Wednesday, 8 February 1939
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Dáil views with concern the failure of the Government recently disclosed to provide protection for our people against possible attack from the air, and is of opinion that a select committee be set up immediately  to inquire into, take evidence, and report on the causes of this failure.
I may say that this motion was handed in in the early weeks of October, and the word “recently” refers to the situation as it existed in September and previous months. I propose to keep strictly to the terms of the motion, not to attempt to discuss conditions as they are now, or as they may be next month or next year. Everybody recollects the appalling condition this country was in last September. Nobody, I think, appreciated it more fully than the Taoiseach when he took over the charge of the Department of Defence. We had a world on the eve of war. We had a general impression amongst the people of this city, amongst the members of the Executive, and, above all, in the mind of the Taoiseach, that we were within hours or minutes of war, and that in that war, whether our attitude was neutral or not, we had got to expect and to prepare for air attacks on this country. We had a situation in which every Government in Europe, small and big, gave evidence to the public of the serious way in which defence had been taken by the responsible Minister. We had the armies at the pitch of efficiency, according to their means, and their armaments, stores, supplies of equipment and ammunition purchased and hoarded, as against the day of war. We had the various broadcasting stations of the world reassuring and allaying the anxiety of the people, and the anxiety of mothers for their children, advising them what to do in the event of this or of that happening. We had every defence department in Europe facing up to its responsibilities, and allaying the fears of the population, with the one exception of this country, that used its broadcasting station once, and once only, during those days of crisis, when it was used to broadcast for a missing officer  from the North of Ireland, who was required for the defence of Ulster. With that one very conspicuous exception, there was no advice given to the people, no protection, no plan, no policy.
The Minister for Defence was absent on holidays, and there was no Taoiseach, as he was away in Geneva. The Army was left without a lead and without a plan, because there was no policy. It was left without a Minister, because he was absent. The soldiers were left there with empty rifles, the artillery was left without shells, the people without gas masks, and the public even without advice, and that eight years after a Minister was given an absolutely free hand with regard to the Army.
Remember, the last eight years cannot be confused with the previous five years, when the Army was a political subject, debated here with bitterness and vindictiveness. When we came to this side of the House, one of our earliest decisions was that we would not follow the bad example of our predecessors in opposition; that there were certain State services which would and should be left outside the political arena, and for eight long years there was never an Army Estimate challenged, criticised or voted against in this House. Considerably more money was asked for every year than was ever handled by the Government's predecessors. By our action here we did as far as example could go, educate the people to put the Army outside politics, and to have confidence in the Army, and the head of the Department.
Many things could have been criticised. Many excuses could have been made for voting against Army Estimates year after year. No such opportunity was ever availed of and no obstacles were ever placed in the way. For eight long years no obstacles were ever placed in the way of the Minister having an efficient, well-equipped Army with carefully devised plans for the protection of the people, if and when an emergency should come. Eight years after that, with more money being voted every day, we had panic-stricken mothers in the City of  Dublin looking in vain to the Department of Defence for even advice as to what they should do. We had officers and soldiers openly saying that they were ashamed to wear the uniform in public because, when the testing time came, they were not there to stand between the people and danger.
I do not want anybody to take my view or my words for the conditions and the picture I am painting. Early in the weeks of October the most impartial bodies in this country were found expressing in the columns of the Press their disappointment with the scandalous unpreparedness of the Army to give either advice or protection to the people of this country. We had people, such as the chief of the St. John Ambulance Brigade, who had given a lifetime in the service of humanity and who could certainly not be accused of being a political partisan, anxious only for the welfare of the people, writing to the public Press in the early days of October to express his regret at the deplorable state of unpreparedness of Ireland's Army, to point out that there was no advice even to be given to the people and not a gas mask to be issued.
You had bodies like the Executive of the Irish Medical Union, which might be charged with many things but which could certainly never be charged with political partisanship or with being opposed to the Government politically, writing their editorial in their journal in the early days of November and they, like Sir John Lumsden, pointing out that the first approaches to them towards bringing into being even the beginnings of a scheme for the protection of the people or for the reassurance of the public was after the crisis of September was passed.
We have got to remember that an army in any country is not an expensive toy for individuals to play with or is not an expensive pedestal on which to erect any expensive figurehead. The Army is not an institution for 6,000 or 7,000 men to be well paid for looking after one another efficiently. The only justification for an army or a Department of Defence in any country, rich or poor, is that it is an expensive instrument maintained in days of peace to stand between the people and  danger in times of war. If an army, here or elsewhere, is so badly equipped that it cannot fill that particular gap in times of danger then there is no justification for asking the taxpayer for as much as one penny for its maintenance. If the idea is allowed to get into the minds of army officers or soldiers that their job is merely to look after one another and that it is none of their jobs to look after the people, then that country would be better off without an army. But the money was voted freely year after year for eight years and, far from taking political advantage of a Minister who might be unprepared, when it became clear to us in the closing days of 1937 that danger was ahead and that apparently no steps were being taken to meet that danger, I put down a question here addressed to the Minister for Defence, in November, 1937, to know if he had taken any steps or proposed to take any steps to protect the people from the danger of invasion or attack from the air and his answer was that it was under consideration and would be done.
