Roinnt bhlianta ó shoin do tháinig sé mar dhualgas ar ógánaigh na tíre airm do thógaint chun na tíre do chosaint agus chun saoirse do bhaint amach. Fuair cuid aca bás agus bhí a thuille eile aca créachtuithe i dtreo is nách féidir leo a slí bheatha do thuilleamh i gceart. Caithfimíd socrú éigin do dhéanamh chun ná beidh siad féin agus a muintir i mbochtanas.
Perhaps on the Day of Judgment one of the principal torments that will come our way is that in the face of a number of charges, excuses will crowd themselves on us, each of them disclosing very clearly that it is inadequate. In looking back to a statement that it was my duty to make in the previous Dáil, to the effect that arrangements would be made shortly to deal with the dependants of Volunteers who had been killed, and to deal with wound pensions in respect of men who had received serious wounds while giving military services in defence of the liberties of the country, I feel that while the very grave upheaval that has intervened within the last twelve months is an excuse that might have been brought forward for not having dealt with that matter in that period, it is an inadequate one. You can take some consolation in the fact that out of voluntary funds subscribed something, at any rate, has been done to relieve the sufferings of those who in the earlier periods suffered because of military service given, and in the present period of military service we have been enable under the Dependants' Allowances Scheme to make temporary provision in the cases of men who have lost their lives. The position now is that we formally introduce this Bill. This Bill provides that, subject to their being voted from time to time all the necessary monies, wound pensions shall be granted to officers and men disabled as the result of wounds received and directly arising out of military service, and for the granting of pension and allowances to the dependents of officers and men who have lost their lives on military service.
The Bill proposes to deal with the cases of officers and men who have given military service in any of three distinct periods:—
(1) The Rising of 1916, when military service was given by the Irish Volunteers and by the Irish Citizen Army of that time.
(2) Over the period extending from approximately January, 1919, when the first DAIL came into existence, to the 6th December, 1921, the date of the signing of the Treaty with Great Britain, during which period military service was rendered by OGLAIGH NA hEIREANN, otherwise known as the Irish Volunteers, or the Irish Republican Army.
(3) The post-6th December, 1921, period, during which military service was rendered by OGLAIGH NA hEIREANN and by the present attested Army.
Everything possible has been done to ensure simplicity in the working of the Act, and to ensure the greatest measure of fairness all round. And to this end two classes of men only have been recognised—commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers and men—and in respect of each of these two classes pensions and allowances have been fixed at a flat rate for each class. The total disability pension has been fixed in the case of an officer at £200 per annum, and in the case of non-commissioned officers and men at 42s. per week—approximately £109 per annum. In the case of a married man or of a widower with any child living a further pension may be paid, not exceeding in the case of an officer 15s. per week—approximately £39 per year— and in the case of a non-commissioned officer or man not exceeding 10s. a week —approximately £26 a year—and for this purpose a child shall be considered to be, in the case of an officer, a son under the age of 18 or a daughter under the age of 21 years, and in the case of a non-commissioned officer or man a son under the age of 16 and a daughter under the age of 18 years. In addition, provision may be made in respect of any officer or soldier to whom a wound pension has been granted for providing such artificial limbs, crutches, special boots, or other similar appliances as the case may require, and for providing for the repair and renewal of any such appliances, and for the providing free of charge, or at a reduced rate, of any vocational training any such officer or soldier shall apply for, as the Minister considers suitable to his case.
In the Schedule attaching to the Bill are indicated the principal injuries which shall be regarded as disablement, and the percentage of disablement regarded as arising from each such injury. The percentage of the Total Disability Pension which shall be awarded to any officer or soldier as pension shall be determined by the degree of any man's disablement, determined on the lines indicated in this Schedule. Ordinarily, the payment of a wound pension shall date from the date upon which the officer or soldier to whom the same is granted was discharged from the Forces. When, however, he has been, since his discharge, in receipt of any allowance from the Minister, whether for himself or his dependants, the pension shall commence to be payable on the date upon which such allowance has ceased, or shall cease. In the case of any pension granted to a person who was wounded before the 1st day of April, 1922, the payment shall not be made from a date earlier than that date. In respect of deceased officers and soldiers the Bill proposes to recognise the possibility of a man having total dependants in any of three classes, the first class including any, or all, of the following:—Widow, son (under the age of 18 years in the case of officers and 16 years in the case of men), daughter (under the age of 21 years in the case of officers and 18 years in the case of men). The second class including any, or all, of the following:—Mother, father over 60 years of age or incapacitated by ill-health, brother or sister permanently invalided, grandparents. And the third class, brothers under the age of 18 years in the case of officers and 16 in the case of soldiers, or sisters under the age of 21 years in the case of officers and 18 years in the case of soldiers.
