Century of Endeavour

JJ in the Seanad from November 1943

(c)Roy Johnston 2000

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

My father returned to the Seanad in the 1944 election. He replaced Dr Rowlette, and served with TC Kingsmill Moore and Professor Fearon. At the same time in UCD Tierney was replaced by MJ Ryan. His input to the Seanad during his second spell was somewhat marginalised by the fact that during the latter part of 1943, and most of 1944 and 1945, his main attention was on the Post-Emergency Agricultural Policy Committee, which produced a series of Reports. After losing his seat in the 1943 General Election he was recruited to participate in this Committee, along with TA Smiddy (who chaired), RC Barton, C Boyle, Professor JP Drew, Henry Kennedy (Chief Executive of the IAOS), J Mahony and EJ Sheehy. Both Professor Drew and JJ had served on the earlier Committee from 1922 to 1924.

October 25 1944 - Transport (no 2) Bill: this Bill involved the take-over of the Great Southern Railway and the Dublin trams and buses to form Coras Iompair Eireann (CIE). JJ supported it, but not without critical comment on the way in which leakages had occurred in the spring of 1943 such as to enable speculators in the know to acquire GSR shares at rock-bottom price and make a killing. On balance however he estimated that the public had got for a price of some £20M assets which at current prices it would have taken some £40-50M to construct.

November 8-22 1944 - Transport (no 2) Bill (contd): an amendment was introduced by JJ which attempted to provide some compensation for GSR shareholders who had sold out at rock-bottom prices in 1943 to speculative buyers who had access to inside information regarding Government intentions. The debate continued, with JJ introducing variants on his amendments which attempted to relate the capital value and future profitability of the national transport system somehow to a continuation of interest on the part of the original investors in the railway system.

He had no success, and in his valedictory speech, which he made after the Bill was passed, he warned against a tendency under capitalism for a sort of economic cannibalism to emerge, in which new capital indulges at the expense of old: '...interests connected with the development of road transport have battened on the vitals of the capitalist interests connected with the railway company....now that the vitals of the of the old railway company have been attenuated almost into non-existence and we have.... nationalisation of transport.... I foresee the danger that the cannibal instincts of certain interests, instead of being directed against the helpless shareholders, will be directed against the helpless taxpayer. There will be a tendency to try to further the interests of certain highly organised concerns at the expense of the State and the community in general...'. In the course of the debate a called for some control over road hauliers by means of a licencing system.

November 23 1944 - Land Bill: this related to the work of the Land Commission in the redistribution of land, in the form of large farms or estates compulsorily purchased from owners who were usually identified with the ex-Ascendancy class. JJ had consistently made the case that large farms of this nature should be kept integral and worked productively, thereby employing more labour than could be supported on sub-divided subsistence units. In this debate he approached the question from the angle of elementary justice: '...is there any justice in confiscating the property of people in this generation because the property of certain other people ...300 years ago was confiscated...? It surely is not going to be seriously argued that the people whose social position it is sought to raise by such a policy are in that low social position because...their ancestors backed the wrong king in the 17th century.

He went on to claim equal citizenship rights under the Treaty for all, whether '...people who were disparagingly called the old ascendancy class..'. or not, and quoted Thomas Davis's verse 'what matter that at different shrines we pray unto one God, what matter that at different time our fathers won this sod..'. He then brought in the question of agricultural credit, and how it would be undermined by the threat of confiscatory pricing of land, and likened the process to the selective taxation imposed by Henry VII, under the name of 'benevolences'. The worst victims of the process were hitherto successful commercial intensive farmers, employing labour, who found their credit with the bank undermined by the perception that they had a Sword of Damocles hanging over them, in the form of the Land Commission.

He concluded by estimating that the capital required to make Irish agriculture productive was in the region of £100M over the next 10 years, but this would not get invested if the foundations of agricultural credit was undermined by rendering insecure the title to land of successful commercial farmers.

December 6 1944 - ??: it seems there was a debate on this day which the Minister prevented from being reported in the press. See below.

February 22 1945 - Tuberculosis (Establishment of Sanitoria) Bill: while being supportive of this Bill (note by the way that it precedes by some years that of Dr Noel Browne) JJ held out for better housing, clothing and nutrition as being important preventive measures against the spread of tuberculosis. (From his then current work on the Post-Emergency Agriculture Committee JJ was well aware of the potential for the expansion of the national income by proper use of national resources.)

Later on the same day, on the resumption of the Censorship of Parliamentary Debates motion debate JJ registered a protest about the December 6 suppression of press reporting. He distinguished himself from Sir John Keane, who had it seems declared himself a supporter of Cromwell, by declaring that he regarded Cromwell as 'the most successful leader of a Fascist Revolution in his own or any other European country'. He then went on to identify the Minister with the Cromwellian Orangemen of South Armagh, whose attitude a friend of his had encountered when canvassing in the 1918 election for Sinn Fein.

'Accordingly, I suggest that when a man with Cromwell's temperament, such as the Minister seems to have, is on the warpath, nothing in our Constitution or our Parliamentary institutions is safe, and he is going to decapitate the one and disembowel the other, and then what is left of our Constitution?'

March 7 1945 - Electricity Supply: with some degree of caution JJ welcomed this Bill, which provided for the extension of the services of the Electricity Supply Board to rural areas, at some cost to the taxpayer. The Bill had been introduced by Sean Lemass, hitherto regarded by JJ as unsympathetic to agriculture, and JJ took the opportunity of reminding him of his past record, building the industrial house from the roof downwards, without taking care first of the agricultural foundations. He was therefore initially inclined to view Lemass's incursion into investing in agriculture with some suspicion.

He regarded the Bill as an isolated contribution to the problem of agricultural development; this however had many and complex aspects. The priorities for investment, as seen by the Committee of which he was a member, were the restoration of the deficiencies of lime and phosphates, technical education, and the provision of buildings. The provision of electrical supply would then follow as a development requirement.

