The Minister moved this amendment yesterday to include in the places that may be billeted restaurants, and that fits in to some extent with the hotels and licensed premises that are in the section already. The Minister in support of this amendment indicated that I had said in the Special Committee that this might be extended to include board and lodging houses, milk bars, public dance halls, communal halls, halls owned by local authorities, cafes and refreshment rooms. The Minister seemed to have some doubt as to the terms "communal halls" and "halls owned by local authorities" and said that if I had used the expression "parish hall" he would have understood it. My general objection, as I said yesterday, was in regard to this billeting provision at all, and if the Minister wants to extend it to include those restaurants in addition to the hotels and premises licensed to sell intoxicating drink it is an extension which would appear, on the face of it, to give very little extra accommodation. I wonder if the Minister knows how many premises in the different towns in Ireland are registered under that section of the Health Act of 1947. It is just an interesting point in connection with the approach to the section as a whole.
Defence Bill, 1951—Report Stage.
Is that amendment an amendment of the section?
This is the Report Stage. It is an amendment of the entire Bill before the House on the Report Stage.
I was just wondering if the section, as amended, is for discussion.
I move amendment No. 36:—
In page 34, Section 46 (1), lines 26 and 27, to substitute "one year" for "three years".
Following the discussion at the Special Committee I decided that we could reduce the period from three to one, and I think that meets the views which were expressed in the committee.
I move amendment No. 37:—
In page 34, to delete Section 46 (2), lines 28 and 29.
I am prepared to accept that amendment.
I am delighted to have that decision.
I move amendment No. 38:—
In page 35, to delete Section 48 (6), lines 25 and 26.
This is a matter which received a considerable amount of consideration in the Special Committee, and it is a provision that is in the Act whereby an officer of the Reserve Defence Forces, who becomes an officer of either House of the Oireachtas shall thereupon cease to be commissioned.
Could 47 be discussed with that? I think 38 and 47 could be discussed together.
I think they could be.
That is Section 74.
Of course, the fate of 47 will depend on what decision we make on 38.
Yes. We could have a discussion now and if the decision covered 47 that would be taken with this.
I am not altogether in favour of that, but perhaps the decision on this will decide the other.
That is what I say.
One hangs on the other.
They are both complementary to each other. The discussion will proceed on this.
They are related. We did take that procedure in Committee.
For the convenience of the House, I will deal with the two. The additional amendment which the Ceann Comhairle suggests we should discuss now applies to members of the Reserve as distinct from officers of the Reserve. Seventy-four deals with reservists who become members of either House of the Oireachtas, and the particular amendment I am now dealing with deals with an officer who relinquishes his commission. I have never been able to ascertain why we should have a provision such as this in our Acts. For quite a considerable period under the old Act of 1923 and when the Reserve was established, officers of the Reserve of Officers were entitled to be members of this House and, in fact, were members of this House. I personally look upon service in the Reserve of Officers as the very highest service that a person can render to the country, and if, in addition to that, a person who is a first class officer of the Reserve of Officers is honoured by the people in his own locality by being sent forward as a Deputy of the Dáil I can see no reason why he should have to resign his commission in the Defence Forces.
It is well known that during the last war when Britain was engaged in a life and death struggle, with her armies scattered all over the world fighting in different hemispheres, the personnel of those armies were entitled to be and, in fact, were members of the British Parliament. I see no reason why because an excellent young officer on the Reserve of the Defence Forces becomes a member of this House, he should thereupon be obliged to resign his commission.
Many people will approach this from different viewpoints. Some may hold that it is desirable that the element of politics should be excluded from the Reserve of Officers. But that is not so in practice because members of the Reserve are entitled to belong to any particular Party they wish and they are entitled to actively participate in politics. Until this Bill becomes law, if it does become law, they are entitled to be members of local authorities performing public duties and rendering public service. I fear that a narrowminded conception of either Parliament or the Reserve is responsible for this particular approach.
I would like the Minister to say in what way membership of the Dáil or the Seanad interferes with the efficiency of an officer of the Reserve Defence Forces. In what way does it detract from his ability to serve the State as an officer of the Reserve? Unless there is some very sound and valid reason for the insertion of this particular amendment in the Bill I do not think we ought to permit it to be inserted.
The Minister himself, his predecessors and many Deputies have from time to time adverted to the high service that can be rendered to the State by a young man who becomes a reservist and who, because of his ability and efficiency, is promoted to commissioned rank. If such a man is honoured by those amongst whom he lives by being selected as a candidate for this House I see no reason why he should thereupon be compelled or obliged to relinquish his commission in the Defence Forces. The relinquishment of such a commission is something that a keen reserve officer would resent. Yet, here we say to him in effect: "If your friends in your own area select you as a candidate and if you are elected by the people to represent them in the Dáil, or if you are appointed a Senator, you must relinquish your commission."
