Presidential Establishment (Amendment) Bill, 1947—Second Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 25 June 1947

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 107 No. 2

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Commons: Information on Bernard Commons  Zoom on Bernard Commons  Yesterday evening, in the few minutes I had to speak on this Bill, I was protesting at the idea of giving an increase of £1,500 to an individual who had already a salary of £5,000, plus £5,000 expenses, and whose household was costing the State something in the region of £52,000. I regard that as pure waste of the people's money, since it is from the taxpayer's pocket and from the people in general the money must be found to provide all these increases in salaries during the past few months. It is the duty of those who represent the ordinary working people to stand up and protest here as loudly and as strongly as they can at such squandering of public money. The President's Establishment is a more expensive one than this country can maintain at its present rate, even though legislation [174] was passed here a few days ago which guaranteed a certain amount of money for the upkeep of that mansion. When we demand even £1,500 more for its upkeep we are moving a step too far and some day this squandermania will have to stop and our friend, the President, will have to be made realise that this country cannot afford such expensive luxuries as Árus an Uachtaráin or, as it was previously called, the Viceregal Lodge.

When we take into consideration the number of people destitute throughout the State, the number of small wage earners who, despite their best efforts and their hardest work, cannot earn more than £2 10s. 0d. or £3 a week, we will say to ourselves that an establishment costing £52,000 a year should definitely be abandoned. The Government Party seem to have their eyes shut to the fact that there is anyone in need at all. To those people who have to work hard, or to those thousands of emigrants as they line up for sailing tickets or passport visas at the various offices, it is very poor consolation to know that we have a President whose salary of £5,000, plus £5,000 expenses, is not sufficient and that he must get another £1,500. I am sure they will feel gratified when they go over to England and pick up one of the Irish newspapers and see how the money they should have got to help them out and carry them along earning their livelihood here is spent by the wonderful democratic Party which happens to be the Government and which, years ago, could see no justice in giving anyone more than £1,000 a year in this State.

This has been described by a previous speaker as a cynical joke. It is more than that, it is a very expensive joke, so expensive that it is time it was stopped. As I am always agitating inside and outside this House, there is only one way to put a stop to these expensive amusements in the shape of Presidents and Viceregal Lodges and Árús an Uachtaráin that is, to remove from power the Party who are so generous to these well-paid officials and have so little consideration for those hard-working individuals who are being denied an honest living. We [175] were told in a proclamation issued about 21 years ago that we were not to model ourselves on empires but on countries whose resources mostly resembled our own. I wonder what we are modelling ourselves on at the moment, when we set out on this mad jamboree of spending. The old saying “The sky is the limit” seems to be the motto now and I wonder if the sky is the limit so far as this expenditure is concerned. From the introduction the Minister gave to this Bill and from the general tone of what speakers have said here, there does not seem to be an awful lot of use for this President at all.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  That has nothing to do with the Bill. It would be necessary to amend the Constitution, which cannot be done except by express Act for that purpose.

Mr. Donnellan: Information on Michael Donnellan  Zoom on Michael Donnellan  It may happen some day.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Possibly, but not to-day.

Mr. Commons: Information on Bernard Commons  Zoom on Bernard Commons  We would not have all this talk now about the President's increase if there was no President there; and as we will have to amend the Constitution some time—I hope it will be in the near future—we should amend it in such a manner that, if we have to keep a President, we will have a less expensive one. The general idea seems to be that the money is not sufficient for entertainment and that the purpose of the increase is so that foreign visitors who come in here can be paraded to this mansion and shown there the wonderful livelihood that we can give, while nothing is shown of the real destitution which exists.

Last winter, to the Dublin housewife who had no fuel and had to rely on the few sods of turf picked out of the snow in the dumps in the Phænix Park, it was not much consolation to know that there was an expensive President in this country. I think of those turfmen who worked out there in the snow and tried to get those sods and gazed across at the smoke billowing from Árus an Uachtaráin, as they brought in the watery turf and tried to sell it all [176] over the city, to enable people to try to light fires to cook meals for their families. There is not an awful lot which can be said, as the Government seem to have lost their senses and seem to think that there is no poverty in this country at all, that anyone, no matter what salary he gets, is entitled to an increase just the same as the individual on a small salary. I am not going to make a comparison between the 2/6 allowed to the old age pensioner every week or the 1/- a week to the road worker and the allowance to the President. We all realise there can be no such comparison used to justify anything.

