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Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 22 Jun 1923

Vol. 3 No. 32


I move: "That a sum not exceeding £897,939 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, for the salaries and expenses of the Civic Guard." (A sum of £250,000 had been already voted on account.)

I think the Minister who is responsible for the administration of this particular service is to be congratulated, generally speaking, upon the manner in which the Civic Guard has been turned out, and upon the reception which the force has received, generally, from the people of the country. I always welcome, and am glad to welcome, any change in the administration of the law that will get us away from the military administration that we have been accustomed to for the last 3 or 4 years. I think, however, that until the situation in the country is normal, the Civic Guard should take into consideration the many lawless things that have been tolerated and encouraged for some time, and in dealing with the general public, who it must be taken for granted are in the majority of cases willing to submit to the law, they should handle the situation in as delicate a manner as they possibly can.

Complaints have been received from some areas, in many cases not justified. I have received complaints, for instance, that, on arrival in a certain area the Civic Guard charged some old man for not having his name on a car. I think, before recommending a prosecution in a simple case like that, which is not extraordinary, in view of what we have passed through, and which is not a criminal offence, that the Civic Guard should give, at least some caution. If times were normal, perhaps, there might be some reason for such a prosecution. I think, taking into consideration the extraordinary times through which we have passed, when lawlessness was tolerated and encouraged, a more delicate handling of the situation would be better under the circumstances. Generally speaking, I think the Civic Guard received a very good reception, and the force is generally well spoken of. I hope their activities will extend, that their power will grow, and that the power of the military will decrease and disappear in time. I would like to ask the Minister if there is any regulation, or if any order has been issued by those responsible for the control of the Civic Guard, that ex-R.I.C. men—resigned men—who are now in the force, are deprived of promotion beyond the rank of Inspector. I would like him to say if such an order has been issued, and if so, the ground on which it is justified, especially as there are supposed to be men in higher positions in the Civic Guard who were disbanded from the R.I.C. That is the information I have received, and I would like to know the ground on which such an order, if any, has been issued.

I would like to add my tribute to that of the Deputy towards the Civic Guard. Certainly, since the force went out there is a greater feeling of security. The people have taken to them very well, and as a matter of fact the only enemies they have at present are publicans. I would like to draw the Minister's attention to the question of recruiting. Invariably a man passes the superintendent in his area, and passes the doctor, and his measurements, etc., are found correct. When the recruit arrives at the Depot everything is the other way. I think, if possible, that as the man has to pay his fare back and forward, something should be done by the Minister, or by the people responsible, to change that state of affairs.

There is one small matter here—"Editor Civic Guard Gazette, £310." I see no clue in the Estimates as to whether the Editorship is the only charge for the Gazette. Is there any loss or any profit? If there is a loss, under which head does it come? If there is a profit, where does it go? Is it that we supply out of the State Funds to the Gazette an Editor and that the rest of the responsibility is borne by the Force as a private venture? I note, at the foot of page 84, and at the head of page 85, mention of a deduction of two and a half per cent. on wages, salaries or pay, as I call it, for pension in each case. That, I presume, is more than a bookkeeping deduction, and I presume that the money is actually allotted to an account. But that can hardly be so, inasmuch as the total sum, after the deductions have been borne, is £884,810. Is that the total sum which we are asked to vote? You will find the whole Vote for the Civic Guard is £907,500, and the pension deductions of two and a half per cent. amount to £22,690, leaving a net Vote of £884,810 in that page. The same process is followed in the next column. I would have thought, although I may be quite wrong, that the total sum would be the sum we would need to vote and that the statutory deduction for pension would have been sent to a new account. I just wish to draw the Minister's attention to it. It seems not to be quite correct. Yet it may be susceptible of a perfect explanation. I would ask the Minister if he can give us that explanation. On that point it does occur to me that it may be said at a later stage that this was not strictly a deduction inasmuch as the Dáil had not voted the total sum. Therefore, you had no right to pay that sum to the individual credit.


With reference to Deputy Wilson's query, I promised him on those Estimates a comparison of the cost between the Civic Guard within the area of the jurisdiction of the Free State and the R.I.C. I regret that I have not these figures available at the moment, but if the Deputy would put down a question on the matter I would be glad to answer it, because there has been a certain amount of misrepresentation of the matter in the Press. On the question of the comparative cost, these figures will perhaps be interesting. Including the cost of the D.M.P. and the C.I.D., the Estimate for policing the Free State for the current year amounts to £1,523,000. The estimated cost of the Royal Ulster Constabulary for the same year is £822,243, and for the Ulster Special Constabulary £1,580,385.

