Location: 3 Mountjoy Square. Private meeting.
The SUBSTITUTE DIRECTOR OF AGRICULTURE in introducing his proposal for Land Schemes to relieve unemployment, said the matter was fully discussed in his January Report. There was a great deal of unemployment in the country at present. He grouped it under three heads:—
(1) Actual and prospective, due to depression in tillage.
(2) Actual, due to enemy acts.
(3) Prospective, due to curtailment of road and other public services.
He believed the problem of unemployment should be dealt with as a whole, that it should not be dealt with by a system of doles but should be treated on a constructive basis, so that whatever work the men were put on would bring benefit to the State.
His first suggestion was a National Appeal to the farmers to keep up last year's percentage of tillage. He believed the farmers were patriotic enough if the situation were brought to their attention. He thought this appeal should go out over the name of the President, and if it got wide publicity in the newspapers, by leaflets and through the County Councils the second suggestion in his Memo. might not arise. The general unemployment looked a big problem, but if they divided it up parish by parish and county by county it was not a thing that was beyond the solution of four or five friendly farmers in each parish. The season was getting on a bit, but even yet there were six or seven weeks before they came to an end, and if farmers got to work at once the men at present unemployed could be used to great advantage.
In connection with his second suggestion, he regarded it as essential that farmers should get a guarantee that the land would be returned to them. He believed the County Councils were the proper bodies to make all the arrangements as regards the lands to be utilised, the payment of rent and the getting of money for the carrying on of the work. The provision of money to work the lands was a serious difficulty, and unless some of the rates could be made applicable it would be necessary to approach the banks who would be very difficult to move.
He had tried to get at the extent of the problem by ascertaining the number of unemployed. Under heading (1) he was informed there would not be many, as the very fine Spring had encouraged farmers to till as usual. Under heading (2) he could get to information, but in districts where creameries were destroyed it would be considerable. Under heading (3) he had in mind that the bulk of the road men would be disemployed. If divided over the country this meant about one overseer and ten men for every parish. The most satisfactory solution would be to have the men employed by the County Councils on direct labour lines.
Recalcitrant farmers could be served with notice withdrawing the protection of the Republic. He found that plan worked very well last Summer in disputes where one side would not submit to arbitration. As soon as the lands were declared to be in a state off outlawry the situation cleared at once.
He formally moved the adoption of the proposals.
The MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT seconded. He was greaty in favour of the scheme, and said while it would be ridiculous to spend much money on roads this year, any money spent on this scheme would be productive. He favoured the County Councils as agents for the scheme.
J. HAYES (Cork, West) held that the scheme was a good one, but any appeal to the farmers should be accompanied by a firm guarantee against labour upheavals. Otherwise it would not be responded to.
THE SUBSTITUTE MINISTER FOR LABOUR said that the Minister for Agriculture, Labour representatives and himself, discussed that question. He was sure Labour would give a definite guarantee if present agreements are renewed, that there would be no attempt to force up wages next harvest.
J. LENNON (Carlow) pointed out in case the County Councils took up the scheme money would be required for machinery equipment and capital to start on.
The SUBSTITUTE DIRECTOR OF AGRICULTURE said that the Minister for Local Government had suggested that the money set aside for road restoration might be used to meet that initial expenditure.
J. LENNON (Carlow) contended equipment would be required for each parish.
The SUBSTITUTE DIRECTOR OF AGRICULTURE thought such equipment could be hired. Even if there were no profits so long as they succeeded in creating employment, the men would not be going hungry. There was also the possibility that an attempt might be made by the enemy to blockade the country, and in that case the more food produced the better.
J. LENNON (Carlow) thought they should appeal to the farmers to grow more wheat.
The SUBSTITUTE DIRECTOR OF AGRICULTURE said he had sent out a circular in the month of November to every County Committee of Agriculture, in which he appealed to the farmers to grow winter wheat.
The scheme was then put and adopted.