We know that all citizens have equal rights under the Constitution, but there does not seem to be much equality of right if one citizen can demand this £10,000 plus the £40,000 and then demand an increase of £1,500, while the poor worker on the roads or bogs has to go before the Labour Court and, after hours of argument and debate, eventually is granted 1/- or 2/- per week. While I wish to protest strongly against that, there is not much use in wasting the time of the House. We know the conclusion, in half an hour or so from now, will be that the Division bell will be rung and the Deputies who come from the country, just as I do, and are supposed to represent the working class and who at election time will take care to shout at every street corner that they are representing the working classes, will march in behind their Minister and make sure that the Bill is steamrolled through. Then the President will get away with his £1,500 increase, while the people who are really in need and hard-up will have to be satisfied with the 1/-, 1/6 or 2/- a week, which the Government consider quite sufficient to satisfy their needs.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  One thing that strikes me forcibly about this discussion is that it is most degrading to the particular office we are discussing. The discussion will not help to preserve the dignity, the honour and the respect which one would expect would be due to that office, but I do not think that is the responsibility of the House. Responsibility [177] for this discussion falls on the Government. When problems of this sort have to be considered, it seems to me that there should be a better way than this of handling the situation, and that the House should be afforded an opportunity of discussing it in another way. I think the attitude of the Government to this whole matter is most discreditable and their action a most dishonest performance. The Minister came here and asked for this increase, but made no attempt whatever to justify it, beyond saying that, because they are operating a policy of increasing salaries generally at present, it was proposed to give an increase of 30 per cent. in the personal allowance of the President.

The full figure of emoluments and expenses of the President is £10,000, but the office costs substantially more than that, and it is now proposed to increase the allowance by £1,500. The Minister knows that the commission which investigated this matter in 1937 —the Salaries Commission—recommended that the cost of the office should not exceed £15,000, and it was suggested that that should be subject to review at a later date for the purpose of scaling down the amount. The House and the country are aware of the Government's policy with regard to salaries before they came into power. They were very critical of the salaries which then obtained, and particularly of the salary paid to the occupant of the official residence in the Park, and the moneys spent on the expenses of the office. The Taoiseach, as a matter of fact, dealt in great detail in this House with the matter from the point of view of what the country could afford. I distinctly remember one occasion on which a piano was bought for that residence at a cost of £120 and the Fianna Fáil Party paraded up and down the country talking about how shocking and how unjustifiable that expenditure was.

To-day we are standing over an expenditure out of all proportion to the amounts expended at that time and we are asked to increase the allowance by £1,500. The amounts spent at present are set out for this year in [178] the Estimate at £52,000 and of this amount we are spending £30,000 on the renovation of the establishment. In all, it is proposed to spend £60,000 on improving the premises. In Vote 10, a sum is set out in respect of the expenses of Árus an Uachtaráin of £7,560, over and above the amounts provided for in Vote 1, made up of: maintenance and supplies, £5,350; furniture, fittings and utensils, £500; fuel, light, water, cleaning, etc., £1,710. One would expect that the financial provision made there would be ample to maintain the premises as they should be maintained and I am surprised that at this stage the Government have seen fit to ask for an increase of £1,500, because, as other speakers have pointed out, when the Government were asked to increase the allowances to old age pensioners and other people who have to rely on State assistance in one form or another, the reply was that the country could not afford it. When we come to this office, however, we find there is no hesitation whatever in giving an increase and no attempt is made by the Minister to justify it.

The incidence of poverty and destitution is increasing. The number of people who have to rely more and more on State assistance is on the increase. The productive capacity of the country is falling and our export trade has substantially declined. In such a set of circumstances, the Government decide on further increasing the amounts provided for an office already well endowed, and the Minister does not think it necessary to make any attempt to justify that increase. If the Minister had suggested that the amount of work being done by the President, in the way of entertaining foreign visitors and people who visit us for trade purposes and other reasons had increased, there might be some justification, but, so far as we know, the amount of entertainment of that sort is very limited and well within the total of the amounts provided. I feel that, at present, in view of the grave uncertainty of the future, this extravagant administration is erecting a very top heavy and costly edifice, and what worries me about this very costly edifice is that, if the country strikes a [179] period of depression, as a country mainly of primary producers, we shall be faced with a very serious crisis.

The Government appear to base the whole future, so far as administration is concerned, on the artificial conditions of the present and there does not appear to be any anticipation on the part of the Government that the value of the £ is almost certain to settle back. They appear to take it for granted that the conditions obtaining to-day, so far as the value of money is concerned, will obtain in the future. These proposals are not justified in present circumstances. I am doubtful, in fact, whether the occupant of the office has been consulted in the matter because I feel he would very much regret the discussions that have taken place here, the reflections which have been cast, and the degrading effects which are inevitably bound to follow a free-for-all discussion. To my mind it is most undesirable that it should have taken place and I would point out that the responsibility for it rests with the Minister and with the Government. It should be possible to find some other means of dealing with such a highly controversial question than by subjecting it to the criticism of this Parliament. I regret that there has been so much criticism but I myself am firmly convinced that there is not one iota of justification for what is proposed to be done in this matter. No Deputy can conscientiously vote for this proposal, considering the circumstances of the community in general of this country. I think it is a disgrace and I think that the public generally will very much resent this proposal.

