A Self-sufficient Irish Industry?

Aspiration and Reality

FIANNA FAIL hoped to substantially increase industrial employment by creating a self-sufficient industrial sector under native control. These ambitious objectives were set by inexperienced men lacking in technical expertise, consequently achievement fell short of aspirations while objectives often proved mutually contradictory.


The growth of employment would appear to be the most evident benefit of the new industrial policy. According to the census of production, industrial employment (for categories covered see table 1) grew from 102,515 in 1926 to 153,888 in 1936 and 166,174 by 1938. The reality of such growth was disputed at the time, however, by former minister Patrick McGilligan (McG Papers P35/259); and in 1959 Garret Fitzgerald compared these figures with the more modest gains recorded by the population census (table 2) and suggested that they reflected better statistical coverage rather than a true increase in employment (Fitzgerald 1959, 146–47), an argument repeated by David Johnson (1985 29–30; Daly 1988, 71–75).

Efforts to reconcile the discrepancies between the production and population census figures (table 3) proved unavailing owing to the different methods of compilation. Even if we reject the growth rate shown in the production census as a statistical illusion in favor of the more modest figures shown in the population census (table 3), gains in industrial employment between 1926 and 1936 remain impressive. The population census (table 3) shows gains of almost 20,000 in manufacturing, over 19,000 extra jobs in the building sector, plus further gains in electricity, gas, and mining.


Industrial Employment, 1926–1938

Year Transportable Goods* Building Other Total
1926 57,237  9,852 35,426 102,515
1929 65,162 11,754 31,599 108,515
1931 61,380 12,530 36,678 110,588
1936 94,708 18,207 40,973 153,888
1937 98,973 15,009 47,230 161,212
1938 98,444 19,548 48,182 166,174

Source: Census of Production.

* Includes manufacturing industry, mining, and quarrying.

Includes categories such as laundries, dyeing, cleaning, gas, water and electricity, canals, docks, railways and transport, and various categories of local authority and government employment.

The totals in the population census mask changes in the composition of the work force; employers and own account workers declined while employee numbers rose (table 4). Many self-employed workers and small employers were engaged in casual insecure employment, often in servicing rather than manufacture. The decline of almost 2,000 in the number of women engaged in self-employed clothing manufacture suggests that the true growth in clothing employment was 10,000 rather than 8,000. We can therefore argue that the true employment growth in manufacturing industry, recorded by the population census, was approximately 22,000 (118,000 to 138,000 plus a net 2,000 extra clothing jobs).

Employment expanded in the building sector partly as a result of government financial support plus the impact of industrial development. Mining and quarrying grew in response to the building boom and the encouragement of minerals exploration, while the doubling of employment in fuel and power reflects some spin-off from industrialization. Building, mining, gas, and electricity accounted for 22,000 extra jobs. The total growth in industrial employment in the decade 1926–1936 was of the order of 44,000.


Industrial Employment, 1926 and 1936

1926 1936 %Gain
Item At work Total At Work Total At work Total
Manufactures 118,219 133,188 138,109 152,208 16.80 14.30
Mining & quarries 1,704 2,721 2,042 3,106 19.83 14.10
Transportable goods* 119,923 135,909 140,151 155,314 16.90 14.30
Building 36,456 50,027 55,746 77,822 52.96 54.16
Gas & elec. 2,462 2,864 4,828 5,540 96.10 93.40
Ind. emp. 157,137 186,079 198,701 235,570 26.45 26.59

Source: Census of Production.

* Manufactures plus mining and quarrying.

Manufactures plus building, gas and electricity.

A second area of controversy concerns the timing of this employment growth with critics alleging that much of the employment gains predated the coming to power of Fianna Fail in 1932. The only figures available for the years between 1926 and 1936 are those in the census of production given in table 2, which raise questions of reliability. The growth of 8,000 jobs between 1926 and 1931 is an overestimate: Industry and Commerce figures suggest that employment in protected industries grew by 5,300 between 1926 and 1929 (F.21/31/30) and by a further 800 by September 1931; employment probably fell in nonprotected industries. The alleged growth in building employment appears suspect, given that the 1926 figures exclude the Shannon scheme, the largest building contract in the state (C. Prod. 1929, viii). It seems probable, that if part of the employment growth reflects improved statistical coverage, as Fitzgerald alleged, this factor was operating to a greater extent during the years 1926–1931 than in later years, as statistical coverage improved.


Industrial Employment, 1926–1936: Comparative Measurements

Transportable Goods Building
C. Prod. C. Pop. C. Prod. C. Pop.
1926 57,237 118,219 9,852 36,456
1936 94,708 138,109 18,207 55,764
Gain 37,471(65.5%) 19,890(16.8%) 8,355(84.8%) 19,308(53.0%)

Note: The figures are not directly comparable. The Census of Production data are collected from factories and workshops; the Census of Population figures are based on returns by individuals and include the self-employed and those engaged in minor repair operations.

The decline in employment between 1929 and 1931, a period of economic depression, was undoubtedly greater than the census of production figures suggest; consequently the figures probably underestimate the level of employment growth after 1932, though part of that growth reflects cyclical recovery. Unpublished statistics in Finance suggest that by March 1937 there were 80,510 persons employed in 243 protected industries, compared with pre-tariff employment (no date specified) of 31,125. Employment in these industries stood at 54,083 in March 1933, a gain of over 26,000 occurred in the following three-and-one-half years (F.200/27/38), which is consistent with the census of production. It seems probable that up to 40,000 industrial jobs were generated in the years 1932–1936.

The percentage expansion merits comparison with the Russian Five-Year Plan of 1932–1937, when industrial employment rose by over a quarter (Johnson 1985, 29) and was achieved with less trauma. It also compares favorably with the decade 1961–1971, the most successful in recent Irish history, when employment in manufacturing industry grew by 41,000 and by 24,000 in building, an annual growth of less than 7,000 (Coniffe and Kennedy 1984, 11).


Comparison of Composition of Work Force in Manufacturing Industry, 1926–1936*

Item 1926 1936 Difference
Employers 5,957 3,653 −2,304
Relatives Assisting 1,527 3,860 2,333
Self-employed 27,741 24,187 −3,554
Employees 82,994 106,409 23,415
Total 118,219 138,109 19,890

Source: Census of Population.

* Transportable goods, excluding mining and quarrying.

