Terms of this motion are very clear and definite. It should be discussed objectively. Neither the occupancy of the post of President nor the Presidential election is relevant.
Private Deputie's Business. - Emoluments and Allowances of President of Éire—Motion.
That the Dáil is of opinion that the annual emoluments and allowances of the President of Éire should be £5,000 and that the annual expenses in connection with his establishment should be limited to £2,500.
I appeal to the House that the motion should be discussed in the spirit in which it has been moved and I agree with the Chair that other matters should not be brought into it. It is my first duty to give the reasons for moving this motion and to indicate the spirit behind it. I assure the House and I assure the Taoiseach that, apart from the great necessity for reducing expenditure in this country, one main reason for introducing the motion was the request made by various Ministers, and especially by the Minister for Finance, to suggest directions in which expenditure could be reduced. It is in response to that invitation as much as for any other reason that Clann na Talmhan decided to put down this motion. Another reason that prompted us to put down the motion is that we understand that, under the Act, once the President is elected or nominated, as the case may be, no change can be effected during his term of office. I assure the House that it is an honest effort to show where expenditure can be reduced without creating what I may call hardship. Of course, apart from the present cost of the Presidential establishment, which is something like £22,300 per annum, there is a danger, which perhaps the members of this House do not realise, that that sum may be increased from time to time. I want to point out that the office carries a pension of £1,200 per annum. There is provision in the Act that once a person is elected as President, even though he may relinquish office to-morrow, he will be entitled to a pension of £1,200 per annum. Young men may be appointed from time to time and a position might arise that there would be the addition of several pension of £1,200 per annum to the present £22,300.
There is no doubt about it that in this 32-County State that we hope some day to be legislating for, we must realise that taxation at the moment is ridiculously high and that something must be done to curb it. When one hears what the figure of the next Budget will be, it staggers one, but very often, to be honest about it, it is very difficult to point to items that can be reduced. The vast amount of that total expenditure is very, very necessary. In respect of some items, perhaps, it should be increased, such as allowances to our poor, children's allowances, widows' and orphans' pensions, old age pensions and all those things. Perhaps we are not giving as much as we would wish to give. The Presidential establishment with a cost of 22,300 is one item that is capable of reduction. When I say this I know quite well that I speak for, and that it is the view of, 95 per cent. of the people of this country.
I am delighted that the Taoiseach is in the House and I can quote the words of the Taoiseach in this connection. He said:
"It is ridiculous that this country should be spending so much on two figureheads, 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 figurehead. He is an active President and does his work as actively as any Minister would do it and he is only getting from this huge population £15,000. Look at this country, with less than 4,500,000 people, where you are paying two figureheads 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—he continued—they will admit if they want social services carried out that 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 this respect for them to see £3,000 more than is paid to the President of the United States paid to two figureheads in this country?"
No doubt, that statement applies to-day as much as it did when it was made, and I appeal to the Taoiseach to consider why, since that statement was made—I think it was in 1928— there should be any reason for such a difference of opinion in his case or in the case of the Government as is displayed to-day. He will realise that since that time this country has gone through an economic war, that foot-and-mouth disease ravaged it, that we have gone through a world war, that taxation has more than doubled. In these circumstances, I do not see why that statement should not hold good to-day. One thing I would ask in connection with this motion is that we be given a free vote in the House, that it will not be made a Party issue. Since I came into this House I think that every vote taken in it was made a Party issue. I would ask the Government and the other Parties to see that a free vote of the House will be given on this matter because, in my opinion, it is the view of 95 per cent. of the people that this motion should be carried. I think that is also the view of 95 per cent. of Deputies on all sides of the House, unless the Party Whip is put on to compel them to vote against it.
The question may be asked: "What amount of money will this motion save?" It will not save a considerable amount of money in comparison with the total taxation of the country at present; but we must realise that a beginning has to be made somewhere. If this House does not carry this motion, I do not see any hope for economy, because there is not another Department of State in my opinion where the axe can be applied as effectively as in this case. If the motion is carried, the total savings in seven years will roughly be £112,000. That may look a very small amount to some people. Nevertheless, it is a huge amount. It is the opinion of the people of the country that £5,000 a year with £2,500 expenses, as the motion sets out, is quite enough for the office of President; it is quite reasonable.
It may be said that the President has to live up to certain standards. Surely the standard of a country should be measured by the prosperity of its people. Is there any reason why the President should live up to a higher standard than the President of the United States of America? As to the President being a rubber stamp, I will not go into that matter, because I should like to remain strictly within the ruling of the Chair. But I ask the House to consider this matter seriously, to consider it as a matter of necessity, because it is a motion which, in the opinion of 95 per cent. of the people of the country, should be carried unanimously. I appeal for a free vote of the House on it, because I believe that Deputies representing the rural districts of the country, at any rate, if they had their way and were to be guided by the voice of the people who elected them, would certainly vote for it. I ask that an opportunity should be given to discuss this motion freely and in an honest spirit. I ask that the axe should be applied in this instance so that we may make a start to cut down expenditure in some small way, because I believe this is the one way in which we can start to cut down expenditure without in any way inflicting any hardship on the individual concerned, whoever he may be, so that we can help later on the poorer sections of the community.
I formally second the motion.
I wish to support the motion, which is a very important one. Deputy Donnellan has very ably expressed the honest opinion of practically every Deputy, be he Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Deputies may pretend to adopt a certain attitude because they must follow the leader of their Party, but they should not be hypocrites. They should express their honest views openly. There is not a man in this State, even though he be a superman, who is worth £22,000 per year. Now that there is to be a change in this office at an early date, I wonder if we could get one patriot to fill this position without any cost to the State.
The Presidential election does not arise.
This motion asks that the salary be reduced considerably. If the Taoiseach was an honest man, he would, when he was drafting the Constitution, have made some provision for getting at least one patriot in Ireland who would fill this office without being any burden on the taxpayers.
That is outside the motion.
If Deputies are in receipt of a salary of £480 a year, they work hard for it. Even with the salary that they are receiving Deputies are no more than able to make ends meet. Surely it is ridiculous to see us put to the pin of our collar with £480 per year, considering the amount of work we have to do in our constituencies, and to see a man getting £22,000 who has nothing at all to do. He has a staff at his disposal and he has nothing to do. The occupant of the office has been referred to time and again as a rubber stamp. I remember the Taoiseach saying distinctly in my constituency in 1932 that no man was worth a penny more than £2,000 to the State.
I think it was £2,000 he said. Is it not strange that the Taoiseach, a few years afterwards, should be in favour of the present salary of the President in spite of the economic condition in the country? Deputy Donnellan has pointed out that this country has gone through a lot; that the taxpayers cannot bear any further burden. He has pointed out very ably the position of the old age pensioners at present who could very well do with some of this £22,000. He has pointed out the unfortunate position that mothers of large families are placed in when the breadwinner is taken away from them. These widows do not seem to be getting very much consideration from the Government. As a representative of a big section of the labour community in my constituency, I would be a traitor to them and I would be going against my own conscience if I associated myself with the Government in taking no steps to reduce this salary when many of my constituents have to live on 25/- or 28/- a week. A labouring man in this country has as good an appetite and more responsibilities than any man who would be raised to the high office of President.
I could never understand why a man should be forced to exist on £60 or £70 a year and even less in the case of persons unemployed the whole year around. Despite all this waste and Fianna Fáil squandermania, these men have to live on a miserable allowance known as the dole and there is no talk at all about them. I strongly agree with everything that the Deputy Leader of the Farmer's Party has said. I hope that Deputies on all sides of this House will no longer act as hypocrites but will come forward and express their views openly and honestly on this matter. As Deputy Donnellan has pointed out, 90 per cent. of the people are against this huge waste of money. I should go further and say that 99.5 per cent. of the people are against it. Do we ever see the President of this country acting as President of the United States acts, who has not the same scale of salary but who visits every part of the States? We have a President in receipt of this salary for the past seven years and nobody down the country has seen him.
