difficulty of developing vocational organisations here to any great purpose.
If, in this country, the people as a whole, had a similar attitude to national questions as the people in other countries, England, for example, if we had the whole people here giving unswerving loyalty to their own country, that loyalty which supersedes every other consideration, then I would say that it would be quite an easy matter to find a solution of this problem and to have vocational organisation in a real, practical way but I say that you have not the whole of our people giving that unswerving loyalty and devotion to their country which is necessary for that purpose. Senator Johnston mentioned that there was a possibility that vocational bodies might be less partisan. I should like to think that that were possible but I am afraid for the reason that I have stated that it is not possible. When we reach the stage where loyalty to the country will be the first consideration, then we will be nearer to the period when the people who are interested in this subject will realise their ambitions. I do not wish to oppose the motion. I should be glad to see this commission working although I have not very great hopes for success in that direction at the present time.
Mrs. MacWhinney Mrs. MacWhinney
Mrs. MacWhinney: This motion I feel is not happily worded. I think it  would be more acceptable if it suggested that the Act as it now exists might be examined with the object of including amongst the nominating bodies vocational bodies which have not the right to nominate now. I am thinking of one or two vocational bodies that have been in existence for a very long time. For example, there is the nursing council which was established in 1919. It is a statutory body, and I think that it is, without exception, the best organised vocational body in Ireland to-day. Yet, for some reason it has not the right to nominate. It has a membership of 16,000. From the moment that a nurse starts her training to the day she leaves it, she is under the supervision of that vocational body. Her examinations, her registration and everything is looked after. We have a body like that with no right to nominate. Against that you have a veterinary vocational body with the right to nominate. It seems strange to me, at any rate, that the people who look after the animals of the country are regarded as being more important than the people who look after human beings.
You have other bodies, in which I am interested that have not the right to nominate. You have the Amalgamated Society of Social Services. This society of women is representative of quite a big number of social service bodies. They have not the right to nominate. Against that you have the Mount Street Club which has the right to nominate.
Listening to all the speeches that were made on this motion my only regret is that some of them were not broadcast so that we could have them discussed afterwards. If the speakers had written out their speeches and issued them in advance, I think I would have enjoyed them more than I did listening to them. If the commission which it is suggested should be appointed were given power to include in the scope of its inquiries the vocational bodies that should have the right to nominate, then I think we might get a Seanad more representative of the vocational bodies of the country than the one we have at the moment.
 Cathaoirleach: Senator MacDermot to conclude.
Mr. MacDermot Mr. MacDermot
Mr. MacDermot: I should like first to express my gratification that the Taoiseach is prepared to accept this motion and to consider the appointment of a commission. Senator Hayes inquired what kind of a commission was contemplated. As far as I am concerned, I have already said that I would like to see the commission a small one, and to see it very largely composed of enthusiasts for the vocational idea. As the Taoiseach said, nothing that such a commission suggests commits us in any way, but the people who have gone most deeply into the subject are the people, I think, on whom the burden should be in the main laid to suggest a practical application of their ideas. I think there are several distinguished men in this country, several of them clerics, such as Father Coyne, the well-known Jesuit, who have written on the matter with great ability and thought on it very deeply. I would put such men on the commission. I would appoint with them a good lawyer and a good practical business man, and a man or woman familiar with labour conditions and perhaps someone else who is more of a general politician. Thus you would have four men who are not experts on this particular subject who would address their minds to it from a practical point of view, and with them you would have perhaps six or seven men who have thought on it very deeply, who are enthusiasts about it and wish to see their ideas applied. This is going to give them the opportunity of putting their ideas into practice.
Senator Condon has accused me of having rambled over too wide a field in the speech in which I introduced the motion. Looking back over it, I find that it is not a very long speech though it may have seemed so to the unhappy Senators listening to me. I occupied less than half an hour in speaking, and I personally cannot find one single irrelevant word in the speech. Of course, it may be considered that I devoted too large a proportion of it to the effect of this vocational idea on the Seanad. That is a  matter on which we can afford to differ, but, as I have said, I cannot find anything irrelevant in it. I had to listen to Senator Condon discuss negro slavery in America, the blighting effect of British rule in this country, our present land system and the need for a drastic reform of it, and finally, the necessity for completely changing our educational system. Listening to him, I began to wonder what exactly is the standard of relevance that Senator Condon is in the habit of applying.
The same Senator took me to task for having suggested that Papal Encyclicals receive a good deal more praise in this country than they do serious consideration, and for having ventured the opinion that rather more might have been done than has been done to give them practical effect. I am unable to see how anybody can seriously contest a word advanced on that subject. There has been immense praise for the ideas in these encyclicals, and abuse of other countries—France, England and Europe in general—for not having taken sufficient notice of them. I ask what notice have we taken of them here in Ireland except to praise them, and even to-day I find Senators, a good many of them, lukewarm about the mere proposition to set up a commission to examine the possibility of giving them any practical effect. Surely that is the very least we ought to do if we mean a word of our praise of Papal Encyclicals or of our condemnation of the world as a whole for not paying sufficient notice to them. Perhaps some Senators take the view that there is nothing in these matters that can be done by Government action; that these vocational bodies must grow up spontaneously from the soil or not come into being at all. I can see no reason for taking that view. I certainly do not think that the Government can force them on the country like a straight jacket, but I do think that the Government can do something perhaps by legislation, perhaps by administrative action, or perhaps by encouragement and propaganda.