This growth reversed almost a century of decline in manufacturing industry. Employment fell sharply from the famine to the First World War, and the decline resumed in the postwar years. The 1912 British production census recorded 66,693 workers employed in manufacturing in what became the Irish Free State. While these figures are known to be incomplete (C. Prod. 1929, iii, xxi) if they are no more accurate than the 1926 returns, they suggest a fall in manufacturing employment of over 8,000 between 1912 and 1926. Any greater inaccuracy in 1912 relative to 1926 would mean a greater decline. An employment peak occurred in 1937, however; and manufacturing employment fell in 1938 in reaction to the Anglo-Irish trade agreement. The employment potential of protection had been almost exhausted.

Employment fell in export industries such as brewing but rose in protected industries. The census of production and the census of population present almost identical lists of the top sectors in terms of employment growth: boots and shoes, clothing, paper and packaging, sugar, hosiery, metal, bricks, textiles, timber and furniture. The list of industries in decline is also identical: brewing; bread and biscuits, fertilizer and distilling. Expansion was concentrated in light industry and building-related sectors. If we include electricity, power, and cinema—all growing rapidly—the list is remarkably similar to that of industries that were expanding in Britain (Plummer 1937, 10). This parallel suggests that government measures merely captured for the domestic sector a pattern of market growth that would have occurred irrespective of protectionist policies.

Net output grew by 55% in the decade 1926–1936 and by 62.8% by 1938. All sectors showing major employment growth, with the exception of furniture, more than doubled output, and some achieved figures considerably in excess of this. Declines were limited to the drink industries. Gains in output per head were less spectacular; this figure rose at an annual rate of 0.02% between 1926 and 1938; for transportable goods it fell at an annual rate of 0.81%. However, the statistics are distorted by the decline in brewing, which accounted for 30.6% of net output and 7.5% of employment in 1926—a productivity level four times the industrial average. Excluding brewing and malting, Kennedy calculated that output per worker rose at an annual rate of 1.23% between 1926 and 1938 and at a rate of 0.77% for transportable goods industries (Kennedy 1971,41). These figures underestimate the gains in individual industries. Expansion was concentrated in labor-intensive sectors such as clothing whose productivity was one-tenth that in brewing.

The only exceptions to rising productivity were the drink industries; vehicles, where the highly efficient Ford plant contracted and small assembly plants expanded; and tobacco, which suffered a temporary decline as a result of the closure of the large Gallaher plant and the expansion of smaller firms. Productivity in hosiery, which was expanding rapidly, fell until 1931 and then rose sharply. All other sectors experienced rising productivity despite rapid expansion and an untrained workforce. A comparison of net output per person in 1936 with 1935 figures for Britain and Northern Ireland revealed that while Irish per capita output exceeded British levels only in bacon curing, bread and biscuits, brewing and malting, and sugar and sugar confectionery, net output per head exceeded Northern Ireland levels in fifteen of the nineteen industries that were broadly comparable.1

Agricultural employment fell by almost 40,000, continuing a long-term trend. While higher industrial costs did not help, the fall in output of 2.8% between 1929/30 and 1938/9 was primarily the result of structural trends, international depression, and the economic war rather than of industrial policy. Danish agricultural output was virtually static in the thirties, despite the signing of a favorable trade agreement with Britain (Jorberg and Krantz 1976, 401–2). The number of registered unemployed rose from 30,000 to 105,000 during 1932 and to over 220,000 by the autumn of 1934 (McG Papers P35/259), an increase concentrated in western counties. This rise was a consequence of the virtual cessation of emigration and of efforts to encourage people to register as unemployed. Registration was stimulated by relief schemes such as free beef, public works, and the dole. The minister responsible, Hugo Flinn, admitted in 1934 that “the register to-day is not a picture of the unemployment condition; it is not the total of men normally seeking paid employment who.are unable to get paid employment” but a reflection of the poverty of western smallholders (PDDE 15 June 1934, 14 Nov. 1934).

The only estimates for Irish national income suggest virtual stagnation throughout the thirties; however, it has been argued that this is an underestimate (Neary and O’Grada 1986, 9). Kennedy, Giblin, and McHugh suggest an increase of “about 10% in real GNP from 1931–8” (1988, 54). While this figure is substantially lower than that for Britain the performance is respectable when compared with other primary-producing nations. The primary-producing countries that performed best were those that redistributed resources from agriculture to industry (C. Lee 1969, 148–55).

Foreign Industrial Investment

Employment growth was achieved in part at the expense of the commitment to industrialization under native control. In 1929 Lemass lamented the existence of an estimated 459 foreign companies within the state on the grounds that a substantial foreign presence would make it more difficult to “adopt measures designed to protect National interests” (GP MS18339). Yet caught between conflicting aims of maximum employment and a sophisticated industrial structure versus native control, the economic aims took precedence. Foreign firms offered the prospect of speedier industrialization, diversification into areas where native expertise was lacking, and higher quality. The interwar years brought a wave of British investment in parts of the empire such as Ireland in an effort to avert the consequences of protection. Some investors were large firms, such as Dunlop, but many were comparatively small firms (E. Jones 1986, 4, 17) that were vulnerable to losing the Irish market; some transferred total production. Those filling a market inadequately served by native firms were generally granted licenses. Several were licensed to manufacture women’s clothing because imports remained high, and there was no evidence that Irish manufacturers could meet the need (TID 1207/322). Licenses were granted to three shoe companies to produce women’s and children’s shoes, which gave rise to outspoken criticism from native shoe producers that Lemass countered on the grounds that existing factories could not fill the market “no matter how rapidly they expanded” while the new firms would bring rapid growth in domestic supplies without damage to existing producers (PDDE 29 May 1934). By 1940 a total of 94 licenses had been granted, but 39 had been revoked, and some firms such as Irish Aluminium held several licenses for different products. Most foreign investment took the form of joint ventures or of the establishment of Irish subsidiaries, a circumstance that reflected the political and financial advantages apparent in native participation and the realities of Irish industry.

Aspiring Irish companies and local development committees sought to offset their shortcomings by bringing in foreign partners, as did companies who diversified production. The Portarlington firm of Irish Travel Goods was the outcome of a partnership between a local miller, Mr. Odlum, the Dublin textile firm of Ferrier Pollock, and a British expert in travel goods (Inds. A. Room 303). The Slane Manufacturing Company, which produced flour bags, was financed by the textile firms of Greenmount and Boyne, and Smyth and Company, and by the jute manufacturers, Goodbody, in association with a British businessman (TID 37/118). It frequently proved easier to attract a foreign company than to expand established Irish firms. Plans to revive the tanning industry by encouraging the expansion of the Limerick firm of O’Callaghan were dropped in favor of new companies with foreign participation (Inds. A. Room 303).

