Committee on Finance. - Vote 47—Defence (Resumed).

Thursday, 23 March 1961

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 187 No. 9

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D'athcromadh ar an tairscint seo leanas:

“Go ndeonófar suim nach mó ná £5,126,700 chun slánaithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú lá de Mhárta, 1962, le haghaidh Óglaigh na hÉireann (lena n-áirítear Deontais-i-gCabhair áirithe) faoi na hAchtanna Cosanta, 1954 agus 1960 (Uimh. 18 de 1954 agus Uimh. 44 de 1960). agus le haghaidh Costais áirithe riaracháin i ndáil leis an gcéanna; le haghaidh Costais áirithe faoi na hAchtanna um Chiontaí in aghaidh an Stáit, [1277] 1939 and 1940 (Uimh. 13 de 1939 agus Uimh. 2 de 1940), agus faoi na hAchtanna um Réamhchúram in aghaidh Aer-Ruathar, 1939 agus Uimh. 1946 (Uimh. 21 de 1939 agus Uimh. 28 de 1946); le haghaidh Costais i ndáil le Boinn a thabhairt amach, etc.; agus le haghaidh Deontas-i-gCabhair do Chumann Croise Deirge na hÉireann (Uimh. 32 de 1938).—(Aire Cosanta.)

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth  Zoom on Lionel Booth  With regard to the Air Corps, I understand that at the moment initial training is carried out in light piston engined aircraft. We have heard rumours that at some date the Air Corps will change its policy in this regard and bring it into line with general flying policy in other armies by introducing light jet aircraft for initial training. I believe this to be a valuable change and I hope that the Minister will be able to see his way to give his consent to such a proposal if it is made to him by the Director of the Air Corps.

When progress was reported I was dealing with the question of the pay of officers. I was drawing the Minister's attention to the large allowance made in anticipation of the Defence Force being below strength and also in relation to the number of resignations expected to take place during the year. It cannot be overstressed that all ranks are more than disappointed with the increases recently awarded. Increases are long overdue, but I think everybody would have preferred no rise on this scale at the moment in the hope that that would strengthen the case later for a proper increase when more funds are available.

In actual facts, the main damage appears to be that the Army is not now able to claim an increase in pay at all and has recently been given an increase which is virtually only a nominal increase. I agree with those who have said that the increase is more of an insult than a benefit. Government policy has always been to pay as little as possible. That policy has paid very little in the way of dividend. It will pay less as we go on. There will be an increasing rate of resignation, particularly amongst officers. I hope the matter [1278] will be kept under review and that, as soon as funds are available, further increases in pay will be given all round. I do not want to be taken as speaking solely in support of the officers. I believe the N.C.Os and men are also due very much more than they are getting at the moment.

There is another curious item which comes under subhead A in the reference to the Military College. There is a special allowance provided for N.C.Os for giving instruction through Irish. Last year application was made in respect of 10 N.C.Os to give instruction through Irish in respect of which they would get an allowance of 2/6 per day. This year it is expected that only two N.C.Os will be giving instruction in Irish at the same rate. This may be an indication of a change of policy or it may not. I should like to have some further information on it because it always seems to me to be a weakness in the policy of introducing Irish more freely throughout the country that it is almost impossible to give military instruction to the ranks through the medium of Irish. In so far as I know, it is never done except in the 1st Battalion. It is possible cadets in the College, being men of a higher standard of general education, would absorb a certain amount of instruction through Irish but as far as I know the ordinary instruction to the private soldier, with the one exception I have mentioned, is always given through the medium of English.

Under the same heading, dealing with the pay of N.C.Os and privates, it is horrifying to me that in this respect the below strength numbers show a total of 25 per cent, of the total establishment. That is a rough estimate but I do not think it is far out. This, again, shows an indication of defeatism on the part of the Department—that they do not honestly expect they will get anywhere in the ordinary peace establishment of the Army. There are many reasons for this lack of interest in joining the Army but I cannot help feeling that pay is one of the greatest.

There is also the matter of the payment of children's allowances to officers. I know a certain proportion [1279] of the normal children's allowances are now being paid to officers but I cannot understand why there should be this discrimination against officers and why they should be allowed only a proportion of the normal children's allowances. I cannot imagine that the payment of the normal children's allowances to those officers would cost all that much extra to the Exchequer.

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  What normal allowances?

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth  Zoom on Lionel Booth  The normal scale payable to civilians. Officers have been put on a separate scale because, as the Minister stated, children's allowances are not an integral part of the pay structure. That, to my mind, is an evasion of the main point. I think there should be no discrimination at all, no excuse given for any feeling of discrimination, but the fact remains that officers feel they are the victims of discrimination as far as children's allowances are concerned. I think that could be avoided at very slight expense. I think that by making a reduced amount payable to officers, you are going to waste public money by encouraging officers to resign instead of encouraging them to soldier on.

Under subhead M., the Minister has referred to the reduction in the provision for uniform clothing for N.C.Os and privates and has stated his explanation in this connection. I find it difficult to accept his remarks on that subject of a new pattern and a new uniform. I was delighted last year when the Minister informed us that a new pattern for a new uniform was under consideration. Now we have had a full year and have got no further. In the meantime N.C.Os and other ranks have had politely to put up with what is known as bulls' wool—a most undesirable uniform from every viewpoint. So long as the Minister will just wait for somebody to tell him the way is now clear, he will be kept waiting and I believe that unless the Minister is prepared to say to his Department “There shall be a proper uniform issued to the Army six months from to-day”, we will get no progress. If the Minister is prepared just to ask people whether [1280] it can be done all sorts of difficulties, real and imaginary, will be put in his way.

