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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 28 Jan 1926

Vol. 14 No. 3


This is a Bill which, technically, comes within the scope of my Department, although in reality there is no public expenditure; there is no national expenditure or national saving involved. It is introduced for the purpose of preventing a certain class of pensioned local officers being in a more advantageous position than others. It is common knowledge that in the period before the Truce the majority of the local councils acknowledged the authority of the Local Government Department of Dáil Eireann, and most of the officials obeyed the rulings of their own authorities and the Department of Dáil Eireann. But in certain cases there were officials who refused to carry out the instructions of their own authorities and refused to acknowledge the authority of the Dáil Eireann Department. A number of those officials were dismissed. They appealed to the Local Government Board on the question of their pensions, and sealed orders were issued fixing those pensions at, I think, in all cases excessive amounts. Following the Treaty and the setting up of the Provisional Govérnment, the position of these officials was the subject of discussion between the British Government and our Government here. It was agreed between the two Governments that some person should be appointed to assess the proper amount of the pensions or gratuities payable to the dismissed officials who had not obtained sealed orders from the Local Government Board. Some of them had not. This person was to report in all sealed-order cases as to the amount by which the sealed-order pensions exceeded the pensions properly payable. Mr. Justice Wylie was appointed to carry out that. As a matter of fact, the British Government admitted our contention that the sealed-order pensions were in most cases excessive. When Mr. Justice Wylie went into the matter he found that they were in all cases excessive. During the course of this discussion between the two Governments, there was never any intention that the Free State Government should assume liability for the pensions. But local authorities, even although the pensions had been reviewed, and revised in some cases, particularly in the case of the Wexford County Council, refused to have anything to do with the payment of the pensions; after Mr. Justice Wylie's examination and award, the pensions still remained unpaid. It was to deal with that situation that the Act of 1924 was passed—the Local Officers Compensation (War Period) Act.

It was prescribed in that Act that the payment should be made in the first place out of moneys placed at the disposal of the Minister for Finance by the British Government. Those were moneys to cover that portion of the pension which Mr. Justice Wylie found to be in excess of what the officers were legally entitled to. Then the remainder of the pensions was to paid out of the Local Taxation Account. Consequently the amount available for distribution to the local authorities out of the Local Taxation Account is reduced by the amount paid on pensions. Actually the pensions of the officers dealt with in the Act of 1924 are paid by the local authorities in an indirect way. Local authorities pay these particular pensions because the amounts of the pensions are deducted from the grants going to the local authorities out of the Local Taxation Account. Consequently, there is no reason why the pensions of those officers should not be subject to the same deductions as the pensions of officers who obeyed their own authorities, and did not take the particular part in the national struggle that these people took. The officers who obeyed their own particular body and acknowledged the authority of Dáil Eireann, have their pensions paid direct by the local authority. As a matter of fact, this Bill itself proposes to leave the small number of officers to whom it will apply in an advantageous position, because it is not proposed to have any retrospective effect. The reduction of pensions will take effect only from the passing of the Act, whereas other officials whose cases are really similar—officials who, in consequence of the amalgamation scheme or something like that, had their services dispensed with by the local authorities, who received pensions and who afterwards were re-employed —have already, since the passing of the Local Government Act, had their pensions reduced. It is proposed that these few individuals to whom this Bill refers, should have their pensions reduced only after the passing of this Act. Out of the original 27 or 28 officers named in the Act of 1924 a number are dead. I think, so far, only about four have received employment. I think that at the present moment there are actually only two in employment. The sum involved is very trifling. It does not affect, as I say, the Exchequer in any way. It affects only the local authorities, but it is felt that there is a certain matter of principle involved and that officials, simply because they took a strong part against the national side—they took a fairly strong line against the national side in the pre-Truce struggle—ought not to be in a better position than officials whose cases are otherwise similar in every respect, except that they obeyed their own authorities and accepted the authority of the Dáil Department of Local Government.

I think it will be generally admitted that the legislative machinery of the country should not be set in operation except to deal with some very important matter affecting the lives of the people of the country as a whole. Anyone who has read this Bill and studied its effects and listened now to the speech of the Minister moving its Second Reading must conclude that this is a case in which the legislative machinery of the country ought not to be used. It will be necessary to refer to the original Act, of which this is supposed to be an amendment. The original Act had its origin in the Treaty negotiations and in the troubles which preceded the Treaty. In setting up our new Government we had to do many things that perhaps in ordinary times might not have to be done. Certain difficulties arose, and some of those people who thought they had certain rights insisted on their rights as they deemed them to be. They took such action as they were entitled to take within the law as it existed at the time.

