Century of Endeavour

Joe Johnston in the Seanad in the 40s

(c)Roy Johnston 2000

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

In this module I review his Seanad speeches between 1941 and 1943 when he lost his seat, and then from November 1944 (when he got back) to 1949, and where available I give his election addresses. For technical reasons it will be appropriate to sub-divide the 1940s module, and his defeat in 1943 constitutes a suitable break-point.

January 29 1941 - Credit for Farmers: JJ, along with Senator Counihan, introduced a motion on this topic in order to draw attention to what he perceived, correctly, as being an important obstacle to agricultural production.

Drawing on New Zealand experience, he proposed a Debt Adjustment Commission, to moderate between debtors and banks, and help to mitigate the situation where some debtors were unjustly treated. He adduced evidence of this unfair treatment, hinting at political favouritism. Most of the 'frozen loans' about which he was concerned had been taken on before 1930 when the price of land was high, for the purpose of buying land. People who had made the effort to repay were penalised, in some cases to the extent of being put out of business. Others who had made no effort to pay were let down lightly. The New Zealand principle for debt adjustment related the amount to be repaid to the depressed post-1930 price of the land, to which the mortgage related. A similar procedure operated in the US. Britain and Ireland were the only countries where there were no special arrangements to deal with agricultural debt and farmers were left to the whim of the banks.

In passing he commented on the effects of pre-war wheat policy: those farmers who had resisted it now had reserves of pasture in good heart fit to grow wheat from now on, but it needed to be followed by a root crop with heavy manuring, if the fertility was to be retained, and the source of the manure would have to be from stall-feeding in autumn and winter. (JJ never missed an opportunity to promote good large-farm management practice, though mostly it fell on deaf ears. RJ July 2000)

In concluding he expressed disappointment at the attitude of the Minister Dr Ryan to the function of credit and capital in agriculture, which was along the lines that he wanted the farmers to owe as little as possible and produce as much as possible. The situation was that there were many small farmers without capital and the only source of capital was bank credit. Having raised the issues, he withdrew the motion.

January 30 1941 - Censorship: a motion had been introduced by McDermot and Alton, with an amendment by MacFhionnlaith, which JJ heckled as being 'totalitarian'.

February 12 1941 - Disposal of Surplus Agricultural Produce: JJ went into the history of prices and production particularly with regard to oats and poultry. The high prices for oats in 1939 encouraged farmers to go in to production in 1940, but encouraged poultry-keepers to massacre their stock, which they could not feed at that price. The result was that farmers in 1940 had to accept about half the price they had bargained for. He called for the State to stabilise things with a guaranteed price for oats such as to render poultry production and oats production economic.

March 12 1941 - National Register of Consumers: this debate was considering the introduction of an administrative basis for rationing, and JJ was in general supportive of it. He attempted to broaden the scope of the debate to cover the development of an export-oriented agricultural policy which would be consistent with import-substitution (ie wheat and beet etc) and at the same time would look good to Britain, to the extent that they would encourage it by allowing necessary imports (eg tea, petrol). He was however ruled out of order; doctrinaire self-sufficiency remained the norm. Lemass had advised people to stock up in case of invasion, and this had led to local supply problems in some commodities. (I remember we had a tea ration of half an ounce per week, while in Britain it was all of 2 ounces, and for a nation addicted to tea this was seen as a disaster; people were prepared to pay £1 for a pound of tea on the black market. RJ July 2000)

March 19 1941 - Central Fund Bill: this was a broad-ranging debate in which JJ again went over the ground he had covered previously: the need for agricultural credit, local government at the level of parish councils, the right of people to a basic ration of potatoes and milk, the need for centralised planning by the State to take care of the emergency, while making use of voluntary organisations where these existed, the need to expand agricultural production for export to Britain, and to do a deal with Britain for essential supplies of coal, petrol, cotton, tea etc. Being himself an egg-producer he compared the price of a dozen eggs in Dublin (2/2) with that in Belfast (3/-) (an incentive to develop exports one would think), and warned against increasing the level of taxation in a contracting economy, based on French experience in 1931.

April 3 1941 - Beef Export Licences: JJ moved a motion 'that with a view to securing an economic price for fat cattle the Seanad is of the opinion that export licences for beef carcases should be granted without delay in all cases where suitable abattoir and other facilities are available'.

The background to this consisted of two main factors: (a) the Minister had earlier made an arrangement with the British to get a favourable price for fat cattle (a case which JJ had been making for years), and farmers had begun to go back to stall-feeding, expecting the improved price, and (b) there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, with the result that imports of live cattle had been banned by Britain.

In this situation, there was a need to switch to export of carcase beef, but abattoir capacity had not expanded, and was controlled by a 'big five' of major firms, who took advantage of the farmers' plight to beat down the price, offering something like £5 per animal short of what was the Dublin market norm.

