Tuesday, 28 February 1922
Dáil Éireann Debate
MR. MICHAEL COLLINS (MINISTER OF FINANCE): A Chinn Chomhairle, the members of the Dáil have already in their hands the Statement of Accounts which I have got printed in two parts in the old way in order to show the accounts more clearly—one for the half-year ended 30th June, 1921, and the second for the half-year ended 31st December, 1921. In addition to that I have adopted the usual custom of giving a sketch of the accounts practically up to date. That sketch, of course, could not be ready as soon as these accounts. I will read the auditor's report and make just a few comments on it:
I beg to report that I have completed the audit of your books for the two half-years ended 30th June, 1921, and 31st December, 1921, respectively. I send you herewith certified copies of Receipts and Disbursements Accounts for the two half-years. Upon these accounts I have to report as follows:
“The Cash Balances on hand at 1st January, 1921, as per audited accounts, were £233,855 4s. 8d. The Receipts for Self-Determination Fund amounted to £25,925 10s. 10d. of which £25,236 11s. 10d., was  received from U.S.A. There was received £86,371 1s. 6d. in respect of the Loan, of which £84,614 16s. 6d. was remitted from U.S.A. out of amounts raised there. Interest received and accrued amounted for the half-year to £7,413 9s. 1d. Revenue earned by Departments came to £1,373 4s. 5d. Refunds from Departments out of amounts charged in previous accounts came back: they amounted to £5,169 1s. 2d. There is a further refund of £5,000 from the Department of Home Affairs for the N.E. Counties, which sum is shown as a Disbursement on the other side. An item of Suspense was received amounting to £1,187 2s. 0d. The various items of Receipt, added to the opening balances at 1st July, 1921, make a total of £366,294 13s. 8d.
“The Expenditure for the half-year is shown departmentally, the principal heads of expenditure under each Department being indicated. The total amount of Expenditure for the half-year was £111,269 15s. 8d.
“The account begins with the balance on hand at 1st July, 1921, viz., £255,024 18s. 0d. £6,285 11s. 5d. was received for the Self-Determination Fund, £5,500 being from Australia. £168,702 4s. 2d. was received in respect of the Loan, of which £167,727 0s. 10d. was remitted from U.S.A. £35 was received for the New Loan. Interest received and accrued amounted to £5,608 1s. 5d. The earnings from Departments were £5,392 12s. 8d. Refunds were received in respect of expenditure charged in previous accounts to the extent of £951 12s. 7d., and there was a Suspense receipt of £33. The opening balance of cash in hands at the beginning of the half-year, and the receipts for the half-year, make a total of £442,033 0s. 3d.
“The Total Departmental Expenditure for the half-year came to £202,831 14s. 9d., and the Trustees' Expenses to £255 7s. 4d. There is also charged a sum of £1,341 19s. 5d. which was stolen from the offices on the 14th or 15th December. The Expenditure in the various Departments is shown in detail in the enclosed accounts. Included under the head of Foreign Affairs, Special Expenses, is a payment to a delegate of £200 in respect of a proposed visit to U.S.A. As this visit was not made, I wrote to the delegate to inquire if I might include the £200 as cash unexpended and on hand at 31st December, 1921. In reply I have to-day received a letter stating that there is a sum of £83 18s. 6d. on hands. I have not, however, altered the accounts as regards this item.
“The balance of cash in hands at 31st December, 1921, including accrued interest, amounted to £237,603 18s. 9d. With respect to this sum I have to say that it includes an item of £1,660 7s, 5d., balance of current account with the Sinn Féin Bank, now in liquidation. I have written to the Liquidator for verification, and inquiring as to the prospects of realisation, but up to the date of this report have not heard from him. A sum of £9,033 12s. 7d. is included as being on hands at the London office at the end of the half-year. I have not been able to vouch this sum nor the following items of expenditure made by the London office and included in the accounts: London Office, Local Expenditure, £1,873 13s. 11d.; in respect of Peace Negotiations, £1,050 2s. 7d.; and Special Defence, £4,050 0s. 0d.”
