Committee on Finance. - Vote 56—Defence.

Tuesday, 10 July 1951

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 126 No. 8

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Minister for Defence (Mr. Traynor): Information on Oscar Traynor  Zoom on Oscar Traynor  I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £3,384,580 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, 1952, for the Defence Forces (including certain Grants-in-Aid) under the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Acts, and for certain administrative Expenses in [1179] connection therewith; for certain Expenses under the Offences against the State Acts, 1939 and 1940 (No. 13 of 1939 and No. 2 of 1940) and the Air-raid Precautions Acts, 1939 and 1946 (No. 21 of 1939 and No. 28 of 1946); for Expenses in connection with the issue of Medals, etc,; for Expenses of the Bureau of Military History; and for a Grant-in-Aid of the Irish Red Cross Society (No. 32 of 1938).

The Estimate for the Defence Vote for 1951-52 as printed and presented to the Dáil, was framed by the previous Government, and, therefore, while I am responsible for the sum of £5,076,870 which the Dáil is asked to vote, my present function is simply to explain in broad outline how that sum was arrived at.

The Estimate of £5,076,870 shows an increase on that of the past year of £1,100,160, but if a Supplementary Estimate of £252,623, taken in March, be taken into consideration, the increase is reduced to £847,537. That increase is mainly due to the provision made for clothing, general and warlike stores, Civil Defence and the Reserve.

The peace establishment of the Army, which is the framework of subheads A., E., and P.2, consists of 1,270 officers, 3,650 N.C.O.s, and 7,823 privates, that is 12,743 all ranks, but the potential average strength over the whole year for which the Estimate provides is 1,132 officers, 2,402 N.C.O.s, and 4,348 privates, that is 7,882 all ranks, or 4,861 all ranks below that of the peace establishment.

The actual average strength maintained during the 14 months from April, 1950, to the end of May, 1951, was 1,083 officers and 6,749 other ranks, that is about 50 under that provided for in the Estimate. The number of enlistments and re-enlistments of other ranks accepted for service during the same period was 1,113, but against that there was a normal wastage due to discharges, etc., of 1,540, so that the intake was less than the wastage by 427 other ranks. It is hardly necessary for me to say that this is a serious position which calls for immediate attention. The present Government [1180] does not consider that position as in any way satisfactory and one of its immediate tasks will be to do its best to stimulate recruitment for the regular force.

Deputies have already in the Book of Estimates details of the expenditure covered by the Defence Vote, so I think that, for practical purposes at least at this stage, it will be sufficient to summarise it under the following broad headings:—

Pay and Allowances:— £
Regular Army 2,822,929
Reserve FirstLine 137,633
,, Second ,, 372,113
Civilians 682,753
Ordinary Stores 550,044
Warlike Stores 461,711
Civil Defence 120,390
Incidentals 60,787
Total £5,208,360

I have been assured that the morale of the Army is being maintained, that its discipline is good and its health excellent.

As regards the training of the Army, every means possible is being availed of to keep our officers and other ranks abreast of the latest developments in military and technical science. During the year, 29 officers were sent abroad on special courses and, when they returned, they imparted the latest information thus obtained to others. In addition, 116 officers attended courses at home and, subsequently, they also acted as instructors for others. When the Reserve, First Line, was called up during the year, training in platoon and company tactics for the different corps and services was carried out, and the reservists themselves received refresher courses in weapon, tactical and technical training. As regards the F.C.A., we are hoping that by the increase in the number of regular training officers made a few months ago, the training of that force will be developed and its service rendered even more attractive.

In conclusion, I would like to avail of this opportunity to appeal to Deputies and, through them to the able-bodied youth of this country, to aid me in my task of building up the forces of the State, so as to be in a position in case of an emergency, to [1181] defend our country's integrity. Men are wanted for each arm of the service, and I appeal to them to come forward and follow in the footsteps of those who secured by their sacrifices our liberty and freedom. To ensure the continuance of that independence is surely an ideal which should commend itself to the manhood of the nation.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  In discussing this particular Estimate, I have only one or two points to make and one or two questions to ask. I am glad to hear from the Minister that the number of reservists turning up for training is gratifying, and that the number of F.C.A. turning out, as a result of the later regulations, is considerably higher now than it was at any time in the past. I believe that more and more attention will require to be given to the training of the F.C.A., not only by the Minister but by the Army also. There, there is an immense potential, and we should aim at having every available young man in the country a member of the F.C.A., equipping himself for a soldier's task during his off-duty hours and during his holidays in preparation for the day of emergency.

I think the F.C.A. more or less was in the past treated as the Cinderella of the services. I think that was a major blunder. Whatever machinery there is available in the country for the training of our young manhood it should be utilised to the very fullest extent. In addition to that, no Minister for Defence, no member of a Government and no member of the Dáil possessing a full sense of responsibility can completely ignore the financial side of the matter and the fact that money for the Army, as for any other purpose, cannot come from anywhere except out of the trousers pockets of the people.

We are living in an unsettled world. We are living in a state of semi-emergency. That state of semi-emergency may last for very many years. We are not so wealthy that we can afford to maintain a huge and very costly standing Regular Army. To keep immense numbers in an army in times of semi-emergency [1182] is bad policy in my opinion. There is no place that one can find the manhood to put into an army except within the country. If 5,000, 6,000 or 8,000 extra soldiers are taken into the Army that is 8,000 more of the youngest able-bodied men in the country taken away from the fields and from the factories.

If this state of semi-emergency ends at some time or another in actual war, then these years are invaluable for increasing production and for building up our reserves. These years are invaluable for building houses for our people and building hospitals, not alone for our civilians but for those who may be injured in the event of future war. If huge numbers of able-bodied men are taken away now from the civilian population there will necessarily be a steep drop in production and a reduction in the amount of building. If adequate machinery is provided for training these men outside the barracks while allowing them to carry on their ordinary avocations, then there will be an immense national gain.

As the Minister is aware, the cost of a soldier to-day is not what it used to be; the cost of a soldier to-day represents a considerable sum of money. When we talk in terms of 5,000, 6,000 or 7,000 extra soldiers we are talking in terms of £ millions per annum extra as an imposition upon the taxpayers. I will admit that a man is better trained if he is a wholetime member of the Defence Forces rather than if he is merely a member of the F.C.A. But two world wars have shown us how very rapidly soldiers can be trained for the non-technical services. If a man is doing his week-end training, if he is doing his annual training and if the inducements are sufficient to attract more and more into the F.C.A., to turn up for annual training and for week-end camps, then such a man should be very, very highly trained indeed without the necessity of taking him into the Army as a whole-time soldier.

The bigger you build up the Regular Army the less attention will be given to the F.C.A. Double the strength of the Regular Army and the F.C.A., the Irish Volunteer force of to-day, will [1183] wither to half its present strength. There is a potential in the F.C.A. that can be built up to the 100,000 mark. Give that body sufficient attention, give it sufficient training, let the Army officers continue to lean on and rely upon that body as a major potential force, training its members higher and higher in the handling of arms from the rifle up to the machine gun, forming their own transport, their own artillery, their own signals, then I believe you can have a really effective force, immeasurably stronger than ever you will get through pursuing a policy of building up a whole-time Army, at far less cost to the people.

If it is the Minister's intention to proceed, as he has indicated, to build up a vastly greater standing Regular Army, there is no good in coming in here and appealing for co-operation in getting recruits. People look upon a soldier's career nowadays as a matter of business, certainly in the absence of actual war. They weigh up the prospects, financial and otherwise, of a soldier's life as compared with other walks of life. Army pay was very frequently adversely criticised here. Army pay was, so far as it could be, equated to that of the Civil Service at the last pay survey and the arrangement made was that when the Civil Service rates went up the Army rates would go up in proportion.

