Wednesday, 26 March 1947
Dáil Éireann Debate
That a sum not exceeding £505,290 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1948, for Wound and Disability Pensions, Further Pensions and Married Pensions, Allowances and Gratuities (No. 26 of 1923, No. 12 of 1927, No. 24 of 1932, No. 15 of 1937, No. 2 of 1941, No. 14 of 1943 and No. 3 of 1946); Military Service Pensions, Allowances and Gratuities (No. 48 of 1924, No. 26 of 1932, No. 43 of 1934, No. 33 of 1938, No. 5 of 1944 and Nos.  11 and 34 of 1945); Pensions, Allowances and Gratuities (No. 37 of 1936); Payments in respect of Compensation for Members of the Local Defence Force (No. 19 of 1946); and for sundry Contributions and Expenses in respect thereof, etc.
Sub-head A. This deals with the salaries and allowances of the statutory body of the Army Pensions Board and its small administrative staff. The increase of £1,000 is principally due to the consolidation of bonus. The board deals with the awards of pensions, gratuities and allowances and, where temporary, with the revision of those awards to members of the Defence Forces, the pre-Truce organisations and to seamen and civilians injured by bombing during the emergency. During the past year, it has handled 1,306 cases, including 253 revisions. Pensions or allowances were awarded to 748 persons, gratuities to 25, and there were 533 rejections. Included in the cases dealt with by the board are 163 cases which were medically examined at local centres by doctors who have been appointed pensions medical officers for the purpose, thus obviating the necessity for the applicants travelling to Dublin for their examination and considerably relieving the pressure on the board.
Sub-head B. As it may be possible to deal with all cases either in Dublin or by pension medical officers, travelling is unlikely but a token has been taken to enable travelling to be under-taken if considered necessary.
Sub-head C. This sub-head deals with the wound and disability pensions and gratuities payable under the various Army Pensions Acts, and shows a decrease of £9,174. This decrease is due to the fact that the number of pensions payable in 1946/47 was less than that provided for.
When the Estimate for 1946-47 was framed, there were under payment 1,426 pensions, and at the rate then  obtaining it was expected that new pensions would accrue at the rate of about 27 a month, so that by September, 1946, we should have about 1,750 on the Pensions Register. Actually, however, there were only 1,570, or about 180 below the figure expected. There were various reasons for this. For one thing, death took toll of about 62; for another, about 22 ceased to be eligible for awards; and the balance it attributable to the fact that a smaller number of persons qualified for pension than was anticipated. The 1,570 pensions actually under payment will cost £130,141, and provision is being made for 286 new pensions estimated to cost £26,659, including non-recurring arrears of £7,070. For gratuities in respect of wound applications which do not reach the required minimum of 20 per cent. disability, we are providing £400, so that the total of this sub-head will be £157,200.
Sub-head D. This sub-head deals with the dependents of deceased officers and soldiers and of members of the pre-Truce organisations. The decrease here is £7,837 and is attributable partly to the three factors—death, cesser and the smaller number of awards—mentioned under sub-head C, but mainly to a reduction in the amount, £2,425, taken for gratuities to the partial dependents of officers and soldiers, against the £10,600 taken in the Estimate for 1946-47. At the beginning of that financial year, there was a large arrear of applications for partial dependency pending the passing of the 1946 Army Pensions Act, and all such arrears were cleared during the year. We are now providing for 607 actual and 141 potential allowances under this heading. The actual allowances are costing £19,754 and the potential are estimated at £2,651. Gratuities to partial dependents are taken at £2,425 and educational fees at £300, giving a total of £25,130.
 Sub-head F. This sub-head deals with the cost of treating applicants for pensions and temporary pensioners under revision at St. Bricin's Hospital. The decrease of £1,000 is due partly to the fact that applicants are being dealt with more expeditiously and partly to the local examination of cases by pensions medical officers.
Sub-head G. The decrease of £49,000 on this sub-head, which deals with military service pensions under the 1924 and 1934 Acts, is due to a number of causes. Deputies will remember that on a former occasion I mentioned that a number of service certificates had been granted to members of the Old I.R.A. resident overseas who had not claimed the resultant pensions. For the past few years, we have been budgetting for such pensions materialising and in 1946-47 inserted for them as contingent liabilities the sum of £52,537. This year, that amount has been reduced to £20,940, giving a decrease of £31,597. The second cause is that, as the work of the Referee is practically completed, the number of new pensions has been reduced from 79 to 15, giving a decrease with arrears of £13,177. The third factor is that the abatement figure has increased by £6,439, so that there is a further decrease of that amount on the sub-head. This gives a decrease of £51,213, but, against this, there is an increase of £2,213 on the pensions already under payment, leaving a net decrease of £49,000. Deputies will note that, despite the favourable awards made during the year by the Referee and also the increase under the 1924 Act, due to retired officers coming on pension, the figure for old pensions remains practically static, showing only an increase of four when compared with last year's figure. This is due to the fact that about 140 holders of these pensions passed away during the year.