Taken in association with the matters to which I have already drawn attention, this particular provision demonstrates a conception both of Parliament and of the Defence Forces which is not the correct one. We pride ourselves that we serve the State at what we consider to be the very highest levels. It has always been admitted that a person who serves in the Defence Forces of his country renders very honourable service to his country. Why should he be forced or obliged to retire from the Army if he becomes a member of the Dáil or Seanad? The Minister could by regulation, if he so desires, provide that an officer or a reservist appointed to either the Dáil or Seanad can be placed on an inactive list for the period during which he is a member of the Oireachtas.
That is the answer.
There is no reason why he should be placed in the position in which the honourable commission received by him from the President of his country can be taken away from him by force. I know quite a number of arguments can be invented to support a practice that grew up without proper or adequate consideration. Although this is not the most important section of this Bill it is nevertheless important in the context in which I deal with it. I would strongly urge the Minister to delete this unnecessary sub-section. The Minister will agree that he has grave difficulty in bringing the Defence Forces up to strength. He has grave difficulty in bringing the Reserve up to strength. The mentality behind this section in relation to the Reserve shows that the high appreciation of the honourable service given which should be held is not in fact held by the persons who have drafted this particular sub-section.
I do not intend to labour this point, because the net issue is a very simple one. I confess I felt a tremendous personal chagrin when I was forced because of my election to this House to sever my association with the Army. I do not press the Minister in the way that Deputy Cowan presses him. The answer to this difficulty is to find a formula whereby, should a member of the Reserve of Officers be elected to this House, his commission will be left in abeyance while he is serving in this House to be restored to him again once he ceases to be a member of this House. I do not know that there is any real merit in not permitting such a situation to develop. I can see many arguments against active participation in the Reserve or in the Army by members of this House. I am quite prepared to admit that the question of dual responsibility would immediately enter into the situation then. A man might be torn between his legislative duty and his affections for his Army colleagues in certain decisions that might be pertinent to the Army, but I feel that if the Minister could evolve a formula whereby we would not be forced to renege our Army connection by virtue of election he would have gone as far as I would press him to go in relation to this section.
I do not think that this House is in any way unconscious of the service that officers give to the State, or that we would in any way like to take from the appreciation we must of necessity show to people who have attained to the commissioned ranks, whether in the regular Army or in the Reserve. I do feel, however, that we have grown sufficiently as a nation to arrive at a reasonable formula whereby, as referred to by Deputy Cowan, people who acquire the added distinction of becoming elected representatives of the people in Dáil Éireann should not by that fact be penalised, as penalty it is, to the extent of having to relinquish the commission that they got honourably and held honourably. Why should the circumstance of a greater trust by their people in them necessitate the relinquishing of that commission?
At the basis af all this argument is the root trouble that the Minister must recognise before the Bill goes much further, that we are inclined to cull our Bill from sections of the Articles of War or from the manual of the Canadian Army or from various manuals at the disposal of the Department rather than address our minds to the pertinent problem of our own people. If we did that, and if people in the Department of Defence were conscious in any way of theesprit de corps and the pride of an officer by virtue of having been commissioned, there would not be need for this type of argument. I think this is something that is basic to a greater issue than is conceived within the words of the section.
I do not want to sound unreasonable, but I think if we are drafting a permanent Defence Force Bill, and if we are, in the Minister's own words, trying to envisage every possibility, it is a tragic if not a shameful travesty of our intelligence to suggest that we cannot find a reasonable solution whereby further distinctions gained by a citizen of this State, such as elevation to membership of the Oireachtas, should not necessitate the penal infliction of having to relinquish his commission. If the situation presented itself to-morrow that we were called into the breach again in a strife for national existence, I know that many of my young colleagues here, as well as myself, who served in the Army might be more prone to relinquish their membership of the Oireachtas and go back to what they might consider in those circumstances their first duty. We should not be denied that facility if such an issue were to be presented to us.
There is something inherently wrong if we cannot conceive a simple formula whereby those Reserve officers will not have to do anything more drastic than possibly to go into an inactive or inoperative list, or whatever type of list you like to call it, while serving in the Dáil, leaving them available, if the occasion should arise, to go back to the Army for further service, thus, at least, ensuring the continuance of something that the individual, by virtue of having won it, may pride himself on having obtained. That is true of practically every member of this House who had the honour to serve in the ranks of the emergency Army and of many who served in more turbulent and more dangerous times.
Most of us attained these commissions from the ranks and they were to all of us a cherished possession. I am talking personally when I say that I felt it a very bitter pill to swallow when, by virtue of the fact that the people of West Cork, not a bit backward in their own military tradition, sent me into this House to represent them, I had to cease to be a member of the Reserve of Officers. I think there is something wrong in that and that the Minister, if he is not prepared to accept the amendment in the way it is now presented, might try to evolve a formula whereby at least a person elected to this House would have the option of going on some type of inoperative list on the Reserve rather than having to relinquish his commission. I do not believe they were in any way resigned; I think the axe had to fall on them by virtue of the Bill.
