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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 28 Apr 1925

Vol. 11 No. 4


Motion made: "That Section 1 stand part of the Bill."
Question put and agreed to.
(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the Executive Council may at any time by order revoke for reasons stated in such order any pension granted under the Principal Act whether before or after the passing of this Act.
(2) No such pension shall be so revoked unless or until the reasons for such proposed revocation have been communicated in writing to the person in receipt of the pension and such person has been given a reasonable opportunity of making to the Executive Council such explanation, answer, or other case as he may think proper in relation to such proposed revocation or the reasons therefor.
(3) Every order made by the Executive Council under this section shall be published in theIris Oifigiúil as soon as may be after it is made.

I move:

In sub-section (1) after the word "Act," line 23, to add the following words: "provided however that no pension can be revoked on the grounds of lawful political activities of those receiving a pension, or entitled to receive a pension."

I would remind the Dáil that the men most likely to be affected by this amendment are men who came into the national movement from what I may describe as political or patriotic motives. They played a big part in bringing around the Treaty, and by their actions they did much to establish the Saorstát. It is largely due to them that the Dáil is meeting here to-day to discuss those matters. Those men may join any of the existing political parties which support the State, or they may, if they wish, form new parties. I think no one will contend that they have not a legitimate right to do so. I think that is admitted by everybody. On the Second Reading, the Minister for Defence gave us an assurance that there would be no victimisation or interference with legitimate politics. I fully accept that assurance, but I wish to remind the Dáil that we may not always have the same Executive Council or the same Minister for Defence, and I think it is necessary to guard against victimisation in the future in political matters. It is because I am anxious for the safety of the State that I want to put beyond all doubt the proposition that men of this type have a right to go into a constitutional movement. I believe, if this amendment is accepted, it will make for the safety and security of the State, because it will remove any misapprehension these men may have. If they go into constitutional politics they should know that they will not be penalised in any way. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment.

I do not propose to accept this amendment, for the reason that there is no necessity for it. Neither this Government nor any other Government will penalise a man for carrying on lawful political activities. But it is only right that the Government should have some control over the pension of a man guilty of unlawful acts. As far as this section is concerned, and as far as the Bill as a whole is concerned, the Government never had any intention of imposing penalties for lawful political activities. If they were to impose penalties for such activities, they would not be doing justice to themselves or to the individuals concerned. Every man entitled to a pension under the Act has ample safeguards. If the Government were to take any action by which a person in receipt of a pension would feel aggrieved, this House is always available to him to have his grievance ventilated. I do not think there is any necessity for this amendment, and it would not add to the usefulness of the Bill if it were incorporated in it.

I have no sympathy with any person who commits unlawful acts against the State. I agree with what the Minister has said, that the present Government will not inflict penalties for political activities, but I wanted to secure beyond all doubt that in future no such penalties would be inflicted.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 10; Níl, 29.

  • Seán Buitléir.
  • Osmond Grattan Esmonde.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
  • Pádraig Mac Fhlannchadha.
  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Criostóir O Broin.
  • Eamon O Dubhghaill.
  • Tadhg O Murchadha.
  • Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).


  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Séamus Breathnach.
  • Máighréad Ní Choileain Bean
  • Uí Dhrisceóil.
  • Desmond Fitzgerald.
  • Thomas Hennessy.
  • John Hennigan.
  • Liam Mac Cosgair.
  • Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
  • Patrick McGilligan.
  • Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
  • Liam Mac Sioghaird.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa.
  • Peadar O hAodha.
  • Mícheál O hAonghusa.
  • Risteárd O Conaill.
  • Partholán O Conchubhair.
  • Conchubhar O Conghaile.
  • Máirtín O Conalláin.
  • Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
  • Séamus O Dóláin.
  • Peadar O Dubhghaill.
  • Aindriú O Láimhín.
  • Séamus O Leadáin.
  • Fionán O Loingsigh.
  • Séamus O Murchadha.
  • Máirtín O Rodaigh.
  • Seán O Súilleabháin.
  • Mícheál O Tighearnaigh.
  • Caoimhghín O hUigín.
Tellers:—Tá: Criostóir O Broin agus Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
Amendment declared lost.
Níl: Séumas O Dóláin agus Liam Mac Sioghaird.

I move the next amendment, which stands in the names of Deputy C. Byrne and myself:—

Before sub-section (2) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

"No such pension shall be revoked in consequence of any act committed prior to the passing of this Act."

I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything on behalf of this amendment. It is for the purpose of giving effect to an undertaking given by the Minister for Defence on the Second Reading of the Bill.

I propose to accept the amendment.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I beg to move amendment 3:—

To delete sub-section (2) and substitute therefor the following new sub-section:—

"In every case of a pension being revoked by order of the Executive Council the person whose pension is so revoked shall have the right to appeal against such revocation to a Committee of Deputies nominated by and impartially representative of Dáil Eireann."