The President explained the object of this War Compensation Act on each of the stages of the Bill when it was introduced in 1924. On the First Reading of the Bill he said:

"This measure seeks to carry out an obligation that we entered into when negotiating with the British Government about the payment of grants. The local authorities on their part, while taking the money, did not fulfil their obligations, and this measure is to see that as far as these officers are concerned in respect of whom we gave an undertaking that they are not at a loss and that their rights are safeguarded."

Again on the Second Reading the President said.

"In so far as this particular method of dealing with all these cases is concerned, that is in substance made a national charge, but it is not a national charge that will fall upon the Exchequer because of the fact that the local authorities in question, by reason of this particular struggle, lost nothing in the struggle, and in consequence they have no liability to meet in respect of it except that for which they were very well compensated in other directions."

On the Third Stage the President said:

"Generally, on the whole thing, we have come to an arrangement with the British Government. Mr. Justice Wylie has considered the whole of those cases, and our liability has been assessed at what would have been a fair compensation, given in each case, excluding the political circumstances of the times. The British Government has accepted responsibility for the difference between what might be called an equitable pension in the circumstances and what was granted, and our responsibility is in respect of the rest."

To me it seems clear from these statements that the local authorities lose nothing on account of these pensions. They have no liability on account of these pensions, and it is equally clear that it was a definite arrangement between the British and the Irish Governments arising out of circumstances which preceded the Treaty. It is a very unusual thing in legislation to legislate for individuals and to set out in an Act of Parliament, as has been done in the case of the main Act, the actual names of the twenty-four or twenty-five individuals who are affected by the measure. It makes it clear in any case that it is something special— something which is not of general application. The pensions set out in the main measure, which is now sought to be amended, were given absolutely unconditionally. No condition whatsoever was attached to the pension. It cannot be held that the leaving out of these conditions which are now sought to be made was overlooked or was merely an accident, because I find that at the very same time a Bill was going through the Dáil—the Military Service Pensions Bill, and both in fact were signed on the same day—in which a special section was introduced setting forth some such condition as is now put in in this case. So that it could not be that it was forgotten in one case and put in in the other, or that this Bill is now to remedy an oversight on that occasion. It was done of deliberate act. These pensions were made unconditional deliberately by the Oireachtas at the time.

There is another matter, and I wonder whether the Minister is cognisant of this fact. It is a very important matter to my mind. When the first draft of the Local Government Bill was circulated it contained a provision which, if passed, would have the effect which this Bill will now have if passed. Section 33 of the original Bill as circulated stated "Whenever a person who is in receipt of an allowance under this or any other Act on account of his having, whether before or after the passing of the Act, ceased to hold office," and so on. I draw attention to the words "Whenever a person who is in receipt of an allowance under this or any other Act." That undoubtedly would have included the twenty-four or twenty-five people in this Local Government (Compensation) Act—the main Act—but that representations were made at the time by the people concerned or their organisation. Those who represented them made representations to the Local Government Department, and the Local Government Department admitted the justice of the representations. In the new draft of the Bill that was brought forward—it will be remembered that there was a new draft of the Local Government Bill brought forward—they were specially cut out of the Bill. That draft became an Act. The Act as it now stands shows that the words "under this or any other Act" were definitely omitted. Instead it now reads "or in receipt of an allowance from a local body." These people are not in receipt of an allowance from a local body, and therefore in the second draft of the Local Government Bill which finally became an Act their rights were preserved.


Of course if the draft had remained as it was originally, this point would have been raised at the time when all those people affected went to the Local Government Department, discussed the matter with those responsible for the Bill, and got themselves definitely excluded from the provisions of the Act. Now, surely there must be some good reasons why that was done. What happened was, it was definitely recognised that these people had special claims from the whole circumstances surrounding the passage of this Local Government Act. The Minister has said that the Bill does not secure any national economy; there is no national expenditure involved, but the whole object of the Bill is to prevent a certain class of local officers being in a more advantageous position than certain other classes. I wonder is the Government going to adopt that as a general principle for which it will legislate, in order to see that no one class of persons will be in a more advantageous position than any other set of persons. If there is any such intention it is clearly revolutionary. In all the circumstances, there is no case made for the introduction of a measure of this kind. It clearly does not secure economy. It will only have the effect of preventing any of those people getting employment under local authorities, because none of those who have the pension and who are at liberty to take employment under any body except a local authority will take employment under a local authority and thereby lose his pension. It is simply shutting out men with a certain amount of training and experience, from getting employment under local authorities and it is very hard to have any other impression than that it looks like having one back on them for something that they did or failed to do in 1920 or 1919.

