Tuesday, 25 May 1926
Dáil Éireann Debate
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £290,000 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1927, chun Pinsin Chréachta, Liúntaisí agus Aiscí fén Acht Arm-Phinsean, 1923, agus chun síntiúisí iolardha mar gheall ar a Riara san agus chun Pinsin d'íoc fé Acht na bPinsean Seirbhíse Mileata, 1924.
 That a sum not exceeding £290,000 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927, for Wound Pensions, Allowances and Gratuities under the Army Pensions Act, 1923, and for sundry contributions in respect of the administration thereof, and to pay pensions under the Military Service Pensions Act, 1924.
MINISTER for DEFENCE (Mr. Hughes): In submitting this Estimate, I should like to say a couple of words in explanation. There is not much, really, to be said, as the amounts are all statutory. There is a considerable savings under some of the heads on last year. There is a decrease of £20,500 under sub-head A—Wound Pensions and Gratuities. The reason for that is that a good many have been worked off, and, in some cases, paid off, and, consequently, there will be found to be a decrease under that head. Under sub-head D—Allowances to Widows and Children—there is a reduction of £12,000, which is accounted for by the fact that a considerable number of the children are coming of age, and are no longer entitled to get pensions. The expenditure under C—Artificial Appliances—is reduced by a sum of £500, and sub-head D—Vocational Training—is reduced also by £500. The reason for that is that there are very few people making applications to get vocational training. There were two or three applicants in the past year, and I do not know if any of these people filled the requirements. I think, at the moment, we have no applicant under that head. We put in this sum so that if people come in, in the financial year, we will be able to deal with them.
Travelling and incidental expenses under sub-head E are down by £800. The reason of that is that we did not anticipate there would be so few people travelling to attend medical boards and so on; so many of them have got pensions or gratuities that they will not have to come up again for examination. The sum of £1,000 is down for specialists' fees in connection with the fixing of awards. That sum was under a  different head last year. It should have been in the Army Pensions Vote, but it was not. It was in the ordinary Army estimates. As regards extra statutory provision of hospital treatment for ex-members of the forces, the amount is £9,000; no provision was made for this sum last year. It was thought necessary that it should be brought under this separate account this year, and hence the increase.
Sub-head H. deals with pensions granted under Section 4 (1) of the Military Service Pensions Act, 1924. This Vote shows a nett increase. It is thought that a great many of these cases, practically all of them, will be finished during the coming financial year. The reason of the increase is that the pensions were granted, as far back as October, 1924, so that the total accrued in those years. It is hoped that practically all those cases will be finished in the coming financial year.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: On the Estimates, questions of legislation do not arise. I will settle the matter in this way: I will let the Minister state immediately, if he can, when he will introduce the Bill.
Mr. JOHNSON: In connection with my reference to the administration, I wanted to have some information from the Minister as to whether he has attempted, through his Departmental chiefs and staffs, to find out what needs there are in respect of disablement through sickness pensions. There have come within his cognisance as Minister many applications on the part of——
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: That arises on the Vote for the Department of Defence, surely, and not on this Vote. Now that I remember it in the light of his arguments the Deputy's question was: Did questions of administration arise? They do, but only in so far as they concern these Army pensions. The only question that arises on this Vote is as to how the Acts, namely, the Army Pensions Act, 1923, and the Military Service Pensions Act, 1924, are administered. But the provisions of the Acts do not come up for review, nor can amendments to the Acts be advocated.
Mr. JOHNSON: If I might skip over A, B and C, I would ask the Minister whether he has made public, or at least, whether he has made it clear to the wounded pensioners, what their oppertunities for vocational training are. I do not think it has been well explained. I do not know whether the Dáil has been made familiar with the provisions for training of this kind, and I think that too little attention has been paid to the question of the training of wounded soldiers for vocations and the terms on which they will be trained. The matter was raised rather perfunctorily last year. I think that the need is very considerable and that opportunities should be made known if there are regular schemes in hand. I gathered last year that the Minister was prepared to do certain things in this respect, but I am not at all satisfied that any real scheme of training was set out in the Minister's statement or in any official publication. If proper schemes do exist I believe that it  would be of great advantage to have these schemes brought directly to the attention of every wounded man in receipt of a pension. It would be of interest and of great importance to the people concerned if the Minister could outline in detail what are the schemes for vocational training that are referred to in this Vote.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Before we take up this point under D I want to give notice that this is the time to raise any matters under A, B and C. If we pass on to D we will have dealt with them, and then it will be too late.
Mr. LYONS: On A there is the matter of the inadequate amounts of the pensions granted to wounded soldiers. In some cases where men have lost the use of a right leg or arm they have been granted something like 12/6 a week, notwithstanding the fact that they are totally disabled for life. Some of them were members of the Irish Volunteers and were wounded after joining the National Army. Their little ones are dependent on them, and still the best thing the State can do for them is to give them 12/6 per week. I think that under this heading some provision should be made for the dependents of those men who died as a result of their wounds.
Mr. HUGHES: If the Deputy will refer to the Schedule of the Act he will find what every person is entitled to in connection with the different classes of  wounds. I am not empowered to give any more.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: The argument is not possible here that the Minister can save on some other Vote and pay here. He can only pay here what is prescribed in the Act. He cannot pay any more under this particular heading. The Deputy can only go into the question of the way in which the Act is administered, and in a case where the Minister has a discretion he can go into the manner in which the Minister exercises that discretion. If the Minister has no discretion the Deputy's point does not arise at his particular stage.
Mr. LYONS: At what particular stage does the question arise? It is a well-known fact that there are hundreds of such cases in the Saorstát, cases of men who are in receipt of inadequate allowances. You have here an Estimate for £430,000. That, of course, covers the Wounds Pensions Act and the Army Service Pensions Act, and I presume at this stage, and under this sub-head A, I would not be in order in discussing the Army Pensions Act, sub-head H. But the £430,000 is required to meet both. I do maintain that the Minister should consider more seriously the cases, particularly of the dependents of those men. Deputy Byrne asked a question a moment ago on this subject, and we have been promised——
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: If Deputy Byrne was out of order, Deputy Lyons is as much out of order. I allowed the Minister to answer the question. When the Bill is introduced the Deputy will have an opportunity of talking about this.
Mr. LYONS: Then what is the use of discussing anything at all here if you cannot ask the Minister a question, if you simply sit down in your chair  with your finger in your mouth without asking any questions of the Minister? Why are we not allowed to ask the Minister questions? Surely if this is so it is not necessary to discuss the Estimates at all.
Mr. DAVIN: I want to raise a question—because this is a time when I think it might be usefully raised—in regard to the procedure adopted by the Committee appointed by the Minister to hear and decide upon the claims of men who have made applications for pensions under the Military Service Pensions Act.