It is not a function of the Chair to act as arbiter on questions of good taste. I suggest to the Deputy that he should discontinue his line of argument.
At the same time—
The Chair leaves the matter to the Deputy's sense of fitness.
I think it is only right that the body responsible for voting this sum should see that the taxpayer gets value for the money. Over the past seven years, there has been £154,000 wasted—roughly £22,000 per year for seven years. I am sorry to say that I have to dissociate myself from that proceeding completely. The Irish people adopted the Constitution in 1937. Under that Constitution, we must have a President. When the Irish people adopted the Constitution, they, so to speak, demanded a President. But the Irish people had no say in the fixing of the salary of the President. That was fixed by the Government and they knew that they would be fixing the salary for one of their own colleagues at an early date. That was the idea.
The salary was fixed by the Oireachtas.
I hope that there will be a free vote on this motion, as Deputy Donnellan, suggested. I trust that the Taoiseach, when replying, will indicate why such a salary is paid to one man. About two months ago, when I raised a matter in this House, I am sorry to say that the Taoiseach barked across the House——
That offensive expression must be withdrawn. Deputies do not bark.
I withdraw the word. With all respect to the Taoiseach, he yelled across the House.
The Deputy must learn to conform to Parliamentary usage.
The Taoiseach, in a bitter tone of voice, shouted across the House——
How do these remarks bear on this motion?
They have reference to the poverty that exists in this country. The Taoiseach shouted across the House that there was no such thing as poverty here. Surely to goodness, everybody knows as well as the Taoiseach the economic conditions that obtain here and that this salary should be paid to one individual in the State is downright Parliamentary madness. No Deputy could associate himself with it. Taxpayers should be very thankful to have a Party such as Clann na Talmhan. I am not a member of that Party and I have never had any connection with it, but it has the interests of the taxpayer at heart. This motion is welcomed by every taxpayer in the country. Even taxpayers who are strong supporters of the Government welcome it, because they recognise that this is a complete waste of money. I hope that the Taoiseach will see fit to do, at least, one good thing and see that this salary is considerably reduced. Alternatively, let him scrap the salary completely and let them buy the office——
The Deputy must adhere to the terms of the motion, which makes certain proposals.
If the Taoiseach cannot see his way to reduce the salary I think the Government should endeavour to find out whether there is not one patriot in the Party or in the whole country who would be glad to accept this post without placing any burden on the taxpayers—who would accept the position free of salary.
It is right that different Parties in the House, and particularly Opposition Parties, should closely question every item of expenditure, because the money which is voted in this House comes from the pockets of the Irish people. Naturally, I have no fault to find with motions such as this or with criticism such as has been advanced as to whether or not we can afford to pay certain salaries. My own past has been referred to in this connection and it may be no harm to say a few words as to that at the outset. When I was in Opposition, I was one of those most strongly opposed to the payment of large salaries. A large number of members of this House came into public life from a patriotic point of view and with the idea of serving the Irish people. In many cases, the only reward they could look forward to, if their cause did not triumph, was a noble death. I was anxious, therefore, that service of the Irish people should be a fundamental part of the idea of public representation here. From my experience at the time, I felt that it should be possible to secure representatives of the people who would be paid a salary of £1,000—not £2,000. I went further than that. I thought that not merely would it be possible to get representatives of the people at that figure but that it should also be possible to get servants of the State who would work at that figure. When we came into office, we examined the situation from that point of view. I was a very short time there when it was made very clear to me that the salaries which were being earned outside by people of the same standing and calibre as our public servants were, in many cases, two or three times the amount paid in the Civil Service, that there were in the Civil Service men who were in the same class in the universities and in the schools with doctors, solicitors, lawyers and other professional people and that those people, who were not their equal in ability as proved by their collegiate course, were earning salaries which were considerably higher than these public servants were getting. I felt it would be most unfair to reduce the salaries of these civil servants whilst the salaries of people outside the service were not reduced. The work which these individuals in the Civil Service were doing for the community was at least equal in value to the work being done by people outside with whose salaries I have compared theirs. I felt they could not afford it and that if there was going to be a maximum salary scale of about £1,000 there was only one way to achieve it, and that was by general taxation, a system of taxation which would fall equally on civil servants and on people outside.
Next, when I came to consider what were the expenses attached to the work of public representatives and Ministers, I very rapidly found that if you were to have a scale, not dealing with any particular individuals of a particular Government at any time but dealing in general with Ministers, the offices they occupy and the difficulties that lie in their way, if they did not get allowances which were sufficient to make ends meet, if they had to go into debt, they would be no longer independent and they would be to a certain extent liable to come under the influence of people from whom they had to borrow. I found that it was most important from the public point of view that Ministers and servants of State should be in a position of independence so that they would be able to live as it was expected by the community that they should live, and so that they would be free from any temptations such as might come their way if they were unable to make ends meet and had to borrow. I admit that it was a rude shock to me when I fully realised these things. I had, myself, been living comfortably on a much smaller salary in my position. I felt I had lived in a way in which, so far as my needs were concerned, I was able to get along in the manner in which I have indicated. I was independent of pressure from anybody. I found it was quite a different thing when I took office and when immediately I saw my expenses increase. I have been a long time in office and my personal experiences, and, as far as I know them, those of my colleagues also have been that just as their salaries increased in the case of those who enjoy larger salaries, their expenses increased also. I do not think I could predict that there is any Minister likely to go out of office richer by any sums which he has accumulated during the time which he has been in office. We have all to gain these experiences.
I notice that Deputy Flanagan when speaking told us that he has not very much left out of the allowance which is being given to him as Deputy, that he wants it all and that he feels he does very hard work for it. I do not think that, if that is so, he would say that the allowances were too much. There are a number of people going through the country who regard the allowances paid to Deputies as extravagant, but I wonder how many Deputies who have no other means find it so. I do not think there are very many. The Deputy asks with regard to the office of President why we do not get somebody who would take the office without any remuneration. I have no doubt there would be some people who would take Deputy Flanagan's office without any allowance. I have no doubt there are a number of people who would accept the offices of Ministers here very quickly without any remuneration.
For a while.
For a while and for a purpose. We are a democratic State and the purpose of the allowances and the salaries that are paid is to enable any citizen, no matter who he may be, who is elected either as Deputy or who becomes a Minister or President, to fill that office as it should be filled, without fear or favour or dependence upon anybody —to enable him to be in a position in which he can take the actions that are deemed to be necessary to the welfare of the community, as an independent man only can take them. That is the purpose of these salaries.
As I have said in the beginning, it is most important that the Dáil should exercise supervision. I am not going to make the argument which the Deputy used that there is only a few thousand pounds in question. I am not going to make the argument that it is only a trifle if we were to compare it with the cost of adding 1/- a week to the pension of each old age pensioner. I am not going to make that argument, because I think it would be an improper argument. I think that every pound that has to be paid out of public moneys should be criticised and examined and that a good case should be made for the payment of it before it is made. I agree with that. Therefore, what we have to do, whether we are considering the allowance to Deputies, the salaries of Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries or the salaries of public officers of State such as civil servants or members of the Army, is to ask ourselves what is the sum which it is necessary to pay in order to get the type of service that is required. That is the test.
In the case of the office of President, there have been suggestions that it is a rubber-stamp office. It is nothing of the kind. It has been most unfortunate that our present President has been ill, unable to go round the country and meet people, for a number of years. That has been a grave loss to the nation. Everybody admits it and it does enable people to say, therefore, that they do not see their President. That is one of those accidents against which there can be no provision. The President whilst unable to move round has, however, been in his office and he has been invaluable up to the present to the nation.