Is the Minister not going to say anything?
The difficulty I am in is that unless I am called upon to speak we may have other Deputies saying that they had not had an opportunity of having their say. As I understand it, the mover of the amendment has the right to conclude the debate and I do not want to deny any Deputy the right to speak if he desires to speak.
I think the history of this Bill makes it quite clear that nobody was denied the right to speak.
This is another of these questions which we discussed at very great length in the Special Committee. On that occasion I made it very clear to the members of that committee that I was very strongly in favour of the Bill as it stood. In fact, I intimated very clearly that I was not prepared in any circumstances to accept the amendment to the particular section. I am not prepared to accept the amendment which Deputy Cowan has put down, to delete the words that are referred to in sub-section (6) and these are the reasons which I can give. The first reason is that successive Governments have apparently felt as I do that it is highly undesirable that we should have in the Army members of the Oireachtas, members of either the Seanad, or of this House, while at the same time they are members of the Army. I can see no difficulty, if the opportunity should arise for a member of this House who is eligible to become a member of the Army, joining the Army if he is acceptable, and resigning from this House. The only difficulty that appears to exist would appear to be the question of his having to resign his position in this House. I remember in the course of discussions in the Special Committee saying that it was quite impossible for us to sit or attempt to sit between two stools. We are bound if we make that effort to come to disaster. On that point alone I think this House would be well advised not to consider this amendment.
It is quite impossible—we all know that—and it would be practically impossible in a period of emergency for a member of this House to give service to this House of the type which he would be expected to give and at the same time give service to the Army of the type which the Army would demand. How we are going to reconcile these facts I do not know. My own strong conviction is that, apart from these facts at all, whatever may be the custom in other armies or other nations, we anyhow, who are building up our own laws and customs, ought at this stage make certain that the Army will be a non-political army and that there will be nothing in the nature of politics brought into it openly. Members can have their own political viewpoints. That has never been denied to any member of the Army and as far as members of the Reserve of the Army are concerned, if any member decides to stand for election in any election, municipal or parliamentary, he is fully entitled to do so and is not prevented from standing for election. What is demanded from him is that if he succeeds in being elected to the parliamentary institution he will resign. That is all we ask, that he will not go into the Army or operate in the Army as what might be described as an active politician.
If the position was that you had some kind of an inoperative reserve when a man was a member of the House, how would that come into being?
I do not think there is any remedy beyond the simple remedy of going for the Army wholly or remaining in the House as a full-time Deputy. I honestly believe there is no in-between method. We have got to stand clear on one aspect or the other. We either have to give our full service to this House to which we were elected by the people or go and give full-time service to the Army, and if an individual desires to do that it would apparently be his choice.
Cannot the Minister see the point of view that there is an infliction on the man, that he must relinquish his commission? A member of the Reserve would not have to give his whole time to the Army.
The present position is as I have described and it is the position I am endeavouring to sustain. To some extent we are discussing this question in a hypothetical atmosphere. First of all, I do not think at the present time that any member of this House would be eligible to become a member of the Army from the point of view of age. I am not going to suggest that in an emergency we could not call on Captain Cowan, Major de Valera and Deputy McQuillan and on any other ex-Army Deputies in the House if we thought it desirable that their services would be of value to the nation but it would then become the choice of these Deputies to say whether they were prepared to relinquish their parliamentary duties to give full-time service to the Army, or give full-time service to the House and forgo their right to be members of the Army. That is the simple position as I see it and that it the simple position that I am appealing to this House and to Captain Cowan and Deputy Collins who are advocating this amendment not to go ahead with it, to retain the position that has been so successful right from the beginning. Deputies of the House can ask themselves: Has the Army suffered as a result of this regulation being in force through all these years? Or has the House suffered through not having the service of some Army officers who might have a desire to become members of this House? I do not think either House has suffered in the least, nor do I think they will suffer in the future.
As far as the question of the Reserve of Officers is concerned it is clear that it does not arise as a result of this amendment. If there are any Reserve officers outside who desire to stand for election to this House there is nothing to prevent them from becoming a candidate for any political Party prepared to select them. The only thing that will follow as a result of their success in that election is that they must then tender their resignations and that is the principle I am fighting on this particular amendment. I am fighting to retain the position as it exists at the present time because I believe strongly it is not only in the best interests of the Army but that it is also in the best interests of the House and of the nation.
From that point of view alone I would strongly appeal to Deputy Cowan not to press this amendment.