Mr. HUGHES: As regards vocational training, there is no set scheme laid down. We have had only eight applications since the Act was passed, and they were mostly for grants to enable the men to learn a trade or to go into some business. Each case is examined on its merits, and if it is found that the applicant is a person who can earn his living if he gets a reasonable chance to do so, he will get assistance. But it has not been published in any way except that it was raised by Deputy Johnson on the Estimates last year. No advertisement has been issued and no set scheme was made out. When an application comes along the case is examined, and if it is found that the applicant is a fit and suitable person the grant will be given, but if he is not a fit and suitable person the money is not expended. Indeed, very few applications have come in. There have been only eight applications sent in since the Act came into force. Practically none of these was found to be suitable. Though the money had been taken, nothing has been done, but if cases come up during the present financial year they will be dealt with, and if they are found suitable, grants will be made from this Vote.
Mr. JOHNSON: That justifies my complaint. It is because of my feeling  that that was the situation that I was prompted to raise this matter. It is quite unreasonable to imagine that wounded soldiers will submit claims and representations with respect to their desire to be trained to this or that or the other occupation unless they have some belief or knowledge that such schemes are available. I do not think the opportunities are stated here. I would be greatly astonished if there were not a considerable proportion of those who are receiving wound pensions who have been deprived of their opportunities by virtue of their wound to follow occupations such as they might be expected to follow if they had not been wounded. I think it is quite a good thing to put to those men the proposition that they may be trained for a useful or productive work—certainly such useful work as their wounds would not disable them from performing.
We have had experience of the fact that under the British and continental schemes wonders have been performed in the way of training men who have been wounded and making them competent to do something towards earning their livelihood, and, more important still, making them competent to live a life with some self-respect, and to enable them to feel that they are not entirely a burden upon their relatives. I do not mean a financial burden only. When a man is wounded and simply has to hang about the house or village or the streets of a town, lounging and wasting his time, it is a moral disorder that is created, and it would be very well worth the State's while to spend even more than these sums in bringing into effect schemes of vocational training and giving opportunities to these men of securing something like useful occupations. That might take some time. The State would not get economic service out of them, but there would be a great improvement in the morale of these men, and it would be doing a really valuable public service. I think it is almost the duty of the Minister to formulate proposals suitable for meeting the particular types of wounded men—men suffering from the different types of wounds and  different classes of disablement. If opportunities for undergoing training in specific callings were available, I do not think it would be very difficult for the Minister to find out very close to this city schemes of vocational training which would help him to judge of the kind of thing that could be offered to the soldiers of the National Army.
Mr. A. BYRNE: Without discussing what has taken place, I would like to ask the Minister what method he intends to adopt in the future to make known to wounded men that vocational training is available? Surely if some circular is not sent to these men, or if some advertisement is not put into the newspapers as to the terms under which this vocational training can be got, the men cannot know of it. They cannot know of it when it is hidden away in the pigeon-holes in the office. That state of things is not helpful to the wounded men. I am not surprised that there have not been more than eight applicants in view of the fact that there was no effort made to make known to the men that this vocational training was available. I would suggest that some notification, either by circular or newspaper advertisement, should be given to the men in order to bring this matter before them and to make known to them that this vocational training was available.
Mr. HUGHES: They know the Act of Parliament is there almost as well as Deputy Byrne himself. Some of them know nearly as much about it, perhaps not quite as much, as Deputy Byrne. They knew that the Act was there and they have come in and availed of it. There was publicity given to this matter last year in the Dáil. It appeared in the newspapers and will probably appear in them again.
Mr. HUGHES: Sending out circulars inviting men to come along and make application for sums of money is a thing that I think we should not do. If wounded soldiers send in applications, and if it is found that these are suitable cases to be put to learn any particular trade or business for which they are adapted, I can assure the Dáil that every effort will be made to place them in whatever trade they are looking for. Sometimes some of these men came along and, from what I can gather, after being medically examined they were not found to be suited or fit for the positions they wanted to take up.
Mr. HUGHES: They asked for specialised forms, shoemakers, or tailors or something of that kind. They asked for a special thing and they wanted a grant of money to enable them to do that. I do not think any Deputy would advocate that a man who comes along and asks for a sum of money to be spent on him for a particular trade or business for which he is not suited physically, or otherwise qualified for, should have that money spent on him. But where cases come along, if they are found suitable, as far as this Vote goes the money will be spent on them. I guarantee that. Beyond that I do not think it is proper that I should go.
Mr. LYONS: Will the Minister say whether in the case of married men who are qualified to learn a trade for which they are quite eligible, say boot-making, and where these men have to leave their own town, their dependents be looked after while they are learning this trade? What is to become of their dependents while they are learning that trade? When they are drawing pensions and living at home there is something coming in but when they are away there is nothing coming in.
Mr. HUGHES: It is given in the details. There are 78 officers in receipt of permanent pensions, 63 in receipt of temporary pensions, and 47 in receipt of gratuities. For N.C.O.'s and men there are 211 permanent pensions, 174 temporary pensions and 139 gratuities.
Mr. JOHNSON: I am sorry that I have not got Section 5 of this Act before me. I am very disappointed at the line the Minister has taken with regard to this matter. He informs us that he has only received eight applications since the Act was passed, and I dare guess that six were from men who wanted to learn motor driving. Quite rightly the Minister says that they are not prepared to give assistance towards training men who, the medical advisers say, would not be fit for that occupation. That is quite right, but I think the Minister is not fulfilling his duty and responsibility by simply saying, “We will consider an application for money on the part of a wounded soldier, if the money is to be used to enable him to learn a trade, and if we are satisfied that that particular trade will suit the man.” That is not enough. There is an obligation, in my view, on the Ministry to have schemes of training suitable to men who have lost an arm, who have lost their sight, or lost a leg, and are incapable of following the occupation which they followed, or were accustomed to follow, before going into the Army. I maintain that it is the duty of the Ministry to formulate definite proposals of classes of training they are prepared to advise men to go for, and that some initiative should be taken by the Army Pension authorities in this matter. It may turn out that the number of applications from persons disabled would be too small to allow for any considerable scheme, but I think, at least, the opportunity should be provided in the first instance, before further procedure  under this Section ceases. I do not think in the procedure the Minister has outlined that the Ministry has fulfilled its part of the requirements. On the other hand, I think the initiative in proposing classes of training should be taken by the Ministry, and that the men should be invited to follow this, that, or the other course of training. I make that point, notwithstanding the fact that I know that difficulties did arise under the British system regarding men who had learned trades. I believe the moral value of keeping these men in some kind of useful occupation, and giving them some interest in life, would be worth a great deal of money, and a great deal of risk to the labour market. I think the Minister should look into this matter with a little more care, and should keep in mind the fact that he has some responsibility for the after-life of men who have been wounded in the Army.