Twelve months later we had the crisis on top of us. We had the emergency. We had the uneasy and panicky people but we had no plan and no steps had been taken. There was casual disregard for the responsible office which was held and, clearly, I lay the responsibility at the door of the Minister for Defence but lest I might be wrong in that assumption I put down this motion asking for a committee from the whole House, a committee on which the Government would have a majority, to inquire into the matter and assess the blame.
The blame lies somewhere. It may be with the Minister. It may be with the Department of Finance. It may be elsewhere, but we will show a callous disregard for our responsibilities to the people and our functions as Deputies in a Parliament under which the Army functions, if we are to allow the situation as it existed last September to pass without the fullest and most thorough investigation. When we have assessed the blame and found the cause then we must remove the delinquent and remove the cause. What happened in countries that were much better prepared than we were but  that had a small gap here and there in their defences, countries with a Parliament that was conscious of its responsibilities to the people and conscious of the people's helplessness if the Army was not at a high pitch of efficiency? In every second country where only a small gap was found the Minister was removed from office, not because of gross negligence but because a small gap existed. Practically everywhere Ministers were removed because there was not 100 per cent. efficiency. Here, where we had 100 per cent. deficiency, where there was no such thing as a gap, but where we were wide open, where soldiers had enough small arms ammunition to keep them firing for less than two minutes, where no piece of artillery could bark for 20 minutes, where we had one little nest of anti-aircraft guns that could only operate at one point, and where we had not a gas mask for any unfortunate in the whole country, the same Minister comes calmly back to ask for another half-million pounds to misspend like the previous £12,000,000, and, presumably, with the same result. But, he will get the money as he did in the past, and when the danger comes he will have nothing to show for it.
What is the biggest evidence that this Dáil could have as to the real gravity of the danger last September and the real deficiencies in the Army? That the Acting-Minister for Defence, when he came up against the bald unpleasant fact, felt bound to throw up the sponge and refused to take further responsibility. The Taoiseach took over. If the Taoiseach took over a fully-equipped machine, with an adequacy of stores, what was the explanation for every second officer and civil servant being sent over hot-foot to England, the officers going by rail and sea, and the civil servants going by air, with blank cheques in every hand, each of them hammering at the doors of the War Office and the Admiralty in a mad stampede to try to get some kind of stores at the eleventh hour, just before Hell would be let loose and bombs would begin to fall? Is it a fact that ammunition was practically non-existent and that stupendous purchases  were put through by order of the Taoiseach, in the absence of the Minister, to replenish the stocks that should, according to the money voted, have been there to purchase artillery and planes, to purchase ammunition and air-craft?
If the Army was properly equipped and properly prepared, if Army stores were ample, then there was no justification whatsoever for those huge and panicky purchases of last September. But, if there was good, sound and sufficient reason for spending hundreds of thousands of pounds in order hastily to equip our defences here, then those responsible for the lack of equipment and ammunition should have resigned their offices after another man had come along to attempt to do in eight weeks what the Minister had failed to do in eight years. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment, a completely new scheme of organisation, civilians, doctors, businessmen, workers and others called in in order to try to devise the beginning of a scheme of A.R.P. a month after the crises. Were people and persons, officers and civilians in the Department of Defence living in blissful ignorance of the world they lived in for 12 months before? Could they not see any of the danger signals? Must they wait while every other country organised? Must they wait to look for supplies when no country had supplies to spare? Must they wait until the enemy is knocking at the door before another man comes and takes over?
If Mr. Chamberlain had not saved this country last September, we would be in a pretty state by this. It is a very poor state of affairs, after the millions that have been thrown out, thrown into the Department of Defence pool, that when danger came our eyes had to be fixed abroad to protect us, and when we looked for protection here at home we found silence, absolute silence, failure to give a lead, failure to reassure, failure to put courage into the people, decent officers expressing their humiliation at finding themselves in an Army in such a state, and each one blaming somebody else. Is it unreasonable, in view of these facts that are known to every Deputy,  to ask that the matter should be inquired into? Picture the situation last September if even a few planes came over Dublin. People were not even advised whether to go in or to seek the open spaces; no protection against gas or any other form of attack; one little nest of anti-aircraft guns to operate from this to Donegal and from this to Cork. If such a small group of guns could bring a plane down to land, it would be the greatest miracle since the whale landed Jonah.
