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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 3 Jun 1925

Vol. 12 No. 2


I move:—

Go ndeontar suim na raghaidh thar £32,349 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1926, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí na Suirbhéireachta Ordonáis agus na mion-seirbhísí a bhaineas léi.

That a sum not exceeding £32,349 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, 1926, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ordnance Survey and of minor services connected therewith.

The work of the Ordnance Survey Department is chiefly to revise the county maps on the 25-inch scale at fixed intervals and to publish the resulting maps of the 25-inch scale, and the 6-inch scale. The 6-inch scale maps are produced by photography from the 25-inch maps. The Ordnance Survey also prepare other maps for Government Departments. During the past twelve months maps were prepared for the Office of Public Works, the Ministry of Fisheries, for the north-east Boundary Commission, for the Ministry of Justice and for the Irish Language Commission. In 1923, the normal programme of work was discontinued and a revision of large areas in the counties of Roscommon, Mayo and Galway, in which the late Congested Districts Board operated, was taken up and the field staff of the Survey is at present employed in these counties. The whole question of staffing the Ordnance Survey is in suspense pending the reorganisation which is proposed to be effected as soon as the Committee at present inquiring into certain aspects of the survey work has reported. There was a great deal of delay about the taking up of the work of that Committee, but it is now dealing with the matter. After it was appointed by the Dáil it held a couple of meetings, and the technical members of the Committee have had numerous consultations and have met frequently and it is hoped that the Committee will be able to report without any very great delay. The normal strength of the staff is 194, exclusive of cleaners. The estimate provides for a staff of 217, also exclusive of cleaners. The increase is caused by the re-instatement of victimised officers. That matter was before the Executive Council some time ago and it was felt that those officers who had been practically given the choice of enlisting in the British Army, during the European war, or getting out, had made good their case for re-instatement as victimised Civil Servants. But actually 34 of the staff of the Survey are seconded for service in other Government Departments. So there are really only 183 available for survey work, and that is rather less than the normal staff required. There has been no appointment, in view of the prospective reorganisation, to any vacant position in the Survey, apart from the re-instatements, since the 1st April, 1922.

Under sub-head (a) there are decreases amounting to £5,282. There has been an increase which caused the decrease not to be reflected as it should be reflected, from £245 to £224. There is a small increase in travelling expenses.

There are no very substantial changes in the other items. Incidental expenses as Deputies will see are down because the cost of the purchase of a new motor delivery van which was in last year's estimate is not in this year's estimate. The figure of £500 has been allowed for receipts from the sale of maps. Since the passing of the Land Act of 1923, the sale of large-scale Survey maps has increased very greatly, and if the sales are continued at the same rate in the present year the amount estimated for will be realised.

Will the Minister give us information as to when the report he spoke of is likely to be presented to the Ministry, and I hope the contents made known to the Dáil? Because if there is to be much longer delay, and if the policy of the Ministry regarding the ordinary promotions given in the service is to be suspended until that report is received, then the amount of discontent and dissatisfaction that prevails in the Ordnance Survey will continue and will greatly increase, and there will be general defects in the work because of the fact that the staff is dissatisfied.

The Minister says, if I understood him aright, that there has been no promotion since 1922, while a year ago there was a promise that nothing could be done until the report of the Committee was presented: that there would be a general suspension of the proposals for reorganisation until the Committee that was then set up to inquire into an entirely different matter, had reported. The Committee has not been sitting. Delays have occurred, as has been explained, and it is now thought and hoped that the Committee will shortly report. Then, perhaps, the question of the reorganisation of the staff will be taken into account. I think it is due to the staff to have some indication at any rate, as to when this reorganisation is to take place. It is not fair that in this particular section of the Civil Service everything should be held up so long a time as from April, 1922, until 1925, with the probability of 1926.

I do not think so.

Unless the report comes in before the Dáil adjourns. I think the patience of the staff is being tried over much, and some clear indication should be given as to when this reorganisation is to take place. Now, I do not want to raise the question which led to the appointment of the Committee if it is likely to prejudice any discussion or any consideration offered by the Committee. But it occurs to me that the terms of reference to the Committee were not likely to lead to the clearing up of the questions that were raised a year ago.