Mr. HUGHES: I agree with Deputy Johnson that these men would be much better off if they had some employment at which they could earn a little money rather than depending entirely on their pensions and, as the Deputy said, hovering around corners where they would not, perhaps, be doing any good to themselves or to the community. After considering the matter, if I can see any way to devise a number of schemes I will do so. My experience is that you will get every single one of these men coming up wanting to do something peculiar to himself, and if he is not allowed to do that he is not going to go to anything else. If you want to devise schemes to fit every case you would want to devise a scheme for every trade. If it was only a question of putting forward one, two, or three particular branches that men could go to, it could be done, but, as a rule, these men want to follow their own particular hobby and nothing else. I will have the matter inquired into, and if a scheme can be put up, embracing a number of trades or businesses, it will be done, if it is feasible.
Mr. LYONS: Will the Minister say how it is proposed to train these men? Is it proposed to train them in the way  the British Government did, by apprenticing a man for twelve months to a tradesman, paying the tradesman £1 a week, and allowing the man himself £1 a week?
Mr. JOHNSON: Would the Minister give us a little more information regarding G—“extra statutory provision of hospital treatment for ex-members of the forces within the limits defined by the Minister for Finance”? I think we are entitled to a little more information on that.
Mr. HUGHES: There was no provision in the Pensions Act of 1923 for medical treatment. That was an omission which proved a serious drawback. It is hoped to rectify that omission in the Bill to come before the Dáil before the end of this session. There was no provision made last year for medical treatment, but treatment was afforded in certain cases in anticipation of the amending Bill. That treatment is being carried out, and it is in order to cover  treatment of that kind that that figure is set down. We found in certain cases that men actually entitled to treatment were not covered by the Act. It is in order to cover these men and to afford this treatment, as far as we think it is necessary, that this sum is set down.
Mr. HUGHES: It is to cover those cases that we took into hospital and maintained in hospital when we had not statutory power to do so. We found it was absolutely necessary that some of these men should get treatment.
Mr. NORTON: I would like to ask the Minister whether a man discharged from the Army on account of ill health and who is now in a bad state of health is entitled to hospital treatment under this sub-head?
Mr. LYONS: Does the Minister take into account the service which a man may have rendered and who, because of his service in the Army, has contracted some disease such as tuberculosis? Does the Minister cast him on the scrap heap?
Mr. HUGHES: The Deputy must be a very soft-hearted man if he thinks  that the Army authorities could take into hospital every one of the 55,000 men who once constituted the National Army who gets a cold or feels a pain in his toe. No sensible man would undertake to do such a thing—to provide treatment for every man who maintained that his disability was due to the six or twelve months he served in the Army.
Mr. JOHNSON: May I point out that under this provision, so long as the Minister for Finance defines the man who has served in the Army and has come out sick, he may undergo hospital treatment, so that we may discuss the whole question of sickness, pensions and hospital treatment under this sub-head.
Mr. JOHNSON: Can the Minister give any estimate of the number of persons who can be treated under the provisions of this Vote in hospitals in respect to sickness which they have suffered as a consequence of or arising out of their service in the Army? We have no indication of the limits which the Minister for Finance proposes to define. I take it the Minister for Defence has some figure in his mind as to the number of persons who might be provided for under this sub-head, apart from those who have already been provided for in the past.
Mr. HUGHES: This figure of £9,000 might cover up to 100 cases in the year, or it might cover more. In every case the whole position must go before the Department of Finance and get its sanction. It is not simply a case of a man coming along and being sent into hospital until his case is decided. The case must be set down on paper and sent to the Department of Finance. It would be impossible to say what number will come along or what the expense of each case will be. We might send on a case to the Department of Finance and it might be turned down. Each individual case will have to be examined.
Mr. JOHNSON: The provision of £9,000 under this sub-head does not legalise the expenditure in the past. There must be other sanctions. This is presumably intended to provide for hospital treatment within this financial year, in the absence of statutory provision. In respect to payments in the past outside the statute, some further authority will be required besides this sub-head. I am putting this forward rather from the point of view of procedure than from the point of view of objection. I am very doubtful whether this provision will suffice to make regular the extra statutory payments in the past.
Mr. HUGHES: It is proposed in the Bill to be introduced to have the provisions apply to past, present and future payments. There were certain cases that cropped up and, if you only look at them from the humanitarian point of view, you will see that we could not find ourselves justified in letting them loose and letting them remain in that  position until their pensions could be granted. That treatment was given in order that the disability might be reduced, and that probably in the long run it would be a saving to the State, because some of these men who got this extra special treatment were in a bad way. It was for the purpose of allaying their sufferings that we sent them into hospital. So far as I can gather, the treatment they got there minimised the amount of the pensions to which they would have been entitled if they were allowed to wander about and get worse. We took the best course we could. We found, in a great many cases, on the recommendations of medical officers and others, that if they had not got that treatment they would probably have died. Under the circumstances I think we were entitled to do what we have done.
Mr. DAVIN: In regard to sub-head H, I want to give the Minister an opportunity of explaining the procedure adopted by the Committee charged with the responsibility of considering applications under the Military Pensions Act. When the Committee was first set up it was composed, amongst others, of the Minister for Fisheries and Deputy Duggan, now Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance. It has been brought under my notice, in cases of complaints which have reached me, that only the Chairman, who, I think, is a District Justice, and the Secretary, were present when claims were investigated. I want to make it clear that I am not taking exception to the absence of the Minister for Fisheries and Deputy Duggan, because I realise the unpopular task with which they have been charged and, perhaps, they are not under any obligation to be present on all occasions. I think, however, that the Minister should explain for the benefit of those people who have complained whether there is any regulation making it committee to be present when claims are pulsory on any members of the Comgone into. There is another point with which I wish to deal, and that is as regards groups of individuals who requested that they should be accompanied, or their case stated to the Committee,  by solicitors. I passed on a communication to the Secretary of the Committee in reference to a request that a number of applications under the Act should be put before the Committee by a solicitor, either in the presence or absence of the applicants. That request was, however, turned down. I want to know whether the Minister has tied down the Committee by any regulation which would debar them hearing applications on behalf of persons with the aid of a solicitor.
I also have in mind the case of one individual who took a very prominent part in the pre-Truce struggle and who subsequently became an officer in the National Army. He told me that when he went before the Committee in Waterford there were only the Chairman and Secretary present. He did not get a long hearing, but I do not complain about that owing to the large number of claims. He asked the Committee, however, to hear in support of his claim statements of high officers of the old Irish Republican Army. His claim has been turned down without these statements being given in support of it. These officers were prepared to go before the Committee and give evidence in regard to his pre-Truce service. The individual submitted his case to the Minister for Defence by way of appeal, but, so far as I am aware, up to the last eight or ten days he has not got an answer from the Minister. I am certain that thousands of claims have been submitted under this particular Act without any justification whatever, and I merely raise the question to give the Minister for Defence an opportunity of stating what is the regular procedure set out by the Committee, and why there should be any justification in refusing to hear a solicitor who is acting for individuals. Personally, I think it would be helpful to the Committee to hear a solicitor rather than have several individuals presenting their claims personally.
