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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 8 Nov 1928

Vol. 26 No. 14


I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £1,110 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 íocaíochtanna áirithe Cúiteamh i dtaobh Leonta Pearsanta no Báis.

That a sum not exceeding £1,110 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 certain payments of Compensation in respect of Personal Injuries or death.

As Deputies will see, the Personal Injuries Compensation Vote is now a comparatively small one. The provision made under Sub-head A is for periodic allowances, and for the re-issue of certain payable orders which, for one reason or another, were not cashed during the last financial year. This figure will be steadily becoming smaller, because in a great many cases allowances are payable in respect of orphans, and as children come of age generally at 16 years the allowances will cease.

I would like to ask the Minister for Finance, in connection with Sub-head A of this Vote, whether those who were identified with the Republican organisations during the period from July, 1922, to May, 1923, are still disqualified from securing or asking for compensation under it.

The position is that a Committee was set up in April, 1923, to examine applications made in respect of personal injuries. The Committee spent a very considerable time at the work, and no payments have been made except on the recommendation of that Committee. The Committee finished its work and was disbanded a considerable time ago, and it would not be possible or desirable to set up either that Committee again or a new Committee with different Terms of Reference. The position, therefore, is that those whose claims were not accepted by the Committee cannot come within the scope of this particular Vote.

Will the Minister give to the Dáil the Terms of Reference of the Committee and its composition?

The following were the Terms of Reference:

I, Liam T. MacCosgair, Minister for Finance, hereby nominate, constitute, and appoint you. His Honour Judge Johnston, Dr. Hennessy and Dr. Kennedy, to be a Committee to enquire into the matters hereinafter set forth, and to advise and report to me as hereinafter mentioned, that is to say:

1. The Committee shall receive, investigate, and consider applications for compensation presented by any person who has suffered loss by reason of having been injured in his person, or by the dependents of any person who has died in consequence of having been so injured in any of the following cases, occurring since the 21st January, 1919, namely:—

(1) Where the injury was an injury to which the Criminal Injuries Acts would have been applied by the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Act, 1919, as amended by the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Act, 1920, had these Acts remained in force.

(2). Where the injured person was or was likely to be excluded from the benefit of the Criminal Injuries Acts as so applied, by reason only of the injury having been inflicted by members of the British Military or Police Forces.

(3). Where the injury was sustained without default on the part of a person being a non-combatant in the course of belligerent action between the British Forces, and the Irish National Forces, or in the course of operations by the National Forces against persons engaged in armed rebellion against the Government of Saorstát Eireann, whether before or after the passing of the Constitution.

II. The Committee will recommend to the Minister for Finance what sums should in reason and fairness be paid in the several cases above-mentioned, regard being had to (inter alia) the actual earning capacity of the injured person prior to the injury, and to the impairment of earning capacity attributable to the injury and to the actual extent of dependency of dependents upon the deceased person prior to the death or injury of the deceased person and to any effective provision made by the deceased person for his dependents by way of insurance or otherwise.

III. The Committee shall in general recommend awards by way of lump sum, but shall also recommend in the alternative monthly or quarterly allowances in cases of injury considered likely to be permanent. The payment of a periodical allowance may be recommended to commence on the 1st day of April, 1923, but a payment of a sum in the nature of arrears, but not exceeding the amount of one year's arrears, may also be recommended.

IV. The Committee shall not recommend an award in any of the following cases:—

(1). Cases eligible for any award under any Act making provision for Army Pensions.

(2). Cases in which a final decree under the Criminal Injuries Acts was obtained prior to the 12th February, 1922; and

(3). Cases in which the British Government have undertaken full liability.

I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to an incident that happened in 1920—the battle of Clonmult. Compensation has been given in respect of some of those who were shot on that day, but the compensation was not enough to make up for the loss of those who were shot. There were two in one family—the Desmonds —and another case was that of MacNamara. I think seven were shot altogether. Some people have got something, but it would not half compensate the parents for what they suffered since. The bread-winners who were supporting the fathers and mothers are gone, and the parents are living on outdoor relief. I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to these particular cases. I have been from time to time in communication with the Department about that matter, and I take this opportunity of bringing the facts before the Minister to ask him if it is possible to re-open these cases. Clonmult is adjacent to Midleton. Does he think it would be essential to reconstitute the Committee to go into these cases? There are a few other cases in East Cork also which I would bring under his notice if he were inclined to consider the matter.

There is a point that I would like to have cleared up. I notice that the President, when Minister for Finance, did not include among those disqualified from securing a recommendation from the Committee people who might be thought to be in sympathy, or who were in sympathy, with those who at that time took the side of the Republican Army, the side of the Republicans. I would like the President to reassure us upon that point, for if compensation were granted in such a partial way as to exclude from the consideration of this State any appreciable section of the population because of their political opinions, I think that it would be a very bad policy for us to perpetuate, and we on this side of the House, at any rate, could not accept responsibility for perpetuating such a policy. I think the impression has prevailed that those who were suspected of having Republican sympathies were excluded from compensation either on the ground of personal injuries or damage to property. So far as damage to property is concerned, they were specifically excluded by statute.