When the Constitution was going through, we had here this whole question as to whether we should have a President. That was being examined, and the powers and duties which the President should have were very closely examined, too, and this House —or at least the House of that day— by a majority decided, and the people by supporting the Constitution, also decided that there should be a President who would be outside the political Party strife of the day, and be in a position to represent all classes in the country: a man who, in office, would be as free from the suggestion of taking part in Party politics as would be a judge of the Supreme Court or any other judge when he is appointed. That was deliberately decided upon as being wise. He was going to be the Head of the State, to represent it himself more than any other organ in the State could do it; to represent, himself, the nation as a whole. The intention was, that around him and with him political Parties of all kinds could gather on equal terms, and particularly if there were a crisis such as the crisis through which we have passed.
On many an occasion, when I was going through the country appealing to the people during this crisis, I regretted that the President was not able to be there in my place, because I have no doubt that it would have been much easier for Opposition Parties to come along and give their support on the appeal of the President, since he would not be in active politics, than on my appeal, even though I was speaking as the Head of the Government.
Unfortunately—and it is unfortunate —when people are elected to be Head of the Government, and even when their actions are actions that are taken for the welfare of the community as a whole, they are still looked upon, because of the nature of our democracy and our system of political Parties, as being, to a large extent, political partisans. The fact that they have to consider the questions that arise from a much broader angle than that which would be suggested by narrow political partisanship is not remembered. I can quite understand, for instance, that when I was going around the country asking the young people to join the Defence Forces there was a certain amount of difficulty, I feel certain, on the part of other political Parties, to be simply following my appeal. If the President had been able to go around and make that appeal, I feel that it would have been much more effective, and it would at least have given an opportunity to the other Parties to support that appeal without feeling that they were somehow supporting a rival political Party.
Now the meaning of the office of President is that he is there as Head of the State, that he is there in times of crisis as a centre around which all political Parties can rally without any feeling of jealousy, one of the other but he has, in accordance with the Constitution, a number of very important functions as well. Not merely is he the Head of the State, representing the community as a whole, but he has also very important powers. One of the questions which were considered very carefully here, and upon which there was a good deal of discussion, was the question of the powers of the President. You will remember that it was suggested at the time that the power that would be given to the President was going to make him a dictator, and the only point, really, that had to be carefully guarded against was to see that there would not be a clash between the powers which it was necessary for the Government to exercise in order to be the servants of this Assembly, and the President, who was getting an independent authority. If there should be such a clash, you would have a lot of constitutional difficulties. I was anxious—and it was very important— to give the President all the powers consistent with that: consistent with the fact that the Head of the Government had a day-to-day responsibility to bear to the elected representatives of this House. Consistent with that, I was anxious that the President should get all the powers possible, but it was necessary to prevent the possibility of a clash. There were powers that in some cases I should like to have seen the President getting, but to have done so might mean two rival authorities and, therefore, a possible clash in certain cases, and it would be important that ultimately, if we were going to have representative democracy here, decisions of national importance should be decided here by a majority vote rather than by the opinion of one person. Accordingly, wherever you find that the President exercises a power, it is a power of reference, for the most part: referring either against the Taoiseach of the day — referring back to Dáil Éireann—or referring to the people an Act which the majority here might be inclined to pass but which the President might think was not in accordance with the will of the people, or referring an Act, which had been passed here but which might not be regarded as legal, to the highest authority for the interpretation of our laws, and that is the Supreme Court. These very important powers of that particular character have been given to the President. The intention is that he should safeguard the Constitution for the people, and that he should be there to see that no unconstitutional act was taken which the people did not have an opportunity of considering: that nothing would be done against the constitution, and that if something was going to be done which was not in accordance with the Constitution as it stood, the people should be consulted and the Constitution, if necessary, should be changed by them, who are the final and ultimate authority.
I am saying this, A Chinn Comhairle, simply to point out to the members of the House that the office of President is an office of the highest importance and that, therefore, in the financial provisions which we make, we have to see to it that it can be maintained in dignity, and that, for all the duties which it is desirable should be carried out by that office, adequate provision for finance should be there. As you know, before the first President came into office, we set up a committee of investigation. The report, which is available to Deputies, is No. 2948, and if Deputies will look up that report they will see the views that were taken by a body that was set up particularly to consider these matters. If you look through the names of the commission you will see that they were people who were selected so that in giving consideration to that particular matter they might have experience which would enable them to find out what were likely to be the expenses. On that commission you had professional men, you had farmers, you had Teachtaí Dála of different Parties. You had on that commission people who would have some idea of what the expenses of the office were likely to be, and what was the provision that should be made for it in order that the office might be maintained in dignity, that it might be worthy of the country, and in line with the character that it was intended it should have. They have said, much better than I could say them, some of the things that I want you to bear in mind. They said:—
"We are aware that the holder will be the first citizen of the land; that high and responsible functions are vested in him under the Constitution; and that he will be debarred from holding any other office of profit or emolument. Consequently, the remuneration for the office should be such as to place him in a position of complete independence financially, and to enable him to maintain with dignity the high position of Head of the State."
That summarises what I have been trying to stress for a much longer period than was necessary to read it.
The question we have to ask ourselves here then is: what is the sum of money which ought to be made available so that the views which are indicated there should be given effect to? I do not think there is a Deputy in the House who would think that that statement is not correct. We might differ as to the exact amount which is required. The commission itself, although it carefully examined the provision which had been made for the Governors-General who have been here, felt that, as this was a much more important office than the office of Governor-General, they could not do more than tentatively suggest what provision should be made. They suggested that there should be a revision of that in the light of circumstances and in the light of experience. Again, the period of experience has not been long enough, and it could hardly have been regarded completely as a normal experience, so I am not in a position to say, nor do I think that, if we put up a commission to inquire into it, we have arrived at the time in which we can say definitely, that precisely is the provision that should be made.
We brought in here an Act, the Presidential Establishment Act, on which the whole of this matter was debated in full, and the decision arrived at was that the President's salary and allowances should be £10,000, £5,000 being regarded as personal remuneration in the sense that from it the President would have to maintain whatever private establishment and so on he had. The remainder of it was intended to enable him to meet entertainment costs, et cetera. Is there anybody here who would like to see the President of this State, the head of this State, occupying anything but the best that we can give? When strangers come in here they are likely to regard as a fair index of our position the position which is occupied by the head of the State. Does anybody say that we should put him in a lesser establishment than the one which he holds at the present time? There are expenses immediately involved. There is the upkeep of the gardens and so on, which makes up part of the other expenses voted here annually. I cannot see how these can be kept down if we are going to keep that establishment. At one time when we were considering the matter, and the Board of Works were examining the house, it was felt that the house was rather too old. To build a new house would have cost a good deal. There were difficulties in the way of taking one of the other establishments, which I am sure any President would prefer to Arus an Uachtaráin as it is at the moment. That house being available, I do not think it could be put to any better use by the State than to keep it as the residence of the President. If you have it, you are going to have the necessary expenses of the upkeep of it. There are gardens round about it which would probably have to be kept by the Board of Works, or in connection with the Park, at any rate. A lot of the expenses which are there are expenses that would have to be incurred whether the President was in residence or not.
