Private Members' Business. - Adjournment Debate—Appointment of Cork Auxiliary Postman.

I wish to refer to Question No. 33 on to-day's Order Paper and the reply given by the Minister. The question is:—

"To ask the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he will state (a) whether in September, 1956, a vacancy occurred for the position of permanent auxiliary postman in Drinagh sub-post office County Cork, (b) if a person without means who had satisfactory temporary service, and who fulfilled all the statutory requirements was appointed to the post on 6th October, (c) whether that person after having served in the post for some weeks was peremptorily dismissed and replaced by another person, and (d) the circumstances of the dismissal and of the appointment of the other person."

The Minister's answer was as follows:—

"As I explained in reply to the previous question, vacancies for auxiliary postmen are filled from lists supplied by employment exchanges and from persons already temporarily employed. When the vacancy arose at Drinagh sub-post office, the employment exchange was unable to supply any names and a man was taken on direct. Shortly afterwards it came to notice that there were, in fact, unemployed persons in the area. The first appointment was accordingly cancelled and the employment exchange was again approached. Two names were now supplied and the claims and qualifications of these persons, together with those of the person who had been taken on direct, were considered. In the outcome, one of the persons nominated by the exchange was selected as the most suitable. No question of statutory requirements arises in auxiliary postmen appointments, and the appointments are not permanent but temporary and terminable without notice. In this case, the man discharged was given a fortnight's notice."

The reply of the Minister was so completely at variance with anything that happened before that I doubt if the Minister was aware of the full background of what occurred in this case. My experience of his administration in the past led me to believe that he did not know all the circumstances. At any rate, I was profoundly shocked by the whole business and in order to give the House some idea of what exactly occurred, I wish to present these details to the members.

In August, 1956, Mr. Jer. McCarthy, who had held the post for many years, went on sick leave, and Mr. Timothy Keating, who was the only man from Drinagh registered in the branch employment office and who had already acted as temporary postman during Mr. McCarthy's holiday period, was again engaged in that capacity. Mr. McCarthy resigned from the service early in September and steps were taken by the Post Office authorities to make a permanent appointment. As stated in the Minister's reply, such positions are filled from lists supplied by employment exchanges and from persons already temporarily employed. When the vacancy in Drinagh arose, the employment exchange was unable to supply any name and a man who was already doing the temporary duty was taken on direct.

Everything was quite in order up to that stage. This man was Mr. Timothy Keating, the only man coming within the terms and conditions set out by the Minister in the opening sentence of his reply. Consequently, on Saturday, 6th October, Mr. Keating was notified by the Drinagh sub-post mistress that he was appointed to the position and she also handed to him the following: (a) measurement form for postman's uniform, which was returned duly filled on Monday, 8th October; and (b) a sealed letter from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs addressed to Dr. P.J. Smith, medical officer, Drimoleague, the Department's local doctor. This letter was handed by Mr. Keating to Dr. P.J. Smith on Monday, 8th October, and the latter carried out a medical examination. The medical officer filled the form and handed it back to Mr. Keating who returned it to the postmistress at Drinagh on the same date. Mr. Keating also got typed instructions regarding his route and hours of duty which he signed and of which he retained a copy.

The sub-postmistress also instructed him to provide a birth certificate or baptismal certificate. This was handed by him to the sub-postmistress on Monday, 8th October. His pay was raised on October 6th from the temporary rate to the applicable rate in force for a permanent auxiliary postman of his age, which was 19½ years. Later in the month of October, two new application forms were issued by the local branch employment office, one being to the chairman of the local labour branch. On November 3rd, it was intimated to Mr. Keating by the Drinagh sub-postmistress that his employment would terminate on Saturday, 17th November, giving him a fortnight's notice, as the Minister said to-day.