They were specifically excluded by statute only in certain cases—in cases, for instance, where armed resistance took place or firing took place from a premises. In the case of damage being done to the premises of a person who had those sympathies but who was not actively engaged against the National troops, there was no exclusion, and I may tell the Deputy that there were many such cases in which compensation was granted.

I will accept the explanation that the President has given, but even proceeding on that basis I think there were numbers of people excluded wrongfully, possibly by reason of the fact that their testimony was not accepted as reliable in certain instances.

I may assure the Deputy that there were many other cases in which compensation was not paid.

I will leave that for the moment, and I will ask the President if the Committee that he set up took into consideration cases of the nature referred to in the motion which stands on the Order Paper in the name of Deputy Aiken. If the President refers to the motion he will see that it relates entirely, at least the first part of it, to property which was destroyed in December, 1920. The latter portion of the motion relates to property destroyed in June, 1922.

That would not come under the heading of personal injuries; it would more concern property losses.

And that will be dealt with in the next Vote.

I think it is typical of a number of cases where there was personal injury as well as damage to property and we would like to know whether the Committee which the President set up did, in fact, consider applications from people resident in the Six Counties who suffered personal injury previous to the Truce of 1921.

My recollection is that during the course of the debate I mentioned that if the details of such cases were submitted, we would consider them, but as far as I am aware no details have been received. I do not know if the Deputy could hear distinctly, but the Terms of Reference set out that where the injury was sustained without default on the part of a person being a non-combatant in the course of belligerent action such person was eligible for compensation.

I would like to urge on the Minister for Finance the advisability of re-opening all cases where men were disabled. I refer in particular to comrades of ours during the Tan war.

Were they Volunteers?

Well, those cases would come under the Army Pensions Act. They are excluded by the Terms of Reference from claims for personal injury.

They are excluded from claiming for personal injuries?

It is quite clear, if the injuries were sustained by combatant volunteers.

The volunteers are dead, and what I mean is compensation for their relatives.

If the Deputy means compensation for the relatives of volunteers who died on active service, then it is plainly a question that would come under Army Pensions. Is not that so?

The man McNamara was shot on the railway quite close to the Midleton Station. He was not at the time on active service.

What was the award in that case?

They got £50.

I do not profess to remember all cases.

It was given as money for his burial.

That is what I say. In a great many cases a sum of £50 was awarded, and that simply was meant to cover burial expenses. The amount was awarded in cases where the Committee was satisfied that no dependency existed. I could not remember any individual cases, but I can clearly remember a great many cases in which the relatives of the deceased were quite well-off, and it was quite obvious that they were in no way dependent on the deceased. The loss they suffered by the death was not financial loss, and consequently the amount paid was simply to cover burial expenses.

In the case of McNamara I know the father of the boy is at present in very poor circumstances, practically starving. It is a case for home assistance. The families of spies who were shot during the Tan period in that very district were paid sums of £1,200 and £1,000 in compensation. The value placed on the lives of volunteers amounts to £100 or £150. I think these are cases where the Minister should open his heart a little bit, at any rate. It is a proceeding in which the honour of the State is involved. It is time that paltry sums like £20 or £50 should receive reconsideration from the Minister. In this particular case the boy was lost and members of his family are starving. The family lost their breadwinner, and it is really a case for compensation. On the other side we see lavish expenditure. In all seriousness, I suggest to the Minister that he should re-open such cases, and he should see that the fathers of the boys who suffered and died for this country are not left in poverty and in starvation, while the families of spies in the district are drawing thousands and living in luxury.

Might I draw the Minister's attention to a case not covered by the Terms of Reference? This is the case of a child that was killed through the explosion of a bomb brought home by a Volunteer during the Black and Tan war period. As far as I can learn that case is not covered by the terms of reference. In this case, as I understand, the child had no earning capacity at the time. As I understand it, the Terms of Reference only covered earning capacity of the person injured.

I would like to remind the Minister that to my knowledge a widow's son, in fact the eldest son of a widow, was shot on active service in 1921. I understand that his Department offered the woman compensation to the amount of £30 for the loss of her son. As I say, he was her eldest boy, and the family were very largely dependent on his work and endeavours. The younger members of the family were at the time very badly beaten by the Black and Tans. When we have a case of a woman like this offered £30 compensation I can only say that it is very ridiculous compensation for the loss that woman has suffered.

Do I understand that we can open these cases on the Army Pensions Vote?

Not all of them.

Can we open the cases of Volunteers killed on active service?