Outside expertise was of particular importance in the many parts of Ireland devoid of industrial tradition. Local development committees offered little other than enthusiasm and capital, and native companies lacked the high product status associated with foreign branded goods. Foreign firms could bring Irish workers to their parent plants for training and could supply supervisory and managerial staff. These factors led to many partnerships with foreign industrialists. In 1934 the Killarney footwear firm of R. Hilliard and Sons entered into an agreement with a Leicester company to produce ladies shoes under license (Press 1986,79). The Nenagh industrial development committee identified an English company willing to establish an aluminum plant and approached Industry and Commerce seeking protection and a license to operate under the Control of Manufactures Act (TID 1207/601). A committee in Kilkenny persuaded the British shoe firm of Padmore and Barnes to establish a plant (Ir. Ind. Yrbook. 1933). The official attitude to such overtures ranged from benign neutrality to active encouragement. When Waterford businessmen establishing an iron foundry asked whether there was any objection to their collaborating with a British company, they were told that any arrangement that would increase the prospects of success was welcome (TID 41/75).

Irish wholesalers and distributors for foreign goods frequently acted as midwives for new companies, introducing suppliers to the government or to individuals and development committees with capital. There were many backward linkages from distribution to manufacturing. The majority of motor assembly plants were initiated by former distributors.2 In 1934 the Irish representative of an English iron foundry informed officials that his firm wished to establish an Irish plant with the majority of capital provided by Irish customers. An Englishman who had previously supplied the Irish market was a major investor in a tannery; he was introduced to officials by his Irish agent (TID 41/75 and 43/63).

Other ventures were the result of active promotion by Irish officials. Leading foreign firms or companies with substantial Irish sales were encouraged to set up an Irish plant or to lose access to the market. Pressure from the government and rumors of further tariff increases persuaded the chocolate manufacturer, Cadbury, to build an Irish plant in 1932 (E. Jones 1986, 109). The Dunlop rubber company was informed that if it did not invest in Ireland, a competitor would do so and would be given a monopoly (E. Jones 1986, 26). When thread manufacturer Coats Paton did not respond to overtures the cabinet gave Irish Sewing Cotton a monopoly license and sought to exclude Coats products (S2843). By the late 1930s Irish textiles were dominated by Salts woolen-spinning plant and Irish Worsted Mills, both English, and Gentex cotton spinners, a Belgian firm that was approached following the failure to recruit a British firm. At a time when official rhetoric urged breaking ties with Britain, new links were being forged.

While the recruitment of foreign firms marked a breach with official policy, it aroused little controversy where no domestic competitor existed. However, officials often supported an established foreign firm against a native concern. In 1933 while government officials were negotiating with the Ever-Ready Battery Company, a Waterford firm commenced manufacture of dry batteries. Lemass minuted that “it will, I think, be ill advised to turn down the application from the Ever Ready Co. until there is further information regarding Waterford.” It emerged that the firm had commenced operations without applying for protection, leading one official to conclude that it showed little hope of success. Another battery plant opened in Ballina but closed “owing to crude methods of manufacture and laxity of management.” This firm subsequently asked Industry and Commerce to provide it with an expert to advise on purchases of machinery and with a loan to manufacture face creams during slack periods in the battery business. Both firms failed and one can sympathize with the decision to favor a proven company such as Ever-Ready.

Similar considerations governed policy on radio assembly, one of the boom industries. By 1933 with a mere 31,000 licensed sets, one manufacturer described Ireland as “among the least radio-minded countries in Europe.” Negotiations had opened with two leading firms, Murphy and Pye, when two Irish businessmen sought a trade loan guarantee for radio assembly. Officials believed that neither had any money and expressed “grave doubts whether any practical application will be submitted.” Industry and Commerce secretary John Leydon decided that the department should not encourage any foreign enterprise that would compete with Pye or give direct assistance by way of a trade loan or otherwise to a native competitor. When Lemass informed Pye that no restrictions could be placed on Irish firms, the company replied that it was only concerned with foreign competition. Both Irish firms and foreigners were discouraged. A file relating to another approach noted that “we have other proposals for the manufacture of radio sets before us and [that] on the whole they look much more promising. Hold up” (TID 168/9 and 1207/430). The favoring of Pye over an unknown Irish company did not arouse opposition, perhaps because it was not publicly known. However, the establishment of Irish Worsted Mills and the Salts yarn plants led to outcry. The firms shared directors and Irish manufacturers feared that Salts would give priority in yarn supplies to Irish Worsted Mills. F. H. Dwyer of the Cork textile firm Sunbeam Wolsey alleged that officials had prevented him from establishing a spinning plant to produce yarn similar to Salts. However, in return they claimed that Irish manufacturers had adopted a dog-in-the-manger attitude to all inducements to open a spinning plant and had been warned that Lemass would turn to foreign firms if that stance continued (Inds. A. Room 303).

The Control of Manufactures Act prevented a foreign firm from competing directly with native manufacturers. However, this stricture was readily evaded by a variety of stratagems devised by Irish solicitors, notably Arthur Cox. Some schemes met with tacit official approval; others were regarded with disfavor. A subsidiary of a British food processing company whose annual Irish turnover was estimated at £200,000 had a capital of only £200; financing was provided by extended credit from the English parent, and purchasers were invoiced from England. The shares were juggled so that 100 preference shares and 7 A ordinary shares were Irish held, with English shareholders holding 3 A ordinary shares and 90 B ordinary shares. As only the A shares carried voting rights the company complied with the law, despite 93% of ordinary shares and profits resting in English hands. Industry and Commerce decided against legal action, perhaps because the firms solicitor, Arthur Cox, claimed that the structure was “perfectly legal.” However, Lemass determined to restrict firms that were “Saorstat in name only” with nominal capital and foreign sales organizations. The company’s application to import duty-free machinery was refused as was its request for a tariff on canned fruit, and Lemass later vetoed its application for a license to broadcast a sponsored program on Radio Eireann (TID 1207/653). This company suffered ministerial retribution because it was operating in an area adequately served by domestic producers and because of its blatant defiance of official policy. No efforts were made to challenge its status in the courts or to close legal loopholes, as such moves might have exposed the contradictions in official policy.

While censuring the food-processing company’s stratagem, Lemass, his officials, and the state-owned Industrial Credit Company connived at a similar share structure for Salts, also designed to evade the Control of Manufactures Act. All preference shares and a majority of the 75,000 A voting shares were Irish owned, though the majority of dividends accrued to the English parent through ownership of 125,000 B nonvoting shares. Yet whereas the food canners were treated like lepers, Salts received official encouragement, and its shares were underwritten by the state-owned Industrial Credit Company because it created a high-priority spinning plant and because its capital value was not artificially depressed. The majority of “foreign” companies operated similar schemes, with two-thirds of voting shares in Irish hands and foreign participation rewarded via royalties or nonvoting shares. Some Irish citizens may have acted as proxy shareholders for foreign interests. Such structures avoided the constraint of licenses and prevented companies from being challenged, while guaranteeing tax relief on dividends.