Again, as last year, I should like to protest at the fact that the men's uniforms are buttoned up to the neck. It is most uncomfortable as well as being highly unhygienic. It would be a big improvement if the collar of the uniform were left open at the neck so that the soldier could wear a collar and tie if he preferred.

General MacEoin: Information on General Seán MacEoin  Zoom on General Seán MacEoin  The only chance you have is to get a good breed of moth and let them get at the uniform.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth  Zoom on Lionel Booth  I think it would be well worth while, even though the moth might be under the handicap of trying to consume some of the material already in stock. I was very glad to hear the Minister's reference to civil defence. To my mind at least it shows it is an effort to end the sabotage by people who say that we cannot defend ourselves against an all-out nuclear attack. That is so obvious that people think there is no business in civil defence. I think the Minister put his finger on the weakness of that argument by pointing out that we are not providing for defence against all-out nuclear attack on this country, certainly on the Republic, but for the after-effects—the nuclear fall-out of an attack on our neighbours. I think that makes sense of the whole procedure of civil defence and that explains why there is no frantic excitement being made about providing deep shelters and all that sort of thing in defence against all-out nuclear attacks.

There is no conceivable danger that anybody will make a nuclear attack on us, but in view of the fact that accuracy of direction of intercontinental missiles is still somewhat problematical there is the danger of the after-effects and we must be prepared to defend ourselves against those. That is where an observer corps would be valuable. They would immediately size up the dangers and warn and prepare the population as to what measures they should take to protect themselves from radioactive fall-out.

I find myself in agreement with Deputy Esmonde's comment on the Naval Service under subhead P.2 of [1281] the Estimate. As I said last year, I still feel that the whole concept is wrong in describing this as a Naval Service. I was rather horrified last year to hear the proposal that the senior officer of the Naval Service was given the opportunity of going on naval manoeuvres with a United States naval squadron. That experiment did not come off for various reasons. At the same time it shows a complete misconception of what this branch of the Defence Forces is intended to do.

We have no need for a proper navy. We have no far-flung dominions with whom we have to keep in contact by means of heavily-protected convoys and so on. All we have to do is to protect our fisheries. That is quite a big enough job but it is not a job for a navy. Here again I would hope there would be some new thinking on this whole question. I am not at all impressed with the idea of purchasing a new vessel for naval training. It would be far better to purchase modern small craft of the type of the motor torpedo boat. They would not need to be equipped with torpedoes; they would be simply fast motor launches designed for operating in the open sea and which could give very quick and effective protection to our fishing grounds at vastly less expense than the maintenance of three corvettes and a complete shipyard to look after them.

The maintenance of these three vessels is far too expensive and is bound to become even more expensive as the vessels get older. Smaller motor launches would need fewer crew members, fewer shore staff and would involve much lower maintenance costs. I would hope we would look at this in a realistic way and say we do not want a Naval Service, that we want fishery protection. This could be achieved by something in the nature of a small corps of marines who could co-operate with the Army in matters of landing troops on coastlines, taking them off or helping with river crossings, and so on. In that way the seagoing branch of the Defence Forces could be more closely integrated with other services of the land forces.

The provision for the Reserve Forces under Subhead Y.I. also gives me reason for considerable concern. The [1282] position in relation to the Reserve of Officers, First Line, is reasonably satisfactory but the Reserve of Men makes provision for almost 1,000 fewer men than last year. In addition, the total provision is £65,000 but there is a deduction of £36,000 in respect of non-attendance at annual training, that is, a reduction of over one half. If you have a Reserve of Men of not quite 3,000 men and do not expect half of them to attend for annual training, I fail to see the value of that reserve at all. The position in regard to officers is considerably better, possibly because they are better paid. The Reserve of Men deserves very careful review to see whether it is serving any useful purpose or whether or not it could be improved.

With regard to the F.C.A., I must be even more drastic. The total provision there is over half a million pounds, £562,000; yet there is a deduction from that of £140,000 in respect of non-attendance at annual training, a reduction of 25 per cent. We should be making provision for a force of 22,000 this year as against 21,000 men last year but, if there is a very poor attendance at annual training, there is tremendous waste of money there. For those who actually do attend that annual training, no praise could be too high. When I was on holidays in Donegal last year I spent two afternoons with the F.C.A. at Finner and I was greatly impressed by the keenness and enthusiasm of all ranks of the F.C.A. What impressed me more than anything else was the amount of training which was being carried out by F.C.A. officers and N.C.Os of their own men. At the same time there was a very large number of regular Army personnel training as well.

It was only afterwards I began to ask myself what were these men actually training for. They were being exercised in modern weapons but I could not for the life of me see whom they were going to fight. I saw one field exercise which took me back to the volunteer force of pre-war days where the situation was exactly the same—a simulated situation of an enemy invader moving up the valley [1283] whom we were trying to repulse, an unreal situation which could not possibly arise any more because there is not the slightest possibility of a land force trying to invade us, within our lifetime anyway. For that reason it seems to me that a great deal of money is being spent for which there is no reasonable return.

I was glad to see a report which is not mentioned in the Estimate but which I assume is accurate, that a considerable quantity of old guns and ammunition is now being disposed of to some unmentioned destination. I am not curious as to where it is going but if we got 2d. for it I still feel it was an extremely worthwhile sale, I am convinced there is a tremendous amount of obsolete and unnecessary equipment in the Army which is probably being carefully cleaned, oiled and maintained though it is of no further use. I would hope that more of this obsolete stuff could be disposed of at any price.