I would like to meet the Minister's wishes if I possibly could but the reason I do not accept them is because I can see the fallacy of the case that is made for the retention of this sub-section. The sub-section does not say that an officer of the Reserve who becomes a member of the Dáil may resign. It simply says he relinquishes his commission and that is the end of it. Out he goes on top of his head the moment he is elected to the Dáil. I feel that that is not right. I feel it is a reflection either on the Dáil or on the Defence Forces. It seems to me to be a serious reflection on the Defence Forces. I made the case that service in the Defence Forces is honourable service and that service in the Reserve is very honourable service. We want to have all the young men of the country join the Reserve Forces and by their ability become commissioned officers in it. If they reach that honourable position there is no reason why they should be turfed out of the Reserve because that is what it amounts to.
The Army is clear of politics. When a person is in the Regular Army he cannot belong to any political organisation but he can indicate his political views and he does indicate them. I am glad to say that service in the Regular Army has never prevented a man from expressing his political views. I think that nowhere else does one hear political views expressed so clearly from time to time on current events as in the Regular Army. That does not interfere in any way with the discipline and the spirit of comradeship that exist in the Army.
Take the Reserve which comes up for training once a year for a few days in peacetime. How can that affect a person who happens to be a member of the Oireachtas? I am sorry to say that this was introduced into the Bill in my view because the matter was not seriously enough considered by the person who drafted that particular sub-section. I know it is not the Minister's baby. That particular sub-section was in the Bill introduced by his predecessor. Perhaps, if we had had the opportunity of discussing the Bill in those days the Minister might have been on our side in regard to this particular sub-section but it is the conception that forces an officer to resign because he becomes a member of the Dáil to which I object.
I did mention the British Parliament and the fact that you see officers, certainly during the war, in uniform participating in debates affecting the future of their country. The fact that a man serves in the Defence Forces should not take away his sense of responsibility to the State.
It should add to it really.
It should add to it but I am dealing with it in a negative way that it should not take away his sense of responsibility. Any person who is able to become an officer in the Reserve and is selected to be a member of this House or of the Seanad ought to be, in my view, in the highest category of citizen. If he is in the highest category of citizen, then it should not be necessary to have a particular section such as this which says that on being made a member of the Dáil he will be forced out of the Defence Forces and have to give up his commission.
There is the idea that the Dáil is full-time service. That is expressed by the Minister. Of course, it is not full-time service. It was never intended to be full-time service for any member of the Dáil. It is full-time service for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, but as far as any other member of the Dáil is concerned, membership of the Dáil is purely and simply a part-time occupation. That is in theory. In respect of that he receives certain allowances for losing time in his own occupation. The trouble is, of course, that an effort is being made to make it full-time employment but if we stick to principle it is not full-time employment.
The public make it fairly full time for you and me.
I know they do. Nevertheless, the conception is that each and every one of us, with the exception of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, for whom it is full time, have occupations of our own and we attend sittings of the Dáil. We assist the Dáil in deliberating on legislation and matters of importance that come before it. If we keep to the theoretical aspect of the matter we see there is no reason in the world why a person cannot have the two part-time occupations—occupation as a member of the Dáil or Seanad and occupation as a member of the Reserve or Defence Forces.
I have, with the assistance of Deputy Collins, fought that issue. We cannot beat the Minister on it. All we can do is to leave our words on record against that.
Amendment put and negatived.
I move amendment No. 39:—
In page 35 to delete Section 49 (2), lines 31 and 32, and substitute:—
(2) The President shall with all convenient speed accept the resignation of his commission tendered by an officer.
This amendment follows the very same trend of principle. It is a matter on which I feel a considerable amount of concern. It is a provision which was introduced into the Defence Force legislation during the emergency or immediately prior to it and which gave the President the right to say to an officer who tendered his resignation: "No, sir, I refuse to accept your resignation. You must stay on and serve on."
That was not in the original Defence Force legislation. It went through this House without any consideration by the House. Like this present Bill, apparently the members of the Dáil, with a few exceptions, were not interested in it. It slipped through in that way. I want to say that it seems to me to be wrong constitutionally and it is certainly wrong from many other points of view. When an officer is commissioned, he is commissioned in the Defence Forces by the President, who appoints him to be an officer in the Defence Forces. His position is different from the case of the soldier who enters into a contract to serve the State for a specified period in his document of attestation or enlistment.
I should like the House to realise the difference and to realise especially that, when a soldier joins the Army, he enters into a contract with the State to serve in the Army for a particular period. There are provisions whereby, on the expiration of that period, the Army has no further control over him. There are special matters in regard to a period of emergency or war when the period ends, and there are provisions in the law relating to the soldier who wants to get out of his contract. He can get out in certain ways. He has the right to obtain his discharge by purchase at a prescribed fee and on tendering that he is discharged. The relationship between the soldier and the Army is, therefore, contractual, with rights on both sides—the right of the Army to say: "You stay here until the period for which you contracted to serve has expired or until you satisfy one of these other provisions laid down in your contract whereby you could get out earlier."
