Wednesday, 8 July 1936
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Finance (Mr. MacEntee): This Bill is confined exclusively to questions of Civil Service Superannuation and one of its aims is to secure that a number of civil servants who by reason of interruption of service due to association with the events of 1916 to 1923 will be in no worse position as regards the application to them of the Superannuation Code than they would have been in if there had been no such interruption in their service. In applying this principle an endeavour is being made  as far as possible to adhere to the practice followed in connection with the Superannuation and Pensions Act, 1923. In that Act, recognition for pensions' purposes was given to service in the Civil Service of Dáil Eireann, but this recognition was subject to certain limitations and qualifications. Of these the most important was that all civil servants proposed for benefit should have been employed in the Dáil Civil Service before the date of the Truce, that is before the 11th July, 1921. No provision was made for what are known as post-Truce Dáil civil servants and in actual practice such officers were assimilated with the general body of the temporary staff of Saorstát Eireann, and subsequently given an opportunity by means of a limited competitive examination to acquire permanency. The main examination at which a number did secure pensionable posts was a limited examination held in June-July, 1925. Successful competitors at that examination were in due course assigned to permanent pensionable posts as clerical officers, the majority of such assignments taking place about February, 1926. Under the present Bill, this distinction as between pre-Truce and post-Truce service is being retained, that is, the pre-Truce people are being treated as pensionable, with the exception of one peculiar type of case in which the officer originally entered the service in circumstances which clearly indicated that his appointment was to be on a permanent and, presumably, when the circumstances permitted, on a pensionable basis. With this exception post-Truce entrants are regarded as non-pensionable.
I have already indicated that the post-Truce officers assimilated prior to 1926 were afforded an opportunity of securing establishment which enabled those officers who availed themselves of that opportunity to commence pensionable service from February, 1926. It is proposed, as far as possible, to equate post-Truce Dáil civil servants, dealt with under the present Bill, to their former colleagues, in the matter of pensionability. Where,  therefore, they have acquired establishment, for instance by means of successful competition at limited examinations, they have been treated as if they never had an interruption of service and had competed successfully at the limited examination held in June-July of 1925. Accordingly, under this Bill, their pensionable service is, on that basis, being allowed to reckon as from the 1st of February, 1926. In relation to civil servants, other than those who came over from the Dáil staff, and whose service was interrupted for the same reasons, the same principle is being followed which governed the treatment of similar cases under the Superannuation and Pensions Act, 1923. Pensionable officers have been reinstated in pensionable posts and the period of their absence is being allowed to reckon for pension purposes. Non-pensionable persons have been reinstated in non-pensionable posts and their period of absence is also being included in the calculation of any award that may fall to be made under the Superannuation Acts.
Service for the purposes of these Acts will, in both cases, fall into three divisions—(a) service before forfeiture of office for political reasons, (b) the period of absence which will be deemed to be service, and (c) the actual service which they render subsequent to reinstatement. Where unestablished officers reinstated in unestablished or temporary posts have, since reinstatement, secured establishment, regard has been had to the possibilities of establishment which would have been open to them in common with the post-Truce Dáil civil servants had they remained in the Service. They have, therefore, whether they have been established or acquired establishment, been allowed to reckon their pensionable service as from a date not earlier than the 1st February, 1926. Where the application of that date would, by reference to normal superannuation practice, involve the grant to a reinstatee of a lesser benefit than would have been accorded to him, if he had never ceased to serve, power is being taken to grant to such reinstatee the benefits appropriate under the normal superannuation practice. This concession  will apply principally to Departmental classes, such as postmen and technical assistants in the Ordnance Survey who, by long established custom, are allowed to reckon unestablished service or a proportion thereof for pension purposes. Where suitable posts are not available for offer to certain pensionable ex-civil servants, by reasons of considerations of age or ill-health, power is being taken to pay them a special pension, based on a period from a date not earlier than that at which they entered the Service to the date of attaining the age of 65 or the date of the passing of the Act, whichever is the earlier.