Sub-head H. This sub-head is concerned with the retired pay and gratuities of officers, the pensions and gratuities of other ranks of the Defence Forces, and with the pensions payable to the widows and orphans of officers who die in service or after retirement. Deputies will observe that the number on the Pensions Register has increased  from 296 to 628, with an increased cost of £36,231. This, of course, is due to retirements or discharges on reaching the normal age prescribed by Defence Force Regulations or on completion of service. Next year, it is anticipated that about 30 officers will retire, that 604 other ranks will be discharged on completion of service, and provision is also being made for three widows' pensions, the total cost being £28,133, a decrease on last year's figure of £5,725. For gratuities, as distinct from pensions payable to married officers, short service officers and soldiers, and to nurses, we are taking £30,485 as against £80,630, a decrease of £50,145. The decrease on the gross total is, therefore, £19,639, and when the increase on abatements of £761 is added, there is a net decrease on the sub-head of £20,400.
Sub-head I. By virtue of this sub-head we are enabled to pay the expenses of applicants for Army pensions attending for medical examination, and, hitherto, to pay the expenses of witnesses attending before the Referee. Now that the latter's work is practically completed, no provision has been made for witnesses before the Referee, and this is the main factor in the decrease of £2,500.
Sub-head J. As will be seen from the Estimate itself, the reduction of £200 on this sub-head is due to the omission of any provision for travelling by the office staff, and to the fact that medical fees are not expected to be as high as heretofore.
Sub-head L. This sub-head deals with allowances payable to members of the old L.D.F. disabled in the course of duty and for medical expenses, etc., incurred in their treatment. There are at present 33 allowances under payment against 27 last year, and the Estimate provides for 6 fresh cases. The increase is, therefore, due to the larger number of cases and to increased expenditure on medical treatment.
 Sub-head M. The special allowances payable under this sub-head were originally confined by the Army Pensions Act, 1943, to persons who had served during Easter Week, but the Act of 1946 extended the allowances to all persons who had been continuous members of the pre-Truce organisation for three months prior to 11th July, 1921. With this extension it is only natural to expect an increase in the number of allowances, and, accordingly, the number under payment when the Estimate was framed has jumped from 50 to 107, costing £6,944. The provision of £21,586 allows for another 237 cases, and it is more than likely that this charge will increase with the passing of time. The Army Pensions Board to date has dealt with 331 applications, of which 239 were successful and 92 rejected. There are also 159 under investigation.
Summarising the Estimate as far as it concerns the payment of pensions, it will be seen that under sub-heads C, D, G, H, K, L and M, provision is being made for the following:—16,780 pensions or allowances already under payment, £637,912; 1,432 new pensions or allowances, £70,218; arrears of pensions, £37,260; gratuities, £33,310. Total, £778,000; less deductions, £31,596, making a net total of £747,104.
Deputies will notice that no provision is made in this Estimate for the Referee and his staff. This is because we expect that the work on military service pensions will be completed at the end of the financial year. During the past year, the Referee has dealt with 604 cases and has heard 317 applicants or appellants together with 414 witnesses.
Mr. Cosgrave: The Minister should issue in some convenient form a list of the different beneficiaries, setting out the types in receipt of pensions under the different Army Pensions Acts. The Minister no doubt realises that we have had quite a large number of Army Pensions Acts dating from 1923 until last year. There has not been an Act every year but, with certain short intervals, there have been quite a number of Acts and occasionally there has been an Act each year dealing with  some aspect of pensions. In addition, there are the Army pension schemes promulgated by the Minister's Department and, taking the Acts and schemes together, it is a rather complicated matter to decide under which particular section of an Act or a scheme an applicant may come. For the sake of convenience—I suggest it would assist many people—a list should be compiled of the beneficiaries under the various Acts, setting out the type of recipient and the number to date.
As regards the delay in dealing with applications for pensions, the Minister, in reply to a question to-day, said a considerable number had been dealt with and he did not anticipate as great a delay in the future as was the case recently. Every effort should be made, even by transferring staff from some sections of the Department to the pensions section in order to expedite the clearing of these cases. A number of applicants have had to wait quite a protracted period before they received their pensions. In many cases these men were out of work and they incurred various liabilities. While in some cases the receipt of the pension enabled them to defray their liabilities, in other cases, when the pension was refused, a difficulty arose. The applicant had incurred liability, probably on the assumption that he would get a pension. When the pension was refused he had nothing with which to cover his liabilities. In the future, it ought to be possible to expedite the consideration of these cases.
