Location: 3 Mountjoy Square. Private meeting.
The DIRECTOR OF TRADE AND COMMERCE then presented his Report. He said the Bordeaux Steamer had a very inauspicious start. There was not a possibility of sending a cargo out of this country by it, as it would go to Cardiff with pit props, and take a load of coal there, and then call at several Continental ports.
With reference to the boycott of English goods, he had intended to make reference to it in his Report. He discussed the matter with a number of people for the past couple of weeks, and he thought there would be great difficulty in getting anything like a water-tight boycott. For that reason he was of opinion that there ought not to be a boycott inaugurated by a Decree of An Dáil. The thing ought to be got up by circulation of Propaganda, so that it would come from the traders. The shopkeepers were not by any means their staurchest supporters, and the wholesale suppliers were even less zealous. The channels through which goods are distributed would not be enthusiastic in carrying out a Decree of the Dáil. There were large stocks on hands of English goods, and one could not say they should not be bought. He was afraid a Decree would not be obeyed. There were various organisations which by propaganda could show that a way to strike for freedom for Ireland was to hit England economically. He did not recommend a Decree for the present.
P. BEASLEY (Kerry, East) proposed the adoption of the Report.
M.P. COLIVET (Limerick City) seconded. He asked would it be possible to arrange loans for industrial projects. If they intended to have a boycott something should be done towards the starting of co-operative production. It was time to bring out some scheme of State Aid for such Industries. There was a boot factory being started in Limerick, but most of the capital would be subscribed locally.
J. MACDONAGH (Tipperary, North) said the proposed boycott would have the result of stopping unemployment at home. He thought it was ridiculous when the Volunteers were fighting the Black and Tans that Irish people should be keeping the people of England out of unemployment. Everyone could read in the papers, week after week, the absolute necessity of the Irish market for England. People might think that if the boycott was enforced England might not send coal or flour. He did not see why America could not send coal to Ireland as well as to Norway and other European countries. England would have too much flour and would have to get rid of some of it. While it might not be advisable that an official boycott be decreed, he thought it should go out from the Dáil that English goods should not be used. With regard to the Belfast Boycott some months ago, it was scoffed at by Belfast merchants, but now they had come to consider the position very serious. What Belfast merchants had made in the past five years they had lost in one year. One manufacturing firm alone lost a million pounds in stock. If the boycott could be pushed to the extent of making the position of the Ulster Banks in the rest of Ireland untenable, they would see all the loans to the Belfast firms called up, and they would have a series of bankruptcies the like of which they had never known. At present the bigger concerns were bolstering up the smaller ones. That was to a large extent the result of a boycott run in a half-hearted way. If the people would run a boycott in a proper way not only against Belfast but against England, the result would be tremendous. There was another point on which he would like to make a suggestion to the Director of Trade and Commerce, it would be a good thing to have a large central show hall for all the manufactures and industries of the country, so that when wholesalers and other foreign merchants come to buy Irish manufactured goods, they would be able to find out in a very short time what goods they could get in the country. He was sorry men of Republican sympathies were not chosen as trade agents for foreign houses. The men who were at present in direct trade with France were anti-Republican.
LIAM DE ROISTE (Cork City) said they should concentrate on the boycott of English goods. It would help if a general motion went forth from the Dáil. It could be utilised as Propaganda in England by letting the people there understand that the boycott was the result of the political conditions here, and would be removed only when they ceased making war on us. He thought they should agree on a definite boycott.
The PRESIDENT thought they should be able to get the Sinn Fein Organisation to do the work in this connection for them.
SEAN MACENTEE (Monaghan, South) suggested the General Council of County Councils should be asked to start the project of the boycott. He complained that the Belfast Boycott was not being taken up with the enthusiasm it required. It was very effective in Waterford, but Kilkenny City and County were the worst offenders. They could not reduce Belfast by force of arms, but they could bring her to reason by economic force. He suggested they extend the lesson of Belfast to England, and that the Director of Trade and Commerce be instructed to go before the General Council of County Councils and to secure from them a general resolution declaring a boycott on all English goods.
The PRESIDENT did not think it was the proper thing to ask the General Council of County Councils as suggested by the Member for South Monaghan. He thought it was better to do it through the Sinn Fein organisation.
The MINISTER FOR FINANCE pointed out if they were going to work the Belfast Boycott properly the machinery which they would have to bring into existence would be the proper machinery to work the English Boycott. As soon as they had made the Belfast one effective, they could turn to the other. They would have to have very effective trade propaganda in other countries that might land them into immediate expenditure that would astonish them. He suggested therefore, in considering the Belfast Boycott question, that they make some vote and put someone in charge of it.