The Civil Service Arbitration Board reported some time ago in favour of new rates. That report was adopted by the previous Government. It was also decided that the Army and the police would benefit from the award. That award in the case of civil servants dates back to the 15th January. If the Minister is thinking of embarking on a recruiting campaign, the first businesslike step in such a recruiting campaign should be to come to a decision with regard to new rates of pay and then announce them. I take it the Government is adhering to the decision of the previous Government and that that award will apply alike to the Army and the Guards. If the Minister believes that it is imperative to have a bigger Army and have it rapidly, why the delay about announcing the new [1184] rates of pay? There should not be any great delay with regard to the machinery. There could not be any case for considerable delay with regard to the rates. In my opinion it is futile to be talking about recruiting when the prospective recruit does not know what his prospects and his rates of pay are to be. I would ask the Minister to let us know what progress is being made, when these rates are going to come into being or from what date they will apply. Will they apply, as in the case of the Civil Service, back to the 15th January or will they apply only from the date on which they are announced? If they are to apply only from the date on which they are published, then it is grossly unfair to delay announcing them. Every day, every week that passes by represents a loss to the members of the Army.

As I have said, I do not believe that it is good policy to go in for a big costly standing Army. I think that it is a mistake in a country like ours, mainly made up of a rural population, with the people in the city and the more densely populated areas engaged in building and industry, to suck off more and more of our manhood from general utility work and take them into the Army, if it is possible to have them trained as soldiers through machinery such as that provided by the F.C.A. You have the right in an emergency or in a state of war to mobilise the F.C.A. Every member of that organisation is an attested member of the Defence Forces liable to call up in the event of war. In my opinion more and more time and energy should be devoted towards building up the F.C.A. and making it more efficient. I have heard and read speeches from Deputies referring in more or less contemptuous terms to the F.C.A. I believe the F.C.A. has an immense potential, and if we are to keep such a force on its toes and at the very top of its form, a warm interest must be shown in its training and in its activities. Confidence must be shown in the force, and the Minister in particular must convince every individual member of the F.C.A. that his eyes are cast in that direction, that he is relying on them, that they [1185] are an immensely powerful force and that if they are trained the country has nothing to fear, but I believe one policy is antagonistic to the other. I believe that if we go in for a big standing Army that means, in fact, the withering of the Irish volunteers of to-day.

Mr. McGrath: Information on Patrick McGrath  Zoom on Patrick McGrath  I was glad to hear the Minister say that the Government intended to treat the Army as a very important factor in our national life. I think most people will agree that the last Government treated the Army and the defence of this country with absolute contempt. They made no attempt to provide a defence for this country at a time when every other country in the world was looking upon the state of affairs that existed as most serious, to the extent even of putting aside all civil occupations and calling on the people to prepare for the defence of their country. When this Party was in opposition, we appealed to the Government to treat the defence of the country as an important matter. The present Tánaiste told the Government of the time that we would not criticise any expense incurred in preparations to defend the country and he promised that we, as a Party, would not attempt at any time to criticise efforts made to provide a proper defence for the country. Instead of that, the whole position was absolutely ignored. It appeared to the ordinary man that we were going to rely on the resources of other countries to defend this country against any action any Power might take against it. We believe that it is possible for us to remain neutral in any future war as we did in the last war, but that it is our duty to defend this country against any Power that tries to attack it. Believing that, we think it is right that we should use whatever resources we can to strengthen the defence of the country. We believe that a certain Army strength is necessary and that at present the Army is far below that strength.

When the last emergency occurred, as well as the Army we had a pretty strong Volunteer force which was [1186] established by the then Fianna Fáil Government. The members of that force had gone through their annual training and were fit to take over as officers and N.C.O.s when called in to join with the Regular Army during the emergency period. There is no doubt that were it not for that great organisation which was there, we would not have been able to build up our defences as we did during the emergency. I agree that the F.C.A is a very important factor in our defence, but that force got very little encouragement during the last three years. If you can get men like those in the F.C.A. to give their services in their spare time and get trained, undoubtedly they will be the best backing that any permanent Army can have. But you must have a permanent Army of sufficient strength to maintain the different barracks and carry out other duties and be in a position to bring along the F.C.A. and the other volunteers who will be required in any emergency which may arise. Not very long ago, our attempt at forming a navy was sneered at; they were called the “rubber ducks”. Whatever attempt is made to improve the defences of our country should not be sneered at. The people who volunteer to defend us, instead of being sneered at, should be encouraged.

The Minister will have to look seriously into the question of pay if he wants to get a proper Army. Soldiers expect to be paid as well as civilians. We should not confine the Army to men who cannot find any other occupation. Conditions should be such that the Army will attract men who would prefer an army life and who will join the Army in preference to any other occupation if they are in a position to keep themselves and their families on the pay they receive while in the Army. Another matter that was very much neglected was the housing of our soldiers and their families. I can say that the married quarters in Cork, for instance, are a disgrace. I suppose they are in the same condition as they were in the British time, but if men are expected to be physically fit they should not be confined in cramped quarters as they are at present. The vast majority of the men who are living outside the barracks have no proper [1187] housing accommodation at all. I know soldiers in Cork with families of seven and eight who have to live in one room. If we expect men to train and to fight as soldiers and, if necessary, give their lives in defence of the country, they deserve better treatment than they are getting at present.

I should also like to draw the Minister's attention to the question of the civilian workers in the barracks. Civilian work in the Army, whether for labourers or clerks, should be confined as far as possible to Old I.R.A. men and ex-Army men. So far as Cork is concerned, during the past few years I know of cases of Old I.R.A. men who gave good service to this country not being appointed to these positions and of other people getting them over the heads of these men. That is a matter which I hope will be rectified. Then the civilian workers have not got an increase since 1948. I think those men, who in the main are the best of the type of men I spoke of, are entitled to get the same pay when working for the Department of Defence as they would when working for outside employers. I also ask the Minister to take into consideration the question of I.R.A. pensioners, especially those who are drawing a special allowance. Men over 70 years of age were dealt with fairly generously last week by the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Dr. Ryan.

Breanndán Mac Fheorais: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  On a point of order. I was under the impression that we were only discussing the Vote for the Department of Defence and that the Pensions Vote would be taken afterwards as a separate one.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  That is what I understood.

Breanndán Mac Fheorais: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  I should like to know whether we are going to discuss the two together.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I understood that only the Army Estimate was being discussed now and that the Pensions Vote would come on afterwards. [1188] Deputies should keep that in mind if they wish to discuss the question of pensions afterwards as only two and a half hours are allowed for the two.

Mr. McGrath: Information on Patrick McGrath  Zoom on Patrick McGrath  I am satisfied. I should also like to direct the Minister's attention to the position of Haulbowline. I know the matter is under consideration, but it is a matter on which our defence will have to depend in a very big way. I think that we should have oil supplies stored in Haulbowline even before the deep water quay is finished. The oil tanks there are probably the biggest we have in the country. Those tanks should not be left empty. In case of an emergency it is essential to have all possible stores. Some means should be devised whereby the tanks could be filled pending the construction of the berth for which I know the Minister is anxious.

Mr. Byrne:  I thought the Minister was only half way through his speech when he said he was about to conclude. The Minister said that he was alarmed at the failure of recruiting. I thought he would conclude by saying that he proposed to encourage recruiting by making the Army more attractive than it is to-day. I thought he would tell us about the Civil Service award and would indicate that the soldiers and their wives would get their share of it and the date from which they would get it. Soldiers, especially married soldiers, have to meet the increased cost of living. The Minister has asked us all to help him in the matter of recruiting. We would all be most anxious to do so and to have the Army at the desired strength but the Minister must make the Army attractive. He must pay decent wages. He must give allowances for wives and families that will enable them to live in comparative comfort, on equal terms with their neighbours. That is one of the difficulties I see about the Army, that it seems to be the Cinderella of the State.

