Friday, 18 July 1924
Dáil Éireann Debate
Chun críche aon Achta a rithfar sa tSiosón so, go bhfuil sé oiriúnach a údarú go n-íocfar amach as airgead a sholáthróidh an tOireachtas, aon phinsin is iníoctha fén Acht san le baill áirithe agus le seana-bhaill áirithe de sna Fórsaí Náisiúnta agus d'Fhórsaí Cosanta Shaorstáit Eireann no d'aon Fhórsaí Armtha a bhí á gcoinneáil suas ag an Rialtas Sealadach no ag Rialtas Shaorstáit Eireann.
 That for the purpose of any Act of the present Session it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys to be provided by the Oireachtas of any pensions payable under such Act to certain members and former members of the National Forces and the Defence Forces of Saorstát Eireann or of any Armed Forces maintained by the Provisional Government or the Government of Saorstát Eireann.
Mr. JOHNSON: I think it would be well on this Motion to have made clear, before we pass it, a point that was raised by Deputy McGrath as to what was the definition of “maintained” in the Motion and, therefore, in the Bill. If the intention is made clear we will be able to introduce an amendment to the Bill which would remove the possibility of doubt. “Armed forces maintained” might be interpreted to mean maintained in a state of armament, or maintained as living and active persons, or might be interpreted to mean as an embodied force kept in being by discipline and organisation from a central authority. I suggest it is not clear in the Bill or in the motion and we ought to have a clear understanding as to what the intentions of the Ministry are in the matter so that we will not be charged with having enlarged the scope of the Bill when we propose to make any amendments. I wanted to bring to the notice of the Dáil before passing this restricting motion the case of men, who, while not being members of an armed force or of the National Forces, were precluded from being members of such forces by virtue of the fact that they were employed by the Ministry and were ordered not to volunteer for service. Had they not been so precluded from volunteering they would come under the provisions of this Bill and, therefore, under this motion, but having been so precluded they are now placed at a disadvantage. The intention of the Minister, as has been stated twice at least, was to make provision for men whose livelihood had been interrupted, whose careers had been changed, and possibly damaged irretrievably by virtue of their service since 1916 onwards. In the case I  have in mind I cannot say how far their livelihood or prospects have been interfered with, but they are equally interfered with, if at the time of the setting up of the Defence Forces of Saorstát Eireann those men were in Government service and precluded by Government action from joining the Army, and, therefore, qualifying for the pensions set forth in the Bill to which this is a preliminary motion. Cases have been brought before me of this character and I was hopeful to have been able to introduce into the Bill an amendment covering such instances. I do not suppose they would have been very numerous. I do not know. Probably they would not be very extensive inasmuch as the men concerned are at present in Government service and the difference between what they would receive under the Bill and are receiving now as pay would not be very great. It so happens that they are probably receiving less as pay for work done than they would be receiving as pensions.
Mr. JOHNSON: Yes, that is the case. They consider they should not be hurt as permanents because of the fact that the Minister precluded them from joining the National Forces, and therefore qualifying for those pensions. The cases that were referred to in other amendments will be probably dealt with by those responsible for the other amendments, but it seems to me that this is the only opportunity we shall have of raising the matter and therefore I have raised it in the hope that we shall have an indication of the intentions of the Government and possibly an amendment to the motion.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: I am bound to admit that I have had great difficulty in being able to find out the exact meaning ensnared in this form of words. Perhaps the case Deputy Johnson mentioned is intended to have been included to meet the Government amendments that were moved on the previous occasion and ruled by you as being out of order. I have in mind a different kind of case altogether. To come back to the Bill, the position, I  take it, is this. Pensions are intended for those who have served in the National Forces and who also gave service prior to the establishment of the Saorstát. Any person who had not given service prior to the establishment of the Saorstát and who had been serving in the National Forces after the establishment of the Saorstát is to be precluded from the operations of the Bill.
Now there are persons who served prior to the establishment of the Free State who to-day should not come under the operation of this Bill. There is not any question whatever about that, and the Dáil would be united in that connection because of the action that these men have taken hostile to this State. But between those two there is a certain body of men to whom I think the Ministry ought to give attention. There are persons who gave very courageous and self-sacrificing service in pre-Treaty days under conditions of very considerable danger but who afterwards did not join the National Forces for a variety of causes. I have come into contact with some of them. I give some instances that recur to me at the moment. I know one case, the case of a man who had been in employment. He was one of the active service units and because of the conditions that prevailed immediately after the Treaty his employer took him back. If he had not been in employment he would probably have joined up in the National Forces because he has been a strong adherent of the Free State from the very beginning. He did not join up because he happened to be at that time in employment, and he wished to keep secure in that employment. But because of the economic conditions that have since come about that man to-day is out of work and he is precluded from the operations of the Bill although he has been a strong adherent of the Free State from the moment of its establishment and had done the utmost that lay in his power to bring this State into existence. I hold that it is not fair to exclude such a man from the operations of the Bill in a case where a very genuine attempt is being made to deal with persons who have given the kind of service that this man has given to the State.