There is no mention in the Estimate at all of any payment in respect of the operation in the Congo except, curiously enough, a provision for allowances for chaplains. I presume that the only overseas allowance payable to chaplains is in respect of chaplains serving with troops serving under the United Nations but there is no reference to any overseas allowance to officers, N.C.Os and men and no reference to any repayment by United Nations in that connection.

Many of us would like to have further information from the Minister as to exactly how this operation is financed. The Minister did make reference today to the fact that there would be a reduction in the amount of money spent on feeding the troops who were now in the Congo, as these were now the responsibility of United Nations and not of this country, but I certainly would like to know who bears the cost of the ordinary pay. I assume that we still pay our officers, N.C.Os and men at the normal rate, but who pays the overseas allowance which has now been granted? Is that entirely paid by United Nations or [1284] have we any responsibility at all in that regard? If it is paid entirely by United Nations, we are due some explanation as to the niggardly way in which this overseas allowance was paid initially. It was paid at a very low rate, a rate which my information is was far below that paid to any other troops serving in the United Nations. If the entire amount is defrayed by United Nations our men should have been paid very much more and very much earlier.

As before, I am still seeking for a general statement of our defence policy. The only statement we have got in recent years was from the Minister who stated that the general policy was to produce a force to defend this country against invasion. As I said before, I feel that this contention is entirely ludicrous, that there is not the slightest chance in the world of anyone invading this country any more. Previously we were of considerable strategic importance so far as Britain was concerned but now, with long range weapons, we have lost any strategic or even tactical significance whatever.

It is time that we reconsidered the whole matter and had a debate at some period on what our defence policy should be, what the main purpose of the Army should be. Is it purely in support of the civil power or if it is trying to defend us or preparing to defend us against something, against what are we being defended? My own view is that its main purpose would be in aid of the civil power but at least as important as that nowadays is its responsibility for complying with the requests of United Nations in times of trouble or unrest in other countries.

In 1958 I made reference in the debate on the Estimate for the Department of Defence to the possibility of officers serving as observers with United Nations in other countries. I am sorry to say that no particular notice was taken of my reference in that regard. There was rather a flurry then when we were asked to send officers to the Lebanon. That was done and well done. In 1959, that is two years ago exactly, I referred to what had happened and forecast that it [1285] would not be very long before the United Nations would call on us to send troops under arms to serve with United Nations forces. Then, again, I am afraid nobody paid any particular attention to me. Possibly, I annoyed somebody about it but I felt very deeply about it and in actual fact it came true. Troops had to be found.

That brings us to a general consideration of the whole Congo operation. Much appreciation has been expressed of this operation and the way in which it was handled. Everybody said how magnificent it was. I should like to say quite categorically that I regard that whole Congo operation as nothing more or less than a masterpiece of improvisation with very few signs of proper advance preparation at all. There was no real pre-planning, no real previous appreciation of such a situation. It is only because the Army has always been a master of improvisation that that operation succeeded at all.

We were never given the equipment we wanted in the Army. It was not purely a question of money but we always had to make do. That, I suppose, has always been the tradition right from the start of the War of Independence but I think we have carried it a bit too far. I think the Congo operation should have been a triumph of organisation instead of of improvisation only. To my mind it was absolutely tragic that when the request came to us to send troops to the Congo at once we had no legislation to enable us to do it and we had no body of troops anyway. We could not send one battalion of troops anyway because there was not one single battalion in the Army which was ready and prepared to move. So, a perfectly horrible compromise was adopted of a hotch-potch mixture of isolated individuals from all over the country and it was called a battalion.

The officer placed in charge of that battalion, the 32nd Battalion, was not even a battalion commander himself when he was appointed to this office. No serving battalion commander was given command of the 32nd Battalion going abroad. The same applies to [1286] the 33rd and 34th Battalions. It is a horrible reflection on those who are at present serving as battalion commanders that they were overlooked or else found not sufficiently well qualified to take command of a battalion in the field.

This Congo operation was a dangerous enough operation for any force, however well equipped and however well prepared, because the troops were going into a situation which was full of uncertainty. Into that positively horrible chaos we sent a body of fine men very few of whom knew one another at all or had served with one another before. The battalion commander was commanding a battalion which he did not know and he had a battalion staff which he did not know. He had officers serving under him, some at least of whom he had never met before and some of the officers had never met their commanding officer before. The officers had never met their N.C.Os before and in many cases the N.C.Os had never met their men before. It was a mixture of infantry, signals, engineers and everything else. How that hotch-potch of a unit held together and served so magnificently is something which I do not think anyone will ever know. It reflects the greatest credit on the inherent discipline and enthusiasm of all involved but it is a perfectly fearful risk to take to send out a unit in that way.

I have no hesitation in saying that no battalion should be sent abroad on a mission anything like this without at least six months collective training, six months of shaking down and getting to know one another. Our lads got no previous training together at all except, maybe, a week or two at company level. They met one another at the Curragh for a period of a few days during which time they were being inoculated and indoctrinated at such a rate that they hardly had time to know what was going on.