As regards the personal salary, considering that his establishment would have to be in keeping generally with the surroundings, I do not think you could ask the President, or that the President would be able, in fact, to maintain that establishment on less than £5,000. His domestic arrangements must be in accordance with the position in which he is placed, and I do not think he could do it on less. I cannot estimate it to a penny, but I think it is not a very large amount, particularly when we remember that the salary of the Chief Justice is not regarded as being unfair at £4,000. The President, on account of the circumstances in which we place him, will have to keep up a bigger establishment than the Chief Justice need necessarily have, and I do not think it is unfair to give him £5,000. All those circumstances, of course, were before the committee which examined those matters closely. I certainly could not suggest any figure better than the figure suggested, after much more careful examination than I am able to give to it, by people with experience of what is necessary for the upkeep of establishments of that particular sort.
Then comes the question of entertainment. Is it desirable, or is it not, that the President should entertain? I say it is desirable. I think most people do not realise what that means. One of the greatest losses, I would say, to our community here has been the fact that, for a number of years, those who occupied public positions were not of the class that had the means of entertaining widely. The result is that, when strangers come into this country, they immediately are entertained by people whose outlook is not the outlook of our people at all, and they become immediately infected with views and ideas about this country which are completely wrong and completely false. It is a great pity, from the point of view of the dignity and the understanding of our people, that that has been the case. We ought at least to see that one individual in the country is in a position to entertain those who come from abroad, to entertain them when it is desirable that they should be entertained, and to see that they have contacts with the real mind of our people. That has not been possible up to the present to a large extent as, unfortunately, the President has not been well for a number of years. I take it that it will be part of the duty of any holder of the office in future to see that those who come from abroad, those people of influence who are visiting this country and who can carry away views which will affect the minds of other people, will have an opportunity for social contact, to meet the people who really represent the heart and soul of this country. Therefore, the provision that should be made for entertainment should not be niggardly. As a matter of fact, on more than one occasion, I was about to come to the Dáil to confess that the provision made for State entertainment, from the national point of view, was insufficient. Of course, we have been passing through war years and it has not been so important.
If we are to have our representation abroad and pay considerable sums in maintaining our representatives, we should not lose or spoil the value of that money by being niggardly about our entertainment here at home. In regard to the Presidential office, at any rate, it is expected that the President will entertain on a reasonable scale, so that those who ought to have social contact with the real mind of the people will have the opportunity to do so. I cannot say, and I am sure Deputy Donnellan cannot say, to the penny what the amount is that will have to be spent. It will depend on the individual and I do not think we would be wise in making a smaller provision than is made here.
I do not know whether the other items of expenditure are intended to be covered in this motion—the incidental expenses, the cost of the secretariat, and so on. These come up in the Vote from year to year. I think the Deputy is not quite definite in that respect and I take it that it was the £10,000—though he mentioned £20,000 afterwards—that he is dealing with here. On the Estimate, he will have an opportunity to deal with the other figures, so I take it that the difference between us is one of £2,500.
I am dealing with the £500 per week tax on this country.
The Deputy has a motion down here and is asking that special consideration be given to that motion. I am anxious to know whether I will be wasting my time in talking about the figures that come into the ordinary annual Estimate. Am I to deal only with the £10,000 figure?
The motion before the House is to the effect that the total cost to the State should not exceed £7,500.
The Deputy did not say that. The Deputy's motion would naturally be read the other way.
I feel, therefore, that I have to talk for a moment about the things which come into the Estimate, such as the secretariat. It must be remembered that the President has to be kept aware of practically everything of importance that the Government is doing. It is my duty to go and inform him of that. There are constantly commissions which, as Head of the Army, he has to sign. There is hardly a day in which there is not considerable work to be done in the Presidential office and I do not think you can expect it to be done with a smaller establishment than is provided for that purpose. When the Estimates come before the House, if the Deputy can point to any particular item which should be reduced, he will be given an opportunity to do so.
There is likely to be even more activity there, and my only wonder is whether it will be possible to deal with it with the staff that is provided at the moment. I can assure the House that there is no anxiety on the part of the Government to increase any staff unnecessarily, but if we want work done we must provide the staff to do it and, in order to provide the staff, we must provide the financial means to pay them and enable them to do the work.
I am not in a position to say exactly what amount should be given. We have simply to ask ourselves what would be a reasonable amount. The figure of £5,000 as a personal salary is not unreasonable, when we find that the Chief Justice is paid £4,000. We pay that for a very good reason—we want to see that the judges are kept in a completely independent position, apart altogether from trying to get the very best men. Naturally, for judges we need the best legal men we can get and, if people are able to earn considerably larger sums outside, they are not going to accept a seat on the Bench. You have to pay well, if you want to get good men. If the Chief Justice's salary is reckoned at £4,000, I do not think it is unreasonable to ask that the Head of the State be given a further £1,000 as salary, particularly when you bear in mind that he will have all the extra cost of his own private establishment, which has to be kept on a level with the surroundings in which he is placed generally. It is one of those questions that are very indeterminate. As far as we are concerned, it is approached from the point of view of making a modest provision. We cannot get what we want if we do not make that provision. Therefore, I think the Dáil should not accept this motion.
The Deputy has suggested something about free voting. That is a usual plea, of course, by people in Opposition. The whole question is that this is a matter of public policy, as was pointed out by the committee of inquiry. The committee pointed out very clearly that the part the President should play would be a matter wherein there might be a change of view from time to time, according to the views of the administration. My own view is that it is a position of supreme importance. It symbolises for us, as far as this part of the country is concerned, the achievement of a great national effort, carried on, over a number of years, to secure the independence of this country. There is no other symbol we have which so clearly expresses the fact that, so far as this part of the country is concerned, the Irish people have achieved the right to elect the head of their own State. We ought to glory in the fact that we have such an office, that it has been created by ourselves, that the Irish people themselves will be the people who will fill it. We should make provision for it on such a scale that it will properly represent the value which the Irish people place upon that symbol of their freedom. It is in that sense that this provision is made by the Dáil and it is in that spirit that we consider it part of public policy. I appeal to the Opposition to look at it in the same way and to support us in it. It is a matter of public policy that the provision should be made and to reduce it, without giving any but general reasons, would be a very foolish act indeed. So far as our experience goes, the figure is just about that which will enable the work to be done reasonably. As far as the figures are available, they indicate that at least the present expenditure will be required if the functions of the office are to be carried out properly.
It is a pity that we have to go so far back in the history of the Taoiseach's experience and development when we are discussing this motion, because it would be useful to discuss it without that. It is, perhaps, impossible to get away from the Taoiseach's experience and development in this matter. We are suffering, perhaps, from a kind of recurrent fever, a little recurrence of the fever that he and his people had in such a very violent way at the time when he wanted to reduce salaries all round the place. In the meantime, the economic body of the patient who has to get an odd fit of this fever is weakening as a result of the general policies which it has been possible to operate on him by reason of the power gained by the Taoiseach and his people and their outlook on small matters such as salaries.
I sympathise very much with the farmers or anybody else who put forward a motion such as this and who think it is a good motion. It was only on Thursday last, in the Seanad, that we had the Minister for Local Government discussing certain matters that might very well influence people's minds in dealing with these things. He was dealing with the reasons why secondary teachers should not get an increase in their bonuses or salaries, in relation to the increased cost of living, or even equal to the increase that has been given to employees of local authorities. He is quoted in theCork Examiner as saying:—
"He believed that, prior to the outbreak of the emergency, the remuneration which was paid by the local authorities got completely out of step with what the general economy of the country could afford. One of the things he had endeavoured to do as Minister for Industry and Commerce and as Minister for Local Government was to find some form to which the general standards of remuneration could be related. Bearing in mind that the local authority dealt with the general mass of the people, the basic criterion of what the local authority should, in justice, be required to pay was the remuneration which agriculture, the basic industry of the country, could afford to pay its workers. It was the agricultural labourer and the small farmer who ultimately paid all the employees of the local authority. That was the basis upon which he would build."