Mr. HEFFERNAN: Perhaps the Minister would give us some more information than has been given so far. I would like to know whether this Committee has finished its labours or how far it has gone with them. I would  also like to know what will be the annual charge to the State when this Committee has finished its labours, because the amount estimated here includes arrears of pensions. I am speaking from memory, but I think an estimate was given some time ago as to the annual cost, and I think it was very much lower than the amount we are now asked to pay. I think it was not even half the amount stated here in the Estimates. We should also be entitled to some information as to the qualifications required for securing a pension. What is the qualification in regard to pre-Truce service? It seems to me that there is a good deal of uncertainty as to what pre-Truce service consists of. I know one instance in which there was pre-Truce service of a kind, but whether it was sufficient to warrant the granting of a pension or not is more than I can say. I do not think that the Act contains any precise definition as to the pre-Truce service required, but I know that this man gave pretty valuable service pre-Truce. Apparently service is not confined to actual fighting, as other kinds are recognised. I do not want to make a very strong protest against the amount mentioned here, but I feel that that amount is very high and that there should be no pensions given unless they are fully justified by the service of applicants. There is a feeling in the country that the pension list of the State, generally speaking, is excessive. I, and I am sure the Dáil, would like to be satisfied that every penny under this sub-head is fully justified.
Mr. COLOHAN: I should like the Minister to state what is the nature and duration of service necessary to qualify for the award of a military service pension. I have been asked by a number of persons to find this out as some of them allege that men awarded pensions have not given good service, and that in the case of others who have, their claims have beenturned down. I think it would allay anxiety if those people were informed that they had not service of the kind required by the Minister for Defence. Then they would not bother any more about pushing their claims.
Mr. LYONS: Deputy Heffernan is anxious about the amount, £361,000, that is granted by way of military service pensions under the 1924 Act. This is the amount which was granted to young men who sacrificed everything they had from 1916 to 1923.
Mr. LYONS: They must have inclusive service, otherwise they would not get a pension. If the pension was to be given, as is alleged, to everyone who would apply for it, it is not £361,000 you would want, but many millions, before you could pay pensions to those who looked for them. I agree a large number of men applied for the pension who had not pre-Truce service, but I should like to know from the Minister what the Board of Assessors mean by “active service.” Those words are puzzling the greatest lawyers in the Free State. One lawyer says that “active service” means men who were on the run. Another maintains it means a man who has taken part in ambushes, blowing up bridges or burning down police barracks. Another man maintains that “active service” means you are not entitled to a pension unless you have succeeded in closing somebody's eyes. I want to know what interpretation the Minister for Defence puts on the words, as I have known men to be turned down who gave service since the time of the Redmond Volunteers in 1913 and on towards 1916. They took part in 1916. They were on active service. At least they were out of their employment. They were serving the State. They joined the National Forces in 1922 and those men have been turned down. They received letters saying: “Your claim for a pension has been forwarded by the Minister to the Board of Assessors, who will report on the matter.” Then another letter comes: “Your case has been considered and the Board of Assessors have reported on your case and decided that your service does not entitle you to a pension. You have been a Volunteer since April, 1920, but you have not been on active service. Consequently  the Minister regrets that a pension cannot be granted to you.”
The PRESIDENT: Is this in order? The Minister, as far as I am aware, has no authority. The Board of Assessors have final and conclusive authority which is binding on the applicant under the Act. The Minister, as far as I am aware, has got to take their report, and I do not think he has any responsibility in the matter under the Act.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: I have not studied the Act, but surely the procedure under the Act would come under review here. The Deputy, I understand, is outlining the procedure under the Act and is asking for information.
Mr. HUGHES: The Board of Assessors find the kind of service a man has given and the number of years. The Schedule to the Act decides what the man has to get, and it is the Minister who gives the pension, but he can give no pension until the Board of Assessors determine that a man has service. If they determine he has service, the Minister may refuse to give a pension, but that is rarely done.
Mr. HUGHES: A man whose case is turned down sends his appeal to the Minister. That appeal is examined, and if he produces further evidence he has not given before, the Minister will invariably send back the case to the Board for reconsideration, but if no further evidence is given no notice will be taken of the case.
Mr. LYONS: I want the Minister to try—I was going to say if he could, but I am sure he has sufficient intelligence —to give us the information required. What does the Minister or the Board of Assessors mean by the words “active service”? The man who applies for a pension, according to the Act, must have had service in the forces of Saorstát Eireann, either the Irish Volunteers, the Citizen Army, or anything else, and he must have been a member of the National Army for some time. When these terms are fulfilled by the applicant he is politely informed: “Your case has been considered by the Board of Assessors, and they have reported ‘nil.‘” I want to know what interpretation the Board of Assessors put on the words “active service”? It is not given in the Act.
Mr. LYONS: I want to know what is the meaning of the words. We ought to be given something to go upon. Men who should have been granted pensions want to know why they were turned down. Pensions were granted to people who were not entitled to them.
Mr. LYONS: I will not give the names publicly. The Minister ignored and turned down forms in favour of the granting of pensions that were signed by members of this House, and granted pensions on forms signed by  men who would not be able to get elected to a district council.
Mr. LYONS: Under this Vote a sum of over £361,000 is to be paid out to people in pensions, some of whom never took an active part in the struggle for the freedom of this country. They were given these pensions because certain people certified that they had active service, but I can say they never had active service. The Board of Assessors approved of the forms sent in on behalf of these people, but they ignored and turned down forms signed by members of this House. Why are Deputies asked to certify that certain men had been engaged on active service and were, in their opinion, entitled to a pension, and then afterwards to have these forms turned down? In my opinion, the turning down of these forms is making as little as dirt of the Deputies who signed them, as far as the Board of Assessors and the Minister are concerned. I want the Minister to explain what interpretation he puts on the words “active service.” If the Minister is not able to do that I will have to raise the matter in the House later and have it discussed.
Mr. HUGHES: I am not going to attempt to define the words “active service.” That is a matter for the Board of Assessors. If the Deputy thought as much about the matter when the Bill was going through as he appears to think now, he would have had a definition inserted in the Bill. The Board of Assessors is the body to determine “active service” after having the applicant before them and after examining him on oath, as well as the people he calls to certify that he had active service. If it is not proved that the man had active service according to the interpretation put on the words “active service” by the Board, then that man is not entitled to a pension.
