On this Week in 1939
Given Ireland’s unique geographic position on the periphery of Europe, maintaining effective connectivity between Ireland, the UK and the rest of Europe is essential in the Ireland of 2023. Securing effective connectivity was a priority of Government in its planning for Brexit. The EU/UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement provides for continuing connectivity with the UK in aviation, road freight, passenger transport and shipping services. The Agreement also provides for continuing cross-border freight and passenger connectivity on the Island of Ireland.
Connectivity has been a key pillar of Sligo Chamber’s strategy in recent years and the Chamber continually advocates for improved road connectivity south-east to Dublin, on the N4; south to Galway on the N17; north/northwest to Donegal on the N15; and east to Enniskillen and Belfast on the N16. These routes are vital for road haulage, and national and international road haulage play a critical role in facilitating Irish economic activity. We are reliant on road hauliers for the goods we see in all our retail outlets and for all our
e-commerce purchases. The road haulage service we take so much for granted is provided by an extensive number of private independent haulage companies, ranging from sole traders to large multi-national businesses. Imagine for a moment if these independent entities were for some reason prevented from operating in a free open market and that a monopoly on transport of goods was introduced by Government. Could not happen you might say! Well, it did, in the late 1930s and early 1940s and Sligo Chamber was to the forefront in advocating against such a course of action, unfortunately as the Minutes of Chamber meetings show, without much success in the face of a determined Government position.
At the Chamber meeting of the 16th of January 1939, D.M. Hanley, President, in the Chair, the only item on the agenda was “To take immediate action and submit recommendations to the Tribunal of Enquiry on Public Transport”. The Tribunal of Enquiry had been set up by Government arising from the serious financial position that had become of the railways at that time. From having been the dominant providers of transport services in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, the railway companies were by the late 1930s struggling to compete with the motor vehicle offering a system of transport by road.
The Government position appears to have been to shore-up the railway companies to the exclusion of private hauliers operating on the road network. The Great Southern Railway Company was the only railway company operating out of Sligo in 1939, there having been three railway companies at the time of the formation of Sligo Chamber, only 16 years earlier in 1923.
A letter was read to the meeting from the Associated Chambers of Ireland (now Chambers Ireland) stating that the Tribunal of Enquiry on Public Transport would expect evidence from Sligo Chamber of Commerce. The matter having been discussed at length it was decided to inform the Secretary of the Associated Chambers that it was:
“(1) The unanimous decision of this Chamber that no legislation should be introduced which would give a monoply of road transport to any Company.
(2) This Chamber is not in favour of any alteration in the present system of transport by public and private carriers. They consider that private concerns should be at liberty to distribute their goods by their own means of transport.
(3) The present position of transport within this area is satisfactory.
(4) The circumstances which have led to the unfavourable financial position of the Railways are due in part to their own road transport competition and also to competition from private carriers who give quick delivery from door to door.
(5) This Chamber does not consider that any changes in the ownership of existing transport is necessary”.
At the next Chamber meeting on the 31st of January, a Sub-Committee was appointed to compile evidence to be submitted to the Tribunal. Headed by the President, D.M. Hanley, the ten-man Committee met at 8pm the following Monday the 6th of February. The evidence collected was brought before a General Meeting of the Chamber on the 13th of February, D.M. Hanley, President, in the Chair. Following a long discussion, the Secretary, J.A. McLoghry, was directed to prepare a summary of the evidence and forward same to the Transport Tribunal. The President, D.M. Hanley, T.G. Bourke and the Secretary, were appointed at a subsequent meeting to attend the Tribunal.
What is interesting to note is that, in a manner not uncommon to tribunals in recent times, the Transport Tribunal did not release its report and findings until 1941, and only 500 copies of the report were ever printed. In the intervening two years, Government proceeded to introduce “designated areas” around the country and give a monopoly on transport to Railway Companies. While Sligo was not one of the original locations outlined as a designated area, neighbouring North Mayo was. This had a negative impact on hauliers in County Sligo which the Chamber sought to address. At the Chamber meeting of the 17th of June 1943, D.M. Hanley, President, in the Chair, the first matter of business was to consider the position with regard to the “North Mayo Transport Pool”, where the following was the discussion and resolution.
“The monopoly given to the Great Southern Railway Cy in the transport of merchandise in North Mayo was discussed and it was pointed out that local turf haulers who have purchased turf in the Dromore West district are prohibited to enter that district with their own lorries and are compelled to have Great Southern Railway lorries to do the haulage. Mr. Lyons mentioned that his Firm had been asked by a resident in Ballina to remove his furniture to Cork but under existing conditions they could not accept the business. It was:-
Proposed by: W.J. Tolan (Mayor)
Seconded by: Frank Nally and Resolved:-
That we the Sligo Chamber of Commerce protest in the strongest possible manner to the monopoly given to the Great Southern Railway Cy for the transport of merchandise in North Mayo. There are a number of local carriers in this County who have paid their road tax, insurance etc on their machines and owing to this monopoly they are deprived of their means of livelihood which has resulted in serious unemployment in Garages etc. We urge upon the successful Candidates in the new Dáil to see that all lorry Owners get equal treatment. One very serious aspect of the situation is that turf haulers in Sligo are not permitted to transport turf from the Culleens, Bonniconlan and Dromore West districts which results in serious loss, inconvenience and hardship to the poor of Sligo.
Copy of the foregoing Resolution to be forwarded to the Great Southern Railway Company, Department of Supplies, Turf Development Board, Dept of Industry and Commerce, County Manager and the new T. Ds for the County”.
It soon followed that Sligo was designated a restricted area. Sligo Chamber was powerless to effect change to the Government decision. At the Chamber meeting of the 29th of February 1944, D.M. Hanley, President, in the Chair, the “Control of Road Transport” by the Railway Companies was on the Agenda. Responding to members questions with regard to the Great Southern Railways Company control of road transport, the Secretary, J.A. Mc Loughry, outlined that the Chamber had made its protest and he did not see what more could be done in the matter. Mr. T.G. Bourke said that Great Southern Railways Company had 700 lorries on the road to which the Secretary added that very few of them had “gas-producers” fitted. And in what was probably of most serious concern, the President noted that freight rates had gone up by 50 per cent since Great Southern Railways took over.
Objection by the Chamber to the Government’s actions nonetheless continued as we read at the Chamber meeting of the 18th of June 1945, F. Nally, Vice-President, in the Chair. Two members present, Mr. Sockett and Mr. Macarthur, criticised the Government’s action in maintaining Sligo as a restricted area for transport thereby causing serious inconvenience to them in their business. They pointed out that there was no restriction on firms in similar business in Waterford and they considered it very urgent that they in Sligo should be singled out for the imposition of a restriction. The meeting agreed that under the Transport monopoly, the liberties of the individual have been interfered with, but because things had gone so far “there is not much hope of rectifying the situation at present”.
The evidence presented to the Tribunal of Enquiry on Public Transport in Dublin by the three appointed delegates, D.M. Hanley, T.G. Bourke and the Secretary, J. A. McLoghry, was first discussed at a General Meeting of Sligo Chamber on this day, the 13th of February, on this week in 1939.
Researched and written by Conor McCarthy
Supported by the Sligo Chamber Centenary Committee:
- Catherine Maguire – Admin & Photographic Research
- Geraldine Courtenay – Creative Direction
- Aidan Doyle – Review & Publication
The next Article in the series commemorating The Centenary of Sligo Chamber and entitled “Local Businessmen give Generous Support to Society’s Appeal” will be released on the 27th of February 2023.
#Sligo Chamber Centenary