With the exception of temporary postmen, soldiers are the lowest paid State employees. The Minister should try to make the Army more attractive by providing sporting events and a better quality uniform. We are all [1189] very proud of the Army. We are proud of its achievements in the sports field. We are proud to see the soldiers on parade. A soldier wants for his wife and family the same level of comfort that is possible for the families of men in other employment. He wants the same pay. Our soldiers cannot live up to the standard displayed by members of other armies when they visit this country. This country could not afford that standard but at least our Army personnel should be paid a higher rate of pay than they are getting at the moment and there should be a higher standard in the matter of uniform and the quality of the material used. The soldier must ask himself the question whether or not he would be in a far better position at the end of 21 or 25 years' service had he been in outside employment as a plasterer, a bricklayer or a carpenter. I would ask the Minister to appoint a committee composed of the heads of all departments in the Army to suggest improvements and means of making Army life more comfortable and the Army more attractive for our splendid men.

Mr. MacBride: Information on Seán MacBride  Zoom on Seán MacBride  I hope the Minister will take any remarks I have to make as being of a constructive nature. I feel the time has come when we should review the position of our Army in the light of modern conditions. One cannot help feeling that in many respects our Army has not progressed since the pre-war period. One feels that it is to some extent the type of standing Army which one expected to find in the 1920's or 1930's. It seems to me that the time has been reached when it is necessary to re-examine the position as to our Defence Forces generally and to determine the line of policy that would be acceptable to all Parties in the House because, obviously, the question of the Defence Forces should be outside any question of Party politics. I do not think that we do need a large standing Army. The ideal thing would be to have a small, highly trained, highly efficient, well-paid, standing Army, every member of which would be capable of becoming an N.C.O. and probably an officer in time of emergency, that would form [1190] the framework of a large Volunteer Army.

In order to obtain a standing Army of that type we must recognise that every private in it must be a technician, must be of sufficient ability, intelligence, education and training to become at least an N.C.O. at a week's notice. In order to attract the type of men you want in an army of this kind it is necessary to pay them well. It is necessary to pay them at the same rate as technicians are paid in industry. A large portion of the work of the Army is of a scientific or technical nature. I am afraid we still live a little bit in the atmosphere that a soldier is just the first person you meet and recruit, who is very badly paid and who becomes a soldier because he has no other job open to him. We must get away from that mentality and create a really first-class small Army. Undoubtedly, that will mean offering a much higher rate of pay than the rate to which we have been accustomed. I know the Minister will probably have a considerable amount of difficulty in persuading the Department of Defence that this is necessary but it is the only hope of building up a proper Defence Force.

Side by side with this highly trained, highly efficient standing Army there is, as the Minister has emphasised and as I am sure he is anxious to do, an urgent necessity to develop the Volunteer force, the F.C.A. I am sure every member of the House will gladly join in giving the Minister any assistance possible in that direction. It does appear, probably due to the lack of sufficient training personnel, that the F.C.A. at the moment are very badly in need of training. I cannot say that I have any expert knowledge beyond the knowledge that a Minister acquires from attending a great many functions from time to time at which units of the Defence Forces parade but one cannot help noticing that in some cases the standard of training is extremely low, lower I think than we were accustomed to in the Volunteers, even in much more difficult circumstances. There seems to be very little pride in the efficient execution of a movement but no doubt that is due to the inadequacy [1191] of training personnel. It is a matter that should be attended to.

One of the suggestions which I brought forward on a number of occasions when we were discussing the Defence Forces in the Government was the possibility of utilising the Defence Forces, at least the technical branches, on constructional work undertaken by the State, not as a means of getting that constructional work carried out more cheaply, but as a means of providing training for the engineering corps, for instance, in land reclamation, in arterial drainage and even in bridge construction. It often occurred to me that the engineering corps of the Army could undertake not to do the whole job, but to do a job, thus acquiring valuable experience and at the same time popularising itself with the public by showing that it was capable of doing a useful piece of peace-time work. It occurred to me that the importance of this aspect was increasing nowadays, since a large portion of the work of an army in wartime involves the utilisation of modern machinery, such as bulldozers and dredgers of one kind or another, in order to prepare an airfield or the construction of a bridge. In that way, the Army would gain useful experience and would partially pay its way in respect of the particular jobs it undertook to do. I emphasise the words “would partially pay its way” because I think it would be very bad if it were expected that the Army should pay its way by doing work of that kind, but it would certainly pay for part of its experience and for part of its training by carrying out engineering tasks of that nature.

Likewise, if I may turn from the Army to the naval service, I suggested on a number of occasions that it might be possible to utilise the naval service to run an efficient school: that, if the naval service had a number of small deep-sea trawlers of the type used particularly by the Spaniards, which come into Bantry and fish off the southwest coast and which are able to withstand any weather, it could undertake the training of our inshore fishermen. We lack a naval tradition, we lack, [1192] even, a fishing tradition to any degree. The vessels which we have at the moment are not ideally suited for their purpose. In the first instance, they can only enter two or three of the harbours off our coast. They may be very fine vessels from one point of view, but, I think, they are not suited for the purpose for which we require them. The vessels which the naval service should have would be capable of entering any of the small ports around our coast. We probably would have a more efficient coastal service, from the point of view of keeping away poachers, if we had a greater number of these small vessels.

At the moment, I think we have two vessels in commission. It takes them a long time to get around the coast. The poachers, or the would-be poachers, know that one is laid up. They know that the other one is on the east coast, and that they are quite safe in fishing off the coast of Donegal. Therefore, it would be much better if, instead of having these larger types of vessels, we had say half a dozen small fast fishing trawlers which could be utilised at the same time for training. In that way, I think there would be no difficulty in obtaining the additional funds, because there, again, the naval service could justify itself, even in peace time, from the point of view of providing a necessary national service. The training and the development of our inshore fishermen is very badly needed. If our naval service could provide a training school for the fishermen along the western coast it would, to a certain extent, be doing good work on behalf of the nation.

I do not know whether the Minister proposes to deal with the position of the Air Corps when closing. I think the public have been somewhat disturbed recently at the accidents which have occurred in the Air Corps. One wonders whether all the precautions that should be taken have been taken. One also wonders whether the equipment and the machines used were up to standard. One wonders, occasionally, whether, possibly, the cheeseparing attitude of the Department of Finance does not preclude the replacement of machines or parts [1193] which should have been replaced. I am sure the Minister shares my anxieties in the matter and will investigate that aspect of the question. It would be, of course, appalling if our Air Corps were limited in its requirements to an extent that would endanger the lives of any of its personnel. I am sure that the Minister will have the support not only of the Government but of the House in ensuring that the machines and the materials used are of the best. I merely mention the matter in the hope that the Minister will investigate the position.

Again, from the point of view of utilising our defence services in peace time in such a way as to popularise them and in such a way as to justify the increased public expenditure which undoubtedly is necessary, it has occurred to me that, possibly, the Air Corps could be utilised for the purpose of making available and of running an airfield in Cork, with possibly one in Galway and one in Donegal. It seems to me that these would be military necessities from the point of view of our own Defence Forces.