Mr. JOHNSON: I think the Minister should make that point a little bit clearer. I think he probably said what he did not intend to say. I gathered  from what the Minister said that when the applicant had come before the Board, and stated his case, then the Board of Assessors defined what active service was.
Mr. HUGHES: No, but after hearing the applicant and after hearing what he had done, whether it was brave or otherwise, and after hearing the people whom the applicant had given as a reference—these things are all done on oath—the Board of Assessors decide whether or not the applicant had active service. If the evidence submitted does not support the applicant's claim that he had active service, then the Board of Assessors decide accordingly.
Mr. JOHNSON: There is one point raised on which every Deputy would like to have an answer. It is as to whether there has been any formulation of a definition of active service to guide the Board of Assessors. If they have not formulated such a definition for themselves will the Minister state what the formula is?
Mr. HUGHES: The guidance to the Minister is additional evidence that had not been before the Board of Assessors previously. As far as the Board are concerned, when they send a case to the Minister it means that it is disposed of and cannot be reopened again by them, but if an appeal is made to the Minister on the grounds that further evidence is going to be produced, the Minister may send the case back to the Board for further consideration.
Mr. DAVIN: If an appeal is made by an individual on this question of active service, and that further evidence  is produced, how can the Minister, seeing that he is not aware of the definition of “active service” which the Board of Assessors act upon, say whether it was right for him or not to send the case back to the Board of Assessors?
Mr. HUGHES: I cannot say because I have not the person who is going to tender the evidence before me. A case, for instance, comes before me like this: a man says: “I have additional evidence to give from Lieutenant, Captain or Colonel So-and-So, who can testify as to certain things that I did not state in my original testimony.” If the case seems reasonable to me and that this new evidence is likely to throw more light on the case of the applicant before the Board, I think that I am justified in sending a case like that back to the Board of Assessors for further consideration. That is what I invariably do in such cases. The evidence put forward in the first instance may be of the flimsiest character, but if that evidence is strengthened by responsible people, by people who are able to testify on oath that the applicant did certain things, then the Board of Assessors will take the whole of the evidence into account. If they are satisfied that the new evidence brings the man within the provisions of the Military Service Pensions Act they will decide the case in accordance with the Act.
Mr. JOHNSON: Well, I have not got a copy of the Act with me, but that seems to me to be a trivial ground for appeal—to say whether this evidence is different from that evidence. If the Minister's jurisdiction is confined to saying whether the evidence that is now adduced is different from, and additional to, the evidence which was adduced before the Board of Assessors, that is a minor jurisdiction for the Minister as a court of appeal. I would like to get something more convincing before I would accept that view.
The findings of the Board of Assessors set out in their report shall in all cases be final and conclusive and binding upon the applicant, provided however that the Board may at any time reopen any or all of their findings at the request of the Minister on the ground that evidence not available prior to the making of their report had since become available, and upon hearing such additional evidence the Board of Assessors may amend their report and alter or discharge any findings therein as may seem to them just having regard to such further evidence.
Mr. DAVIN: I am sure Deputies must have hundreds of cases brought to their notice in which certain printed forms were sent out to applicants telling them that, within 21 days, they could appeal to the Minister. I think that if the Minister could give a definition on this matter it would relieve every member of the House, and save them a great deal of trouble in matters of this kind.
Mr. HUGHES: As regards the 21 days, that is Form S.P. 10, and deals with a different matter altogether. It is the Board of Assessors, and not the Minister, who send that out. For instance, they may come on a borderline case and may think that they have not got sufficient evidence before them to declare the claim void. They then give the applicant 21 days' notice to bring forward additional and new evidence. It is not to the Minister that the case comes at all.
Mr. HUGHES: That is after the case has been heard by the Board. The 21 days' notice is sent out before the Board has given a decision. The 21  days' notice and this other point are two different things altogether.
Mr. HEFFERNAN: I think the Minister has not made himself clear on the definition of “active service.” As I understand the Minister, an applicant has the right of appeal only on the grounds that he is able to give additional evidence, but he is not able to appeal on the decision of the Board of Assessors on the evidence. The applicant may say: “I had active service and the evidence I gave proves that,” but the Board of Assessors may say: “This man has not given service which could be defined as ‘active service’ according to our definition.” The Minister has given no indication of the definition upon which the Board of Assessors act regarding “active service.” It is very important that an applicant going forward should know this so that he may not be wasting his time, energies and money in putting forward a claim for a pension if he does not come within the definition—a definition at present which he does not know. There is no definition of “active service” in the Act, and there is no definition whatever as far as the public are aware. I think this is a good opportunity for giving an explanation of what the Board of Assessors regard as “active service.”
Mr. LYONS: It has been brought to my notice that several applicants have unsuccessfully applied for pensions, and some of these men truly and honestly had good service to their credit. It is not so much a question of money or pension with these men as being turned down and told that they did not come within the terms of the Act, and that they had not sufficient active service. They would like to have on record their service, so that they could have that record in their houses, in order that their children could see their fathers did something in the time when Ireland wanted men. Some of the men I have been speaking to would be satisfied with a military service certificate such as that, though of course many of them are anxious to get the pensions. For example, take a man who joined the Volunteers in 1917 and who rendered service from that  date to 1920, when he was arrested and interned until after the Truce, and then joined the National Army in 1922, would that count for “active service” for that man? Cases such as that have been turned down. Why? Because such a man was not at liberty to shoot somebody. Apparently no man has had active service but the man who pulled the trigger. As far as the Board of Assessors and the Minister are concerned, a pension shall not be granted to men who had been on the run from 1916 and 1917, but only to men who have been in an ambush, or who may have been directing from behind walls. A man who happened to get in with a few of the boys on the road and went to a place of ambush, may be like a piece of blancmange on a plate, and who never did anything more, is all right and is to get credit for active service. I want to see justice done to the men who, as was intended, should benefit by the Act. I admit that it was never anticipated by any man who took part as a Volunteer in the movement in this country that he would get a pension.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: I think the Deputy is making a speech which he should have made on the Bill when it was becoming an Act rather than a speech on this Estimate. He is discussing a matter that cannot be raised on this Estimate. On a point of order made to me on this matter I allowed the Deputy to proceed, but I cannot allow the Deputy to make a speech bearing on the Military Service Pensions Act and the meaning of it. The Deputy has made it clear that he wants a definition of “active service.” I think we could leave it at that—as far as the Deputy is concerned he has made that clear several times.
Mr. COLOHAN: Would the Minister say if intelligence work, police work, and the carrying of despatches would be considered an Army service qualification for a pension? We all know that during these troublous times many men gave consistent, and I might say brilliant, service as intelligence and police officers and in carrying despatches, and I think cases like these should be carefully and sympathetically  considered. Even if these men have not taken part in any actual fighting, they have risked their lives perhaps oftener than those who have been in the fighting line.