While Lemass and his officials showed little hesitation in favoring proven foreign firms, they sought to protect Irish firms from foreign competition. Licensed firms were prohibited from competing with Irish producers; licensed shoe firms were restricted to producing women and children’s footwear, though it is claimed that this was not enforced (Press 1986, 81–82). Native firms were also protected by less formal means. When representatives of the cotton-spinning firm of Greenmount and Boyne expressed fears of competition from the Gentex plant, officials suggested that the firms should reach “an amicable arrangement to prevent overlapping of output” (Inds. A. Room 303). Native firms regarded as utterly inefficient were shielded against competition from newcomers. Despite one tannery’s having a “past history” that would not “inspire confidence” and another’s being described as “quite hopeless,” a tannery investor was told that Lemass “was not prepared to encourage a proposition which involved the wiping out of one of the other tanneries” (TID 43/7320).

An application by Lysaght’s, a Welsh steel firm (part of the Guest, Keen, and Nettlefold consortium), to establish a galvanizing plant in Cork was welcomed as providing competition for the excessive prices charged by Irish structural steel producers. However, Lemass noted that while there was no power to restrict the items manufactured if the government did not require a license, “we should have an understanding with them that they will not do the classes of goods the other firms are doing” (TID 94/49). Such restrictions may have been politically justified, as they stemmed complaints, but they removed a stimulus to efficiency.

Foreign firms speeded the development process and produced sophisticated products that were beyond the competence of Irish industry. They also seemed more amenable to government direction. Lemass’s power to control native firms had been thwarted by the cabinet; foreign firms could be slotted into specialised market segments, giving greater precision to industrial planning. Although officials were unable to dissuade Senator John McEllin from producing heavy industrial boots, which were in oversupply (TID 1207/7), they could restrict the British-owned Dubarry Shoes to producing ladies’ shoes (TID 15/145). On the other hand licensed companies were severely constrained in their activities. While one scholar has argued that officials turned a blind eye to these requirements (Press 1986, 82), files show restrictions that verged on bureaucratic harassment. Irish Aluminium was forced to seek a succession of licenses as they expanded their product range, as was Jordan, who bombarded Industry and Commerce with samples of bias binding and knicker elastic in an effort to diversify into these areas (TID 1207/601–2). A Northern Ireland joinery firm that set up a plant in Donegal suffered lengthy harassment over hiring a “foreign,” Derry-born foreman, while another Northern Ireland firm was forced to submit endless samples before it was granted permission to import fabric. The constraints were such that both Jordan and Irish Aluminium became “Irish” firms.

The Control of Manufactures Act made it impossible to license firms in sectors that Irish manufactures could claim, however nominally, to be supplying. Instead Lemass encouraged the formation of companies with nominal majority Irish shareholding (TID 1207/63). The Belgian textile firm Gentex was told that it was the ministers policy to have an option under which foreign interests would be bought out after fifteen or twenty years. When Dunlop reported that it was considering establishing an Irish company, officials responded that “in their own interests it would be a judicious step to take” (Inds. A. Room 303; TID 1207/1178). This compromise recognized the lack of expertise in Irish business and saw foreign companies as having an educational function while allowing Irish business and investors to share in the fruits of industrial development as directors and chief executives. Foreign investors benefited from the native camouflage and reduced capital costs, which permitted British firms to overcome restrictions on capital exports and a lack of overseas flotations on the London market. Not all foreigners welcomed these arrangements. J. H. Woodington refused to set up a tannery unless he had total ownership. While the legislation did not prevent foreign investment, it may have acted as a practical and psychological deterrent.

Little is known of the relationship between Irish firms and foreign partners. While Irish plants benefited from technical assistance and from loans of working capital (Press 1986, 79), the relationship was also profitable for the parent, From 1934 to 1937 Fry-Cadbury (Ireland) Ltd. made a cumulative profit of £37,594 on total sales of £554,000 (Jones 1986, 111). On the other hand, the supply of patterns, trademarks, or semifinished goods posed particular problems in terms of price and of the Irish company’s freedom to manoeuvre. In 1933, for example, one official noted a potential conflict of interest in the allocation of profits from the purchase and sale of goods between the Irish textile firm Sunbeam Wolsey and its British partner, Wolsey, which had a 49% holding (TID 1207/63). An investigation revealed that the high prices charged by Irish Tanners, Ltd. were a result of the price of crusts supplied by its English parent, which the Irish directors “with childish faith” had expected to get at cost (TID 43/63). Other firms were dependent on foreign trademarks and patents. Foreign producers of well-known branded goods assigned their trademark to an Irish manufacturer in return for royalties. The Federation of Irish Industries argued un-availingly that the capital value of a trademark should be counted as foreign capital and come within the scope of the Control of Manufactures Act (FII minutes 10 Sept. 1937). By the late 1930s, whether through licensed firms or subsidiaries or through the assignment of trademarks, most of Irish industry had a foreign presence. Flour milling was foreign dominated, as were motor assembly, rubber, and cement; more than one-third of shoe plants employing in excess of half the workforce were British owned, while textiles, tanning, clothing, chemicals, confectionery, and toiletries all contained significant foreign presence.

Given the depression of the thirties, access to the Irish market was attractive despite its size, and Industry and Commerce was able on occasion to choose between rival suitors, though many foreign firms were experienced negotiators: during the thirties Dunlop dealt with governments in India, South Africa, and Ireland; Lysaght’s had negotiated with the Australian government over many years (Jones, 1986, 166–67). In consequence, the balance of experience favored foreign businesses who drove hard bargains. Cumann na nGaedheal received three virtually identical proposals for the establishment of a sugar beet factory, and although officials saw nothing sinister in that fact (S4128), collusion must be suspected. Most prospective companies, whether native or foreign, were asked the level of protection they required, and this was frequently granted. The Ever-Ready Battery Company requested a 50% tariff, a license for duty-free imports until the factory was built, plus an undertaking that no competitor be permitted to establish a rival plant for ten years. Lemass approved a 50% duty noting that “even if the full requirements are not being met the duty will do little harm” (TID 1207/166). Requests for monopoly were common; however, constraints on licenses meant that they could not be granted. Most firms settled for unpublished undertakings, which lacked legal standing though they appear to have been respected.