Certain pensionable civil servants have not on reinstatement been able to acquire pensionable posts in the Civil Service on account of ill-health. They have, however, been admitted to unestablished posts. Power is being taken to allow their service in such unestablished posts to reckon for pension in their particular cases. The following distinction is to be noted between the two types of ill-health cases. Pension is payable as from the date of the passing of the Act to the person whose ill-health precluded his admission to the Civil Service in any capacity. Naturally in that case the chief medical officer of health of the Civil Service will have to be satisfied in regard to the officer's health. In cases other than the ill-health cases to which I have referred, where they formerly served in the British Civil Service, particularly in established posts, they had already secured a certificate of health. Since then, their health may have deteriorated though they are still regarded as being fit to serve. But while they will have been admitted to the Civil Service, nevertheless they will have been rejected by the Civil Service Commissioners for the certificate of qualification which is a condition precedent to admission to the permanent Civil Service of Saorstát Eireann. Naturally this question of their recertifying on health grounds would not have arisen if they had been simply transferred in 1922 with the general body of civil servants. It is to remove this disqualification which otherwise they would carry in regard to superannuation  and pensionable service, that we are taking special power in this Bill. That briefly deals with those civil servants who have had association with the events from 1916 to 1923, and who by reason of that association have had an interrupted service in the Civil Service.
Apart altogether from those who fall into that category, the Bill deals with a number of technical difficulties which have cropped up in administering the Superannuation Acts since the establishment of the Saorstát. These are mainly difficulties of interpretation and adaptation. They arise largely from the circumstances of the transfer of services from the former régime and from delays and uncompleted negotiations incidental thereto. For instance, a number of persons were voluntarily transferred to the Civil Service of Saorstát Eireann on the understanding that when their pensions came to be computed, these pensions would be awarded on the basis of their aggregate service in the British and Saorstát Civil Services. The Superannuation and Pensions Acts, 1923, contemplated that we should declare the revenues of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland to be public funds for the purpose of our Superannuation Acts; and that they would declare our revenues a public fund for the purpose of their Superannuation Acts. Agreement, however, could not be reached on some of the details inherent in such an arrangement, in particular as to who should bear the charge for the gratuity payable to the legal personal representatives of deceased male permanent civil servants. Accordingly since a number of these officers have died, or have retired, a difficulty has arisen as to the charging of the moneys payable to or in respect of them.
Statutorily the Saorstát is liable only in respect of service rendered to it, but public faith is pledged in all these cases, and the officers were definitely promised that their superannuation awards would be based on their total service. Payment in full has, therefore, been made in each case. British rules governing apportionment of superannuation liability in respect of aggregate service, however, prescribe that the payment of  death gratuities shall be borne by the last employing body. With a view to putting the undertaking given to each of these officers permanently on an unchallengeable basis, power is being taken in this Bill to treat all their services as service in the Civil Service of Saorstát Eireann. Recovery will, of course, be effected of portion of the award if and when possible.
The other sections not dealing with reinstated civil servants are for the most part concerned with technical difficulties—for example, the superannuation position of the Quit Rent Office staff during three years when payment of salary was not made directly from voted moneys; or, as another instance, the reckoning of service for pension purposes of certain Intermediate Education inspectors, whose names had not been added to the scheme relating to pensionable officers in the service of the Intermediate Education Commissioners; or, again, the reckoning of service with the late Congested Districts Board in certain cases, and the taking of power to charge superannuation liabilities against voted moneys which would, prior to the dissolution of the Congested Districts Board, have been a proper charge on the funds of that Department.
Again, arising out of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, and the Civil Service Regulation Acts, 1924 to 1926, certain doubts have been felt as to the valid application of the Superannuation Acts to certain permanent officials in the service of the State; for instance, heads of Departments appointed by the Executive Council on the recommendation of the Minister in charge of each such Department. The British Superannuation Acts provide that pensions may be granted to persons admitted to the permanent Civil Service with a certificate of qualification from the Civil Service Commissioners or on appointment by the Crown. It has been thought desirable to extend the provisions of these Acts as adapted to Saorstát requirements, so as to include appointments to the  permanent Civil Service made by the Executive Council.