The relatively high cost of rural electrification arose as a consequence of the culture of the isolated farmhouse. He urged however that where new housing was provided, for example farm labourers' cottages, that they be clustered, and near to existing villages. This would reduce the cost of supplying electricity.

He concluded by remarking that the need to import copper and equipment would stimulate the need to expand agricultural exports.

April 19 - May 9 1945 - Mental Treatment Bill: this debate continued over 3 weeks and JJ had a robust contribution to make. He began by drawing attention to the need for statistical analysis of the occurrence of mental illness in the population, before deciding whether it should be a local or central funding matter. He mentioned the possible impact of the low marriage rate in rural areas, and the possible correlation with high intelligence. He came up with the idea that there was a spiritual dimension, and urged that theological students receive training in psychology, with a view to their role as chaplains in mental hospitals. This led him to what he identified as a flaw in the Bill, the exclusion of hospital chaplains from superannuation rights.

The Minister came out with figures to suggest that the numbers of Protestant inmates was trivial, with the result the Protestant chaplaincies were somewhat nominal, and not deserving of pension rights. To which JJ replied '...I would like to assure the House that in proportion to our numbers we Protestants are just as mad as you are..'. The Minister had produced figures '...carefully chosen to suggest that there was hardly any insanity at all among certain sects of Protestants..'. and he went on to claim that he knew of at least one place where there were 40 Church of Ireland inmates. He conceded that the amount of salary and pension should have some relation to the workload. In the end his amendment was lost.

In the final stage of the Bill JJ made some comments on the Church and State question, and registered a protest about the question of Catholic access to Trinity College. This issue had arisen because in the third reading of the Bill JJ had picked up a perception that the question of Church and State, insofar as it concerned chaplaincies in mental hospitals, was regarded as not appropriate for the likes of him to be discussing. So in the final reading he 'trailed the coat' by mentioning the 'Catholics in TCD' issue. The Minister tried to block him, but the Chair allowed him to continue.

He then went on the put on record how when an undergraduate he had come across the writings of Thomas Davis, and urged that '...the conception of citizenship and nationality which Thomas Davis advocated in his day is one which we would do well to remember now...' and he managed to close, after being ruled out of order finally, with Davis's verse 'And oh! it were a gallant deed / To show before mankind / How every race and every creed / Might be by love combined..'.

July 19 1945 - Agricultural College Bill: this Bill dealt with the gift to the State of Johnstown Castle, and JJ attempted to open up a general debate on agricultural education, but was ruled out of order. He managed to put on record the extraordinarily low level of participation in agricultural colleges by farmers' sons. (I suspect that he would have homed in on the question of control of such colleges by Religious Orders, if he had got the chance. RJ)

July 25 1945 - Appropriation Bill: the war was over, and JJ was having fun; his main work was in the Post-Emergency Agriculture Committee and during this period he was inclined to treat the Seanad with levity. He began with some basic Irish which he had picked up from the radio lessons of Aindrias O Muineachain, and then when pulled up by the Chair, got down to the guts of the matter: the recent war and Partition. He hung his argument, somewhat tenuously, on the new Minister for Finance'e earlier role as Minister for Foreign Affairs, in which he had managed successfully to steer a course which amounted to moral neutrality in a conflict which the Pope had since declared to have been with Satan. He had high hopes of someone as skilled being in charge of Finance.

He then expounded the 'blessings' of Partition, which not only had kept us out of the war, but had kept the Seanad free from '...at least a dozen or a score unpleasant Ulstermen like myself in this House... the atmosphere ...instead of being the pleasant little family party that it is would approximate more ...to that of a frontier district in Belfast...'. He went on to remind the House that Partition derived from '...the successful appeal to force made by the Ulster Protestants in the years from 1912 to 1914... (which)... produced the Sinn Fein movement...' and indeed the Minister and many others who came into public life.

Despite heckling from Senators who accused him of 'reading his speech', he went on to put on record that the British seaplane base on Lough Erne, flying out over Donegal, had helped win the war, and that no anti-aircraft guns had defended our neutrality in that situation.

Having made his point about the collusive nature of our neutrality in the war, he then switched to the question of the sterling balances, which had accumulated over the previous 5 years, due to our inability to import enough to match our exports. He expressed support for this, as representing Government policy of supporting the British war effort in effect with a long-term loan. He urged that we should now say to Britain 'we were glad to do that much for you in your time of need..'.

This triggered another round of heckling; Quirke accused him again of reading his speech; the Chair however insisted he was consulting his notes, and Kingsmill Moore confirmed this. JJ went on to the effect that we had nothing to be ashamed of in our war record; we had in fact helped Britain to win it. We were now well placed to engage in post-emergency reconstruction; the farmers had money in their pockets, and would be better placed to be a market for any industrial development, which would be on a sounder foundation than in the 30s. He urged that the relatively high level of agricultural wages should continue, giving a better balance between rural and urban incomes.

Later in the debate, the Minister accused JJ of being the 'spiritual father' of the students who had burned the national flag on the roof of Trinity College on VE day. In the 5th stage of the debate, against further heckling, JJ managed to put on record his absolute dissociation from the flag-burning incident, which he said '..was an act of either very disloyal citizenship or of a person or persons who were enemies of this State.'

He went on to state that the Provost had apologised and that the Taoiseach had accepted the apology, and this was then confirmed to the Seanad by the Minister present, Frank Aiken. JJ's final remark was to the effect that de Valera had been a student in TCD and he could then claim to be the spiritual father of de Valera.

There was an amendment, no 11, proposed by Sweetman, regarding record-keeping at the National Stud, to which JJ gave explicit support.

In the course of this wide-ranging debate the Minister, Frank Aiken, attacked James Douglas for being 'pro-Blueshirt'. On the whole, the debate was somewhat heated, even rancorous.

November 29 1945 - Censorship of Publications Bill: JJ here made an attempt to counter the general impression, conveyed in the debate, that sex was an invention of the Devil. In passing he referred to his own status as a seventh child, accepting thereby, perhaps tongue in cheek, the 'prohibition of unnatural methods of family size limitation' aspect. He went on to say that the Act had been in existence since 1929 and had had absolutely no effect on the statistics of sexual behaviour.