Mr. Heskin: Information on Denis Heskin  Zoom on Denis Heskin  I also wish to add my protest to that of other Deputies in connection with this proposed increase of £1,500. I think it is very unfair to ask the taxpayers of the country to provide this extra £1,500 in view of the fact that they themselves, with perhaps very small incomes, are faced with the problem of taxation generally. In particular, I consider it unfair when the fact that the cost of the whole establishment is £52,000 is taken into consideration and also that the personal [180] allowances available to the President are £5,000, which is subject to income-tax, £5,000 for expenses which is free of tax, and now this £1,500 which is, also, to be free of tax. In my opinion this added burden is very much resented by the people throughout the country. We have the comparison also of the poorer sections of the community—the old age pensioners, etc.—on whose behalf every Deputy in this House, irrespective of Party, has from time to time made representations and who, therefore, knows the views of the Department, particularly in connection with the means test. When we take into consideration a large establishment where everything is provided free—rents, rates, etc.—for the President and compare the position of the poor unfortunates down the country who, because of the few small perquisites they may be in receipt of through some family arrangement, are deprived of a few paltry shillings a week in order to help their maintenance. I think it is very unfair and unjust at this stage to bring in a Bill of this kind asking the taxpayer to pay this extra sum of £1,500 more especially in view of the fact that this is a sum which will be devoted to making greater provision for entertainment. I have noticed quite recently that when foreign representatives come here they are entertained by the Taoiseach. I doubt, and I have asked myself the question several times, as to whether there is any need for this establishment at all considering the fact that the Taoiseach is, in my opinion, the head of the country and that, therefore, we should not have to make provision for another head of the country.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  That is provided for in the Constitution.

Mr. Heskin: Information on Denis Heskin  Zoom on Denis Heskin  I know. Nevertheless the Constitution, to my mind——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy is free to do that if he can bring in a Bill for the purpose of amending the Constitution. It is laid down in the Constitution that in no other manner may the Constitution be amended.

[181]Mr. Heskin: Information on Denis Heskin  Zoom on Denis Heskin  I am satisfied that this is a very unreasonable request to bring before this House and I am sure that even the Deputies of the Government's own Party are not agreeable to it. I doubt if there is any Deputy in this House who can state that there is any justification whatever for this increase.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Deputy Brady did.

Mr. Heskin: Information on Denis Heskin  Zoom on Denis Heskin  Furthermore, I would like to point out that there is a general feeling of resentment throughout the country that the President or his wife should be in receipt of emoluments from local authorities.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The President?

Mr. Heskin: Information on Denis Heskin  Zoom on Denis Heskin  The President's wife.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  For whom there is no money asked here. The money is asked for the President's establishment.

Mr. Heskin: Information on Denis Heskin  Zoom on Denis Heskin  Is it true that while they are in receipt of certain contributions from the State, they can also be in receipt of other moneys from a local authority?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  It is not for the Chair to answer the Deputy's question.

Mr. Heskin: Information on Denis Heskin  Zoom on Denis Heskin  After all, it is a question the people are asking. In my opinion when they hold a position of this particular type they should leave the field of professional activities open to others who are qualified.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Constitution does not mention “they”. It mentions “a person”.

Mr. Heskin: Information on Denis Heskin  Zoom on Denis Heskin  We can couple the two together.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy has said enough on that matter now.

Mr. Heskin: Information on Denis Heskin  Zoom on Denis Heskin  The people are not in favour of this matter. I consider that it is very unfair and unreasonable at this particular period to ask for a further increase of £1,500 for an individual who is already in receipt of £10,000, especially as the people are not in favour of it.