Furthermore, in the case of certain statutory boards and bodies, certain jurisdictions, powers, etc., have been reserved to these bodies, and these powers include in some instances the power of appointment which is not exercised by the Minister in charge of the Department to which these bodies are assigned, but by the bodies or boards themselves. As power of appointment to the Civil Service really vests in the Executive Council and in the Ministers in charge of each of the Departments, subject in the latter case to the application of the Civil Service Regulation Acts, it has been felt desirable, from the standpoint of superannuation, to remove any ambiguities as to the superannuation position of the civil servants appointed by these boards or bodies and in their service. The provision has been extended to cover employment as an officer or member of the staff of the Oireachtas and as a member of the staff of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, as these two offices are not included in any of the Departments of State.
As from the 15th day of October, 1932, persons concerned in the Post Office strike of 1922 are having their period of absence from duty restored to them for the purposes of the application of the Superannuation Acts. It has also been found necessary to make provision for the rectification of certain certificates granted under the Superannuation and Pensions Act, 1923, the validity of which was open to question inasmuch as they contained mistakes as to facts. For instance, one former pre-Truce Dáil civil servant was described in the relevant certificate as having commenced to serve from a date anterior to the setting up of the Dáil Civil Service, viz., 21st January, 1919. The time-limit prescribed by that Act has been extended to admit of the grant of fresh certificates to the individuals concerned and of new certificates to certain individuals who were inadvertently excluded from the application of the benefits conferred  by that Act. Any rectifications will have the effect of securing to each individual the maximum benefits designed for his case by the relevant Act.
The Bill contains the normal provisions against double reckoning of any period for purposes of pension, and limits the application of the rule of average prescribed by the Superannuation Acts, where the enforcement of that rule would, in the cases of reinstatees, entail hardship. Special authority is taken to make a grant of £300 to each of the several persons whose names are specified in the Schedule to the Bill who are precluded from securing pensionable posts in the Civil Service by reason of the Civil Service regulations applying to marriage. All of these persons rendered pre-Truce service in the old Dáil Civil Service. If they had been transferred to the Civil Service of Saorstát Eireann, they would, in the ordinary course, have been entitled to a gratuity on retiring on marriage. The award which is being made to them now is in substitution therefor. They would naturally have a claim to reinstatement, but it is thought that this is a better way of dealing with the matter than by making a breach in what is now the invariable practice—to require women to retire from the Civil Service on marriage. The expense of carrying the Bill into effect will be met by moneys to be provided by the Oireachtas. On account of the number of individuals affected and the varying incidence of charge, it is not possible to give even an approximate estimate of the expenditure which will arise. Finally, ou account of the complexities and number of cases involved, the time limit for certification has been extended to two years to afford ample time for considering each case prior to certification and to ensure that no admissible case will be overlooked. I do not think that it is necessary for me to say more except that we hope by this Bill to close a regrettable chapter in the history of our country——
Mr. MacEntee: In one sense, yes.  We hope to allow all these people who served together prior to 1921 to continue to serve together in our present Civil Service. No special privileges have been given to any person. We endeavoured to treat them all as they would have been treated if they had joined the Civil Service of Saorstát Eireann in 1922.
Mr. Norton: I congratulate the Minister on introducing this Bill, and I agree with him that it will help to close a chapter which was brimful of unhappy memories for many people. I hope the enactment of the Bill will help to extinguish some of the still-smouldering embers which have come to us from the unhappy period associated with the civil war, and that it will restore to certain persons, who were prominent in the activities of that period, some of the rights which they lost largely through being guided by the dictates of their own conscience in the events of that period. I am particularly glad that the Minister has included Section 23 in the Bill, because the object of the section is to restore their superannuation rights to Post Office employees who participated in the strike of 1922. By his action in including this section in the Bill, the Minister has removed an injustice which operated very inequitably against some persons. The insertion of this section will help to close a wound which has been suppurating in indignation since 1922. I am glad that the Minister has seen fit, by including this section, to do something which his predecessor, though appealed to for ten long years, had stubbornly and unreasonably refused to do.