What JJ wanted was (a) local abattoirs, dealing with local farmers, to have the right to get into the export market, thus keeping up the prices, (b) buyers from the 'Emergency Purchasing Committee' to be discouraged from spreading foot and mouth disease with their muddy boots on direct farm visits, and (c) Dublin buyers, similarly, to deal wholesale with the local abattoirs, rather than dealing directly with farmers.

This motion received broad-based support, was put and agreed to, presumably with the result that the Minister acted, though I have not been able to check this out.

May 14 1941 - Constitution Bill (Second Amendment): the Fianna Fail government was making its first attempt to get rid of Proportional Representation, and a Government Senator adduced arguments suggesting that PR was at the root of the current state of European politics. JJ took strong exception to this, defending PR as a 'valuable feature of the Constitution...which in particular appeals to the minority...PR modified by the existence of a two-party tradition works reasonably well...has not prevented...a single-party government.

Referring to Northern Ireland JJ reminded the Senate that PR '..was part of the original Constitution and that it was generally regarded as a retrograde step when it was abolished...at the time (its abolition) was denounced as a flagrant violation of the rights of the minority.' He harked back to the First Home Rule Bill, which was defeated in the Commons, and in the ensuing election more voters voted for Home Rule candidates but owing to the English system a Unionist majority was returned. So if there had been PR in Britain in 1886 '...the whole history of Anglo-Irish relations would probably have been altered, and altered for the better.'

May 21 1941 - Constitution Bill: McDermot wanted to limit the time for which an Emergency could be declared. JJ indicated that he trusted the normal democratic procedures for getting rid of an emergency. Their amendment was put and defeated, and one of Quirke accepted. The Bill was agreed.

Later on the same day, the Milk (amendment) Bill: in this context JJ drew attention to the factor of about 5 between what the farmer got and what the consumer paid for a pint of milk, and to the under-consumption of milk in Dublin, which had public health implications. He called for a rationalised municipal distribution system, and for a deal to be done with producer co-ops remote from Dublin for milk pasteurised at source. He wanted the quality farm-based producer-distributors near Dublin to get some recognition, and for the sub-standard back-yard urban cow-keepers to be phased out, being a source of disease, both in cattle and humans.

May 27 1941 - continuation of above: the debate touched on the economics of winter milk supply. JJ wanted there to be free trade in milk; anyone who undertook 12-month continuity of supply to be able to contract in to the Dublin system, not just an existing vested interest of suppliers in a designated Dublin production area. JJ's amendment was withdrawn on the assurance from Minister Ryan that he was considering the municipalisation of Dublin milk distribution.

July 2 1941 - Finance Bill: JJ accused the Bill of erring unduly on the side of rigid financial virtue, given the needs of the emergency situation; government borrowing from the banks in the UK was much greater. In an aside he reiterated his criticism of the pre-war wheat policy: we would have been in a better position to grow wheat now had we imported and stored wheat in the 30s, and dedicated tillage to the support of a productive livestock industry. Tillage capacity could then under emergency conditions have been switched to wheat, with the land in good heart.

He reminded the Minister that the Banking Commission had advocated setting up a Research Department in support of public policy development. 'The Government has sown its wild oats in the somewhat distant past, and after treating its subjects to a diet of husks for a number of years, it is now on the way back to more civilised conditions in which calves are fattened before being slaughtered..'.

JJ warned the Minister about trying to increase taxation in a situation of declining real incomes, and drew his attention to the abnormal profit-making which had gone on in some favoured sectors, particularly the millers. He re-iterated his call for improved credit facilities for farmers, who currently were at the mercy of retailer credit, often for periods up to 6 months, for which they charged interest. He warned the Minister against attempting to increase taxation on agricultural business, whose incomes were tending to increase modestly under emergency conditions. He warned against 'cutting the wheat before it was ripe'. The credit of the State depends '...on the productive capacity of the citizens..'.

JJ then read what amounted to a Keynesian lecture on the role of the State in a deficit financing situation, based on current British experience, where State borrowing had increased but inflation had been contained.

This speech is a candidate for reproduction in full, and I will do this if possible; the trouble is that the quality of the paper in wartime is such that scanning-in is somewhat difficult; the paper is yellowing. RJ July 2000)

July 23 1941 - Emergency Powers (Continuance) Bill: This was introduced by the Taoiseach and there were several altercations between the Taoiseach and JJ, the purport of which would appear to have been the echoes of the earlier demand for a National Government, with the burying of the Civil War hatchet between the two main parties.

July 30 1941 - Appropriation Bill: JJ regaled the Seanad with anecdotes about the functioning of the supply system for petrol and paraffin, which indicated that farmers who received paraffin for tractors were being treated badly, as indeed had he himself, as regards supply of Senatorial petrol. He read out a copy of a letter which a farmer contact had sent to the Department of Agriculture. The farmer had been sent a letter refusing a permit, because there was no paraffin available, whereupon a driver of a tanker drove up, offering to sell him as much as he needed, if he had the necessary permit. JJ urged some inter-departmental co-operation and some forecasting procedures.

