The Reports of both the Commissions referred to are based, first on the continuance of the present system of laws and government, and secondly, on the use of Imperial credit to the tune of many millions. Yet amongst the shoals of literature on Home Rule problems and finance, I can find no enlightenment as to how the transit problem is to be solved under the new conditions; i.e. how any Home Rule Government, whether it has control of Customs and Excise or not, and however it economises, is to find the money necessary to buy out the Irish railways and canals. A Government that is faced with the problems of poverty and congestion, of housing, of increased educational grants, of afforestation, and of arterial land drainage, will have an almost impossible task in raising money for these purposes alone. And, let those who can, inform us how an Irish Parliament and Executive (with all else they will have in hand), will be able to raise even the L5,000,000 necessary to improve the Irish Light Railway System; not to speak of the sum at least tenfold greater which will be required for a complete purchase scheme.
So far we are without that information. The Irish Parliamentary leaders have not touched upon the point. The pamphleteers are almost equally silent. Professor Kettle, in his “Home Rule Finance,” mentions the “Nationalisation of Railways” in one line of print, merely stating that “the project will have to be financed by loans and not out of annual revenue” (p. 41); and he further remarks, generally (p. 72), “that for the development of any future policy, approved by her own people, Ireland relies absolutely on her own fiscal resources.” What fiscal resources, and under what conditions are they obtainable?
In the volume entitled “Home Rule Problems” issued by the Liberal Home Rule Committee, with a preface by Viscount Haldane, not one word is said on the subject, though there are chapters on Irish finance, and on Irish commercial and industrial conditions. Neither has Mr. Stephen Gwynn a single word on the subject in his “Case for Home Rule,” though he makes the large assertion that “there is no country in the world where resources are more undeveloped than those of Ireland.”
Mr. Erskine Childers merely refers to the Irish railway problem as one that is “obvious and urgent,” “which no Parliament but an Irish Parliament can deal with, and which calls aloud for settlement.”
Let us now look at the problem in more detail; and first is the question of the railways. The property to be dealt with consists of 3411 miles of railway, representing a total capital of L45,163,000, of which, at the date of the Report of the Commission, L2,873,000 paid no dividend; the gross annual receipts of the whole system being L4,255,000 and the net receipts L1,690,000, representing a return on the whole capital of 3.77 per cent.