On some sections of the Bill, I should like information from the Minister. In Section 21 provision is made for the reckoning of service as a teacher in the case of persons who subsequently passed into the Civil Service as inspectors or organisers in the Department of Education. I observe that the Minister takes power to prescribe the nature of the teaching service and the amount thereof which may be reckoned for such superannuation and the extent to  which and the manner in which such teaching service shall be so reckoned. Having drawn the section in that careful way, I imagine the Minister has some idea as to the manner in which he proposes to allow those persons in the employment of the Department of Education who were formerly teachers to reckon their service. I would like if the Minister would give us some general idea as to what he intends to do in that connection. This is an important matter and it may have to be adverted to on the Committee Stage.
The Minister made reference in the course of his speech which I took as relating to Section 26. This section refers to certificates under the Superannuation and Pensions Act of 1923. It would appear from the section as if it were necessary to clear up certain difficulties and errors. I should like if the Minister would tell us the precise difficulties which necessitated the introduction of a section of this kind. Under Section 28 power is taken by the Minister to add years of service in the case of the superannuation of certain persons. I should like the Minister to say whether that is intended to be a general provision, applicable in all cases, or whether it is intended to be limited to the special cases in which a certificate is given for the purposes for which certificates are given under the other portions of this Bill. In Section 30, the Minister treats us to what, I think, is an innovation. This section requires the Post Office Savings Bank to pay annually to the Minister a certain sum in respect of superannuation allowances, gratuities or other benefits which become payable under the Superannuation Acts in respect of persons employed in the Post Office Savings Department. I should like to ascertain from the Minister whether that provision has been common to the Superannuation Acts in existence prior to the establishment of the Saorstat, whether there is complementary legislation on this matter in Great Britain and what set of circumstances operated to require a provision of this kind in a Superannuation Bill. It seems a novel provision,  but then the Post Office Savings Department was not a feature of the administration here in pre-Treaty days. This provision may be complementary to similar legislation in Great Britain. I gather from the section that payments have been made from the funds of the Savings Bank Department into the Exchequer in respect of the liability of the Exchequer to pay certain superannuation allowances and gratuities. I should like to know from the Minister what the justification is for this seemingly unusual method of requiring one branch of the State service to hand over to the central Exchequer a certain sum annually—a thing which is not, apparently, required in so specific a way in the case of other branches of the State service.
Mr. T. Murphy: The section Deputy Norton has referred to, dealing with the recognition of teaching service for certain purposes, prompts the thought that a number of people gave long and faithful service in the teaching profession, which service is unrecognised so far and is not provided for in this Bill. I refer to the small number of lay convent teachers and junior assistant mistresses whose cases have been long and persistently brought to public notice by reason of the hardship that the position of these teachers entails. I understand that, when the matter was fully gone into some time ago, it was estimated that the total number of persons so affected would not exceed 60. The most recent inquiries go to show that the number of such people entirely unprovided for would not exceed 30. I seem to remember that when the measure dealing with the settlement of the teachers' pensions was going through the House, and when this matter was brought to the notice of the Minister for Finance, he said if there were cases of hardship they would be inquired into and considered. I want to assure the Minister that there is a number of such cases of hardship, even amongst the small number of outstanding cases. I want to ask him on a subsequent Stage of this measure or at some other early opportunity to endeavour to do justice to such people. The total number involved  is very small. Having regard to the fact that the whole aim of this measure is to remove cases of hardship, to remove a feeling of grievance and a feeling of victimisation from the minds of public servants, I think the Minister would be only doing the barest act of justice in including within the terms of this or a similar measure which he might devise at an early date the small number of persons to whom I have referred.
On the question of hardship, I want to assure the Minister that there is no exaggeration whatever in the statement that there is hardship in some of the cases to which I have called attention. I have in mind one case of which I know the details very well. That was the case of a person who had close on 50 years' service in a convent school. She was a trained teacher, amply qualified in every sense of the word, and I might add that she had qualifications that in her time were not generally possessed by teachers as a whole. I think it is a very serious hardship that such a person after that service should be compelled to exist on the old age pension. I think this is the most suitable opportunity that has arisen for a considerable time for bringing this matter to the Minister's notice. He might well give the matter some consideration before the further stages of this Bill are taken up or else at the earliest possible opportunity. To allow this hardship to continue will be perpetuating an injustice in the case of a small number of people of whom I speak. These are people who have been left entirely unprovided for. I urge the Minister to face up to this matter at the earliest possible moment.