It is quite wrong for the Government to leave it in the power of anybody to say that six or seven years after this event they are using the machinery of the legislature, as it were, to have revenge on people who did not fall in with their particular views at that time. That could be carried out in many other directions. We had to pay a good deal to people who refused on that occasion to fall in with the views of the majority. We had to compensate the R.I.C. We had to give big pensions to civil servants who retired because they did not wish to carry on under an Irish Government. There were various classes of people who had to be compensated in one way or another, but on examination of this particular measure, it will be found that very few, as the Minister has said, will be affected or can be affected. Only four at most have sought employment under a local authority, and if the statement made by the Minister for Local Government, in reply to a question of mine a few days ago, is correct, there is, at present, only one person who happens to be drawing a pension of £160 a year who would not be affected by the passing of the Bill. I do not see on what ground the Minister can defend the introduction of a measure of this kind, even if there was something special to the advantage of this particular individual in the way things turned out after the settlement had been effected between the British and Irish Governments. It certainly seems to me exceedingly wrong treatment of this particular individual, who was in the employment of a local authority when this Act was passed, who Act was passed, under the Act, without conditions, without anything being set out in the Act to show that if he held employment he was not to get a pension. He was in employment, and now the legislature comes along again in a year's time and simply takes from that man the rights given him under the Act of 1924. If this is going to be done, really the effect will be to destroy that sense of confidence and that sense of security in the public service that an individual and the public generally ought to have in the State. A man should not simply feel I am all right to-day, but the Minister may bring in a Bill to-morrow and pass it through the Dáil and take what I have from me. That will be the attitude of mind that will be created by the passage of this Bill. For no matter what argument the Minister can put up to show that we do not want one class of individuals to be in a more advantageous position than another class of individuals, the man in the street will say it is those special cases arising out of circumstances that may not occur again—at least not in our lifetime it is to be hoped—that this measure is aimed really at, affecting one or two individuals. I will put it straight to the Minister. The individual I have in mind is one who, because of his representative position in the organisation that defended the rights of those individuals, was very active, and from that point of view this has a sinister appearance and will be looked upon as if it was aimed at this particular individual.

I do not think it is worth while, for what is gained, because there is no general principle involved. There is protection in the Local Government Act, which has general application, and was passed here as a matter of course because it had general application, but this only applies to a certain number of individuals limited by the Act itself —some are dead, the majority of them have other employment and never will seek employment under local authorities. Many of them are employed in local authorities outside the Saorstát; some of them have very good employment in England, others in the North of Ireland, and these cannot be touched in any way.

Another aspect of the case is that if instead of getting pensions they got compensation they would not be touched or affected by this Bill. If the particular individual I have in mind who had less than 10 years' service got something like £1,000 compensation, the Bill would not touch him at all, but because he had longer service than that he got a pension, and this Bill simply takes the pension from him now. I cannot see how the Minister can, by any argument, justify taking from an individual rights he has at the present time, and which, no doubt, he had a vested interest in, and I do put it to him, from the point of view of that sense of confidence in the justice and fair dealing of the State, that everybody should have a feeling of security that the legislative machine should not be set in motion to deal with a matter of this kind. I put it to the Minister that it is not worth while going on with this measure. There is nothing involved except what he thinks is a principle, but I maintain that no general principle is involved, inasmuch as it applies purely to individuals. The Minister would be doing good service to the State, in creating those feelings of security and confidence that we ought to have in the State, if he were to say that in all the circumstances, as they have been put before him, he would not proceed further with the measure.

What is the case that the Minister has made for this Bill? Put in a few words, it is that the Act of 1924 operates to the advantage of a certain class of local government pensioners as against a certain other class. Were those facts not known in 1924? The President had been Minister for Local Government. The Minister for Finance had been Minister for Local Government. Three years had elapsed since the dismissal or retirement of the last of the pensioners named in the Schedule of this Bill, and yet the Executive Council thought it right to pass through the Oireachtas the Act of 1924. Now we are told, and it is the only case made for the Bill, that the Act of 1924 was a mistaken Act.

Was mistaken in outlook.

Not the 1924 Act, but that there was an omission from the Act of 1925.

I am referring to the Act of 1924, No. 50. That is the Act that we are amending now. That is the case he has made. What is the case the Minister has got to make? To begin with, he has got to prove to us that when the Oireachtas granted pensions unconditionally we are justified in subsequently imposing certain definite conditions to the detriment of one or two individuals. He has got to prove to us that we are justified in placing these pensioners in a worse position than those ladies and gentlemen who got gratuities under the old Act and whose gratuities cannot be taken away, and he has also got to prove to us that he is justified in discriminating against persons who are in the employment of local authorities. Pensioners under the old Act can take any other form of employment they like without discrimination. They can sell tea on commission, they can canvass for insurance companies, they can, if they are of a suitable age, enter the National Army, they can stand for the Dáil, they can become Parliamentary Secretaries, they can become Ministers, and there will be no deduction whatever made from the pensions. But if they enter the employment of a local authothority then, and then only, are they to be penalised. What is the reason for that penalisation? It may not be the same local authority and it may not be the same position. A technical teacher who got a pension under this section might go to college, qualify in engineering, and years later be appointed a county surveyor, and yet he would find, just because he was in the employment of a local authority, that he was penalised. A man might be on his last legs and take employment as a rate collector, or a dairy inspector, or something of that kind, some miserable little employment. Still he would find himself penalised to a small extent, though not to the full extent, under this Bill.