In the case of deceased officers and in the case of total dependence under the first class the following allowances shall be payable:—To the widow, £90 per annum during widowhood, and a gratuity of £120 on first re-marriage. In respect of each son under the age of 18, £24 per annum while the mother is living. £40 per annum after the death of mother. In respect of each daughter under the age of 21, ditto. In addition, there shall be payable in respect of each child between the ages of 12 and 17, inclusive, repayment of any amount proved to have been necessarily and properly expended in school fees, but not exceeding £35 in any one calendar year. In respect of officers, and in respect of total dependence of the second class, one allowance at the rate of £1 per week shall be payable, and if there are two or more such dependants, only one allowance shall be payable, and to such one of the dependants as the Minister for Defence shall direct. This allowance shall not be payable in any case in which allowance is made in respect of a widow. In respect of officers, and in respect of total dependence of the third class, an allowance of 7s. 6d. per week may be made in respect of any such dependant, except that the total allowances granted under this Section shall not, in the case of any one officer, exceed £1 per week. And no allowance shall be paid in respect of any dependant of this class in any case in which allowance is payable in respect of dependants in any of the previous two classes.
In respect of soldiers, and in respect of total dependants of the first class, the widows shall receive during the period of widowhood a pension at the rate of 17s. 6d. per week, approximately £45 10s. per annum, and a gratuity on the first re-marriage of £45 10s. In respect of sons under the age of 16 and daughters under the age of 18 there shall be paid in respect of the first such child, while the mother is living, an allowance at the rate of 5s. per week, or approximately £13 per annum, and in respect of each additional such child an allowance at the rate of 3s. 6d. per week, or approximately £9 per annum, while the mother is living. In respect of motherless children there shall be paid an allowance at the rate of 8s. 6d. per week, for each child, or approximately £22 per annum. In respect of soldiers, and in respect of total dependence for the second class, one allowance shall be payable at the rate of 15s. per week— approximately £39 per annum, and in the case of two or more such dependants this allowance shall be paid to such one of the dependants as the Minister for Defence shall direct. No allowance shall be payable in respect of any dependant in this class in any case in which allowance is paid in respect of a widow. In the case of soldiers, in the case of dependants of the third class, an allowance of 5s. per week, approximately £13 per annum, shall be paid in the case of each such dependant, except that under this Section the total allowance in the case of any one soldier shall not exceed 15s. per week, approximately £39 per annum. In the case of both officers and soldiers none of the above allowances shall be paid to any person who was not wholly dependent on such officer or soldier.
Where an officer or soldier leaves persons partially dependent on him, such persons shall not be granted any allow ance, but, in necessitous cases, or in special circumstances, a gratuity, or gratuities, may be granted to all or any such partial dependants, but in no case shall the total amount of such gratuity exceed, in the case of any officer, the sum of £150, or in the case of any soldier the sum of £100.
It is proposed that the Bill shall contain provisions which shall prevent the assignment or commutation of any pension or allowance granted under it, or prevent it being alienated by any process of law for the payment of any debts, or other liabilities, of the person to whom it is granted. It is proposed that it shall contain provisions securing the forfeiture of such pensions or allowances by any persons convicted in certain circumstances of crime, and that it shall provide for the infliction of penalties in cases in which false declarations are in any case made for the purpose of unlawfully securing any such pension or allowance; and shall provide for the exclusion of cases otherwise compensated for under the Criminal Injuries Act.
These, generally, are the provisions which it is proposed should be contained in this Bill for the relief of those who have suffered in limb, and for the relief of the dependants of those who have suffered in life, while giving military service in the protection of our country and of the liberties of our country. It is with a pleasure which is tempered by a realisation of what has been suffered by those men and what has been suffered by their dependants, and tempered by an appreciation of the fact that we cannot, perhaps, do everything for them that we would wish to do—it is with pleasure tempered by feelings like that that I ask permission for the First Reading of this Bill in the Dáil.