That is the kind of instrument for which the people were paying for the last eight years; that is the result. To-day we have the same Administration and the same Head coming back to ask for more money. Because the job was not done, or because the position was not taken seriously for the last eight years, the taxpayers have got to put up more money now to make good the deficiency. For years past money went on every kind of expensive toy. We were not satisfied, with a little Army of 5,000 or 6,000 men, to have a common uniform for all. We had to squander hundreds of thousands of pounds so as to have one group of soldiers wearing different uniforms from the others, so as to differentiate the type of organisation that came into being under one Administration from those who were there before. In order to try to put a political stamp on one section of the Army, hundreds of thousands of pounds had to go; and because hundreds of thousands were spent in that direction obviously there was no money for the real work of the soldier.
If the danger had come,if the threatened danger had materialised, presumably the soldiers would fix bayonets to their empty rifles and the officers would draw their swords, and the public would pray to God—there was nothing between them and the danger. The tragedy of it is that there are in this country the best soldiers and the most highly-trained officers in the theory of war to be found anywhere in Europe. But no army can devise a plan except in accordance with a policy. If there is failure at the top to enunciate a policy, the best officers in the world cannot devise a plan. That was one of the riddles  always set to Army officers—that Army policy would not be laid down. Therefore, a proper plan and an Army to fit into that plan could not be designed. Even when outside bodies were called in to co-operate in air-raid precautions there was the same bankruptcy of policy, or the same refusal to enunciate policy, so that no group of men could formulate a feasible plan.
We are asking in this motion that investigation should be carried out fully and thoroughly into the position. If the position was bad, as stated by dozens of impartial pens, as found, and clearly found, by the Taoiseach when he took over, as evidenced in the memory of every impartial Deputy, then we should find out the causes of its badness and the responsibility for its badness, and then try to make the best of what is left.
But I, for one, must say this clearly, that after the disillusionment and rude awakening of last September, speaking as a person who has never refused one penny to the Army since I came into the Dáil, and never voted against an Army Estimate, if it is the desire of Parliament to provide more money for the Army, if it is the desire of all over here and all over there to have the most efficient type of Army that can be got within our means, if more money is wanted, public money cannot be given where there is neither trust nor confidence, and that after an Administration has been tried and found wanting, someone else in whom the country has more reason to have confidence should be put in charge if you are to come and ask for more money.
Dr. O'Higgins: I should be better satisfied with any form of protection than none, even if it was only an aluminium umbrella; but last September there was nothing, although the Minister, 12 months before, stated in the House that he was investigating the matter and would have ample protection.
Dr. O'Higgins: Very well, I shall say. First of all, adequate air fighting arrangements, a sufficiency of anti-aircraft guns, direction advice, both by word and literature, for the population, and gas masks in the event of gas attack. These are just some examples, but surely it is not my function at this stage to teach the Minister his business.
Dr. O'Higgins: If the Minister would take my advice and make room for a man who will take the position seriously, any Minister for Defence should know what is meant by “adequate.” Does the Minister expect me to tell him how many planes are required?
Dr. O'Higgins: It should not be necessary, in the protection of this country from air attack, to fight the rest of the world. There should be, per mile or per five miles around the city, for every five miles a nest of anti-aircraft——
Dr. O'Higgins: I do not. If I only spent £50,000, I am arguing that it would be spent in the interests of the protection of the people, and that so far we have spent £1,500,000 a year and have nothing to show for it except just a toy army.
Mr. Benson: I second the motion, Sir, and first of all I should like to say that I think the Minister has been rather leading away from the terms of the motion in the discussion he instituted with Deputy O'Higgins. One thing the Minister asked for was a description of the word “adequate” which does not occur in the motion at all. As Deputy O'Higgins suggested, this motion, of course, sounds, in a way, out of date when the word “recently” appears in it, but I think that nobody can doubt that at the time this motion was put down, there were, to all intents and purposes, no preparations for air raid precautions in this country. It is possible that, pigeonholed somewhere in the Department, there was a scheme, but as far as the public at large are aware, it existed purely and simply on paper.
There are, of course, those who contend that nothing has been done since then, but of my own knowledge I know that that is not so because the local police station rang us up about two months ago to know the area over which our steam whistle could be heard. We hear also that courses are being given to individuals at the present moment, and I think that, very largely, these deal with the question of gas. There is no statement, however, from the Government of what has been done, what is being done, or what they propose to do, and I think we may take it from that, that very little has been done because, if anything substantial had been done, my view would be that it is the duty of the Government to inform the public to that effect in order to allay the undoubted feeling to the effect that we were so totally unprepared should the danger have arisen in September last. Of course, there are those who hold that no preparations are necessary in this country—that we have nothing to fear. I wish I could subscribe to that, because it must be an extremely happy frame of mind in which to be, but I cannot subscribe to it. I am satisfied that if war should ever break out on the Continent, we would be a target, and to a certain extent I think that the effectiveness of  our preparations will vary the possibilities of our being actually attacked. If an enemy is aware that we are fully prepared, then it is obvious that the moral effect of any attack will be considerably reduced by that preparedness. Others say that preparations should go on behind closed doors, so to speak, but that nothing should be said to the public at large lest it should create panic. Any panic which could possibly be created, however, by the publication of the Government's plans, could not possibly be compared with the panic which could be caused in this city by the dropping of one single bomb on a population entirely unprepared.
