Adjournment Debate. - Civil Service Appointment.

Question No. 39 on to-day's Order Paper asked the Minister for Finance if the former personal secretary to the Taoiseach has secured an appointment from the Government in the Civil Service and, if so, whether he will state the salary and expenses attached to the post and other conditions of employment, whether it is temporary or otherwise, the pension it carries, and the date of the appointment. I put down that question in all good faith and without any desire to be personal.


I put it down because, under the Fianna Fáil Administration three years ago, the post of personal secretary to the Taoiseach was abolished. In Volume 110, column 170, we see that Captain Cowan asked a question on the 9th March, 1948, of the Minister for Finance if the post of personal secretary to the Taoiseach had been abolished and, if so, whether he would state the date on which the Order was made abolishing the post.... The then Minister for Finance, now Deputy McGilligan, replied that this post was abolished by the Taoiseach with the consent of the Minister for Finance on the 17th February, 1948—namely, the day before the taking of office by the inter-Party Government. I desire that that should be placed on record.

I am given to understand that one of the reasons why the post was abolished, and that was one of the reasons why the civil servant—I may call her that now because she has been reinstated—was resigning or relinquishing the post was that she submitted medical certificates to the Department of Finance on the grounds of ill-health. I want a verification or denial in regard to that matter from the Minister to-night.

The lady to whom I refer is Miss Kathleen O'Connell. I am interested in this matter from a scientific and from a medical point of view. I should like to know under what extraordinary conditions or circumstances does a person become seriously ill just as Fianna Fáil is going out of office and is restored to perfect health and be able to resume duties the moment Fianna Fáil resumes office. Will the Minister for Finance give us the recipe or the prescription which will bring about such a happy state of affairs?

May I interrupt the Deputy just to tell him that he is completely misinformed? Miss O'Connell did not resign on the grounds of ill-health nor was any medical certificate presented to show that she was not physically capable of discharging her duties. I hope that that will prevent the Deputy from continuing to sling mud at a lady.

He does not care about the truth of the situation at all.

I have now got some information from the Minister which he could easily have given me to-day and thus avoided my having to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Did the gallant gentleman ask about it?

This is the reply which I received from the Minister:—

"The person referred to in the Deputy's question has been appointed to the established post of Personal Secretary to the Taoiseach with effect as from 19th June, 1951. The scale of salary for the post, as calculated in accordance with the recent revision of Civil Service pay, is £709 by increments of £28 to £890, to which is added the customary allowance of £96 per annum paid for private secretarial duties. The other conditions of employment are the normal conditions of Civil Service tenure and the post is pensionable under the Superannuation Acts, 1834 to 1947.

In effect, the person referred to in the Deputy's question has been reinstated in her former post on the same terms and conditions as she would have enjoyed had there been no interruption in her service in that post, except that the period of her absence will not count for pension purposes."

During the past three years, this person, Miss Kathleen O'Connell, since her post as Personal Secretary to the Taoiseach was abolished, has been in receipt of a pension and has drawn something like £1,200 from the taxpayers of this country—despite the fact that at the same time she was employed by the Fianna Fáil Party. I want all that to go on the records of this House.

It has nothing to do with what is in this question.

He does not care.

What Miss Kathleen O'Connell was doing during the period when she was not employed in the Civil Service does not come within the scope of this question.

She was in receipt of a pension during that time.

I have told the Deputy that it has nothing whatever to do with what is in the question.

During the past three years she has drawn over £1,200. She has now been restored to this position of Personal Secretary to the Taoiseach—despite the fact that the Taoiseach himself abolished the post. That position has now been restored in order to provide a job for another of his loyal members—thus bringing us back again to the days of Fianna Fáil jobbery in this country. The salary attached to the post is a salary amounting to £986—which is £14 less than £1,000. The reason why that salary was laid out in that way was so that it would look modest in the eyes of the taxpayers of the country— that once it did not go into four figures it was all right.

How much did the Deputy say the salary is?

"The scale of salary for the post, as calculated in accordance with the recent revision of Civil Service pay, is £709 by increments of £28 to £890, to which is added the customary allowance of £96 per annum for private secretarial duties."

What is the total?