I would like to have some information from the Minister as to whether the Committee is interpreting its terms of reference so as to include an inquiry into the stocks of maps and plates, the disposal of these maps and plates and the destruction of them. I think the terms of reference might well be interpreted as meaning that the Committee might not have anything to do with these allegations, and perhaps we might have some information as to whether the Committee is interpreting its terms of reference so as to include that inquiry. Perhaps, also, we could have some information as to what is meant by "Acting Director" and "Assistant Acting Director." Are we to understand that the term "Acting Director" is a term applied pending the reorganisation, and has the Acting Director sufficient technical knowledge to carry on this work, even for this period of delay pending the reorganisation? Also we might have some information about the position of the Assistant Acting Director. The Assistant Acting Director is paid a sum of £136 per annum, plus bonus, plus an allowance of £120. That is a curious position for the Assistant Acting Director to be in, and I think that a little clarification of that is required. Then I see that amongst the civil assistants and labourers, there are a number of British Army pensioners who are paid their pensions and military allowances in addition to the pay here provided. I would like to have from the Minister some information as to the rate of pay that is given to these British Army pensioners and a comparison between their rate of pay and the rate of pay of other men who are not British Army pensioners but who are doing the same class of work. Is the fact that men are receiving pensions for their service in the British Army taken into account in fixing the pay they are receiving for their work in the Ordnance Survey? I hope the Minister will be able to answer that question, because it raises an important matter of principle, one which ought to be made clear. The proposition that because a man is receiving a pension, especially a pension for services outside the country, he should be engaged at a lower rate of pay than his equals in competition is a vicious one, and we ought not to allow it to enter the service here. I would like that point cleared up. The footnote drawing attention to the fact that a number of these men are British Army pensioners inevitably raises that query.

I would like to have some information in reference to the Ordnance Survey officers who were discharged seven or eight years ago because they refused to join the British Army. A number of officers did join the British Army, and they were given full credit for the time they served in the Army, and received, I believe, a very large gratuity on discharge. I would like to know if those who refused to join, who were discharged and who were wanderers here and there for eight years, have been reinstated on the permanent staff, if they have received gratuities for the time they were out, and if they have been given credit for all these years with those who joined the British Army.

The victimised men were restored to the staff and were given credit for the time they were out. There is, however, the question of establishment outstanding. Some of them were not established men—I am speaking from recollection. They claim that if they had continued to serve they would, in the intervening period, have been established, and that to reinstate them as temporary men, even allowing them credit for the time they were out, was not fair, and that is a matter that is still outstanding. In regard to the matter raised by Deputy Johnson, I cannot say directly how the Committee is interpreting its terms of reference, but it never struck me that it would fail to inquire into the matters to which the Deputy has referred. I think the terms of reference were so drafted that they were certain to do that.

Would the Minister state the date that the terms of reference were fixed?

It is a long time ago. I think it happened while I was away ill last year. Certainly the discussion took place while I was absent, and I believe that the terms of reference were fixed soon after that. There were many months during which the Committee did not meet. The chairman who had been appointed did not find himself able to act, and we had to appoint a new chairman. The Committee is now doing the work for which it was appointed. I cannot state definitely when they will report, but I am given to understand that it will not be long, and I do not think there is any danger——

Do I understand from the Minister that that Committee has held a couple of meetings?

The full Committee has only held a couple of meetings, but there are engineers on the Committee who are doing special investigation work, which it is not thought that the full Committee need do.

Can the Minister give us an assurance that the persons who had been members of the staff, and who, to the public knowledge, certainly to the knowledge of the Minister for Lands and Agriculture, supplied the information which was the basis of the discussion which took place here a year ago will be called by the Committee as witnesses?

I believe that they will be, but, of course, I cannot say definitely.