[182]Mr. Donnellan: Information on Michael Donnellan  Zoom on Michael Donnellan  Like other Deputies, I feel bound to stand up here to protest against a Bill of this kind. Naturally enough, one hates standing up and repeating, more or less, what other Deputies have said. It just amounts to this. One would be inclined to ask oneself: “What in the world has happened Fianna Fáil at all? Are they gone completely mad or what is the trouble?” Did anybody ever think that the day would come when we would see a Fianna Fáil Minister backed up by Fianna Fáil Deputies standing for an increase on an allowance of £5,000 at the moment—an increase of £1,500, thereby bringing the allowance up to £6,500? I remember the very Minister himself—the Minister for Finance at the moment—being down in the town of Tuam on one occasion. Surely, I never thought listening to him that night that the time would come when he would be piloting such an outrageous Bill through Dáil Éireann. I need not remind him that it was because he, at that time, was able to point out certain defects as regards certain salaries— exorbitant to a certain extent—that he and his Party were returned to power. Of course, I suppose that they feel as the Fine Gael Government felt after their ten years of office—they felt they could do just what they liked. They felt they could advance in any direction they liked and that they would still continue in office. I suppose that Fianna Fáil, feeling much the same way now after we may say, 15 years of office, are saying to themselves: “No matter what we do now we have gulled the people in this country to keep us in power.” I happened to be in Galway town last night and I was not, therefore, able to be present in this House. I met some people there—Fianna Fáil supporters—and they said: “This is an important week for all members of the House—special increases and so on. It is a wonder you are not up there supporting the Fianna Fáil people for this increase in salary and allowances.” As I said, I protest against such an outrageous thing as this increase. You would imagine that there was terrible danger in referring to the Presidential establishment. Some people are inclined to think that by opposing this [183] proposed increase you are lowering the dignity of the office. My view is that it is Bills such as this which are lowering the dignity of the President's Establishment. Even though I oppose it, I do not think it is in any way belittling that office; but Bills of this kind, in my opinion, do belittle it. Down the country people meet and talk. Not so long ago it was brought to my notice that at a certain function there was a lady-in-waiting and, to make it worse, that lady happened to have been a lady-in-waiting to the Queen.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Apparently the Deputy is not familiar with an Article of the Constitution which states:—

“The President shall not be answerable to either House of the Oireachtas or to any court for the exercise and performance of the powers and functions of his office or for any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise and performance of these powers and functions.”

Mr. Donnellan: Information on Michael Donnellan  Zoom on Michael Donnellan  I am putting the point of view of the ordinary man in the country but, if I am not entitled to do so, I will cut it out. So far as this Party is concerned, we will oppose any increase for an establishment that costs this country £52,000. We are proposing to increase the allowance of £5,000 for expenses by £1,500, making the sum £6,500. We consider that that is outrageous. It may be all right for certain newspapers to write articles about it and say it is a small amount and does not count. But it is these little things that count eventually. I believe that the question of salaries and outrageous things of this description put Fine Gael out of office. I believe that Fianna Fáil are heading in that direction; let them continue, and we will know what the result will be.

Mr. Anthony: Information on Richard Sidney Anthony  Zoom on Richard Sidney Anthony  First of all, I should like to dissociate myself from the remarks passed by some speakers in relation to the high office of An Uachtarán. I feel, however, that I must protest, so far as I can translate the voice of the citizens of Cork at any rate, against this increase for the President's [184] establishment. If I thought for one moment that the dignity or honour of the office was at stake and that for the upholding of the dignity of the country and the office of Uachtarán another £10,000 was necessary, I would not hesitate to vote for it. But we find that a relatively huge sum has been voted for the office already. Most people, and when I say most people I refer not only to the ordinary workers but to the commercial people in this country, are definitely opposed to any further increase being made for the upkeep of this establishment. Various associations have, through individuals, voiced their feelings in connection with this matter. I also feel that we should have some expression of opinion from Fianna Fáil Deputies in relation to this matter. In Cork City I have met a number of people who are members of the Fianna Fáil Party and they deprecate and are entirely opposed to this increase. They feel, as I do, that it is time a stop should be put to this class of expenditure.

For a small country like this we seem to have adopted all the imperial trappings of some big empire in regard to the number of representatives we have abroad and all the rest of it. Some of these may be very necessary and some may not be necessary; but the feeling is abroad that we are out-heroding Herod in this matter of imperial trappings. I feel, and so do many other citizens of Cork, that the duties appertaining to the office could be well fulfilled and decently carried out on the present scale of allowances. I am not speaking in any small-minded way—I deprecate that line of talk altogether—but I should like to hear from Fianna Fáil Deputies on this matter. I do not think for a moment that they would be subjected to any disciplinary punishment if they were to make themselves vocal on the matter and let us know what the people in their constituencies think about it. It is all very fine to go back to their constituents and say: “We were very much opposed to it, but it was a Party decision.” If it is a Party decision, let those Fianna Fáil Deputies, when they go back to their constituencies, take full responsibility for their vote in this House. [185] The Party system may be all right, but there are some cases in which it is all wrong. If one or two people are ruling the Fianna Fáil Party, it is about time the rank and file said something in the matter also, notwithstanding the increase in Deputies' allowances which is in the offing.

