When the Parliamentary Secretary and I were members of the same Party, we adopted as one of our objectives the achievement of clean, honest and efficient administration in this country. I was shocked last week when I found that the Minister proposed to make a number of appointments, which, in my opinion, were unnecessary and undesirable. I, therefore, put down a question to the Minister for Finance, asking how many of these appointments he proposed to make; in what way the persons appointed were remunerated; in what way they were selected; and by whom the appointments were made. The Parliamentary Secretary replied—I am not reading his entire reply—that, so far, nine had been appointed in all— six in Galway, three in Roscommon and one in Clare.
I used to labour under the impression that I knew something about simple addition. I never claimed to have what the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs once described as a college education, but I thought I could at least add up a few simple figures. It seems that I will have to revise my views on that question. Three and one certainly make four, but, according to the Parliamentary Secretary, four and six make nine. If that is the system on which the new paymasters are to calculate the wages they pay to the workers, I can see that these workers will have a little more remuneration than is afforded under these regulations. The Parliamentary Secretary said that these men are paid on a fee basis of 1½ per cent. of the wages paid. There is no trace of these appointments in the Minister's Estimate, so far as I can see, and I can find no trace in any Estimates of any similar appointments which the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out were made in other Departments.
The Parliamentary Secretary went on to say further that the vacancies are not advertised. I fail to see how he can justify the making of appointments in this manner without advertising them. How does he know in his position as Parliamentary Secretary, who the persons are who are likely to apply, and how are the people interested in these positions to ascertain that they are vacant, if they are not advertised? We have in our Constitution very definite provision for equal opportunity for all citizens. We are spending public money on these services and we are apparently, on the basis of the manner in which these appointments are made, without advertisement, selecting certain privileged people for appointment to these positions.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that he and he alone made these appointments. I want to put this objectively and fairly to the Parliamentary Secretary: is is a good principle that the head of the Department should have this privilege of selecting people for obscure positions—because they are rather obscure positions, not very highly paid positions—such as these? We know that, in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, the Minister had a similar right, but the plain people of Ireland, led by the plain people of Baltinglass, forced him to waive that right, to give it up, and to transfer his function in that respect to a selection board.
I think that the method of appointment by selection board is the only fair method for appointments of this kind. The Parliamentary Secretary is hardly fair to himself in taking upon his shoulders the responsibility for making these appointments. I do not think there is any reason to hope that such appointments, when made as political appointments, can in any sense be fair. It is not only necessary to be fair to everybody but it is essential that we convince the people generally that we are being fair. When we find the relative of a Parliamentary Secretary appointed to a position of this kind, naturally we have the feeling that fair play does not operate. In this connection, the Parliamentary Secretary is acting as the head of a very important Department from the national standpoint. It is the Department concerned with the work of development and work of development is urgently necessary in this country. It is a Department which employs a very large number of men and a large staff of officials, many of them very competent officials. It is a Department which employs especially a large number of manual workers. Is it right to introduce into this Department the system of the gombeen man, the privileged individual and the privileged friend of those in authority, who comes in between the honest worker doing his honest day's work and the wages he is to receive to get a rake-off from these wages? That is a principle which this House should avoid at all costs. It is a principle which I certainly shall never accept.
There is no use in the Parliamentary Secretary talking about precedents. There are precedents for everything objectionable. We all know that in the old days we had the gombeen man coming between the Government and people in every sphere of life and getting his rake-off from decent people. That was an old-established principle in the days of the Famine and of the British-régime, if we go back that far. The Parliamentary Secretary went back to the time of his immediate predecessors but he could have gone back to the time of their predecessors to find this objectionable system in operation. If we went back to the days of the Famine of '47, when grants were given for the relief of the starving people—grants, of course, that were totally insufficient—he would see that much of the money was raked-off by people who came in between the starving workers and the authorities. Is it not time to end that system? Why should we stand for the introduction of this objectionable system into a Department where it did not exist before? There is no use in saying that it existed in the Department of Lands and other Departments heretofore. Why should we extend it? Why should we not try to curb the system and ultimately eliminate it completely?
Again, is there any necessity for such appointments? The Parliamentary Secretary makes the case that it is essential to have a paymaster in each district who knows the men and who can disburse wages to them. How are wages paid to county council workers? For example, thousands of men all over the country, far removed from the head offices of the county council, are paid by cheque each week or each fortnight and nobody has ever found anything wrong with that system. It is a system which is open to check and correction if a mistake is made. It is a system which is fair and one which adds to the dignity of the worker. He gets his cheque for work honestly done and he can go anywhere he likes, into a bank or anywhere else, and get that cheque changed without any compliment to anybody, whereas under the other system the worker is degraded. He must go to some political hack in his district, touch his hat to him as our forefathers has to do to the landlords and the landlords' agents, to receive his few little coins.