The Minister who spoke like that on Thursday is one of a Government which, during the past ten or 13 years, has piled high the cost of local government in this country. We have reiterated facts that ought to be known, that the Government that carried on from 1927 to 1932 reduced, even by a small amount, the total of rates and taxes on this country and at the same time added to the employment of the country every year to the extent of 11,000 additional men every year being fully employed. The present Government piled high the cost of central taxation up to the time of the war and they piled high the cost of local taxation and reduced the normal increment of increased employment.
Naturally, there is no section of the people which does not feel the weight of taxation. We had the Minister for Local Government in the Seanad on Thursday complaining of this appalling burden, but it is a burden put on by himself and his policy. We had the Minister for Finance, when bombs fell in the North Strand, declaring that this country could not afford to pay more than 30/- a week as compensation in the case of a totally disabled man with a wife and six or eight children, as the case might be — the country could not afford to pay it. That is why I sympathise with people who think, anywhere they can see expenditure that appears to be exaggerated, that it can be reduced. I am afraid it is some of the lack of perspective that so troubled the Taoiseach in his early days that is now troubling the movers of this motion.
Taking the proposal to reduce the personal emoluments of the Uachtarán to £2,500 a year, if you have any sympathy with the pains the Taoiseach has been feeling over his former idea that a representative public man should live his life and sustain his family and do his public duties on £1,000 a year—if you have any sympathy with the pains he now feels for having these ideas in the past, then you ought to examine how much the new Uachtarán, if he has a wife, would pay in income-tax out of the £2,500 a year that this motion suggests his emoluments should be reduced to. If the Uachtarán got £2,500 a year as emoluments for himself and his wife—assuming he has a wife, without going into other points, such as if there was a family there— he would pay £761 5s. in income-tax and he would have £1,738 15s. left for himself. If you take the present value of money as compared with what it was before the war, not going back to the value to money when the Taoiseach had his ideas about the £1,000 a year salary, the £1,738 would represent only £1,042.
This motion seeks to reduce the Uachtarán practically to the position that the Taoiseach had in mind, in his really bad days before he had any experience, as he admits here, of what people in business get by way of salary. I appeal to the members of the Farmers' Party, if they are to watch over the general interests of the country and its economic health and are to give men the kind of life that they ought to have in the country, not to go back to the position that the Taoiseach occupied in those unfortunate days he spoke about here this morning.
I sympathise again with the Farmers' Party on this motion when we examine the cost of the Presidential establishment over the last few years. In the year in which the cost of the Presidential establishment first appears in the Estimates, 1938-39, the amount of the Vote was £2,900. Is it now £4,400? Going back to the original Estimates, we find that the total cost in 1931-32 was £26,452. When the present Government really started to operate on the matter, in 1933-34, the Estimate was only £12,800, but in this year's Estimate the amount is £22,504 so that there is a little bit of a run up during the time of this Government.
While I sympathise with the persons who are concerned about the economic condition of the country and with the trend of expenditure shown in these Estimates, I appeal to the Farmers' Party not to go back to the position in which the Taoiseach was so many years ago. We have a State here, and, in the Presidential office, we have the first citizen of the State. It is quite true that we have not had any experience of what that office is like and it is not clear that we are likely to have normal experience of what that office ought to be in future. Nevertheless, if we do not make up our minds to scrap the office, we ought to make up our minds that we will do everything we can to make it an office worth having.
The Taoiseach has indicated that it is necessary to have a place where we can show the country at its best in the personality of the person occupying the position and its surroundings. He has now been won over to the idea that entertainment is a good thing. There was a time when his ideas with regard to entertainments were as primitive as his ideas with regard to salaries, and it would be a good thing —following what the Taoiseach suggests as to visitors to this country being able to see the country as a whole—if, instead of meeting Ministers and civil servants, distinguished visitors could meet some ordinary politicians or ordinary people.
In relation to maintaining a man in a proper way and maintaining the institution around him, there are certain things which have to be done. On the basis of the growth of the figures, there may be room for economy, but until the office is brought in some way or other into closer touch with the people, we do not know what it can do or in what way economies can be made. I have indicated what the personal pay position of the occupant of the office would be if the motion were passed and we are not in favour of the motion.
Like Deputy Mulcahy, I could not help marvelling at the conversion wrought in the Taoiseach on the subject of salaries of 1945 compared with the very refreshing and exhilarating views he expressed on the subject in 1931 and during the strenous election compaign of 1932. He told us then, when our exports and imports were much greater than they are to-day, that this country could not continue to pay the high salary scales then in operation, and that when the Fianna Fáil Party came into office one of the first things they would do would be to reduce the number of plutocratic gentlemen who adorned high places and ensure that these folk would be compelled to accept salaries within the ability of the country to pay. The Taoiseach has apparently forgotten that economic policy of his which was crystallised in his statement that he was not going to stand for a policy of silk shirts for some and hair shirts for others. He used to tell us in his more youthful and refreshing days that, if there were to be hair shirts, there would be hair shirts all round. The Taoiseach never thought of the days when there were to be silk shirts all round.
You cannot picture the Taoiseach in a silk shirt.
The Taoiseach wants to put porcupine shirts on some people and silk shirts on others.
Love me, love my shirt —that is his rule.
That used to be the Taoiseach's view—reduce salaries for Ministers—he was going to tear down many of the high financial trappings that went with Governmental institutions in this country, to tear to shreds the policy of hair shirts for some and silk shirts for others and he was going to equate things in such a way that everybody would have a shirt of approximately the same weight and the same material. That was the Taoiseach in 1931-32.
The Taoiseach was interesting then on salaries and interesting on the ability of the country to maintain certain levels of salaries; but the Taoiseach has shed his early radical views. The mention of hair shirts and silk shirts probably only annoys the Taoiseach now and we find the circle so complete that we have him back in the position of advocating the policy which he condemned in 1931-32 of silk shirts for some, they being the few, and hair shirts for the many, they being the mass of the people. It may be that a reduction in the salary of the President and in his allowances will not enable the saving to be spread beneficially over a very large number of people, but I do not think that is the real issue in this case. The real issue is whether we are to have a policy of silk shirts for the few and hair shirts for the mass of the people. That is the policy the Taoiseach is defending here to-day.
On other issues, when he is discussing the wages of agricultural workers, road workers or bog workers, or the salaries of teachers or civil servants, the Taoiseach's incessant cry has been that this country cannot afford to pay these people any more than they are getting. Deputations that went to the Taoiseach and to Ministers heard that argument used repeatedly as an excuse for defending the present low wage policy of the Government. We are told frequently that this country cannot afford to pay higher rates of wages, or to provide a better standard of living conditions than is being provided to-day, but while that argument is used in respect of the masses of the people, we find the Taoiseach arguing to-day, nevertheless, that we have got one office, at least, where we will show our admiration to such an extent, that we will trowel on a pretty good salary, and pretty substantial allowances, in order to exalt by cash, apparently, what ought to be exalted by reference to other virtues and other factors.
The Minister for Local Government and Public Health told the Seanad recently on the question of raising the wages of lowly-paid workers that, in his opinion, the standard remuneration for workers in rural areas should be related to the standard paid to the most depressed class, namely, the agricultural workers. The Minister for Local Government clearly indicated that, so far as the wage activities of his Department are concerned, those employed, in respect of whom he had jurisdiction regarding wages, would have to have their standard of living and their wages rates and conditions related to the standard obtaining in the depressed agricultural industry. We know, of course, that this Government has broken wage agreements on the plea that the country could not afford to honour these agreements because of its limited resources. We have the Board of Works endeavouring to justify rotational employment, the employment of persons for four or five days weekly, because the country was too poor to enable them to be employed for six days. We have in operation in respect to many social services a most despicable means test, a means test designed to conduct an inquisition into the family lives of the people; a means test resulting in an inquiry into little allowances and trivial sources of income, perhaps 2/-, 3/-, 4/- weekly, which amounts are taken into consideration in order to deprive applicants of the allowances which, in ordinary circumstances, they ought to receive.