I can see no reason for discriminating between persons simply because they entered into the employment of a local authority, and the Minister will have to make a case on these points. I am open to conviction on these points, but I do not think he will be able to convince me, however eloquently he may plead, that it is right for the Dáil to pass a measure which deprives a couple of individuals of a sum of less than £200 a year. It seems to me an abuse of legislation, and, as Deputy O'Connell says, it strikes at public confidence because of the feeling that general legislation may be used to affect the rights of two, three or more individuals. Where a large class is concerned people must suffer for the public good. In this case the public stands to gain little, the individual stands to lose a great deal. Therefore, I earnestly hope that the Government will not proceed with this Bill.

I think that this is a measure which is unworthy of the Minister himself, of the Government that he represents, and of the State of which it is the Government. At the beginning of this session, when there are numerous extremely urgent and pressing measures which need to be passed through the Oireachtas for the benefit of the country—measures such as the Courts Officers Bill, the need for which is holding up the whole business of the circuit courts throughout the country—we are called upon to discuss and to pass a measure which the Minister himself says has no financial significance, and which he finds, I think the Dáil will agree, very hard to defend. It is not a measure which will involve a large section of the people. It is not a measure which will involve the future of the country. The Minister has stated that the measure is not retrospective. What is it if it is not retrospective? Does it not propose to take away certain rights—rights which were not only acquiesced in, but which were specifically given to certain individual citizens?

Is it to be contended by the Government of to-day that the Government of 1924 and of 1925 were blindfolded, that when the very names of these people were actually inserted in the Bill of 1924 and when certain rights were given to them they did not know that these rights were being given absolutely and unconditionally? Is it to be the practice, as this Bill would seem to indicate, that not only what one Government does to-day in regard to pensions of certain classes of public officials will be discarded by another Government of to-morrow—a practice that is never indulged in by any well-organised and civilised country—but that the same Government is to come forward with one Bill to-day, name certain people who are to be entitled to certain absolutely unconditional rights, and that that very same Government is to have the face—I say the audacity—within the space of two years to say that these very people are not to enjoy these rights now except under certain conditions which we did not impose in 1924 but which we seek to impose now?

This Bill at the very outside could not involve more than the pensions of twenty-six one-time officers of local bodies. Out of that twenty-six I understand that twenty-two are not employed by any local authority, that two have passed away and that at the very most there are only two to-day who could be in any way implicated or affected by this Bill. Yet at this stage when there is a crying need for important legislation we are asked seriously to pass this two-man measure, taking away the rights which were conferred by a previous measure of this same Government. What is the position of these two individuals? At the period in or about the Treaty, Section 8 of the Local Government Act of 1919 was in existence. It provided that certain officers dismissed from certain bodies should be entitled to certain rights. These officers in question, and the remainder of the twenty-six, were placed in the position of having to choose, if I may say so without offence, between the devil and the deep sea. On the one hand they were officers of local bodies. On the other hand the local bodies were controlled by the Local Government Board. They were told on the one hand by the local bodies that they had to do one thing; on the other hand they were told by the Local Government Board that they had to do the other. Some of them choose one way; some the other.

I do not think, as a matter of fact, that there was any choice. I think that probably those who chose one way ran as great a risk, if not greater, than those who chose the other, but however that may be, certain numbers of them were actually dismissed by the local bodies and, having been dismissed, they brought their claims before the courts. By a judgment of the Court of Appeal in 1921, their claims were upheld. Subsequently an Arbitration Court was set up and Mr. Justice Wylie, his appointment having the approval of the Saorstát, made certain awards. As a result of those awards; and because the local authorities refused to honour those awards, this Government passed a Bill, known now as the Local Officers' Compensation (War Period) Act, 1924. In that Act they actually named the very people who were to receive the amount of the awards made by Mr. Justice Wylie. Then came the Local Government Act of 1925 and, as Deputy O'Connell has accurately stated, this matter was not only not overlooked in that Act, but the Act was specifically altered so as not to apply any disability to those people entitled to pensions under the Local Officers' Act of 1924.