Out of this curious hotch-potch three magnificent units have been formed. The 32nd and 33rd Battalions both managed to do extraordinarily [1287] well and both managed to build up a very real esprit de corps which is invaluable. I was excited and thrilled to find such a thing happening because it is something for which we have looked so long. Now we have three battalions with active service experience, composed of men who have soldiered together to some extent and shared hardship and danger. Two of these battalions came back and what a tragedy it was that these two were allowed to disband and disappear. What a tragedy it was to hear the commanding officer of one battalion say: “I saw my battalion only once on the Curragh before we went. I have never seen them as a battalion since and now they are gone.” Why on earth was that magnificent unit broken up?

I appealed two years ago for the formation of units in preparation for an occasion such as this and I feel now that they should have been kept together. The 34th Battalion is serving out there now and the Minister has made no reference to any provision being made for their release when their six months period comes to an end. The relief battalion should now be fully formed and in full training. If its formation and training are to be left to a week or a month before its departure, we will be doing a bad day's work. We got caught out quite unnecessarily in the past, but we have plenty of notice now that one other battalion, at least, will be required and needed by General MacKeown in his position as Commander of the United Nations Force.

I would appeal to the Minister to take that decision here and now and to get that battalion, the 35th Battalion or whatever the Army authorities may decide to call it, formed up and ready, so that the officers, N.C.Os and men can be thoroughly prepared for the onerous duties ahead of them, so that they can get to know each other, and so that they can be out on training together and see how they react to the hardships and all the trials which active service may involve.

[1288] This, to my mind, should be the Army's finest hour and it has signally failed to be so. One of the most disappointing things is the virtually complete failure of the recruiting campaign. It has made no impact on me and the only thing which has made any impact on me is the magnificent advertisement by the Irish Assurance Company Limited which makes a magnificent recruiting poster. It was published in all the daily newspapers by the Irish Assurance Company. It was a magnificent photograph of Irish troops moving off to their service with a very good piece of writing underneath it, describing just one isolated incident in the experiences of our troops in the Congo.

The Minister said in reply to a Question that about £600 was spent on the recruiting campaign. I know, as a businessman, that £600 spent on advertising gets nobody anywhere. If you want a recruiting campaign with an impact on the public mind, you will have to spend at least £6,000. It is no use employing amateurs to do it. I have no knowledge of the business but I could see that whoever designed the advertisement of the Irish Assurance Company was no amateur. He did a good professional job. Those are the sorts of people who should be assigned to publicising a recruiting campaign.

It is tragic that the troops who have had service overseas are now back with their units again. I should have hoped that the two battalions would have been reformed and sent in company strength to various centres of population in the country to give demonstrations so as to lend power to a general recruiting drive. It would have made a big impact on our young men. A simple notice posted in a Garda station or church to the effect that there will be a recruiting meeting in room 107 in the barracks is not sufficient. By the time the fellow has found the room in the barracks, he will be so depressed and discouraged that he will not want to join the Army. It has to be done with glamour and if it had been handled properly, there would be thousands of recruits now.

[1289] Unless we face up to the situation, we will be in the position of having sent out the Chief of Staff of our Army to do a difficult and dangerous task and then having to tell him that we have no soldiers to serve with him. Our troops are ideal for this sort of duty. They have done wonders and it is miraculous that the casualties were so slight. It is a great credit to all concerned that they carried out their duties with comparative freedom from casualties.

I feel it is essential that better training be given to our men before they are sent out. They were sent out on the first occasion after long periods of barrack and garrison duty. I was disappointed, when I went to see them off at Baldonnel, to notice that while they looked reasonably fit, they did not look fighting fit. That condition of training can only be achieved by real active service training.

One of the things which has saddened me is that fact that casualties have occurred through the accidental discharge of firearms. In previous years I have always stressed the value of more realistic battle training. I am afraid our troops were sent out to the Congo without ever having used ball ammunition except at firing practice or on sentry duty. It does take a period of getting used to, having ball ammunition and live grenades at your hand all the time. The fact is that those men were sent into a situation in which they were under considerable strain and in which they have accidentally discharged firearms and caused casualties amongst their comrades.

I suppose a certain amount of that is inevitable but there has been too much of it, as far as our lads are concerned. If they were properly acquainted with their weapons and were accustomed to having their weapons loaded at all times, these accidents would not have occurred. In particular, I think training in the use of the Gustav submachine gun is not sufficient as far as other ranks are concerned. The Gustav is an extraordinarily efficient but extraordinarily dangerous weapon. As soon as it is cocked it is dangerous and there is no safety catch. In the conditions in which [1290] our men are operating it is only reasonable that very frequently they would have not only a fully-loaded magazine on the gun but that in a moment of anxiety they would cock the gun. It is then quite a job to release the bolt in such a way that the gun is not discharged. Up to this I gather that training in the Gustav submachine gun has been rather restricted but we find now that practically all our men serving overseas are armed with this weapon and it is this weapon that has caused some of the damage among our own men.

Therefore, I make a further appeal to the Minister to give maximum encouragement to full-scale active-service battle training for all our troops and particularly for those who may be about to serve overseas.

Much more money could be spent on the Army; the only trouble is where to get it and I fear I am being forced more and more towards the conclusion that the one way in which we can save considerably on this Estimate would be to abandon the F.C.A. and the Slua Muirí. I say that with considerable reluctance because they are a fine body of men and they serve with great enthusiasm, but I say it because I cannot honestly see what these men are being trained to do. I see no way in which they can be called upon to use the training which they are being given. Not only is well over half a million pounds being spent on the F.C.A. directly but a tremendous amount is being spent indirectly under other subheads of the Estimate such as motor transport and petrol. Never again, so far as we can see, will we require to increase the size of our regular Army in order to provide for our defence against land forces. That just cannot happen any more and the F.C.A. is no help to the Army in its efforts to provide troops for service with the United Nations overseas.