February 28 1946 - Rent Restrictions Bill 1944 (final stages): JJ likened the workings of the Act of 30 years previous to the workings of the Land Acts, in that the tenant was in effect awarded a share of the value of the house as the market appreciated. It became no longer advantageous for a landlord to let a house; it was better to sell it. He illustrated from his own experience of a tenancy in a house in Ranelagh between 1918 and 1921.

He went on to urge the development of housing associations, along the lines of Associated Properties ltd, which currently had some 1000 or so houses for rent in Dublin, at rents which were reasonable, and were not under threat from the Act. Such an enterprise could raise capital by mortgaging its property at rate of interest more favourable that an individual could obtain, and then use the capital so raised to build more houses for rent.

March 13 1946 - Harbours Bill 1945: the question arose of what interests were to be represented on the Board. JJ urged that the livestock exporters be given a place.

Later on March 20 he made the case that if the Federation of Irish Manufacturers had a place, despite their then minimal interest in exports, the livestock trade should a fortiori have a place.

March 21 1946 - Central Fund Bill: JJ used this as an opportunity for an attempted analysis of post-war inflation. It was not due to increased wages or salaries, or to expanded bank credit. It was due to our exporting more than we imported. The people who got paid for their exports regarded the revenue as income. The existence of the quota system of import control limited what this income could be spent on. Prices in Britain were some 35% above the 1939 level, while in Ireland they were 70%. If there were no subsidies in Britain the figure would be 50%. The problem in Ireland was due to increasing bank deposits, held by the Banks in Britain, trying to spill over into purchase of goods which were simply not there. If the Minister were to advise those who held deposits to invest them in British long-term securities, the inflationary pressure would reduce. This however would be politically impracticable.

He went on to urge the development of procedures for converting the banks' deposits held abroad into capital goods for the development of both industry and agriculture (reiterating his 1934 arguments). He welcomed the Beveridge 'Full Employment in a Free Society', though warned against its uncritical application in the Irish context. He mentioned Arnold Marsh's 'Full Employment in Ireland', which he regarded as containing serious defects in analysis. He urged putting full employment on the agenda, but declared himself unable to come up with any comprehensive policy, though he was aware of many ways in which public expenditure could be used in the promotion of enterprise. He urged the Minister to call a conference of those in a position to make a useful contribution.

April 3 1946 - Proposed New Ministries: this was a motion proposed by Sir John Keane to enable the Seanad to have a critical look at the Ministries of Health and Local Government. It was formally seconded by James Douglas, and then JJ came in immediately and developed arguments about the relationship between central and local government, calling for a White paper for discussion in depth, cross-party, before the Government legislated.

JJ came out against over-centralised control of local government, as being inimical to local public spirit and initiative. He questioned the county system, as set up 300 years earlier; the units were both too large and too small, nor do they coincide with any natural social or economic regions. He called for groupings of counties to match the scale of the older divisions such as Ossory or Oriel. The authorities of such regions should be able to relate to the government as a whole, rather than with one department dedicated to Local Government.

April 10 1946 - Forestry Bill 1945: JJ objected to putting an artificial limit on the price of land to be purchased for forestry, mentioning the impossibility of accurately foretelling the value of timber in 30 or 40 years time, but expressing the view that given world trends the value of forest products was likely to be upwards. He was critical of the low target of 10,000 acres annually set by the Minister, and the low overall target of 6-700,000 acres. He urged increasing the planting rate by a factor of 10, and making use of the available winter labour surplus.

He went on to urge the development of deals with individual farmers for planting on private land, with the option of either the farmer or the State to own the resulting timber harvest when the time came. (Later, on May 8 in the Committee stage, the Minister Moylan 'did not think well of it' but did not elaborate.) JJ finished by urging the planting of a proportion of broad-leaf rather than total concentration on conifers, and remarked that we would have got through the Emergency more easily if we had had this policy 20 years earlier.

April 11 1946 - Turf Development Bill: the target production figure was 1M tons annually, and the amount of coal imports when imports were unconstrained was 2.5M tons of coal. JJ questioned the suggested equivalence between a ton of coal and 2 tons of turf, suggesting that for the type of turf they had been getting in Dublin it was more like 4 tons. The quality of turf delivered to the towns in the emergency filled him with loathing, as compared to 'country turf', for which he had nothing but admiration.

(The cause of this was the imposition of regulations insisting on sale in towns by weight, which motivated merchants to cut the necessary drying stage short. Turf in the country was sold by the 'load', the volume that could be taken in a standard horse-drawn cart. I am surprised JJ was not on to this. RJ Sept 2000)

He went on to adduce continental experience, from Germany, Russia and Sweden, listing the various organic polymer products which could be extracted from turf as by-products of the carbonisation process, and urged that this should be the objective of scientific research based on the turf industry.

May 1 1946 - Land Bill 1945: the purpose of this Bill was to set up procedures for getting rid of people who had been allotted land but were not working it. It was proposed to insist that someone allotted land should live in the house provided. JJ proposed an amendment which would re-direct the pressure along economic lines, adjusting the annuity. The value in capital terms to the allottee of the land, in adjusted annuity subsidised by the State, was of the order of £1000.

(It is worth remarking that this is the way in which Fianna Fail in the 30s purchased votes using public money. RJ Sept 2000)

The effect of JJ's amendment would be that non-farming allottees of land who had decided to sell up should not be able to cash in on the State bounty in giving them land. He went on '..another objectionable feature is that some of these tenants get this land, pay the nominal annuity and let the land on the 11 month system, becoming in fact a kind of 18th century landlord on a small scale and profiting on the land to the amount of the difference between the annuity they pay and what they get from the lettings on the 11-month system. The margin ... is very wide indeed...£5 or £6 an acre..'.

June 18 1946 - Finance Bill: this was JJ's opportunity to attempt to educate the politicians in Keynesian economics and the effects of cheap money. Keynes had developed his theories to deal with the situation in the 30s, but the post-war situation was quite different. Under current conditions the motivation to spend rather than save was fuelling inflation.