Foreign investment yielded benefits in terms of employment, technology, and “self-sufficiency,” and its proliferation can be regarded as a triumph of pragmatism over ideology. Camouflaging its existence while officially opposing the concept was at least contradictory, if not dishonest.


Self-sufficiency was a key Fianna Fail objective, close to De Valera’s heart because it represented a rejection of the modern world. In 1933 he urged the women of Ireland to turn their backs on the fashions of Paris, London, and New York, dressing only in Irish tweeds and woolens until Irish cottons and silks became available (Moynihan 1980, 252). However, Irish consumers were less inclined to reject modern consumerism than De Valera might have wished. Smokers favored cigarettes made from Virginia tobaccos rather than from the stronger flavored Irish leaf, and firms such as Carroll and Players counteracted efforts to promote native tobacco by buying it, as the government required, but not using it (TID 11/23). In 1940 Finance urged an end to state support on the grounds that there was “no more case for continuing to encourage the cultivation of this crop than there would be for encouraging as a matter of industrial policy the production of a commodity for which there was not only no demand, but towards which there was positive antipathy” (S11692). Hats produced by the Galway factory were boycotted by commercial travelers, shopkeepers, and the women of Ireland (CVO evid, par. 18439).

Other ministers linked self-sufficiency with romantic or quasi-social goals. Turf development was pushed by Defense Minister Frank Aiken, described by one contemporary as “the last of the Sinn Feiners,” a man who “would have been an alchemist” in another age (Andrews, 1982, 116–18). Lemass, the minister responsible, showed little interest. Aiken was concerned to promote rural employment, but the state-owned Turf Development Board established in 1934 rapidly moved from hand-won turf to mechanical harvesting of state-owned bogs. Turf output actually fell between the mid-twenties and the late thirties; falling production by individual farmers (Meenan 1970, 125–26) outweighed the combined output of the Turf Development Board and a private venture to produce peat briquettes. Self-sufficiency in fuel remained a pipe dream.

As a goal, self-sufficiency proved too all-embracing to achieve consensus between ministers or departments and was used as a means of boosting individual or departmental interests. The Department of Agriculture supported tobacco growing regardless of consumer demand, while Industry and Commerce championed the recalcitrant manufacturers (S11692). Positions were reversed on fertilizer where Industry and Commerce enthusiasm for a nitrogen plant was opposed by Agriculture, determined to safeguard farming interests (S7901A). The Department of Local Government opposed the establishment of a cement plant because of the possible impact on building costs (TIM 91B). Finance opposed most self-sufficiency proposals, regarding them exclusively in terms of revenue and borrowing.

For Lemass, self-sufficiency had a modernizing ring, carrying the prospect of developing resources and deepening the industrial structure. He favored a planned economy where domestic supplies supplemented by essential imports equaled total needs and where competition and overcapacity did not exist. This goal involved detailed estimates of the projected Irish market, which proved an overly-ambitious undertaking for the Irish public service. Considerable time was spent estimating the potential market for leather, calculations dependent on the projected growth of the shoe industry that proved totally inaccurate. In 1933 officials estimated that the Irish leather market would grow to 225,000 hides per annum from 90,000 in 1931, and new firms were sought to fill this gap; however, they were limited in output and restricted in their product range to prevent damage to established firms and oversupply. A 1935 file reviewing four proposed tannery investments noted that “if these four projects go ahead our total consumption of upper leather will be provided for.” However, Vincent Crowley, a Dublin accountant and chair of Irish Tanners, claimed that total demand would be almost 300,000 hides and sought permission to expand output and produce wet hides. By 1936 even Crowley’s estimate had been greatly exceeded, and Lemass remarked that if he had anticipated such a level of demand “vis-à-vis Portlaw production, he would have been tempted to try to plan another tannery elsewhere. It is however too late now, I am afraid.” The inaccuracy of estimates is but one example of shortcomings in planning a self-sufficient economy. Most tanneries relied on imported leather, which proved the key to Lemass’s control over the industry (Inds. A. Room 303). Planning by Industry and Commerce lacked long-term perspective. While Salts spinning mill was established to provide worsted yarns, it did no carding or combing and used no native wool, relying on imported tops. War left the country as vulnerable as it would have been had all cloth been imported, though this was later remedied by establishing carding and combing facilities (CVO par. 259).

In other instances self-sufficiency was achieved at a price deemed unacceptable by some cabinet members, and it involved the government in complexities of international business far removed from De Valera’s isolationist vision. While Lemass was willing to concede monopoly powers or special legislation as the price of attracting strategic industries, his proposals frequently resulted in intracabinet disagreements. This is obvious in the case of cement, where Fianna Fail confronted the issue of an expensive capital-intensive project needing monopoly privileges that had paralyzed Patrick McGilligan. However, the government had given commitments to establish a cement industry, and the Ennis Chamber of Commerce reminded its local T.D., De Valera, of his obligations by forwarding a resolution requesting action on this matter (S6137A). The first proposal put to the cabinet in October 1932 from the Belgian combine Ciment Briqueteries Reunies (CBR) sought monopoly production rights with price guarantees, protection against imports, duty-free imports of machinery and raw materials, and low-cost electricity. The proposal was referred to a cabinet subcommittee; however, the minister for posts and telegraphs, Sen. Joseph Connolly, who was not a member, demanded limitations on import privileges and noted that under the Control of Manufactures Act Irish nationals could not be prevented from engaging in any enterprise. This intervention caused Connolly to be included on a new subcommittee which proposed a bill, approved by the cabinet, that excluded all the privileges sought by CBR (PDDE 17 Nov. 1932). The Belgian firm was unwilling to proceed in the absence of the original guarantees (TIM 91B, Box 55), and March 1933 marked a return to the policy of restrictive licensing of imports and production. These proposals (PDDE 4 May 1933) formed the basis of the 1933 Cement Act, which was viewed as a preliminary step towards finalizing agreement with a manufacturer. This process proved more time-consuming than anticipated. An agreement with CBR collapsed because of company reorganization, necessitating another round of negotiations (S6137A).

In subsequent proposals put forward by French, Belgian, German, Anglo-Danish, and Irish groups the government sought to strike a balance between its commitment to native control and having the (foreign) technical experts financially responsible. Ultimately Cement Ltd., a specially structured company, came into existence with Lemass acting as midwife (CVO evid. doc. 164). The Anglo-Danish company Smidth, which was part of the British combine Tunnel Cement, provided £100,000 in capital and technical expertise. Finding Irish shareholders proved time consuming, given capital requirements of £750,000. While cement was exempt from the Control of Manufactures Act, Lemass preferred a company with two-thirds of ordinary shares in Irish ownership, which would be eligible for tax concessions. Initially it appeared that Messrs. Duggan and McGrath of Irish Glass Bottle Company and Hospitals Trust would invest approximately £150,000, with the balance being raised by public subscription underwritten by the Industrial Credit Company (ICC). However, the deal fell through. According to the British principals, when it became known that the Hospitals Trust had rejected the proposal “it made it difficult, if not impossible, to get any other large undertaking in Eire to join us.”