I do not think that the amount of internal traffic available would justify expenditure by the Department of Industry and Commerce in the creation of such airfields. I think that these airfields from a commercial point of view would be a loss, but if such airfields were constructed and run by the Air Corps of the Army, and were also utilised for civilian purposes, the Air Corps would be rendering a useful service from the point of view of the development of our own internal air services, and would, at the same time, be justifying its existence to the public to a greater degree. In other words, it would be availing of the opportunity to do a good public relations piece of work. I merely put the suggestion to the Minister. It occurs to me that one of the tasks of any Minister for Defence would be that of public relations in order to justify to the public the expenditure which is necessary in peace time.

I think that the rate of expenditure at the moment on our Defence Forces is inadequate. I feel that it would be [1194] necessary to increase that rate of expenditure if we are to have any kind of an efficient Defence Force. As already indicated, the rates of pay for privates should be very substantially increased so as to ensure that we will have first-class technicians in the Army. The additional increase in expenditure, which I believe to be necessary as far as the Defence Forces are concerned, must be, to a certain extent, sold to the public. I think it would be possible to do that more easily if the Defence Forces could participate in various development projects here which, commercially, would not be justified but which, on a joint commercial and strategic basis, could be justified.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I did not intervene on this Estimate for the last two years because I considered it would be useless, knowing that the policy of the previous Government was to wave the white flag if anything happened. I wonder what was Deputy MacBride's attitude in the previous Cabinet when these matters were discussed. I would like to have been present at one of those Cabinet meetings.

Mr. MacBride: Information on Seán MacBride  Zoom on Seán MacBride  I do not think Deputy MacBride waved any white flag.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I wonder did Deputy MacBride take any interest in the defence of this nation. I wonder what he thought of the manner in which things were conducted and what he expected was going to happen.

Mr. MacBride: Information on Seán MacBride  Zoom on Seán MacBride  He probably took a little more interest in the defence of this nation than the Deputy did at various periods.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Perhaps so. I remember his issuing orders on one occasion. We went and carried them out and he stopped by the fire himself.

Mr. MacBride: Information on Seán MacBride  Zoom on Seán MacBride  That is a lie, Deputy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I do not know what Deputy Corry said, but it has been characterised as a lie by Deputy MacBride. That statement, “a lie”, must be withdrawn.

Mr. MacBride: Information on Seán MacBride  Zoom on Seán MacBride  Certainly, I withdraw [1195] it. The Deputy made a foul, untrue allegation against me. Call it by whatever name you like.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  The Deputy did nothing of the kind.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Deputy Corry will keep to the Estimate and to nothing else.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  We need an effective army in this country. I am aware that during the past three years the attitude of the previous Government has been to demoralise instead of make efficient any portion of the Army or of the Navy. I give as one such instance the amount allocated to these services in the Estimate. At the present day there is nothing more demoralising for members of a navy than to know they are useless and that, in the event of their being called upon in an emergency, the ground has been cut from under them.

Fancy a navy based in Haulbowline which, as a result of the attitude of the previous Minister for Defence, if it needs refuelling has to go to Dublin for a few gallons of oil and then come back again to Haulbowline. I wonder how much fuel is consumed on the outward and inward journeys and if having arrived at Haulbowline after refuelling at Dublin, the vessels have to go back there again for further fuel, and have just enough left for that journey. Such is the present position of the naval vessels based in Haulbowline. I think it is a scandal that public money should be wasted on a navy which has been hamstrung and rendered ineffective. When I heard this matter first I was shocked, and I maintain that the state of affairs that exists at our naval station in Haulbowline has a demoralising effect on our Navy.

There is no use in expecting a man to put his heart into training and to do his part in an army or a navy of defence if he knows that the moment war is declared his share in that war is to tie up his vessel in port because he has no oil to take her out. When I see the sums allowed here for the commanders [1196] and the rest of the Navy, I say it is a waste of public money unless that arm of our Defence Forces is rendered effective. The way to render it effective is to provide for the fuelling of vessels at their base. You can imagine those vessels lying there. A declaration of war comes. The Navy is ordered out. The Commander of the Navy says to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army: “We must wait a couple of days until I get a few gallons of oil from Dublin.” It is a joke. I know the feelings of the Navy in Cobh towards that condition of affairs.

It is a public scandal that although you have on that island, under the control of the Defence Forces in this State, tanks and storage for up to 20,000,000 gallons of oil, the Navy cannot get a gallon of oil out of the 20,000,000 that could be stored there to take them as far as Roches Point. That is the present position of the Navy, of that arm of our Defence Forces, as handed over to our present Minister for Defence. I am only giving here what I had extracted by question and answer from the previous Minister for Defence. He told me: “Yes, they will go on tour to Dublin for the oil and tour back again with it.” As soon as they arrive they will have to tour again to get more oil.

There is a great deal of storage under the control of the Defence Forces in Haulbowline. It is our largest store for oil in this State to-day. In previous years, ways and means were found by which these tanks were kept filled. It brought a very considerable income to the Cork Harbour Commissioners—something around £12,000 a year.

I suggest that portion of that £12,000 could be used and very effectively used towards improving the position both in the deep water quay and in the oil works in Haulbowline. When these oil works were in bad condition before, ways and means were found, not alone for filling these tanks but for seeing that pumping facilities were provided for every vessel coming into that port. There should be nothing impossible in it. It would be far more in the line of our naval and Army engineers to turn their mind to that and to give a little [1197] attention to finding ways and means of filling those tanks than going out on Deputy Dillon's bogs in connection with the reclamation scheme.

There is very little use in talking about increasing the pay of officers and men if the Department of Defence then extracts from them an extortionate rent for the houses in which they live, and I say that 50/- per week charged to a naval lieutenant or ensign in Haulbowline is an extortionate rent. I ask the Minister to look into that matter also.

I can cast my mind back to 1939 and see the position of affairs then. I can see the position in which our young men whom we called to training and endeavoured to form into a defence force for the protection of this nation were, and particularly the arms handed to them to fight with, and I suggest to the Minister that if we are, as I expect we now are, going to prepare this nation so that it can at least do something for its own protection, we will not beg any foreigner to protect our nation and our people. Too many lives were lost in the fight for the freedom of this nation without that and without our giving up the ghost now. I suggest to the Minister that he should see what stores of arms are available in an emergency for the men who would be asked to sacrifice their lives in such an emergency. I can think of the situation in former years when 70 men were served out with shotguns, with Springfield rifles more antiquated than the rifles the Boers had in 1902.

We are spending £5,000,000 on the Army and I regard it more or less as an insurance policy, just as in the case of wheat. If we are going to spend that money, let us see that it is well spent, that we have an effective force and that we will not have the joke and the scandal in regard to the Navy which was carried on by the previous Government. The Minister has been only a short time in office and I do not wish to overburden him with questions, but unless some steps are immediately taken by his Department to render usable the oil storage capacity which is available at Haulbowline, he will be spending a few nights here from 10.30 until 11 p.m. I do not wish to go further than that.

[1198]Mr. MacBride: Information on Seán MacBride  Zoom on Seán MacBride  Is that a threat, Deputy?

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  It is one of the things I intend to do and I make no secret of it. I intend as quickly as I can to repair the ravages caused by three years of the Deputy's misgovernment.

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara  Zoom on Thomas O'Hara  A good intelligent man.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  If the baby would shut up, he might learn a little. These are matters that concern us all, every one of us who had any part during the period of our country's history when we were struggling to drive the foreigner from our shores. I am hoping that we are now going to have this Army and Navy of ours made effective and efficient, and that, if the occasion arises—I hope it will not— when our young men have to be called again to do their part for the protection and safety of the nation, they will at least have modern arms with which to fight.