July 9 1946 - Appropriations Bill: JJ used this occasion to argue for special salary arrangements for high-grade specialist Civil Servants, using the arguments of a Report which had been prepared by Professor Duncan of TCD, assisted by Louden Ryan. 'If we want the best brains in the Civil Service or elsewhere we shall have to pay for them'.

He then went on to propose a model for a public-private hybrid enterprise, based on the experience of the War Agricultural Executive Committees in England, which owned and managed machinery pools in support of farmers' needs. Such co-operative machinery contractors here could usefully supply the needs of drainage and land reclamation, using heavy machinery.

July 24 1946 - Industrial Research and Standards Bill: JJ in this context warned against a blinkered sub-division of research into industrial and agricultural, and urged that if and when agricultural research were to come on the agenda, the interface between whatever agency were to emerge and the IIRS should be dynamic.

(This warning was unheeded; the Agricultural Research Institute did not come into existence until over a decade later, and when it did, the gulf between it and the IIRS was considerable. I had occasion to comment on this in my Irish Times column in the 1970s. RJ Sept 2000)

November 13 1946 - Economic Price for Fat Cattle: this was JJ's opportunity to develop his arguments around what he regarded as the central issue in Anglo-Irish relations, and he takes up 6 pages of the Seanad report doing it, from his standpoint of having serviced the Committee on Post-Emergency Agricultural Policy. He began by suggesting that in their negotiations with the British they had not been aggressive enough in seeking a consistent price on the British market whatever the origin of the animal.

Stall-feeding of cattle in winter for beef had been killed for the previous 14 years by the British differential price. This had restricted the supply of manure, and this had reflected itself into the declining yields of wheat, oats and barley. Total cattle had remained constant, but output had declined, because cattle inadequately fed in winter take longer to mature.

He then went in at length to the effects of the British taxpayer subsidising British food producers on the prices available to Irish producers. He read into the Seanad record an extensive paper which he had tried and failed to get accepted in the Report. The conclusion of his analysis was '..We are strongly of the opinion that equal prices for equal qualities of produce, sold in the UK, is the policy which would best facilitate agricultural production in, and export from, our country. We recommend that a joint conference be held to see if the problem can be solved in a manner that will be compatible with the national interests of both countries.'

Turning then to the dead meat trade, he made use of correspondence with a British meat trade expert, Thomas Shaw, who had recently contributed an article to Studies on the importance of the dead meat trade to Ireland. He hoped, by promoting a public understanding of the situation, using the expertise of Mr Shaw and his interactions with the Minister in a public meeting scheduled for the TCD Commerce Society on December 3, to develop political pressure for a top-level approach by the Government to John Strachey the then British Minister for Food.

The 'win-win' situation JJ had in mind was that if the Irish were allowed to upgrade their beef production by finishing cattle in Ireland and exporting as meat, the British would get more of what was still a rationed commodity, and the Irish agricultural production system would be transformed by improved winter feeding practice. RJ Sept 2000)

November 27 1946 - Statistics (Amendment) Bill 1946: JJ urged further attention to the problem of public concern about the uses to which statistical returns might be put.

December 11 1946 - Imposition of Duties Bill: JJ urged that the interests of the 3M people who wanted to listen to the radio should take precedence over the 300 who might get jobs making them behind a tariff protection. Denmark had one radio per 5 of the population, whereas in Ireland there was one radio per 20.

December 12 1946 - Industrial Alcohol (Amendment) Bill 1946, second stage: JJ supported industrial scientific research, and approved of the idea of having a pilot plant to explore the feasibility of chemical production processes, this being provided for in the Bill. He then went on to compare Denmark industrially, remarking that her industrial strength was a result of their having put their agricultural development first. In contrast the Irish industrial experience had been parasitic on agriculture, with the value of the latter being reduced. He then went on to measure things by the consumption of phosphates, with seven lean years 1932-39, followed by seven absolute starvation years of the war, leading to an overall phosphate deficiency of 2M tons. He was critical of dependence on nitrogen in the form of ammonium sulphate, and urged greater dependence on clover, and on proper management of the farmyard manure-heap.

Continuing the above debate on January 15 1947 JJ introduced an amendment urging that the Minister should '..issue a licence for the import free of duty of any chemical product which is used as an agricultural raw material in all cases where the corresponding product of domestic manufacture is available only at a higher price.'

The key issue here is that '..all our industrial development is directly or indirectly based on agricultural productive and export capacity'. JJ then went back into the history of the economic war, rubbing the Minister's nose in it along the lines '..that it was necessary to throw Kathleen Ni Houlihan into the water in order that the Minister should effect a heroic rescue', along the lines of a PG Wodehouse story.

Industrial development in the 30s had been done at the expense of the profits made by Irish farmers during the first world war. He urged prioritising such industrial development as was agriculture-based, or serviced agricultural needs (as indeed did cement, which was based largely on native raw materials). The cement industry was kept going during the war with prioritised supplies of coal, and much of the produce went to Northern Ireland, an act of benevolent neutrality. The electrical industry was well-founded, but there were some industries which were not well founded, in that they simply added to the costs of other industries. Any increase in agriculture costs decreases productive and export capacity. JJ did not want this Bill to provide a cover for building a fertiliser factory of which the products would be more expensive than imported products, and this was the thrust of his amendment.

The above amendment being defeated, JJ tried again on January 22, along the lines that the Minister '...shall have regard to the desirability of making available at all times the chemical raw materials of agricultural and industrial production at prices which compare favourably with the prices at which similar chemical material could be imported.'

JJ had taken on board criticism of his earlier amendment. In support of his revised amendment he adduced comparisons with Britain during the war, where agricultural production had increased by 50%, while ours had declined. He was aware of the availability of native gypsum but wondered where the nitrogenous component would come from. Would it be techno-economically possible to produce ammonium sulphate at a price to compete with imports?

