Regarding this question of crime, I should like to know from the Minister whether he is satisfied that the encroachment from other Departments upon the duties of the Gárda is not in some degree responsible for the increase of crime. Undoubtedly, the emergency period would naturally lead us to expect an increase in crime, particularly in offences relating to black-marketeering, Emergency Powers Act offences, and all that kind of thing. But, year after year, measures are introduced into this House—at the present time we are discussing a very vast measure, the Public Health Bill—and in every one of these measures new duties are being imposed on the Gárda Síochána. Under the Public Health Bill they will be constituted into some sort of medical constabulary. Whether or not a section of the Gárda will have to be specially trained for these new duties, I cannot say. But there is one thing clear to my mind, that every time a Bill is introduced imposing extra police duties on the Gárda Síochána, to that extent they cease to be an effective force for the prevention of crime and, subsequently, for the detection of crime.
I venture to make a safe bet that if a Deputy goes into the average rural station or, for that matter, the average city station, he will find the services of the personnel there are dissipated on multifarious duties which have no bearing on police work. The beats in Dublin have been so stripped of men that the Minister had to increase the strength of the force in Dublin. The reason for that was that the Metropolitan Division was permanently placed upon special post duty. I want to harp on this because I believe it has a very definite effect on crime and because I believe it is entirely wrong. Under this Public Health Bill the Gárda will have to become medical constabulary. Under the School Attendance Act they have to enforce school attendance. They have to collect agricultural statistics. They have to revise the franchise. They have to look after unemployment assistance. I have seen something between 400 and 600 men lined up at a Gárda station in Donegal waiting to have their unemployment cards dealt with, with the entire staff of the Gárda station doing nothing else.
That is one aspect of police administration which we will have to face up to. I believe that we are loading the Gárda too heavily with duties which have no bearing upon police work and that, to the extent we are overloading the Gárda, we are rendering them an ineffective force for the prevention of crime. A police force is primarily for the prevention of crime and we have increases in crime to-day and have had these increases right back to 1939 which are not in any sense due to emergency conditions, but, to my mind, to the fact that the police are not there to prevent these offences. The police were definitely not there and I do not believe they are now in Dublin to man the beats to prevent burglars and housebreakers from operating. They are not there in the country to deal with offences against property with which they should be dealing. They are exhausted in doing duties for other Departments. I cannot emphasise this matter too much, and I believe it has a definite bearing on our crime position. The sooner the Minister makes up his mind to resist any further encroachment upon the Gárda organisation for duties of this kind, the sooner we will have a better crime situation and a more effective police force.
Another point which I believe is affecting our situation in the matter of crime and the police situation generally —it may be due to the emergency—is that there is a definite falling off in supervision from the top. The explanation for that up to now has been that the transport was not available during the emergency. Headquarters inspections are not effective and are not sufficient, and while that, as I have said, may be due to emergency conditions, I think it is now essential that these inspections should be resumed and that, as a beginning, they should take the form of surprise inspections. The informed inspection has its uses and its good results, but the surprise inspection has definitely better results.
Not only has there been a dropping off in supervision from the top, but district officers and divisional officers were released from their regular inspections of their districts and divisions, and the sooner they are restored to the normal routine of monthly and quarterly inspections the better, because Deputies on many sides have received complaints as to a certain amount of slackness in various districts. I think it is essential that these inspections be restored to the full, in order that whatever slackness may have grown up during the emergency will be effectively dealt with. I say again that if there is a certain amount of slackness in police work proper, it is again due to the extraordinary position we have in which the policeman is a policeman for perhaps one hour and for the other 23 hours is working for other Departments of the State.
I cannot see how the position of the Gárda Síochána in the matter of salaries is to be improved, as Deputy McGilligan has suggested, unless there is a definite change of system. At the moment, the police force is costing us as much as we can afford and if we are to give these better conditions the system will have to be changed. We all agree they should get them; we all agree that the police officer above every other class of servant should be put above the level of corruption or bribery, and given a salary which will not only render him independent in the community in which he moves of the people with whom he has to deal in the enforcement of the law but to give him a certain social status. On his present pay, he cannot attempt to meet his expenses. His pay is inadequate. The average Guard has roughly the equivalent of a pre-war wage of £2 and how he is to preserve his integrity and independence on £2 per week, I leave to the Minister and his advisers to conceive. I cannot see how a married man with a family can carry on in present conditions. At the same time, expenditure on the police has gone from something like £1,820,000 in 1939 to an estimated figure this year of £2,557,000, an increase of £737,000 odd.
These are stubborn facts to face. I said last year on the Estimate that we would have to face up sooner or later to reorganising our police force to suit peculiarly Irish conditions. The present system, as I have said before, is based on the old R.I.C. system, which was a military and political establishment, and some features of that organisation still remain. We have still retained the old barrack orderly system which they adopted and which was primarily intended for the safe custody of arms, and so on. There is none of that in the rural parts of Britain, Scotland, Wales or the Isle of man. I have suggested before that the Minister would be well advised to select a group of his most efficient officers to go across and study how, in populations of 30,000 and 40,000, a small body of men can manage where we cannot manage with perhaps five and ten times that body of men.
One can go into the large towns and villages in these places and find that the community is looked after by the village constable and his wife. The station is his residence, his office and his bridewell all in one and one man does the job. We cannot do that under a personnel of one and three, a sergeant and three men. I should like to know how they manage to do it over there and how efficiently they do it, whether the community is more law-abiding there than here and whether they are not able to get after all reported offences just as efficiently as we do. If a change of system is adopted here, it will be possible to give officers and men better conditions and we could work within a reasonable figure for police. I consider a sum of over £2,500,000 at the moment an excessive figure for this small country for police. When the figure was something like £1,000,000, or a little over, the people on the opposite benches thought the country was being beggared and starved because of the excessive police service it was getting. Now there is no check whatever on the expenditure.