The position of an officer is different. He does not enter into a contract for a fixed or specific period. Because of his good conduct and because of the confidence which the President wishes to repose in him, the President gives to him a commission in the rank, generally, of second lieutenant, from which he may be promoted in accordance with regulations. The commission is given to him as a commission in the Defence Forces, and until this amendment, to which I referred, about giving the President the right to refuse a resignation, was put in, an officer could at any time tender his resignation and that resignation must be dealt with with all convenient speed.
The advisers of the Minister in the Department of Defence felt that this high honour and the high traditions associated with a military commission must be interfered with by them. There is the history of commissioned service in all countries in the world to be considered, but it took our Department of Defence to consider that they should, in this new Bill and the one during the emergency to which I referred, introduce this provision that although an officer wanted to go they would keep him in if they thought fit.
I have given some study to this matter. There are very few places that a man in this country can be kept against his will. If a man joins the Church, enters an order, he can leave it. There are two places he cannot leave: he cannot leave prison or, unless the President so decides, leave commissioned rank in the Defence Forces. I do not like to put it in that crude fashion, but when the mentality behind this amendment is so crude—when I say amendment, I mean the amendment of the original Defence Forces Act which inserted that clause in order to compel an officer to be kept in the Defence Forces against his will—then one has to talk pretty straight about it.
I want the Minister to realise that that same clause was in the Bill that was introduced here by his predecessor, and he has now to carry the responsibility in regard to it. An officer must have the right to tender the resignation of his commission and to leave. What kind of army would it be if an officer were compelled to remain in the Army against his will? I do not think we understand that type of compulsion outside the minds of the Minister's advisers.
I never knew of a man being refused the resignation of his commission when he tendered it except in one case. That was the case of a young officer of the Air Corps who tendered the resignation of his commission and whose resignation was refused under that particular clause. That young man had been promised employment in civilian life for which he would have been more highly paid, although it was in the same technical field, than he was being paid in the Defence Forces. The case was made that the Defence Forces had spent some time and money in training him and, therefore, they refused to accept his resignation. Against his will, he was compelled to remain in the Army and to continue his flying with the Air Corps. A very short time afterwards that young man, the only son of his parents, was involved in an accident and was killed. That happened only recently.
What is the good of putting such a clause into an Act and then enforcing it against one individual with that result? I feel very keenly about that whole matter. I felt at the time that that was an unconstitutional and illegal provision in the Act, that it could not be supported if the matter were tested in our courts and I feel some little sense of responsibility that all the avenues that were open to me in regard to it were not explored.
Why should a provision like that be put in our Act, that a person who voluntarily accepts a commission from the President cannot say to the President: "I desire to relinquish that commission.""I desire to leave the Army.""I desire to enter into another field of activity." If there is any ground for it I would like to hear the Minister explain it and if there is no ground for it let it go out of the Act. The Army cannot be on the basis that it is a penal settlement where a person is obliged to serve when he accepts a commission until he reaches a retiring age, that if he does not want to continue to serve in the Defence Forces, he can be obliged to serve in them for the term of life as applied to our felons in Portlaoighise prison. We must take the broader point of view, not the petty or footling finance provisions, that because a few pounds were spent on the training of this man he must be retained. He will be kept in if it is found out that he is going to better himself by leaving. If, right through this Bill, there was not that petty mentality I am referring to, the discussion of this Bill would take very little time in this House. However, every opportunity has been availed of to project and insert into it all these little petty pin-pricking provisions. As I said at an earlier stage, it will be much better for the members of the Defence Forces if this Bill in its present form never passes this House. There is a measure of protection in the old Act in regard to the pay of officers and soldiers which has been deliberately taken away in this Bill.
That does not arise on this amendment.
It does not, but it is relevant as a reference to the mentality behind this particular idea and concept.
For years I have been looking forward to the time when I would be able to contribute something to the making of a better Defence Forces Act than the one we had: now, I am assisting at the making of a worse one. Every opportunity has been availed of to remove and take away from both officers and soldiers the protections they had under the old Act.
There certainly is not much elasticity of mind displayed by the Department in the way they have handled the Bill.
None. It is an insult to a person who has any knowledge as to how these matters should be dealt with in this Bill. When I come to the provision dealing with pay and the removal of protections that officers and soldiers have now——
This amendment deals with the resignation of officers.
When I come to that, I will again have to point out the mentality and the concept and the idea that is behind the whole thing. No good purpose is served by a provision of that nature. I should like the Minister to say how many officers, since the State was established, have been refused permission to retire—how many officers other than the unfortunate young officer of whom I made mention a few minutes ago.
