Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £504,433 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, 1929, chun Costas an Airm, maraon le Cúltaca an Airm.
That a sum not exceeding £504,433 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, 1929, for the cost of the Army, including Army Reserve,
A couple of years ago the Minister for Finance stated that he considered the normal expenditure for the Army to be about one and a half millions per annum. The actual Estimate for this year is £1,804,433. That, of course, is more than the Minister for Finance estimated as the normal expenditure on the Army, but I entirely agree with the Minister for Finance. I think the fact that not only has there been a very considerable diminution in the cost of the Army for every year since 1923, but the fact that this year we have an Estimate £380,734 lower than last year makes it perfectly clear that we can, when we get to a perfect stage of normality, maintain the Army for the cost indicated by the Minister for Finance. As we approach normality, we get more into the position to place the Army and to organise it in the way most calculated to meet the needs of this country and fit in with the financial limitations of this country. We have spoken on previous occasions of the Army as a standing Army entirely. Then we spoke about moving from that, from being solely a standing Army and adding to it a reserve. Naturally we did not move to the creation of a reserve immediately, because men had to be attested, including the reserve service, and only as their period in the regular Army ceased would they take their place in the reserve. This year we are adding a further class, known as the B reserve class, that is to say, men joining directly into the reserve and doing a period of, say, three months' training, and then being available to be called up annually thereafter. The Army now consists of the standing Army and of A reserve and B reserve. I had hoped to add a further class, a class that we might call a volunteer defence force, which would largely consist of men following their ordinary avocations of life, joining that class and in the ordinary course doing a certain amount of training in the evening after their ordinary day's work, and, in addition, giving a period of, say, a fortnight or three weeks to training during the summer months.
We have been moving down in numbers with the standing Army consistently for some years past. During the past year we have been moving fairly steadily in that line of diminution. On the 31st March, 1927, we had 888 officers and 10,710 other ranks. In March last we had 768 officers and 9,113 other ranks. On 30th September last we had 735 officers and 8,454 men. That line of reduction I propose to continue until the standing Army consists, roughly, of about 5,000 men. As that reduction takes place in the standing Army so will the membership of the various reserved classes grow. That has already taken place. For instance, on the 31st March last we had 40 reserve officers, 777 other ranks in the A class and 695 other ranks in the B class. On the 13th of this month there were 57 reserve officers, 1,268 other ranks in the A class and 2,890 other ranks in B class so that we have moved towards our principle, as you might say. That is a very small standing Army consisting of technical corps, such as artillery, transport, air force, and so on, all highly trained men. The infantry brigade consists very largely for providing all potential N.C.O.s and N.C.O.s as potential instructors in training. That is what we are moving to.
For myself, I am very satisfied with the progress we have made in that direction this year. That move has been accompanied not merely by a great economy in the Army, not only by reduced estimates, but also it has been very clearly accompanied by increased efficiency in every rank in the Army. During this period also a very considerable and drastic reorganisation of the whole Defence Department has taken place. We have continued to reduce the number of posts in the country. That is necessary for a number of reasons. First of all, the necessity for them ceased to exist; and secondly, the more distributed an army is the greater number of ineffectives there must necessarily be. In a small compact standing army of 5,000 it will be necessary to eliminate to the very furthest point every ineffective in the Army. We are progressing very steadily in that direction. I propose closing down a number of posts. The lessening of the Army, as indicated in the various Estimates presented to the Dáil, does not quite give the full extent of the economy that has taken place in the Army. For instance, in the early years we owned a great deal of army lands. As we ceased to need them they were handed over to the Board of Works. Many of these were productive of revenue, written down as grants in aid. As we ceased to own them and they were handed over to the Board of Works this Vote ceased to be credited with the money accruing from them, so that to-day they should be added to lessen the Estimate.
The standing Army will, as I say, be very highly trained, consisting of technical corps and very highly trained infantry. It may be remembered that it was mentioned in previous Estimates we had sent a mission to the United States of America. The object of sending these officers there was that men in the Army would be able to receive a training from the point of the recruit joining and other ranks right up to the training of the highest staff officer. The six officers that went to America came back, I think, last December. Since then we have been actively taking steps towards the creation of an Irish military college. The early months of this year were devoted to certain lectures and inquiries prior to the forming of the college. I hope within a very short time the college will be actually in existence in the Curragh, so that there will be every type of training—to the recruit joining, the training of that recruit up to N.C.O., the training of the junior officers and the training of the senior officers, and the consideration of every military problem that is likely to come within the purview of an Irish Army. The officers while in America did remarkably well, and received diplomas of graduation such as are issued to American officers. Associated with them in the formation of the military college have been other senior officers. As we progress towards our principle it is natural that the proportion of N.C.O.s in the Army to men will be greater than in an army which is up to a full sized standing army.
I think it will be found there has been a reduction under almost every heading in this list, amounting in all to as much as £380,000 odd. That reduction was, of course, only reached by a very careful consideration of every item of possible expenditure included in the year's Estimate. I hope that we have not yet reached our ideal level of expenditure, and that in future years we may be able to decrease it even more, but it must be remembered that within a period of a very few years we have reduced the Army from the number of something more than 50,000 to the number I have given at present, namely, 735 officers and 8,454 men. To reduce the Army, as we hope to do within a short period to one-tenth of its original size necessarily will leave for a period a certain lack of equilibrium in the proportion of its various members. As we reduce the number of posts, naturally for a period there will appear to be certain men in certain ranks not as necessary as they appeared to be before. We must reduce down to our normal as quickly as possible in any one service or rank. That, my conscience is perfectly clear, has been done during the last eighteen months with all the celerity that it could possibly be done with.
I think anybody who has observed the Army to any extent will notice that during the years of its existence there has been a constant improvement in its general efficiency and in its general bearing. I believe, situated as this country is, that in maintaining that very small Army we must expect, and have a right to expect, from the members of the Army a higher degree of devotion and a higher degree of attention to their work and the perfecting of themselves in the knowledge their work requires than possibly might be demanded in other countries. I think we have not only the right to expect that, but that we can expect that and ask it without any qualms at all. I believe the young men of our country will recognise that in joining the Army to serve their country that it is not merely a profession, but something more than a profession. I think also that for officers who set themselves out to make their craft a profession we should see to it that we give them every means of making themselves as perfect as possible in their work, and we should see to it once they are determined to make that their profession and they put themselves wholeheartedly into their work, that they are enabled to make it a profession. That is my purpose in starting the college, of which we are at present actually laying the foundations. We have moved on so quickly during the last year towards our normal that we have come across many facts we were previously unaware of, and here I have to make a slight confession, and it is that our outlook on certain points, from close observation, has changed considerably, and although I believe I promised Deputy O'Connell last year that no matter how my predecessors might have failed to bring in a permanent Army Act within 12 months that I would do so——