That is really an Army Vote.


Well, we need not argue the matter. There is one important point in connection with these Estimates, and that is there is no basis of comparison with the last financial year because the estimates of that year were not based on a normal establishment, and further, they did not provide for a full year. Deputy Davin objected that the first act of the Civic Guard in some area was to prosecute some old man for not having his name on his cart. Well, I know nothing of that, but I think that probably it is a good policy on their part on their arrival, to simply carry on as if they had been there for ever. The law is the law, even if it had been interrupted by events for some time. Their duty, on arrival in an area, is to see that the law is obeyed. Besides, it looks good, and it helps, to see in the papers, these minor prosecutions that are the routine of normal times appearing again. It is certainly as good as a tonic to see prosecutions of people cycling on footpaths and so on, and I think it has a good effect on the readers of the public Press, the daily Press and the provincial papers, and that it is good value for a five shilling fine. It is, perhaps, one of the most promising symptoms in the country that the people as a whole, and pretty well regardless of party division, welcome the force; and that for weeks and even months before their arrival in a particular area there was a pretty steady clamour from that area that they should be sent. That shows that although there has been all through the last eight or ten months a great deal of turbulence and a great deal of superficial violence, crime and illegality, and of men letting their passions run away with them, that the great mass of the people have a steady responsibility and a law-abiding outlook, and that the others who lost that for a while are perhaps returning to it. The new Civil administration, whether it be the Civic Guard or the District Justices or the State Solicitors have, on the whole, very little fault to find with the outlook of the people, or very little fault to find on the basis of any lack of support or co-operation from the people. That is a gratifying symptom. One hopes that it will be progressive, and that there will be a general acceptance of the view that mere wantonness promotes no one's interest and that it is not helpful to any ideal. These men went out unarmed, and they went out unarmed because although the circumstances of the time were black enough in all conscience, we looked to a day when the public opinion, when the mere moral suasion of the community would be the biggest factor in upholding the law. We staked a good deal on that. We sent out that force simply with the moral strength of being sent out by the Oireachtas of the Irish people to uphold the law that was passed and sanctioned by the Irish people's representatives. Events here for the past four or five years did not make it advisable to send out these men with no outward difference between them and their predecessors; it did not make it advisable to send them out with arms in their hands, though one might well say that they needed arms for their own protection and the protection of their premises. Mr. Davin congratulated me on how well they were turned out. For the moment I wondered what he meant. They were turned out of their premises in a great many parts of the country and the premises were burned.

I did not mean that.


In spite of that, and in spite of the regrettable incidents here and there through the country, where men with guns humiliated, or tried to humiliate, unarmed men by bundling them out of their premises, by burning the premises, and by stealing their property, we still refrained from making any attempt to arm them, realising that to do so might prejudice the prospects of a recovery of civic spirit and civic responsibility, and might delay the day when the law would be upheld by sheer realisation on the part of the people that it is in their interest it should be upheld and should be obeyed. I want to stress this: that that force will need the continued and even the progressive support of the people. The first flush of enthusiasm with which they tackled their duties cannot be relied upon to last, and if the influences in particular localities were bad, particularly in view of the difficulty of inspection, and of the facilities that we would require for inspection owing to financial stringencies, the tendency would be that a small post here and there might go to seed unless the people kept it well before them that they expected big things and a high standard from them, and they did not expect that that would merely prevail for a couple of weeks or months after they go out, but that it would be the settled normal condition. The Commissioner has certainly no complaints on the score of lack of sympathetic co-operation by the people, and I express the hope that that state of affairs will prevail and that the people will realise that these men are the hope of the country, the hope for its future peace and stability and progress, for there can be no progress without stability. It is admitted that faults could be found if one were inclined to approach the thing in a carping spirit. It is admitted that faults could be found with certain rates of pay, but I think we would be wiser to approach the matter simply from the point of view of a lump sum, and to admit that good value has been given for that money, and that there is promise of even better value in the future.

Deputy Johnson raised the question of the Civic Guard Gazette. That journal started with some slight official financial support, and the salary of the Editor is included in the Estimates. The journal is now self-supporting, but for the salary of the editor, and I have not inquired into what becomes of the proceeds. If the Deputy has any curiosity on the matter, he could put down a question. I know that the paper is not at present being run at a loss; I know it is paying its way as a weekly production, but I have not inquired into the exact condition of its finances. I should probably say it has an account of its own, and there may be some surplus.