Breanndán Mac Fheorais: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  For a long time, for the three and a half years about which Deputy Corry spoke so often in his speech, we had from the Fianna Fáil Benches an hysterical cry about preparation for war, about increasing the strength of the Army and about the inadequacy of the civil defence preparations in this country. To his credit, I suppose it is, but because he had been a Minister previously, we did not hear the same hysterical cry from Deputy Traynor, as he then was. I now suggest that Fianna Fáil have an admirable opportunity to do all the things which Deputy Vivion de Valera, Deputy Corry and others in the Fianna Fáil Party suggested might be done.

So far as I can, with these remarks, I want to make a fair speech. Deputy Corry talks about an efficient and effective Army. I should like somebody to tell me what would be an effective strength for the Army. What strength should we have? Should it be 8,000 or should it be, as suggested by the officials of the Department and by the officers in the Army, 12,500? Is that an adequate Army? Would it be an effective Army for peace? Would [1199] 24,000 be an effective strength in time of war? Nobody has yet said what should be the strength of an Irish Army in time of emergency and for that reason I think the suggestion of Deputy MacBride is worthy of the Minister's consideration. He suggests a small Army somewhat in line with the present strength, or perhaps a little more. I would personally be in favour of an Army which would be slightly stronger, by, say, 2,000, but let us have it an effective Army, a well-paid Army and a well-drilled Army. So far as the defence of the country is concerned, after that, in time of emergency, all of us have obligations.

As taxpayers, every one of us assumes responsibility for the economic well-being of the country and we assume responsibility for general administration and Government administration. I suggest that every male in the country has a responsibility so far as its defence is concerned, and I advocate now, as I advocated when in opposition and subsequently in Government—I am not one of those who wants to advocate conscription: to advocate that there should be a long period of Army service for the people or that, in time of emergency, men of a certain age should be forced to join the Army—that every male in this State at a particular age should be compelled to take two or three weeks' training as a member of one of the Defence Forces, because, invariably, we notice that many of the unfortunates who find themselves in the Army—this is my experience—especially from the rural areas, find themselves there because they could not get a job at a particular time. I do not mean that as slight on anybody who ever joined the Army, but I submit that, especially at a time like this, a man would prefer to work for the county council, even though he might be paid £3 10s. od. per week, or as an agricultural labourer, for which he will be paid, in some counties, at least, £3 7s. 6d. per week, rather than go into the Army. If you reckon the pay of Army men, counting the emoluments, it may come to more than £3 10s. od. or £3 7s. 6d., but still it is not attracting men into the Army.

[1200] One may talk of patriotic motives and the ideals they had in the past and the spirit in the hearts and minds of Irishmen regarding defence, but at times like this when there is no emergency, no real danger of war, a man looks upon the Army as a career and asks himself and the Government and the Minister for Defence: “If I go into the Army, what am I going to be paid for it?” I think that is perfectly reasonable and normal in a man who is going to join an army, whether Irish, British or American. The last Minister for Defence made an honest attempt to increase the Army strength, but that attempt, even if it were made by any other Minister would, in my opinion, have got the same result—and we all agree that the results were bad. If every Deputy and every newspaper asked by way of speech or advertisement for young men in rural areas and in towns and cities to join the Army, I would say that the response would have been just as bad as I think it is agreed it was in the last five or six months. With the present standards and rates of pay in the Army, if we are ever to attain to a figure of 12,500, we can only get it by improvements. If we had the Minister for Defence, Deputy Cowan, Deputy Seán MacBride and others going around asking the men to join the Army, with conditions as they are, I do not think we could increase the strength effectively. Therefore I say that we should concentrate on a moderate Army, highly trained, highly efficient, but well paid, and then depend on the ordinary civilians—as it is their responsibility, just as it is the responsibility of the man who is paid as a member of the National Army—to undertake the defence of the country.

I think it was Deputy McGrath who talked about the bad way the F.C.A. were treated during the last three years. Whilst many Deputies here can suggest improvements in the F.C.A. that might have been effected in the last three years, it was not a period when you had men wanting to flock into the F.C.A. In 1940, when the L.D.F. was inaugurated, we were falling over ourselves to get into it. It was a new idea and it attracted most of us. Of course, we were threatened [1201] at that time to some extent and, because there was a spirit inherent in us, all of us tried to get into the F.C.A., to play our small part, no matter what it was. We were all attracted by the idea of marching up and down, carrying the big heavy rifles and taking commands and orders. But during the last three and a half years, or even in 1947 and 1946, when it seemed to people that there was no danger of an immediate emergency the F.C.A. was out of fashion. The only way we can bring it into fashion again is to make it attractive. If money is to be spent on defence, I suggest that a substantial portion of it be spent on the F.C.A. to make it attractive. There is no use in appealing to people by public meetings and saying: “You must join the F.C.A. because the situation in Korea suggests there might be a major conflict in the immediate future.” It will have to be attractive and the conditions of the F.C.A. will themselves have to be attractive.

Therefore, I ask, first of all, what is an effective Army (a) during peace time and (b) during an emergency. I also support the idea of Deputy Seán MacBride, that we have a small, moderately sized Army, that we have it efficient, but that we should seek more of the ordinary civilians. It is not fair to suggest that the men of the National Army should bear the brunt of it. Let the solicitor, the bank official, the civil servant, the local government official, the farmer, the business man and the shopkeeper make their contribution, however small it might be. At the present time, outside the Army we have a very limited number of people who are taking any interest in the F.C.A., and consequently there is very little interest in the defence of this country or the preparation for its defence should an emergency arise.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Might I at this stage remind Deputies that there is just an hour for Pensions, the Minister's reply, and the remainder of the Army Vote?

Captain Cowan: Information on Peadar Cowan  Zoom on Peadar Cowan  I got the impression, when listening to Deputy MacBride speaking on this Estimate, [1202] that he has got a sense of humour but does not know it. He tells us that the F.C.A. is in need of training, that their standard of training is extremely low, that they have little pride in execution —I take it, of drill movements. He develops the argument that we must have a “standing army”—as he calls it, but which I prefer to call a “permament force”—composed of specialists who will devote their time to technical training—I take it, technical training of themselves. Then he advances the extraordinary argument—it is not new; it has been urged over and over again by people who do not understand the necessity or use of an army—that the Army should be used for land rehabilitation, that our Navy should be used to teach how to fish, and that our Air Force should be used to construct airfields in Cork, Galway and Donegal— without any advertence whatsoever to how these dangerous things, once created—airfields—would be protected. Are those airfields to be created so that the American bombers will land on them any night they wish? Are they to be an inducement or an invitation to the Americans or somebody else to come in and land? Or is it to make the problem of the Minister and the Department of Defence more difficult?

Having had some little experience as a soldier, I have always believed that an army should be organised and trained to be an army and not to be draining bogs or teaching how to fish or matters of that kind. I think that that viewpoint would be held by the very experienced individuals who form our general staff, and on whom the Minister must rely for advice. Let the Army be an army, and let other Departments teach how to fish or how to drain land. Let the Army concentrate on its own training and on its own organisation.

If our F.C.A. do not appear to be as smart as the Royalettes in particular movements on the stage that is no disadvantage now because all modern training is to teach the soldier how to fight and it has tended even since 1939 to get away from all this nonsense of spit and polish and get down to the real business of fighting. The soldier who can hit with his weapon is a more [1203] efficient soldier than the soldier who can form particular revolutions or movements in the smartest possible way. The F.C.A. need not worry very much about the criticism that they take no pride in execution. If the F.C.A. are properly organised to fight, to use their weapons effectively, to make the best use of cover, either to defend or assault a position properly, then I think they would be much more useful to the country than if they were the most expert ballet movers we could possibly recruit. I do not take the point of view that their standard of training is deplorably or extremely low. Naturally, the Minister, the general staff and everybody concerned with the Army would like to see an increase in the standard of training of every element or component in it, but I do not think it was right to say that the standard of training of the F.C.A. was extremely low. I do not think that the Parliament of this nation should be used to make that criticism of the young boys who are in the F.C.A., who devote their evenings and week-ends to training and who are doing their best.