I should like to refer to what may be regarded as a chestnut so far as pensions are concerned. Despite the theoretical efficiency of the Army Pensions Board and the system under which it operates, there is dissatisfaction amongst Army pensioners concerning the question of disability. Numbers of these men, on entry into the Army, were certified as being in good health. They served for a period and were discharged because of ill-health. Later, when they applied for pensions, it was found that the ill-health was not attributable to Army service. I appreciate that under the 1946 Act some modification of the former stringent interpretation  of these words, “ill-health not contracted during Army service” has resulted, but still quite a large number of ex-Army men who have applied for pensions are dissatisfied with the operation of the test as applied to the health of an applicant.
The Minister must appreciate that if a man, on entry into the Army, is certified as being in good health and is subsequently discharged because of ill-health and, when he applies for a pension, he finds the ill-health for which he receives his discharge does not entitle him to a pension, some explanation is required. I suggest some modification of the pensions schemes in order to cover certain hard cases where an applicant, after a period of service, and who was formerly in good health, finds himself discharged because of tuberculosis or whatever form of ill-health from which he might be suffering.
I wish to call attention to cases which have recently come to my notice of ex-Army men who have had 21 to 23 years' service. Some of them have served, for almost their entire period of service, as non-commissioned officers and, towards the end of their Army career, they were commissioned and they applied later for pensions. For some reason these men have been turned down. I understood that if they were not covered as officers they certainly would be covered as non-commissioned officers. I should like the Minister to examine these cases and also the section in the pensions schemes which prevents a person who has served for over 21 years, probably for a considerable proportion of that time as a non-commissioned officer and for some portion of that time as an officer, and who applies for a pension——
Mr. Cosgrave: Full service. I have one case in mind of an officer who actually drew my attention to this matter and there were at least seven others of whom he was personally aware. He served as a non-commissioned officer for a long time and he was subsequently commissioned. Then when he applied for a pension it was  found he was ineligible. I understand that information was conveyed to these men that some modification of the scheme was intended but it does seem rather extraordinary that these people who have given full service and who in the normal way, if they had continued their service as non-commissioned officers, would have received a pension, subsequently found that they were ineligible for a pension because they had been commissioned. I suggest that information should be conveyed to them now that it is proposed to amend the scheme and that active consideration would be given by the Minister to the question of having these cases covered.
Mr. Corish: I should like to protest, because I have been asked to do so, against the treatment meted out to Old I.R.A. men in County Wexford and especially in Enniscorthy, who turned out in Easter Week, 1916. I refer not so much to particular cases in which I have been interested, but to the claims of the men in general. My complaint is not founded on hearsay as several men who took part in the Easter Week Rising have represented to me that their claims for pensions were unjustly turned down. I have found that people who were awarded pensions for service during that period are unanimous in the opinion that men who have expressed such dissatisfaction are fully justified in doing so. In some places men who did not receive pensions had practically identical records with those who did. I think I am safe in saying that Wexford, and Enniscorthy in particular, contributed more than any other area in Ireland outside Dublin to the Easter Week Rising. Yet, it is a strange thing that out of 269 claims submitted by the men of Enniscorthy only 92 were passed. Usually the technical answer, the very short abrupt answer, that was given when the claims were being rejected, was that they were not persons to whom the Act applied.
Apart from these men, I think the Cumann na mBan were treated even worse. It seems to be a rule of the Army Pensions Board that a man, to become entitled to a pension, must  have taken part in some actual fight or must have had some shots fired at him in any particular activity in which he participated. In ordinary Army service, in the present Army, a soldier under certain conditions is entitled to a pension. Surely it is not too much to ask that the men who turned out in 1916 in County Wexford, or for that matter in any other place, should receive at least as much consideration as the men who are entitled to ordinary Army pensions. It was an unpopular thing to be a member of the I.R.A. at that particular time. The very fact of being in the I.R.A. involved a certain danger for the men concerned. Even if they did not take part in an action in which there were shots fired or in a skirmish of some kind, the fact that they were all engaged in either making munitions, cutting communications, destroying railways or in taking over premises, was sufficient to warrant their getting a pension because actually they were in daily danger of their lives.