January 22 1947 - Land Bill 1946, second stage: the problem as then perceived was the inflated price of land consequent on the influx of foreign buyers, mostly wealthy refugees from British Labour Government policies. JJ used the debate to re-iterate his arguments for expanded commercial agriculture. The State should intervene to buy land when the price was low, and should lease land to 'persons having agricultural knowledge who would farm them as tenants of the State'. He urged an increase in the number of farms employing labour, and an increase in the number of farm workers, and an increase in their wages, in an expanded commercial agricultural sector, with expanded facilities for agricultural credit.

February 26 1947 - Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (Motion): in this debate there was a lot of criticism of the Institute, on the basis that it should have been attached to the Universities. JJ came to its defence, on the basis that there existed some areas of research which did not easily combine with a teaching load, and that TCD experience of co-operation with DIAS was positive, especially as it provided a common meeting-ground for people from the two Universities.

JJ then went in some detail into the history of Dunsink Observatory, and the contributions to science of Brinkley, Hamilton and their successors, up to the time of Plummer, who had left TCD in 1921, after which they had the observatory but no Astronomer Royal, and TCD had been somewhat embarrassed by Dunsink, as increasingly a white elephant. They could have sold it at a high price, for greyhound racing or whatever, but the College had hung on to it, in the hopes that something would turn up. In the end it did, and TCD were happy to do a deal with the DIAS in the confidence that the asset would remain of scientific value in the new context.

March 12 1947 - Agricultural Credit Bill 1946 (second stage): this Bill put into effect one of the minor recommendations of the Committee on Post-Emergency Agriculture, and set up the Agricultural Credit Corporation, thus distinguishing the special needs of farmers from the market normally served by the banks.

JJ began by referencing Doreen Warriner's Economics of Peasant Farming in which the number of families fed by a family farm is estimated for various countries, being 1.5 in Poland and India, three in Germany, five in the USA and eight in Britain. In Ireland we come between India and Germany, at about 2 to 2.5, with half of the 1.5 non-farm families fed by the farm being in Ireland and the other half in Britain.

Alternatively, for every 125 units of food we produce, we consume 100; our exports are only 25% of our total output. Thus a 20% increase in production would enable exports to be doubled. The real comparison to be made is between the best farmers and the worst, with a view to bringing all up to the level of the best. In this context he leaned on his recent SSISI paper on capitalisation of Irish agriculture. The essence of the argument was that the output per worker on a well-managed large farm was substantially greater than that on an equivalent area of 30-acre farms run by the same number of people.

He went on to call for a farm survey, and to draw on the experience of the British War Agricultural Executive Committees, which had led to the development of co-operative ownership of machinery centres. The credit-worthiness of an application for a loan should be a matter for such a committee, rather than the opinion of a Civic Guard. In general the ACC should deal primarily with large farms or with co-operative societies, relying on mortgage security or collective security.

March 13 1947 - Butter production and Milk Prices (motion): in this extended intervention JJ developed further the arguments of his post-Emergency Agriculture Committee, leaning on a remark of the Minister to the effect that producers supplying manufacturers of whole-milk products (eg cheese, chocolate) were receiving a substantially higher price than the norm. He went on to urge the 800-gallon cow and the scientific use of grass in all its forms.

The argument continued over the need to re-establish a free market in butter, and to bring this under some sort of organised control by the dairy industry as a whole. There was available 'creamery butter' on the market at the controlled price and subject to rationing, and 'farmers' butter' was available in the shops at 4/6 a pound, as much as one wants. JJ referred to the existence of a civil servant Butter Marketing Committee, and urges that this function be taken over by the industry, thus foreshadowing what later became Bord Bainne.

He went on to blame the current scarcity on the bad season 1946-47 and the scarcity of winter fodder. Supply would improve however if the price were 3/6 per pound. The problem however with exports is that the British price is 2/- per pound.

April 16 1947 - State Intervention in Public Enterprise: in this JJ referenced an article of his which had appeared in the day's Irish Times, on the question of State vs private enterprise.

(This article was a report of his Athlone Barrington Lecture, and I have summarised it in the Barrington module. RJ Sept 2000)

JJ went on to commend the ESB as being a model State enterprise, and urged the need for development of State enterprise where there was a natural monopoly situation, like public transport. He expressed concern however about a variety of hybrid organisations where State and private interests were '..mixed up in the most extraordinary way.' He instanced the Sea Fisheries Association and the Roscrea meat factory. He warned of the danger of State investments ending up in private hands, in a way 'which escapes the knowledge of the public and completely escapes parliamentary control'.

He urged that enabling Acts should set up constitutions for such hybrid activities, with rules of the game, distinguishing subsidies from 'loans', capital from income. In this context he instanced the Dairy Disposal Company, as a long-term embodiment of what was originally defined as a transitional situation.

May 21 1947 - Slaughter of Calves (motion): this related to what was the beginnings of the switch in the dairy areas from the Shorthorn dual-purpose animal, whose male calves were bought by the dry-stock farmers for beef, to Frisian, whose male calves were not worth feeding. JJ urged that detailed attention be given to the implications of this 'completely new factor in our whole agricultural economy'. It would be necessary to encourage the dry-stock farmers to go into rearing their own calves, and thereby produce better beef in a shorter time than under the traditional procedures.

June 17 1947 - Finance Bill (second stage): this was an opportunity for JJ to thank the Government for taking into account the needs of Trinity College in the Estimates, to put on record the positive attitudes that TCD had in 1912 and in 1922, and to comment appreciatively on the role of the State in the appointments of Provosts. He went on to comment on the world economic situation, warning of the need for the US to find markets for its expanded production, if another 1929 was to be avoided.

He went on to urge the maximum development of intra-European trade, and the avoidance of imports from the dollar area of raw materials which could be obtained in Europe, using current economic data from the Central European Observer. He expressed concern over the early exhaustion of the US dollar loan to Britain.

JJ was foreshadowing the situation that led to the Marshall Plan in 1948, and by implication urging that scarce dollars be used with priority for capital re-equipment purposes.

