REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON APPOINTMENT OF COMPTROLLER AND AUDITOR-GENERAL.

ACTING CHAIRMAN

The next item is the report of Committee on Appointment of Comptroller and Auditor-General.

As Chairman of the Committee I beg to propose that the following report be adopted:—

Tuairisc Choiste do cheap Dáil Eireann ar an 11adh Eanair, 1923, chun machtnamh do dhéanamh agus duine do thogha a molfaí don Dáil do phost an Ard-Sgrúdóra agus do nithe eile a bhaineann leis.

Report of Committee appointed by Dáil Eireann on January 11th, 1923, to consider and select a person to be recommended to the Dáil for the position of Comptroller and Auditor General and for other matters connected therewith.

Láithreach:— Peadar O hAodha (Cathaoirleach) Liam O Briain, Donnchadh O Guaire, Séamus O Dólain, Liam Mag Aonghusa, Domhnall MacCárthaigh, S. B.O Faoilleacháin (Rúnaí).

Present:—Deputies Huges (Chairman), W. Magennis, D.J. Gorey, J.N. Dolan, W. Magennis, D. McCarthy, J.B. Whelehan (Secretary).

Do bhí cheithre ainmneacha os cóir an Choiste, ach ar a dheimhniú dhóibh gur oibrigh Seoirse Mag Craith go hábalta agus go héifeachtúil i bpost dá shaghas don Dara Dáil, molaid é do cheapa mar Ard-Sgrúdóir fén Acht den Oireachtas do ritheadh ar an 5adh lá d'Eanair, 1923.

The Committee had before it four names, but being assured that Mr. George McGrath has acted with ability and efficiency in a similar capacity for the Second Dáil recommends his appointment as Comptroller and Auditor-General under the Act of the Oireachtas passed on the 5th day of January, 1923.

(Sighnithe), PETER HUGHES (Cathaoirleach).

WM. O'BRIEN.

SEAMUS N. O'DOLAIN.

DENIS J. GOREY.

WILLIAM MAGENNIS.

DOMHNALL MAC CARTHAIGH.

S.B. O'FAOILLEACHAIN (Rúnaí).

I beg to second the motion.

I think it would be well to draw attention to the rather unusual manner of presenting this name—Mr. George McGrath—and recommending it to the Dáil for this appointment. Last week I urged that the appointment of this officer should be left in the hands of the Dáil, and when doing that I knew exactly that it would make no difference in reality whether the whole initiation should be in the hands of a Committee of the Dáil or that the name be recommended by the Ministry. But I thought it well, in view of the particular responsibilities direct to the Dáil of this officer, that the whole proceedings in connection with this appointment should take place in the Dáil rather than that any name should be recommended directly by the Ministry as such. While I say I knew that the same person would, in fact, be appointed, I think it well that that procedure should have been adopted, for this reason, that it cannot at any time be suggested henceforward that the Auditor and Comptroller General is a Treasury Official. He is definitely and directly a servant of the Dáil. There was a good deal said, I think, on the last occasion as regards the importance of this office and the necessity for having someone who was efficient and capable of carrying out the very responsible duties, and especially when we bear in mind that it is practically a life office. He is not removable except by the Vote of the two Houses. The Committee has recommended the name of Mr. George McGrath, and I take it that they had full knowledge of his capacity and ability, and I am not going in any way to decry that recommendation. I do not know Mr. McGrath and I have no knowledge of his ability or of any other name that might have been mentioned to the Committee except such public knowledge as one gets from the newspapers. The fact that Mr. McGrath acted with efficiency and ability in a similar capacity for the Second Dáil is not quite satisfactory in itself as a recommendation because the circumstances under which that Second Dáil was acting limited the choice. The fact that Mr. George McGrath is a brother of a Minister should not be allowed to weigh with us. I do not believe in visiting the sins or the excellencies of the brother upon another brother, and I do not think that we ought to condemn any man because of the acts of his brother; nor do I think that we ought to give credit to any man because of the acts of his brother. But there is just this consideration that occurs to me. When, in the course of the next few months, if the destroyers continue, there arises a modern Irish Mussolini who gathers up all the reactionary elements in the country to take control—I can imagine these reactionary elements, having got control, looking round for an argument for a hereditary legislature, and they will point to the evidence that has been established; they will say—"We have had recent experience of a body of men, one of whose primary principles was to make promotion by merit, and only give offices to those who had shown their ability and fitness for the offices." They will show, by pointing to the evidence round about, that ability runs in families, as is obvious by the appointments that were made by the Government to the various posts in their administration. No one will charge the Ministry in those days, in such circumstances—that is to say no one will charge this present Ministry—when looking for an excuse for the establishment of an hereditary legislature —with having selected people who were unfit for their positions, and the deduction will naturally come that all these people who happen to have brothers and cousins and uncles and aunts within the magic circle, all of supreme ability, will furnish a proof of the doctrine of hereditary ability in administrative posts. This particular appointment that we are discussing may be quoted, but it will be possible in this case, I am told, to point to ability positively shown in the recent past and in the public eye. I do not think that that could be said of many other family appointments.