It was not a sporadic movement in Enniscorthy in 1916. These men had been actively engaged in the formation of the I.R.B. and subsequently of the I.R.A. from 1911 onwards. They had been preparing all that time for the fight which culminated in Easter Week, 1916. Even in 1914 these men were employed in raiding parties. They were organised into bands to collect war materials and they were making munitions. They even adopted the tactics of the men of '98 in making hand-pikes. They were so sincere that they actually made hand-pikes to fight the might of the British Empire. They were mobilised on Easter Sunday and did not lay down their arms when the order to rise was countermanded. They remained under arms until Thursday until they knew Dublin had risen and they engaged in activities which were beneficial to the insurrection in the City of Dublin.
I stress the point that these men should receive greater consideration than men who were applicants for ordinary Army pensions. I stress it because of the fact that by their association with the I.R.A. their lives were endangered. It is only through  some technicality that they were not granted the pensions they claimed. Let me give an example of the case of a man who was ordered to take over certain premises. He took them without a struggle, but if he had been fortunate or unfortunate enough to have been fired on he would have been entitled to a pension. The Army Pensions Board forgot that the danger was there all the time, that a shot might be fired at him, but just because no shot was fired at him his claim was disallowed. There are cases from County Wexford in which the Army Pensions Board have taken evidence from a man on behalf of an applicant for a pension and where that applicant was given a pension but the man who gave the evidence and who had been in charge in 1916 of the successful applicant had his own claim disallowed. Yet the Army Pensions Board were prepared to accept evidence from him.
Again I say that the case of the Enniscorthy men was somewhat different from cases in any other part of the country. Had the order to surrender come a day later, Enniscorthy would have probably seen as bloody a struggle as took place in the City of Dublin because the men were prepared to fight and to do their utmost in this struggle which everybody knows gave us the measure of independence that we enjoy to-day.
Could the State even at the present not reconsider the claims of these men? It is not a question of men being disgruntled just because they did not succeed in getting pensions. Let me assure the House that every single man whose claim was passed and who is in receipt of a pension will wholeheartedly support the claims of the men who did not get pensions because they believe that these men were treated unjustly. I also allege that they were treated unjustly because I am convinced that they were debarred from getting a pension through some technical regulation. I would appeal to the Minister that, in so far as there is a decrease in the Estimate under sub-head G, he should pay special attention to the claims of these men in  County Wexford, and in North Wexford in particular. They have a justifiable claim. They may be debarred by reason of technicalities in the regulations, but it would be worth the Minister's while to show that the State was appreciative of the effort which these men made in Easter Week.
I support Deputy Cosgrave with regard to delay in arriving at decisions on the part of the Army Pensions Board. I put before the Minister during the year the case of a Mrs. Thorpe, wife of the late Private Michael Thorpe of Shannon Hill, Enniscorthy. Very bad treatment indeed was meted out by the Department in the matter of that man's claim for pension and the Army Pensions Board fell down on their job. The man died before he was brought up for examination. His claim had been in from six to nine months, but, because he died, his widow got no pension. If the board had decided to call that man a fortnight earlier, possibly Mrs. Thorpe, if the decision had been favourable, would not have to be begging and scraping as she is now doing but would be in receipt of a pension. Such delay is scandalous when it affects a woman who loses her bread-winner and who has a family to rear.
I want also to complain with regard to the case of a member of the Maritime Inscription. I put the matter to the Minister during the year and he very kindly agreed to reconsider the case and to examine the expenses incurred by John Breen, of Barrack Street, Wexford, who broke his ankle during manoeuvres with the Maritime Inscription and to pay what he could. The Minister did not pay John Breen for the time he was out of employment by reason of incapacity due to his broken ankle, and, apart from not paying him for the time he was out of work, the Minister did not even consider fully paying the medical expenses which that man incurred. That was the return to John Breen for his activities during the emergency, for having voluntarily given up his amusement after his work and for forfeiting his pleasure on Sundays. He sustained a broken ankle during manoeuvres and the only thing he could get from a grateful Department was about half  the medical expenses he incurred and none of the wages he lost through not being employed. That is scandalous treatment and I hope is not widespread in the matter of the payment of compensation for injuries to members of any section of the Defence Forces. I should like the Minister to look into both of these cases.
Mr. Coogan: I want to support Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Corish on this question of disability. There is a good deal of dissatisfaction on the part of discharged members of the forces in the matter of the assessment of their disability. I know specific cases, some of which I have brought to the Minister's notice, of men who joined the Army, being certified as medically fit and who, on discharge, were certified as unfit and who, to-day, as a result of their incapacity, are unable to obtain civil employment. In these cases, the board found that the disability was not due directly to service in the forces. These men, nevertheless, are in the position that they are unable to pursue the avocation which they pursued prior to joining the Army. I have put it to the Minister already that their number is not very great and some latitude in interpreting the rules and regulations of the Department might be given, so that these men might receive some special treatment.