Before I proceed with the reading of that report I would like to explain these items. It is simply that at the time of audit they were not vouched. Our representative in London has been written to in regard to the vouchers, and in a very short time, I have no doubt, these vouchers will come along. As regards the item “Special Defence” there is a slight mistake in putting in the amount, as this is an amount paid on behalf of prisoners. £1,000, returnable by the Self-Determination League, and the other amount, £3,050, will be returned for the new half-year's account. Well, the auditor's report proceeds:
“Part also of the Cash Balance is a Deposit Receipt for £7,000 lodged  with a Bank to secure an overdraft of a private individual. This lodgment was authorised by the Ministry. On inquiry to-day it is found that the overdraft and the Deposit Receipt are about equal. The Bank, however, holds further securities almost equal in value to the overdraft, so that, for the present at any rate, the contingency of a loss does not arise. With the exceptions just referred to I have satisfied myself as to the correctness of the Cash Balance at the end of the half-year.”
It may do no harm to make reference to the £7,000. It was passed by the Dáil Ministry some twelve months ago. It was reported as a special item and private members asked me for particulars of it, which I gave, and these will be available for anybody who requires them. The auditor's report concludes:
“I think it would be well for the Members to take into account the advisability of now dispensing with Bank and other accounts opened in the names of private individuals, and of consolidating the funds of An Dáil in one account. There appears to be no necessity now for these individual accounts, and if they were transferred into the names of official trustees, possible complications would be avoided.
Well, now, since that was written by the auditor, the Trustees and the Dáil Cabinet met; and I would like this incorporated in the Finance Report: that the Self-Determination account of Dáil Eireann be now closed, and that the amounts received in Australia be included as though they had come to hand before the date of this resolution. Now, in the usual course, or in accordance with the practice that has prevailed, the American accounts are not given out in detail, but I can give the items, and, as on a former occasion, any member who wishes to have a copy of these figures can have it within a reasonable period. Now, the following are the American Accounts of the Dáil for the half-year ended on December 31st:
|June 30th, 1921||$2,959,123.69|
|Loss on Realisations||$1,242.42|
|Remittances for Bank||$400,000.00|
|Balance on Hands||$2,130,364.82|
And now the usual summary—I refer to the cash summary as at the 31st December last—has been made out in this way. You will see from it that the cash on hands at home was £237,603 18s. 9d. The cash on hands in the U.S.A. was $2,130,364.82 which, at the rate of exchange—4.40—amounted to £484,174 0s. 0d. The total of those two amounts was £721,777 18s. 9d. The following reserves had to be stipulated for: General, $500,000; Bank, $100,000; and Sundries, $250,000. That totalled $850,000, which at the 4.40 rate of exchange came to £193,181 16s. 4d. That amount deducted from £721,777 18s. 9d. left the net balance available at £528,596 2s. 5d. In addition to all that I have made out a summary bringing the position up to date as to the 18th February, and I can put it briefly before you in this way: The Home Balance on the 31st December, 1921, was £237,603 18s. 9d. The Receipts since included: Cash recovered from the English, £22,250 8s. 10d.; Loan, et cetera, £582 0s. 4d.; Revenue, £1,026 11s. 1d., and Refunds, £495 2s. 6d. Those four amounts total £24,354 2s. 9d. That, added to the Home Balance, makes £261,958 1s. 6d. The principal item of the receipts is the money that was stolen from us by the English and returned. The outlay for the seven weeks comes to  £51,393 10s. 2d., leaving a balance of £210,564 11s. 4d. Now, for the United States, the cash on hands at 31st January, 1922, per the United States accounts was $2,461,589.50 dollars which, at 4.40 rate of exchange was £559,452 3s. 2d. That indicates a total of £770,016 14s. 6d., which, less reserves amounting to $850,000 or £193,181 16s. 4d., left £576,834 18s. 2d. net balance available. That was our net balance on February 18th last—the absolute net cash balance without any consideration for assets. I just want to make one or two brief remarks in regard to the assets. I have tried to discern between what