I know some people say it is very good that these young men should be kept out of trouble and given something useful to do and that it is a valuable social service to give them this military training. There is something in that but not much and I should prefer that if we are going to do social work [1291] under the heading of the Department of Defence it should be concentrated on physical training. There is real value in physical training, athletics, sports and so on. It would be of real value to young men to get professional assistance in that way. Some is given in the F.C.A., but I cannot see the point of having aiming practice with rifles, Vickers guns, Gustavs, Bren guns and so on, which these men will never use. That is not merely a pious hope. Therefore, I am seriously advocating complete abandonment of the F.C.A. I appeal again for a general realistic appreciation of the world situation because I think our defence policy is something that must be realistic and at present is not. I appeal for an Army properly equipped and organised for active service.

At the moment I reckon that we have about 20 per cent. of our troops suitable for active service already overseas. Previously when the whole of the 9th Brigade were out, it was about 40 per cent. For about five months 40 per cent. of our effective troops were overseas and for about a week or so 60 per cent. of them were out of the country. Yet the whole Army is still organised on a peacetime basis although a very large percentage of its effective troops are already on active service. It is time that we faced up to this and put the whole Army on an active service basis. The whole organisation—infantry battalions, field companies and the various corps of the services—is obviously quite out of date and quite inapplicable to present circumstances. We should have a proper mixed battalion formed and ready now for Army service overseas. Immediately that is despatched we should get ready the next one and there should be competition for selection for that special unit.

I appeal, as I have done before, for a reduction in the number of barracks. We are still spending too much time on maintenance of barracks that are out of date and depressing and a great strain on resources, from the maintenance viewpoint. They are horrible places in which to live however clean they may be. They are depressing and very often damp, and they are so old that maintenance costs are enormous.

[1292] Above all, I would ask for more realistic Army training for the regular Army so that they should be cut clean away from ordinary barrack duties and kept on active service, training hard under active-service conditions, getting them to fire ball ammunition not just on ranges but out in the countryside, up in Kilbride and other places where there are Army lands available, where they can be trained in endurance techniques with long periods without food, without sleep and really made to realise the sort of situation in which they may be placed at short notice. At the moment we are living in a sort of fool's paradise and if we are going to send out any more troops in the hotch-potch way in which it was done in the past I think we are taking a terrible risk which is quite unjustifiable.

There are many obstacles in the way of complete Army reorganisation. There are tremendous vested interests, the battalion commanders who do not want to lose their battalions, commanders of field companies who do not want to lose their commands and so on, but what is at stake is the lives of our men. It is impossible to say why the Niemba ambush really took place but probably the main reason was that probably our men had so often succeeded in making friends with these unfortunate tribesmen that they were a little off their guard for once. It speaks volumes for their kindliness that they erred on the dangerous side in that way but we must not allow a unit to go out unprepared again. We have had a great amount of luck in suffering so few casualties but that situation may not last. If our troops are to become involved in more active operations than mere patrolling and guarding of various keypoints they will need all the training we can give them before they go. In concluding, I must say how glad I am to know that the 32nd and 33rd Battalions are being reformed for the purpose of taking part in a parade through the city.

May I say, as I said last year, that I still feel that Easter Sunday is primarily a feast of the Church and should not be devoted to an Army parade. It shows mental laziness on [1293] our part that we devote Easter Sunday to this. We do not want to give up St. Patrick's Day to an Army parade. We do not want to give up Easter Monday. We take the easy way out and have it on Easter Sunday. Having it on Easter Sunday offends me. I shall be in church when that parade is taking place and I shall not see it. I shall be very sorry to miss it. I do not wish to ruin anyone else's bank holiday, but surely we could have this parade on a weekday? The traffic could be blocked for once, if necessary.

I shall be delighted to see these battalions reformed, even for one day. Would the Minister and the authorities consider, when they have these men together, keeping them together a bit longer and using them for recruiting and perhaps the basis of the next battalion to go out? That would be a good day's work. Do not let us have the same situation that we had the last time. Do not let us have five men here and ten men there, a few signallers and a few engineers, an infantry officer in charge of N.C.Os and men out of other groups. That is awkward. It is irritating. At times it can be fatally dangerous. We have had an opportunity of learning and I hope that our experience will be put to good effect. Let us have another battalion formed and trained and ready. Let it be well trained, realistically trained, so that it will not only discharge its duties against those who may oppose it but also reduce the danger of casualties occurring through lack of experience in the handling of every type of ammunition.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  I was very interested in the remarks of the last speaker, particularly his references to Slua Muirí. I join with Deputy Briscoe and Deputy Desmond in appealing to the Minister to provide a training vessel. It is obvious that many people regard such a vessel as essential so that naval units may be properly trained. I believe that should be done. On the other hand, if it is not done, then I agree with Deputy Booth. I can recall the criticisms that were made when the corvettes were purchased. [1294] Those criticisms were subsequently borne out by events. Evidently these vessels were unsuitable for the particular assignment. They have certainly not justified the expenditure involved in their purchase and their maintenance since. I cannot see why we should not provide every facility for the proper training of personnel. We should either do that or scrap the whole thing and purchase more mobile craft.