Smidth contacted Charles Tennant, the importer of Tunnel Cement, whose Irish subsidiary took a substantial shareholding. This arrangement aroused concern as officials suspected that Tennant was controlled by Tunnel Cement, though when John Leydon raised this point, he received a categorical denial. However a reexamination of the company’s capital structure in 1939 revealed that it was acting as an Irish front for Tunnel Cement, which had lent it money to subscribe for almost fifty times the volume of shares that it actually held in Cement Ltd. (TIM 9/41). This was not known in 1938 when an agreement was signed granting the company a monopoly of cement manufacture and imports; the import monopoly was conceded in return for a commitment to accelerate self-sufficiency (PDDE 23 Mar. 1938). The company was subject to controls on prices, packing, quality, and employment, with government rights to inspect records and to revoke its license, but officials viewed the power to limit dividends as the major safeguard against profiteering (Inds. B Box 53).

The subsequent discovery of concealed foreign shareholding revealed many of the ideological contradictions in industrial policy. In response to a decidedly frosty statement from Lemass “that it was felt that some English companies were taking advantage, through some of their Irish connections of the facilities which had been granted and thereby preventing the natural development of Irish industries,” the managing director of Tunnel Cement denied that he had tried to conceal the capital structure. He claimed that the ICC’s share prospectus emphasized that Tunnel Cement and its friends had subscribed for half of the ordinary shares and argued that they would not have been prepared to invest in Cement Ltd. if that had been unacceptable, though he offered to reduce their holding to one-third of ordinary shares (TIM 9/41). Thus McGilligan’s nightmare of a foreign monopoly came true despite efforts to avert it. However, critics commented favorably on the prices and quality of cement (CVO par. 498), while foreign control may have been a consequence of inadequacies in the Irish capital market rather than of cartel strategy.

Self-sufficiency in flour also entailed a foreign cartel with less technical justification than in the case of cement. Legislation passed in 1933 banned flour imports save under license; cereal prices were subsidized and millers required to use a specific proportion of native wheat, to be determined annually. A new market-sharing agreement was worked out with the Irish Flour Millers Association designed to arrest the trend towards foreign monopoly, to decentralize milling, and to ensure competition (CVO par. 257). Few of these aims were realized. The militant rhetoric of opposition soon cooled in office and the British combine Ranks retained control of Irish flour milling. The government was constrained because the Control of Manufactures Act prevented action against existing firms (S6045). Ranks Irish interests were ostensibly transfered to native control with the 1934 flotation of Ranks (Ireland) Ltd. with a nominal capital of £700,000, half in 6% preference shares, which were Irish held, and £350,000 in 1.4 million ordinary shares, of which 1.25m. remained with the parent company. The commitment to preserving smaller mills necessitated fixing prices at a level that would ensure those mills some profit, resulting in substantial profits to larger mills, which produced the majority of output. This was readily apparent to Irish investors. Ranks 5s. ordinary shares were issued at a minimum price of 15s., the £1 preference shares at 23s. (CVO par. 232). Ranks ordinary shares, 90% in foreign ownership, paid dividends of 26%-29% throughout the thirties, and the shares of companies owning other large mills, such as Bolands and Barrow Milling, were similarly profitable. In 1936 when Irish mills had gained a monopoly of the domestic market, the Irish Flour Millers Association introduced quotas which ensured no surplus production, contrary to the 1933 act. This move was not challenged by the government, perhaps because it paid lip service to the survival of small mills by reducing all quotas pro rata (Flour and Bread Committee of Inquiry 1951, R.81 par. 35). The consumer was the loser, paying higher prices for bread and flour with a maximum of 27% native wheat (Report survey team flour milling industry 1964, A 53/5 para.27).

Other self-sufficiency proposals remained still born because of opposition on the part of foreign interests who controlled the Irish market, or because of Irish concern with native control. In December 1935 the cabinet was presented with separate proposals for an oil refinery from the Irish-American Oil Company, Irish Shell, Industrial Development Ltd., and Sinclair Refinery Company. Industry and Commerce’s memorandum to the cabinet noted that “the attitude of the Shell Co. to the establishment of a refinery here has all along been one of opposition,” and their estimate was regarded as having been submitted “mainly to deter the Minister from proceeding with his plan.” Irish-American also preferred “that the position should remain as it was” but submitted what were regarded as “definite proposals,” while Sinclair withdrew because of pressure from Shell. This left the Industrial Development Company, an Irish company associated with London and Thames Haven Oil Company that was independent of the oil combine. Industry and Commerce proposed entering an agreement with Industrial to establish a £1 million company that would supply most of the Irish market and export to Scandinavia. This would be financed by outside sources and require a Control of Manufactures license. The department proposed that a small refinery established at Hawbowline should have its output restricted to prevent its being taken over by the oil majors and used to drive the new company out of business and that Irish oil companies such as Munster Simms and Greenmount and Boyne should be guaranteed against competition.

Finance opposed the scheme on the grounds of an excessive fiscal burden on the Irish motorist and out of fear that the refinery’s promoters “are capable of negotiating with us to the detriment of the Oil Combines while working hand in glove with the latter, [and] they are equally capable of double-crossing us and selling out to the oil combine when the deal is through.” This objection appears to have been instrumental in causing the cabinet to reject the proposals (S6138A; Cab. C 9/279, 16 Dec. 1935). Finance objected to revised proposals because the proposed capital of £2 million was twice the necessary level, a pertinent point given that the agreement restricted the company to a 10% profit margin. Finance also suggested a minimum 25% Irish shareholding and a further 25% allocated to existing distributors “to secure their goodwill.” Sean MacEntee, the finance minister, agreed that “we are entitled to ask for a share of the profits even from the ‘external market’,” an opinion shared by Thomas Derrig.

Lemass met these reservations by proposing a ministerial nominee on the board, a separation of export and domestic companies, a requirement that 45% of capital be held by Saorstat citizens, and a restriction of distribution to existing companies unless a satisfactory agreement was reached with the refinery (Cab. C 7/328 2 June 1936). These conditions plus ministerial involvement in the choice of directors led to friction with the promotors, and there was further pressure from Irish oil distributors (S9341). By 1937 Lemass feared that a share launch would fail and proposed postponing it until the refinery was built (S9342). The parent company then collapsed, and in June 1939 the cabinet was informed that there was no prospect of the refinery’s being completed by the original promoters.