I realise that the Minister has only just taken over responsibility as Minister for Defence but I have listened to him during the past three years when different Army Estimates, Army Bills and matters dealing with the Army came before the House and he made very constructive suggestions. I think he can take it from me that he will have the very best wishes of the House in putting into operation those very constructive suggestions he made while he was in opposition.

Naturally I support the Deputies who have recommended an increase in pay for the Army. I have always felt, even when I was serving in it myself, that Army pay was disgracefully low and I often wondered why any person served in an army at all. He takes certain risks in time of war or emergency but he often takes serious risks in time of peace in training and he was and is paid a totally inadequate wage. The soldier does not exist for the purpose of protecting the slums; he exists [1204] for the purpose of protecting the system of society, the banks and the wealth of the country and if so the banks and the wealth of the country should contribute towards paying him a decent wage or salary.

An announcement has been made by the Government that there will be an increase in pay and allowances for the Army. I hope that they will be put into effect very soon and that they will be properly back-dated. Although there is considerable discontent regarding pay, however, there is also discontent regarding quite a number of other minor matters. I would suggest to the Minister—I will put it in a broad way—that quite a number of the existing outdated disciplinary regulations should be looked into and revised and if that is done many regulations which are causing trouble and discontent will be removed. While the soldier would like to be well paid there are other matters which cause him more trouble than pay and they are the regulations which he considers to be unjust and unfair. Many soldiers and officers have from time to time serious complaints. There is a section of the Defence Forces Act which deals with grievances but that section has been entirely useless and I would suggest to the Minister that he should have on his staff an officer of high rank to be called “Military Secretary” or anything else he likes and to whom personal grievances for the Minister's attention could be referred directly.

Matters in connection with a soldier's or officer's pay, his marriage, his station or location are personal matters and it is in connection with personal matters of that kind that most difficulties, trouble, complaints and grievances arise and I have felt during my own service and on considering the matter since that the Minister should have such an officer as I have mentioned. After all the battalion commander, brigade commander, divisional commander, command commander or any other units that fit into the machine are not very much concerned with those personal grievances. It is important that that type of personal grievance should be remedied if possible or reduced, in so far as these [1205] grievances can be reduced or remedied. The Minister can do that by having the type of officer on his own staff that I recommend.

There are matters of policy and of the utilisation of the Defence Forces that I should like to deal with, but I realise that with the very short time at our disposal these matters cannot even be touched upon.

I say again to the Minister that he has my best wishes and that he will have the best wishes of the House in trying to remove from the Defence Force all these grievances that have been and that are responsible for keeping it much below its present establishment strength.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Daniel Desmond  Zoom on Daniel Desmond  The difficulty of getting men into the Army has been mentioned in this debate. There is one difficulty in that regard which affects men in the Cork Harbour area. I believe that it is detrimental to the interests of these men to be in the Army in so far as they are suffering financially at present. Because of a lack of adequate housing accommodation for the men who belong to the Defence Forces in Cork City, where they are stationed, they find it necessary to live in quarters in the Crosshaven Harbour district, which is about 14 miles away. These men, who have given many years of service to this State, must be in their barracks in Cork City every morning and they have to travel from the Crosshaven Harbour district, and even to Ballincollig, which is a further seven miles away, from their barracks in Cork City. They are expected to pay, out of their weekly wage, the full bus fare, because the Army authorities cannot provide housing accommodation for them in the Cork city area. These bus fares cost these men about 16/- or 17/- a week— and more, if they have to go as far as the Ballincollig district. I believe it is our duty to try to remedy that situation. I do not blame the Minister for not having remedied this grievance in the few short weeks he has been in office. I raised this matter a couple of years ago. I think that it is not so much the Minister—no matter what Government may be in office—as the administrative staff dealing with these [1206] men who are responsible. I wonder if it is because these men are privates that due consideration is not given to the fact that they have to incur this extra expense every week of the year. I understand that the men went so far as to indicate that they were willing to pay for the petrol if an Army lorry was put at their disposal to transport them to Cork City. We know that for years past many an Army lorry went on journeys that were not necessary. It is essential that these men should be treated properly.

Deputy Corry spoke about Cork Harbour and he dealt especially with the question of the naval force. There is another matter in relation to Cork Harbour that Deputy Corry may not have mentioned and which I think is important. There are forts in Cork Harbour which were handed over to this State about 1937. One particular fort is called after a prominent Englishman of his time, Lord Camden, and within 50 or 100 yards of it is the remains of a quarry known as “The Convict's Quarry”. Irishmen were brought from Spike Island to build these forts. If we want to recruit men from the armed services it is essential, as other Deputies have stated, that they be properly and adequately equipped. What about the danger of putting them into a death-trap? The men stationed in some of these obsolete forts in Cork Harbour during the 1939-1945 period were definitely placed in a death-trap. These forts are a hindrance to us at present unless we modernise them. If we do not intend to modernise them I think they should be scrapped completely. If there should be another outbreak of war, under modern war conditions, every man placed in these forts is definitely doomed. I realise that it would take a lot of money to improve and modernise these forts, but why not make a start? Why not ask for a certain amount each year until we can be sure that every man who is stationed in these forts will be adequately protected and will be able to give good service to his country? Deputy Corry mentioned the past three years, but he forgot to mention that the one thing about Fort Camden under foreign rule was that it contained the most modern workshops and [1207] machinery of the time. Various equipment was being supplied to the Curragh and to other parts of this country from that fort. But long before the inter-Party Government took office, the previous Government scrapped all the machinery in that fort. Even if it was derelict before that, it became a scrap-heap then. I do not wish to criticise in any destructive fashion, but it is essential that we should understand that our soldiers must be adequately equipped and protected.

I come now to the question of Army payments. I agree with the other speakers who said that it is essential that the members of the Army should be adequately paid. I know that during the emergency years many a lad who joined our Army crossed the Border and went into the Six Counties because the pay he was receiving here was not satisfactory. I hope that these men will be placed in a better position financially. I realise that everything cannot be done overnight. The Department of Defence is one Department of State in respect of which there should be full co-operation with the Minister by all the members of this House. I ask the Minister to take this House into his confidence so that everything possible can be done to have these difficulties ironed out.

Deputy Corry mentioned the position of the naval men in Haulbowline. I know the area well. I believe it would be a good thing if, as part of the training of our naval men, the Minister would provide a control system around our western seaboard and the Kerry and Cork coasts, and train our men by asking them to keep an eye on the foreigners who come within the three-mile limit. These foreigners can often be seen poaching inside the three mile limit. It may be said that this matter is outside the scope of the Estimate but I say that our naval men should patrol the coastline within the three-mile limit. This would train them and at the same time it would be a means of protection for the poor, unfortunate fishermen who are being harassed so often by foreign trawlers.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  As time is running [1208] out, I shall be very brief. I want to confine my remarks to the F.C.A. The F.C.A. is, I think, the ideal solution to the defence problem of a nation such as ours. It is for a small nation the ideal type of force and it is a force which can be maintained without unnecessarily interfering with the ordinary work of members who are employed in field, factory or other walks of life. Somebody said that the F.C.A. was not as fashionable nowadays as it was during the emergency; and that people had not the same interest in the F.C.A. as they had when it was first established. I do not agree that there is any real difference because we have the young people coming along who are equally anxious to be members of the F.C.A. if it is made sufficiently attractive and if training is so arranged that it will not unduly interfere with their work or, one might say, with their pastimes.

