Committee on Finance. - Adjournment Debate—Appointment of Paymasters.

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.

The Parliamentary Secretary must get ten minutes.

I want to say that this is an objectionable and obnoxious thing, which ought to be ended. The Minister for Justice intervened when the Parliament Secretary was replying and he said: "The Deputy objected to that principle being put into operation." I assume that he meant the principle of advertising public appointments. I assume that the Minister for Justice was referring to the appointment in Baltinglass. I never objected to the appointment being advertised. What I objected to was the elimination of an efficient and experienced worker and the appointment of a political hanger-on. We succeeded in restoring the appointment to an honest lady who had discharged her duty efficiently.

A Scotch woman.

The lady appointed was an Irish citizen.

That does not at all arise on this.

She was not a relation.

It does not at all arise on this.

Before the Parliamentary Secretary replies——

The Parliamentary Secretary.

On reading the supplementary questions that arose on this question, I find that Deputy Cogan was trying to forestall me. The Deputy's great objection is that the appointment was not advertised. I suppose it would be quite simple, according to an appointment in which Deputy Cogan was interested not so long ago, to have such an advertisement issued, but then to make sure that it was a certain individual that would be appointed. I cannot understand Deputy Cogan blowing with two sides of his mouth, one side saying it should not be advertised, that a particular person should get the appointment, and the other side saying, in respect of another case, that there should be an advertisement.

The Deputy advocated advertisement.

Tell us about the relationship.

Of course, Deputy Killilea, who was not manly enough to come here, who had to swallow the statements he made, the man who died for Ireland, who never fired a shot against the enemy troops in this country——

Deputy Killilea does not arise on this.

He is displaying his double-barrel ignorance, Sir, as he always displays in this House and outside it.

Hear who is talking.

As far as I am concerned, Deputy Cogan's statements in other parts of his question are fairly honest.

"Fairly honest."

I regret the position is as it is in the Board of Works. I wish the Government of the day or this House would say to me: "We will make a change in that. We will make some change in appointments such as those." I would gladly accept it. I do not want the responsibility of it. I am quite sure, when Deputy Cogan refers to political tactics—we knew each other for many years—he does not wish to throw that over on me. Probably he refers to the fact that I had to take over a post that was so rotten with that class of business that when I take a file and read the representations made on behalf of a man who was appointed successor to Deputy Killilea, in the same job as a pay-master, I find a letter, dated 10/1/34:

"Sir—I wish to state that I have known such-and-such a man——"

He is not in the House to defend himself. I will not name him.

"——for the past four years. I have always found him a strong supporter of Fianna Fáil and at the last two general elections he placed himself and his car at the disposal of the Party."

Of course, Deputy Cogan, I am sure, knowing me as he did for many years, would not even attempt to think that I would make an appointment on a political basis of that description.

Look at all the admissions you made to me the other day.

I mean Deputy Cogan—not that fellow. I am quite sure Deputy Cogan's worry is that I may be carrying on the way my predecessors carried on there. I assure Deputy Cogan that is not the case.

Would escaped German prisoners be eligible for these jobs?

I assure Deputy Cogan that is not the case as far as I am concerned. The special employments scheme office has to appoint paymasters. The reason for that is that, up to last year, all our work was done by the county councils, that is to say, our bog development schemes, our rural improvement schemes, and the other schemes that we carry out in that office. Certain county engineers and county managers throughout the country informed us that they could not carry on that work any longer. The result was that, immediately, in counties such as Galway, Roscommon and Clare, we had to take over. This year we have to take over Kerry and Mayo. We have to appoint an engineer in charge of our own staff there. Formerly, the money was sent to the county secretary of each county; the work was done under the supervision of the county engineer of that county and the money was paid directly by the county council office. They used to carry on this work when they would have their county council work done, at the end of October or November. When we had to take them over, as I said, we had to put in our own engineer in charge and then we had to pay the men directly.

The question that arose was, were we to increase our staff in our office in Dublin, were we to call in more civil servants, or were we to find paymasters here and there throughout the various counties that we had to take over, just as the Land Commission and the Board of Works did.

On a point of order, the Parliamentary Secretary read a letter. He did not mention the name of the person referred to. He did not mention the name of the person who signed the letter.

Do you want it?

The letter is signed by a man who terms himself chairman of the local Fianna Fáil Cumann.

I want the signature to the letter.

His name is Pakie Ruane, Menlough, Ballinasloe.

He is not a member of this House.

I said I would not mention his name because he was not in the House and could not defend himself.

The implication was that it was a member of the House.

Deputy Briscoe has done a very dirty turn to that man.

In what way? What dirty turn have I done?

You have used your privilege in the House to drag out a man's name that the Parliamentary Secretary refused to give.

On a point of order. Is the Parliamentary Secretary supposed to read letters in the House without giving the names of the persons to whom they are addressed or by whom they are signed and implying that it was by some member of this House?

There was no such implication.

Indeed there was.

We had to appoint paymasters the same as other Departments had done.

On a point of order. When an official document is read must not it be made available to the House?

If a document is an official document, it must be made available to the House. I do not know whether this is such a document or not.

That is the point I want to make.

Quotations must cease or the document must be made available to the House.

When we come back after Easter we will have it again.

I am afraid some of you will not. You have got afraid.

There will be an election, please God.

The result was that we had to appoint paymasters. Some people say that we should take unemployed people. They must be people of trust. They must be people who can afford to produce a bond of £500. The result is that we make inquiries through the local Gardaí. Suitable men are interviewed. They are interviewed by our inspectors. Eventually, they sign their bond and they are then appointed. As I told the House, their commission is 1½ per cent. They are doing valuable work. Some have already been appointed. Next week I will be making other appointments.

Give Deputy Cogan one.

I hope when you go to Wicklow that I will be accepting a good recommendation of a good paymaster from the Deputy.

The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 4th April, 1951.