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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 6 Jul 1938

Vol. 72 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Vote 1—President's Establishment.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £3,028 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íochta an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníochta i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1939, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifige an Rúnaí don Uachtarán agus chun Costaisí áirithe eile bhaineann le Teaghlachas an Uachtaráin.

That a sum not exceeding £3,028 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, 1939, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Secretary to the President, and for certain other expenses of the President's Establishment.

It will be seen from the volume of Estimates that the total amount of this Estimate is £4,048. The title of the Estimate, however, is to some extent misleading, as the emoluments and allowances which it is provided in the Constitution shall be paid to the President will be charged upon the Central Fund, and a Bill to provide for that will be introduced to-morrow. This Vote in effect provides for what might be described as the Civil Service side of the Presidential Establishment. It might possibly be more fittingly referred to as a Vote for the President's secretariat, for certain minor and petty expenses, and for certain capital expenditure, making, as I have said, £4,048 in all. It is contemplated that the office of the Secretary to the President shall have attached to it such duties and functions in relation to the commissions constituted by Articles 57 and 14 of the Constitution as the Government shall direct. It will be seen from the face of the Estimate that, in addition to the expenses to be borne on this Vote, there will be the ordinary charges in respect of allied services, such as stationery and printing and Post Office services, but it is not possible at this stage to estimate the cost of those services until some experience has been gained in the actual working of the establishment.

Sub-head A of the Vote covers salaries, wages and allowances, and, under the sub-head, provision is made for the Secretary to the President. This officer's appointment, as the House is no doubt aware, dates from 29th December last. The scale of salary has not yet been fixed for the post, but the present holder has a personal scale of £1,000, rising by £50 per annum to £1,200 per annum, plus bonus. In addition to the secretary, there is at the moment a shorthand typist and one temporary messenger. The Vote makes provision for such additional clerical assistance as may be necessary, up to the amount of £300. £300 has been included in the Vote for such allowances as it may be decided to pay to the aide-de-camp to the President. Under sub-head B, the sum of £100 has been provided for travelling expenses, and that is anticipated to cover travelling expenses and subsistence allowances to the staff of the secretary's office. It is anticipated that the President will ordinarily travel by car, for the running or maintenance of which no allowance will be paid to him from this Vote, but provision has been made here for the possible payment of expenses when other modes of conveyance, such as trains, may be used by him on exceptional occasions. The miscellaneous petty expenses of the secretary's office will be met from sub-head C, for which £100 has been provided. Out of sub-head D, the telegraphic and telephonic charges arising out of official business will be defrayed. Sub-head E provides for the purchase of motor cars which will form part of the Presidential equipment. The cost of maintaining and running those cars, however, will be defrayed by the President out of the allowances which will be provided for him in the Bill to be introduced to-morrow.

This is a new Vote, and there are just one or two references which I should like to make. In regard to the figure of £500 under sub-head D to which the Minister for Finance has just referred, for telegraphic and telephonic communication, beyond the fact that sub-head D was for that purpose we did not get from the Minister any further explanation. The point I want to make is that the sum of £500 in this small Estimate is in entire disproportion to the amount for telegraphic and telephonic communication in other large Estimates. The sum of £500 for the establishment of the Secretary to the President works out at one-eighth of the total Estimate. If you take any other Estimate, that for the Department of Agriculture for instance, the amount allocated for telegraphic and telephonic communication works out at one in 300 of the total Estimate. I find it hard to explain what great necessity will arise in this particular office for telegraphic and telephonic communication to the extent of £500. I merely direct the Minister's attention to the fact that there is a great discrepancy between the amount asked for in this small Vote and the amount utilised in any other Department where the Votes are three times as large.

Sub-head E refers to the purchase of motor cars. I take it that it is intended that the President will have two cars. If so £1,200 seems to be a fairly large sum for two cars. Although the Minister did not mention it, I take it that the cars purchased for the President will be Irish made.

Presumably they will be if we can get suitable ones.

I was wondering if he was to have two cars costing £1,200, and if two cars made in Ireland would cost that amount. I do not think there are cars manufactured in this State that would cost £600 each. I merely want to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact. I quite understand that it would be possible for cars to cost over £600 each if made and assembled here. The bodies might be put on here. I think it would be a very bad headline, and an extremely bad example to the rest of the country, and a very serious reflection on Irish industry, if the head of the State was going to be supplied with a non-Irish article if the Irish article was available. I do not think any comment would be made on the fact that the President was supplied with one or two cars costing £250 each, or if the total cost was only £500, if they were made in Ireland. Two of these motor cars could be bought for £500, and I do not think it would make the slightest difference to the dignity of the President's office if that was done.

I do not think the Deputy deserves his rapid promotion.