Mr. Dillon: I should like an assurance from the Minister that this is the last pension Bill we are to have. To how many more such Bills are we to look forward, or have we as yet reached the final Bill? I have no objection to Ministers or to members of the Labour Party protesting that these Bills are to staunch a wound. I always notice that these wounds have  to be staunched with gold. I was brought up in quite a different tradition. In the old days men went out to work for their country. Many of them lost a great deal but they felt that that was their contribution to service of the country. I know many of the veterans of the fight for freedom in this country, which fight, strangely enough, was going on long before 1916, who are hard put to it to survive. They never asked for anything for their services and they never expected anything. I have known some of those old veterans to be hungry. I have known them to be in need of clothes and quite destitute until friends came to their aid. They never asked for a pension and they never seemed to think that they had a claim on the State for compensation for the losses they had sustained in the fight for freedom. They considered that they were merely doing their duty by the country. But, unfortunately, that spirit seems to have departed from amongst us. Anyone who since 1916 kept a dog to bark at the Black and Tans wants compensation for keeping that dog and wants to be paid for the food he gave it. Have we come to an end of the list of people who have claims on this State for the services they did in the cause of freedom?
I must say I had much more sympathy with the type of person to whom Deputy Murphy has referred, people who laboured at the job of the type they had to do and felt all the time that the terms of their employment were not equitable, that there were others working beside them doing similar work who were receiving preferential treatment. A case of that kind is more deserving of consideration than the case of a person who comes along and says: “I fought for Ireland.” There is little credit in fighting for Ireland if we get paid for it. My conception of a patriot is a man who fought for and worked for his country without any consideration and no hope of getting reward except the feeling and the inspiration he had that the nation as a whole would be better off by reason of his work. That was the old conception of patriotism. We cannot expect those old-fashioned  ideas to prevail now and in this atmosphere of largesse one might be tempted to make a suggestion. But I would do so without authority, because I do not believe that the men I have in mind would permit me to mention them. I would not mention them without asking their leave but I cannot help speaking of the services rendered the country by a number of old veterans in the fight. These people are now finding it hard to keep body and soul together. Their names are never heard of and they never dreamt of asking anybody for anything. I know they would not permit me to ask this House or anybody else to give them a reward for the work they did for their country. Nevertheless if they are not to have any monetary reward, let them at least have this tribute from a Deputy of this House that they are the one section of the people who fought for this country and lost thereby who have never asked one penny from this State by way of compensation for the sufferings they have undergone.
I want to mention another very restricted class of person slightly analogous to those mentioned by Deputy Murphy. I am not sure that their cases have been disposed of. The Minister may remember that when the Department of Agriculture was first set on foot most of the instruction was of an advisory character and most of the modern marketing methods that we have in this country were built up by the work done by a small band of enthusiastic instructresses, who went around this country teaching the people how best to produce eggs and fowl, how to pack eggs and how to carry on the agricultural industry in accordance with modern methods. On their work was built up the entire sum of modern agricultural instruction and regulations that now exist. Do Deputies here know that not one of these instructors and instructresses on whom this whole gigantic structure of agricultural education now rests ever received one penny by way of pension? They were unestablished officers. Many of them  spent long periods at this work. To the work of some of them is due the entire machinery that is now operated by certain divisions of the Department of Agriculture. Some of these left the service at 70 years of age. At that age they had to look for a job and to start afresh. I know one case myself where peculiarly onerous family responsibilities had forced the civil servant in question to spend every penny of the earnings while service in the Department of Agriculture continued. That person, on account of having a delicate family, left the Civil Service without any savings, and with great gallantry set up a little business of her own, managed to keep the wolf from the door, and was doing fairly well until the economic war hit it and smashed it. That does not arise immediately now. They are a very small group of people and they have had a very raw deal.
