Wednesday, 25 February 1948
Dáil Éireann Debate
That a supplementary sum not exceeding £59,110 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st 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.
This Supplementary Estimate is necessary in the first place because of the unexpected retiral of 14 officers during the year, which was not calculated for, and the overflow of the referee and the advisory committee from one year into the next. In addition, there was an  unexpected increase in the number of applicants for special allowances under sub-heads I and J. That leads to a consequential increase in the amount required for St. Bricin's Hospital and a small increase in the amount required for medical and surgical instruments and supplies. If the House desires, I can go into more detail but those are the heads of the causes for the increase.
Captain Cowan: I should like to call the Minister's attention to a matter to which I am sure his attention has been called previously. I feel, nevertheless, that this occasion should not be allowed to pass without some further reference being made to it. I refer to the case of a considerable number of N.C.O.s who were encouraged to retire from the Defence Forces some time ago. Had they remained for a couple of months longer they would have qualified for a higher pension. That body of N.C.O.s feel that they have a very distinct grievance and they look to the new Minister to investigate their peculiar position and to bring their pensions up, by means of a very small amendment in the regulations, to the figure to which they would have been entitled, if they had not acted on the encouragement given them and had remained a few months longer in the Army until they were compulsorily retired. I would ask the Minister to consider their case and see what he can do to grant them the pensions to which they think and to which I believe they are entitled. I would urge the Minister to grant them that measure of justice.
Mr. A. Byrne: The point raised by Deputy Cowan is one to which I have referred on a number of occasions previously. I would ask the Minister now if he would meet a deputation of these men and discuss their grievances with them. I raised this matter about six months ago and also about 12 months ago. These men are labouring under a deep sense of grievance and they feel that this injustice should be remedied. There are not very many of them. They were encouraged to leave the Army a few months before the increase in pensions took place. It would be a gracious thing if the Government  would reconsider this matter and give these men, who served long years, the benefit of the doubt, if there is a doubt. They hold that there is no doubt and that they should be entitled to get the full benefit of the Act. I would ask the Minister to receive a deputation of these men and discuss the point with them.
Dr. O'Higgins: A number of applications of the type referred to by Deputy Cowan and Deputy Byrne have come into the Department. Any such applications will receive very, very full, adequate and sympathetic consideration.  There would be no point in my arranging at the present moment to meet a deputation because it could fulfil no useful purpose for me to meet such a deputation until I am fully conversant with the facts. There are always pros and cons and I must wait until I can study the whole matter and understand it before I can be of any assistance in meeting a deputation.
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