Deputy O'Higgins's indictment of the Government was based very largely, I think, from the point of view of the Army. Speaking, however, as one who has been bombed, and who has no desire to be bombed again, my concern is more from the point of view of the civilian population. There are, of course, in my view anyway, two forms of protection, firstly, what might be called the active and, secondly, the passive. In the active I would include the provision of planes and anti-aircraft guns, and in the passive the provision of shelters, auxiliary fire-fighting services and respirators. As to which of these is to be the most important I think it is purely a matter of opinion; it is one man's opinion against another's. There is nothing very definite on which to base a statement. My own view is that the most important of these is the auxiliary fire-fighting services. An incendiary bomb is a very light bomb. A very large number of them can be carried by a single plane. If that single plane were to arrive over this country and drop incendiary bombs it is obvious that the present fire-fighting services would be terribly inadequate to deal with it.
The point has been made in conversations that this motion, or possibly the reason behind this motion, will increase taxation in this country. But we have to take the larger view on that. Our point is that the existing amount of money which is voted would, if it were laid out in a different way, provide a large number of necessary services, and that any increase necessary to expand the programme would not mean a very  great amount. These, anyway, are digressions from the real motion before the House. I certainly say now that the statement that no preparations are being made must be taken as a statement of fact. There is certainly no evidence to the contrary. The only point, therefore, that arises out of this motion is as to whether this committee is or is not to be established. I think that the feeling of the House must be that such a committee is most desirable, and that this country must certainly have such services as a protection against possible attack from the air. Any other view would apparently only indicate a sort of Rip Van Winkle idea, that the person who puts it forward must have been oblivious for quite a long period as to the things that are happening in the outside world. I myself would think that to have allowed the country to have got into the unprepared state in which it was last September does call for an inquiry such as is suggested in this motion.
Minister for Defence (Mr. Aiken): I am glad indeed that attention has been called to the problem of air-raid precautions. Deputy Benson mentioned here to-night that there was a number of people in Dublin, as well as throughout the rest of the country, who held that nothing should be done. There is a very big number indeed.
Mr. Aiken: I say there is a very big number indeed. The Deputy says there are some. Nobody knows that better than I and the people in my Department who are trying to organise air-raid precautions. Deputy O'Higgins holds himself forth to-night as somebody who has the very opposite point of view—that instead of nothing having been done, that everything should be done—that, as a matter of fact, everything should have been done years ago. The Deputy proposes to set up a committee to find out why everything was not done prior to last September. I think the time of the Fine Gael members who, the Deputy proposes, should sit on this committee, would be much  better spent and a much more valuable return got, if their Party were first to get an agreed policy amongst themselves on this question of defence generally.
Deputy O'Higgins said that he never refused a penny for this work but Deputy O'Higgins is not the Fine Gael Party and he does not speak for all members of it. I say that because other members of the Fine Gael Party have strenuously opposed my efforts to get more money here for Air Raid Precautions and the extension of defence generally. It was not years ago that they opposed it, but even within the past nine months, when the European situation was getting more serious than it has been for years. When I asked in recent months for £600,000 to be spent on defence purposes generally it was opposed. We were asked to drop it. We were told that we should not spend any more money on it. I was bitterly accused of having increased the Army expenditure by £420,000. The Deputy's leader, the leader here in the House, at any rate, said we should do nothing, that we should abolish the Forces that we have. Deputies will remember Deputy Dillon's speech on the Defence Vote last year. He said that the only defence we should have was the threat that if anybody came in and threatened to bomb us here, we would resist with another 700 years of war.
I think it would be a very good idea if the members of the Fine Gael Party, whom Deputy O'Higgins would ask to sit on this committee, would sit down and evolve an agreed policy of defence to be stood over by that Party. They are the second largest Party in this House and they, at least, should have a definite line of defence and a definite policy on the matter. It is a big enough issue for the Party to discuss; the House should know what is in the Fine Gael minds about it. But we have Deputy O'Higgins, when it suits him, saying that he never refused a penny for Army expenditure, and at other times, and when it suits them, we have other members of the Fine Gael Party, including their leader here in this House, saying that not a single penny  should be spent on this service. I hope when we are discussing the Supplementary Estimates, that some member of the Fine Gael Party will be authorised to disclose here the official policy of that Party in regard to defence—whether it is that we should spend nothing on defence measures, or that we should spend very much more than we are doing.