Mr. Dillon: I may have been guilty of an error of judgment in that matter, and let us eliminate it again. These people are deserving of consideration. Their numbers are very few. They make no claim on the ground of lofty patriotism or having suffered for the State. All they claim is that they worked honestly and well at the jobs they undertook to do, and those who are acquainted with the machinery of the Department of Agriculture know that their work was not in vain. It was very valuable work from the point of view of the State. I did make the strongest representations in an ordinary Departmental way to secure the establishment of these officers and I think it was found impossible within the framework of the law, as it stood, to establish them. I take it the general principles of this Bill will permit of an amendment to provide for their case, and, if it would, I think if the Minister inquires he will find that a very deserving case exists. I believe he would have the unanimous support of the House if he brought forward an  amendment on the Committee Stage giving him power to provide for the cases to which I refer.
Mr. MacEntee: With reference, first of all, to the points raised by Deputy Norton in regard to Sections 21, 26 and 30 of the Bill, I should like to say with regard to Section 21 that the regulations have not yet been threshed out between the Department of Education and the Department of Finance, but in the anticipation that suitable regulations may be devised, we are taking power under this section to make these regulations and to give effect to an undertaking which I believe was given some considerable time ago, before my period of office, in regard to those who will come within the terms of the section.
Mr. MacEntee: We have to remember that it takes money to do these things, and that, after all, it is the public interest we have to serve and not the private interests of any individual. With regard to Section 26, I could not give the Deputy all the cases, but I have a couple of cases. Two former established pensionable civil servants under the British Government failed to get Civil Service certificates on being reinstated, due to some flaw in the procedure. The purpose is to re-certify in some cases and to remove doubts as to the validity in others. If the certificate contains on its face a statement which is not in accordance with the ascertainable facts, the certificate might be declared to be invalid. There is also the case which I mentioned in my opening statement of a Dáil civil servant who was described on the relevant certificate as having commenced to serve from a date anterior to the setting up of the Dáil Civil Service, whereas, of course, it only came into existence on the 21st January, 1919. There is yet another officer who was described on the certificate granted to him under the 1923 Act as an established  officer, whereas he was, in fact, an unestablished officer. The whole purpose of the section is, as I have said, to rectify certificates in order to secure to each individual the maximum benefits designed for his case by the Act.
With regard to the question that the Deputy put under Section 30, as to giving us power to charge the Post Office Savings Bank with its proper superannuation liability, I think I can tell the Deputy that that is done in Great Britain. We had some legal difficulty in doing it in this country heretofore, but this provision has been inserted in the Bill to give effect to an undertaking given to the Public Accounts Committee that the question would be dealt with by legislation at the first available opportunity.
With regard to the plea made by Deputy Murphy, I am afraid that these cases could not possibly come within this Bill, for it relates purely to the superannuation of civil servants, and these cases are those of junior assistant mistresses. The Deputy mentioned that the matter had been discussed when the regulations governing the Teachers' Pensions Fund were before the House. In that connection I think I ought to mention that we did grant in that settlement pensionability to a large class of junior assistant mistresses who were formerly denied it. It may be that some people were left outside the scope of that arrangement, but it is very difficult for me to reopen it. The Deputy said that he thought I promised to look into this matter when it was debated in the House, and I think his recollection is correct, because I do remember we did look into it to see whether it would be possible to do something in regard to it, and regretfully I had to turn it down, because if I opened one door, another, which is closed, might have to be opened, too. It is not as if one were dealing with this matter as a private individual. When an arrangement has been made naturally I am very diffident and very dilatory about reopening it. As I say, I do not think the case could come within the terms of the Bill. I understand the Deputy is to have a word  with the Minister for Education in the matter, and beyond that I cannot go at the moment.
Mr. MacEntee: That is all very well, but, unfortunately, in my Department we come up against many hard cases and you simply have to say that the law and regulations are there. We cannot deal with public moneys as if we were private individuals, spending from our private purse. We have to be tighter than we might be in that case if we could afford to do it, for there must be some safeguard for the taxpayers of the country, and the taxpayers are the poor as well as the rich.
On the point raised by Deputy Dillon, I think the Deputy was under a misapprehension in regard to the terms of the Bill. This Bill really proposes to put, for pensionable purposes, individuals who were in the Civil Service, and who were driven out of the Civil Service, because for patriotic reasons they took part in a certain campaign on one side or the other, in the same position as individuals who were, I am not going to say, less patriotic, but who were possibly more fortunate. And that is all.