August 13 1941 - Neutrality (war damage to property): JJ supported an amendment which gave the Minister the opportunity to compensate loss, along the lines of insurance company practice.

January 14 1942 - Registration of Architects: JJ interjected favourably, and voted for this Bill, which had been introduced as a Private Member's Bill by James Douglas. It was passed.

January 15 1942 - Minimum Price for Wheat: in this debate JJ made a scathing attack on the policy of the Government over the past 10 years, and indicated how it had now left us on the verge of actual starvation, quite unnecessarily. The crisis was due to a combination of land exhaustion due to unnecessary growing of wheat in the 30s, and land subdivision in favour of 'landless men' who lacked the capital to develop the production of their smallholdings, and for whom the growing of wheat was quite unsuitable. I have reproduced this speech in full, as it summarises well JJ's views on the handling of the emergency by Fianna Fail.

February 11 1942 - Referendum Bill: JJ cross-examined Minister McEntee on the procedure for amending the Constitution. If an Amendment is passed by both houses, then the Government could block it by simply not declaring a Referendum. If a Referendum were to pass against the wishes of the Government, the Government would fall. JJ also complained about anomalies in the Register, due to its alphabetic arrangement rather than localised.

February 25 1942 - Referendum Bill: JJ introduced an amendment obliging the Government to put an amendment to the people within a year of an Oireachtas vote. After some discussion, on McEntee's assurance he dropped it.

February 25 1942 - Motion re Wages of Agricultural Workers: JJ in this speech gave a preview of his SSISI paper which was to be delivered a couple of days later on the 'Capitalisation of Irish Agriculture'. After an introduction in which he analysed the effect of imposing a 'minimum wage' (it would lead to casualisation of marginal workers, with payment by the day, and would tend to reduce the wages of the more skilled workers towards the minimum) he came up with quantitative estimates.

The gross output of Irish agriculture was about £60M and the net output some £53M. The capital invested in Irish agriculture he estimated at £466M and he proposed to remunerate this with a return of £23M (ie a modest 5%) leaving £30M to remunerate labour, to be divided among the 600K people then said to be engaged in agriculture. This figure was of course inflated by the Land Commission subdivision into 30-acre lots. This gave an average income per head of £50, which was substantially less than the weekly minimum wage of £1.5 which was on the table.

Analysing this somewhat absurd conclusion JJ concluded that '...the great bulk of the persons occupied in Irish agriculture are sitting around on the small farms of 30 acres or less are really superfluous to the work to be done on them... (earning) less than £50 per person per year... (while) in the few cases which I have personally investigated...large well-equipped and adequately capitalised farms, I arrived at the conclusion that the net output per person occupied in such farms reached as high as £215 per person per year, and in other cases well over £100 per person per year.'

He went on: '...whereas we have nearly 400,000 ... holdings there are only some 50,000 farmers who employ any wage-paid agricultural labour at all... the output per person is, on average, much higher on the larger farms...'.

March 19 1942 - Central Fund Bill: this was an opportunity for airing general economic ideas for taking care of the emergency, which by this time had become quite acute. In a reasoned speech, which is on the agenda for reproduction in full, JJ argued that financial considerations should not be given priority over economics, and a controlled degree of inflationary finance should be allowed. Britain had acquired 5% of the real income of the nation by simply issuing new money (ie borrowing from the banking system) with quite easily manageable inflationary effects.

He then came around to how compulsory tillage was working, in the non-tillage areas where it was imposed. Land was being let on conacre to contractors who mined it. He drew attention to this as a disastrous procedure, and counter-posed the current English procedure, which was based on a plough-up subsidy. He predicted a declining yield per acre, and a need to increase the acreage.

He then went into agricultural productivity per person. One person in Ireland on the land was producing food enough for 10 persons. The comparable figure in Britain was 15. He reiterated his call for increasing the employment of labour on the larger and better-equipped farms.

On fuel he urged that the State should deal with voluntary co-operative organisations of local labour, as well as importing mobile labour from a distance. On food he urged increase uptake of potatoes to offset the shortage of bread, and relocation of people from the towns back to the country, to be nearer to the sources of food. Communal feeding in the towns would enable potatoes and vegetables to be cooked with fuel economy.

April 22 1942 - Family Allowances for Agricultural Workers: In an excellent speech, also worthy of reproduction in full if I can overcome the wartime paper quality problem, JJ analysed the relationship between wages and family income requirements, and made the case that just as in a business they make systematic provision for depreciation and maintenance of plant and equipment, so society should make social provision for the replacement of its members. He leaned heavily on a book by Dr Eleanor Rathbone, which made the family allowances case in Britain.