As I said, I firmly believe that no decent citizen would begrudge the present occupant of that very high office any legitimate or fair allowance. The people whom I represent are representative of nearly all sections of the community in Cork City at any rate, and I know their feelings in the matter and the feelings of some Fianna Fáil supporters. They deprecate and strongly object to any further increase in the allowances for this establishment. I feel that it would be a very good gesture on the part of the Government to withdraw the Bill and yield to what we find is the public view on this matter; not the view of mean-minded and small-minded people, but the view of some of the most decent citizens in the community.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  A few weeks ago the Minister for Finance said the country could not afford to give old age pensioners any increase. Now he is proposing to increase the allowance of a man who is in receipt of over £61 per day. I say that the country is against that. I for one, as a worker, will vote against any increase either for the President or for Deputies. I think that the Bill should be withdrawn. This is no time for these outrageous increases when the poorer sections of the people we represent cannot keep body and soul together. It is not fair to the country and it is not fair to be asking Fianna Fáil Deputies to back it. I am sure they agree with me that it is altogether out of the question. Day after day and week after week in our constituencies we see widows and other poor people looking for home assistance, yet to-day we are asked to vote another £1,500 for a President without a family.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The household of the President may not be discussed here.

[186]Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  I grant you that, but the whole thing arises out of the cost of living. Surely it would cost more for a man with a family than for a man without a family?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The household of the President may not be discussed.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  All right, I will not dwell on the matter. During the last elections, when the President's salary was not as high as is now proposed, every one of us condemned it. We condemned it outside the House, each and every Party. I remember the time when this Government were trying to get into power. They said the Governor-General was only a rubber stamp; he was not wanted at all. The Taoiseach is meeting all the representatives who come to this country and, therefore, I do not see why this establishment in the Phoenix Park should be maintained. Scrap it and save the country this unnecessary expense. It is only window-dressing, playing politics. The President goes down with his cavalry to meet some foreigner at Dún Laoghaire. That is outside show and it is time we did away with it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  It would require an amendment of the Constitution.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  The only way to do it is to change the Government, and I hope the people will do so. It is the people who are paying for it all. The road workers get 50/- a week, the bog workers are not so well paid either, and now we have a man who cannot live on his huge salary and you want us to give him a big increase. I am sure there are many Deputies behind the Minister who do not agree with this proposal. I would not be attached to any Party where I could not speak out my mind in justice to the people who sent me here. Take off the Whips, let there be a free vote, and you will be surprised at what will happen. If this is put to a vote I suppose we shall have 77 Deputies filing into the Lobbies behind the Government. That is not democracy; it is political dictatorship, and the sooner we realise it the better.

In this country to-day there are [187] thousands of unemployed and there are hundreds trying to get out of the country. We seem to have plenty of money to throw to establishments that we were told, when Fianna Fáil was in opposition, were not necessary. It is strange to see the way people change when they come into this House. They forget all they say outside. Withdraw this Bill and let us carry on with our present salaries. There are some people speaking against this Bill who have nearly as much as the President. That is not playing the game either. There are people here who are engaged in three or four occupations. They have people sweating for them outside, carrying on their work night and day.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  That has nothing to do with this Bill.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  I want to be fair to the people. The wisest thing would be to withdraw the Bill and that will stop all the talk. It is our duty to look after the poorer sections of the community, the people in poverty, the aged and the blind. Those are the people the Government have forgotten. Next month the old age pensioners in the bigger centres of population will lose their vouchers and they will be given 2/6 extra. At the same time we can vote thousands for the President. The country cannot afford that. I am sure there is no one in a bad way in this House. No Deputy is as badly off as some people outside who have no wages or small wages. There are widows trying to live on 5/- a week, even widows of Old I.R.A. men. There is no provision for the men who made this State, who put the Government into power. They have passed away and the few shillings they had in I.R.A. pensions were taken from their widows. The Government can put wreaths on graves and unveil monuments but the dependents of the men who fought for this country have to live on charity, have to go to the home assistance officers throughout the Twenty-Six Counties. There is no justification for an increase in the case of a man already receiving £61 11s. 1d. per day.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  “It is true to say that for [188] those associated with politics there is always a very big temptation to make political capital out of matters such as this. There is always a big temptation to oppose in order to make political capital.” Those are not my words. I quote from Deputy O'Higgins, speaking on the Presidential Establishment Bill, 1938, on 14th July, 1938 (Vol. 72, col. 904). Deputy O'Higgins went on to say:—

“As I said, politically it is tempting to oppose measures such as this. At times, duty and our sense of responsibility dictate that political temptations must be left aside, that the State is greater than Party, and that setting a proper headline and supporting State offices that are divorced from politics is a far more important work than defending Party interests or political causes.”