Just a few pounds less than £1,000 per annum.

Learn some arithmetic.

The Deputy should learn something about Standing Orders and allow Deputy Flanagan to proceed without interruption.

Deputy de Valera, before he became Taoiseach, and even as Taoiseach, declared on more than one occasion that a man and a family could well live on £1,000 per annum. Here we have a single lady getting almost £1,000 per annum as personal secretary to the Taoiseach—and the post has been re-established again for the purpose of providing a good job for one who has remained loyal to "the Chief", as he is so admirably described by those in the ranks of Fianna Fáil.


Hear, hear.

I desire to point out that to-day the Minister for Finance wound up on the note that this very lady, Miss O'Connell, is in receipt of a certificate which she secured as a result of her activities in the Black and Tan war. The Minister went on to say that that is something more than I have got. There are young men to-day who know nothing about the Black and Tan war and about the troubled times, and I wish that the Minister and everybody in this House would forget the days of the Black and Tan war. We are now living in a different Ireland: we are not back in 1920, when some of the people who are sitting on the far side of the House made good featherbeds for themselves on which they are lying to-day.

"Who fears to speak of Easter Week...?"

The young men on this side of the House, and I am sure the younger men on the other side of the House, and the younger men in the country, as a whole, are anxious that those days should be forgotten and that we should start off in an age in which civil war bitterness will not be dragged into debates.

There was no civil war in 1916.

It cannot be said that the making of this particular job for Miss O'Connell was in recognition of the services she rendered during the Black and Tan war. Is it on account of her loyalty to the Chief that she is now being rewarded——

Hear, hear!

——with almost £1,000 a year, to obtain which the Chief is sticking his two hands down into the trousers' pockets of the taxpayers for a Fianna Fáil satellite?

She is doing it for nothing.

There is an objection I see to this. It cannot be said that we made appointments in a similar manner when we were on the Government Benches or that we gave the salaries that Fianna Fáil are giving to their henchmen and women to-day. That cannot be said. We can stand proudly here and say that we have not stuck our own supporters into jobs at £1,000 a year. We could have done it if we wished, but we did not do it.

You were not too proud to commit perjury.

When the Minister rises to reply he will very likely say that this appointment is in recognition of national services. Is not this person already in receipt of an I.R.A. pension? Is not that sufficient recognition? Was she not employed for 16 years sticking her nose into Civil Service business and doing no good for herself? That is what she put in 16 years at and now she has been reappointed to spy on the civil servants as she did for 16 years in Merrion Street. That is her reward for remaining loyal and true to the Chief. It cannot be said that this is being given to Miss O'Connell for her services because other members of her family have got so much now that she ought to be amply compensated.

On a point of order. I understood it was the tradition and established precedent of the House not to attack civil servants.

I was about to intervene——

The Taoiseach and Minister for Finance are prepared to stand over and justify what they have done.

The Deputy has accused a civil servant of being employed in order to spy upon her colleagues.

I have not. Do not try to turn it.

Deputy O. Flanagan will allow the point of order to be made.

I suggest the accusation made by the Deputy should be withdrawn.

I was about to intervene just as the Minister rose. Civil servants should not be attacked here. They have no redress against Deputies who make charges against them in the House and, therefore, it is utterly unfair to make charges against civil servants. Deputy Flanagan has made a charge against a certain lady. Deputy Flanagan has said that that lady is employed for a certain purpose. Deputy Flanagan must withdraw that statement.

I certainly withdraw the expression "spy" at your request. That does not alter my personal opinion. I withdraw the expression "spy".

The Deputy will not make an implication. He must withdraw explicitly.

I withdraw the expression "spy".

The Deputy will withdraw the expression he used in relation to a particular civil servant and he will not repeat it by implication, saying that he holds his own opinion, which seems to the Chair to mean that he still regards the lady in a certain fashion.

Very well. I would like to hear from the Minister whether appointments will be made during the coming week in a similar manner to the appointment of Miss O'Connell?

There is a particular question referred to in this debate on the Adjournment and a particular person referred to in this matter. The Deputy will confine himself to that.