In the case of persons whose pensions are revoked, I think it is only right that they should have power to appeal to those who are responsible for the passing of the Act under which their pensions were granted. I believe that the setting up of a Court of Appeal of the kind suggested would be equally fair to the Minister and to the people affected.

I cannot see my way to accept this amendment. I think it would be a very bad precedent to establish—that Courts of Appeal should be set up and composed of members of this House, and that they should be the judges of this or any other Act. I think there are ample safeguards given to those who think that they may be harshly treated to get their grievances ventilated without establishing a precedent of that kind, and therefore I do not propose to accept the amendment.


What I am anxious to secure is that a Court of Appeal should be established to deal with cases of this kind. I may say that I am not enamoured of this proposal myself, but at the same time I think that these men should have some Court of Appeal to go to in cases where it is proposed to revoke their pensions.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I beg to move amendment 4:—

Before sub-section (3) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

"In every case where an order revoking a pension is made by the Executive Council, under this section, a copy of the reasons for such revocation as communicated in writing to the person in receipt of the pension, together with a copy of the explanation or answer in writing, if any, of such person, shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas."

The object of the amendment is to get effect given to a statement made by the President on the Second Reading of this Bill. He said he supported the Bill on the understanding that the Dáil would never tolerate an Executive Council which abused the provisions of this Bill for purposes of victimisation. The Dáil would have no opportunity of knowing whether a prima facie case for victimisation had been established unless they had some information as to the nature of the charge, and the answer that was given by the person whose pension was about to be revoked. For that reason, I suggest it would be a simple matter to get some information in each case—that the charge and the answer given should be supplied to the Dáil in order that it might have an opportunity of judging whether, in a particular case, there was ground for believing that there had been victimisation. I hope that the President will be willing to accept the amendment for the reasons that he gave himself in support of the Second Reading of the Bill.

I regret that I cannot accept the amendment. I believe there is an ample safeguard in the Bill as it stands. The safeguard is the same as that given in the case of an officer in the Army whose services are proposed to be dispensed with by the Executive Council; that is to say, he is given an opportunity of putting in writing, before his dismissal takes place, any observations he may have to make against such dismissal. Further, whatever the decision, it must be published in Iris Oifigiúil. I think, myself, there are sufficient safeguards already to guard against any act of harshness that might be committed against any individual. He will have the same safeguard that an officer in the Army has. From the arguments put forward, I cannot see my way to accept the amendment.

The Minister's answer rather inclines me to support the amendment. The Minister brings forward the analogy of the officer who is to be deprived of his commission: that this provision in the Bill would give the pensioner similar rights in the case of a proposed revocation, and that the reasons stated will be printed in the Iris Oifigiúil. What are the reasons stated: “That the officer has been guilty of conduct unworthy of his office.” That is the kind of reason that is printed in the official gazette, and that is the kind of reason that is going to be stated for the information of the Dáil when you are depriving an ex-soldier of his pension. If that is the mind of the Minister, and it is quite borne out by the language of the section, it makes me realise the importance of having the facts presented to the Dáil—that is to say, the reasons, not merely a formal phrase such as is given in the case of an officer who has been deprived of his commission.

One would have imagined that the reasons stated and referred to in sub-section (1), which had to be printed in the Order, would have been something in the nature of a detailed statement of reasons. But now we are to understand that that is not the proposal at all. It is merely to give a formal phrase, such as "conduct unbecoming an officer," or some other kind of formal phrase, which gives no reasons whatever. The proposal in the amendment is to have presented to the Dáil not merely that kind of a formal reason, but a copy of the statement which was sent to the pensioner indicating the reasons why the Executive Council were proposing to deprive him of his pension, as well as the answer that was received. Let it be borne in mind that this proposal to revoke pensions by a political executive is something not normal, not usual, and when we are going to specify powers, as we are doing here, it is necessary to make some provision against the possibility of abuse of those powers. I think that the proposal simply to state in the Iris Oifigiúil the reasons in the same manner as is done in the case of an officer deprived of his commission, is not at all sufficient. We ought to ask for further information, and that the facts relating to the case be stated with some detail. I think that on these grounds the amendment is worthy of support. I think, too, that the Minister in his statement rather revealed a weakness in the Bill as it stands.

It is not usual to publish correspondence in the Iris Oifigiúil. What is done is to publish the findings and the results and how they were come by. I think it would be very foolish and a very bad practice to lay down that correspondence between the pensioner and the Government should be published in the Iris Oifigiúil, and I do not think that it would lead to good order or to anything else. If the Government cannot be trusted to do justice this House should see, and will see, that justice is done. I do not know any Executive Council that would be put into office, now or at any other time, that would take a pension from a man justly entitled to it, on account of political spleen or spite. It could not happen that any Executive Council having the confidence of the country would do such a thing. If an Executive Council could not be trusted to that degree they would not possess the confidence of the House; therefore, publishing correspondence of that kind in the Iris Oifigiúil is not what the House or the country would demand.