are good and bad and doubtful. Among the assets is an item of £200 concerning the Rathmines Comhairle Ceanntair. Then, in regard to Fishery Societies, there is an amount of £19,630 which I have classified as bad or doubtful. Under the scheme of helping County Councils is an amount of £16,800. Then there is a special deposit which is really not a loan—only a safeguarding of money; that comes to £7,700. I do not know if I have properly classified the following item as bad or doubtful. It is an account which the Ministry passed as expenses in connection with the Manchester trials, which is recoverable from the Irish Self-Determination League. The amount is £2,500. Promises on loan, £7,610, are all good. Land Bank Capital £200,000 is good. The next thing is Kilcunny Farm, £6,575. Then there have been returns since these accounts were made out, as follows: Peace Negotiations, £13 16s. 9d.; Foreign Affairs, £635; Advances, including sub-commission, £5,361; Roscommon County Council, £2,500. Now, there were three amounts on hand in connection with the sub-commission accounts as follows: £240; £342 10s.; and £316 10s. The reason I did not deduct these from the total advances is I did not know how the sub-commission and others stood at the time. The following amounts have been refunded from the Provisional Government: Salaries, £65 18s. 7d., and over £60 of Ministerial salaries have been refunded. Now, there may be just one or two questions coming out of these. These accounts differ from the others in only one respect. In all others we tried to draw the dividing line between the Self-Determination Fund Account, as we called it on the basis passed in An Dáil in June 1920 Session, and the Loan Account. It has not been possible to do that, and the expenditure has become so complex I doubt in an analysis if the Self-Determination Fund would really bear the burden of the charges placed on it if I rigidly adhere to the formula passed in June 1920. It would be possible to do it, but it would entail considerable labour, and it would not be worked down to the last pound note, either. The sum of £23,000 received from the United States on 12th January is included as having been received here prior to the 31st December. This was done so that the accounts in the United States would agree with the accounts at home on the 31st December. There is another point. In Rome there was a small amount of funds lying to the credit of our representative there, and the Bank that it happened to be in has closed down temporarily under an order of the Italian Government under a moratorium. The amount is £400. That will right itself when the moratorium is removed. The point I want to draw attention to is the balance that has been paid to the County Councils. It is £14,300. That is a matter I did not mention. I do not know should we proceed at once, in view of the changed circumstances, for the recovery of the money from the County Councils. I have no doubt when the County Councils find themselves in possession of the new funds they will return what has been loaned without anybody asking it.
MR. M. COLLINS: That was a rushed amount; it should not have been charged like this. It should have been charged as a separate item. The Dáil Cabinet has been apprised of it, and they know exactly what it is. It should not have been put down as it is.
MR. M. COLLINS: No, it should not. If these items had been vouched none of them would have appeared here at all; but I suppose the London office being rushed, and Mr. O'Brien being away, they overlooked the matter. However, I am sure the vouchers will soon arrive.
MR. DE VALERA: I would like to refer to one matter here before you proceed with the motion. There is a slander being spread in America which affects me personally, but I do not mind it affecting me so much as the credit of the country, because, if we go for loans and monies come in, it is only right that there should be an assurance to those who subscribe that the monies they subscribed are being properly dea't with. I am a Trustee of Dáil Eireann, and this slander or libel is being spread, and I want the Minister of Finance definitely to say whether this could be possible. I say it is a lie—an infamous slander—and I must deal with it. It is this, according to the New York Gaelic American:“When de Valera, on January 31st, found himself defeated, he clandestinely withdrew 20,000 dollars from the New York Banks, where it was deposited.” Now, I did nothing of the kind. I want the House to know that, and I want publicly to deny it. The Minister for Finance knows it would be impossible.