During the emergency, members of the F.C.A. sacrificed practically all of their leisure time to take part in this emergency service. Training in the F.C.A. might be so arranged that it would not take up so much of the time of the young men who join that voluntary force. I think that more funds should be made available to those in charge of the F.C.A. in order to place better training facilities at their disposal.

There should be better social life in the F.C.A. That would be one way of making the force more attractive. Those of us who had experience in the force during the emergency found that one of the things in which we took the greatest interest and in which all the men were most keenly interested was the shooting competitions. Unfortunately, these shooting competitions did not take place as often as the men would have liked and this was due to the fact that ammunition was not placed at their disposal. Those competitions were something in which the men took a real interest. While engaged in these competitions, the men were learning and they were also training themselves in one of the most essential aspects of a good defence, the ability to shoot straight. If sufficient ammunition were placed at the disposal [1209] of the F.C.A. to encourage its members and enable them to take part in regular shooting competitions, in addition to the valuable experience acquired by way of shooting practice, the competitions would also be one of the best methods of holding on to those who are in the force and encouraging others to join up.

I think that much more attention could be given to the tailoring of the F.C.A. uniforms. One might say that that is not important but it is really important. Men like to look smart, particularly when they are on parade in a force like the F.C.A. If they had a uniform similar to that which is issued to the Army, they would appreciate it very much. The members of the F.C.A. were particularly keen on having a peaked cap. The Army seemed to rule against the cap and are in favour of the forage type of cap or the present beret type which is being used. You will find that for dress purposes, anyhow, the men are particularly keen on the peaked caps. It is only a simple matter and it would be a particularly good thing if peaked caps were introduced.

Another matter to which I should like to direct the Minister's attention is that in regard to men employed in factories and elsewhere. The employers of these men should be instructed and encouraged to give every facility to their employees in regard to suitable holidays for their training. It sometimes discourages young men from becoming members of the F.C.A. if they think that their employers would not be particularly satisfied if they had to get holidays in order to attend training at week-ends. Employers should be encouraged to see that those men get every facility to permit of them taking part in all the duties that are necessary in the F.C.A.

The matter of maintaining proper discipline in a voluntary force is a most difficult matter. Men are free to come on parade and every means has been tried to ensure that the men adhere to some discipline, such as is done in the Army. It is impossible to enforce the same discipline in a voluntary force as in the Regular Army. For one thing, you have not the same grip on the men [1210] in a voluntary force. I think that some means should be adopted whereby those in charge of the force would have a better grip on the members of the F.C.A. in order to enforce a little more rigid discipline which ultimately would be for the general good of the force.

Sometimes people who would like to join the F.C.A. are not encouraged to do so when they see men not having the proper discipline. The main offence in that respect is the wearing of uniforms off duty. When you meet members of the F.C.A. wearing their uniforms or part of the uniform, which is worse, it creates a bad impression. Some means should be provided where more rigid discipline could be enforced. The F.C.A. provides an ideal solution to the defence problem in a country such as ours. The Minister should do everything to encourage as many as possible to join the F.C.A. In joining it, the members should get every encouragement to do their training properly and to attend their weekly and monthly parades. They should be perfectly trained to cope with any emergency that might arise. They should be so trained that they might be absorbed into the Regular Army or take their part in the defence programme and be as good as the members of the Regular Army.

Mr. W. Murphy: Information on William Murphy  Zoom on William Murphy  I do not intend to delay the House very long. I should like to concur with some of the remarks passed here to-night by Deputies as regards training and equipping of an Army. I do not think that the Deputies are really in earnest when they ask the Minister for Defence to equip that Army in such a way that it will be able to meet any invasion or any emergency. I believe myself—and I think that every Deputy in the House knows —that, in a little island such as this, it would be an utter impossibility for the Minister for Defence to get all the instruments of war and all the modern weapons of destruction which in the last two wars, and particularly in the last one, made of Europe the desperate wilderness it is to-day. I think there ought to be no cause for anxiety as regards our Navy because we can be quite certain our shores will be well [1211] guarded, and, whilst they may not be guarded in our interests, they will certainly be guarded in the interests of some other nation and particularly in the interests of our nearest neighbour. I think the most we can ask the Minister to do to-night, or any future Minister, is to establish a decent standard in the Army, set up a decent well-trained Army, a well-equipped Army and, above all, a well-paid Army to guard the people's interests. All I hope is that that Army will never be asked to do any more than that because God help our country if we are ever called to take part in a major war or defend ourselves.

Mr. Davern: Information on Michael J. Davern  Zoom on Michael J. Davern  God help the fellows who think like that.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  I think this debate, above all others, should be dealt with from a non-Party point of view. To some extent I regretted the tone of part of Deputy O'Higgins' speech inasmuch as he seemed to have an idea that there was a definite cleavage between the Opposition and the Government on the question as to whether we should have a larger standing Army or a larger F.C.A. I think we should not allow ourselves to get into the rut of thinking that the Opposition stands for the F.C.A. and the Government stands for the Army. That is a fateful policy, as was proved clearly in relation to agriculture, when we had the Opposition standing for tillage and the Government of the day standing for cattle, etc.

We should approach this matter in a realistic way. If we approach it in that way we will realise that we cannot have a large standing Army and that the largest Army we can have is governed by our financial resources. Our financial resources confine us to an Army of limited size. Despite all the efforts the Minister may make the Regular Army must inevitably be a small Army. For that reason it is essential that the other wing of our Defence Forces should be developed to its fullest extent, and that every available young man should be encouraged as a national duty to join the F.C.A.

[1212] Listening to this debate, one would be inclined to conclude that Deputies are either much wiser or more foolish than the spokesmen of other nations. All over the world to-day we hear the cry that war is very close and that it is inevitable. Here we seem to live in an atmosphere in which war appears to be very far removed from us. Deputy Corish says that there is no immediate danger of war. I do not know what his sources of information are on that point, but there appears to be a general feeling throughout the rest of the world that there is a real and immediate danger of war. Anyone who studies the Press, if that can be relied on, must acknowledge that there is certainly a danger of war. Whether that danger is real or proximate, it is difficult to discover.

I think the danger does exist. Because it does exist there is an obligation resting upon the country to make our defences as perfect as they can be made in relation to our limited financial and economic resources. The Army cannot be very large, but it can be efficient. In that connection I will repeat what I asked last year: is everything being done to secure for our Army the most efficient equipment available? We must all agree that the soldier here, as in every other country, cannot give of his best unless he is properly equipped. One cannot expect the morale of an army to remain high if the officers and men realise that they are equipped with arms which do not compare favourably with those available to other nations.

I would ask the Minister, therefore, what is the purpose of our Defence Force? Is it not to defend this country —not to defend, as Deputy Cowan said, the wealthy or the banks, but the ordinary people, their lives and their liberties? We have seen what has happened in Czechoslovakia and in Hungary and in other countries in Eastern Europe. We have seen how religion has been trampled under foot and human liberty destroyed. Should it not be the first purpose of our Defence Force to prevent such things happening to our people? Since that is true, we must ask ourselves then from what source is the danger likely [1213] to come? There is no use planning the defence of our country unless we plan realistically. We must realise that the only danger of attack is from the forces of world Communism. People may say, as the last speaker has said, that other countries will defend us. I think that is neither a wise nor a courageous attitude to adopt. Other countries may endeavour to defend us or they may find themselves too busy defending their own territory to do that.