JJ noted the fact that the unemployed were in receipt of family-size-related income, and that this constituted an incentive for unemployed parents of large families to remain so, the so called 'poverty trap'.

As regards financing the scheme, he offered various options, one being a fund to which employers and workers would contribute out of a projected wage increase (a foreshadowing of contemporary PRSI), another being for the State to take over and legalise the existing black market in white flour and tea, thus turning the racketeers' super-profits to the social advantage. For example, if 10% of the output of the millers were to be milled to black market white flour standard, and an excise of £100 per ton collected, and this were to be made available to the public as a sort of 'official black market', the necessary money would be raised.

The amendment providing family allowances for farm workers was carried on May 6.

June 2 1942 - Minimum Price for Wheat: returning to this vexed topic, JJ attempted to link the topic of the motion to the emergence of a post-emergency policy for a relationship between grass and tillage, pointing out the the best grass farmers were often the best tillage farmers. The policy should also relate to agricultural credit, and to dairy farming, and calf rearing, and fat cattle production. It should allow for collaboration with our British neighbours.

He pointed out that there would be absolutely no reason to continue the wheat growing policy after the war, as the granaries of the US and Canada were overflowing, with ample stocks for the whole of Europe during post-war recovery. There was no reason why we could not get this at world prices. The current price in the US was a dollar a bushel, which is about 10/- a cwt.

He urged that if there was to be a fixed price for wheat there should be a related fixed price for oats. He blamed the bad relationship between cereal and livestock prices on British policy which had penalised Irish production of fat cattle for export, and blamed the Government for not making a public issue of this, as a serious national grievance. As a consequence of this policy, stall feeding had been abandoned and as a result there was a shortage of manure. What we want is a price for fat cattle that is at least 5 times the price of oats; this is the Northern Ireland situation under UK market conditions.

He went on to criticise the 100% extraction of wheat flour, which had introduced into the human diet indigestible material better suited to feeding to pigs and poultry.

June 6 1942 - County Management: JJ supported Dr Rowlette's amendment relating to the status of the Hospital Management Board in the context of local government.

(This I suspect had an implied religious control agenda but I may be wrong. RJ Aug 2000)

June 17 1942 - Finance Bill: JJ remarked that in the previous year's debate he had advocated going easy on taxation and doing some inflationary bank borrowing, taking up the resulting increased money incomes in taxation later. The Minister had done the opposite, so he wondered should he consistently give the wrong advice, in order for the right thing to be done. However he welcomed the fact that the Minister was in the end coming round to borrowing.

He then returned to the price of fat cattle, which issue had not been resolved in the 1938 settlement of the economic war. He noted the Minister's efforts in this direction, and urged persistence, using arguments that it would be in the British interest for them to encourage us to optimise our beef production system to supply them.

He re-iterated his arguments about the need for family allowances, and the suggestion that they be paid for by the Government taking over the black market in white flour; people in Donegal were prepared to pay a guinea a stone for flour bought for 3/- in Derry. Why not mill 10% of the wheat into white flour, put an excise of £100 per ton, and make it available at a guinea a stone to those with the money to pay for it? Why should the State allow the black marketeers to levy a private taxation?

Finally JJ attempted to develop the argument against 100% extraction using scientific diet evidence regarding the digestibility of bran by humans as compared to pugs and poultry, but the Chair ruled him out of order.

June 18 1942 - Price of Bacon Pigs: in this debate on a motion introduced by Senator Baxter JJ was able to encapsulate the essentials of emergency agricultural policy across a broad spectrum. He began with a riposte to the Minister who had misunderstood an earlier argument about the price of oats in the context of stall-feeding cattle. His point had been the need to persuade the British to pay a better price for fat cattle.

Coming round to the pig question, there had been a quota of 500,000 cwts of bacon on the British market at 133/- (ie £6.65) but for anything above that they were paying only some 90/-. The British would rather lose the war than accept food from Eire. The Government should do a deal with the British to get parity with Northern Ireland prices.

He then went into pig production models: there was the 'pig as byproduct' model and the 'pig specialist' model. The second was dominated by the 'hog-corn ratio' and could currently be done in the US profitably, with cereals in glut, and shipping space to Britain at a premium. No way could we compete with the US for the supply of bacon in this mode. We could however post-war, and it would be necessary to maintain a pig population to enable this. The 'pig as by-product' fulfils this role, and the natural feed is skim milk and potatoes.

The trouble is the skim occurs in the summer and the potatoes occur in the winter. It is however feasible to bring them together by the expedient of (a) encouraging winter milk production, with autumn calving, and stall-feeding with silage and roots and (b) making storable 'potato silage' in the spring with the residuum of the crop, before it begins to sprout, cooking it and storing it under sterile conditions.