This Bill is merely to redress what you might call penalisation. I will not say it was victimisation, but certainly it was penalisation. The persons affected by it had to leave the service because of certain things which they did, certain things which the majority of the people, in the last four or five years, have said were done from patriotic motives and in the general interests of the country. We are only making that good to them. There is no doubt that if these men who were driven out of the Civil Service in 1916, and subsequently, had remained in it  they would have had the full period of their service reckoned for pensionable purposes. They would have had everything that we are going to give them under this measure, and I do say that we are not doing anything more than making restitution to them for loss of pensionable service. They are not getting any monetary reward immediately. It only means that, when they come to retire, the service which they gave to the country in one form will be counted in the same way as if they had rendered that service in the Civil Service in which they were originally engaged. That is all we are doing.
There is no question here of men fighting and bleeding for Ireland and being paid for it. Deputy Dillon, of course, is in a very independent position, but I say as regards the men and women who have been brought back into the Civil Service, and who are being restored to their former rights under this measure, that there are many among them who have suffered starvation, who have been hungry and have been scantily clothed, that there are some who have seen their children suffer in that way, and all because they would not subscribe to a certain formula. We are simply putting them in the position in which they would have been if they had subscribed to it.
It is all very well to talk and to say that the country is not in a position to do its duty in regard to those individuals. It is now, and I do not feel that acceptance of the position and of the rights which this Bill will confer on them will carry with it an iota of discredit for any persons concerned. It is very easy for the Deputy and others who are in independent circumstances to talk about men having fought and bled for Ireland in the days gone by without being paid for it. I know what some people have gone through from 1916 up to now, of men who have seen their whole careers gone and a very uncertain future waiting for them. I do not think that it is right for the Deputy, whose age absolved him from the responsibilities which other people had to shoulder, to get up here and sneer at the  sufferings and efforts which those men made on behalf of their country and by virtue of which the Deputy is sitting in this House. The Deputy is Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, and, should fortunes change, may sit eventually where I am now. He ought to remember, whether he sits on that side of the House or on this side at some time as a member of the Government, that he owes his position very largely to the sacrifices which these men made. I think it is unworthy of the name which the Deputy bears. The name of Dillon had a repute for chivalry and for good taste in Irish politics, and I am sorry that the Deputy made the speech which he made here this evening, because I think it does not do us any good. Irishmen who have gone into political life on the side of their country have never had anything to gain. They have lost a great deal, and if the country is at any time able to put them in a position in which they will not have penury staring them and their families in the face until they go down to the grave, I think it ought to be the common endeavour of every one of us to bring home to the people that they do owe these obligations to the men who made possible what we enjoy to-day. That applies also to what the Deputy said in regard to the old veterans in the fight. I have never decried the services which the men who won the land war, and engaged in the Parliamentary movement, rendered to this country. If any of them should be in want, I certainly would be sorry to see them in that position, and if it would meet with public approval I would like to do what I could for them.
Mr. Norton: I just want to ask the Minister one question on Section 23, line 58. The phrase is used that a certain period of service “may, if the  Minister so directs, be reckoned in the said service of such person,” etc. The word “may” there may be used to govern the general decision of the Minister in respect to superannuations. If it is, well and good. I would like to ascertain from the Minister whether that is a kind of discretion which he intends to apply in each separate case, or whether, having done it in one case, the precedent thus established will govern others.
Mr. MacEntee: The Deputy understands that the granting of all pensions is permissive and that no person has an exact title to a pension. The Deputy may be certain that I am not going to use any powers conferred on me to discriminate against any person. It is a matter of like case, like rule.
Mr. MacEntee: I asked the Deputy's colleague that I might have the Committee Stage on Wednesday next. He was anxious to have it the week following. If the Committee Stage is now fixed for Wednesday next, I am prepared to give the House an undertaking that I will not take it on Wednesday unless it is clear that there are not likely to be any amendments.
Mr. Dillon: On that undertaking I cannot resist the Minister's request. I take it that if we make reasonable representations to the Minister on Wednesday that the Committee Stage ought to be postponed on that day, the Minister will agree?
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