When I asked Deputy O'Higgins here to-night what he meant by protection in regard to A.R.P., he said I should know that myself. When I pressed him further, he said that it meant adequate fighting planes, a sufficiency of anti-aircraft guns, advice for the population how to act, and gas masks for everybody. If we are to guarantee safety for every one in this country and take the precautions that are necessary to ensure that that guarantee would be effective, and that no one is going to get hurt in an air raid, what is it going to cost? If we could get the people to devote all their energies to preparations, I am sure it would cost something in the nature of several thousands of millions of pounds in order to make that guarantee effective. That is no exaggeration. If we are to guarantee the people that no one is going to get hurt in an air raid, we would have to build our towns and houses fifty feet below the earth, and have them properly air conditioned, and as well start building our factories under the ground in the same way. Now the people are not prepared to face that situation, in my opinion, because it would mean that they would have to take so much precaution against dying in case of war, that life would not be worth living. It would become oppressive. But I do believe that we can, with a fair amount of expenditure of our energy and money, give fair protection to the people against air raids. Over a number of years we have been studying the problem in the Department of Defence, and we have been making plans to give the people the best protection we can with the expenditure of the minimum amount of money. Back in 1937, I introduced in this House, for the first time in an Army Estimate, a sum of £1,000 for A.R.P. purposes. It was a beginning. When that Estimate was  framed back in 1936, there was no fuss such as we had last September. I explained, at the time, that we were providing this sum in order to make a beginning with this service, so that we would have some knowledge of the problem, and so that we would be able to extend it should the occasion require.
After that Estimate was put through the Dáil, we set up a branch in my Department consisting of senior and highly efficient civil servants, and of a number of military officers, who were put on the study of A.R.P., so as to get all the information they could at home and abroad. Last year we started to extend the knowledge that we had to the general public. Now, there was no use in starting by distributing handbooks to the general public. We had to train instructors, and we started on the training of instructors long before Deputy O'Higgins thought of putting down this motion.
Mr. Aiken: I am sure it is the Deputy's humility that forces him to that conclusion. However, because of Deputy O'Higgins, we started a couple of years ago to deal with the A.R.P. problem, and we reached this position before September: that we have a number of civilian instructors who were passed as being fit to instruct the general public. September came along. It helped the development of A.R.P., while it may have frightened a lot of people. It helped the branch in my Department which was dealing with this question. It got the general public to take a much more lively interest in the work, and got a number of them, who were willing, to come forward and help. The result was that before the end of last year we had 400 or 500 instructors, public officials and others, trained as instructors. Those men are  now actively engaged in conveying their information to the people who are being organised as A.R.P. services. In the City of Dublin, the Dublin Corporation have set up an A.R.P. department. They have appointed a director, who has appointed air wardens. A number of corporation officials has been trained as instructors. They are holding classes at the moment, and will continue to hold classes until a sufficient number of people are trained in Dublin as air raid wardens, auxiliary firemen, decontaminating squads, first aid parties, and so forth. It may have been that all that should have been done back in 1932, or back in 1926.
However, it is being done at the moment, and if Deputy O'Higgins wants to hold me responsible for not having it done up to the present time, well and good. It seems to me, however, that the same sort of complaint, that Deputy O'Higgins is making here to-night, is not a new one in the world. It has been made in every country in the world, practically, in the last few months.
Mr. Aiken: The same sort of speech that Deputy O'Higgins made here to-night has been made in practically every country in the world, within the last three months: that adequate precautions were not taken, and that everything was wrong. As I say, if we  want to guarantee the safety of the people, to give the guarantee to them that no one is going to be hurt, that is going to mean the expenditure of a great amount of money, and to the spending of that amount of money the Deputy's colleagues would object, if he himself did not. They have strenuously opposed the spending of money here on this purpose in the past, and I have no doubt whatever that they would oppose the spending of further sums for the same purpose. Whoever is responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves, that A.R.P. is not organised properly, either in Dublin or throughout the country, I think that it would be a good result of this resolution, or of any other discussion, if it secured that something more were done.
A number of people are unduly afraid of air raids, and some people are so inconsequent, and have such little imagination that they do not fear them at all. If, however, the citizens, in towns likely to be attacked, only spent a fair amount of their leisure in training as auxiliary firemen, air raid wardens, decontamination personnel or first-aid personnel, I feel that the casualties in connection with air raids could be reduced to such an extent that there would be no knock-out blow inflicted on us by air raids.