 There are others on whom the President might not look quite so kindly but I think that they too ought to come within the operations of the Bill. I refer to the case of men who in the days of the Black and Tans gave very courageous and very fine service, and it is not against them that they should have felt disposed to give that service because it was a non-mercenary force that they were joining. These motives do influence human beings. When a paid force was established afterwards they felt that it ranked on a somewhat different basis; and in not joining they were not moved by any considerations of disaffection; they were moved by what we will call unworthy social motives, but these motives nevertheless did influence them. To-day these men are either in employment and not receiving much, or they are out of employment and receiving nothing. These are men who did give good service towards the establishment of this State, who have never done anything prejudicial to the establishment of this State, men whom nobody would claim to have been in any way disaffected; and yet because they did not happen to join the National Forces for the reasons I have given, they are excluded from any benefit under the Bill. Some of them, I think, will not altogether be glad to have their cases espoused in this way. Others of them whether they would or not, at another period, have been glad to have their cases espoused, would be glad to have them espoused now because they have joined the ranks of the unemployed. At the time when these men did great and good service there was no payment made for the work they did, and if there was any financial assistance given it was given merely to meet the conditions involved in moving forward from week to week and it was not given in the form of pay to an ordinary mercenary army.
I have two cases before me now in reference to men of this class that are being dealt with by charitable institutions about the working of which I happen to know something—the cases of two men who joined up with the active service units who lost their employment and yet who, when they were  offered enlistment in the National Forces, did not join the National Forces, though in not joining they were not moved by disaffection. And I urge the President that such men ought to be remembered to-day and ought not to be excluded when we come to the moment of meeting in some measure the services rendered by men of this class.
If I correctly interpret the words now moved as amending the Financial Resolution, I take it that the particular cases I have mentioned would be excluded from any benefit under the Pensions Bill. If the Resolution would exclude such persons I urge the President to enlarge it so as to include them. I agree entirely that persons who have been moved by disaffection or who could be shown to have done acts prejudicial to the establishment of this State as established by the will of the people, should not be included. But I do say that to give pensions only to those who gave valiant service in days of earlier danger, and who, with that service, gave further service in the National Forces is to limit the arrangement too much. I urge that the motion be further amended. I am not prepared to state now exactly what form the amendment should take, but I do urge that some further amendment should be made so as to extend the operation of the Bill and to include the class of persons that I have mentioned here to-day.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: I think not. The Money Resolution has been amended so as to extend the Forces to which it applies, but I think the word “member” is sufficiently clear in the ordinary way to exclude a person who was not in the Forces, that is to say, a member of the Forces was a person who was in the Forces. If they were members they are included in the Money Resolution and therefore they are in the Bill.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: The point is that if the persons that Deputy McCarthy has in mind were members of the Forces maintained by the Provisional Government or the Government of Saorstát Eireann they are in the Bill already. If his amendment is designed to bring in other persons these persons are not in the Money Resolution and therefore they could not be introduced. That appears clear.
Mr. McCARTHY: Yes. I have no doubt that the person I have in my mind is perfectly entitled to a pension. But I am afraid it may be said that he was not sworn in, that he was not attested; and I want to guard against that.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: I am only concerned with the words “member of.” If he is a “member of” the matter is clear. If he is not a “member of” he cannot be introduced into the Money Resolution, because the Money Resolution is quite clear on that.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: I agree that the meaning of the word “maintenance” is not very clear. The difficulty I find myself in is that “with” includes a great deal, and certainly enlarges the scope of the Bill very much, and gives a meaning to the word “members” which could not be held to be the ordinary meaning of the word. Nobody could hold, and it would be impossible for me to hold, that the word “members” could be construed in that way.
Mr. JOHNSON: But if the persons whom Deputy McGrath is speaking about were members of the armed forces, not the National Army, or not the Defence Forces, but armed forces maintained by the Provisional Government, or the Government of Saorstát Eireann, then they would come within the meaning of the Bill, and the question is whether their position was such that they were members of armed forces which were maintained by the Provisional Government.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: I do not know what the President intends to bring in, and unfortunately, when the Bill becomes law, it will have passed from the President's opinion. The particular difficulty Deputy McCarthy is in is that for a period of three or six weeks in Dublin there were persons on the streets in arms and not in uniform, and acting under the authority of the Provisional Government. The questions is, whether these persons were “members.” They were certainly acting in the armed forces under the Provisional Government, but whether the word “maintained” covers them is the point.
