Friday, 28 March 1924
Dáil Éireann Debate
General MULCAHY: In connection with the Terms of Reference of the proposed Committee to inquire into recent Army events, I want to draw attention to the fact that the Terms of Reference, as they stand at present, do not appear to contemplate arrangements for the hearing by the Committee of any charges, complaints, or rumours that led up to the removal of  three officers—the Chief of Staff, the Adjutant-General, and the Quartermaster-General. In the speeches that have been made in the Dáil during the last week or so, charges of various kinds have been implied against those officers. The Minister for Finance yesterday stated that the decision to remove them was come to on account of particular incidents on Tuesday, 18th March, and on account of the dissatisfaction felt by various members of the Executive Council for a considerable period. Various Ministers implied general charges of one kind or another against those officers. I take it that it is not the President's intention, nor the intention of the Executive Council, that there shall be no examination of what is behind this general atmosphere of charge, and that it is not their intention that officers who have given such distinguished service to the State, such as those three officers have given, shall be removed in the way in which they have been from their offices, and no reason be given, whether publicly or otherwise, except the rough and ready charges which have been made here. I, therefore, ask that the Terms of Reference should be so framed that the Committee dealing with this Inquiry shall receive evidence of any complaints, charges, or rumours, because rumours apparently form the greater portion of the charges against those officers, and that the Committee shall be able to ascertain whether the removal of those officers, in the manner in which they were removed, is justified or not.
In the matter of the inquiry, generally, there are certain points I would like an assurance upon. A personnel has already been nominated for the Committee. I have already stated that that is inadequate. As a matter of fact, certain persons nominated on that Committee of inquiry have, as a result of recent happenings or subsequent happenings, had their positions as impartial inquirers rather prejudiced. I personally do not want to object to any of the names that have already been mentioned, but I do think, if the Executive Council consider that they are proper persons to nominate on that Committee, that  the Minister for Education has made statements here in the Dáil that might be regarded by Deputies as somewhat prejudging the position. As to Deputy McGilligan, a second member of the Committee, in view of the statement made by the Minister for Home Affairs that one of the things which the Ministerial party are unanimous in was that the Army Council should be removed from their position, I think that that, to some extent, prejudices his position to be regarded as an impartial inquirer. I say that if the Executive Council do consider——
Mr. O'HIGGINS: I am sorry to intervene, but it is right that I should say that I had no positive grounds for that statement. I had the negative grounds that there was a complete absence of dissent, so far as I know, within the Party, from the step that has been taken, but it was perhaps not right and not fair that I should make a positive statement that they were unanimous about it. I qualify that now by saying that no evidence of dissent within the Party came to my knowledge.
General MULCAHY: I should have qualified my statement by a reference to the absence of dissent. I had that absence of dissent very much in my mind. I mentioned the matter to Deputy McGilligan himself. If the Executive Council thinks these are proper persons to be on the Committee of Inquiry, I have no objection; but I do consider that these persons, or whoever may be the nominees of the Executive Council on the Committee, should be supplemented by a representative from the Labour Party, a representative from the Farmers' Party, a representative from the Independent Party and, if necessary, a representative from Deputy McGrath's Party. Given that, there are certain other things that I require to have attention drawn to. We should like to know if witnesses before this Inquiry shall be examined on oath; whether there shall be power to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence if required; whether a verbatim report of the evidence would be taken; what will be the form of the Committee's Report; whether they will be expected  to fix responsibility for any matters involving mutinous conduct, and whether they will undertake to define the nature of that responsibility. If it is intended that the Committee will make recommendations, what will be the scope of these recommendations? Will persons who may be involved be allowed to be present constantly at the Inquiry or to depute persons to represent them or, alternatively, will any person involved be given a copy of any evidence implicating him in any way, and may he appear before the Inquiry for the purpose of rebutting any such evidence? I fully appreciate the arguments for or against a public Inquiry at present, but if the Committee will consist of representatives of the Parties I have mentioned as well as nominees of the Executive Council, if varbatim reports are taken, if the persons against whom charges or complaints are made will have an opportunity of replying, if the Committee will investigate the charges, complaints and rumours against the officers who have been removed, and if it appears to the Dáil for any reason that the publication of the evidence taken before the Inquiry is advisable, that the evidence will be made public, then I would not propose to press the President that the Inquiry should be a public one. I would also urge that steps would be taken to have the Inquiry start its work at once. I do not know how long it will take, but there are obvious and many reasons why the work of the Inquiry should be begun at once, and concluded at the earliest possible moment.