MR. M. COLLINS: That matter is so plain in the accounts that nobody could question it. The statement of accounts proves that this could not have happened. But it is not twenty thousand dollars, they said; I think it was twenty thousand pounds. That is the amount I drew special attention to here——
MR. M. COLLINS: This one hundred thousand dollars, which is twenty-three thousand pounds, is the amount which came to hand on the 12th January, and it was drawn in America previous to the 31st December. I have included it in our accounts up to the 31st December so that the two items should be alike. When I was over there, now, I saw in my office a cablegram something like what Mr. de Valera has read out. It is a most infamous thing. There has been absolutely no difference on the part of the Trustees, and every penny that has been handled since the 6th December last, has been handled in exactly the same way as before the 6th December. No one here will have any doubt about it, I think (“No! no!”).
MR. DE VALERA: I am talking as a Trustee, and for the credit of the Dáil and the Republican Government. I must say I have, as the Minister of Finance knows, never demanded any money. This money came from the agent of the Minister of Finance as well as the Trustee in America. The money was ordered to be sent in the ordinary way, and I did not know anything about it until it arrived.
MR. HARRY BOLAND: I would suggest that these accounts would be published in the United States, because there has been a very vicious propaganda there to the effect that the money was squandered and spent without the authority of this House. The answer to all this is, of course, to be seen in the statement given by Mr. Collins. But, in justice to the men who were in America and who no longer represent the Government, I think arrangements ought to be made to have these accounts published in the United States, so that we will be clear of charges which we have always considered beneath contempt, and not worth an answer.
MR. M. COLLINS: It only needs the authority of the Dáil to publish them. So far as the Home Accounts are concerned they are going to the Press. On the last occasion we decided to publish the statement of accounts for the half-year ended the 30th June, and I took it these would be published also. The only thing is to prepare the American Accounts in the same way as these accounts were prepared. It is my wish that the whole thing should go to the Press if the House desires.
MR. AUSTIN STACK: There is one item to which I wish to refer. I am sure the Minister of Finance will agree I am not raising it for the purpose of unduly criticising the accounts. It is a  matter of public interest. People are likely to ask what this item represents. The item is on page seventeen and it concerns Armagh meetings, £75. Being in his own constituency, nobody would for a moment suggest anything, so he has now an opportunity of explaining it.
MR. M. COLLINS: I did not know about that item until I saw it in the accounts. It was decided by the Dáil Cabinet that certain finances be given the Mid-Armagh Comhairle Ceanntair. £149 was given and £74 was paid back. That is really a charge on the Mid-Armagh Comhairle Ceanntair. If I had noticed it sooner I would have drawn their attention to it in order to give them an opportunity of repaying it.
MR. SEAN T. O'KELLY: I would like to say with regard to these accounts, that the whole of them make a very voluminous document. I had it placed in my hands only the moment I came in, so, in the circumstances, I could not possibly go through this document dealing with the accounts and give it the examination we all would like to give to a matter of its importance. I know that it is not the fault of the Minister of Finance that this statement has been presented so late. In fact, in my opinion it is early to have accounts for the period ending up to the 31st December published. So it is not for the purpose of complaining that I rise. I must say that the Finance Department deserves every credit for presenting us with such a voluminous statement as this at such an early date—all things being considered—concerning the duties they had on hands since Christmas, at all events. I would only like to ask the Minister of Finance if, at a later date or at another meeting of the Dáil, he would have any objections to answering questions arising out of these accounts, after we have an opportunity of making a careful study of them. With regard to America, we who are in this Dáil, now that we have a statement of the amount of money coming from America, should express our very deep gratitude to America for the way she has supplied us with funds. Were it not for that assistance the recent fight would have been an impossible one. I say that in view of the statements that have been made in regard to America and the assistance given by America. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the people of America for what they have done for Ireland. The people of America talked to us in millions of dollars, and that fact brings home to us more clearly the extent of our indebtedness to America. I would like to say again that we should express our gratitude to the people in America and also to the people who represent us in America. They certainly did magnificent work— work which redounds very much to their credit. I would ask also that the Minister for Finance, who deserves every credit for getting out the statement of accounts so quickly, would give us the courtesy of answering questions later.
MR. M. COLLINS: That is always taken for granted—that a Minister would always answer questions put to him. I will answer any question at the Dáil here, or if any member of the Dáil writes to me between the Dáil meetings, I will let him or her have any information desired. That practice does not seem to be very popular, though—never was.