It is only natural that every speaker on this Estimate should refer to the outstanding development in relation to our Army in recent times, namely, their engagement in the Congo with the Forces of the United Nations. The Minister devoted a good deal of his speech to the achievements of our troops in that area. The organising and equipping of this force provided a challenge to our Army and the Army is to be congratulated on the way in which it met the challenge in such a short time and against such difficulties.

Our men in the Congo have done honour and credit to the country. They have given reality to the dreams and visions of the founders of our Army. The organising and equipping of this force has brought credit to the Army and has engendered a very popular reaction from all sections of our people. Our people take pride in the fact that we can participate in an engagement designed to maintain world peace. Our Army has gone in there as part of the United Nations Forces. As a result of their work and their devotion to duty our men have become recognised as an important section of the U.N. Forces in the Congo. We had the unfortunate tragedy that lives were lost. We have also had the great credit and honour done us of having General MacKeown appointed to the onerous and tremendously responsible post he now holds in the Congo. We extend to him our congratulations and our good wishes that he will bring to his task, as he appears to be doing, the diplomacy and tact so essential in an appointment that calls for the very best.

It was anticipated that this overseas [1295] commitment would result in an improvement in recruiting. Many of us thought there would be an improvement in the numbers offering and in the quality of personnel. Evidently there was a good deal of erroneous thinking along those lines. As a nation, we have always been regarded as interested in military life. We have never been found wanting in courage or devotion to duty in military service. It was thought that, after the excitement of an emergency period, some positive steps would be taken to make Army life more attractive so that peacetime frustration would not militate against Army life. It is the lack of something positive to do, and the lack of interest as a result of that, which repels so many young men from joining the Army.

Unfortunately the reaction to the overseas engagement was not that anticipated and we are faced now with the failure of the recent recruiting drive. The time has come, therefore, when there must be a new assessment of the reasons for that failure in order to ensure that future efforts along the same line will meet with greater success.

Unless the pay and conditions of the forces are brought up to some standard which would make it easier for those who join the Army to leave greater attractions in civil life we cannot expect in the years ahead that we will get the volume of recruits necessary to maintain any kind of an Army in this country.

I am glad that some realism has entered into the question of what the size of the Army should be. We remember in years gone by the vexed question that it was regarded as almost sacrosanct that we should have an Army of 12,000 men. That went on for quite some time but now we see the impossibility of providing the efforts here that might build up to such numbers. When all the excitement died down, after our initial participation in the United Nations, there was no doubt that in this country a feeling of great unrest occurred in the Army about the way in which they were treated in the recent pay increases.

[1296] The hope was held by many that these increases would be of some substance and it was felt by several people that, following on all the nice things that were said about what the Army now was, there would be more effective recognition of their services. The manner in which the increases were granted has, I am afraid, given rise to much resentment which cannot accrue to the benefit of our Army in the future. I thought Deputy Booth's idea, to bring the lads who were engaged in the Congo expendition into the country to glamorise the recruitment campaign, was good. However, I can say from conversations I had with a few of those boys who served in the Congo that not alone will they be unavailable to give these lectures to help recruitment but they will not even be in the Army as soon as their period of service expires. It is their intention to leave the Army as soon as they may, despite the fact that they have had this great experience very recently.

I think that is a very distressing feature of the present policy towards the Army. Unexpectedly those men had this experience, completely new to men serving in the Irish Army. But that does not redound to the benefit of the Army, because as soon as they may, many of those men are leaving, to the great loss of the Army. When such things are happening I cannot forecast very much hope for the future of the Army unless the Government policy changes very quickly.

Regretfully I must, until I receive some reply, refer in this Estimate each year to the great injustice done annually since this Government, this Minister for Defence, assumed office, in ignoring the annual ceremonies at Béal na Bláth. The Army has not been allowed to attend those annual ceremonies. Anybody who attends them—thank God there are people who, year after year, make this pilgrimage to the memory of Michael Collins on the spot where he died— will testify that in no case has a bitter word been said nor have the circumstances under which Michael Collins died been resurrected. In the years during which the military were permitted to pay tribute to their founder [1297] and ex-Commander-in-Chief an embarrassing moment has never occurred.

Each year, thousands of people made the visit, held this simple ceremony—a recitation of the Rosary—to pay civil honour to Michael Collins. If anyone is under the impression that that occasion is availed of to revive any past differences, the greatest proof against that is the fact that the man who commanded the forces responsible for the death of Collins has been coming there year after year. When a man like that can come each year and pay that tribute to the man for whose death he was responsible, surely we could ask the Minister for Defence and the Government—I feel sure the Government are as responsible as the Minister for stopping the Army from officially attending this simple ceremony—in the name of goodness to forget about it.

Donnchadh Ó Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  We would have a lot of other commemorations. Remember the 8th of December. Remember Liam Lynch down in Newcastle.

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  There were others who died.

Donnchadh Ó Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Cathal Brugha.

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  What about Cathal Brugha who was Commander-in-Chief of this Army?

Donnchadh Ó Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Which was established in 1916.

General MacEoin: Information on General Seán MacEoin  Zoom on General Seán MacEoin  Cathal Brugha held the job which I occupy now— that of ex-Minister.

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  We took the politics out of the Army.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach would take his seat in the House, we might listen to his interruptions.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  More skulduggery.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  What is all the anger about?

[1298]Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  At the attempt to bring the Army into politics.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  I am not making any attempt to bring the Army into politics. If Tom Hales can attend this simple ceremony why cannot the Army?

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  They can. Anybody can go.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  But they are not allowed to go in uniform.