Mr. DAVIN: The House is asked in this Vote to make provision for £361,300 to cover the payment of pensions to 4,000 men who, it is to be assumed, had pre-Truce service as well as subsequent service in the National Army. I remember the Minister for External Affairs during the Army crisis debate in this House stating that the total number of men who had pre-Truce service, and who could be considered to have done anything in the shape of active service, would not exceed 3,000 men. Let us assume that 1,500 of these 3,000—and it would not be an unfair assumption—to whom the Minister for External Affairs referred went Irregular, then there is some explanation to be given for the excessive number who are being provided with Army pensions under this section. I think that has something to do with the demand by the House for a definition of the words “active service.” The Minister is a very frank man, and I think he realises that himself, as Minister, perhaps more than anyone else, has got a good deal of trouble with correspondence and demands arising out of this matter. It would be only fair to the House, to the country, and to people who demand pensions, even if they are not entitled to them, that a clear explanation should be given with regard to these words “active service.” I stated reasons why I think it should be given. I think members of the House who are called upon to vote money to such a large extent as this are entitled to an explanation as to why claims which they have supported have been turned down. So far the definition of the words “active service” is known apparently only to the Board of Assessors.
Mr. HUGHES: Many questions have been raised under this sub-head. Deputy Davin, I think, raised the first one, and to my mind it is a question that deserves consideration, and that is that the chairman and the secretary were the only persons who took part in giving pensions in certain cases. What  happens in a good many cases is that the chairman and secretary are the people who are there when the evidence on oath is taken, but there is no pension granted to anybody until the evidence is submitted to a full Board. It would not be possible to have a full Board there whenever an applicant comes along to get his case heard or when any of the referees comes to give evidence. The Chairman is a lawyer and the Secretary is capable and competent to take any evidence that is tendered, and to submit that evidence in a proper manner to the Board, when it comes to consider whether an applicant is entitled to a pension or not. As far as the members of the Board are concerned, they have done their work —and it is not work of a very pleasant nature—to my satisfaction and, I think, to the satisfaction of the Executive Council and, generally, to the satisfaction of the members of the Dáil.
Mr. HUGHES: I understand that, but I do know that there are people who think that the members of the Board should do everything that a Deputy asks them to do. Representations are sometimes made by Deputies about people in their own constituencies whom they declare to have been extra good men in the Volunteer days, but when they are asked to swear to the truth of their statements, they decline to do so. Yet statements are made, day after day, that people are not getting justice from this Board. If people would come along with cases that they could stand over and that they were prepared to give evidence on oath about, I am sure the majority of these cases would be heard, and pensions would be granted, but when people come along and try to bolster up a case where there is no case, that is what gives rise to the trouble and annoyance that I get sometimes, and that Deputies get. I think in justice to the Board, to the Department and to myself, that I should read a statement that I have here in connection with the matter. The statement is:—
The Military Service Pensions Act,  1924, was passed on 5th August, 1924. The Board of Assessors under the Act was set up by the President and Minister for Defence by Minute dated 4th October, 1924. The Board's immediate work was to draft and recommend Rules and Regulations under the Act. These were signed by the Minister on the 20th October, 1924. Forms of application were then issued to all requiring them. The date within which application could be made was ultimately extended from 1/3/'25 to 31/12/'25. The importance and extent of the Board's work may be gauged from the fact that applications were received from no less than 21,500 persons. These represented claims for pensions estimated to amount to between two and two and a quarter millions per annum. With the knowledge of the enormous amount of this claim, and the absence of official records of the pre-Truce and early National Army days, the Board was faced with the problem of producing a machinery of investigation which, while sufficient to enable the work of assessment to be carried out to their satisfaction, would not be unduly expensive on the individual or on the State. A very large proportion of the application forms received had to be returned to applicants for amendment in respect of one or more of the following points:—
All applications were minutely examined, and where it appeared on the face of any that the applicant did not prima facie give the service which entitled him to any consideration under the Act, he was notified  accordingly, and a correspondence opened on his eligibility or otherwise. On final review of all such applications and correspondence, ultimately between 13,000 and 14,000 were segregated where the Board were satisfied that the service claimed was sufficient to bring applicant within scope of Act.
(a) References for pre-Truce service were issued with an exhaustive questionnaire regarding applicant's activities during the different periods set out in the Act—an average of eight references were communicated with per applicant. (b) Even with reference to service in the National Forces, a large volume of correspondence by forms and typed letters is necessary. In a great many cases the Army Departments are unable to certify service, especially of those applicants whose service terminated prior to the 1st January, 1923. (c) In the cases of applicants claiming service between 1/7/22 and 30/9/23 in the Criminal Investigation Department, Protective Corps, Citizen Defence Force, etc., special correspondence is conducted with the applicants and with the Department of Justice before the preliminary investigation of any such case can be completed. (d) When the preliminary investigation of an application is completed, arrangements for the oral examination of the applicant are made. Applicants, except those serving in the Army, have been given a list of thirty-seven Provincial Centres and Dublin, from which to choose the place at which they desired to have their oral evidence taken. Arrangements for attendance before the Board of applicants still serving in the Army are made through the Army Authorities. In some thousands of cases the invitation to choose a centre had to be issued twice, and in about two thousand cases a third time before the final lists of applicants who wished to be examined at each of the Provincial Centres and at Dublin  could be completed. Some hundreds of applicants, however, had no sooner notified their choice and office arrangements had been made accordingly, than they wished to be examined at some other centre. The preparation of lists of applicants, of files, etc., for hearings was much impeded both by delay of applicants in making a choice of centre and by desire to change subsequently.