We have read recently in the papers that certain officers who have done great honour to this country at home and abroad by their competence and efficiency and horsemanship, have resigned from the Defence Forces. I take it that in those cases, the Minister did not refuse to accept the tender of their resignation and that perhaps he realised, as every Deputy must realise, that when you take the line of refusing to accept the resignation of an officer you are setting up a form of compulsion which is entirely foreign to our concepts of democracy. No person can be retained in any profession if he does not want to remain in it. If a lawyer wants to give up the law, he is entitled to retire.
A judge may retire. Anybody may retire. I mentioned that a clergyman may retire. A person may leave an order. A nun may retire or resign from a convent. A soldier may retire by paying a sum of money but, under this sub-section, an officer can be compelled to remain there against his will. The only point that is to be put against it is the point that the Army may have spent money in training the officers and that, therefore, they are entitled to get all they can out of them.
The one idea behind military service is the fact that it is given voluntarily, that it is given with a spirit of patriotism, that there are no hours. An officer does not look for his eighthour day nor for his trade union week. An officer who accepts the responsibility of holding a commission is available at all times, when he holds that commission, to render service to the State. The criterion of his commission is service to the State at all times and, while he holds the commission, he is expected to render that service. But when he wants to retire, to give up that commission, he must be entitled to do so. In the teaching profession they have some clause whereby, if a person who was a pupil at one of the training schools gives up teaching or retires from it within a certain number of years of being appointed, he must refund portion of the moneys expended on him. Some principle like that applies in a few other professions.
In dealing with officers, we are dealing with men who are prepared to accept all the difficulties and responsibilities of the military career and to place their lives unreservedly at the disposal of the Government and at the disposal of the State. When we are talking about officers we are talking about people in a much higher category than any of the other people, from the point of view of service to the State, that I might mention in the course of this debate. It is that outlook and attitude of mind that should permeate this Bill—but, instead, we have the mean and miserable approach that I have mentioned. I ask the Minister, now that this matter has been brought to his notice in the blunt way I have felt it necessary to bring it to his notice, to agree to remove this compulsory clause from the section and to allow an officer, who accepts the responsibility of commissioned rank voluntarily, the right to give up that commission voluntarily whenever he likes to do so. There is very little likelihood that the State could suffer from that in any way. It has been my experience that when the State is threatened by dangers no person will wish to leave it—and the person who would wish to leave it then is better rid of: such a person will be of no value to the State in that crisis or in that emergency. For these reasons, I ask the House to accept my amendment.
I wonder if Deputy Cowan realises the exaggerated form in which he put forward his arguments for this amendment. He implied that no officer in the Army who tendered his resignation would have the resignation accepted. He tried to create the impression that that was the position. He asked the Minister to say how many have been refused. I would like the Minister to tell us how many have been accepted. It would be grossly unwise not to include a clause such as is in this section. A grave offence could be committed by an officer and he could escape the military consequences if Deputy Cowan's amendment were accepted; he would merely have to tender his resignation immediately and it would have to be accepted.
Of course, that is not so.
Do we want to facilitate that sort of thing?
That is not so.
We will answer that. Put up the argument and we will knock it down.
It seems so to me.
Once he is serving at the time the offence is committed he is still amenable to the regulations. The offence dates to the officer's state at the time of the commission of the offence as distinct from subsequent action.
It could make a nice little thing for the lawyers, possibly, if he managed to get out or to tender his resignation before discovery.
I know a man who was brought back three months after resignation and court-martialled. That can be done. The argument is not valid.
It would be very unwise to provide that the resignation must be accepted in all circumstances without leaving any discretion whatever to the Minister or the President to refuse, if necessary, for some particular reason.
Deputy Cowan referred to a young air force officer who wished to get into a better position and who was refused permission to resign and who was subsequently killed in an air accident. He almost implied that it was because his resignation was refused that he died. If that officer had entered another air force, a civil air force, with better conditions, he might have been killed in an air accident also. There was exaggeration in arguing that case.
There is also the question as to whether the Army is to be used as a training school for young men, where they can be paid, and as soon as the opportunity offers to better themselves that they must be allowed to avail of it irrespective of the consequences to the Army.
There is a good deal in the argument put forward by Deputy Cowan that an officer should have the right to resign, but I do not think that it can be argued that he has a right to resign at any particular moment that he chooses without the State having some say in the matter. I would be opposed to the amendment put forward by Deputy Cowan. Some such clause as is in this section is absolutely necessary.
We are beating about the bush. If the Minister is making the case that there should be some limitation on the right of resignation of the officer, the only argument he can make is that there might be some insistence, where technical or highly specially-trained officers were involved, that there should be some forfeiture of pay or the imposition of penal consequences.
What sort of penal consequences?
In other words, that the officer who wants to get out before his normal time is expired should have the right to buy himself out, if you want any restriction on the normal right of resignation.
That would go against Deputy Cowan's feelings.
