I move amendment No. 1:—
In sub-section (1), line 22, to delete the word "ten" and substitute the word "five".
I consider that a salary of £10,000 is altogether excessive, having regard to the resources of this country and having regard to the population of the country. We have to face the fact that this is a partitioned country and, being divided into two parts, and under two Governments, we have got two figure-heads holding positions somewhat similar and being paid for holding those positions. We are here proposing to pay in this portion of the country over which our Government have control, a sum of £10,000 to a person to act as the figurehead of the State. We have also to face the fact that the people in the Six Counties will be paying a somewhat similar sum for another figurehead. I think this policy of setting up the head of the State who has very few useful functions to perform is an absolutely wrong policy. To begin with, we have to face the difficulty which the people of this country have to meet in endeavouring to provide for the finances of the State.
The Taoiseach has stated here that the Government have no gold mine at their disposal. It might be well to point out that neither has the taxpayer, and, before providing a sum which the average taxpayer will consider excessive, we are entitled to know for what purpose it is required. We have been told that this very large and generous salary is necessary in order to provide for entertainment, the entertainment, I suppose, of visitors to this country, or distinguished citizens in the country—I do not know which. If there is entertainment to be provided at the public expense, we are entitled to know who is to be entertained, why and how.
A good deal of criticism has been directed against the Government during the past few years for distributing free beef and milk to the idle poor. If this is a proposal, as it seems to be, to distribute not alone free beef and milk, but also free brandy, whiskey and champagne to the idle rich, it is not one of which I think the people of the country will approve. It has been said that the distribution of free beef and milk has had a demoralising effect on the poor and the unemployed. I do not know whether this new proposal will have a similar effect upon the people who will enjoy the benefit of this entertainment, but I leave that matter to the Minister's conscience.
I cannot see any benefit to be derived from the expenditure of such an enormous sum on entertainment, and I cannot see from what source the plain people of this country can be expected to provide the money that is required. I may be told that this means a reduction of only £5,000 in the Estimate, but I know that in the country districts it requires a considerable amount of energy on the part of the Government and their servants to collect £5,000. In my, own constituency I know that the flying squad have had to visit quite a large number of holdings in order to collect even £5,000. They have had to travel over mountains and bogs, and they have visited many homes where they found nothing but poverty and destitution. Here it is proposed to spend this enormous sum on a purpose which cannot be justified.
In addition, we know that the provision of this money imposes a heavy burden upon working people, who have had their cost of living increased by taxation. These people who have to pay higher prices for the necessaries of life will naturally ask why should we be taxed in order to provide entertainment for people who are regarded either as distinguished citizens or visitors. I think the policy of the Government should be to exercise the most rigid control over expenditure of this kind, and for that reason I am suggesting that this amount should be reduced. I think the State should err more on the side of economy than on the side of generosity. The working people who want to get unemployment assistance or home help have to establish a very strong case, and we know there is very close supervision over the few miserable shillings distributed to the destitute. There should be greater supervision over any benefits distributed under this measure for the entertainment of distinguished people, important or otherwise.
We are told that international courtesies demand that visitors to this country should be entertained. I do not know how far that goes. I do not know whether it entails maintaining everybody who comes to this country and claim they are distinguished visitors —keeping them in luxury at the Viceregal Lodge. I know that some time ago our Minister visited London on important business. They went over, as we were told afterwards, to whip John Bull. While they were on that business they stayed in hotels and, from reports in the public Press, they paid their bills when they were leaving.