May I ask if you are responsible for losses that may accrue or are you benefiting by profits?


We simply started it, and are paying the editor. It is a useful journal from the point of view of keeping the different stations in touch with the trend of events within the organisation, and for the purpose of creating a proper morale and esprit de corps amongst the members of the Guard.

Is the editor responsible to you for policy?


He would be subject to the Commissioner, and in that sense he would be indirectly responsible to me. I keep general contact with the Force through the Commissioner in matters of that kind, but I have no direct contact with the Editor of that journal.

This is a kind of journal which would probably be set up to be made the vehicle for complaints or contentions within the service?



Have you control over the policy or the conduct of the paper?


I think the principle is accepted that with only very general contact from the higher authorities, the members of the Force should run a Journal of that kind themselves, without any interference, and that interference would only be warranted where there was a very blatant indiscretion. The Army, for instance, run a similar Journal, and the men put forward their grievances and ask for information with regard to technical matters. In that way I think it is found to be helpful. It would take a rather blazing indiscretion in that Journal before the Ministry would feel justified in butting in or intervening. Deputy Johnson also raised the matter of a pensions reduction. The explanation is one that he himself has suggested—technically these were not deductions inasmuch as a sum had not been voted or sanctioned. I am not briefed in the matter and I regret that my official is not available at the moment. I will undertake to look it up and write to the Deputy conveying the explanation inside a few days.

It may necessitate a supplementary estimate. I am not sure, but I suggest it is worth the Minister's while to look into the matter from the point of view of the Auditor-General.

I was not present when this Vote was introduced. I should like to add a word or two to what has been said. I feel it would be ungenerous for me, who have been a severe critic of the Government in many respects, not to pay my tribute to the very excellent work that has been done in instituting the Civic Guard, and the admirable body which has been got together. I agree with what the Minister has said when he foreshadows that this body will prove to be one of the hopes for the future in restoring respect for civil law by their own example, and I think the Commissioner is to be commended very highly, in the face of great difficulties, in the steps which he has taken to make sure that the men he would get would be the right men. He gave preference, as far as possible, to men with a good record, and he gave its appropriate weight to the fact that applicants were men who were Gaels, and who had proved themselves good Irishmen. I do not want to let this opportunity pass without paying this tribute to the Commissioner, a tribute which I think is very fully deserved.


With regard to Deputy Johnson's point I could only undertake to look it up and to make a statement on it before the Estimates are concluded. I am gratified that Deputy Gavan Duffy sees fit to relax the normal severity of his criticism of the Government in favour of this particular Vote. I feel that he is on very strong ground in doing so and that the country and the Dáil may be particularly gratified with the condition of this Force, and it is realised that the Commissioner has done great work for this country and for this country's future, that steadily, amidst all the wrecking and all the sabotage and destruction, he has gone on with his building. He has shown imagination and courage. The Civic Guard were very far from being in a satisfactory condition when he was appointed, and he has shown courage and imagination and tireless energy in his handling of that Force. Deputy Davin referred to a rather delicate point, the matter of the status of ex-R.I.C. men within the Force.

Resigned R.I.C. men.


He is probably aware that the trouble that was created in the force—because it was created; it was not spontaneous and did not come from within—in its infancy was with regard to that particular question. That matter of ex-R.I.C., whether resigned or dismissed or anything else, was used as a peg to hang a good deal of trouble on, and the matter culminated in something that might, I suppose, be technically described as a mutiny. That trouble was successfully countered, and we got round the corner, but we have not thought it wise to take any step that might leave a possibility of recrudescence. We have not, for instance, since that trouble, admitted to the Force, ex-members of the R.I.C. This is not a matter on which I am personally briefed, and I have, and the Ministry has, left a great deal of latitude and discretion to the Commissioner in his difficult task. But if he has thought fit to say, with respect to certain examinations, that he would not call up from within the force ex-members of the R.I.C., who might have more technical knowledge as a result of their years of experience than others, I do not think that they have any particular grievance on that score, and I do say that they might simply take it that such a step was in the interest of the Force as a whole, and was taken to avoid any possibility of trouble or friction. The men who were not in the R.I.C., who were at other occupations, are entitled to be placed on an equal footing with those who were, and they would not be, if this experience and technical knowledge which the ex-R.I.C. men acquired during their years in that force were automatically to count in their favour. For those particular examinations that were held in May, naturally a man who had been in a police force before, and who had been years at the practical work of a policeman, would simply carry all before him as against men who were merely learning. The Commissioner told me that he did not intend to call up for that examination from within the Force men who had been in the R.I.C., and I think he was perfectly justified in that, and I think that the trouble that he had to deal with last September and October, arising out of that question, justified him in being extremely cautious and extremely delicate in his handling of it, and such steps as he would think fit to take, centring around that particular problem, would not be interfered with by the Ministry. He takes it on his own judgment, from his own knowledge of the conditions within the Force and in the best interests of the Force as a whole, including those members that Deputy Davin has referred to.