Particulars of the places at which oral evidence was taken, the order in which the sittings were held, the number of applicants examined, and the total examined up to and including the 17/4/'26 are as follows:—
|Order of Sitting.||Place.||No. of applicants examined.|
|37||Templemore (only applicants serving n the Army were examined)||53|
|40||Curragh Camp (only applicants serving in the Army were examined)||210|
|Grand total on the 17/4/'26||9,870|
When replies are received to queries issued to applicants, references and Army Departments and the oral examination of the applicant is completed, an examination of the evidence in the file is made. If necessary, further correspondence is initiated to complete the file for submission to the Board for decision. About 75 per cent. of the applications classed as “eligible” have been received from persons who in fact are not able to establish their claims to have rendered military service in accordance with the terms of the Military Service Pensions, Act, 1924. Following the ordinary investigation of each case and its submismission to the Board, notice of the intention of the Board to report against an applicant must, in accordance with paragraph 8 (a) of the Military Service Pensions Regulations, 1925, be issued to him. Practically all to whom this notice is issued reply thereto naming additional references, giving further details of military service, etc.. and a large volume of queries have then to be issued before the case can be resubmitted to the Board for final decision. This notice of the intention of the Board to report “Nil” in respect of military service has been issued to 6,010 applicants up to and including the 17/4/26. Very few of them in replying have named less than five additional references, and a majority of them have named  twice that number. To date, in about three thousand cases, special difficulties have arisen in connection with the speedy and adequate investigation of the applications, e.g., in cases of applicants who have died since making application; in cases of applicants now resident overseas; in cases where the statements of applicants and references are contradictory; and in cases where the ranks held, e.g., in Criminal Investigation Department or in the Marine Investigation Department are not included in those mentioned in the Military Service Pensions Act. Much correspondence and special investigation is required in such cases before they can be made ready for submission to the Board for decision. To meet the difficulty in the cases of applicants resident overseas a form of affidavit has been prepared and is issued to such applicants. They are invited to testify specifically as to the military services rendered by them, with necessary dates. The despatch of forms, etc., to applicants resident in certain counties has entailed many difficulties, and called for special arrangements outside the ordinary postal facilities. In those cases where the available evidence satisfies the Board, a draft report is prepared setting out the periods of service assessed, the name of the force in which service was rendered, the rank of the applicant, and the total (in years) for pension purposes of the service awarded by the Board. Two copies of this draft are made and, when carefully checked, are submitted to the Board for signature by at least two members. One signed copy is then passed to the Minister for Defence, and a notification of this fact is immediately issued to the applicant, and also to any persons, e.g., Solicitors, T.D.'s etc., who have been writing in reference to the particular application. The second signed copy is retained on the file in the Board's Office. Meetings of the Board have been held for the purpose of final decision of applications on 118 days. At these meetings questions of policy, of procedure to be followed, etc., were also discussed and decided. Of the 13,606 applicants  whose cases are classed as “eligible” 9,870 have been orally examined before the Board. In a good many cases the applicants and references have also been orally examined by the Board, on a second and third occasion, because of the contradictory nature of the evidence submitted.
|No. of reports not qualifying applicants to pension||2410|
|No. of reports qualifying applicants to pension||1635|
The number of “eligible” applicants whose cases have not yet been reported on is 9,561. Of this number approximately 4,000 applicants have been notified that the Board propose to report “Nil” in respect of military service, in the absence of more satisfactory evidence to be furnished within twenty-one days of the date of issue of the notification referred to.
Some idea of the volume of work involved in the correspondence already referred to may be obtained after consideration of the following particulars. Two series of forms are in use. One series—all of which are printed—includes thirteen separate forms continuously in use in this office. The second series—stencil forms—total twenty separate forms which are in daily use. The total number of all kinds issued between the 4/10/24 and the 17/4/26 is not less than 180,000. In addition about 12,000 typed letters have been issued to applicants, references, solicitors, T.D's., Department of Defence, etc., many of which were of a highly important and confidential nature, involving careful consideration of the principles and policy guiding the Board in their procedure. Throughout the period since the appointment of the Board, the volume of correspondence received and issued each  day has been considerable. The average number of letters received has not been less than 500 a day, and during some months the total received averaged over 1,000 a day; all of which required attention, e.g., acknowledgment, attachment to relative file, reply by forms or typed letters. The outgoing correspondence during most of the period since the Board's appointment has averaged slightly over 500 letters a day, frequently exceeding six hundred letters a day, and for short periods averaging as high as seven hundred and fifty letters a day. To summarise, a very large number of persons to whom the Military Service Pensions Act did not apply made applications. Quite a large proportion even of those classified as “eligible” have proved on investigation not to be qualified for pension under the Act. In respect of service in the Volunteers of which no official records exist, the investigation of applications involves very serious difficulty, and a huge volume of correspondence. Proof of service in the National Army in the months following the 1/7/22 is not available in a large number of cases, and much correspondence is usually necessary before the matter can be definitely determined. It is to be noted that outside military centres much difficulty was experienced in acquiring accommodation suitable to the large number of witnesses. Applicants who receive notification of the intention of the Board to report against them make very exhaustive efforts to establish their claims to have rendered military service within the meaning of the Act. This is the starting point of what in fact is a reinvestigation of each applicant's case, calling for the issue of many queries and subsequently very careful sifting of all the evidence submitted.
In addition, questions of policy; difficulties as to the rank of applicants in special cases; appeals against the Board's decisions; Dáil Questions; service outside Saorstát Eireann; investigation of the applications of persons at present resident  in the Six Counties; interpretation of the Military Service Pensions Act and Regulations, etc., etc., frequently occupy the attention of the Board.
That statement gives a rough idea of what the Board has got to do and what it has been doing since it was inaugurated. I merely present that to show the House and the public the amount of work and the class of work the Board has to attend to. It is very exacting work. The Board is there standing between the taxpayer and the individual in all those cases, and it takes an amount of perseverance and a good deal of time to get exactly at the position as regards each case. I suppose there are very few cases that are just quite similar. In every case they must take first and foremost the evidence of the applicant, his demeanour, and the evidence of people he brings forward. I may say that in a great many cases the applicants give references to people who can testify to their services, and these references when sent out for verification are never returned to the Board. I have come across that time and time again myself. It is the fault in many cases of the people to whom these forms are sent. They do not fill them. Perhaps they cannot fill them if they are to do it conscientiously; therefore they never fill them up. If these references were sent back immediately, and if everything that the Board asks were done, the work would be made considerably lighter for the Board, and the whole machinery could be expedited; but while all this juggling is going on—people trying by all manner of means to get their cases heard and to get pensions—it is very hard for the Board, acting as it is between the State and the individual, to come to conclusions in these cases. I do not know that there is anything further I have got to say on the matter.
Mr. HUGHES: The Act provides for all these cases. It is the Board that has got to decide whether a man who claims to have done these things did them or not, according to the evidence. I cannot bind the Board or I cannot say to them: “You must find that So-and-So did such and such a thing, and that is all about it.” They are there in the position of judges. They take evidence on oath of people who come up to tell the truth presumably in all cases.
Mr. COLOHAN: Are these men entitled to service pensions even though they have taken no part in the actual fighting—these men who were engaged on intelligence work, police work, and the carrying of despatches?
Mr. DAVIN: If the Board is a body acting in the position of judges, why did the members refuse to listen to statements of solicitors acting on behalf of individual applicants, or even to give them a hearing before the Board?
Mr. JOHNSON: The Minister's statement was very interesting, and I am sure it will read very well; but he did not deal with the question seriously raised by several Deputies. It is known that men have applied for service certificates, and their applications were submitted to the Board of Assessors. The case for service certificates was proved and admitted, but they have been denied military service certificates under the Act because the particular service they gave in the Volunteers was not deemed to be the kind of service called for in the Act.