Let me take as an instance one of the two individuals concerning whose pension we are asked to pass this Bill. In 1919 this gentleman was dismissed from the position he held by a local body. He was dismissed ostensibly for political reasons. There were no bones made about it at the time, and that being so he made his case before the Court of Appeal and also before Mr. Justice Wylie's Committee. He was awarded the sum of £160 per annum, that sum to be retrospective from 1919 and to be unconditional. Now, in 1926, seven years after he received that unconditional award, with the full approval of the then Government under whom Mr. Justice Wylie acted, with the full approval of the then Government, who subsequently passed the Act of 1924, with the further approval of the Government who ratified it by the Act of 1925, we are asked by the same Government to pass a measure depriving that man of the unconditional pension that he got seven years ago. If that is not retrospective legislation I would like to know what is.

It may seem that it is all a storm in a teacup. I really think it is. I think this measure should never be introduced here. I think it is belittling the Dáil and belittling the Government to come along with a measure such as this, which will not affect a large number of the citizens of the Saorstát, which will not effect, as the Minister has admitted, any great economy, and which I submit does not affect any general principle. As has been already stated, why should a man who chooses to remain in the Saorstát when he receives a pension and chooses to serve in some capacity some local body, be penalised, and why should he suffer in his rights when his comrade who is in the same position can go across the border, serve perhaps the Government of that country, go across to any other country he chooses, draw his full pension from the Saorstát, and enjoy it elsewhere to the benefit of no people in this country.

In this particular instance, I would like to point out that the man happened not to be employed in a similar capacity to what he was previously, but, on the contrary, he actually went and studied and trained himself for an entirely different class of work. He succeeded in getting that work from another local body, and because he has been so industrious, so energetic, because he has been sufficiently patriotic to remain in the Saorstát and not to go as others have gone and spend his pension elsewhere, because he is of sufficient use to the local administration of this country that a local body thinks fit to employ him, that man is to be penalised and others who did not take the course that he is taking are to be allowed to enjoy the full amount of the pension that has been granted.

Then again it might have been possible for many of those people to have elected to take a lump sum by way of compensation instead of pension. Is it proposed now to attach any lump sum which may have been given if the recipient of that sum succeeds in getting employment from a local body? I cannot follow the line of argument that because certain rights were given —I am not saying that they ought to have been given, but they were given with the full approval of this Government—I do not see what moral right there is for this Government to deprive the recipient of those awards or anything appertaining to those awards.

What those awards were is unequivocally clear, from the various Acts I have cited, commencing with the Act of 1919 down to the Act of 1925, that is they were absolutely unconditional. Is it suggested that if the Dáil passes a measure to-morrow giving pensions to ex-service men in the National Army, that the same or even a subsequent Government should come along and attach different conditions to the pensions which have been given by this Government? I do not think that any Minister would have the face to make such a proposal. I say, from start to finish, this is a paltry measure, and is trifling with the time of this House. It is trifling with public honour and decency in this country to come along and discuss the passing of a measure depriving two people of rights which we ourselves in this Dáil and the Government bestowed on them seven or a less number of years ago. I hope, after the appeal made by Deputy O'Connell and by Deputy Bryan Cooper, that I have not imported any heat into the matter. I think it is in the interests of the Government that nothing of this nature should be allowed to be brought here, and to have it thrown in their faces that they are scrapping their undertakings with individuals in the Saorstát, because that is what it amounts to. The President has said on more than one occasion, and has had the courage to say so, that Great Britain has kept her word to the Saorstát in regard to the Treaty, and that she has acted honourably up to the present. I say this is a matter of honour with our Government, and that it is dishonourable, to say the least of it, that in connection with a matter which was explicably bound up with the negotiations and Treaty itself, that the Government should now come along and seek to deprive individuals of the Free State of what they themselves were prepared to give them only a few short years ago.

I am not going to debate the merits or demerits of this Bill. I think they have been sufficiently dealt with by the previous Deputy. There was one statement made by the Minister to which I should like to call his attention. I held an erroneous opinion as to the finance of this measure. I understood when this 1924 Bill was introduced that the money to be paid to those officers was to be supplied by the central fund, and not, as the Minister now in his statement makes clear, from the local rates. It is news to me that it is paid by the local rates. I do not believe there is a county council in Ireland that understands that such is happening. I am glad he made it so clear. I hold it is unfair to the local rates to have to pay these pensions at all. Those officers were dismissed at the bidding of the then Local Government Department. I remember sitting on the county council and having instructions from the Local Government Department before us time and again. We were finally ordered to dismiss those officers who did not fall in line with their instructions. In Wexford we did so, and when they sought pensions from the county council we declined to pay them from the rates on every occasion. We sent back word to the Minister that we declined to pay them from the local rates. To-day the Minister has informed us that these pensions are paid from the local rates or from grants sustaining the local rates, which is tantamount to the same. Those grants are withheld from the rates. I hold that county councils all through Ireland have been misled. I should like a further statement from the Minister on the matter.

