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.