That was Deputy O'Higgins when he was not going down the straight, hell for leather, as he has been since the Minister for Justice, who knows as much about racing as I do about pinocle, said we were going down the straight when we were over half way through the Dáil term.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  The expression is “going up the straight”.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  I accept the Deputy's correction, but I think the Minister for Justice said “going down the straight”. He probabbly knows less about it than I do. What are the facts of all this affair? In 1938 the Dáil discussed what was the proper provision to be made for the Presidential establishment. A sum of £5,000 was available for the President's personal remuneration and a sum of £5,000 was allowed for expenses. It has been said here by Deputy O'Higgins, by Deputy Blowick and by Deputy Davin that the President is costing this country £52,000 a year, or £1,000 a week. One might as truthfully say that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is costing the State £50,000 or £100,000 a week, because that much is spent by him in carrying out the functions of his Ministry. The domestic staff of the President which he has to pay and keep are as important to him in the carrying out of his Presidential functions as civil [189] servants are to the Minister for Finance in his Department. That is perfectly well realised by Deputies on the opposite benches but they think they are going down the straight——

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  Up.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  ——up the straight and they are perfectly prepared to throw any dirt that it is possible to throw if they think they can scrounge a few votes by it. Deputy O'Higgins realised what were the functions of the President. He realised in 1938 that it was right to give to the President the sums provided in the 1938 Bill. Members of the Opposition groups, in collusion with the Irish Times, are trying to make out that the sums spent by the Board of Works for keeping up the roof on that establishment are being spent personally by the President. Deputy Brady, yesterday, in a very calm and reasoned speech, pointed out to Opposition Deputies that they were conveying falsehoods to the people by saying that the President was costing them £52,000 a year.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  This year.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  Deputy Brady pointed out that in order to make up that figure, not only had they to add to the Presidential salary and allowances the sums spent this year on repair and reconstruction of the premises that might last for a couple of hundred years, but they had to add to make up the £52,000, or the £1,000 a week, the pension paid, and referred to in the Vote for the Presidential Establishment, to an ex-President. I am not going to say what I think of that conduct but I am going to quote from a speech made by Deputy O'Higgins on the Bill to which I have already referred in 1938 and reported in Volume 72, column 1067. He was referring to Deputy Cogan who had moved but did not press an amendment to reduce the £10,000 to £5,000. It is interesting to note that the Second Reading of that Bill voting the President £10,000 passed through this House without a division and that amendments put down were either not pressed or were withdrawn, [190] by Deputy Cogan, the Labour Party and others.

Mr. Donnellan: Information on Michael Donnellan  Zoom on Michael Donnellan  The reason is obvious. Clann na Talmhan was not here.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  Deputy Cogan was here.

Mr. Donnellan: Information on Michael Donnellan  Zoom on Michael Donnellan  But Clann na Talmhan was not here.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  Deputy Cogan was in Clann na Talmhan until he found out the fools they were and then he left. Deputy Cogan at that time moved an amendment, and after he had uttered some words of criticism of the amount provided for in the Bill, Deputy O'Higgins turned on him and said:

“The Deputy put a question as to what type of entertainment it was designed to carry out. Well, nations, just as individuals, have got to be guided by and have got to learn the lesson and follow the example established by tradition, custom and precedent. We may be only a small nation, but we are a mother race and a motherland and we are in a position to have an influence in this world far and above our strength or our wealth. This is a spot that attracts visitors from all points of the world and from the greatest countries in the world. We have established—and I believe deservedly so—a reputation in the past for courtesy, kindliness and hospitality. That reputation has been established by the individual in the House or in the hamlet. It would be acting untruly to our tradition if, as a State, we were to trample on the customs and the traditions built up by the people themselves. Now, in regard to the amount of money asked for here, any of us can make a political speech with regard to taxpayers and taxes but the amount of money asked for to maintain this headship of the State and all the expenses associated with that office to entertain visitors on behalf of the whole lot of us—the amount of contribution that is required for that would be 3d. per farmer per year or 1d. per taxpayer per year. Now I believe that there is not a taxpayer in the whole of Ireland mean-spirited [191] enough or sufficiently poor-spirited to begrudge a penny per annum in order to uphold the dignity of this old land of ours and in order to ensure that within the world community of nations we would never have to bow our heads as a mean-spirited country in returning the hospitality which we receive from others.”

That is a rather long quotation from Deputy O'Higgins, Volume 72, column 1067. The Dáil unanimously agreed in 1938 that the President should have £5,000 personal remuneration and £5,000 personal allowances. Even Deputy Davin at that time said:—

“I am not grumbling at the amount set aside for allowances because I assume and hope that the amount set aside under that heading will be spent in the most useful way possible.”