The emphasis I want to lay on this question is somewhat different from that of the other Deputies. Without dealing with the merits of the quarrel that took place, pre-Truce, between Dáil Eireann and the British authorities, without expressing any view as to whether those local officers were justified in obeying the statutory authority of the time or the public authority of the time, it appeared to be admitted by the Minister that a discrimination is now going to be made against certain people who, by disobedience of the public authority of the time and by obeying the statutory authority at the time——

I should like to correct that. It is to remove the discrimination in their favour, but there is no intention to discriminate against them.

I want to point out that it is actually a discrimination against them. There were many offenders in the pre-Truce period against the public authority of the time. There were many landowners, owners of estates, and owners of big houses who flouted emphatically the authority of Dáil Eireann, deliberately flouted that authority, and they had their punishment, which was very often inflicted by the torch. Their houses were destroyed and they appealed to the courts and got compensation. Is there any prohibition of these people against getting employment under a local authority? No. On the contrary, what have you done within the last few weeks? You entered into an agreement to increase their compensation by 10 per cent. We had a good deal of talk a little while ago about the desirability of allowing the ill-feelings of that time to be cleared up. There has been talk about forgetting bygones and wiping out all hatreds, but surely this is a Bill which is going to perpetuate and deliberately reinstil these hatreds. The argument is, and, of course, undoubtedly it is a fact, that only two persons, possibly only one, will be affected by the enactment of this Bill.

Certainly at this stage, whatever may happen in the future, before anybody else can be brought under this Bill he must apply for appointment and be employed by a new local authority in the future. At the outside, two persons are going to be affected. As Deputy O'Connell stated, it is rather significant and not a pleasant thought that one of the persons to be particularly affected is a person in whose name action in the courts had to be taken. That does not add to one's feeling of confidence that this Bill has been brought in entirely out of good-will. Then one has to remember the effect of it. I think that if a local authority finds it possible to get better value out of A than out of B, C, D and E, it will appoint him to a particular post, but, not at present being employed by a local authority, he should not be deprived of offering his services to that local authority. This is not a similar case to a transfer from one local authority to another. It is not a similar case to a voluntary resignation and then re-employment by another authority. This is a case of forced resignation, and the person in question, having gone through another course of training entirely, qualified himself for another post, is deliberately deprived of what, rightly or wrongly, was enacted in his favour. The case is being made by the enactment of this Bill, if it is enacted, that future Governments, if they wish to follow the precedent, will penalise all those people who received any compensation or assistance from the State by virtue of an act done in the pre-Truce period. You are going to lay the headline for future Governments to say that the person who received any compensation or pension—policemen, soldiers or others—will be entitled to get any emoluments of any kind from any public service without being penalised.

That, I say, is going to perpetuate those feelings which Ministers at other times have been eloquent in pleading should be obliterated and wiped out. This, I think is an unfortunate Bill. I cannot understand where the desirable principle, which the Minister says is involved, comes in. There is a principle involved but it is a very bad principle, and that, I think, would justify the Dáil in not giving the Bill a second reading. Without having to ask the Dáil to divide on a matter of this kind I would urge the Minister to reconsider his own position. It is not being pressed forward by his own Department but by the Local Government Department. As the Minister said, it was not a Bill for which he was primarily responsible. That very Department had the matter under consideration during the interval between the introduction of the first and the second draft of the Local Government Bill. The whole matter was gone into by the Department concerned and the men primarily concerned were brought face to face. One of the officers of the Ministry at the time is now in the Ministry of Local Government, and, presumably acting on the advice of experts in the Department, the Minister re-drafted his Bill so that there would be no question that the men who are receiving pensions from the Central Fund under a specific Act should be brought within the purview of the measure then being dealt with. I think that no case has been made for the Bill, and I think that the case against it is that you are dealing with these men and women in a way which is entirely different from the spirit in which you asked us to agree in respect to other sections of the community who also disobeyed the orders of Dáil Eireann in 1919 and 1920. I think that there is a discrimination against these persons and that you are treating them differently from the way in which you treated other classes of the community in respect to their conduct during that period. I think that the Bill ought not to be pressed at this stage and that the whole matter should be re-considered with a view to safeguarding the future.

I approached the consideration of this measure with no reference whatever to a particular individual who may have made representations to anybody in the House concerning it, but rather I approached it from the point of view of principle. I notice that the principle of the Bill has been rigorously avoided in the speeches to which I have listened in connection with it. There is a history attached to this whole question. The historical side of it has been absolutely neglected, but perhaps it is not known to some of the Deputies who have spoken. The real history in connection with the matter started in 1919. An Act was introduced and passed in the British Parliament called the Criminal and Malicious Injuries Act, 1919.