So that it does not appear that they were not entertained free of charge while in London. Therefore, there does not appear to be any very strong case established for providing free entertainment at the Viceregal Lodge either for visitors from abroad or for any section of our own citizens. Since there does not appear to be such a need for such elaborate entertainment there does not appear any reason why a salary of £10,000 should be provided for the President. I think that in expressing this view I am expressing the view that was held by the Minister and by members of the present Government up to very recently. Speaking in the Dáil on the 13th July, 1928, the Taoiseach stated in reference to the salary of the Governor-General, which was, I think, £10,000:—
"We think that it is ridiculous that this small country should be spending so much on two figure-heads, one in the north of the country and one in the south. Between them they have a personal salary of £18,000, £3,000 more than the President of the United States gets. The United States have about 117,000,000 of the richest people in the world. Their head is not a figure-head. He is an active President and does his work as actively as any Prime Minister would do it and he is only getting from this huge population £15,000. Look at this country with less than four and a half millions of people where you are paying two figure-heads the sum of £18,000. I say it is wrong. It does not induce the ordinary taxpayer to pay taxes. I put it to the Labour Party. They will admit if they want social services carried out it will depend on the willingness of the ordinary taxpayer to pay his taxes to the State. Do you think it is going to make for willingness in that respect for them to see £3,000 more than is paid to the President of the United States paid to two figure-heads in this country?"
That was the position that prevailed in 1928 and that was the way the present head of the Government looked at it. I think it applies just as well at the present time and will apply as long as this country is divided into two separate States. Apart from all that there is another aspect of this question which does not seem to have occurred to the members of the Government. If any individual citizen is called on to provide or if he intends expending money upon any particular branch of his business or upon the improvement of his home or holding or anything of that kind the first thing he will ask is: "Is this a permanent business?" If a man is going to spend money on improving his house he will ask himself first of all: "Am I going to live permanently in this house?" The people of this country have a right to ask: "Is this position of Presidency a permanent one?" Is it one which is to endure and to continue? If it is not then the case for spending a very large amount of money on its establishment rests upon a very weak foundation.
Anybody who considers the matter carefully will come to the conclusion that the presidential establishment is not one that is going to last, and it is not going to last for the simple reason that it has not a sound foundation to rest upon. The President has no ordinary function to perform. Neither is the system under which he is elected calculated to fit in with the duties he is called upon to perform. As may be generally acknowledged, the duties and functions of the President in this country are to a large extent similar to the functions of a constitutional monarch in other countries. There is this essential difference, however, that whereas a constitutional monarch is or may be a person of very little political talent, the person who is going to occupy the position of President in this country will be a person of outstanding political talent, because he has got to contest an all-Ireland election against opponents. The man who is going to contest an election in this country for the Presidency and to secure election thereto, has got to be an outstanding politician with the vicious tendencies that characterise the politician in this country. That man is not going to live in idleness when he gets power in his hands. You will, therefore, have the position created in this country in which a terribly able politician will be placed in the Presidency and an equally able politician occupying the position of Taoiseach. You will have created a State with two heads, a ship with two captains—a condition of affairs which cannot last except a short time. There is certain to be a clash between these two forces because it is absolutely inevitable that the person who occupies the position of Taoiseach and the person who occupies the position of President are bound to clash. On that account you have not got a position of stability. For that reason I believe that the Presidential establishment will be discontinued. All common sense people will demand its discontinuance even before there is need for another election for the Presidency. We know the difficulties that arose and that had to be surmounted in order to avoid an election for the first President.
Such a position cannot continue. Because it cannot continue, it is foolishness on the part of the people of Ireland to vote a large sum of money for an institution which is bound to collapse simply because it is built upon an unsound foundation. There is only one type of head of this State who is likely to remain permanent and to command the permanent support of the people. That is the head of the State who is really exercising the functions of government. That is to say, the man who is head of the Executive Government, or, alternatively the person who occupies the position of Chief Justice. Either of these two positions would be natural for the head of the State to occupy. The position of a limited monarch who has got to face difficulties that no constitutional monarch has got to face, who has to stand before an audience, will be a very different type of personage from any constitutional monarch in any country. All that means that this position of Presidency cannot last, and because it cannot last it is foolish to vote money in any large sum providing for its establishment. The case for reducing the amount allowed rests upon two grounds. First, the inability of the people of this country to pay such a large sum, and in the next place the disadvantage which it would mean to burden the people and the difficulties which it would place in the collection of revenues. Together with that, there is the amount of discontent it would create amongst the taxpayers generally.
In addition you have the fact that no useful national advantage will be derived from the expenditure of this money. It will simply mean providing entertainment for a new type of aristocracy which will be attracted to the Viceregal Lodge. No benefit will be conferred on the taxpayer, and, in addition, no useful national advantage will be derived, as I have said.