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  They will not be allowed to go in uniform or officially to a partisan ceremony. If they go there, they will also attend the 8th of December ceremonies.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  The ceremonies I am talking about are not to a person but to the founder and the Commander-in-Chief of the National Army. A simple ceremony is held each year to pay tribute to him. We can go all over the world, we can pay tribute to Admiral Brown, but the National Army is banned from paying tribute to their founder since this Minister took office because he says the ceremonies have been used for political purposes.

Since when has the recital of the Rosary become a political operation? Since when has the sounding of the Last Post become political? The Minister heard me describe what transpires at this spot where Michael Collins died and I ask him again what political advantage there is in carrying out this simple ceremony. It is indeed regrettable that the process should be repeated this year as it has been every year since the present Minister for Defence assumed office—that the Army have been deprived of their traditional opportunity of paying a yearly tribute to their founder.

May I say to the Minister that I am in complete disagreement with him and his colleagues because when Seán Murphy's bust of Collins was being bought by public subscription the name that headed the list of patrons was that of the last President of Ireland, Mr. Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh, and another was that of a colleague of the Minister for Defence, Deputy Jack Lynch, Minister for Industry and Commerce. How can [1299] he relate that to his allegation today that any attempt to honour the name of Collins is political? Does he disagree with his colleague?

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  That is not what I said.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  The Minister said that it was bringing the Army into politics? Is he serious in that?

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  Of course I am.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  In what way is it bringing the Army into politics?

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  If they go there officially, obviously they must go to other ceremonies as well.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  There was one attended——

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  There was only one attended in the Coalition time.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  If the Minister pursues the present line——

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  There are other people who died, too—on the 8th December.

General MacEoin: Information on General Seán MacEoin  Zoom on General Seán MacEoin  The 8th December?

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  There are other people who were murdered on the 8th December.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Does the Minister want to go back by using that word? It is not going to help this House. I suggest that the word should be withdrawn. Is the Minister going to withdraw it?

Mr. K. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  No.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  On a point of order, there has been a long tradition here that the Chair always requests the withdrawal of the word “murder.” Is it going to be withdrawn?

Acting Chairman (Mr. Cunningham): Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  I am unaware of that.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Then I am at liberty to take the same line.

Acting Chairman:  Will Deputy O'Sullivan proceed?

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  Despite the fact that [1300] I have been invited by the Minister's interruptions to take a particular line, I shall not rise to that bait, tempting as it is, on a subject with which all of us could deal at length. At any rate, in spite of the appeal I am repeating here to permit the national Army to pay a tribute to the memory of General Michael Collins, the Minister is adamant in his refusal. There are many thousands of people today who are very strong in their desire to see that this would be done and the Minister will answer to them as much as he will answer to me for his action in not permitting the national Army to pay that tribute.

Reference was made here to the fact that the Army Jumping Team seems to have improved in recent years and has won fresh honors for itself and for the Army throughout the world. I would make an appeal to the Minister to arrange that the Army would attend more rural shows which would bring home to the people the worth of the Army and its team. It would also help in advancing the interests of show jumping and of the horse industry. Many rural shows in years gone by have tried to secure the attendance of the Army Jumping Team in order to raise the status of their events. It would be well worth while if the Minister would enable the Army to accede to as many of these invitations as possible.

Those are the only remarks I intend to make on this Estimate because we have had other opportunities of expressing our view during the year on measures which came before the House in respect of the Congo situation. The more recent development has been the unrest which exists in the Defence Forces because of the paltry increases the Minister has granted which are very far from the expectations of the people concerned, consequent on the increased demands which the country is making on the members of the Army. It is only to be hoped that future recruitment will be attended with success and that measures will be taken to eliminate whatever unrest or disquietude exists in the ranks of the Army.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I am very glad that Deputy O'Sullivan went on for a [1301] few minutes after the interjection by the Minister. If he had stopped immediately afterwards and I had been called upon to speak, it would have been impossible for me to have exercised any restraint. However, one of the things in respect of which Fianna Fáil are lucky is that we on this side of the House always think of national interests and are not prepared to sabotage national interests for the purpose of securing Party political points.

The generation to which I belong and which was not old enough to be sufficiently conscious of what was happening, wants to forget the Civil War, not that we think there is any possible doubt about who was right or who was wrong, but because we think it is in the best interests of the nation as a whole that we should try to realise that we are all Irishmen and that it is as Irishmen we should look towards the common future of ourselves and our fellow-countrymen.

So far as I am concerned, it is solely as the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the only Commander-in-Chief of the Army who ever died on active service that Michael Collins deserves a tribute from the Army of which he was Commander-in-Chief. Of course, Deputy O'Sullivan is a bit naïve if he thinks this Minister, of all Ministers will accede to any request of that nature, no matter how reasonable it might be and no matter in what reasonable terms it may be couched.

One of the things of which we have all great reason to be proud and which was the proudest boast of the Cumann na nGaedhael Government in 1932 was that they established an Army that was an Army of the people and not an Army belonging to any particular Government, an Army that served the next Government as loyally as it served them. It has always been our belief and our anxiety that whatever Army was established should not be used for political purposes, that it would be the Army of the nation and not the servant of any person who might happen to be in Government, though of course it is for the Executive of the day to direct it. It was and will be in history one of the proudest [1302] boasts that on the transfer of that Army to a new Government who had fought against the Army, that Government found the Army completely and absolutely loyal to it as the democratically-elected Government of the people. Since this Minister came in he has done his damnedest to try to make the Army an instrument, not of the nation but of the Fianna Fáil Party and of himself in particular.