I propose, when I come to the Estimate, to deal with the steps we are taking for the active portion of our precautions against air raids. To-night, I want to concentrate on the passive end of it, that is, on what should be done by the people themselves in order to reduce the casualties to a minimum. There are three things which we have to fear—gas, high explosive bombs and incendiary bombs. With proper masks and instruction, gas would not overcome us completely. We can deal with gas if the people know how to recognise it and take the proper precautions, and if there is a sufficient medical service properly trained in order to deal with any casualties that might occur. The high explosive bomb is a very different problem. If we were to make sure that nobody could be hurt by a high explosive bomb, as I have said  already, we would have to build our cities 50 feet below the ground. However, the casualties from high explosive bombs can be reduced to a minimum if ordinary precautions are taken against splinters, or blast. With a little expenditure of time and material, every person who has a garden or back-yard available in the city can build a trench or protection against blast and splinters. I think that every man who has a sense of his responsibilities, even though he might not agree that war is going to come to Europe, or that, if it comes to Europe, it will come to us, will take the precaution of building an adequate, or fairly adequate, trench or other protection against high explosive bombs.
The third thing we have to fear is the incendiary bomb. These, though small, are very effective. If there were a large number of incendiary bombs dropped, and only a very small number of people to deal with them, they could create great destruction indeed; but if the citizens of Dublin and other large towns will join the A.R.P. organisation, when called on, and spend a little of their leisure in getting to know how to deal with incendiary bombs, they are not going to cause very great destruction. They can be dealt with effectively.
Mr. Aiken: The people in the flats, like the people in houses, will have to get into air-raid shelters. The Dublin Corporation at the moment are setting up their A.R.P. staff, and we have asked them to get an engineer at work to inspect the various new flats and other buildings in Dublin to see how many of their basements can be used as shelters in time of air-raid. We are making a start in Dublin with the organisation of A.R.P., because it is our most difficult task. It is the biggest target and, as anybody can see, it is the target most likely to be aimed at in the country. The Dublin Corporation, as I said, has appointed a director and that director has appointed air-raid wardens. These air-raid wardens will be asking for volunteers to join the A.R.P. organisation, and I  hope the citizens of Dublin will join that organisation. If they do, they will be ensuring that the citizens generally will be organised so as not to panic, if an air-raid should ever, unfortunately, take place here, and they will be ensuring, by the training of our citizens, that casualties and the destruction of premises will be reduced to a minimum.
My Department has been in touch with the City Manager in regard to the expenses in connection with A.R.P., and, through the Manager, we have made a certain offer to the Dublin Corporation. We have told them that the Government is prepared to meet a certain portion of the expenses in connection with A.R.P. We have a few hundred thousand gas masks held in store, which the Government has purchased and which it is proposed to issue free to the civilian population who have to remain in the city in time of war or emergency. We have told the corporation that we are prepared to meet a certain portion of the cost of additional fire-fighting equipment, and of any expenses the corporation might incur in changing over the lighting system of the city, so that lights could be blackened out quickly upon receipt of warning. We have told the corporation, also, that we are holding a number of gas protection suits and a quantity of decontamination material, and I am glad to say that the manager and the staff have been co-operating with us in an enthusiastic manner. I hope that, before a very long time has passed, we will have, here in Dublin, a properly organised air-raid precautions service, which will include air raid wardens who will be in charge of a certain number of streets to instruct the people how to don their gas masks, how to deal with incendiary bombs, how to make trenches for protection against high explosive bombs, and to advise those who can get out of the city in time of war to do so and to get out further into the country.
We are also closely engaged in making plans for the evacuation of children, of the aged and of invalids. We hope that those who can evacuate their own families, if their presence in Dublin is not necessary, will do so,  and send them to the country, and thus not be putting the responsibility on the State and on the public authorities for doing what they should do themselves. The success of air raid precautions largely depends on the people themselves. If we were to spend £100,000,000 on the organisation and staffing of air raid services by paid officials, it would not be half as effective in saving our people from casualties and saving our property from destruction as if all the intelligent citizens spent a few hours learning how to protect themselves. I do not propose to go any further into the question of air raid precautions to-night.
While Deputy O'Higgins said he was prepared to deal with Army expenditure in a non-partisan spirit, he gave a demonstration to the contrary. I propose to ignore what he said with reference to myself. It is not worth dealing with, but I do want to object to the impression he tried to create to-night that if a crisis had occurred last September, the Army could not have given a good account of itself. He said that the rifles could only bark for two minutes, and that the artillery could not bark for more than 20 minutes. That is absolutely untrue. Over the past six or seven years, since I went to the Department of Defence, we have been increasing each year the amount of money that went into war material. Prior to 1932, when I took over, the average amount spent on war material was much less than 5 per cent. of the total Army Vote. I raised that proportion, as well as I could, by degrees, with the sanction of the Government, until in 1937 I got the percentage up to 12½ of the total Army Vote. I grant that the total amount of war material we were able to provide, even with that 12½ per cent., was very small if we take the standards of the big continental countries. But the increase to 12½ per cent. of the total Army Vote resulted in our building up a reserve both of small arms and artillery ammunition which was several times as great as the reserve I found in the Department when I went there. If a war had taken place last September, and if we had been involved in it, we should have  been able to give a ten times better account of ourselves than we would have been able to do had a war broken out in 1932.