I do not think so. I think what Deputy Cowan is trying to ensure is that if an officer wishes to resign, if he is a member of the Air Corps, and, by virtue of his training within the Army, is fitted for a job as pilot in Aer Lingus, or something like that, it should not be within the discretion of the President to prevent him from resigning.
Does the Deputy not know that we have actually released officers to join Aer Lingus—facilitated them?——
I am perfectly aware of that but the Minister cannot argue on that basis. This is a permanent Act containing a clause which, I might concede, would never be improperly operated with the present occupant in the office.
Or with any occupant.
How can we say that?
How can you say it in regard to myself either?
We have experience of what the Minister's reactions are to various cases. We are up against the difficulty that it is not the Minister we are trying to persuade in relation to this Bill. It never has been. That is the irksome reality in the background of this Bill. It is presented to the Minister by the Department with plausible arguments and the Minister has an erroneous sense of duty for the protection of these sections.
I shall not take any exaggerated view of the consequences that may flow from the refusal of the President to accept an officer's resignation. There is nothing that we should desire less in an Army than an officer who is retained in it against his will. If the Minister is afraid that this might open the door to too free resignation from highly technical branches of the service and if he wants protection in that matter, I feel that if a formula is found for that between now and the time the Bill goes to the Seanad he will get cooperation.
I have sympathy with Deputy Cowan in the basic principle involved, that when a man voluntarily accepts a commission in the Army from the President of this State he should be left in the position that he can voluntarily relinquish it.
It is the inconsistency of this whole Bill that is beginning to get me a little rattled. The Minister, on a previous section, guillotined all members of the House who may have been officers of the Reserve. Now, when we argue, rationally, that there should not be discretionary powers for the purpose of retaining officers who want to resign we get a different standpoint.
The argument made by Deputy Colley was made in good faith but it was made in error. For any act that a commissioned member of the Defence Forces committed prior to his resignation from the Defence Force he is answerable as if he were still serving in the Defence Force when he is ultimately arraigned and he may be a considerable period out of the Army when he may have to go back to answer a field general court-martial for matters that arose during his period of service.
Surely not if it is something that happened outside the Army.
If it happened outside the Army he is amenable to the civil law.
That is a different situation.
In many cases persons subject to the Defence Force Regulations would prefer to be answerable to a court-martial than to the civil law. That is not a basic argument on which one can build a case to establish the necessity for this section. I do not want to delay the Bill. I do not want verbiage to cloud issues. There should be a right of an officer to get out if he wants to get out. It is in the interest of the morale of the Army that he should be allowed to go. I do not know anyone more disgruntled than the people I had to meet at the end of the emergency when, for various reasons, indefinite leave or transfer to the Reserve was being slowed down. If one has served in the Defence Force one can appreciate the effect on the morale of a corps, a battalion or mess of the disgruntled type of officer who is carrying a chip on his shoulder and feels that he should be out. I do not think that the Minister or his Department wants that kind of situation. If an officer is retained against his will everything he does is against his will. I agree with Deputy Colley that possibly the reference that has been made by Deputy Cowan to a specific officer whose resignation was not accepted is pushing the case too far. It is extraordinary that in all the various professions an unqualified right of resignation exists. Whether you are a dispensary medical officer, a county medical officer or a vocational teacher, you have an unqualified right of resignation from your post. Why should we deny that to one of the finest of all the professions?
A civil servant could not be kept in against his will.
Not at all. We know perfectly well that there are so many in the Civil Service, as in other services, comfortably tapping their boots against the last declining months of their service when they can get out. We know perfectly well from experience that within the Army itself even when minimum pension rights are reached by a number of people they do get out. Remember this, that the officer who elects, for reasons best known to himself, to resign may not be doing the State an injury but in many cases his precipitous act may do himself a lot of harm. The Minister would need to review generally the situation with regard to retaining an officer for any lengthy period at all in the Army when he has expressed a desire to get out. He is bad medicine, he is bad news to the morale of any bunch of officers, particularly if he is in contact with young officers.
The first thing I want to do is to correct Deputy Cowan. He stated—probably because he was misinformed—on a couple of occasions in the course of his speech that this section first appeared only during the emergency.
Or shortly before I was not sure of the date.
It was introduced in the 1937 Act, so it has been in operation for quite a while. I said yesterday that Deputy Cowan can make the simplest form of words appear very formidable and he can make us all tremble and begin to ask ourselves how we happened to let certain things through. Knowing his ability in that respect, I generally keep cool and do not let myself be stampeded. The case which the Deputy made against the sub-section that he desired to have removed, is, as Deputy Colley stated, an exaggerated one. I think it could have been made much sounder by a mere statement of facts. The facts are there. First of all, I cannot respond to the Deputy's request to give the number whose resignations have been refused, or Deputy Colley's request to give the number accepted; but I can say that the number I have refused amounts to the one case which the Deputy himself mentioned.