I am at a loss to understand what is meant by "many of the other family appointments." If it is meant against the Ministry I do not know of any. Certain rumours are current, not alone in Dublin, but all over Ireland, that every relative that I have, that every connection by marriage that I have, has been placed in an excellent position. That is not true. There is absolutely no truth in it. I do not think that the Deputy has that in his mind.

I am sorry I cannot hear the Minister.

What I was saying was that it has been rumoured, not alone in Dublin, but all over Ireland, that every relative that I have and every connection that I have by marriage has been placed in a position or office of emolument and of profit by the Government. That is not true. I have not placed a single one of them. There is one member of my family at present in an exceedingly unenviable position, if that be an office of profit. If I had been consulting his interests I would certainly never have nominated him for the position, but so far as I know he has done his duty in the particular office he holds. It is not an office, I think, that many people would envy. In this particular case of the Comptroller and Auditor-General I am perfectly satisfied that in the circumstances of the case the Committee exercised good judgment in the appointment. He was Comptroller or Accountant-General of the late Dáil (the second Dáil), and of the third Dáil, and first Dáil, and he discharged the duties of that office, under exceedingly difficult circumstances, and he did so to the entire satisfaction of the late Minister for Finance. The duties at that time were onerous; they may not be of the same order as the duties he will be called upon to discharge now, but at any rate, it is a satisfaction to us to know, that as far as this particular office was concerned that not a single penny of money was lost. There have been losses, but the losses are not in any sense attributable to any action he has taken. Every safeguard and every protection that the wit of man could possibly suggest he took, and recently we sent him to America to see after the funds there, the names of subscribers and other duties in connection with the loan. From the correspondence I have received since his return I am perfectly satisfied that he enhanced the reputation of this country in America. He met many financiers and prominent citizens of the United States, and from all that I have been able to learn his visit to America was one that reflects some credit on himself, and his reflected glory is also, to some extent, on the Government. Now, in order that there may be no misunderstanding regarding what the Deputy has said, I think, in justice not alone to the Ministry, but to the Dáil, that if there be any charges against the Ministry—I forget the exact term of this particular disorder, but I think it is nepotism—I think we ought to have it now, because these are times when once having started on government any suggestion of that sort would damage not alone the reputation of the Government, but reflect very seriously on what we all, I believe, are earnestly hoping for and working hard to achieve—namely, stabilisation in the country. I am perfectly satisfied from what I knew of the late Minister for Finance, and from discussions at Cabinet meetings previous to this appointment that no question whatever of his relationship with the Minister for Industry and Commerce ever entered into his mind in making the appointment. He had a pretty considerable field to choose from, and I think his selection was a wise one. I am not going now to enter into a eulogy of the person appointed, because to-morrow or next day we may be in handigrips over matters, but I am satisfied of this, that the Dáil might have made a better appointment, but it could not have made a more honest appointment.