Industry and Commerce presented an alternative scheme with £1 million invested by Lonsdale Investment Trust, which held interests in other refineries, and the remaining £500,000 being advanced by the Industrial Credit Company. This proposal was bedeviled by uncertainty as to the future of the ICC in light of the report of the Banking Commission3 and the deep-seated mistrust of other ministers in Industry and Commerce’s dealings with the oil industry. The cabinet minutes (De Valera was apparently absent) record that “we strongly object to giving the Minister for Industry and Commerce authority to complete negotiations on the basis of the information at present before us.”

Subsequent meetings brought two new proposals. British industrialist Lord Inverforth (formerly Sir Andrew Weir), who had held one-third of the capital of the old company, proposed to invest £1 million in completing the refinery on condition that the government secure the balance of £0.5 million via the ICC, and the oil combine made its first overture. Industry and Commerce favored Lord Inverforth and noted that he sought ICC involvement in order “to have an assurance of Government support”; Lemass doubted whether the oil combine “could be relied upon to develop and maintain an efficient refinery here.” However, Finance was attracted to the combine’s proposal because it provided all necessary capital, while the department felt that with “the exercise of a little judicious pressure” Lord Inverforth could be persuaded to subscribe the whole amount—their earlier concern with Irish participation had apparently vanished. The cabinet instructed Industry and Commerce to seek an agreement similar to that reached with London and Thames. Lord Inverforth pronounced himself willing to finance the whole scheme with a provision to sell up to 50% of shares at par to Irish investors; the oil majors offered a scheme costing £800,000 that lacked a cracking plant and was less a refinery than a blending plant.

Efforts to secure cabinet approval for the Inverforth scheme were thwarted by Finance, which on 23 August 1939—the eve of war—secured its referral to an interdepartmental committee on the grounds that although no government financial liability was involved, “government credit would be gravely damaged if there was a further failure to complete the scheme as proposed.” On 5 September 1939 the government approved an arrangement with Inverforth similar to the original agreement, though the onset of war ensured its noncompletion, with grave damage not to government credit but to wartime fuel supplies (S6148A).

Negotiations on projects such as a refinery taxed the skills of politicians and officials while lack of expertise and a shortage of domestic investment funds left the country at the mercy of foreign business. The shortage of capital could have been overcome by establishing government companies, and this was successfully done in the case of sugar. The Carlow sugar plant, which supplied one-quarter of national needs by 1931, was foreign controlled and subsidized by duties on imported sugar. A proposal by Industry and Commerce in 1931 to build additional factories emphasized that they should be Irish owned and controlled, though the capital cost of £1.5 million was regarded as beyond the means of Irish investors (McG Papers P35/b/25a).

An interdepartmental committee established by Fianna Fail recommended four further factories, each costing £400,000, financed from private, ideally Irish resources, with government guarantees yielding “a fair and moderate return” of the order of 4–6 percent. The government recommended that no subsidy be provided and that the industry be financed by higher prices protected by customs duties (S4128). The cabinet made a commitment in principle to some government shareholding though there was disagreement over its extent. The draft bill introduced in 1933 provided that ordinary shares would be government held (S7067A), a majority of directors would be appointed by the minister for finance, and preference shares and government-guaranteed debentures would be sold to the public, an operation successfully carried out by the Industrial Credit Company (PDDE 21 July 1933). The establishment of three additional factories led to an increase in beet sugar acreage from 13,686 acres in 1932–1933 to a peak of 57,608 acres by 1936. By 1939 acreage had fallen to 41,661, and prices paid to growers proved higher than anticipated (Minister of Agriculture reports 1932–1933 to 1939–1940).

The Banking Commission criticized the protected sugar industry, comparing the 1936 Irish price of 25s. 5d., with 8s. per hundred weight for imported sugar (CBC 1938, add. 12). However, the domestic price included excise duties, transport, and distribution costs, whereas the import price was the duty-free landed cost; the actual subsidy was less than 15s. per hundred weight, which compared favorably with subsidies of 22s. 6d. to 24s. 6d. in the twenties. The industry’s establishment under state ownership did not reflect an explicit ideological commitment; the wish for Irish control and moderate profits, a reaction to earlier experiences, plus the substantial sum involved made state investment almost inevitable. Disguised foreign ownership would have been the only alternative.

Further state investment that took place in turf and in industrial alcohol did not provide a magic solution. Finance was consistently opposed and kept the Industrial Credit Company short of cash. State companies proved unduly pressured to meet social criteria at the expense of cost considerations and remained dependent on external companies for technical expertise.

In 1935 a Swiss company, Hydro-Nitro, proposed to erect a plant to produce synthetic nitrogen fertilizers at a capital cost of £300,000 with an estimated selling price close to existing rates. As the scheme seemed potentially profitable, the cabinet approved Lemass’s suggestion to establish a state enterprise with foreign technical assistance, similar to the sugar company. However, the cost overruns incurred in industrial alcohol plants had led to concern over costs, and the interdepartmental committee appointed to examine the proposals sought alternative proposals from the British Imperial Chemicals Industries (ICI) as a benchmark against which to test the Hydro-Nitro scheme. ICI estimated costs at £1.17 million, almost eight times the Hydro-Nitro figures. The committee was impressed by the thorough nature of the ICI proposals and concluded that the Hydro-Nitro scheme was “heavily under-estimated,” leading one official to question whether Hydro-Nitro had “doctored” estimates to obtain support. While available information does not permit an evaluation of relative costs, ICI held a virtual monopoly of the Irish market and was unwilling to erect an Irish plant because of over capacity at its Billingham plant. It was in ICI’s interests to exaggerate the costs and to deter the Irish government. The Czech firm Skodawerk produced a third estimate of £889,000 in conjunction with Hydro-Nitro. However, the German invasion of Czechoslovakia prevented Czech currency exports, though Skoda was “more anxious than ever” to proceed.

By March 1939 the committee had not reported, and no progress had been made. The failure to establish a nitrogen plant proved detrimental to national needs during the war years when imported fertilizers proved unavailable. The project was stillborn as a result of a combination of external politics, disagreement between Agriculture and Industry and Commerce, the success of counterefforts by Imperial Chemicals Industry, and procrastination among civil servants. Efforts were made to extend its self-sufficiency character by requiring the use of Irish gypsum and peat fuel, which caused delays and threatened to weaken its financial viability (S7901A).