We have to think not alone of attack by sea but also of attack by air. In modern warfare it is possible, as was borne out in the last war and the possibility will be even further advanced in the next war, that our people may find themselves subjected to attack from the air and to airborne invasion, a very effective method of invasion of a country which is undefended. I think, therefore, that we should not hesitate to ask the most important of the freedom-loving nations, the United States of America, to share their equipment with us and supply us with the most modern equipment at their disposal. If we are so supplied we can assure them that our Army with such equipment will be quite capable of defending the Twenty-Six Counties either from airborne invasion or any other type of invasion. I think that is the realistic way to approach this matter. It is no use keeping an army merely for ornamental purposes or to raise the dignity and status of the country. If we keep an army at all, it must be an effective army for the defence of the liberties of our people.

If we intend to strengthen the F.C.A. we ought, I think, to make it a little bit more attractive to the younger generation. There is a good deal to be said for the improvement of the uniform. A smart uniform often promotes that efficiency and smartness which Deputy MacBride complained are lacking in the F.C.A. I would suggest, too-possibly this idea may not meet with an enthusiastic reception— that one unit of the F.C.A. should be reserved for boys in their 'teens, in which they would find companions of their own age group with kindred interests. That would make the idea of [1214] army life more attractive to our younger people. It is the younger people we should encourage into the Defence Forces.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputies will remember that this Vote and the following Vote, Army Pensions, must conclude at 8 o'clock and the Minister will require some time to reply.

Mr. MacCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  I have only just one observation to make. It would be a sad reflection on our history, and on the proved capabilities of our manhood, to find that men who have passed through the stirring events of our own days should suggest that the defence of our nation should be left to others. Such a policy would leave us wide open to occupation, not only by our enemies but also by those who profess to be our friends. We know from the events of our own time that our nation can be organised in such a way that, at any rate, any enemies who might have designs on us would think twice before making the attempt. With the co-operation of the Army, which is now very efficient, the F.C.A. and the other voluntary services, I have no doubt whatever that our fighting men would make the brave show here that they have always made should occasion call for it. We can see from Press reports that all the small nations of the world to-day are organising their defences, not for an aggressive war but for their own self-protection and safety. That is all we ask for here and I am sure, with the inspiration that has come to us from the past, the organisation which is now there, with whatever equipment is available, will enable us to defend the interests of our own land and the liberties that in our generation we have won for this part of our country.

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara  Zoom on Thomas O'Hara  I want to assure the Minister on my own behalf and on behalf of my Party that we are always prepared to co-operate with him on matters of defence. This is a very important Estimate and I feel that all members of the House, regardless of political leanings, are with the Minister in any sensible progressive defence programme he may consider necessary to undertake. I believe that the F.C.A. [1215] provides the solution to this problem of defence because in a small country like ours a big standing Army would be very expensive and I am convinced that this country could not in ordinary times afford it. For that reason I believe that if the Minister and the officers of his Department could concentrate on the reorganisation and building up of the F.C.A., it is the best and the most economic method of dealing with this problem. In world conditions such as we live in, we must realise that the forces of evil are at large, forces that are opposed to our way of life—the Catholic way of life. This being a Catholic country, I believe that it would be very easy in a period of grave emergency to unite our forces in defence of faith and fatherland. That has been, I am glad to say, the tradition of good Irishmen down through the centuries and I believe that the present generation would answer the call just as nobly and as bravely as did our forefathers in times gone by. For that reason it would not be prudent in my opinion to try to build up a big permanent Army.

It is regrettable, but I am convinced that it is true that the greatest stumbling block to the building up of a Defence Force in this country arises from emigration. That applies in a particular way to the west of Ireland. At the present time, emigration on a large scale takes place there. That exodus has been going on for a long number of years. The majority of our young people, boys and girls, are forced to emigrate due to bad economic conditions. You can hardly expect a migratory labourer—we have many of them in the west of Ireland and particularly in my native county—or you can hardly expect people who are unable to eke out a living at home, to be really interested in the defence of their country for the reason that they are forced, due to economic circumstances, to emigrate. It is a sad state of affairs but it has existed in this country under successive Governments. I suggest to the Minister here that he should use his influence with the Party to which he belongs to try to bring about a state of affairs whereby we can secure a reduction [1216] in the number of the young people who emigrate and to create in this country conditions under which our boys and girls can live at home and be really interested in the defence and in the welfare of the country generally.

Prior to my being elected as a Deputy, I always had the impression that this question of defence was taken very seriously by this House, but I must say I have got quite a different impression here this evening. From reading the papers I was aware that the question of defence was debated on many occasions in this House. I was always of the opinion, and I am sure many others were, that the question was always debated in a serious way. But after what I have seen here this evening I will be able to go to bed with my mind very much at ease that this country is in no way in danger from outside, because I observe that on the Government Benches there is just a handful of Deputies present for this important debate, so that all the loud talk over the years was just so much humbug, so much tommyrot. The Government Party are not really interested in this debate or in the defence of this country as there are only half a dozen Deputies on the Government side of the House.

A short while ago Deputy Corry stated that the outgoing Government treated this question of defence with contempt. My impression from this debate, judging by the number of Government Deputies in attendance, is that if there is any Party who treat this question with contempt it is the Government Party. Deputy MacBride does not need anyone to defend him here. But when Deputy Corry tries to slight or belittle the name of MacBride in this chamber or anywhere else, he is barking up the wrong tree, because the name of MacBride is respected and honoured, not alone in this country, but throughout the entire world. As I said, it does not need a humble individual like myself to defend Deputy MacBride here, but as a Mayo man I want to say that I am proud that there is in this House a man of the name of MacBride. In Mayo, we are proud of that name and I am sure that the Irish people at home and abroad are also proud of it. [1217] If the Deputy who tried to belittle the name of MacBride had as proud a record as Deputy MacBride or those who came before him I am sure he would have a lot more to say in this House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Will the Deputy remember that the Minister has to conclude before eight o'clock?

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara  Zoom on Thomas O'Hara  As the time at the disposal of the Minister is so short, I will conclude.

Mr. Traynor: Information on Oscar Traynor  Zoom on Oscar Traynor  I sympathise with Deputies as many of them who would have liked to have spoken at greater length were curtailed by the arrangement arrived at. In opening, I reduced my statement to the least possible number of words.

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara  Zoom on Thomas O'Hara  Might I interrupt the Minister to draw attention to the fact that there is not a quorum present?

Breanndán Mac Fheorais: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  Will the Deputy have a little consideration for the Minister, as he has only six minutes to reply on an important Estimate such as this?

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara  Zoom on Thomas O'Hara  I think that on such an important Estimate as this the Deputies should be present in the House.

Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted and 20 Deputies being present,

Mr. Traynor: Information on Oscar Traynor  Zoom on Oscar Traynor  I suppose the best thing I can say is that I will have all the points that have been raised in the discussion very carefully examined and dealt with where it is possible to deal with them. The salient point to which perhaps I should refer is that in respect of Army pay. As far as we are concerned, the arbitration award will be honoured, and whatever amounts the Army are entitled to receive will be given to them at the earliest possible date. It will be possible perhaps to speed that up in some respect by providing an instalment of the money in case any of the men are anxious to get it at a particularly [1218] carly date and the balance can be given to them later. I can assure Deputies that it will be given with the least possible delay and that it will be dated back to the period agreed to by the Arbitration Board.

The strength of the Army has been discussed by many Deputies. Nobody will suggest for a moment that an Army of 12,700 is a large Army; it is very much less than a division. As far as we are concerned, its purpose is to provide a sort of reservoir for the Reserve. Without a Reserve it would be impossible for us to carry on. If the recommendations of the Army Staff in former days had been carried out even during the period of office of the last Government we would probably have at least 6,000 or 8,000 more in the Reserve than we have to-day. As I said when I was interrupted at the beginning, every point made by Deputies will be carefully examined, and where it is possible to give sympathetic consideration to suggestions made, I can assure Deputies that it will be given.

Vote put and agreed to.

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