I think the speech we have just heard from Deputy Johnson was one of the most objectionable speeches I have listened to in the Dáil for some time. He did not say anything definite, except to say that Mr. McGrath was worthy of his position, but he did suggest general corruption. There was a sort of "willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike" air about it. I agree with the President that this is the place to have that sort of thing out. If there has been anything in the nature of nepotism it should be stated, and the facts and the names given. I think I know the circumstances, being in the Ministry, as well as most people. Of my own knowledge I do not know any cases. There are relations of each member of the Government as privates and captains, and in other positions in the army in the South, and to all whom it may concern, I wish to announce that there are vacancies in these services—any amount of them—and we are looking for men to fill them. If people covet these particular positions they can have them. There are plenty more of them, but there have been no appointments of a different sort. The other positions, the positions of emolument and safety have been largely filled, practically entirely filled, by persons who have had no connection and no relationship with members of the Government. I think now is the time and place to have this matter completely thrashed out.

I am rather glad that this discussion arose. It gives one an opportunity of clearing the air a bit. There has been criticism of appointments; there have been and will be criticisms of appointments for which I take political responsibility. I want to say this that that criticism has been entirely of one description, and it has been along the lines that we failed to put in positions our own political and social friends, that we were unduly mindful of the question of qualifications—unduly in the minds of our critics. We are stewards for the nation, for the whole nation, not for a political party within the nation. The appointments we make we make on behalf of and in the name of all the people. The men we appoint will be performing duties for perhaps fifteen, twenty, twenty-five or thirty years to come, when the political landmarks of to-day and the considerations that seem very important to-day and which loom so large in some minds will have passed and will have been forgotten. Therefore, we, all of us, in filling appointments, have put one thing first, and that was the qualifications of the man for the post and for the fulfilment of the duties attaching to the post. Where political considerations arose, or were adverted to, they were adverted to in one way only, and that was in a negative way. It might arise that a man with high qualifications would have his utility largely negatived, largely neutralised by the misfortune of having rendered himself utterly obnoxious to the community in which he would have to perform those duties. In that case pseudo-political considerations were adverted to, but mainly, if not entirely, in that negative way, that a man could not be put into a post if he had the misfortune to render himself politically very obnoxious to the people in the area in which he had to perform his duty. But we are not making political appointments in the sense of claiming or exercising any monopoly on behalf of our own more immediate political associates. But still less are we making any appointments purely on the grounds of personal friendship. Some of the most painful things I was called upon to do in my own Ministry was to refuse the applications of intimate personal friends who, no doubt, will never forget it to me. There was no monopoly of political appointments; still less was there a monopoly of social appointments, and least of all was there any tendency whatever towards kinship appointments. I do not believe that the Deputy who spoke and gave rise to this discussion was adverting to one particular appointment —the appointment of a gentleman who some twenty years before I was born married the sister of a lady who subsequently became my mother. I do not believe he was adverting to that appointment.

I signed this recommendation of the committee. I did not think we would have this storm. I held different views from the views of the majority. I put forward another name, thinking that that gentleman would be the best. I hold that view still, and I believe that the gentleman that I put forward had more qualifications and more worldly experience. I hold that view still, but I signed that recommendation in obedience to the wishes of the majority, as everybody must recognise the majority. If it came to the Dáil the same majority would obtain. I have heard a lot of praise in regard to Mr. McGrath. I believe he has done very good work. I did not know the names of any of the candidates previous to the meeting last night, I know none of them personally. I am quite satisfied with the appointment, but I think we could have made a better appointment by selecting one of the other candidates.

As secretary of this Committee I would just like to say a word. I did not know that Mr. George McGrath was brother to the Minister for Industry and Commerce until it was stated here to-day. No one told me that before I went into that committee. No one canvassed me to vote for anybody at that committee. I was more or less surprised when I heard he was the brother of Mr. Joseph McGrath, the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I have learned long since of Mr. McGrath's work, and on the authority of someone for whom I had deep respect, I learned of his efficiency in that respect. That was the reason why I voted for him. Other names were submitted to the Committee; one of the candidates I know to be eminently qualified, but I held with the majority of the Committee that when we had a man who had a full knowledge for the efficient discharge of similar duties for the Second Dáil, it was hardly the business of the Committee to recommend his removal so as to make place for another who had not that experience.

Question put: "That the report of the Committee on appointment of Comptroller and Auditor-General be adopted."
Agreed.
At this stage Mr. G. Fitzgibbon took the Chair.