I know one case in my own native town of a man who is unable to take up his former job of mining and who is permanently on the dole. I was told by the Minister that his was not a tuberculosis case. I do not know what the facts are in that respect, but I understood it to be a tuberculosis case, but, when I raised the matter on a previous occasion, I was informed that he was not found to be suffering from tuberculosis. The position of that man is that he cannot get any employment and cannot go underground in the present condition of his health. He claims that his disability is entirely due to Army service—to wettings he got while in the Army. If there are any cases of that kind, I ask the Minister to give his officials the greatest latitude possible in disposing of them. They are not very numerous and the grant of some little  pension would relieve the miserable condition of these men, who at present have to subsist entirely on the dole.
I also put forward the cases of keymen who, to my mind, rendered far more sterling service in the national movement than the gentlemen who went out cutting trees or blocking roads. I have in mind the case of a man whose house was always at the disposal of the local brigade or battalion staff, where dispatches, arms and communications of all kinds were passed through, a man who, at all times, day and night, took the risk of being caught. In addition to that type of activity, the house was probably, and in the case I have in mind, was definitely, used for the transfer of arms from one area to another, and, not only that, but when headquarters officers or officers from the Dáil department reported to the area, their contacts were invariably found through the instrumentality of keymen of that kind.
The present pension regulations do not cover such cases and it represents a great hardship on the individual concerned, who, to my own knowledge, during the Black and Tan régime, had his premises raided day and night over the years, whose stock was destroyed on several occasions, who was personally assaulted on several occasions, whose family were pulled out of bed and assaulted and whose property was lost. He was not a selfish type of individual and did not seek compensation at the time. He felt that there might be some other way of redressing his grievances but he now finds that he is outside the military service code entirely and not entitled to anything. He is not entitled even to a certificate of honour for the services he rendered.
The case I have in mind, and I am sure there are others, is deserving of some consideration and I ask the Minister, if at all possible, to consider, even at this late date, that type of case, because if it were not for the courage and tenacity of people of that kind, we would not have been able to carry on the national movement in several areas. When officers and men were on the run, these men had to stand their ground, take the risks and endure all the hardships  of the Tan régime. They had to face the music all the time at considerable personal loss to themselves and their families. The service rendered by these people was far more deserving of consideration than the service of a man who, perhaps, on a casual occasion, fired one or two shots, and I appeal to the Minister to do something for these cases. In the particular case I have in mind, the extraordinary fact is that other keymen have been rewarded by pensions who, to my mind, were not at all as deserving of the consideration which these men deserve.
Mr. Blowick: I wish to bring to the Minister's notice a certain type of claimant for I.R.A. pension that should not be turned down but that should at least get some consideration. I refer to company officers, battalion officers, who, as circumstances turned out, did not take part in any actual engagement, but in whose case there is only a very fine line debarring them from an I.R.A. pension. I have one particular case in mind that is similar to many that I am aware of. It is the case of a man who was captain of a company in a particular district. His house was raided. The Tans knew quite well that he was a principal man in the area and his life was not worth a moment's purchase if he fell into their hands. He had to go on the run for a period of at least six months, leaving his aged parents at home to the mercy of the Tans. We know, when they raided and found the person they were looking for absent, the abuse the old people got. We know the loss suffered by virtue of, perhaps, the only ablebodied man in the house being absent for a period of at least six months. There was stock uncared for, crops uncared for. That represented very considerable loss.
I wonder if at this hour anything could be done to give these people some mark of recognition, even if it were only a small gratuity, a lump sum, perhaps £1? It is not for cash that these people are looking. They see comrades and companions of theirs in the fight for freedom drawing pensions and they know quite well that these people did no more than they did but through  some technicality there is some point of difference and these people are debarred. There is no doubt that they carried rifles and ammunition. If they had been caught, instant death would have been their reward. Without these particular officers, independence could never have been achieved. They were brave men to remain as captains of companies and company officers in the various districts. The men who were under arms in the flying columns did a magnificient job of work but these lesser men, if we may call them so, did their share and, if called on to make the supreme sacrifice, there is not a shadow of doubt that they would have done it. I would ask the Minister to consider the question of giving some mark of recognition to them. It is not cash they want but some small recognition that they could hand down to their families as proof, at least, that they were not always asleep while the fight was on.
