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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 Mar 1925

Vol. 10 No. 14


Mr. BLYTHE: I move:—

Go bhfuil sé oiriúnach a údarú go gcuirfar ar an bPrímh-Chiste no ar a thora fáis muirear aon phinsin a deonfar fé aon Acht a rithfar sa tSiosón so chun a údarú go n-íocfar pinsin le daoine a bhí i seilbh oifige mar Bhreithiúin den Chúirt Uachtaraigh a bunuíodh fé Aithne a dhin an tAire un Ghnóthaí Dúitche sa bhliain 1920 agus é in ainm bheith ag gníomhú fé údarás an Chéad Dháil Eireann.

That it is expedient to authorise the charge upon the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof of any pension granted under any Act of the present Session to authorise the payment of pensions to persons who held office as Judges of the Supreme Court which was consti tuted under a Decree made in the year 1920, by the Minister for Home Affairs purporting to act under the authority of the First Dáil Eireann.

I do not think it is necessary that I should say very much with regard to this motion. The matter was discussed fairly fully on the Second Reading. I pointed out then that we are providing these pensions, for which authority is given in this resolution, not out of consideration for the individuals concerned, although they have given service as good as certain of the ex-British judges to whose pensions no great objection was raised. We are not, however, thinking of them. We are thinking of the necessity for honouring and recognising an obligation of the first Dáil. We ought not, in my view, to do anything that would seem to refuse to recognise the continuity of the rights and obligations from the first Dáil down to this Dáil, merely because certain individuals might not commend themselves to us. Having said that, I think that the Dáil will recognise the principle that as successors we cannot in a summary way say that, no matter what the first Dáil agreed to, we are not going to pay any pensions to them. It is not necessary to argue this particular matter much further.

The Minister justifies this motion solely on the grounds of continuity, and the necessity for recognising obligations entered into by the first Dáil. I have not the document here, but I think I showed the Minister on the last occasion that the obligation was not to pay pensions. If there was a single obligation there were many obligations. In the same document there were other obligations besides the one the Minister referred to. The obligation that was entered into regarding judges of the Supreme Court was an obligation to employ them for life. No mention was made in that decree of salary, no mention was made of pensions, and the obligation, if there was one, was to appoint these judges and to maintain them in their positions for life. The Minister answered that the court which was set up by the Dáil, and to which these judges were appointed, no longer exists and that, therefore, we are bound to pay the judges a pension. I cannot see how the "therefore" comes in. There is at least as strong an obligation to offer these judges alternative employment. There certainly is no more obligation to pay them pensions than to send them around the world. I think that the case made for this motion, that there is an obligation upon the Saorstát Government to pay pensions to judges who were appointed for life by the first Dáil does not follow at all from the document which has been produced, but there may be an obligation to keep them in employment in one post or another. Offer them employment in the usual conditions, and if they refuse that employment then there is no further obligation.

In view of the abandonment of the courts to which these men were appointed, there may be an obligation to offer them alternative employment. Regarding the analogy of the judges under the British, they knew the Acts of Parliament under which they were being appointed; they knew that they were being appointed for life, and could only be removed by an Act of the Parliament that appointed them and for cause shown. They knew their salaries, and that they were entitled to pensions. Will the Minister tell us where the obligation to pay pensions comes in, except in the document known as a decree, which was quoted from on the last occasion? That decree said that these people were to be appointed judges, and were not to be removable except by a two-thirds vote of the Dáil. Has there been such a vote? Has that obligation been fulfilled. And where is the obligation to pay £500 a year to two judges who may have served a few months, a year, or two years—I do not know how long? I cannot see any mention of any salary, or any requirement upon the Dáil to pay pensions, but I can see an obligation to keep these men in employment for life. I would like to know whether alternative employment has been offered them, and whether they have refused it, and if so, where does the obligation lie that we should pay them a pension?

I would like to associate myself with Deputy Johnson's remarks. These two judges were appointed in 1920, and they may have sat in court two or three times, and now we are asked to give them a superannuation allowance of £500 each. If you pass legislation giving these men superannuation, I do not see why you should not do the same with regard to Parish Court Justices who acted since 1917.

Was the Deputy a Parish Court Justice?

I was not a Parish Court Justice, but I have appointed some of the Parish Court Justices.

You will have to pay them a pension, then.

I agree with Deputy Johnson, that it is not right to give these men the pensions proposed, and that alternative employment should be offered to them. Several judges have been appointed recently. Why did not the Minister appoint these two and save hundreds a year to the State? The hundreds of ex-Parish Court Justices throughout the country have given as patriotic service as those to whom you are proposing to give £500 a year for the rest of their lives.