I have very little to add except that the salary paid in this case is a colossal salary. It is a waste of money. An unnecessary post has been established which will bear heavily on the taxpayers. For that reason I desire to protest in the strongest terms against the establishment by the Taoiseach of a post which the Taoiseach himself abolished before he left office on the last occasion. That is the real objection I have to this appointment. It is typical of the Taoiseach to do one thing to-day and another thing to-morrow. The moment he makes a denial it is a sure sign that he will do the opposite. We have seen here how he abolished that post completely. On his very first day back in office after three years he does the very opposite of what he did before he left office.

The Minister for Finance is responsible in this House.

I think the Minister is not responsible for what the Taoiseach does, and right glad he should be; but the Minister is responsible for what the taxpayers have to pay.

Tell us about the keeper of the coal-scuttles in the Board of Works at £1,200 a year for loyalty.

I want to know from the Minister, when he is replying, if officers who resigned from the Civil Service in the past and who are now anxious to be reinstated——

The Deputy will not enlarge the scope of this debate. This debate has reference to a particular civil servant and nothing beyond that particular civil servant can be discussed.

Surely the Chair will permit me to ask the Minister if other civil servants will get the same treatment as Miss O'Connell? That is all I ask. I trust the Minister will lose no time in making the position clear. This appointment is the chief topic of conversation in Civil Service offices to-day and even ex-civil servants, those who have given good and loyal service and who have no interest in politics, are anxious to know if they will get the same measure of favourable and sympathetic consideration from the Government as has been given to a political worker for the Fianna Fáil Party. I think the time has gone when we should ask the taxpayers to pay through the nose for political appointments. It is wrong. It was done by no Government here until Fianna Fáil came into power. They are starting it again now but they will do it in the teeth of the fiercest opposition that can be put up on this side of the House. We will not tolerate it. I want the Minister to understand now that he will not get away with political appointments. We will not stand for political appointments. I hope and trust we have heard the last of them.

You are looking for it and you will get it.

You are disappointed.

You are looking for it and you will get it.

It is always nice to hear the potential Lord Mayor of Cork. He was just beaten at the post. I can well understand how Deputy McGrath feels.

I am not concerned with Deputy McGrath.

I trust that the Minister when replying to the points I have raised will give an assurance that political appointments will in no way affect the manner in which the Civil Service will be run.

You are looking for it.

Deputy McGrath is disappointed now because he has not got a job.

The Deputy who has just sat down has expressed the hope that the Minister will reply to the points he has raised. The Minister has no intention of rolling in the gutter with Deputy Flanagan.

I would get a more pleasant gutter to roll in.

The Minister will, however, explain what the true position is in regard to this appointment. It has been the universal custom, not only of this State but of other States, to permit Ministers and, in particular, the head of a Government to select as their personal assistants those with whom they have been accustomed to work, those whose merits they know and those who are able to facilitate them in the discharge of their duties because of the personal knowledge which they may have of the greater bulk of the correspondence from private individuals which comes to Ministers and particularly to the head of a Government. That custom was recognised and acted upon from the day on which this State was founded. Not only did we when necessary, select as our personal assistants people who worked in our private offices but that practice was recognised and acted upon by our predecessors and our successors. I do not want to specify Ministers who brought into the Civil Service in the year 1948 persons to act as their personal assistants——

Not at this salary.

The salary has nothing to do with it.

The salary has everything to do with it.

Please allow me. There is nothing abnormal and nothing unusual in the fact that the Taoiseach who speaks for the Irish people, who represents Ireland in the eyes of the world——

He represents Deputy Peader Cowan.

——in a unique way, should ask that he should be permitted to appoint as his personal secretary an individual who is familiar with the vast mass of personal and private correspondence with which he has to deal—while I call it private and personal correspondence, it is personal only in the sense that it is addressed to him, but invariably it relates to national affairs—and who can, therefore, relieve him of the obligation of attending to this correspondence on his individual initiative and thereby leave him free to discharge the official duties which devolve upon him. Therefore, as I have said, there is nothing in the nature of a "job" in this appointment. Somebody had to do this work; somebody would have to be appointed to do it——

He abolished the post himself.