As I pointed out, in our original Constitution 16 years ago, we went to  the trouble of putting in a provision saying that the Oireachtas may set up vocational councils representing branches of the social and economic life of the nation, and that possibly some powers of the Parliament might be delegated to such councils. Again, we went to the trouble in our present Constitution of repeating that almost verbatim. If there is any sense at all in putting such things into our Constitution surely it is time that we gave them some sort of sequel such as is now suggested by Senator Tierney and myself by setting up this commission to examine the subject. Surely there is nothing extravagent or visionary in such a proposal. It is not a proposal that should have been listened to with the scepticism, if not hostility, with which it apparently has been listened to by some Senators.
As regards the bearing of this Motion on the question of the Seanad, I quite agree that the composition of the Seanad is, in a sense, a separate subject, and that the composition of the Seanad, if it needs to be dealt with by legislation, could be dealt with without any such Commission as this being set up; and possibly it may be so dealt with even during the course of this Commission's sitting. I venture to draw attention once again to Article 19 of our new Constitution, that Article that many Senators seem to overlook. It says:—
Provision may be made by law for the direct election by any functional or vocational group or association or council of so many members of Seanad Eireann as may be fixed by such law in substitution for an equal number of the members to be elected from the corresponding panels of candidates constituted under Article 18 of this Constitution.
Now, that is in our Constitution, and what is the sense of suggesting that it is some sort of a plot emanating from the Kildare Street Club, as I think Senator Condon indicated, to propose that something should be done about that? Some of the Fianna Fáil Senator do not seem to be familiar at all with the policy of their own  Party. They do not seem to realise that the Minority Report of the Second Chamber Commission, which recommended the adoption of this idea, was accepted in principle by the Fianna Fail Government. I have no desire to do more than to contribute what I can to the making of the Fianna Fail policy a reality, and to bring it more perfectly into effect in these matters than it has yet been brought into effect. Obviously, if a Commission is set up to consider the question of extending the Vocational Organisations, that will have a bearing on the Article in the Constitution which says that in the future such Vocational Organisations may be given the right or direct representation.
I said frankly enough that perhaps may principal interest in this motion was to lay a firm foundation for a vocational Seanad. I also agreed that it had wider aspects, and apparently I said more about those wider aspects than some Senators seem to like; but to those who are enthusiastic about those wider aspects, and who rather deprecate any talk of the bearing of this motion on the constitution of the Seanad, I would say that surely they ought to think it a great help for one to go even a little way on the right road with them and to show a desire to tread that road. There is room for difference of opinion as to how far it will turn out practicable here in democratic Ireland for Parliament to delegate powers of more or less legisative character to Vocational bodies. There is room for great difference of opinion about that, and I personally have an open mind about it. I do not know whether we can succeed in making this complete re-organisation of society that Senator Tierney, for instance, has in mind.
But, whatever view we take about that, whether we are optimistic or pessimistic about it, at any rate it ought to be regarded as helpful to go a little way along the road and it will not take any very extraordinary or enormous development of the vocational idea to provide a firm foundation for a vocational Seanad. If we get as far as that, then we can consider going still further and giving  larger powers to vocational bodies. As Senator Johnson said, the mere fact of giving direct representation to such bodies would certainly have a tendency to encourage them to come into being and would also, I think, have a tendency to get rid of some of the undesirable duplication that exists in certain departments of our life, because, as I said the other day, while there are branches of the national life where no vocational bodies exist, there are some others where too many exist and where the difficulty would be to reconcile their conflicting claims to send representatives here to the Seanad.
I do not want to go into the question of how far the present system of electing the Seanad is satisfactory or not. I said a certain amount on it the other day but I would like to stress the point that I did not use the word “vulgarity” in connection with that as I think Senator Conway rather implied that I had. I did say that some men of the vocational type were not suited to electoral campaigns, and I do not think anybody can deny that that stands not only for electoral campaigns on public platforms but for electoral campaigns in the corridors of Leinster House. I do not think that the present Seanad Electoral Act is a good Act; I had not an opportunity of taking part in the discussions on it because I did not happen to be a member of the Legislature when it was under consideration; but I do not think it is a good Act and I think that there are dangers inherent in it which might become in the future very formidable.
I think that anyone who reflects for a little bit on what could take place will say that it opens the door to corruption. It would be quite possible for unscrupulous men to get themselves elected by bribery when it is only a question, say, of needing to purchase half-a-dozen votes to enter the House. I am, however, far from saying that such a thing would be conceivable at the present moment, but I do think that we ought not to rest content with a system that makes corruption easy and that is one of the objections to the present system. I will say no more about the Seanad.
 I submit that the ideas which are referred to in this motion are of such fundamental and world-wide importance that we have been guilty of neglect of duty in not having done more about them. The excuse can be offered that we have been occupied with other matters very vital to this country, and that one has not got time to think of everything and do everything; but now that some of the burning topics have been put out of the way, and that, pacé Senator Hughes, we are, throughout the country united in our loyalty to the State, I feel that the time has come when we ought to turn our hands to seeing what can be done to carry out these ideas or put them, at any rate, to the test.
Question put and agreed to.
Seanad Éireann 21 Extension of Vocational Organisation.