We have in respect to the administration of the widows' and orphans' pensions, a situation in which a large number of widows, entitled only to non-contributory pensions, are in the year 1945 getting amounts as low as 1/-, 2/-, 3/-, 4/- and 5/- weekly. Every Deputy is familiar with the type of circular issued from the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Branch, telling unfortunate widows that if they have an income of 5/- a week they cannot get any pensions under the Act, and that they must try to eke out an existence on 5/-. We had a motion in the Dáil recently endeavouring to raise allowances for blind persons, and we know, generally, the attitude adopted towards it by the Government. When we are dealing with blind persons, agricultural workers, road workers, lowly paid civil servants, teachers, or applicants for widows' pensions or old age pensions, we are constantly confronted with the argument that the country is too poor to pay a higher scale than that in operation to-day, and God knows, that is low enough. That attitude of mind, and these impoverished scales of allowances, represent, apparently, the standard of living prescribed by the Government for masses of the people. That is their outlook towards the masses, but, on the other hand, we have an entirely different situation, one which takes the form of paying a President the substantial allowance provided for a President in our legislation.
I should like to ask the Taoiseach: How can he reconcile, not merely the enormous difference in the standard and wage of the masses of the people, and the standard of living which he considers to be a necessary minimum for the holder of the Presidential office? How can he justify the mental or economic approach towards the demands of the masses of the people and their inalienable right to a decent standard of living, when he can, apparently, endorse with such case the right of the holder of the Presidential office to the salary and the scale of allowances provided under our legislation? On the one hand, we have a low scale of wages, and a policy designed to keep that scale low, taking the form of forcing people to accept a standard of living which is insufficient for their citizen and domestic responsibilities, while, on the other hand, we have a situation which takes the form of building up financially an office to such an extent that the salary and scale of allowances which we pay for it bear no relation whatever to the conditions under which masses of our people live. I should like to ask the Taoiseach to say how can the difference in approach to the two aspects of this matter be justified: an approach via low wages to the masses of the people, and an approach towards the elevation of a high office buttressed by substantial cash payments. In the course of his concluding remarks the Taoiseach said that Presidential office was a symbol, and that we should be glad, and should glory in the fact that we were not electing a symbolic figure to that office. I am beginning to wonder whether it is necessary that we should pay the scale provided for in our legislation to what is in many respects a rather innocuous symbol in the relationship of that symbol to the masses of the people.
Apparently, we are going to get away from the stage of symbolism, because to-day it was indicated that symbols are a thing of past, and that in future symbols will have no use in Árus an Uachtarán, and that, instead, we are to have a President straight from Front Bench politics, hardly leaving his armour down and hardly disrobing himself of his equipment of war. He is to go into the Presidential office in future, if the Government can so ensure. In other words, the whole theory of a symbolic President, divorced from politics, from all things and all men, a man whose soul, unsullied by the cut and thrust of political debate, a gentleman far removed from the sordid things discussed here, is all gone by the board, and, in future, we are to have a President with a pronounced belligerent political past. In some respects the case might be made that a symbolic President embodying all the virtues that, apparently, the Taoiseach visualises for that person, should be well remunerated, because such are particularly scarce commodities in a country like this. Apparently we are going to get away from looking for the type of symbolic President, and, in future, we will have a person who has been an ardent politician for a generation or two in the Presidential office. Is it necessary, seeing that we are going to elect an active politician as President in future, to pay such a President, recruited in that manner, the high salary and allowances provided for in our legislation, when we know perfectly well that there will not be the slightest hesitation about finding an abundance of Presidents for the rest of this nation's life so long as we recruit them from active political partisans?
The notion of having a person who happens to be a Minister and acting politician here one day and paid a salary as that, elevated next day to Presidential office in the Phoenix Park and receiving a substantial increase in salary and emoluments as President, is something that I do not understand and something that I do not think the Taoiseach endeavoured to justify.
I do not think, therefore, that in the circumstances that we are likely to experience in this country for the next seven years and in the pattern which we are likely to follow for many periods of seven years that there is justification for continuing the present scale of salary and allowances. There may ultimately, in more prosperous days, be a case for saying that the Presidential office should reflect in some measure the prosperity of the people and that the occupant of the Presidency should reflect in some measure the affluence of the people, but we are a long way away from that position at this stage, and so long as the masses of our people are forced to tolerate their present low standard of living and so long as the Government imposes upon them a low standard of living, I do not see how the payment of such a substantial salary and such a substantial scale of allowances to the occupant of the Presidential office can be justified on economic grounds or on social grounds.
I want the House to understand the motive underlying the motion. It is not by any means to demean or to belittle this office or the holder of the office. Repeatedly, we have been asked—and very recently the Minister for Finance has challenged any Deputy—to indicate how expenditure could be reduced. Naturally, if we are to use the axe, it is at the top we must start and not at the bottom. As Deputy Norton pointed out, we cannot save on such things as old age pensions or on the incomes of the very lowest wage-earners in the country. We must start at the top. Some years ago England was in some economic trouble and went off the gold standard. The late King at that time voluntarily reduced his own salary from £25,000 to £15,000 as a gesture. The same sort of thing happened in the United States at the time of the Wall Street crash. In this country the office of President is the highest in the land. We do not by any means want to see there a figure in fine clothes. We want to make that attitude perfectly clear. Nobody in the House has even charged us that we are trying to belittle the office or the occupant of the office. I think £5,000 a year is a salary or allowance on which he can easily live up to the standard that would be required. I should like to see the occupant of that office free of all Parties, free of Party entanglements, good or bad. I should like to see him in as free and unfettered position as are the members of the judiciary.
I gathered from the Taoiseach that it is necessary to give a big salary or allowance to the holder of this office to safeguard him and to allow him to take his place as he should. It is not on that question that we differ. It is on the question of the right figure and I think £5,000 salary with allowances of £2,500 for expenses should be adequate. It is not easy to arrive at the correct figure, I admit. A good standard is to see what other countries are doing. If the President of the United States was paid on the same scale, that is, on a basis of population, he would be receiving a salary of something like £390.
Sixty-six to one.
The United States is one of the most powerful countries in the world and one of the richest from many points of view, yet the salary there is £15,000 a year. The House has agreed to limit the discussion on this motion to two and a half hours so that the matter may be closed down this week and so as not to have a prolonged debate. Therefore I do not want to speak very long. I want to give a chance to any other Deputy who may wish to speak. Reference has been made to some of the statements made by the Taoiseach while in Opposition. On one occasion the Taoiseach stated, in my hearing, that £1,000 was enough for any man in the State. I do not agree with that in regard to this particular office but I believe the Taoiseach was sincere when he made that statement. On the other hand, I believe that he should be equally sincere to-day in trying to reduce expenditure and to even out things more and, as Deputy Norton put it, to see that everybody would have the same quality shirt and that some would not be condemned to wear hair shirts while a few were wearing silk shirts. I think the Taoiseach was sincere when he made that statement. I am afraid that what has happened in his case is that he has gone the way that many other public men have gone before—when he has got into power he has forgotten many of his promises. If he was not sincere when he made that statement, I am afraid there is only one other view to take of it and that is that he was just out on a vote catching campaign.
I am afraid that is the only other view that can be taken of it.
It was not in the wind you got it.