I think that Deputy O'Higgins knows that situation as well as I do. Here to-night, for purely partisan and Party purpose, he made allegations in regard to the unpreparedness of the Army that are absolutely without a shadow of foundation. I resent those allegations. On behalf of the officers of the Army, I resent also the allegation made here to-night that those officers were going around the city saying what the Deputy attributed to them. The officers of the Army and I know perfectly well that we have not the equipment possessed by huge continental countries. They know that we have been spending very much less in this way than other nations of our size, but what we did spend during the last few years we spent to the best possible advantage. We spent it in order to build up an Army which would give a good account of itself, and a good account of the material placed at its disposal. The Deputy alleged that we spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on different types of uniform which should have gone to the provision of gas masks and other equipment. I presume the Deputy was alluding to the Volunteer uniforms. The Volunteer uniforms are no more costly than ordinary service dress, and no extra money was, therefore, spent on them that——
Mr. Aiken: Even at the moment we have not a sufficient reserve of uniforms for the standing Army and reserves. The balance of the old service uniforms that were in reserve—overcoats—we used for the Volunteers. The only reserve we had of any account was in overcoats, and they were used for the Volunteers. Therefore, it is untrue to say that we spent money on Volunteer uniforms that should have gone to other purposes. They were no more costly than the ordinary uniforms. That statement of the Deputy is similar to a number of other statements which I  do not propose to answer in the same detail. I wish the Deputy would live up, in the House, to the statement that he wants to treat Army affairs in a non-partisan way. He says that in one breath and, in the next, he comes to the conclusion that he wants a change of administration because of the Army. He is using the Army simply as a weapon to discredit the present Administration. He is using the Defence Votes in a partisan way. I wish we could get to the stage that the Army Votes would be approached in a national, instead of a Party, way. I may have said offensive things often here in the House, when driven to it. I am not always in the same state of grace as I am to-night, please God, I will not be until I get my own back on Deputy O'Higgins.
I have tried, when dealing with the Army Vote, to deal with it in a non-partisan way, and if we can only be met by Deputies on the opposite benches in the same spirit, we can have a national policy in regard to defence. That is what we want. Allegations, statements without foundation, such as were thrown around here to-night by the Deputy, abusive language of the type that he used, exaggerated statements, are of no help either in framing an army policy or getting our citizens to co-operate in building up our defences.
We are going to ask the people for more money for defence purposes, and, when we ask for an increased amount, I hope that Deputy O'Higgins will get his Party to stand in with the Government in imposing whatever taxation may be necessary in order to get adequate material and sufficient personnel for the Army. The Deputy is not going to have it both ways. If, when we bring in an Estimate asking for more money, making provision for an increase in the Budget, he or any member of his Party objects, then I will remind him of what he has said here to-night when he advocated that more money should be provided in relation to air raid precautions and other services.
Dr. O'Higgins: We have just witnessed an exhibition of the type of mentality that resulted in the  appalling situation that existed last September. We had a speech from a person holding a responsible position that was at best a glib, cheap, political speech, padded with an amount of utter nonsense. As a speech from a Minister for Defence, in a world perturbed with wars and rumours of wars, it was about the most unworthy exhibition that was ever listened to in any Parliament. In so far as it was an attempt to evade the motion, it was rather cunning, and in so far as any man, in a Parliament that is supposed to exist along the lines of decent courtesy, can think that any motion or any speech is met, and adequately met, and fairly met, by a Minister standing up from a Government Front Bench merely to characterise every utterance of his political opponent as being untrue, that is scarcely fair either to the Parliament, to the State or to the Army which he represents.
Surely, we should have reached the point in Irish public life that, even if we have got to disagree on policies and not always accept the statements of another, we can meet it in some other way than by baldly characterising it as being untrue. I could say the same with regard to statements of the Minister in reference to the situation in Ireland last September and there would be at least this difference between us, that I was here last September and the Minister was missing. There would be at least that much substantiation for my statement vis-á-vis his, but it would be an entirely unworthy and undignified argument.
The main proof of the justice and the truth of the motion is the rather lengthy attempt of the Minister to avoid discussing it. We had an account of what was done in 1936, and we had a rather long and interesting lecture on A.R.P., which can be heard any day in Griffith Barracks. We had a long and interesting account of what was done since October, but we had no reference to the point in the motion about the conditions that existed in September. There the Minister showed his wisdom, but he merely showed his vindictiveness when he got up to characterise every statement  made as untrue. I know the Minister, and I know that if the statements made were untrue, he would gaily accept the terms of the motion and he would appoint a committee to find the statements untrue. When Deputy McGilligan once made a statement on this side of the House that Ministers opposite thought was untrue, within 24 hours there was a committee set up to inquire into it and establish the truth or otherwise. It is the same Ministry that is opposite still, and if there was anything untrue or inaccurate in the statements made by me, and justly made by me,the Minister would be greedily anxious to prove the falsity of those statements.