Mr. Keyes: Last night, Deputies referred to the question of pensions for ex-Army men, particularly those suffering from tuberculosis and other diseases. On the Supplementary Estimate, I referred to cases that had come to my notice and I want again to ask the Minister if anything can be done to obviate the continuing hardship under the existing system. The point is as to whether or not a man was suffering to some degree from tuberculosis when he joined the forces. According to authorities on tuberculosis, very few citizens of this country are completely immune to tuberculosis. On joining the Army, they must have been sufficiently virile to pass the medical test and to serve during the period of emergency. When some of the people I have in mind were discharged from the forces they were told that their disease was not provoked, accelerated or aggravated by their service. With all respect to the medical man who made that decision, I submit that it is a contradiction in terms. If a man was fit to serve and to endure the rigours of the manoeuvres, sleeping out in open trucks—as happened in one case—it would be very hard to agree that the disease was not aggravated by such service.
One of the men that I referred to  had been engaged as a carter, carting from the docks. That is a fairly vigorous employment. He joined the Army and remained in it for a couple of years, when he was discharged, his health being completely broken down, and he has been going from one sanatorium to another since, in the very poorest circumstances. On the last occasion that I raised his case I was trying to get a bed for him in a sanatorium but he was rejected because he is suffering from tuberculosis. He is a hopeless case. Yet, the Army claim that they had nothing to do with it. In a case of that kind there should be some appeal to which the matter could be referred. I am afraid there is a tendency on the part of Army doctors to use the stock phrase that the disease was not incurred during Army service. As I have said on another occasion, if injustice were created in only one instance, the matter should be looked into.
There is another case I have in mind of a man who joined the Army. He had not tuberculosis at that time. He served in the Army and boxed while in the Army. He won several tournaments, cups and medals. He must have been fairly fit. He slept in an open truck in Patrickswell, County Limerick, when on manoeuvres. Immediately afterwards he was moved to the military hospital, where he remained for a month, and where he died. That man left a widow and one child. They did not get one penny because his disease was not attributable to Army service. The doctors cannot be challenged when they say that but in a case where that verdict is at variance with common sense there ought to be some form of appeal to an independent specialist. I do not think the Minister would wish to have hardship inflicted on the dependents of those who served in the Army. I know his mind and attitude on this matter and that he is the kindest of Ministers but he must be aware that these things are happening. It is not good propaganda for the Army in the district where that widow and child are living. It was all right when he joined up but now nobody bothers about his widow and child. He was able to serve in the Army and to win championships.  He died in the military hospital and his funeral expenses were not covered. The wife and child are completely dependent on what the poor law will do for them.
I have quoted two cases. I daresay other Deputies can quote instances of that kind. I suggest that the Minister should look into the matter to see if it would be possible to set up some appeal to deal with such cases. It is scarcely good enough, in such cases, for the authorities to wash their hands of the case on the certificate of the military doctor and to say that they accept no further responsibility. I urge the Minister to give this matter serious consideration with a view to setting up some impartial medical appeal to which cases of glaring injustice of that kind could be taken.
Minister for Defence (Mr. Traynor): In reply to the question raised by Deputy Cosgrave at the beginning of the debate, I should like to say that we are endeavouring to bring about a consolidation of the Acts. I think that, when that is done, it will meet the requirements which the Deputy is anxious to have met. Unfortunately, it will take some little time. The Deputy understands this matter better than I do, and he knows it will take a much longer period to do that than to get out the simple list that might meet his requirements. As I understand it, what the Deputy is anxious to secure is a list of the people who are entitled to disability pensions, people who are entitled to military service pensions, Army service pensions, and so on. It might be much easier to get out that list than to await the consolidation. However, if it is possible to do that, I will have it done. The consolidation is proceeding, and I think it will, to a certain extent, meet the request which the Deputy has made.
With regard to the soldiers—noncommissioned officers—who eventually became officers, I desire to say this, that in the near future I hope to be bringing before each House—perhaps in the next session—a resolution proposing to give to these men their entire service as commissioned officers. I am sure that, when that proposal is  brought before the House, Deputies will be prepared to agree to it. I think, too, that it will meet the suggestion made by the Deputy.
Mr. Traynor: Let us suppose that a man spent ten years as a non-commissioned officer and ten as an officer, then he will get the 20 years as an officer. Deputy Corish brought before the House the claims of the Enniscorthy men who, it has been stated on numerous occasions, were out in Enniscorthy in 1916, but did not apparently go into action from the point of view which the Referees require. All that I can say is that there have been learned judges acting as Referees on the Military Service Pensions Board from time to time. Their opinion as to what constitutes active service appears to have been always the same. I have no function in the matter of altering their decisions. I could not attempt to influence them in their decisions any more than I could attempt to influence them when dealing with cases in the ordinary courts of law. An applicant making a claim for a pension was given every facility to produce every possible particle of evidence which he could find in order to prove his case. The decisions in these cases, as I know from experience, were usually based on the evidence supplied, in the main, by applicants and on the evidence given by their colleagues who came forward as the vouching authority.