Mr. Loughman: Information on Francis Loughman  Zoom on Francis Loughman  The Deputy is not doing any good for the Army anyway.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  The Deputy can look after himself.

Mr. Loughman: Information on Francis Loughman  Zoom on Francis Loughman  He can do that.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  The Deputy knows how people in the Army at present bitterly resent being used by the present Minister in that regard. No matter what Government is there, they are merely the temperoray executive authority of this House, there to carry out the directions of the House, and the Army is there to serve them and to serve the people as a whole and not any one section of it.

Mr. Loughman: Information on Francis Loughman  Zoom on Francis Loughman  There was a time when they did not. The Deputy forgets that.

General MacEoin: Information on General Seán MacEoin  Zoom on General Seán MacEoin  They defended this Parliament against all-comers.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  And they succeeded. When it was sought to put people out of this Parliament they succeeded in defending it in spite of some of you.

Mr. Loughman: Information on Francis Loughman  Zoom on Francis Loughman  What about Cathal Brugha?

Acting Chairman (Mr. Cunningham): Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Deputy Sweetman, on the Estimate.

General MacEoin: Information on General Seán MacEoin  Zoom on General Seán MacEoin  Parliament they defended, and the elected Government of the country.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  And Parliament survived and will always survive in spite of what some people might wish. It is, therefore, in an anxiety to make sure that that is done in future that I am going to approach discussion of [1303] this Estimate, nothwithstanding the fact that the Minister got an opportunity quietly and without rancour to drop the rancour which he had thrown into the debate by that phrase he flung across the House.

The Army deserves, first of all, the congratulations and the praise, not merely of this House but of the people of the country as a whole for the manner in which they organised the Congo operation, the manner in which they carried it out and, above all, for the discipline that the troops there showed in the face of what must have been the most appalling provocation. It must have been provocation beyond measure for the troops there to have known that the people who were responsible for the murder of their comrades in the Niemba ambush were living in villages a matter of only a few hundred yards away from where they were billeted in barracks and yet they were men enough to realise that they had gone out there to support an ideal, an ideal of law and order amongst nations and, therefore, an ideal which would be very seriously jeopardised, if they had succumbed to what would have been the normal human reaction in such circumstances. Their sense of discipline deserves nothing but the highest commendation.

The efforts of the Army authorities in organising that expedition—for want of a better word—and the manner in which they succeeded in dealing with it have brought, as other Deputies have said, credit primarily upon themselves but also on the people as a whole. I am glad also that the Minister paid tribute to Colonel McCarthy because I think it was accepted wherever he had served abroad that he was an outstanding officer.

It is unfortunate that when the troops were going abroad to the Congo silly little niggling was allowed to stand in the way of certain things that would have been possible and were desirable but yet were not forthcoming. Everybody understands, of course, that it might not have been possible in certain circumstances to produce suddenly [1304] overnight equipment entirely suitable for an operation in that climate as compared to our climate here. I agree fully with the comments that were made by Deputy Booth that the operation was a masterpiece of improvisation. But, there were things that could have been provided, that I am told were requested and which were not made available. I shall refer to only two of them at the moment.

One is that while our armoured cars here are entirely suitable for operations in this climate, when brought to a tropical climate like the Congo, the troops, if they had been forced to operate in them completely closed down, would have been baked alive. I understand that the troops of other nations who were in the same circumstances had vehicles of that sort fitted with special fans to get over the difficulty of using them in tropical conditions but that our troops were denied that trifling accommodation. Nobody could pass that as a matter of very great expense. Nobody could say that it was something that was not procurable.

It is completely understandable that certain weapons that would have been handier than the ones supplied were not procurable. I have heard grumbles about those weapons. I do not subscribe to a grumble in relation to weapons that were not readily available and could not be obtained. Of course, the Minister cannot be blamed for that. But, the procurement and fitting of an ordinary fan so as to have a proper current of air, and to avoid placing the troops in impossible conditions in the tropics in those vehicles, is a thing that should have been seen to and which was, I have reason to believe, requested and yet was denied.

I am also advised, and the Minister gave me a reply in relation to this matter in the Dáil, some time ago, that our troops had not got the same water filtering facilities, for travelling on expeditions away from bases where clean water was available, as the troops of other nations had. I should like to know from the Minister what reports he has received in that respect.

[1305] I understand that on certain patrols the Irish troops had to do with a considerably smaller water ration than troops of other nations had. I am led to believe that that arose because we had not got the same equipment in that respect as the Swedes had and that the Swedes even had to give water rations to our people at times. The Minister must have the accurate information. I only hear what happens round about the place. I should like to know from the Minister if that is so. If it is, and if it has happened because of niggling economies on the campaign, it is greately to be deplored.

There is another matter with which I want to deal but I do not think it would be correct to deal with it on this Vote. I think the policy in relation to what will be done when the present troops' term of office is completed is a matter for discussion on the Vote [1306] for International Co-operation. I think the Minister would only be responsible once the Government had taken a decision to send other troops there. Therefore, I shall not deal with the point which I think arises in the minds of many of us at the moment, that our former Chief of Staff who is now Chief of Staff of the United Nations, General MacKeown, has not been given the facilities to enable him to do the job that otherwise he would do so well and when I say that I am not referring at all to the Minister; I am referring to the United Nations as a whole. I move to report progress.

Progress reported: Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday 11th April, 1961.


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