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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 26 Nov 1947

Vol. 109 No. 1

Garda Síochána (Pensions) Bill, 1947—Second Stage.

move that the Bill be now read Second Time.

The main object of the Bill is to provide for the adjustment of Garda Síochána superannuation awards granted in respect of men ceasing membership of the force during the period over which the Civil Service (Stabilisation of Bonus) regulations operated.

As has already been explained to the House by the Minister for Finance in connection with the Superannuation Bill, 1947, Civil Service bonus was, under these regulations, stabilised at a cost-of-living index number of 185 from 1st July, 1940, to 31st October, 1944, and at 210 from 1st January, 1945, to 31st October, 1946 (with certain modifications allowing for the payment of emergency bonus). While Garda Síochána pay is not expressly related to the cost-of-living index number it nevertheless keeps step with it in generally the same manner as Civil Service pay. At the time of the commencement of the Civil Service Stabilisation of Bonus Regulations the scales of Garda pay then in operation had been fixed by reference to an index number of 185, which was also the figure applicable to the Civil Service at the time. Later, as from 1st January, 1945, when the Civil Service bonus was advanced to the index number of 210, the Garda got a corresponding increase in pay. Although Garda pay was not formally stabilised as was that of the Civil Service, nevertheless throughout the stabilisation period it was not permitted to vary except in direct relation to the increases allowed from time to time to civil servants.

I can best illustrate the effect of these provisions by giving examples of two typical cases.

The first is that of a man retiring between the dates 1st January, 1945, and 31st October, 1946, and still drawing his pension on the latter date. His pay was related to the 210 index number and on this his pension was calculated. He will now have the pension reassessed on the basis of the pay which he would have received if it had been related to the 270 index number, with effect as from 1st November, 1946, which was the date from which the present Garda scales of pay related to the 270 figure were brought into operation.

The second case is that of a man retiring between the dates 1st July, 1940, and 31st December, 1944. His pay was related to the 185 index number and on this his pension was calculated. As from the 1st January, 1945, new scales of pay for the Garda Síochána were introduced, which were related to the index number of 210. The man I have instanced will, if he was still drawing his pension on the latter date, have his pension reassessed by reference to pay related to the 210 figure, or the figure applying at the date of his retirement whichever is the lesser. This will last from 1st January, 1945, until 31st October, 1946, and if he is still drawing his pension on the latter date he will then enter into the category of the first example and his pension will again be reassessed by reference to pay based on the figure of 270, or the figure applying at the date of his retirement whichever is the lesser.

I may add that widows' pensions and children's allowances, if assessed on the basis of years of service, will also benefit in the manner indicated in the examples I have given.

The present opportunity is being availed of to provide, as was done in the case of civil servants under the Superannuation Act, 1936, that a man who left the Garda Síochána at any time solely for political reasons and rejoined the force later, might reckon for pension purposes the time for which he was out of the force between his two periods of service. This is done in Section 8 of the Bill.

I quite appreciate that an arbitrary line has to be drawn somewhere in this matter of superannuation.

Yes, and teachers do not come into it.

I realise that whenever or wherever the line is drawn there will be hard luck cases.

In the case of the Garda Síochána there will be a great number of cases of hard luck by reason of the arbitrary drawing of the line at the 1st July, 1940. I would ask the Minister to induce the Minister for Finance to go back further if at all possible. A number of men retired about the beginning of the war period. They had not the benefit of the increased pay now obtaining for the Gardaí and they find themselves in very distressing circumstances to-day. Many of them have young families not fully schooled. Many of them have sons or daughters at the university and they are trying to finish their education. In all the circumstances, they find it impossible to carry on at the present time. Representations have been made to me by numbers of these men to ask the Minister to be good enough to go back a few years further in the hope that they might be included in this pension scheme. I can give concrete cases of men retired within a few weeks or months of the 1st July who will fail to get the benefit of these new pensions. Others who retired in 1938, in 1939 and early in 1940 feel they have a distinct grievance in that not only had they to go on short pension but that they never had the advantage of the increased pay which their comrades of to-day are enjoying. There is a good deal of discontent amongst these retired officers and men because, having retired a few weeks before some of their comrades, they are denied the increased superannuation.

The only other point is that in the case of those who retired within the period last mentioned by the Minister, that is the 1st July, 1945, to the 31st October, 1946, and subsequently, these men ought to be retired on the new scales of pay rather than by reference to the figure of 270. Certain anomalies arise because of these to which I would like to draw the Minister's attention. I have a concrete case here before me. It concerns a man who served in the Garda Síochána and previously in the R.I.C. He had 21 years nine months' service in the Garda Síochána and he was retired at a pension of £119 3s. 4d. on a pay of £325. Previously he had 14 years' service in the R.I.C. and was retired on an actually higher rate of pension of £138 6s. 4d. though, in fact, he held a lower rank in the R.I.C. than in the Garda Síochána. As a result of his being retired on the maximum pension his allowance from the British Government was reduced by £40 16s. 4d. Had it not been for the Stabilisation Order, in all probability this man would have been earning not £325 per annum but a salary of £390 per annum. He finds himself, by virtue of the provisions of this Bill, in the position that he will be forfeiting a sum of 16/8 per week whereas if he could have been retired on the higher pay he would be in the position not only of getting a little extra from the State here but also of claiming 7/6 per week of that 16/8 from the British authorities. The amount to us would be very small but it is a big consideration for the individual concerned. There are many similar cases and I would ask the Minister, if at all possible, to include such cases on the basis of the existing pay rather than by reference to the cost-of-living figure of 270.

I wish to join in this debate, because I am very concerned about the plight of the widows of deceased members of the Garda Síochána. A widow with six children gets £30 for herself and £30 for the children. That is not fair when we take into consideration the years of service given by her deceased husband. I know of a widow who had to leave this country to go to England to work in a hospital. She had to leave her children in this country with her own parents. She had to go away because she could not keep them, although her husband had given years of service in the Garda Síochána. I consider that the pensions paid to widows of deceased members of the Garda Síochána are a disgrace. The Minister for Justice should be ashamed of them. There are other people in the country enjoying big pensions who did not serve the State half as faithfully as the members of the Garda Síochána. Their widows are almost paupers, trying to exist on small miserable pensions given to them by the present Minister for Justice. They cannot manage because of the present cost of living.

Mr. Boland

On that last point I would say that the only widows provided for are those whose husbands died during the stabilisation period. I do not think widows in the Civil Service get any pension at all. They get a gratuity when the husband dies.

With regard to the point made by Deputy Coogan, I do not think there is any likelihood of any departure from the scheme laid down here. It is run almost paralled with what was done in the case of civil servants. If, however, there are any cases of the kind mentioned by the Deputy, and if he will give me any information he has on these between now and the Committee Stage, I shall see if it is possible to do anything about them. These two Bills were drafted at approximately the same time and had regard to the same period. As the Deputy is aware, there is always the border-line case and, no matter how one may legislate, it is not always possible to bring such a case within the scope of a particular measure. We are all aware of the difficulties and we are equally well aware that it is not always easy to make provision for or remedy them. If the Deputy will consult with me, however, I shall do anything I can.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage fixed for Wednesday, 3rd December, 1947.