I remember that when the Deputy's father brought forward these same cases I went into them in detail. I found that the original claim on behalf of the men in Enniscorthy represented a certain figure. I will not mention it because I am not too sure about the figure. What I do know is that at a later stage they advanced that figure by almost 100, and I think that the final figure exceeded both the original figure and the later figure in respect of all successful claims. Since then claims have continued to come in from Enniscorthy.
I have done everything possible to  have these new claims examined as sympathetically as possible, but apparently the judges on each occasion concluded that the evidence was not sufficient to justify them in making a decision similar to the decisions which I mentioned a moment ago. I can do nothing about that, and I can do very little with regard to future cases of that kind which may be brought forward. As Deputies will remember, the Oireachtas withdrew from me, as from the 1st January, 1946, the power to accept appeals. Therefore, it is not possible for me to refer back to the Referee any appeals in the future.
Mr. Corish: The Minister will pardon me for interrupting him. The unfortunate thing with regard to these cases is that every public man in the County Wexford, every man who took a prominent part in the struggle from 1916 onwards to the Truce, agrees that there is a substantial number of men in the county who have been very badly treated. I do not say that has been done deliberately, but somehow they seem to have got a raw deal. All, even those of different political opinions, are agreed on that, and they think that the cases I have referred to should be treated more sympathetically. I appreciate the Minister's difficulty. I am aware of his restricted powers in the matter of interference with the Army Pensions Board. Surely some method could be devised to have these cases reviewed in a different way from that laid down under the old procedure.
Mr. Traynor: Nobody, I suppose, realised that more than I did myself because Dublin was affected to a very large degree. We had numbers of Dublinmen who, because they could not prove a similar type of action, were also excluded. The only remedy it was possible to provide was that of the special allowances. That was introduced, first of all, for the 1916 men, but later it was extended to all Old I.R.A. men. Therefore, every person who is in possession of a military service medal can be assured of this, that in the future there is no possibility that he will die uncared for or in the workhouse because if he is a single man,  incapable of work, he will be entitled to receive £78 a year or about 30/- a week, while if he is a married man he will be entitled to receive £97 10s. 0d. By means of these special allowances we are endeavouring to overcome the failure of a man to prove to the Referee that he had the type of active service which the board appears to look for. That is as far as the Government could go in remedying that position. Deputies, of course, will realise that neither the Minister nor any other member of the Government could, in any circumstances, attempt by personal contact, to influence the Referee or the members of the board.
With respect to the other cases which Deputy Corish mentioned— there is the case of Mrs. Thorpe. That is a very regrettable case. It is one which in many respects I would like to have seen dealt with in a more sympathetic manner but the death terminated the claim completely. The Deputy will have to understand, in the first instance, that the man's claim was for a disability pension, and a disability pension can only be awarded to the person who is suffering from the disability. If that award had been made then it is possible that an allowance to the widow would have been considered but unfortunately the man, as stated by the Deputy, died, and that terminated the claim.
I did take some action in regard to Mr. Breen's case and, as far as I can remember, I did not get any report as to the decisions arrived at. The Deputy now informs me that there was a certain decision. If he gives me some further details in the case I will undertake to have it again examined.
Mr. Traynor: Deputy Coogan referred to the class of person who gave valuable help to the forces which were then in the field and to the Government which was then acting and I share my admiration with his in respect of the particular type of individual referred to. There is no question about it that without the ordinary or the common people, as they are often referred to, it would have been quite impossible to have carried on the campaign which was carried on through these years. I know that numbers of them suffered untold hardships: that numbers of them suffered untold losses arising out of their sympathies with the movement but the Deputy, from his own professional knowledge, will know that the fact that these people are not mentioned in the Act excludes them from any award or reward or gratuity or anything else of that kind. The Act refers specifically to members of the forces and any person who is not a member of the forces naturally is not embraced by the Act. Deputy Blowick referred to men who, I think, were members of the forces but who did not qualify for an award. The only thing I can say in respect of that is what I have said in regard to the special allowances. The award of a medal for service entitles these people should they at any time, either through old age or infirmity or any mental difficulties of one kind or another, become incapacitated and unable to earn their living to the sums I have already mentioned.