Yes, Volunteers killed on active service or members of the Army.

Can we bring it up on the Army Pensions Vote?

I did not mention that the woman's name is Mrs. Marley of Glenhest, and the name of the boy, Patrick Marley.

Deputies must recognise that I cannot discuss individual cases here. If Deputies would see me in my office where I would have the files got out I would be in a position to discuss with them any individual cases. There would be cases where even Deputies raising the matter would not know all the facts. There were cases in which, before this Committee was set up, the relatives had received substantial sums from other sources. For instance, very substantial sums had come from the National Aid. That was a matter that would be taken into account. Then there is another fact, as I have seen from time to time; I have seen cases of families where there was a small holding and there were two or three grown-up sons on that comparatively small holding. That was really more than there was room for on the holding. In a case where one of these was killed the Committee would take the view that the father and mother had not suffered a financial loss, and I think that would be correct. We were not going to pay people for the human loss, the emotional loss that they suffered through the loss of their relatives. We were definitely going to pay only for the actual financial loss suffered. I do not know the facts of these cases raised here this evening and I cannot argue the matter closely. In these awards the general principle that was adopted was to give a sum to cover the burial expenses. As I say, if there are cases in which Deputies are interested and if they will write to me giving the facts of these cases, I will undertake to have the files looked up and to state to the Deputies interested on what principle the sum that was actually given was justified. Then they would be in a position to consider both sides of the case.

Will the Minister re-open those cases, if I and other Deputies in the constituency concerned will bring facts to the notice of the Minister? If we do that, will the Minister give us a guarantee that something will be done? There is a family of spies in the village of Carrigtwohill who have been paid thousands of pounds, while the families of Volunteers were paid only £50 and £100.

Some of the people that the Deputy has referred to as having got large sums were probably paid by the British Government. Deputy Corry has asked me if I would be prepared to re-open the particular case. I would be very reluctant to re-open a case, but if it were made clear to me that some very grave injustice had been done, I would feel coerced to re-open the case, but if it were a border line case, I would certainly decline to re-open it. There is this thing to be borne in mind in connection with the policy of re-opening cases, that it is extremely difficult now to get the actual facts. It has become much more difficult now than, say, three or four years ago to get the actual evidence about the facts. That would be a reason for not going into the cases again. People's memories are not so clear now, and people in good faith might depose to things that they would not have regarded as facts two or three years ago.

I should like to know from the Minister if he would re-open cases where there was a member of a family shot, where funeral expenses were granted, and where it could be proved to the satisfaction of the Minister that the funeral expenses granted were not anything like the compensation that should be awarded to such persons' relatives.

That question is a general one. Before this Commission had finished its work, in a great number of cases, people wrote objecting to the awards, or Deputies in the House objected to the awards. I had occasion to go into a great many cases. What I did in these circumstances was this: I asked for the file; I examined it, and if I thought that the person's claim was reasonable, I would send the whole case back to the Committee. I sent a fair number of cases back to the Committee. In a few cases the Committee did vary their awards; but, in a great many other cases, having gone over the matter again, they stuck to their awards. In the majority of cases they stuck to the original award. There may have been cases where people felt strongly and did not write to me at the time; but I can only say, unless it was absolutely clear that an injustice had been done, I would have to take the position that the matter was closed; that it had been fully considered, and that there had been an opportunity of objecting. Everybody knew, by references in the newspapers and questions in the Dáil, that the cases were being reconsidered. Those who did not complain then and apply for reconsideration can hardly expect to have the matters re-opened now.

I have a case in view where there was a valuable member of a family killed, and where there was a small amount given for burial expenses as compensation. To my own knowledge that person, who was shot accidentally, was such a loss to his family, that the little amount of compensation for burial expenses would not in the smallest degree compensate the family for the loss of such a person. I expect that the Minister will give any case that I will bring under his notice consideration.

I will look into all the facts, and I will undertake to write to the Deputy after I have an opportunity of considering the facts.

The Minister did not thoroughly understand the case that I mentioned. In that case the child was not killed. It is incapacitated in consequence of the accident, and will have to be supported by somebody during the remainder of its life. The child has lost its earning capacity. I think that case is not covered.

I did not understand that these were the facts from the way in which the Deputy originally raised the matter. I gave my answer, which was in respect of a case where the child was killed. I think what the Deputy asked about was a case in which a child was killed by the explosion of a bomb.

No; the child is living yet.

I think a person who is injured and is going to be incapacitated afterwards would be entitled to compensation.

I will give the Minister particulars of the case.

I should like to ask the Minister if he will consider the case of the relatives of two brothers who were shot by the "Black and Tans" in which no compensation has been given?

Is this a Volunteer case?

Then that also arises on the Army Pensions Vote.

Question put and agreed to.
Progress ordered to be reported.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again to-morrow.