July 9 1947 - Presidential Establishment Bill: JJ supported the provision of an entertainment budget of £6000 for the President; we should not be seen as stingy when entertaining foreign dignitaries; arguments relating to the needs of the poor were irrelevant; he referenced the 'alabaster ointment' quote from the Bible.

In passing he urged that a good example be set by cutting the thistles in the Presidential pastures.

July 10 1947 - Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) Bill: JJ approached this question both historically and as an economist. He rejected the 'free service' ideal projected by Senator Summerfield, on the historical evidence of the British Parliament, where membership had been the preserve of the wealthy until payment was brought in. He rejected the idea that they be paid by the vocational interests that they were supposed to represent, on the grounds that they needed to take a national view and not act as lobbyists. They should be paid by the State, at a rate appropriate to professional services, but not excessively, left the main motivation be seen as mercenary.

He objected to the argument that payment should be proportional to time spent in the House, as much business was done informally outside the house, and it was impossible to measure this. He had accepted an invitation to a conference of agricultural economists at Montreal, and it had set him back some £30; he had felt it part of his public duty to go. He urged finally that the 'allowance', less legitimate expenses, should be treated as income, and subject to income tax, so as to differentiate between members of differing background circumstances, favouring the less well-off.

Resuming the debate on July 18 he homed in on the amount proposed, which was £468, equivalent to £300 in 1938, when the allowance had been fixed in £350. So in effect they were being asked to accept a drop.

As regards the 'income + allowed expenses' approach, the Minister had pointed out that it would be objectionable to have to argue over details with civil servants. JJ therefore urged that there be a taxable income, plus a flat rate non-taxed expenses allowances, and that this be based on some analysis of records kept by members over a period of expenses incurred in the course of their Senatorial duty.

July 16 - Appropriation Bill: in his contribution to this omnibus bill JJ responded constructively to some of the points made earlier in the debate. He supported the idea a 'dower-houses' for aging farmers to retire to, and hand over the farmhouse to the coming generation. He approved of the attendance of the Government at the recent European conferences, predicting that we could have an influence disproportionate to our small size.

He then spend some time on Partition, urging the routine exchange of reports, blue books and white papers on related topics. He noted that the Veterinary College was all-Ireland, and that problems of disease elimination had to be approached on an all-Ireland basis. He noted with approval the Erne hydroelectric scheme. He urged discreet co-operation at the working level, such as to help undermine the prejudices of the Protestant working people, who currently regarded '..their Roman Catholic countrymen in all parts of the country as one of the most regrettable mistakes of the Almighty'. He warned against regarding either Senator Douglas of himself as '..in any sense typical Protestants..' and pointed out that it would be '...a slow business to get the majority of the Northern Protestants to take a more Irish outlook on things'.

He then commented on the proposal to encourage the raising of tomatoes in greenhouses in the Gaeltacht, supporting it with some enthusiasm, and urging that the greenhouses be heated with stoves burning locally produced turf fuel. He had himself constructed one in his own greenhouse.

(I remember this episode; he used a Russian stove design, from Nick Couris of the emigre Russian colony in Collon, and built it himself. It worked quite effectively, storing heat in the brickwork for slow release, and did not require much attention, though in the long run there would have been build-up of tar in the flues, had he persisted. I remember him discussing the combustion technology with Dusty Miller, then head of R&D in Bord na Mona. Dusty understood the problems of combustion of high-moisture fuels, and tried to convey them to JJ, who persisted in underestimating them. Basically, however, JJ was 'right in principle', though perhaps underestimating the practical obstacles.

Regarding the Gaeltacht greenhouses: these were built, without heating; few of them survived the Atlantic winter storms. To implement the plan, and to bring in effectively the heating dimension, would have required some collaborative design between engineers and greenhouse experts. The concept however has re-emerged, with the energy for heating provided by a wind-generator, and this system has been implemented with some success in Baile an Fheirterigh. RJ Sept 2000)

Continuing this omnibus contribution JJ got on to strawberries, which grow in Mayo virus-free, and could form the basis of an export enterprise. He wondered if documentation was available in Irish to enable the Gaeltacht people to pick up this type of knowhow.

He then digressed into the utility of Irish as an all-Ireland cultural unifying factor, via the interest in the North in understanding the place names, and concluded on a positive note on the need to keep alive this unique link with pre-Roman culture, which was attracting the interest of 'scholars of European fame'.

July 24 l947 - Health Bill: while supporting the National Health Council concept, JJ was critical of the way the Minister was proposing to set it up with his own nominees on it, rather than with a statutorily defined nominating procedure by the expert groups concerned. He urged that it be not confined to the health-care professions, but should also include people from the underlying scientific disciplines, such as bacteriology.

Later on the same Bill on July 31 he urged that the licencing procedure for premises connected with food should not be arbitrary on the part of the Minister and his inspectors, but should be subject to an open judicial procedure.

November 19 1947 - Superannuation Bill: JJ objected strongly to the proposed award on increased pensions only to those who had retired after a certain date in 1940, on the grounds that it was unreasonable and inequitable.

On the same day on the Finance (no 2) Bill JJ spoke at some length, praising the Minister for doing many of the right things, at the risk of becoming unpopular (as indeed they did, losing the election in the following year!). He began however by querying the increase in car tax for all users: might there not be a case for favouring some for whom the use of the car was essential, like for example rural Protestant Ministers with scattered parishes? (Regarding this he was acutely aware of the economic problems of his son-in-law, then Rector of the parishes of Ballinaclough and Templederry, south of Nenagh.)

Coming to the main features of the Budget: it was balanced, not inflationary. Under the Budget the lower income groups would gain more from subsidy than they would lose by taxation. He however discounted the claim in 'irresponsible quarters' that the cost of living could be reduced by 30% by taxing incomes of £1000 or more, exhibiting the necessary numbers, to Minister Aiken's approval.

