Láthair: An Seomra Darach, Teach an Ardmhéara. Poiblí.
Alderman KELLY asked for a statement from Mr. de Valera regarding the social policy of the Ministry. In the democratic programme outlined at the first meeting of the Dáil it was stated that it would be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to abolish the present poor law system, and to take such measures as would safeguard the health of the people. He felt that if they separated after that Public Session without making some reference to what their Ministry deemed to be the right duty in connection with the social life of the people that they would have done a wrong.
Let them take the city of Dublin and see how its condition had been impoverished and demoralised from the time that the rapacity of British Imperialism became the creed immediately after what was known in history as Nelson's victories. Before that period when the seas were comparatively free, Ireland had a fair chance, and especially Dublin. In Dublin's history they might read that the first ship to go into the harbour of Philadelphia in 1783 was the good ship "Hibernia" laden with silk and woollen goods from Dublin. He believed that in asking Mr. de Valera to outline the work of the Dáil in connection with the democratic programme he was only asking him to do what would be a pleasing duty.
Mr. DE VALERA, replying, said that it was quite clear that the democratic programme, as adopted by the Dáil, contemplated a situation somewhat different from that in which they actually found themselves. They had the occupation of the foreigner in their country, and while that state of affairs existed, they could not put fully into force their desires and their wishes as far as their social programme was concerned. What they had got to do was to consult organised labour, and they had already formed a special section of their Cabinet to deal with that. When they had got the views of organised labour they had got to examine more closely the conditions under which the people lived, and they had got to examine the question carefully, in a way that it had never been examined before, with a view to definite remedies that were immediately within their power. He had never made any promise to Labour, because, while the enemy was within their gates, the immediate question was to get possession of their country.
They could, however, offer the fullest and closest co-operation with Labour, and try to remedy the conditions under which the working people were living at present, and they would give their help unstintingly. He had on the previous day outlined a programme, but the great compliment was paid by the British Censor of having every word of it censored, and not a word of the outline of their policy was allowed into the newspapers. They had not yet Education or Public Health, but they should add them if they found it necessary.
They had a Minister for Home Affairs, in the person of the Member for East Cavan, the man who worked out schemes for meeting the exact situation in which they found themselves, and for using for the benefit of the Irish people such machinery as the British forces of occupation left at their disposal, and who had twenty years' experience of effort in that particular department. In outlining what should be their attitude in matters of industry and commerce they would be guided principally by that experience and work. It was not necessary to say that they all sympathised with Labour. But sympathy was not enough, and they assured the Irish people that they should not merely give sympathy, but try to better the condition of Labour.