He concluded by attacking the 100% extraction wheaten flour, of which the 15% bran was in fact best for pigs, and quite indigestible by humans. In the best polemical tradition he concluded: '...the Minister in his career as a successful politician had doubtless had occasion to hand out chicken feed to his followers, and I might say to him in this particular matter that he is handing out not only chicken-feed but pig-feed and expecting humans to digest it...'.

July 22 1942 - Appropriations Bill: on this occasion there was some discussion of the education system and the Irish language, and JJ used the opportunity to make some critical remarks on how Irish was taught. He declared sympathy with the objective, and used the positive experience of my sister and myself as regards our experience at our respective schools, where in both cases Irish was taught with skill by good teachers. But he came down heavily against teaching other subjects through Irish, before proficiency in the language had been attained.

In summary: '...we sympathise with the ideal of learning Irish as a window.... opening to us a view of the soul of Gaelic Ireland, but we resent the notion of learning Irish as prison bars behind which our intellectual life is to be suppressed.'

July 24 1942 - Emergency Powers: in this context JJ intervened on the topic of minimum penalties, below which the district justices were not allowed to go, and dragged in by the hair the issue of the need for a penalty for feeding to animals food fit for humans, and feeding to humans food fit for animals, re-iterating his arguments against 100% extraction of wheat flour. The chair ruled him out of order.

July 27 1942 - Emergency Powers: JJ had an interaction with the Taoiseach about compulsory tillage. He instanced people in nominal compliance on totally unsuitable land.

September 23 1942 - Central Bank Bill: this evoked a highly technical speech, which probably went over the heads of the Senators, but perhaps contributed to the bank of expertise available to the Department of Finance. JJ began by reminding the Government that he had advocated the setting up of a Central Bank nearly a decade ago, and he quoted from Page 100 of his 'Nemesis of Economic Nationalism: '..it is amazing to me that the State has not yet done anything to create a national short-term money market. The first step in that direction is to turn the Currency Commission into a Central Bank.... to give leadership to the ordinary banks in the practice of a national credit policy...'.

He went on to regret the 30s as a lost opportunity for adopting a liberal monetary policy and borrowing millions for the purpose of national reconstruction and readjustment '...from the general public ...though a mechanism which in those times would have been anti-inflationary'.

The criticisms of the Banking Commission which had sat from 1934 to 38 had largely been ignored. The Central Bank Bill '...positively oozed monetary orthodoxy of a late Victorian kind..' as if the Government was trying to atone for its 30s economic heresies with 'a swan-song of monetary orthodoxy'.

JJ then homed in on the all-Ireland nature of the banking system, and the constraints this put on the relationship with sterling. The sterling reserves held by the banking system were so big that we could have considerable economic departure from parity without noticing it in financial terms. He went in some depth into the question of the jurisdiction of a 26-county central bank on a 32-county banking system. He concluded that '..the real cash basis of the Irish commercial banks is the plaything of the trade balance between out country and Britain, and is consequently completely outside the control of the central bank'.

He concluded with some remarks on the legal debarring of the right of the central bank to lend to the Government, which he criticised as a very negative means of preventing inflation. The bank would do little for the emergency situation, and was perhaps relevant to the post-war situation, in a way which it was difficult to foresee. He called for the Board of the bank to be constituted in such a way as to command the respect of the whole community 'even from the Labour Party'.

The foregoing long speech by JJ came immediately after the Minister Sean T O Ceallaigh had introduced the Bill for the Second Reading. The key issue was the central management of the sterling reserves as backing for the currency. RJ August 2000.

October 7 1942 - Central Bank Bill: in the Committee Stage of this Bill JJ tried to raise again the question of agricultural credit, in the context of who should be on the Board of the Central Bank.

October 14 1942 - Central Bank Bill (final stages): JJ came in briefly to remind the Minister of the need to build industry on the fruits of agricultural exports, as the USA and Denmark had done, and to be selective in what industries were built. Industry should be dibbled in rather than sown broadcast, and where the latter had been done, the weaker seedlings should be thinned. Post-war the same problem would exist all over Eastern Europe: how to make the transition from a primarily subsistence agricultural country to a system of commercial agriculture feeding healthy industry.

November 18 1942 - Censorship of Publications: in this debate JJ intervened to suggest that much of the Bible, Shakespeare and Greek, Latin and Gaelic classics should be censored if the practice of the censors were to be applied consistently.

December 10 1942 - Export of Milch Cows: JJ put down a motion on this, which had become a problem due to the high price for milk paid in Britain, with the result that the Irish herd and creamery intakes were declining. He seems however to have left some loopholes in the arguments, due to statistical ambiguities, and the motion got mired down in arguments about springing heifers being classed as stores in the export trade. He may however have been on to something.