General MULCAHY: . There is a rather important point in connection with this, and it is that the term, “National Forces,” and the term, “Defence Forces” cannot, as far as I understand it, be applied to any force that existed prior to the 3rd August, 1923, because the Defence Forces Act, 1923, is not retrospective in its operation, and, therefore, the forces that existed at the coming into being of the Provisional Government, prior to the 3rd August, are brought in under this Money Resolution, only under the term, “any armed forces maintained by the Provisional Government, or the Government of Saorstát Eireann.” So much for that point. The other point is, I feel certain, that any of the men in the mind of Deputy McCarthy, are men who were armed by an authority, acting under the authority of the Provisional Government at the time, and men who acted under orders of officers who were officers of armed forces maintained by the Provisional Government at the time, and that being so, there can be no question but that they were members of armed forces maintained by the Provisional Government.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Before the President replies, may I put a point that gave me some difficulty in this amendment, and ask if the interpretation that occurred to me would, in your judgment, be a possible one. It is this: I take the phrase “certain members and former members” of the Defence Forces of Saorstát Eireann, “or any armed forces maintained by the Provisional Government or the Government of Saorstát Eireann.” I wonder whether the amendment I have put down on a previous occasion, and which you ruled out of order, might not come in, or whether it could possibly be brought in, by considering the Government of Saorstát Eireann as being the Government of Saorstát Eireann in the sense in which the President himself would recognise it, and I would recognise it, that is as being the actual successor to the Government of Saorstát Eireann, as proclaimed in 1919.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: I will have to get notice of that point and give it careful consideration. I have not adverted to it before, but it seems to me that the Bill itself as introduced and as it has passed its Second Reading, was clearly intended by the Dáil to be a Bill for the purpose of giving pensions  to certain persons who had given service after the Treaty, and in addition to that armed service after the Treaty had pre-Truce service. That is my interpretation of the scope of the Bill. I think the amendment to which Deputy Figgis alludes, and which is not now on the Paper, besides being outside the Money Resolution is outside the scope of the Bill itself.
The PRESIDENT: It is not intended in the Money Resolution to cover the case mentioned by Deputy Johnson, that is, of persons who accepted office from the Civil Government at the time, or rather, who accepted civil employment to put it correctly.
The PRESIDENT: I think there were very few cases of that kind, and they had this advantage, that they got employment then. Had they gone out they might have been maimed or even killed, whereas they have that employment now. There was, I think, generally speaking, fairly generous treatment given to those persons who were Dáil Eireann employees. We have postulated that service in the National Army is essential to get the benefits of this, and I have endeavoured to frame a resolution to bring in the bona fide cases that Deputy McCarthy has in mind. These cases should not be large in number; I am told they are not many in number. I hope their number will not increase as soon as this particular accommodation is provided for them. With regard to the case mentioned by Deputy Figgis, I should like to be in a position to give some compensation to the persons who rendered service, and rendered it free of charge on the national funds. But this measure must be construed in the light of our ability to meet the bill, and it was originally intended to deal exclusively with those officers and men who, by reason of the reduction of the strength of the Army, were landed out in the street without any employment at a time of economic instability, to  say the least of it, and who had not the opportunity of getting employment which many others had who did not join the Army.
Our responsibility, as far as this measure is concerned, was originally intended to meet only those who were demobilised or who had resigned from the National Army, and who had given service in it. The extension which we have made to meet those mentioned by Deputy McCarthy is an unreal extension. It was not contemplated originally. It is more than compensation to them. It is a payment to them for services that they have rendered, and to that extent their case differs from men in the National Army who gave the time, ran the risks, and ran them over the whole period, even though, I admit at once, the services rendered by those whom Deputy McCarthy mentioned were real and most valuable services at that time. But their case is different from the case of men demobilised in March last, or since March, or after the period of the disturbance had passed, when there was no danger, or very little likelihood of danger. To these men it is merely compensation, and only compensation, and to the other cases it is a payment, and I am sure it will be admitted as such. The original conception of this Bill was compensation pure and simple, compensation that is their due. Regarding the cases mentioned by Deputy Figgis, I would like very much to be able to introduce a measure to deal with them, but I do not think we are entitled to do it at present. We would not be entitled to do it until we knew what are the liabilities we have got to face, and when we are in a position to vote these payments, then it is for us to do so. There are many such cases. The Minister for Justice brought numbers under my notice, and I know quite well that it is impossible to provide accommodation which would prevent real suffering in a great number of these cases. I am sure that we have not succeeded in doing it in anything like the whole number, but the real idea of this Bill was to provide compensation for those  who had looked foward, by reason of their former services, to the Army as a profession, who had banked on that and who were disappointed in so banking.
Mr. JOHNSON: I take it that the groups of persons concerned in Deputy McCarthy's amendment are now covered by the amended terms of the Resolution, and it is not confined to those who did that kind of service in the city of Dublin. There are, I think, similar cases in the country.
|Last Updated: 16/05/2011 18:46:07||Page of 53|