I would like to ask the Minister when it is the intention of his Department to train men specially to make Food and Drugs Inspectors. For a considerable time past the public have had nobody to look after such matters as the addition of water to butter and milk, and that kind of thing. I remember five or six months ago, the Wexford Corporation wrote to the Minister for Home Affairs on this matter, and the reply they got was that these men were being trained. I think they should be trained as soon as possible.


I am aware that selected men have been called to the Depôt for special courses of that kind. On the exact matter that the Deputy inquires about now I can only undertake to have it looked up and to communicate with him about it.

Has any movement been made in the direction of training men to act specially in the case of fires, and the like? I think that matter has been ventilated. I wonder whether the Minister has given any consideration to it.

Before the Minister replies, I want to assure him that so far as this question of ex-members of the R.I.C. is concerned, I have no brief whatsoever for them, because, so far as I can trace, no relation of mine in any generation has ever had any connection with the R.I.C. But I do make a considerable distinction between ex-members of the R.I.C. on the one hand, men who made sacrifices by resigning at a critical period in the country's history, and the men who served in the R.I.C. up to the time that England lost her power in this country. I understand that there are between 60 and 70 men in the Force who resigned during that critical period. I do not know how many, if any, but I have been told there are some in it who served up to the time of disbandment. I do not agree with the Minister that a hard and fast rule should be laid down whereby men who resigned from the R.I.C. and are now serving in the Civic Guard should be debarred, in all cases, from going beyond a certain point.

I want to assure him of this, that I hold no brief in this case and do not contend that anything should be given to the men who have tried to cause any trouble in the Civic Guard or would be likely to cause trouble, but I ask him to look into the whole matter with a view of placing those who resigned the R.I.C. at least on the same footing as those others who served in the R.I.C. prior to the time of disbandment.

I think it is a curious thing that when a man is passed by the Superintendent of an area that he should be turned down at the Depôt. I think that is a matter that might be looked into.


The trouble in the Civic Guard, as in most other places, is generally caused by people tactlessly handling a matter of a delicate nature. There is no use in attempting to lay down any straight lines between men who resigned from the R.I.C. and men who did not resign. I am well aware of many men who did not resign from the R.I.C. and who were living day and night in a condition of greater risk than was taken either by men who resigned or by many others through the country, and it was the failure to realise that that brought about the trouble in Kildare last year. The failure to realise that men remained in that Force, showing that kind of 2 o'clock in the morning quality of courage, carrying their lives in their hands from day to day and night to night, and risking not merely an honest bullet but a very different kind of death if the work they were engaged on was discovered. But in matters of that kind it is much wiser simply to leave a certain amount to the imagination than insist on trying to thresh it all out and saying: "This man was this, and another man was that." Seven or eight men were sent in to the Civic Guard in its infancy, and out of material of that kind they wove any amount of trouble. They almost wrecked that Force, but that fever has disappeared. The very men who took part in that trouble are well aware now of the true circumstances, but if we come in and attempt to be handling it every time the Civic Guard Estimates come up, it does not conduce to a complete disappearance of whatever rawness or soreness may still be left as a result of that mutiny in Kildare in September last. I think that once before I deprecated the tendency to discussing these ex-R.I.C. men, and the men who resigned or were dismissed. I deprecate the discussion of this matter at all, because it does not help. If the Deputy came to the Ministry or to myself, or probably even to the Commissioner, we would give him all the information he requires in private.

On a point of explanation, I merely suggested that instead of a hard and fast rule that the discretion should be left in the hands of the Minister or the Commissioner.


But the Commissioner in his discretion dealt with this matter, and the effect of the Deputy's remarks is to question that discretion.

Question put and agreed to.