Deputy Keyes has referred to several cases which, I can assure him, distress me just as much as they distress him because I find it very difficult myself when I see the details coming in from Deputies to understand why these people do not qualify for pensions but the fact of the matter is that, as he said himself, it is impossible to go into conflict with the medical authorities on such a subject and lest the Deputy thinks that the medical authorities are solely military men I should inform him  that the board comprises two civilians and one military officer—two of whom are medical men. My own experience of these men is that they are as sympathetically disposed to these claims as the Deputy or myself would be but they are also charged, of course, with the protection of public funds—in fact I think that they would be as much under the microscope as any other section of the Department and their awards must be based on positive facts. The board naturally secures information that is not available either to the Deputy or myself. They secure very often histories of these individuals which indicate that the disease from which they suffered was there in perhaps a latent form but was there nevertheless. It is true to say that they came into the Army and were accepted and it might reasonably be asserted that they were fit when they came in but, as the Deputy will understand, the medical examinations during the emergency— at the beginning, anyhow—were, I am afraid, of a rather cursory kind. If a man appeared strong and fit and capable of marching I do not think the question of going down to details was gone into. There was no question of an X-ray. We had no apparatus to deal with every individual in that way. We are doing that now and in the future it will be possible for the board to assure themselves that the man was, in fact, fit when he joined the Army.
Mr. Keyes: If an examination of every member in the Army takes place now I suggest that very few of them will give a negative response to tuberculosis. You will find that most of them will have it in some degree. Will it be the ruling of your board that any man with an element of tuberculosis is definitely prevented from the possibility of pension? We have been told by authorities in the country that very few people are completely immune from tuberculosis in one shape or form. I think that the implication—whether the disease is not attributable to Army service, not accelerated nor aggravated by Army service—is a very serious one.
Mr. Traynor: In that respect, I should inform the Deputy that aggravation is an accepted fact. The point  is that the degree of disability must reach a certain percentage but aggravation is an acknowledged fact. If the disease was not attributable to service but if it was aggravated by service the man could receive a pension. The point is that it must reach a certain percentage—80 per cent. I think—and if it reaches that then the man is automatically entitled to the award of a pension. It is assumed—I have no qualifications nor can I assert that it is right or wrong—that every one of us in some degree or another suffers from some form or another of this disease: that there is always a battle going on between the red and white corpuscles, but the fact of the matter is that decisions are based on purely medical testimony and, as I said a few moment ago, my own experience from my meeting some of these people is that they are as sympathetically disposed towards all of these cases as we ourselves would be.
That must be because they are, to some extent, the guardians of the public purse and must themselves be assured that the disease for which they are awarding a pension or gratuity is, in fact, attributable to the service in the Army. Cases have been brought up here from time to time which, for one reason or another, should not have been brought up. I came across a case to-day of a man who claimed to have been affected as a result of falling off a bicycle. When I examined the case, I found that the man was suffering from heart disease and that he wanted to attribute the heart disease to the fall off the bicycle. That might be possible. I cannot argue whether it would or not but it seems to me to be a very doubtful type of case. I have no doubt that the board is inundated with cases for which there are no genuine grounds.
Numbers of men were discharged as medically unfit. I tried in the early stages to find another term for that unfitness. I did not see why men who were suffering from tender feet or corns or something like that should be graded as medically unfit. I was afraid that it might react on them if they were seeking employment at a later stage. The fact remains that numbers of men went out with certificates that they were medically unfit for service. The  same people, believing they had a right, claimed for disability of one kind or another. Of course, they were not able to sustain their claim but they added to the number of those who were gravely dissatisfied and who expressed their dissatisfaction in no uncertain terms. I am afraid that a large number of those who are complaining are in that category. The figures which I gave to-day show that a rather large percentage of the claims have been successful. That goes to show that the board examines these cases in a fair and reasonable way.
Mr. Traynor: It does, but there has to be some verification of the service claimed. An application for a pension does not necessarily mean that the applicant is automatically entitled to a medal. Service has to be verified and, when service is verified, the man is entitled to the medal.
General MacEoin: The Minister agrees that, if a person applies for a certificate and receives verification for certain service, it is not necessary for him to apply for the medal because the major includes the lesser.
Mr. Coogan: Is it not a fact that a former official Referee ruled that keymen who rendered essential and dangerous service were entitled to service certificates? I do not want to open the door to all classes of claims. The specific case I had in mind and which I mentioned would come under such a ruling. This is not a question of people showing their sympathy; it is a question of people who took an active and dangerous part——
Mr. Coogan: Yes. They were nominally on the roll of the local company of the Volunteers. In some cases, they may have held rank in the Volunteers. For reasons best known to the local officers, they were detailed for intelligence, communications and work of that kind rather than for active work. They rendered far more important service  in that capacity than they would have done if they had taken up ordinary, military activities. That type of case is deserving of some consideration. I understand that there was a ruling that persons of that kind who rendered essential and dangerous service would be entitled——
Mr. Traynor: Entitled to make a claim that they were keymen. My understanding of the position is that a number of individuals of the type to which the Deputy refers made claims as keymen. Some of them were successful and some failed.
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