MR. JOSEPH MACDONAGH: I should like to ask a question in reference to one matter in the accounts. There is an item on page seven under the heading of “Sundries”. The item deals with £200 in connection with Liam Pedlar's case. In view of the fact that the case has been won, I presume that amount will be refunded.
MR. M. COLLINS: In reply to the Deputy, I presume the money will be refunded. The Ministry paid £200 over a certain case, and that, so far as the Finance Department was concerned, was an end of it. I saw in the Press that the money was returned, but I do not know anything more about it. Of course it is one thing to see in the Press that the money has been returned, and it is quite another thing getting the payment of it through the courts. I mean the time that elapses.
MADAME MARKIEVICZ: With regard to what Mr. O'Kelly has said, it is a pity his suggestion is not gone on with. If it is meant as a motion I would like to second it. I fully realise how America, and not only America, but Australia, stood with us in the fight for the Republic. If the suggestion is going as a motion, I should like to second it. An expression of the thanks of the people of Ireland should go to the people of those countries for their generosity towards us.
MR. DE VALERA: It would be well to include also in that England, Scotland and Wales. In times past we have been inclined to forget how much has been done by those who sympathise with our cause in Great Britain. Having once or twice omitted them myself on account of the greater size of the American amount, I think in future we should include those countries when we are expressing our thanks.
MR. JAMES N. DOLAN: I desire to associate myself with the motion, and in doing so I think I would be only expressing the unanimous wish of the House when I make reference to the keen appreciation of all the Deputies—and in this there are no parties—in regard to the tremendous work the Minister of Finance has accomplished in safe-guarding our accounts during the very trying period we have come through (hear, hear). There is no one, I feel sure, who will not associate himself or herself with that, and I feel sure I am justified in saying that is the unanimous wish of the House.
MR. SEAN T. O'KELLY: I would formally move that the best thanks of the House be tendered to the people in the various countries, starting with America and including Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and other countries who so generously helped us with their finances and sympathy during the recent fight.
MADAME MARKIEVICZ: I intimated my desire to second that before. I formally second it now. We all fully appreciate how America, Australia, England, Scotland, and Wales and the different countries of the world stood by us in our fight for the Republic, and how hard we should have found it to get along without their help. I think everybody agrees with that.
MR. MICHAEL COLLINS: I would like to associate myself with it as being the person responsible for this end of the work. I am glad President de Valera included England, Scotland and Wales. I would like to include two other places—Australia and Ireland.
MR. M. COLLINS: All these places that did subscribe deserve very well of the Dáil, but the place that deserves best of all—and I have always maintained it —is this country (hear, hear). I do not want to express anything but the best of thanks to America and other countries, but it was more creditable to subscribe £400,000 here than if they had subscribed four hundred thousand millions in America and elsewhere.
MR. M. COLLINS: The American statement I read out will have to be prepared for publication. All these Home Accounts are going to the Press, but the American Accounts I gave out would not be suitable in their present form. They would have to be prepared in the way that accounts are usually prepared for publication. It will only take a matter of two or three hours.
MR. DE VALERA: Every penny subscribed in America to the loan was entered in my name. Every person in America who subscribed, whatever the  minimum sum was, has his name or her name registered, and all have got bonds so far as they have subscribed. There has been an accurate account kept of every policy subscribed in America. We had not the same conditions there as here; therefore it was possible to have full receipts given for every penny subscribed. There is no doubt whatever about the conditions in America. There seems to be some misunderstanding about the condition of the funds at present. We have regarded the funds as being National Funds—funds of the Irish Republic. The rule is that the Trustees getting these in their names, are responsible for their safe keeping, and the disbursement of them in accordance with a definite rule, the rule being that application is made by the Minister of Finance, countersigned by the President, for such sums that might be necessary in accordance with the estimates voted in Dáil Éireann. So that the vote of Dáil Éireann unlocks, so to speak, the Treasury, for sums that might be necessary for Executive work. It is well we should be all clear about that.
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