Therefore, since somebody would have to be appointed, surely the Taoiseach is entitled to select the person whom he thinks best fitted for the task, especially having regard to the experience which this particular individual had previously of the work of the office.

Of Fianna Fáil.

The Deputy is trying to make the point that the position of personal secretary was abolished when the present Taoiseach left office in 1948. Of course it was, because he was not going to appoint a personal secretary for his successor.

He gave her a pension.

Deputy Flanagan will have to refrain from interruptions.

The Taoiseach's successor was perfectly free to recreate this post and to appoint a personal secretary if he so desired. He did not do that.

It saved the taxpayers.

Instead of that, he appointed a personal aide-de-camp who, when Deputy Costello relinquished the office of Taoiseach, was found a position in the ordinary normal Civil Service. I do not object to that.

At normal pay.

At £1,200 a year.

What is the difference between allowing your personal secretary, who served you when you were in opposition to continue to serve you when you are in office, and finding a snug berth for your personal aide-de-camp when you come to retire? As I say, I do not object to that at all. There were predecessors of the aide-de-camp of the former Taoiseach for whom that had been done. In the year 1932, when Mr. William Cosgrave ceased to be President of the Executive Council, a somewhat similar appointment took place. It is recognised that such appointments may be made in order that persons who are called upon to act in an onerous capacity such as that of Taoiseach, may be free to devote themselves to what is properly the public business of the State.

Deputy Flanagan, in what I think was a disgraceful speech, an unmanly speech, a speech unworthy of any Irishman, alleged that the lady referred to in this question had resigned on grounds of ill-health in the year 1948. I told him that was not so. I told him that the post had been abolished and he said that if I had given him that information at first, he would not have raised this question on the Adjournment. We can judge of Deputy Flanagan's sincerity in making that statement and of his truthfulness, when we realise that he had not asked whether the lady to whom this question refers had resigned on grounds of ill-health.

He never asked for that information.

On a point of order, the Minister has made a statement that I did not ask to-day at question time if Miss O'Connell resigned owing to ill-health.

I have the question here. I am not giving way to the Deputy.

On a point of order——

Deputy O. Flanagan, on a point of order.

I addressed a supplementary question to the Minister to-day and in that supplementary question I asked: "Is it not a fact that the person to whom the question refers retired on medical grounds from the Civil Service?"

The Minister will now resume.

I want to say this in reply to some of the allegations which Deputy Flanagan made in relation to this lady. This lady has given long and honourable service——

In Fianna Fáil.

——on behalf of the Irish nation. She served in a very dangerous capacity, in a highly onerous post, throughout the Black and Tan war.

She was well paid for it.

She was not well paid for it. Nothing could compensate her for the perils, the risks and the suffering she had to endure during that period.

Did her sister not get a post office?

A Deputy

You are scandalous.

We can rate Deputy Flanagan by his interruptions here. I do not want to judge him because judgment has been passed upon him elsewhere. It is not my function to try to adjudicate upon him here. This lady has not only a very honourable record of national service but she is also very competent. Every person who has had dealings with her, every person who has ever had occasion to employ her or to avail of her services as secretary, knows that she is very highly competent——

For sticking her nose into other people's business.

——for the position to which she has been appointed. On this issue of her competence for the post to which she has been appointed, there can be no question of doubt. As to her salary, she is being paid the ordinary normal Civil Service scale. She is receiving no concession whatever in respect of that. She has been reinstated at the appropriate point on her normal salary scale. So far as her pension is concerned, during her period of service that pension will be suspended. Therefore, from the point of view of the State, it is an economy that she should be reemployed because if she were not reemployed, another person, equally competent, would have to be employed at the same salary and in addition she herself would be drawing her pension. From the point of view of the public purse, it is a decided economy that the Taoiseach should again ask that she be reappointed as his personal secretary. From that point of view, I, as Minister for Finance, had no difficulty whatever in sanctioning her appointment. I think, Sir, there is nothing more for me to say as the time has elapsed. I do hope I shall have the opportunity of meeting Deputy Flanagan on this particular question on another occasion and I do hope that he will repeat outside the House, and beyond the protection of the House, some of the slanderous statements he made here to-night.

The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until Thursday, 12th July, 1951, at 10.30 a.m.