Deputy Mulcahy, who seems to have spurred his followers on this occasion to attack the institution of the President said:—

“If the President as an institution is worth keeping it is well worth keeping in a dignified and stately way.”

The question we have to resolve here by our votes on this Second Reading is what we think is a reasonable amount for the President of our State to spend on his establishment in carrying out his functions. It is true that we could have a President at £5 a year who would sign our Bills and carry out other functions.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  This President is signing Bills, is he not?

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  It is true that we could spend very much more money if we decided that the President should entertain more lavishly than his present allowance would permit, but the Dáil in 1938 decided unanimously that £10,000 at that time was a reasonable figure. I am tired almost to death hearing members of the Opposition, on every occasion on which money is mentioned in this House, saying that the pound is now worth only 10/- as compared with 1939.

[192]Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  That is right.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  If it is right then, instead of increasing the President's salary by £1,500, it will have been decreased, even with this £1,500, to £5,750.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  That is right, and the old age pensioner to 6/-.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  The question is, which way do Deputies want to have it? Are they going to eat completely the words which they used in 1938 and say now that they were over-generous, almost twice as generous as they should have been at that time and so hard on the taxpayers that Deputy O'Higgins condemand as mean-spirited any individual Deputy who would dare propose that the allowances at that period should not be fixed as they were in the Bill. Deputy O'Higgins was not coming up the straight then. To-day, he is displaying the mean spirit, the poor spirit, which he condemned in other Deputies in 1938.

One Deputy said that the President had demanded this increase, and others said that the President had asked for this increase. The President neither demanded nor asked for nor in any way intimated that he desired an increase. This increase was discussed by the Government which felt it to be necessary if the President was to be assisted to carry out his functions in the manner which we thought was necessary and essential to the national interest. I grant Deputies a present of the propaganda that is coming up the straight: all that they can make out of this or out of any of the other Bills which we are going to discuss. I hope and I trust that the people down the country—there is no use in appealing to the Deputies on the opposite benches —but I trust that the people down the country who are their supporters and who want to see the head of our State——

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  He is not that.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  ——keep an establishment as good as that in any other small State throughout the world, and that they will say to the gentlemen on the [193] opposite benches “leave the President out of it.” Deputies have plenty of room to criticise Fianna Fáil and to criticise Ministers, but leave the President out of it.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  We do not want him at all.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  There is sufficient scope, if Deputies only had the wit to criticise, and to have constructive criticism of the Government's action or inaction. That is what Oppositions should be for, but all that the Oppositions groups in this Assembly can do is to growl like old women—it is an insult to old women to call them old women—about small petty points that crop up from time to time. As regards Deputy Donnellan and others, one of the reasons that has put them off on this gallop is that they seem to think that Fianna Fáil got in because Fianna Fáil criticised the extravagant expenditure of Fine Gael.

Mr. Donnellan: Information on Michael Donnellan  Zoom on Michael Donnellan  Well you know that.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  Fianna Fáil got in—and I want to give Deputies this tip and for the sake of the country I hope they can take it—and became the Government of this country because they had a national policy, an economic policy, a financial policy and a social policy better than that of the then existing Government. If the Deputies opposite want to put Fianna Fáil out, they will have to sit down and do some work and get agreement on a policy——

Mr. Keating: Information on John Keating  Zoom on John Keating  More threats.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  ——that will show the people that they can provide for our people something better than Fianna Fáil has been able to provide for them in the line of a national policy, a social policy, an economic policy and a financial policy. Now, having dealt with that aspect of the debate, I want to turn to the virtuous Deputy James Dillon.

Mr. Keating: Information on John Keating  Zoom on John Keating  Take my advice and do not mention his name.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  Deputy Dillon yesterday with his usual pompous eloquence, apologised for attacking the lady who [194] is the wife of the President. Deputy Dillon, and the principal members of the Opposition, know perfectly well that the President's wife is not getting one penny profit out of the business formerly carried on by her in 12 Dawson Street, Dublin. They are not ignorant of the fact that, when the President became President, his wife left the business to the five ladies who were working in that office. They are not unaware that an agreement, which one of the ladies gave me this morning was signed, which says: “Whereas the said Phyllis Ó Ceallaigh intends to withdraw temporarily from the active pursuit of the practice of public analyst and analytical chemist hitherto carried on by her at 12 Dawson Street, Dublin, that the ladies who were working with her will get for the future until she returns to that office, if ever, a certain salary per month while they remain working and that thereafter the balance of the said net profits shall be divided equally amongst these parties.” Deputy Dillon, of course, wanted to throw his dirt. The Deputies of the Opposition——

Mr. Commons: Information on Bernard Commons  Zoom on Bernard Commons  What is the date of that agreement?