He welcomed the agreement with Britain making available phosphates, of which the land had been starved. While the agreed price for beef cattle was not up to Northern Ireland standard, it would again begin to make stall-feeding feasible. He urged some strategic planning between ourselves and the British regarding the long-term management of agricultural prices, and warned against the British extremes of subsidising of food. A budget like Aiken's current one would be much better for the British, and it is a pity Aiken was not advising them! '...Unfortunately, we gave the British Home Rule some years ago.'

Currently the British wages and prices policy was highly redistributive, but unfortunately this had the effect of surplus money spilling over into all sorts of undesirable economic activities.

He then ranged over France, where they had pegged the price of wheat and left all other prices to drift, the effect being danger of actual starvation, and the US, where the price of wheat was comparable to the Irish price, reflecting an overall global scarcity.

He complemented the Government on taking part in world conferences and generally acting the good neighbour in regard to European recovery. His concluding remarks, based on the Prodigal Son story in the Bible, are worth quoting in full:

"..During the past 15 years the Minister's Party has by no means been in the political wilderness - on the contrary it has enjoyed the fruits of office -but perhaps during much of that time it was in a sort of moral wilderness, living on the husks of exploded political, economic and ideological fantasies. But lately, and altogether to its credit, it has decided to come out of that moral wilderness, and to return, so to speak, to its father. The Irish people, the father in question, so unlike the father in the parable, has slaughtered the fatted calf and fed it to the greyhounds and is entirely disposed to send the Minister's party back again into the political wilderness. That is just not fair and the Minister's Party has my utmost sympathy."

December 11 1947 - Poultry Hatcheries Bill: the purpose of the Bill being to licence hatcheries, with a view to the control of disease, JJ was able to complement the Minister for implementing one of the proposals of the Committee on Post-Emergency Agriculture, but he was critical of the heavy-handed and arbitrary nature of the licencing procedure, which appeared to require a licence for all incubators, whether for commercial production of chicks for sale off farm, or not.

This was another example of undue dependence on Ministerial regulation and arbitrary rule of inspectors. '..I would remind the Minister that, on a famous occasion, James II claimed to exercise that power, and that, in consequence of that claim, he went on his travels and lost his job. I would ask the Minister, is he not afraid of something similar happening to himself? I think it ought to be possible, on the Report State, to draft and amendment which would give effect to the licencing provision in the more restricted manner which I recommend, and to deprive the Minister of that wide degree of autocratic power which he is claiming for himself under the terms of this and other sections.'

Later in the debate, JJ pointed out that the clause 'The Minister may, in his absolute discretion, revoke a poultry hatchery licence' would be a total disincentive to any agricultural entrepreneur investing money into a hatchery.

January 8 1948 - Garda Siochana Bill: JJ attacked this same process of including excessive Ministerial arbitrary powers in the legislation: '..in that procedure the legal rights safeguarded by the Oireachtas have been shot away and there is substituted the discretionary power of the Minister..'.

March 11 1948 - Milk Yield of Dairy Stock (motion): this was JJ's last intervention before he lost his seat; the election had taken place for the Dail, and the new Government was in, with Dillon as Minister for Agriculture. The Seanad election had not yet taken place.

JJ began by asserting his Independent status, and expressing agreement with most of Minister Dillon's speech, to which he had some points to add, arising out of the Report of the Post-Emergency Agriculture Committee. Better Dairy Shorthorn bulls were needed in the dairy areas. It would be necessary to again abolish the Beef Shorthorn bull premium, as the former Minister had done, following the good advice of the Barrington Committee to the Northern Ireland Government. (Dillon had reinstated it.) He urged the Department to produce Monthly Reports along the lines done in Northern Ireland, of if not, to circulate the NI Reports. Beef Shorthorn bulls with Dairy Shorthorn cows produce heifers which are indistinguishable from those with Dairy Shorthorn sires, with the 'danger that they will filter into the dairy herds and prove to be ...unprofitable..'.

He then went into cow-testing procedures, and attacked the procedure of making the supervisor dependent on the number tested, proposing instead a levy on creamery milk volume, with State subvention, and the building up of the link with the Cow-Testing Associations, developing them into Dairy Cattle Improvement Associations working closely with the existing creameries.

(JJ was acting as a sort of precursor of the Agricultural Institute, and was a fount of technical knowledge, which he got from reading the international literature, and with hands-on experience with his own small-scale farm experimentation. It is probable that this role was beginning to be recognised, though not in TCD, so that when he lost his seat in the Seanad in 1948, he was, in fact, missed. This may have been a factor in his next spell in the Seanad, as a de Valera nominee, in 1952. RJ Sept 2000)

The 1948 Election

My father had been re-elected in 1944, and so in 1948 he was in the position of defending his seat, in which however he was unsuccessful, losing out to the classical scholar WB Stanford. His election address was as follows:

"The recent General Election in Eire renders it necessary, in accordance with the Constitution, to reconstitute the Senate in full. In requesting a renewal of your confidence it is now possible to refer to certain matters which, on account of the censorship, it was impossible to mention when I had the privilege of addressing you in 1944.

I have no military service to my credit, but I am proud of the fact that five of my nephews served in the armed forces during the recent World War. I am particularly proud of the fact that one of them was awarded the DFC for service in Malta in 1942.

I am a citizen of Eire but I also prize my wider citizenship in the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is most desirable that Anglo-lrish relationships should rest on a foundation of mutual trust and friendly co-operation. To achieve this has long been one of my principal objectives in public life.

Like many other citizens of Eire I am an Ulsterman by birth, and have many friends and relatives in Northern Ireland. All such persons have very special reasons for appreciating the fact that the "Border" constitutes an obstacle to social and cultural intercourse. To some extent it hampers the functions and limits the usefulness of our University. And yet, the direct approach to this problem is confronted by insuperable difficulties. In the meanwhile there are a variety of ways in which closer relations between North and South can be, and should be, cultivated. I welcome the fact that the Governments of Eire and Northern Ireland are co-operating in the development of the hydroelectric resources of the river Erne. Similar co-operation, for example, in the treatment and eradication of veterinary diseases, would be clearly desirable and should be promoted. When we have learnt to work together in neighbourly co-operation in all the ways now possible to us, it may become possible to approach the political question with greater realism and deeper understanding.