On the face of it, it looked to be an Act dealing specifically with criminal and malicious injuries. During its passage a certain organisation, or a certain number of individuals representing the officials of local authorities, proceeded to point out to the gentleman who was occupying the position of Chief Secretary for Ireland—I think he was Mr. MacPherson—that in the forthcoming elections a great change in representation would take place; that the position of officers of local authorities would be rendered difficult; that they would find their positions altered and perhaps would be dismissed, and they desired to have some security in respect of the change that would take place. They managed to get included in this Act, called the Criminal and Malicious Injuries Act, a particular section, Section 8, which altered—I might say, revolutionised—the terms of superannuation which, up to that time, an official of a local authority was entitled to claim. The Act was bad, it was an unjust, immoral, and a wicked Act in every respect, not alone with regard to Section 8 but from the beginning to the end. It was, perhaps, one of the most corrupt measures ever introduced into and passed in any Parliament.


Would the President say if he is referring to the Criminal Injuries Act or the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1919? There seems to be some confusion. I understand the section under which the pensions were given was Section 8 of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1919.

The Deputy can have it that way if he likes. I think he will find that practically every section of that Act deals with criminal and malicious injuries, with the exception of Section 8. Section 8 deals with these officials and the case they then put up to the Chief Secretary. Although it is some years since I had the Act in my hand, I challenge denial of the statement that Section 8 was a very much more expensive and extravagant superannuation scheme than had appeared up to that time for employees of local authorities. It introduced a new element into the question of compensation. Compensation, or superannuation, as it was known up to that time, was based, I think, upon the number of years service divided by sixty. I think it required ten years to qualify. In some cases it was necessary to have twenty years' service before a pension was payable. This particular section enabled a person having less than ten years' service to get compensation in a bulk sum in the rate of one whole year's salary for the first year and a half-year's salary for every completed year of service, with a maximum of five years. It came to this, that if an official had £200 yearly and had 9½ years' service it was possible for him, with the sanction of the Local Government Board, to get £1,000 in hand.


But you are not touching him in your Bill.

I am dealing with the particular phase which gave rise to the whole trouble and which has been avoided. As I said before, I am not dealing with individuals. I am dealing with the principle only. If a man with ten years' service was entitled to ten-sixtieths of £200, that would amount to £33 6s. 8d. That was only for the life of the individual. One can judge the merits of this "just" Act by comparing a life interest of £33 6s. 8d. per annum and a lump sum of £1,000. Local authorities took exception to that, and to other Acts passed, and a conflict arose. It developed when another Act was passed, in 1920, practically surrendering into the hands of any person who had a decree for criminal and malicious injuries every penny of money that belonged to a local authority. Out of that arose a conflict, and within six or eight months —I think in August, 1920—the Local Government Board declined to send the local authority moneys out of the local taxation account. I would like to remind Deputy Doyle that a sum of something like £1,300,000 or £1,500,000 was due to local authorities in respect of the withheld grants in January, 1922, when members of the Provisional Government secured that sum and paid it to the local authorities. On getting that very considerable sum they were asked would they on their part undertake to see that the officers who had been dismissed and whose pensions had been arranged by the Local Government Board would have their cases favourably considered. The answer to that was "yes." The local authorities should remember that they got the withheld grants, that the sum in dispute and one of the main purposes of the conflict was settled by that payment. A settlement is not arrived at by giving one side all. A very considerable sum of money was also available in the local taxation account in respect of interest which would not have accrued but for that conflict, and which sum relieves local authorities of a very considerable amount in connection with this payment. It has been said that we are discriminating here. In my experience in connection with public matters a very considerable number of people object to pensioners being employed. I think it was a test in some elections, and I think the party that Deputy Johnson belongs to was one of those parties who objected to that.

No, Deputy Johnson and his party opposed the employment of pensioners at lower rates than the normal ones.

That was not the original objection.

Yes, sir, always.

No. It may have been before Deputy Johnson's time, but the objection was there.

Deputy Johnson's time and his interest in that matter goes back for 25 years. I do not know how far back the President's goes.

I say unhesitatingly that one of the points made by the Labour Party in connection with elections to my knowledge during the last twenty-five years was the objection to the employment of pensioners. Under the Military Service Pensions Act the employment of a person entitled to a pension is open to a deduction from the pension. That was specially put in. In the case of local officers who were not in this conflict they are open to this disadvantage, that the persons affected by reason of this Act are in a sense privileged persons, because their cases were considered under what I have described as an extravagant and an expensive superannuation system. Discrimination against them there is not. Should we put them on a level with other persons superannuated by local authorities? Yes. Why should they be singled out for special treatment, and why should there be a case made for them so that other officers of local authorities superannuated should be in a less favourable position than they are in?


Why did the Minister not put them in when he was passing the Act of 1922?

That should have been done.


It was not overlooked in 1925. It was specially withdrawn from the Act that it was in.