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  The effective date of the agreement was the date on which the President came into office. It is hard to restrain one's language in this regard. I want to be careful. We will have another day for having a heart-to-heart talk with Deputy James Dillon, I hope.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  You can start now.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  Not on this particular occasion. As Barney Broderick said, “You know I am in the state of grace but, please God, I always will not be.”

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  It is news to me if you are.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  I do not want to go any further into this question of the Presidential salary and allowances. I do not think, as Deputy O'Higgins said in 1938, that the people are either so mean-spirited or poor-spirited that they do not want to see the President maintaining his position in a way that is reasonable having regard to the resources [195] of our State. I do not believe that any of them is so ignorant as not to realise that in a large measure the President in regard to his salary and allowances is merely a paymaster, one who receives from the State—just as a Minister receives from the State—certain moneys which he has to spend in paying the staff and carrying out the functions of his office. I think they want to see the President's office being maintained as it should be maintained, on a proper standard for our country. As Deputy Mulcahy said in 1938, “if the President as an institution is worth keeping, it is well worth keeping in a dignified and stately way.”

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Can the Minister say whether it is a fact that the President's wife has also applied for an increase in her salary?

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  A Chinn Comhairle, the President's wife has made an arrangement whereby the net profits of her [196] former business go to the ladies with whom she was working. The only money she gets from that establishment is a sum of £150 every six months as rent and for the use of the equipment and materials available in the laboratory. Anyone who knows anything about such establishments, any chemist, will easily see that the sale of such a business, premises and plant at the present time would realise very much more more than £150 every six months.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  I have a cutting here from a paper in connection with the Clare County Council, where Miss Phyllis Ryan applied for an increase.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The matter was explained, if the Deputy would listen.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  There is no such lady as Miss Phyllis Ryan. It is Mrs. Phyllis Kelly.

Question put.

Aiken, Frank.
Bartley, Gerald.
Beegan, Patrick.
Blaney, Neal.
Boland, Gerald.
Bourke, Dan.
Brady, Brian.
Breathnach, Cormac.
Brennan, Martin.
Brennan, Thomas.
Breslin, Cormac.
Buckley, Seán.
Burke, Patrick (Co. Dublin).
Butler, Bernard.
Carter, Thomas.
Childers, Erskine H.
Colley, Harry.
Corry, Martin J.
Crowley, Honor Mary.
Derrig, Thomas.
De Valera, Eamon.
Fogarty, Andrew.
Friel, John.
Furlong, Walter.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Harris, Thomas.
Healy, John B.
Hilliard, Michael.
Humphreys, Francis.
Kennedy, Michael J.
Killilea, Mark.
Kilroy, James.
Kissane, Eamon.
Lemass, Seán F.
Loughman, Frank.
Lydon, Michael F.
MeEllistrim, Thomas.
MacEntee, Seán.
McGrath, Patrick.
Moran, Michael.
Moylan, Seán.
O Briain, Donnchadh.
O'Connor, John S.
O'Grady, Seán.
O'Loghlen, Peter J.
O'Reilly, Matthew.
O'Rourke, Daniel.
Rice, Bridget M.
Ryan, James.
Ryan, Mary B.
Sheridan, Michael.
Skinner, Leo B.
Smith, Patrick.
Traynor, Oscar.
Ua Donnchadha, Dómhnall.
Walsh, Laurence.
Walsh, Richard.

Anthony, Richard S.
Blowick, Joseph.
Browne, Patrick.
Byrne, Alfred. [197]Corish, Brendan.
Cosgrave, Liam.
Dillon, James M.
Dockrell, Henry M.
Dockrell, Maurice E.
Donnellan, Michael.
Doyle, Peadar S.
Fagan, Charles.
Finucane, Patrick.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Giles, Patrick.
Halliden, Patrick J.
Heskin, Denis.
Hughes, James.
Keating, John.
Coburn, James.
Cogan, Patrick.
Commons, Bernard.
Coogan, Eamonn. [198]McGilligan, Patrick.
McMenamin, Daniel.
Morrissey, Daniel.
Mulcahy, Richard.
Norton, William.
O'Driscoll, Patrick F.
O'Higgins, Thomas F.
O'Leary, John.
Pattison, James P.
Reidy, James.
Roddy, Martin.
Rogers, Patrick J.
Sheldon, William A. W.
Spring, Daniel.

Tellers:— Tá: Deputies Ó Ciosáin and Ó Cinnéide; Níl: Deputies Doyle and McMenamin.

Motion declared carried.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday next.


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