We in this Party are sincerely anxious to help the Government in any scheme or in any programme they may have to reduce expenditure on the one hand and at the same time to run the country to the best advantage. We are anxious that this Dáil should make every effort to lay the foundation of an Ireland that a generation in 100 years' time will look back on and say: "These fellows of 100 years ago certainly laid a foundation that we can be proud of to-day," just as we can look back to the men of 20 and 25 years ago and respect and admire them for the mighty things they did in their day. It is up to us to do the same to-day and if we do not, we are wasting our time in the Dáil. There is no use in dragging along in the same old humdrum fashion that obtained when our Irish Government took over the country from the British. It took over a lot of its institutions that are outmoded and outdated long ago. We must start at the beginning. If we are to reduce expenditure, we must start at the top. I maintain that this is a very opportune time to deal with this matter because no member of our Party would table a motion such as this at a time when the Presidential office is filled. We would not table a motion such as this after the next election because of the indignity such a motion would offer to the holder of the office or to the office itself. We sincerely ask that this matter be put to a free vote of the House and that every Deputy should be allowed to vote according to his conscience. If the majority of Deputies hold that the President is entitled to a salary of £10,000 a year and the present scale of allowances, well and good, let him have it. I think there is nothing undemocratic in that, and I do not see why the Taoiseach, the Fine Gael Party or any Deputy should find fault with it.
It is not by any means the idea of this Party to belittle the office of President. As a matter of fact, we want to see that office the highest and the freest in the land. We hold that the office of Uachtarán should not be there to provide a period of leisure for any person as a reward for service to any Party. We hold that it should be above all that; that the holder of the office should be selected on his merits alone and let him stand or fall by them. We hold that he should not be beholden to or entangled with any Party in the event of any crisis arising. Take the case of the Taoiseach when the war broke out, when he said that he would be delighted if the health of the President would have permitted him to go down the country and ask people of all Parties to come together on the same platform and appeal to the people generally to combine, as they did once before, in a mighty national effort to save the country. That would have been a grand thing. I appeal to the Taoiseach and to every Deputy to see that a proper candidate is now selected in a free manner to fill that office.
I listened with admiration to the forbearance and patience displayed by the Leader of the Opposition to-day in dissociating himself from this proposal by charitably attributing to the Clann na Talmhan Party a disinterested solicitude for the taxpayers of the country. I believe that the motive of Clann na Talmhan in putting down this motion is identical with the same fraudulent intent which inspired the Fianna Fáil Party when they campaigned for the reduction of Ministers' salaries.
It is the same cheap, vote-catching racket that the Taoiseach started in this country, which so substantially helped the Taoiseach to get into office and which was repudiated by the Taoiseach as soon as he got into office.
We have never been before the people since?
I am not going to be diverted from what I have to say to day. With bribe, with patronage, and with all the resources of the Government at the disposal of the Executive, they have gone before the people time and again. I am as certain as that I am on these benches that the proposal to put down this motion was canvassed within Clann na Talmhan, and that it was determined that it would be a popular thing to do; that everybody would be in favour of reducing the President's salary; that very few people had £10,000 a year; and that, therefore, the vast majority of the people would be glad to see it taken away from anybody to whom it was proposed to be given. I am judging Clann na Talmhan by my long experience of the same dishonest rackets that I have seen carried on by various political Parties in this country.
You left them all— the honest man.
Deputy Blowick said that if we are to begin with economy we must begin at the top. I suggest to the Deputy that there is an older and more venerable adage than that. It used to be said that charity began at home. What about letting economy begin at home? Will Deputy Blowick put down a motion to reduce the salaries of T.Ds.? If that motion is not carried, will he undertake on behalf of his Party to return the £120 to the Exchequer? They are free to do so. If they want to economise for the benefit of the public, why do not the 11 Deputies of the Clann na Talmhan Party return to the Exchequer the £120 per year which they are getting in excess of what they are entitled to and so help out the taxpayers? Is not that beginning to deal with the problem?
Set the good example yourself.
I do not believe in it. I believe the Presidential salary is quite moderate. I believe the Taoiseach's salary is too low. I believe that the Ministers of this State are working hard, albeit misguidedly, for a very modest stipend. I think it is the greatest possible mistake for, this Parliament or any Party in it to represent the work of those who work for this nation as being worthy of less than the work of those who work for the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company. When I see the time of this House being taken up to-day with what I am convinced is a cheap, political vote-catching racket while millions of men, Germans, Russians, Englishmen and Americans, are dying at this moment, it seems to me that we in this country have lost all sense of reality.
Thank God, we are not dying with them.
At least, we might pay them the tribute of our sympathy and solicitude. Surely we can forget for a moment, in the presence of that Gargantuan tragedy, mean, little political motions of this kind which are calculated to win votes. Who wants to belabour the Taoiseach at this hour with the silly rubbish he talked when he was trying to scramble into office?
It was fraudulent, according to the Deputy.
Silly and fraudulent.
They do not go together.
I am not so sure. In the short view, fraud may look like cunning but, in the long view, it is a silly policy in the end.
I hope the Deputy is not imputing personal motives to the Taoiseach.
The Deputy did not say "political".
The Chair can put in the adjective if it likes. I am sure the Taoiseach is not so thin-skinned as to challenge the right of any Deputy to describe a great part of his policy as fraud.
We ought to be right, formally as well as substantially.
That is for the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. What I want to protest against is——
Is there anything in the motion about political fraud?
It is nothing else but fraud; every line of it is fraud. This motion is a fraudulent, vote-catching device and nothing else. The interesting thing is this, that its spirit is taken from exactly the same racket that was worked by Fianna Fáil in 1930 and 1931. Even the language is the same. I trust Deputy Blowick will take no personal offence from this because his speech was moderate and calm; but he used the very same formula that the Taoiseach used to use. We were told that if you take it on a population basis, the President of the United States would be getting £365,000 if paid on the same scale as the President of Éire. Do you remember the days when the Taoiseach used to tell us about the 66 to 1 formula?
That was a figure given by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer as the relative taxable capacity of the two countries.
The Taoiseach used to say: "If the Government of Deputy Cosgrave is going to levy £20,000,000 on our depressed people, it should be compared with British taxation in the ratio of 66 to 1."
The Deputy does not know what he is talking about. The argument was used for quite different reasons.
It is the same kind of argument that Fianna Fáil used 15 years ago. What is so disheartening in this country, so gloomy sometimes, is that the same kind of dirty fraud is trotted out every ten years and always has a certain measure of success. Are we never going to reach the stage in this country when political Parties will deem it inexpedient to appeal to the basest jealousies that can be found in the hearts of our or any other people? It is always easy to go into the home of a poor man, struggling with adversity, and ask him if he agrees with giving £10,000 of his money to a figurehead in Phoenix Park. You can always take advantage of that man's suffering and stress in order to represent to him that he is being cruelly and unjustly treated in order to put a silk shirt on one person, while he is being constrained to wear a hair shirt. Is it because our people are poor, is it because they are not blessed with an abundance of worldly riches that we must run this country on a mean, grudging, inadequate scale?
Are the people not entitled to pay their servants fair and just remuneration for the work which they want them to do? I know that it may be said that the actual executive functions of the President in this country are few, that the labour involved is not heavy but, if there is to be a ceremonial Head of the State and if his charge is to be the reception of distinguished visitors who come here, are the ceremonial offices of the Irish people, acting as a unit, to be discharged on a scale which Deputies would regard as inadequate in their own personal capacity? Are we to provide the President with a labourer's cottage at Chapelizod?
And £5,000 a year.
Why stop at £5,000? Why not go down to £3,000? Deputy Norton asked, with eloquence, why, if you are cutting the widows' and orphans' pensions down to 15/-, you should give the President £5,000? Many men are living honourably on £2 a week. They have no reason to hang their heads in the presence of anybody. Why should the President have £5,000 if an agricultural labourer has only 42/- a week? Does Deputy Blowick say that these men are contemptible or despicable? They live as honourably as any other section of the people. If we, in this House, stand for a wage of £2 a week, why not cut the President down to £2? If you are bringing him down, why not bring him down all the way?