As a member of the Post-Emergency Committee on Agricultural Policy I was able to collaborate in the production of its Majority Report on Agricultural Policy. This Report has helped to liberate our present Government from the dead hand of a narrow economic isolationism, and has been useful in the recent negotiations which have led to a mutually advantageous Anglo-Irish trade agreement. In the course of our deliberations in this Committee I kept constantly in mind the desirability of increasing the flow of commerce between Eire and the United Kingdom.

In particular, the Majority Report laid stress on the fact that a considerable expansion of egg production, and of other forms of live stock products, was possible in Eire and desirable from the point of view of both communities. This view has now been publicly accepted by both Governments; in fact the principal recommendations of this Report are being implemented by the Government of Eire in consultation and co-operation with the Government of the United Kingdom. I feel I may claim to have contributed in some degree towards the development of this highly desirable situation. My personal part in connection with the work of this Committee was favourably referred to in the course of conversation by a member of the Government party, and, on another occasion, by a prominent member of the Opposition.

A Senior Fellow who is also a Senator has special opportunities for safeguarding the interests of the University where otherwise they might perhaps, quite inadvertently, be ignored. When it was recently decided to raise to University status the professional education given in the Dublin Veterinary College it was found possible at my suggestion to arrange that our University should have a relationship to that College exactly analogous to that assigned to the National University. In this respect also a recommendation of the Post-Emergency Committee on Agricultural Policy has been carried out.

The Dublin Veterinary College is maintained by the Department of Agriculture of the Eire Government, but it attracts many students from Northern Ireland, as it is the only institution of its kind in Ireland. Our interests with reference to it, and to the whole programme of education and research in connection with plant and animal diseases, are of no small importance to us and to the country as a whole. It seems desirable, therefore, in the interests of the country no less than in those of the University, that I should be enabled to continue my constructive and mediating work with the status and influence which membership of the Senate as one of your representatives undoubtedly confers.

Nor is my Professorial work prejudiced in consequence. My membership of the Senate gives me a wider platform for the dissemination of knowledge, much of which it is my academic duty in any case to acquire and impart as Professor of Applied Economies. A close relation between the University and the State has, long before my time, become recognised as being of great value to the State. It has recently proved to be of great value to the University. The services of my predecessors, my colleagues, and myself, has helped to bring home to the Irish people of all classes the fact that our University is a great national institution whose welfare is inseparable from that of the nation. This has recently received tangible recognition, in the provision of a grant of £35,000, renewable annually, for the general purposes of the University.

I have no affiliations with any political party. Nevertheless the policies which I advocate are seriously considered by members of all parties, as well as by the Government and the newspaper reading public. The fact that three times since 1938 I have been elected as one of your representatives (once without opposition), and the further fact that your representatives have always maintained friendly personal relations with members of all parties in Leinster House, are of material importance in this connection.

As Chairman of the Governing Body of Drogheda Grammar School I have become conversant with the problems that beset many of the smaller Secondary Schools in Eire. If free secondary education were provided for all boys and girls likely to profit by it, the problem of "redundant" Secondary Schools might disappear. I hope to promote a discussion in the Senate in which the question will be approached from that point of-view.

I welcome the decision of the Eire Government and Parliament to apply for membership of the United Nations Organisation, and I fully realise the international obligations and responsibilities, as well as the advantages, which such membership would entail.

The liberty of the individual is the counterpart of responsible citizenship, and I have consistently opposed all applications of the principle of censorship and all extensions of administrative power which seemed to me to 'be incompatible with it.

As to the Irish language, the real problem for Gaelic enthusiasts is to prevent its extinction, as the spoken language of any significant section of the .Irish people, and that is an economic rather than a linguistic problem. It is very.desirable in any case that the economic conditions of the people of the Gaelic-speaking regions should be ameliorated. If this were successfully accomplished there might eventually be established a harmonious balance between Gaelic and Anglo-lrish Ireland. The examples of Canada and Switzerland would seem to indicate that different linguistic cultures can coexist within the framework of a united nation. In the meanwhile it is useless to pretend that any language other than English is the vernacular of the vast majority of the Irish people. I am altogether opposed to the policy of educating through the medium of Gaelic in cases where the language is imperfectly understood and the subject can be more easily taught and learnt through the medium of the vernacular. Needless to say, I am deeply sensible of the honour which electors have conferred upon me in electing me on former occasions. I seek re-election now because I believe that my capacity for service to the University has been enhanced by my record of former service. It is right that electors should regard the interests of the University and the country as of paramount importance, and ignore all personal considerations, in the exercise of their serious responsibilities. All I ask is, that they should estimate the claims urged in this address by reference to that standard before deciding the order in which they will cast their votes.

I need hardly remind electors that promises of support, which concerned only the recent by-election, are subject to review now that the respective claims of six candidates are in question.

The 1949 Election

My father must have considered standing, in that he went to the extent of getting a nomination paper signed by the necessary 10 people, but then he never lodged it, and it has remained among his papers. He was proposed by Duncan and seconded by McConnell; the others were 'Louis Bou' Smyth, Edmund Curtis, RJ Fynne, Jacob Weingreen, TS Broderick, JM Henry, RBD French and WB Stanford.

He must have been pondering how to get back, and wondering if he stood a chance on any of the so-called vocational panels, because there is a letter from Senator James Douglas among his papers, dated April 4 1950, which is critical of the Senate electoral procedures, and the lack of 'nominating committees' as provided for in the Act. He refers to 'vacancies' and the lack of procedures for filling them, until there is an amending Act.

The key paragraph is '..for personal reasons I would like to see you re-elected as you and I have many views in common, but I think your best chance of re-election is for the University. I am not impressed by your reasons for not standing again for TCD but doubtless you understand the position in the University better than I do.'

It is I think legitimate to conjecture that he must have seen the 'McConnell revolution' coming and felt he was no longer enough in tune with the academic Establishment to win an election.

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Copyright Dr Roy Johnston 1999