What is asked is not that these things should be published in the Iris Oifigiúil, but that they should be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

I was answering the arguments put forward by Deputy Johnson, but it amounts to the same thing. If no order can be made until it be laid on the Table of this House for 21 days, and on the Table of the Seanad for the same period, I think again, on what is a trivial matter, that would be a bad practice to adopt. This merely will be a routine matter entirely, and there would be no executive action required beyond the mere fact that a man had been guilty of some serious crime against the State before any such action could be taken. The Executive Council would have to have very good evidence that a man was guilty of that crime before they deprived him of a pension given by an Act passed by the Oireachtas.

Why is it that if a man commits this grave crime he is not brought to justice? Why should he be allowed off merely by having his pension withdrawn?

The Minister has contented himself by saying that no Ministry would do such a thing. But Ministries do these things. Ministries have been known to do them in the past in many countries. Yet, if a soldier or a person who has had a pension granted on certain grounds, is subject to have this pension revoked, his only remedy is to come here and persuade the majority of Deputies in the Dáil to bring the matter before the Dáil, and get a majority to prevent that revocation. It means that that person must be an exceptionally able advocate and lobbyist. As to the reasons given for revoking the pension, bear in mind the person has not to be guilty of an offence. It is presumed by this Bill that the offence the person has to be guilty of is not one that will bring him within the law. It is not an offence that is capable of being punished or which can be proved against him. It is some dereliction not criminal, not of a kind for which he can be punished, but which, in the mind of the Executive Council, is sufficient to warrant the withdrawal of his pension, and the only protection the pensioner would have, is that formal reasons should be stated in the Iris Oifigiúil. I think the amendment, put forward by the Deputy, that reasons, not of a formal character, but reasons set forth in the communication to be made to the recipient, should also be laid on the Table of the House, and that his reply should accompany that communication. Then there is the duty devolving upon Deputies to raise the matter if they think an injustice has been done, and that is the only protection that the pensioner has. I think the proposal is quite a reasonable one. It is not going to do more in the way of formal publication than is done every week in the year. We see communications of the kind, which are not printed in the Iris Oifigiúil, laid upon the Table, and which are capable of being raised and dealt with by Deputies. That is proposed to be done here, and I think it is of some protection to the pensioner against the possibility of the Executive Council revoking a pension without the opportunity of the facts being properly stated before the Dáil.

The procedure for revocation is not a usual one, and, therefore, there should be unusual safeguards in the matter. I ask Deputies to bear in mind the central fact, which is this: that this is not for an offence that is punishable. It is giving power to the Executive to revoke pensions for derelictions of some kind for which those charged with are not brought to court. I think the least that could be done is to have the facts laid on the table of the Dáil, so that Deputies might see them and take action.

It appears to me that the case upon which a claim can be made for passing this amendment falls under two heads—One, to preserve the rights of persons who are entitled to get these pensions, and two, to give an opportunity to the Dáil of perusing correspondence. That is, the reason given in the one case and the answer in writing, if any, in the other. Now compare what is requested by this amendment with what is the practice in the case of persons holding office in the Civil Service or holding commissions in the army. You have here a claim for an advantage for persons who are getting military service pensions over and above either the civilians or the military under the control of the Oireachtas. It does appear to me that this makes a claim of putting these other two sections in a less favourable position, and placing, as it were, a sort of criticism or judgment upon the Executive Council in respect of its administration of this particular Act, the Military Service Pensions Act, which does not pertain to the other cases.

Persons having pensions under the Military Service Act have no claim to be in a better position than an officer having a signed commission from the Executive Council. There does not appear to me to be a case for it. The only case that could be made for the acceptance of the amendment is the conviction that the Executive Council will not discharge its duty justly. No matter what political changes there may be, I have no doubt in my mind than an Executive Council charged with its responsibilities, would not deliberately rob a person, entitled to a pension, of his rights—because it would be robbery. Members of the Executive Council, no matter what party they belong to, must discharge their duty according to their conscience in matters of this kind. I mentioned when introducing this Act that it was intended to provide compensation for the interruption of the lives of these men. Is it thought likely that an Executive Council will consider depriving men of pensions to whom compensation is due? I think it is most unlikely. In view of the peculiar times we have lived through, however, I think that corrective authority must be given to the Executive, and I am satisfied that it will never be abused.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Question—"That Section 2, as amended, stand part of the Bill"— put and agreed to.
Section 3 put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported with one amendment.