Deputy Johnson asked if these men had been offered alternative employment. They have not been offered alternative employment. The only alternative employment that could reasonably be offered to them would be judicial office. We do not think that they are suitable for judicial office. Certainly, they are not fit for judicial office at all corresponding to the type of office they held: that is, either in the High Court or the Supreme Court. We think that it would be damaging to the public interest to appoint them to judicial office of that type: that is, either to the High Court or to the Supreme Court, and they have not been given an opportunity of refusing it. I know that argument could be met by saying that they were entitled to be retained for life at a salary of £750 per annum. One of them would certainly make that argument, but we have really to give fair recognition to the change of circumstances that has taken place. The courts have been abolished, and there is no work for them to do. We do not think that the Dáil or the public should be asked to provide £750 a year, the full salary, for no service. On the other hand, if we took no action, but allowed the matter to drift, there is the possibility that we might find ourselves in the position where there would be no alternative to paying them the £750 a year for life. There was no obligation in the Decree on the part of the old Dáil to pay these men salary at any specific rate, but the salary was fixed when they were appointed under that Decree. The members of the Dáil knew the salary at which they were appointed. In the time of the First and the Second Dáil, the position of the Executive was not like the position of the Executive at the present time. There was no legislation, but the Executive acted as having general delegated powers. Matters were reported to the Dáil, and were accepted by the Dáil afterwards. The same sort of procedure that exists now did not exist then, but, nevertheless, the Dáil was quite aware of the whole circumstances in regard to the appointment of these men and accepted that. I say quite frankly that, as far as the men themselves are concerned, they deserve nothing.

Why give it to them then?

As I say, I have no high opinion of the men themselves. I think they met no losses that entitled them to anything. I make absolutely no plea for the individuals. If it were only a matter of the individuals, I certainly would be found in the Níl lobby against it. What I am concerned with is this, that we do not tear up without ceremony what was done by the First Dáil. I believe that if we were to proceed on the basis of tearing up things that were done by the First Dáil there might arise circumstances when awkward arguments might be created out of that fact and be used against us.

Will the Minister follow out the process set down in the same Decree of removing them by a two-thirds majority?

I do not see what cause we could well set down. If we were to try to preserve a proper attitude and not to avail of technicalities, I do not see what proper excuse we could set down. We could not now at a date, long after they have ceased to function, pass a resolution having anything to do with the question of their fitness for office or ability in discharging their duties. I do not know, on the other hand, that there is any definite action they have taken that could properly be made the subject of a resolution. I think that we have other judges now who can be removed by resolution of the two Houses. It is most important, however awkward it may be from time to time for the Government of the day, that those who exercise judicial functions should now feel themselves independent and should feel that, short of a grave offence, there is no danger at all of their being removed: that they should be able to defeat the Minister for Finance in an income tax action or in a revenue action of any sort, and that they should be able to defeat any particular Minister who comes before them. I think if you now bring in a resolution simply for the sake of saving so small a sum of money, comparatively, to remove a judge by a two-thirds majority, you will not do what is good for the system that exists at the present time.

What becomes then of the principle of continuity?

I do not quite catch the question.

The argument for continuity that the Minister has adduced rests upon the Decree of the Dáil appointing these men for life. The same Decree says that they could not be removed except for reasons stated by a two-thirds majority. If continuity applies, it applies in respect of their removal as it does in respect to their pensions or appointment.

It is not really a question of removal. There are no courts. They are left high and dry. We have taken the action which left them high and dry. I do not think that that question can fairly arise at the present time. The situation has been changed by the actual removal of the courts. I stated previously that there are only two people who are really eligible for the pension. There is one of them that I know will apply for it. The other may or may not apply. Many people say he will not. I do not know, but certainly he will have to renage some of his principles if he does apply. In any case, the expenditure cannot be more than £1,000, but I think it is more likely to be £500.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 13.

  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Seoirse de Bhulbh.
  • Séamus de Búrca.
  • Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean
  • Ui Dhrisceóil.
  • Patrick J. Egan.
  • Seosamh Mac a' Bhrighde.
  • Liam T. Mac Cosgair.
  • Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
  • Liam Mac Síoghaird.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa.
  • Peadar O hAodha.
  • Seán O Bruadair.
  • Séamus O Cruadhlaoich.
  • Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
  • Eamon O Dúgáin.
  • Aindriú O Laimhín.
  • Séamus O Leadáin.
  • Fionán O Loingsigh.
  • Séamus O Murchadha.
  • Seán O Súilleabháin.
  • Mícheál O Tighernaigh.
  • Caoimhghín O hUigín.


  • Pádraig Baxter.
  • Darrell Figgis.
  • Séamus Mac Cosgair.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
  • Risteárd Mac Líam.
  • Patrick J. Mulvany.
  • John T. Nolan.
  • Ailfrid O Broin.
  • Eamon Dubhghaill.
  • Seán O Laidhín.
  • Domhnall O Mocháin.
  • Domhnall O Muirgheasa.
Tellers:—Tá: Eamon O Dúgáin, Liam MacSíoghaird. Níl: Domhnall O Muirgheasa, Pádraig Baxter.
Motion declared carried.
Resolution ordered to be reported.