January 13 1943 - School Attendance Bill: JJ moved an amendment, seconded by James Douglas, as follows: 'in sub-section (2) paragraph (a) after the word 'child' in line 28 to add the words: "but the Minister shall not refuse to give a certificate in respect of a child sent by his parent in the exercise of his constitutional right under Article 42 to a school outside the jurisdiction of the Oireachtas"'

The angle JJ took on this was to defend the rights of Protestant parents for access to all relevant schools in Ireland, including the North. He further defended the rights of parents to sent children to school in England, on the grounds that '..some people only find their Gaelic soul when they are thoroughly immersed in the atmosphere of the English public-school system. Some of the most enthusiastic Gaels I know received their education in their formative years in English public schools...'.

After placing on record the foregoing arguments he withdrew the amendment.

January 20 1943 - Export of Milch Cows: this was a return to the issue debated the previous week; JJ admitted he had drafted the motion without enough research, and he conceded to the Minister the fact that the Department had in fact control over the number of export licences, and was issuing fewer than the British were willing to accept. The debate he regarded as having been useful, as a record of views on issues relating to the dairy industry, but in the end he withdrew the motion.

February 3 1943 - School Attendance Bill: his amendment, as proposed on January 13, was defeated; he proposed another one, no 5, as follows: 'In page 4, Section 4, at the end of the section to add a new sub-section as follows: (6) The procedure prescribed in the foregoing sub-section of this section shall not operate in cases where parents send their children to be educated in schools outside the jurisdiction of the Oireachtas: Provided, however, that the Minister may take reasonable steps to satisfy himself that the requirements of Article 42 of the Constitution are being fulfilled.'

In this second attempt to get the principle accepted he instanced his own family experience, with the utility of access to Oxford and Edinburgh, as a positive educational experience; he also urged the utility of having people from abroad educated here, on an exchange basis. He characterised the Bill as 'Penal Laws in reverse'.

In the ensuing debate Professor Magennis (UCD) opposed the amendment strongly, identifying it as a demand of an ascendancy group for privilege. The debate had been opened up in the direction of this type of opposition by the intervention of Sir John Keane, from whose support JJ attempted unsuccessfully to decouple himself.

In his concluding speech JJ ended by deploring '...the fact that he had succeeded so little.' He had not been suggesting that there should be any escape from compulsory education; he had been urging a different machinery of enforcement. Nor was he advocating that a privileged section of the community be exempted. He withdrew the amendment.

February 11 1943 - Rail Passengers: for travel between Dublin and Dundalk local trains had spare capacity, but buses pass by full. It should be possible to encourage people to use local rail services and keep buses for where there were no rail services.

February 17 1943 - Artificial Fertilisers and Exports: this was another occasion in which JJ was able to rub the noses of the Government in the disastrous effects of the Economic War on national survival potential in the Emergency. The Minister was not present, reflecting perhaps his being somewhat tired of JJ's criticism. He reminded the House that the current shortage of artificial manures was not new; it had been originated as a self-inflicted wound in the 30s, under the doctrinaire self-sufficiency policy. He then re-iterated the argument about the role of stall-feeding of cattle as a source of farm-yard manure (FYM), and came up with figures from Rothamstead showing that the nitrogen content of FYM from cattle stall-fed for beef was higher than that from dairy cows.

The results of applications of basic slag only became realised over a 5-6 year period, and imports of this had dropped to zero during the economic war; we were reaping the fruits of this in the Emergency. He went on to argue that it would be in the British interest that they arrange to let us have some artificial manures now, in order for us not to have to increase further tillage and reduce grass, reducing their access to beef.

He urged also that the sugar produced from our sugar-beet harvest, of which he in the end came round to showing some grudging approval, having grown some himself, should be officially shared with consumers in the North (a process which was going on unofficially via the smuggling process), and that flax should be grown to supply Northern industry, with these being used as arguments in discussions with the British Government.

March 10 1943 -Intoxicating Liquor Bill: JJ urged early closing of pubs in the interests of public health.

March 18 1943 - Central Fund Bill: this annual debate was an occasion for a broad-ranging injection of ideas, and JJ used it constructively on this occasion; I would like to be able to scan in the whole of this speech, but the yellowing paper makes it difficult.

He began with an account of his conversion to the cult of sugar-beet: the key factor had been the award of a stone of sugar for every ton of beet produced. He had fallen for this, and persuaded his neighbours in Drogheda to do likewise, on the grounds that it opened up the possibility of conserving the fruit harvest from their gardens in the form of jam. (I have fond memories of being a part of this production process, during the school vacation. RJ) He had put down a half an acre of beet and got the sugar, and indeed the pulp for animal-feed. He went on to do the sums: half an acre on 400,000 farms would give us an export surplus which could be traded with the British for fertiliser.