It should have been done then. There is very little excuse for not having it done then, but the case for doing it now is just as good as the case was for doing it then, unless you introduce the personal element.

You gave rights to individuals, and you are taking them away now.

There is no case for discrimination in favour of these people. I am not entering into the merits of a particular case. It is the principle that I consider, and I think that these officials should not have a privileged position. We have discharged our obligations to them. They are not entitled to greater consideration than other officials of local authorities. That is the principle of the Bill, and I am supporting the principle.

It seems to me that the persons who will be affected by this Bill are not to be entitled to take up positions for which they are specially fitted in this country, but that they may go to the North of Ireland or to England, or any other country, and get positions under local authorities there. Those local authorities will have the benefit of the special training and experience of those officers. In this country, they may take up any position which is not under a local authority. I do not see the necessity for this Bill. The feeling of people who have taken any interest in this matter is, that the Bill is brought in in a spirit of revenge for certain things that happened in Limerick. It is as well to state the matter clearly. That is the feeling. People are more or less convinced of that by the fact that the Bill will only affect one person, if it becomes an Act. If the President, or the Minister for Finance, can show to the Dáil that there is a good case for the introduction of this measure, that there is something existing now which did not exist when the Local Government Act was going through the House, I am sure that the Dáil will be prepared to consider it. But it seems to me that the Minister for Finance and the Government as a whole would be better employed dealing with the industrial position of the country and trying to provide means of employment for the workers than in bringing in little pin-pricking Bills of this sort. I think there is far too much time—and it is the opinion of most people in the country—being wasted on legislation of this sort while there are so many greater problems awaiting attention.

As far as I am concerned, I know nothing of the merits of any individual case. I am considering the principle.

I quite accept that.

I rise to make clear my attitude on the question and to say that I am entirely opposed to the Minister for Finance on the question of the introduction of this Bill. We have had explanations from the Minister and we have heard the President deal with the subject. Nothing, however, can alter the fact that the Bill is directed against one or two individuals. It is quite useless to say that the question of individuals does not enter into the Bill or was not taken into consideration by the promoters. If you leave out those few individuals, the Bill disappears. With the end of their life, the Bill comes to an end likewise. It may be quite right for the President to say that one person or two persons are placed in a favoured position by the legislation that has been already passed. But if legislation, passed as recently as a couple of years ago, has the effect of providing favourable terms for one person or two persons, is this House to be called upon to pass a special Act to deprive these people of what you have given them?

Commercially, the proposition is perfectly unsound. As far as the amount involved is concerned, the Bill is not justified, and I do not think it is a credit to our legislature that a Bill of this sort should be brought forward. I think it has been sufficiently emphasised that the person or persons concerned in this matter were dismissed. In putting forward their claim and pressing it, they got what they and the people responsible at the time would have called justice. Arising out of the disturbed conditions, you have a mass of disemployed people getting pensions who are free to take up other occupations. In many cases, the people who are enjoying those pensions to-day are better off than they would have been in their own employment. Why, therefore, single out one or two individuals in order to deprive them of the position you deliberately gave them? I hope, with Deputy Johnson, that the Minister will see his way to withdraw the Bill, because, if it is put to a division, I would have to record my vote against it. I will do that not with any knowledge of the case, not with any knowledge of the individual, and not with any knowledge of what the Bill is about except what I gained from the discussion in the House. Having heard Deputy O'Connell and other Deputies on the question, there is no doubt left in my mind that the President and the Minister for Finance would be well advised not to proceed with the Bill.

I rise to support the appeal of those who have asked the Government not to press this Bill. I agree with them that it is not worth while proceeding with it. I am prepared to accept the principle laid down by the President. For the sake of argument, I would be prepared even to agree with the Minister for Finance, that this Bill does not discriminate against, but removes discrimination in favour of, certain people. For the sake of argument, I would be prepared to admit that. But the essence of the President's case seemed to me to be that they made a mistake in making a certain agreement and did not recognise a principle which he claims is valid and should be recognised. There, I say, is the weakness of the Government in bringing forward this Bill. It becomes a retrospective Bill to remove what they think was a wrong thing in so far as it affects a few people. In order to substantiate the force of that principle they are prepared to make this retrospective legislation which, we are told, will have the effect of operating in one or two cases. I do not know those cases at all, but it seems to me that is a wrong principle in legislation. Even admitting the statement of the Minister for Finance, I urge them not, for the sake of establishing that principle which they have asserted and acted on before, to press this Bill.

I am not inclined to press the Bill for the reason that I do not think—although I believe the principle of the Bill is absolutely sound and unassailable—it would be worth the expenditure of Parliamentary time in getting it passed. I withdraw the Bill, therefore.

Question—"That leave be given to withdraw the Bill"—put and agreed to.