I agree that it is ridiculous and fantastic. Comparisons of that kind are made for no other purpose than to get votes. When you go into a man with £2 5s. a week, and ask him why another man should get £2,000, while he has to live on his £2 5s., that is ridiculous and dishonest and it is done to get votes. It has been done before in this country. It has been done again and again and it degrades our people. That those who represent themselves as the leaders of the farmers should return to that beastly expedient, so as to exploit our people, is humiliating. That is what is being done by this motion. I saw it happen again and again and it is happening now. The tragic part of it is that this will get those who propose it a certain amount of popularity.
We do not want popularity on that.
The Deputy will permit me to differ with him on that point. If the underlying theory of this motion is to prevail, then the President should be given the income of a civil servant to provide the ceremonial and entertainment that a person living on a Civil Service salary could provide. I heard Deputy Norton deliver a speech which was carefully phrased so as to give no indication of the lobby into which the Labour Party will go in the division of this motion. I venture to say that seven-tenths of them will not vote at all. The Deputy suggests that he is in sympathy with this motion and that in no well-ordered State should a ceremonial officer offer handsome entertainment while there are poorly-paid elements in the community. If that is really to obtain all round, I suppose Mr. Stalin, the Premier of Russia, should have received his foreign visitors at Yalta with gruel and cold tea. But he did not. I did not hear any criticism from Deputy Norton of the extravagance displayed when they were drinking one another's health in Teheran and Yalta. I am sure it was not the diet of the average Russian moujik that was tendered to the visitors or enjoyed by the officials of the Soviet Union and I do not think it ought to be.
I do not believe that this motion was put down with any vestige of sincerity. I believe that it is merely another version of the same old racket that was started in this country by the present Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, for the purpose of discrediting Mr. Cosgrave, the ex-President of the Executive Council, and deceiving our people into the belief that, if the present Taoiseach could get into office, salaries would be reduced all round, with a substantial relief to the taxpayer and a satisfaction for the natural jealousies of certain sections of our community. I think that it is degrading to us that we should be held up before the world as engaging in cheap, political chicanery of that kind. If I were interested exclusively in the political repercussions of this motion, I might derive some melancholy satisfaction from the prospect of the Taoiseach being belaboured with the stick he cut to belabour others. However, I do not think that trivial political pleasure should weigh against the gloomy realisation that this same old fraud, this same old confidence-trick, which has been tried by every dishonest political Party which ever raised its head in this country, should be adopted by Clann na Talmhan. They ought to be above that kind of thing. If they were so solicitous to reduce salaries, if they wanted, as they say, to begin at the top, they had an admirable opportunity of setting that example. Assuming that that Party has 11 members, they could begin by contributing £1,500 by an economy campaign and it could be honestly said then that they began at the top.
Why did you oppose the motion we brought in?
They had not the slightest intention of beginning with themselves. They want to begin with the President. They want to begin with anybody except themselves.
Will the Deputy allow time for Deputy Donnellan to reply?
With the greatest pleasure. I regret that I have brought down upon my own head the deluge of indignation which ought really to fall on the Taoiseach. I should have been glad to sit by and watch Deputy Donnellan remind the Taoiseach of his lordly phrases of 1929 and 1930. But it is for the good name of our people I am concerned and, whatever fury descends upon me now, let us hope that this debate will contribute something to the permanent interment of the dirty, fraudulent wages racket started by Taoiseach de Valera.
I shall not occupy the time of the House very long in concluding because, in my opinion, many Deputies, including the Taoiseach, did not adhere to the terms of the motion. I regret that the one man to whom I should like to make an uncomplimentary reference is leaving the House, Deputy Dillon. Of course he always runs away, so I shall not waste the time of the House in referring to him.
I have come back again.
I shall not waste the time of the House in referring to him——
What did you bring me back for then?
——except to say this: "All hail! a Jimmy has come to judgement." We have no just man in this Dáil or in the country but Deputy Dillon.
Sin é an méid?
Certainly the Taoiseach was quite right when he said that it was necessary for every Deputy to go into every item of expenditure, but I regret to say he did not stick to the motion. He rambled along into the question of Deputies' salaries and matters of that kind. The motion before the House is a very simple one. The Taoiseach said that he regretted that the statement was made that the Head of the State was a rubber stamp, and he added that it should not have been made. He said that the man who was appointed to that office is specially appointed so that there would not be any clash between himself and the Government, if possible. He also said that the man appointed should be a man outside political strife in the country. Time will tell, and I shall not discuss that question now. The Taoiseach also said that the salary of the President should be £1,000 a year more than the salary of the President of the Supreme Court, that if the President of the Supreme Court was getting £4,000 a year the salary of the President should be at least £1,000 more. My comment on that is that two wrongs do not make a right. If the President of the Supreme Court is getting £4,000 a year, that is no reason why the President should get more.
I made the plea that this motion was not put down for any political purpose or to gain any political advantage. There is no need for any effort to gain any political advantages at the present time as we are probably four or five years from a general election. The motion was put down simply and solely in response to the request of different Ministers at various times to point the finger at any item where taxation could be reduced. That is simply the motive behind the motion, and any Deputy who thinks it was put down for any other purpose is making the mistake of his life, because neither I nor any member of my Party will ever use it on any platform.
You have been using it for the last four years.
If Deputy Killilea has a speech to make or was able to make one, this debate has been on for the past two and a half hours and he had plenty of time. I ask him to try to conduct himself now.
It is a great thing that you are such a good speaker.
Naturally enough, over-taxation is a bar to progress in any country. It is a bar to progress in agriculture and in industry, and I say emphatically if this is not one of the items in which we can economise, it is my opinion there is not another item that we can touch at the moment. It may be all right to say that salaries should be so and so, but if the salary we pay to our President is taken as a standard, the salary paid to the President of the United States should be something like £1,500,000. You have to set the standards for higher officials according to the standards of our people. It is on that line you must proceed. You cannot compare our country with the United States of America, with its vast resources and wealth; yet you are doing that in regard to the standard of the President's salary. As regards the statement of Deputy Mulcahy, of course, I believe he would not object to the salary now for reasons other than that——
The Deputy should not attribute personal motives to any member of the House.
Well, I withdraw the statement then. Still, I expected that that Party would go into the lobby and vote for this motion. Instead of that they have declared that they will not do so. I shall be listening to them later on complaining of over-taxation. That Party before in its time, in order to reduce taxation, took 1/- off the old age pensioners. According to the Taoiseach it appears that younger and more active men are required for the office of President of this country. If younger and more active men are appointed, we shall have to provide another £1,200 a year pension. You will never know in the long run where this thing may end. I regret that the Taoiseach has said that he will not allow a free vote of the House and that generally a call comes from the Opposition for a free vote. That statement indicates what the Party system means. It again indicates, in my opinion, that democracy is dead.
It is only sleeping.
A free vote is not to be granted but I certainly will force this motion to a division. It is a matter for the people to answer whether it should cost £500 a week roughly to provide a President for a State like this, this part of our partitioned territory. The country cannot afford anything like that. When you look at the people who have to contribute that money, the workers, the sweaters, the common people who have to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, when you consider that you are placing a burden of £500 a week on them to provide for a Head of the State and when you say it cannot be reduced, I think the whole position is ridiculous. Of course the Taoiseach says it is the end of a great national effort. The end of the great national effort means that £500 a week has to be paid by the workers, the producers, and the hard-pressed wage earners of this country for this purpose. That is the result of the great national effort.
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