 I cannot speak with any definite form of authority on this matter, but I imagine it all depends on the definition of active service. It is known that men were in the Volunteers in the years after 1916, and they remained in the Volunteers, and subsequently joined the National Army. Their applications have been inquired into, and all those facts which I have indicated are admitted; but they are refused certificates because their particular class of service was not satisfactory in the opinion of the Board of Assessors. I think it is due to the Dáil and to the people who have been turned down that they should have some explanation as to what constitutes the essential feature of service which would entitle men to a military service pension.
I gather from the Act that the expression “military service” means active service in any rank among the Volunteers, the Citizen Army, Fianna Eireann, the Hibernian Rifles, and the national forces or defence forces of Saorstát Eireann. Active service in the National Army does not necessarily mean that a man should have been firing from a rifle. There is plenty of work to be done, besides firing from a rifle, which would constitute active service in the National Army. If I understand the meaning of this definition clause, what applies to the National Army, in respect of military service, applies also to any of the pre-National Army forces. But notwithstanding the fact that men have given that particular kind of service in the pre-Treaty forces and have subsequently joined the National Army, there is some flaw in their service; that is to say, there is some condition required before their service shall be deemed to warrant the Minister in giving a certificate. It has not been made clear, and nobody, as a matter of fact, knows what that condition is, and I think it is due that some explanation should be made.
The PRESIDENT: This Act was introduced and passed here for the purpose of giving compensation to those whose lives were interrupted by reason of service in the National forces. That was made perfectly clear.
The PRESIDENT: In the statement introducing the Act. We are now asked by two members of one Party, first, why did we not give more pensions, and second, why have we given so many? The position with regard to service is this: If a person had active service in Easter Week, 1916, he is entitled to a military certificate if he joined the National Army. No case has been made in respect to any person who served in 1916, and who subsequently joined the National Army, that he was refused a pension. There is a gap between Easter Week, 1916, and the establishment of Dáil Eireann in 1919.
I think it will be admitted that very little in the nature of military service was indulged in from the 1st May, 1916, until 1919. Only those who had active service in Easter Week, 1916, would qualify in respect of that particular period. Attendance at Volunteer parades and at drill from 1916 up to 1919 or 1920, or perhaps up to 1922, would not constitute military service, in my opinion. I do not know whether it is contended that it should, but at any rate it would not fulfil one of the conditions which this Act on its introduction was stated to fulfil; that was some compensation in respect of the interruption of people's lives.
In cases where persons were wholly employed in respect of military service from 1919 up to the formation of the National Army in 1922, I do not think there would be any great difficulty in proving active service. It is for the Board of Assessors to determine that; but I am perfectly satisfied that there would be numberless applications supported by a great many people claiming that persons, because of their membership of the Volunteers, were entitled to pensions.
I would like to take this opportunity of saying that the Board of Assessors is in a rather defenceless position. No member of the Board of Assessors can come here and give an account of his administration. As Deputy Davin said, it is an unpopular administration to have to perform. There were twenty-one or twenty-two thousand applications, and sixteen hundred pensions  were granted, and I presume that most of the dissatisfaction will be vented on those people. I think it would not be possible to give any information regarding the Board of Assessors, who have a statutory duty to perform.
Mr. HEFFERNAN: The President referred to Deputies of different Parties putting forward conflicting opinions. I did not make any suggestion purely from the point of view of not giving pensions. I am interested in certain persons getting pensions if they are entitled to receive them; I do not want to prevent people, who are entitled to them, from getting pensions. It has not been made clear what service is required in order to enable a man to receive a pension. Deputy Colohan raised the point with regard to men on intelligence work and police work, and the President answered that the Act governed the service. The Act does not govern the service; it does not mention service of that kind. It is obvious the service intended is not merely to be service of the kind that involves the actual firing of rifles. As Deputy Johnson puts it, there may be other service in addition to actual participation in the fighting.
I want some definition as to what is meant by service apart from that. I know one person who put in a claim, and has been refused a certificate of service in respect of pension. I know personally, although I could not swear it, from information given me before the Pensions Act was under consideration, that that man was engaged on intelligence work and on such work as conveying persons from place to place. He was refused a pension. I want to know what the definition of service is that would be considered in the nature of active service. I believe that man risked his life in the service he engaged in. We have statements made about people getting pensions who gave no service that would warrant them getting such pensions. I can support the statement made by Deputy Davin that the number of pensions already granted seems almost to be in excess of the number  of people who were on active service, as we understand it.
Mr. HEFFERNAN: How can we understand the number entitled to active service pensions if we do not understand what active service means? That is the whole difficulty. Men might be on the run, and men might be carrying rifles, but the number of pensions granted is altogether in excess of the number of men who were on the run at that time. That is my point of view for what it is worth. Would the Minister answer my question with regard to the estimate of the future liability of the State for pensions. Can he give us an estimate of that kind, or can he tell us whether this £361,000 is likely to be an annual item or is there likely to be an increase or a decrease in the expenditure? Another question, in regard to the administration of the Act, is this. I know some people who made claims, and one of the difficulties they found in proving their claims arose from the fact that they were members of battalions or columns that went Irregular since.
Mr. HEFFERNAN: Yes, in South Tipperary. On that account those men found it difficult to get evidence of the kind that would satisfy the Board of Assessors as to their service in pre-Truce days. That places them in great difficulty. Practically all their former comrades went Irregular, and I ask whether the information that might be given by these officers, who held rank in the old pre-Truce Army, and afterwards turned Irregular, would be received as some confirmation of the services of such men.
Mr. DAVIN: May I ask the Minister a question? He referred to a number of forms that were sent to Deputies and other people and were not returned. I think he rightly made a case that there was a very large number of these  cases that could not be attributed to the Board of Assessors. That is quite true. I represent my native constituency in this House. I have resided in Dublin for close on 20 years. I was sent a very large number of forms to sign, but I felt I could not, conscientiously, sign forms as to the activities of people with whom I was not thoroughly acquainted. I scarcely sent in any forms, and I may be included in the category mentioned by the Minister. I have been told, in my own constituency, that a number of forms were sent to officers in the service of the National Army who were pre-Truce officers, and that none of those officers returned them to the Board of Assessors. Is there any obligation on officers now in the service of the National Army, who were pre-Truce officers in the Irish Republican Army, not to sign these documents or was any injunction given to them that they should not do so?
Mr. HUGHES: Certainly not. The only obligation put upon these men in regard to these forms is an obligation of honour. If a man knows anything against an applicant he is in honour bound to indicate it, but I know of cases where people, sooner than do a bad turn, did not return the forms. There never was any suggestion that officers should not sign, or that they should not give all the information they could in reference to these applicants.
Mr. HUGHES: Surely Deputy Heffernan knows that in every court the onus is on the applicant to prove his case. Surely he does not want the Department of Defence to go round the country digging up evidence to enable people to make cases.
|Last Updated: 16/05/2011 17:23:02||Page of 16|