I want the House to realise that, while Deputy Cowan mentioned only one officer, there were four resignations tendered at that time. These four were from young men who were members of the Air Corps for a very short time and who had not completed their full period of training. They came to know, by some means of which I am not aware, that Aer Lingus was looking for some air officers and apparently they decided they would have a try. Aer Lingus were rather impressed, I think, by the ability which they possessed even at that period, and thought it would be good business to offer employment to these young men.
Resignations were immediately tendered by these young men. Would I have been justified in accepting them when they were tendered? These boys had joined the Army as cadets. They sat for and passed their examinations and were accepted into the Army as cadets. They were trained as military cadets. In the course of their training in college, some officer or officers conceived that these young men, because of their magnificent physical qualities —apart from their military training— which were outstanding and which must be outstanding if a man is to become a flying officer, seemed to them to be the ideal type for the Air Corps. Instead of going into the infantry, the artillery, transport, or some other section of the Army, they were given the option of becoming air officers, which they naturally accepted, as one might expect young men to do. Having been given that opportunity, and having had large sums of money expended on their training in bringing them even to the state of perfection in which they were when their resignations were tendered, would I, or would any Minister, have been justified in accepting the resignations of these young men for the sole purpose of enabling them to better themselves at the expense of the State?
I ask the House to remember that the State had expended quite an amount of money on their training. Deputy Cowan seems to think that there was nothing wrong in that. In fact, he anticipated that I would make that statement. I deem it my duty to make the statement that there was a vast sum of money expended on the training of these boys, and this training was going to be utilised by a commercial concern at the expense of the State. Would I be right, or would I be justified, in being a party to such a transaction? I concluded that I would not. Three of these young men withdrew their resignations when they found what the situation was. One persisted in going ahead. I interviewed that young man myself. I made the position as clear to him as it was possible for me to make it clear to any individual. I went further, and I promised that young man that, when he had given service of a type which would recompense the Army for the expenditure which had been incurred in regard to his training, I would not stand in his way.
In confirmation of that, Deputy Cowan himself referred to the recent resignation of two officers in the School of Equitation. When the resignations of these officers were tendered to me I had no hesitation whatever in accepting them, although I fully realised that we were going to lose two of our most outstanding officers. I want the House to understand and to realise that these men had given more than 12 years' service to the State and that, as regards whatever money was expended in bringing them to the state of perfection in which they were when they tendered their resignations, we were fully compensated for that payment. Therefore, I naturally would not stand in their way. They, too, were going to better themselves. They were fully entitled to do so. I am pointing out to the House now that it is only in the imagination of Deputy Cowan that we would refuse to accept the resignation of an officer when properly tendered in circumstances such as I have referred to.
I think I mentioned early on that the only resignation which I refused to accept, and which I recommended to the Government that the President should not be advised to accept, was that particular one. I rather imagine that, in the whole history of the Army, the number of resignations which were refused could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand. I am merely mentioning these facts to make it clear to the House that the clause to which Deputy Cowan is objecting is a clause which provides some safeguard against that type of young man coming into the Army and utilising it as a means by which he can perfect himself in a short time in order to better himself at the expense of the Army. Having secured the knowledge, experience and training which the Army had given him, he then discards the Army. I certainly will not be a party to that, and I would ask the members of the House not to be a party to it either.
Deputy Cowan also said that the only place he knew of where a man could not leave of his own free will was a prison. I daresay that is perfectly correct.
The Minister for Justice sees to that.
There would not be much use in such a person tendering his resignation to the Governor of Mountjoy. I am sure he would not accept it.
He has not a discretion to accept it.
There are, beyond any question, certain situations in which, while they are not perhaps in the same category, there is still that semblance of compulsion against resignation. Take apprentices. An apprentice has to bind himself to a period of training. In some cases it is five years and in others seven years. If an apprentice attempts to break his apprenticeship he is going to find himself in very serious difficulty. He probably will not be able to secure employment in that particular kind of business anywhere in the country because the trade unions themselves would not be a party to that type of conduct. They would ensure that, where an apprenticeship was entered into, the individual concerned would have to carry out his part of the contract, the employer doing likewise.
When he is commissioned he has passed the apprenticeship stage.
He is free then.
He is a journeyman then.
He has reached the stage where he has given good compensation to his employer for the outlay made on his training. The same thing obtains in the Army. I think that the same thing can be said in the case of students who enter the professions. Every student who enters, say, the medical profession must go through a period of training which, I think, covers something like seven years. The student has no chance of cutting short that period of seven years. At least, I do not think so. He must do his examinations and these cover a period of seven years. He cannot abscond. If he does he injures nobody but himself. There is, if you like, a form of compulsion there. It is no more than what we are enforcing in this sub-section to which Deputy Cowan has taken exception.
What about the teacher?
I am not sufficiently conversant with that situation to expand on it. I move the adjournment of the debate.