Mr. JOHNSON: It seems to me that the request of Deputy Mulcahy for precision and a clear understanding as to the scope of this Inquiry is very reasonable. The officers concerned, and he himself, are involved in what amount to charges, and as the public is very widely concerned and, in a direct sense, involved, the scope of the Inquiry should, I think, be a little more definitely stated than appears in the Terms of Reference, and the tribunal should be, as I have already claimed, a wider one than that which is appointed. I took note, for instance, of the last few lines in the  covering letter which the President read yesterday:—“and in addition to report on such specific matters and replies to such specific queries as may from time to time be referred to them by the Executive Council.” That, of course, suggests a possible interminable inquiry, and nobody will know what the Inquiry is about. The letter which professes to indicate the Terms of References is intended to cover everything, I think, but I believe that Deputy Mulcahy is right in saying that it does not necessarily include an inquiry into the conduct of those officers who were called upon to resign. It may be held by the Committee to include that, but it may be held by the Committee not to include it. It is not clear; it is certainly not laid down in the Terms of Reference, and I think that there should be a very definite reference to the charges alleged against the officers who have been removed, because, presumably, of their conduct. The circumstances are not normal. If they had been transferred from one post to another I do not think that any such demand could reasonably have been made, but they were dismissed, called upon to resign from certain administrative posts, and charges were suggested against them. On these grounds I think that Deputy Mulcahy is justified in making the claims for precision in the Terms of Reference, a very carefully conducted Inquiry, and that the court should be a wider one than that which has been appointed.
Mr. HEWAT: I think the request of Deputy Mulcahy is not only reasonable but very proper. The Deputy takes exception to the constitution of the Committee set up to inquire into this matter. I think it is open to question. It is a Committee appointed by the Executive Council in a matter which, as far as the Executive Council is concerned, I think they carry some responsibility themselves. In other words, it is clear that for a considerable period this state of affairs has been within the knowledge of the Executive Council, and how far they as a collective body have been to blame is a matter on which I think they cannot entirely free themselves from responsibility. But  incidentally one of the members of the Executive Council is on this Committee, and any of us who listened to this Minister on the occasion of the debate on the Army matter, while we can give him personally full credit for perfect honesty, cannot, I think, following that speech look on him as an unprejudiced judge on this matter. I do not know what the feeling of the Dáil will be, but I think I may express my own opinion, at all events, that the request by Deputy Mulcahy is perfectly justified and ought to be accepted.
Mr. McGILLIGAN: I should like to make my personal position quite clear in this matter. I have studiously refrained from taking part in the debates, either in the Party or the Dáil, since I received the intimation that I had been appointed to act on this Committee of Inquiry. I did that, as I say, deliberately, although I believe a distinction could be made between the events leading up to and ending on Tuesday night which form the subject matter of the Inquiry, and the events after that day which were more immediately the subject of discussion at the Party meetings than at the Dáil. But after listening to the remarks made in the Dáil on two or three occasions I felt it would be unwise for me to continue at this Inquiry, and I had actually drafted the following letter for the President:—
“Since considerable stress has been laid in the Dáil lately on the fact that the Committee appointed by the Executive Council to inquire into recent events in the Army is drawn completely from the political organisation to which the Government owes its existence: and as there has been so much insistence on the necessity for reconstructing the Committee and changing the personnel, I thought it right to let you know that my resignation from the Committee can be had on a moment's notice. I am quite willing to serve on the Committee if required, and I am equally ready to withdraw if such withdrawal in any way eases the situation.”
I did not send that letter to the President, because I felt that the Executive Council would not feel themselves  estopped from calling for my resignation if any point such as that now urged by Deputy Mulcahy were put forward, but I think it is better, on the whole, that the Dáil and the President should know that as far as I am concerned I am quite ready to withdraw from the Committee at a moment's notice.
Mr. GOREY: I agree with other Deputies who have spoken, that the request of Deputy Mulcahy is only a fair and reasonable one. If this Committee is to do justice to the crisis that has arisen, it should be impartial and give fair play all round to every section and every individual involved, I do not care what side of the Dáil or section of the Army they come from, or even if they do not come from any section of the Army at all. Every person concerned ought to get fair play, and all sections of the Dáil should have representation, and thereby make the Committee more impartial. I think the request is most reasonable and it has my support and the support of every member of our party.
Mr. DAVIN: I want to ask the President if he deems it advisable to give way to the wish expressed by Deputy Mulcahy, and if as a result it is necessary for State servants, whether soldiers or civilians, to come forward to give evidence with regard to rumours or charges made, can he give assurance that any such persons will not be victimised as the result of their action?
The PRESIDENT: I am not in a position to make any announcement on the matter raised by General Mulcahy. There has been no meeting of the Executive Council since Monday, and as the Dáil understands, attendance here and attention to ordinary administration has occupied the entire time of the Minister during the week. I must, therefore, ask the indulgence of the Dáil for a few days before making any announcement on this matter. With regard  to the question raised by Deputy Davin, I think it is unnecessary to say that there would not be victimisation of any servant or officer of the State who gives evidence at such Inquiry—that is, with the reservation that there may be statements which may possibly give rise to very serious considerations, if there be an admission of any dereliction of duties, or perverse conduct, or anything of that kind. I am sure I am not asked to give a guarantee that if, by reason of evidence submitted, an officer convicted himself, he should be relieved from any disciplinary action with regard to that matter.
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