He then went on to re-iterate his arguments in favour of the productive efficiency of larger farms employing labour, quoting extensively from an article which he had written recently in the Irish Press, in which he argued for investment in agriculture of £100M over the coming decade, leading the the employment of one extra farm worker on each of the 50,000 farms currently employing paid labour.

He concluded by deploring the fact that the graduates of the agricultural colleges rarely actually went into farming, and urged that the then projected Agricultural Credit Corporation should take over the land of defaulting debtors, and make it available to a Development Corporation, which should let out the land '...on lease, with covenants ensuring the use of proper methods of husbandry, to persons of adequate agricultural knowledge and possessed of enough working capital, preferably persons who had graduated from one or other agricultural colleges...'. (The latter is a quotation from his Irish Press article; I will scan this in if I find it. RJ)

May 12 1943 - Election (Polling Cards): JJ welcomed the procedure for posting a card to everyone on the register; it had lapsed for over a decade when it was under the County Council; he had been told it needed an Act.

May 13 1943 - motion on increase of agricultural production: the motion urges making available food in post-war Europe, and JJ made a long contribution based on the need to keep in existence an exportable in-calf heifer population to help build up the European breeding stock.

As a lead-in to the discussion he harked back to the Ottawa agreement of 1932, which combined with the Harvey-Smoot Bill in the US, set the stage for the rise of Fascism in Europe, by their general disruption of international trade.

As a consequence of both the war and the epoch of pre-war protectionism, agricultural surpluses in Ireland in most areas had disappeared, except for cattle. To illustrate the European scene he read extracts from the Central European Observer (April 30 1943) '...the French people have already eaten all their turnips, they have finished off their crows and sparrows. IN the north they eat acorns and tree bark. In Greece they chew at bushes. Shadows roam the streets of Athens. They used to be scientists and workers, artists and students. They are not conscripted for work because they have not enough strength to lift a spade. The dogs have disappeared -- they have all been devoured..'.

He then addressed problem of agricultural prices in Britain, and how under present conditions these would actually discourage the build-up of the Irish livestock population, by encouraging the export of milch cows to the UK. He came around to the need to subsidise the production of butter for the home market, in order to compete with the demand for the export of milch cows to Britain, and keep open the option of exporting heifers to post-war Europe as breeding stock, rather than to Britain for beef.

May 19 1943 - Finance Bill: in the JJ referred to the coming election, and empathised with the Minister, on the principle that politicians usually get punished by the electorate for their virtues. He supported Senator Douglas's call for greater dependence on individual and group efforts and less on the State, with a view to '...averting State omni-competence and an ever-increasing and ever more costly Civil Service.'

He went on to remark on the fact that despite the increase in tillage, there had been no overall increase in agricultural production, due to the restrictions on importing feedstuffs. He urged a consistent set of floor prices: we had the previous year had the collapse of the price of oats, and now that of potatoes. He contrasted Northern Ireland were there was a subsidy of £10 for every acre of potatoes, and £3 per acre for wheat or oats planted. With a well-structured set of consumer subsidies the cost of living in Britain had been kept down to 20% of the 1939 level, whereas ours was up 60%. He expressed concern about the additional inflationary effect of the increasing external assets, a consequence of the fact that we were exporting more than we imported. On balance however he felt himself able to congratulate the Minister on a sincere and honest Budget.

July 14 1943 - Central Fund: this speech, his last one before the election, was impromptu, in response some Fianna Fail backbench rumblings, which stimulated him to re-iterate his arguments about the need to re-negotiate the 1938 agreement in favour of getting the right price for fat cattle. The consequences of the British differential price policy had influenced all aspects of agriculture, including tillage. The result was that we were exporting agricultural labour to Britain rather than produce, and exporting female cattle stock for breeding in Britain. The case should be made that it is in Britain's interest to do a deal.

Thus ended JJ's first term in the Seanad. He had, perhaps, made a name for himself as a persistent critic, and as an advocate of a point of view which was running against the tide. He had not acted primarily for TCD but for what he saw as the interests of the nation, with agriculture as its primary source of wealth, and intensive farming of large units, whether capitalist or co-operative, as the road to productivity per worker and per acre.

The 1943 Election

When de Valera called his mid-war election in 1943 my father was living in 'the Glen', a house near Drogheda which he had bought at the start of the war; there was a 20-acre farm attached, which he farmed, employing a man and keeping the books, as he had done over a decade earlier. This decoupled him somewhat from College politics, and he was not in such a good position to canvass and organise his support-group as he had been in 1938, though he had managed to add about 20 people to it. As a result he lost the seat, to TC Kingsmill Moore. His election address is available, and I reproduce it in full, as it summarises his then political position.