The fact of the matter is, and I repeat it, that since the Minister became responsible for the Department of Defence there was no Army Estimate, not a single one in my recollection, voted against in this House. Anything he asked for every year, increasing though it was one year on top of another, was granted without a bitter debate, as was previously the fashion, and without bell-ringing or a vote. Every Estimate went through year after year for eight years and, at the end of eight years, with no criticism, no opposition, no vote, no trouble with regard to getting money, we had nothing to show when danger threatened. All the abuse of Deputies over here that the Minister is capable of uttering will not alter the facts and will not disabuse or fool the people who lived through the month of September in this city.
It would be a bolder and more honest course to come and say that things were bad in September, but that you hope to have them better in the near future. In that attitude you would get assistance and co-operation. But neither assistance nor co-operation nor money will the Minister get without opposition from here if we are to be treated as dupes, simpletons and fools with no sense of responsibility towards the taxpayer who is providing the money; if we are expected to accept the scandalous and deplorable state of affairs last September without investigation, without examination, without analysis, and to ladle  out hundreds of thousands of pounds more to be handled or mishandled by the same Administration that had nothing to show last September.
It is all very well to make a speech here with the majority behind you and characterise the utterances of an Opposition Deputy as being untrue. There is a parliamentary procedure that can easily settle the truth or the untruth of the statements made. All the Minister is asked to do in this motion is to investigate the truths or untruths, as the case may be, by means of a committee in which his Party will have the majority. In spite of his glib phrases with regard to falsehoods uttered from here, he proposes, without investigation and without examining into the truth of the statements made, to come back here in a week's time and look for £500,000 more, to send good money after bad. He proposes to send some tons of gold to be mishandled and misspent after the tens of tons that have gone before. That is the position in one of the poorest countries in Europe, a country emerging from a state of affairs that bent the strongest man in it.
Whatever the Minister's views may be, I would imagine that there is enough sense of responsibility in the Executive as a whole to decide, after the deplorable exhibition of conditions last September, that before Parliament would be asked to put up a huge sum by way of addition for expenditure in the Army, that the advisability of a change would have struck even the simplest person following political affairs, the advisability of putting in somebody in whom the people and the Parliament would have confidence, to ask for more money. But when one has been given a free hand, has been tried and found deficient, the idea of leaving the same person here to come back, merely relying on a majority, to get more money is not either treating  the Parliament or the country properly.
As I said to the Minister, no money has ever been refused since he went over there, or we came over here, but until there is some gesture by the Government that when things are not right, or when the public are firm in the belief that things are not right, the fears of the public will be at least considered before more money is asked for and that a full, thorough, searching and comprehensive commission or committee will inquire into affairs, and if they are wrong, fix the responsibility and make a change, he cannot expect co-operation from us. That is what is asked for in this motion. This motion refers most explicitly to conditions last September. He would be a very wise man indeed who, listening from beginning to end of the Minister's statement, could guess to what motion he was speaking. September was avoided as if it were an evil month. He dealt with 1936 and 1937, with December, 1938, and January and February, 1939, but the one month to which he dared not refer, the one month to which he was clever enough to avoid referring, was the month referred to in the motion, the month when people were alive and awake to the reality, the awfulness and the imminence of war, the one month in 15 years in which the eyes and the minds of the people turned to the Army and, when the eyes and the minds of the people turned in that direction, they found neither solace, comfort nor protection. It is not unreasonable, with that conviction in the public mind, that somebody in the Dáil should suggest that at least there is something there to be inquired into. It is not unreasonable to suggest that a committee appointed by the Selection Committee of this House should inquire into it and report back to the Dáil before further moneys are demanded from the people.
Bennett, George C.
Benson, Ernest E.
Broderick, William J. Daly, Patrick.
Dillon, James M.
Dockrell, Henry M.
Doyle, Peadar S.
Esmonde, John L.
Gorey, Denis J.
Cosgrave, William T.
Costello, John A.
Curran, Richard. McFadden, Michael Og.
O'Higgins, Thomas F.
O'Sullivan, John M.
Redmond, Bridget M.
Rogers, Patrick J.
Childers, Erskine H.
Corry, Martin J.
De Valera, Eamon.
Fogarty, Patrick J.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Kelly, James P.
Kennedy, Michael J.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick J.
Lynch, James B.
McDevitt, Henry A.
O Briain, Donnchadh.
O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
O'Loghlen, Peter J.
Pattison, James P.
Rice, Brigid M.
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