Exports and Self-sufficiency

Self-sufficiency failed to reduce import dependence. Irish-grown wheat supplied less than 30% of needs during peace time; the overwhelming majority of fuel continued to be imported, as was tobacco, iron and steel, machinery, and leather. The proportion of imported foodstuffs dropped sharply, as did the share of light consumer goods. Imports of wheat, nonfabricated wood and iron, machinery, and textiles rose. While these trends reflect the intermediate stage in development achieved by 1938, further reductions could only come with capital-intensive projects such as a steel mill, which would require substantial raw materials. The failure to stem imports coincided with a decline in exports resulting in an increased trade deficit.

From 1932 the terms of trade moved sharply against Ireland. By 1937 the import price index stood at 91.2 compared to 74.3 for exports (1930 = 100) (CBC 1938, 108). This decline is only partly a result of the economic war. Denmark’s export prices, also predominantly agricultural, showed a similar decline (Jorberg and Krantz 1976, 400–402; Johansen 1987, 47–52). The Irish trade deficit fell from £20 million in 1926 to £11.8 million in 1930 and then worsened to reach a record deficit of £21.25 million in 1937, though it improved to £17.1 million in 1938. The 1926 deficit amounted to 19.5% of trade compared with 31.7% in 1937 and 26.1% in 1938. Although the total volume of British agricultural imports fell sharply in the thirties, Ireland’s market share fell (Kennedy, Giblin, and McHugh 1988, 210–12). Industry was not immune. Drink exports were more than halved from £5.4 million in 1930 to £2.3 million in 1938; exports of vehicles fell from £2.7 million to £19,000; textiles, mostly wool, from £1.6 million in 1929 (£900,000 in 1930) to £776,000 by 1938; and apparel from £183,000 to £36,000.

Contracting international trade coupled with protectionist trends in other countries and instability in international currencies were factors. The major industrial exports, Guinness, Jacob, and Ford, switched production to English plants for a combination of economic and political reasons. In April 1932, before the Fianna Fail measures that would affect them were operative and before the economic war could have been envisaged, Jacobs announced that in the event of the Irish Free State leaving the commonwealth the company would be forced to lay off 50% of its Dublin work force (IT 16 Apr. 1932). An examination by Industry and Commerce of industrial exports to Britain from 1929 to 1934 concluded that the effect of the economic war had been comparatively slight and that, with the exception of cotton, linen, and jute, woolen piece goods, and possibly biscuits and condensed milk, “no industrial exports of any real importance have been affected—except porter which is in a special category” (F93/1/41). However, Irish industrial exports were few even before 1932, and the protected industries showed little prospect of developing an export trade (CBC 1938, evid. q11812). Other exporting firms shifted to the domestic market. Goodbody’s jute mill, which had exported 80% of its output, produced sacks for the Irish Sugar Company (Ir. Ind. Yrbook. 1932; Inds. A. Room 303).

While the plight of industrial exports was not ignored government reaction focused on agricultural exports, and the problem was generally viewed as attributable to the economic war. In July 1932 the cabinet voted a sum of £2 million to help exporters meet the problems posed by emergency duties and to assist in opening new export markets (S6315/2). In November 1932 Lemass proposed the establishment of a permanent board for external trade controlled by Industry and Commerce that would establish an international marketing organization. However, other interested parties, notably External Affairs and Agriculture, were unwilling to cede authority, and the sole outcome was the establishment of a trade section in the Department of External Affairs (S6414).

Lemass also proposed using import quotas as a leverage in bilateral trade deals, but Irish agricultural exports were not in popular demand, though the 1935 German-Irish trade agreement (S4825) resulted in an improved trade balance between the two countries. In 1937 Irish exports to Germany amounted in value to 58% of German exports to Ireland compared to less than 10% in 1931–1933 (ITJ Mar. 1938). All exports to Germany were agricultural; the principal Irish industrial exports to countries other than Britain consisted of linen goods to Australia valued at £330, woolen tissues to Canada valued at £940, jewelery to British East Africa valued at £500, and tins of biscuits to outposts of the empire (PDDE 7 Feb. 1934).


The aspiration of a self-sufficient industrial sector under native control independent of international market forces was doomed to failure. Handicaps such as low incomes, a small market, lack of fuel and raw materials require little examination. The dual aims of self-sufficiency and native control proved contradictory. Requirements of capital, technology, and expertise made employment and self-sufficiency possible only at the cost of admitting foreign industrialists, and a small market led firms to seek monopoly privileges as the price of investing in Ireland. However, the granting of concessions to rich outsiders ran contrary to Fianna Fail’s commitment to native control, frugal comfort, and opting out of modern capitalism. Lemass does not appear to have been unduly exercised by this contradiction and would appear to have viewed such compromises as a necessary price for creating employment and furthering industrial development, though he was keen to ensure that part of the benefit accrued to Irish investors.

Yet shareholders, even Irish shareholders, fitted uncomfortably with the vision of an egalitarian peasant society, and Lemass’s pragmatism was not always shared by fellow ministers. Where quotas, tariffs, or licenses were decided at departmental level, no conflict ensued, and decisions were taken at a relatively rapid pace; where the issue required cabinet scrutiny or interdepartmental assent, discord and delay proved common. Industry and Commerce dealings on the oil refinery were regarded with profound mistrust, yet the suspicious Department of Finance, whose minister expressed “very grave doubts indeed as to whether in their present form the proposals are equitable to our people,” was prepared to welcome an inferior refinery from the oil combine because it involved the state in no financial outlay. Some of the hostility was due to Lemass’s efforts to gain excessive control, and colleagues also balked at the appearance of authoritarianism, particularly where it impinged on the actions of native firms.

In practice self-sufficiency would have required monopoly powers and a level of state control unacceptable to Irish society. Neither Lemass nor his critics debated whether these were too great a price to pay for “self-sufficiency,” indeed whether an industrial drive as dependent on outside forces could merit the designation of “self-sufficient” in the first place.

1. 1936 Census of Production. However, it is possible that high protected prices may artificially boost Irish productivity levels.

2. I am grateful to David Jacobson for drawing my attention to this fact.

3. See chap. 7.

* Includes manufacturing industry, mining, and quarrying.

Includes categories such as laundries, dyeing, cleaning, gas, water and electricity, canals, docks, railways and transport, and various categories of local authority and government employment.

* Manufactures plus mining and quarrying.

Manufactures plus building, gas and electricity.

* Transportable goods, excluding mining and quarrying.

Comparison of Composition of Work Force in Manufacturing Industry, 1926–1936*

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