I would impress upon the Minister that this is a matter of some importance. The discussion took place a year ago, and it was, to a certain extent, acrimonious. The Committee was appointed as a result. There was some delay in the publication of the terms of reference. I have not got them by me, but I have the impression that they do not assuredly contemplate an examination of the charges that were made; they make it possible that those particular charges need not be examined, and they also make it possible that the persons who made the charges need not be examined. I would like a definite assurance that the impression which I have is a wrong one, that the terms of reference will allow the whole of the case to be inquired into, and that the persons who have any evidence to put forward, who were, or are, on the staff, will be invited to give evidence before the Committee.

I will give the terms of reference to the Deputy:—

To inquire and report (1) whether the Ordnance Survey has its full complement of plant and equipment; (2) whether the survey is, in all respects, but particularly in regard to levelling, carried out on proper lines, and whether the maps issued by the Ordnance Survey represent correctly the results of the survey.

I will read the letter that was sent to the present Chairman of the Committee on his appointment:—

"For your information I am to state that the circumstances leading to the appointment of the Committee suggest that, amongst other things to which the evidence is likely to draw attention, will be questions as to what survey plates, maps, machinery, equipment, etc., have been destroyed or removed from Dublin to Southampton or elsewhere, outside Saorstát Eireann since 31st December, 1919, for what purpose and by whose authority, the destruction or removal was effected; whether the efficiency of the survey has been impaired thereby, and what plates, maps, machinery, equipment, etc., have been returned to Dublin during the period in question. The Secretary of the Committee is Mr. M. Quane, of the Ministry of Education 1 Hume Street, who has been in structed to communicate with you as early as possible.

"I am to add that if the Committee find it necessary to obtain evidence from a representative of the Ordnance Survey Office at Southampton, the Minister will be glad to arrange for the attendance of a witness from that Department on receiving from you an indication of the points on which evidence is desired."

Will the Minister name the personnel of the Commission?

Yes. That has been read out several times.

Wm. Sears, T.D. (Chairman).

Pierce F. Purcell, M.A., M.A.I.

Nicholas O'Dwyer, B.E. (Engineering Inspector).

Diarmuid O hEigceartuigh (Secretary of Executive Council).

M. Quane (Secretary), and

A.M. Fullerton, representing the Commissioner of Valuation.

I think the letter does give an indication to the Chairman that the matters that were raised in the discussion are to be inquired into and I hope that the terms of reference will be interpreted in the light of the letter. The Minister told us that the Committee may have the assistance of some representatives of the Office in Southampton. Can we have the assurance that the representatives of the Office in the Survey Department who may wish to tender evidence, whether they are at present in the Department or were up to 1919 or any time afterwards, will be invited to give evidence?

I have not asked the Committee but I think you may take it that the Committee will.

That is the assurance I require. Can the Minister tell us something about the Army Pensioners and their rate of pay?

I do not believe there is any difference in the rate of pay. They were taken on by the British Authorities. None of those Pensioners have been taken on by us. The whole matter has remained in a state of suspension since we took over and no change of any sort has been made.

Are we to understand that those men were British Royal Engineers who acquired a special knowledge of map-making that would not be possessed by the ordinary employee you take on every day, or are they merely employed as Commissionaires, cleaners and that kind of job?

Some of the Civil Assistants would be Army Engineers. I do not know about the labourers.

Will the Minister notify the Commission that their report is overdue, inasmuch as the Committee was established following on a debate in Dáil Eireann near the close of last July? At the time, serious allegations were made which, while I do not accept responsibility for them, I think, constituted a prima facie case which should be expeditiously investigated for the honour and the credit of the Ministry itself. I think the Dáil is not very wise in voting a sum of £48,000 this year while this thing is in suspense. Before the Dáil adjourns a month hence the Minister should be in possession of the report and I ask him to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the report is overdue and should be presented to the Oireachtas.

I know the present members of the Committee and they are fully aware that we desire the report as soon as possible.

Can the Minister say when the report will be available?

I cannot.

Will it be available any time before the adjournment of the Dáil for the Summer?

I do not think there is the slightest chance of it. The Committee was not appointed until a very long time after the discussion. My impression is that it was appointed in the Spring of this year and it would be unreasonable to expect them to have their report ready so soon.

Will the report be made available for the Dáil?

All reports are made available. Sometimes there was delay while consideration was being given to them by the Executive Council.

Vote put and agreed to.