"In seeking.re-election it is proper that I should give some account of my activities in the legislature during the five years in which I have had the honour to be one of your representatives. "In the course of the year 1938 I was invited, along with one other Senator of no party affiliations, to occupy a seat on one of the two Front Benches. I made it quite clear that I surrendered nothing of my independence, and that I did so mainly because it would add to the value of the service to my constituents and to the country. A Front Bench Senator has special opportunities for making his point of view effective. He can take part more easily in informed exchanges with the Ministers, and thus influence the course of the more formal proceedings. Needless, to say a Front Bench seat is no sinecure. One must be alert all the time, especially when some topic is under consideration with reference to which one has special knowledge or responsibility.

"My formal speeches occupy many columns of the Official Reports. In my maiden speech I stated that the Minority in Eire were not content to be regarded merely as guests, even if welcome guests, in the national household. I claimed on their behalf, as full members of the national family, the right to contribute to the "spiritual content of the national being' and maintained that our culture and our tradition should be regarded as Irish equally with that which derives from a Gaelic origin. Until we can create in Eire the concept of an Irish nation which transcends and yet embraces all its separate cultural, racial and religious elements, I held that the problem of Partition in the narrower sense must remain insoluble. Only thus could the "rainbow arch" of Irish unity and peace, of the poet's dream, be constructed, and in that sense I admitted that we of the Minority in Eire might be regarded as "rainbow--chasers," but in no other.

"When the present war broke out I took an early opportunity of pointing out that while neutrality was the only policy possible in our circumstances, it was nothing to be proud of and equally nothing to be ashamed of. If the war had originated as an effort by the League of Nations, of which we are members, to impose sanctions on an aggressor State we could not lawfully or honourably have remained neutral. If we choose to belong to whatever form of World Order shall emerge from the Present conflict, we shall have to accept its responsibilities and limitations, if we would share its privileges. In the meanwhile, we still retain, by our own choice, the privilege of membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations, which is so important to Irish University Graduates; it is to be hoped that this will become the basis of a better human understanding, as well as of more intimate commercial relations, with our British neighbours in the post-war era.

"Agricultural development, in conjunction with fully restored access to the British market, affords us the best opportunity of rapidly increasing the national income. Our general economic policy should have this main object in view, even if it involves some temporary slowing down of the rate of industrial development. I urged on the Minister of Finance that it should be part of an agreed national policy that the "agricultural horse" should be restored to his rightful place between the shafts of the "industrial cart" thus reversing the situation that has existed in recent years. The Government has recently appointed me a member of a small expert Committee of Inquiry on post-emergency agricultural policy, and I am now engaged in the study of the technical and economic questions involved.

"In the period of post-war reconstruction questions of general economic, as well as of agricultural, policy are bound to arise, and it is most important that the voice of a professional economist should continue to be heard in the legislature. The economic basis of any social security plan will also require close examination. In this and other connections the social and civic rights of women must be carefully safeguarded.

"In the matter of the Irish language I would have welcomed a policy of preserving the bilingual character of Ireland in the sense in which Canada is a bilingual country, it will be difficult enough to prevent Irish from dying out in what is now the Gaeltacht. Irish could have been used as an instrument of an education at once liberal and national in the rest of the country, but the teaching of other subjects through the medium of Irish to children whose mother-tongue is English is an educational monstrosity.

"In the matter of compulsory school attendance I shared in the opposition to those aspects of a recent Bill which seemed to give the State excessive power at the expense of parental authority, and the Bill has since been held by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional.

"My views on these and other matters of public interest are on record, and have occasionally reached the wider publicity of the daily Press. I think I may fairly ask that every Elector should consider my public record before deciding the order in which he (or she) should cast his vote.

"My public duties were exceptionally heavy in the early part of this year, and my ordinary work was increased owing to the temporary absence of a colleague on war work. In the circumstances I did not feel justified in stating my case to the electors until I could do so without prejudice to public and academic interests. I hope that electors who have already been approached by other candidates, and who may have agreed to support them, will nevertheless regard themselves as free to vote.for me.

"It is possible that one or other of the new Candidates would, if successful, advocate many of my political ideals with greater eloquence than mine, and equal sincerity. But it is quite certain that no such person could have, here and now, the experience and authority derived from five years' service at Leinster House in a most critical period in the history of the University and of the world.

"If I secure re-election I shall deeply appreciate the honour and do my best to be worthy of it. My re-election by an emphatic vote would also give clear proof that I have your moral support in the course I have taken in public affairs, and enormously strengthen my advocacy of' all those causes and ideals which command our common loyalty."

Although he had in his nominating group some 20 more people than he had had in 1938, mostly clergy, whose support he had perhaps picked up through his son-in-law Rev Dermot Carmody, and there were no notable defections from his 1938 panel, he lost his seat to TC Kingsmill-Moore. I suspect his acceptance of 'front-bench status' might have told against him. While De Valera, in offering him front-bench status, apparently appreciated his critical feedback, the apparent approval of de Valera would perhaps have counted against him with the TCD graduate electorate.

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Copyright Dr Roy Johnston 1999