Every Estimate in the Minister's charge shows an increase. Not only that, but the increase over the 1939 figure amounts to £923,912 and if one takes each Estimate in turn and examines it year by year, one will find that every Estimate without exception shows an increase. There may be a perfect explanation for it. Undoubtedy, increments and bonuses are responsible for a good deal of the increase, and I am not suggesting that the strength of the force has not been increased, but that is the situation. We have jumped by £1,000,000 since 1939 and I think it is time we called a halt to this extraordinary expenditure.
I notice in this year's Estimate that there is a proposal to spend £25,000 or £30,000 on new transport. I would like to be satisfied that that transport is to be provided for police purposes, and does not comprise post-war models for the Ministers. If transport is needed for police work, by all means let them have it. In these Estimates, we are providing about £25,000 extra for new transport. It may be that new cars were not bought during the emergency and that they are needed now. However, the Gárda Vote is saddled with that, and every Minister is riding round in a Gárda car driven by a Gárda driver, and some of them are protected by members of the Gárdaí. I do not think it is fair that the Gárda Vote should be saddled with that extraordinary procedure year after year. This matter may have been decided before my time in this House and by the Public Accounts Committee, but where they are rendering service to another Department, the Gárda should get an appropriation-in-aid, just as the Post Office and other Departments make sure they get such appropriations-in-aid for work rendered to other Departments.
Deputy McGilligan has mentioned the Gárda officer conditions, and I quite agree with him. The present-day value of money is so low that it is almost impossible for the married Guard to subsist on his present salary. I find it difficult to see how there can be an increase of pay without a change of system. I would draw the Minister's attention to the rent allowances. He was good enough to revise them some years ago, and that revision undoubtedly gave considerable relief. The maximum scale at present for the city of £40, having regard to the rents Guards have to pay in cities, is altogether inadequate. Despite the control which the Minister may claim has been exercised over rents under the Rent Restrictions Acts, any Guard I have met who is looking for a new house or a new flat is faced with paying anything from £70 to £100, or upwards. In consideration of that rent, he receives the inadequate rent allowance of £40. That rent allowance only applies to the cities and excludes a city like Waterford, where housing conditions are just as acute as in Dublin, and where it is just as difficult to get a house at £80 or £100 rent. In the larger towns outside the cities and Waterford, a rent allowance of £30 is paid. Again you have towns like Naas and others I could name, where there is such a shortage of houses that the Guards are faced with having to pay most exorbitant rents. I would ask the Minister to look into that question again, to see if anything can be done to improve the position. Of any public servant you have in the State, the Guard is the one whom you should have in a happy, contented position and the one above all who should be put, by way of salary or emoluments, above temptation. He is in a peculiar position in contact with the public. He has to exercise an independent line; very often he has to keep aloof from the society in which he has to live and bring up his family. That man should be given enough to keep himself and his family in reasonable comfort, and put him above the level of temptation.
I do not wish to go over the ground I covered last year, but would like to draw the Minister's attention to two classes of servants which are very badly treated by the State to-day—the clerks employed in the Circuit Court offices and the District Court clerks. The matter of these officials' salaries has been under review, both by the Minister and by the Minister for Finance, for a considerable number of years. I want to impress on the Minister that many of the officials in those offices are growing old. Many of them will be going out shortly on pension or no pension. Many of them rendered very good national service here in the troublesome years, and took risks out of the ordinary. These men are now facing retirement, but many of them have no pension to look forward to. The Minister is aware of the peculiar legal position obtaining since the Treaty as it affects these servants, particularly Circuit Court officers. I would ask him to try to expedite the scheme of superannuation, so that those who are about to retire will be able to look forward to retirement in reasonable comfort.
As regards the District Court clerks, many of them are in a deplorable position. They find themselves legally in the peculiar position that they are not allowed to engage in other occupations, professions or trades. They are prohibited by law, where they are whole-time, from improving themselves by any other trade or calling. Some of them are on very miserable salaries, while their confreres in Northern Ireland are in receipt of salaries almost double what they are receiving down here. However, I do not want to particularise in this matter. Many of these men who came into the service from the Old I.R.A., the National Army or the old Sinn Féin movement have served long terms of imprisonment. There are two in my own constituency who are in a shocking plight. One of them, who is in the county home, is a man who served a long term of years in jail, a man who took a prominent part in the national movement, but who to-day is in the county home by reason of the fact that he has not been given a superannuation from the State. There is another man, who will shortly be in the county home with him, unless something is done to compensate him for his services. These are old men, over 70 years of age, and a small pension would put them above that position. Both of these men were prominent in the national movement. I do not wish to give their names here, but can give particulars to the Minister. It is disgraceful that they have not been dealt with before now. I can candidly say that many of these men feel that, because they took a prominent part in the movement, officialdom—I do not say the Minister, but officialdom—somewhere is biassed against them, when it comes to finding one of these men, who took a very proud and leading part in the national movement, now in the county home. I would ask the Minister to expedite this scheme so that justice at least can be done to these men.
I would again impress on the Minister the feeling I have from police experience—and I am sure the force has it, too—that with every demand made upon their services for duties of a non-police nature, you must cease to expect results either in the prevention or detection of crime. We have overloaded the force now to such an extent that, instead of adding new duties, the Minister should be looking about to see what duties he can unload from them. These men should be put back upon their beats and patrols, so that they can carry out their proper duty, the prevention and detection of crime.