Mr. A. Byrne

Has any arrangement been made by the President's Department for a reception office within the city boundary, or in the centre of the city, for the convenience of distinguished visitors? I have reason to know that there is a desire on the part of a number of distinguished visitors to see the Head of the State or the heads of Departments. At present there is no office at which distinguished American visitors, judges, engineers and professional men who come to the city, can call. There should be included in the Estimate something to provide for an office in the Castle, where a secretary or head of some of the Departments, could receive distinguished visitors and entertain them in some way. To my knowledge there are very few people to receive visitors who come to this country. When they are received, even in an humble way, it is extraordinary what an effect it has. After touring Ireland for three or six months these visitors return to their own countries and it is wonderful to read in their newspapers the glowing accounts they give of their reception. I wish some other Deputy would have raised this question. There should be a Department of State to deal with it. I dare not say that it should be done by the municipality, because some people might then say that it was a personal matter. In municipalities in other countries, and at seaside resorts, the Lord Mayors or the head of some departments receive distinguished visitors. They put motor cars at their disposal for the day, and show them whatever is to be seen. Visitors coming here may want to see new factories, new housing schemes or new engineering developments and it falls upon someone to look after them. It cannot be done for nothing. Heavy expense is involved. I think the time has come when the State or the municipality should make ample provision in that respect. This is a big city, a city to be proud of, one with something to show, and we should be as good as any other city of the same size and receive distinguished visitors worthily, because when they return to their own countries they give wonderful accounts of their visit. Ireland is famous for its hospitality. As the Taoiseach and others Ministers, who had the honour at some time of visiting America know whatever town or city they went to, they were received by the chief citizens and motor cars were placed at their disposal. As this is a capital city, the Taoiseach's Department or the Department of Finance should accept responsibility for showing this country at its best. This is a great country, and a city office attached to the Department of the Taoiseach could do great work in the way I mention. At the present there is another House in the city where visitors call, and where an effort is made to put a motor car—sometimes two motor cars — at their disposal in order to show off the city and to create a good impression and send visitors home pleased. There is also the advantage to the tourist industry to be considered. It has become practically impossible for the past year or two for that House to continue that procedure. It is not for me to talk about the expense, but the expense of that House is, at least, treble what it was three years ago. The occupant of that House is abused now and then, and is told that he is getting a large sum of money to put into his own pocket. I want to assure every member of the Dáil, and the people outside, that the salary paid to the occupant of that House is not more than three-fourths of the expenditure attached to his position. I put it to the Minister that the time has now come for the setting up of a reception committee to receive distinguished visitors. There are many visitors coming from the continent, from America and from all parts of Great Britain, and they are worthy of reception. They can be classed as distinguished visitors even though they have no titles. It would be doing good work if such a committee was formed.

As the Minister will deal with the items in the Estimate, I might deal with the particular matter mentioned by the Deputy on behalf of the Department of External Affairs. I do not think that we have been remiss in regard to any representative visitors from abroad. We cannot go beyond that. We have not been in any way remiss with regard to representative people coming from abroad. We do everything that is possible. During the summer months I myself see quite a large number of visitors, but they do not expect, nor do I think it would be wise, to take responsibility for showing them around to various places, because, obviously, if you do it for some and do not do it for others who would regard themselves as equally entitled you create difficulties of various kinds. I think that the provision that is made for the Department of External Affairs and the Government generally, particularly for the Department of External Affairs, which ought to be principally responsible for it, has not been inadequate in the past, and I think that all that it is necessary to do is being done in that particular way.

As regards the Office of the President, the President will, no doubt, meet people of the same kind. He will see visitors who come, in reason. He cannot possibly receive every tourist, every person who comes to this country. Whilst it is very true that those of us who went over to America received hospitality in practically every city and from large sections of our people, we did so because we were in a representative character. It was as representatives, not as individuals, that we were entertained and looked after. In the same way, where we have people coming from abroad in a representative capacity, we receive them. I think we do as much in that way as the people in any other country are doing. I am afraid that the suggestion of the Lord Mayor would lead us into all sorts of difficulties. Where would you stop? There might, perhaps, be a little more liberal provision made in the Department of External Affairs for meeting that particular case, but I do not think the House would be wise in going beyond that. I am afraid you could not have a reception committee or anything of that sort. There is a Department of External Affairs which, in so far as it receives representative visitors, ought to be able to deal with the matter. A case may be made, perhaps, for a more liberal allowance in that particular way. That could be dealt with, perhaps, on the Vote for External Affairs.

I would like to deal with a couple of points raised by Deputy Linehan. First of all about the telegrams and telephones, and the provision which has been made for that. Of course, the fact that we provide £500 does not mean that we are going to spend £500, but we have got to allow a liberal margin for this service because it is pretty largely a matter of trial and experiment, and we do not know what the cost will be. One thing the Dáil, as a rule, does deprecate is the introduction of Supplementary Estimates late in the year and, accordingly, in regard to possible telephonic and telegraphic charges we have decided to make a very liberal provision, but remember that that provision is only to cover official telegrams and official charges and that the amount which will actually be debited and paid by the Presidential establishment — by the Secretary's Office — to another Department of the Government will be the actual cost of the service provided.

With regard to the question of motor cars, of course, it is anticipated that these cars will be made in Ireland, but it will be remembered that some of these cars will be used on special occasions and, accordingly, they will have to be designed to meet the needs of those occasions. The President, naturally, will have to have at least one limousine car to provide accommodation for himself, possibly a distinguished guest and aide-de-camp, in addition to the driver and other attendants, and a car of that sort would possibly have to have a specially designed body. But there is no doubt whatever that the cars, so far as I am aware, will be manufactured in Ireland, or at least assembled in Ireland on the same scale as cars are at the present moment. It is not quite true to say that you cannot get a car which would cost more than £500. I believe you can — not that we would look for an over-expensive car, but, nevertheless, we have got to remember that we are dealing with the highest office in the State and that there must be a certain fitness about even the conveyance in which the President travels. We cannot overlook that fact when we are making provision of this sort.

Question agreed to.