One of these applicants, the chairman of the local branch of the Labour Party, took up duty as permanent auxiliary postman on Monday, 19th November. Mr. Timothy Keating is an orphan. His father, who was a creamery worker and an Old I.R.A. man, died three years ago, and his mother died in September this year. His only support is a brother who is a mechanic's apprentice, and who lives in a labourer's cottage. Mr. Timothy Keating has no other means of support. He has been unemployed since leaving school, with the exception of periods on relief duty as acting postman for Mr. Jer. McCarthy and the six weeks for which he was permanent auxiliary postman. That is the employment which is now terminated.

The serious thing about this is that whatever circumstances existed in the past regarding appointments of this nature—and they varied at times—we have here something that never, in my recollection, happened before. That is disclosed in the Minister's reply. He sets out the conditions under which appointments are made and he then shows that an appointment was made in relation to the circumstances which existed shortly afterwards. This is the serious aspect of the whole business. Shortly afterwards, it came to notice that there were, in fact, unemployed persons in the area. If that procedure is to be followed in the Post Office services of this country there would be no security for anybody in the Post Office services. That is one of the things to which I raise very serious objection.

I am wondering if the Minister were aware of all the circumstances in this case and if he knew the background to this procedure. The whole thing was disgraceful. After appointing this young man who had given temporary service to the Post Office, it was found possible to dismiss him in favour of another man in the area. This young man was the orphan of an Old I.R.A. man who had given good service in a temporary capacity. At the time when the vacancy was declared he was the only qualified person in the district. He was duly appointed, got his uniform and his medical certificate and was on duty for six weeks when he was dismissed.

I think it was an extraordinary state of affairs. The person who was qualified on the relevant date should have been appointed whether he was the chairman of the local Labour branch or not. The suspicious part of it is that, as the Minister himself says, some time after the appointment had been made it was found there were more unemployed men in the area and that new forms were issued after this young man had been appointed. Then the whole thing was upset. Such procedure is something that should be condemned by this House. Steps should be taken by the Minister to see that nothing like it could occur again. If there should be a recurrence of such procedure it would be a reflection on the whole system and would undermine any confidence in the method of recruitment to the Post Office service.

A situation such as this, where somebody comes along and displaces a person who has been legitimately appointed to a post in the Post Office service, has never occurred before. It has never happened that a man working in the position and carrying out satisfactorily all the conditions of his appointment was displaced for somebody else because that somebody, subsequent to the date on which the vacancy occurred, went to the labour exchange and registered there.

The man who replaced Timothy Keating was not registered in the local labour exchange when the vacancy was first there. He had worked for a local farmer now and again. He was receiving sick benefit when this occurred and some time after the vacancy became known to occur he was told to go to the medical officer and get a certificate of fitness. He did that and then went along to the labour exchange and registered and the whole scheme under which the other young man was appointed was upset and the young man, the orphan of an old I.R.A. man, was thrown out of the position he had secured in the normal legitimate way.

I was very upset and disturbed to-day to learn from the Minister's reply that such a thing could occur in the Post Office service. Accordingly, I have taken this occasion of calling public attention to it. I am very sorry it is the Minister who is involved in this because I think I am speaking for many members of the House when I say we have always found him square and fair in all our dealings with him. Of course this may be an isolated incident, but if it is it is about time a stop was put to it so that anything of a similar nature may never recur.

Like Deputy MacCarthy, I was disappointed when I heard of this injustice to this young man, apparently at the sanction of the Minister. I feel inclined to believe, like Deputy MacCarthy, that the Minister was not fully aware of the facts of this case. Deputy MacCarthy may have inadvertently omitted some of the facts surrounding this appointment. On the day this young man was notified of his appointment in a permanent capacity by the postmistress his pay was raised from the level of temporary auxiliary postman to that of permanent auxiliary postman. He then went to the expense of providing himself with a bicycle, having been given details of his duties on Form M.P. 193. The letters M.P. are very significant in this matter. Subsequently, having been measured and having received his uniform and provided himself with a bicycle, he assumed his duties and had given satisfactory service for six weeks when he received Form M.P. 145 from the post office at Bandon, signed C. Dempsey, saying that he had not been successful in his application for the post. The Minister, in his reply to-day, told us the appointment was cancelled. Now which is it? Was this applicant successful or was he unsuccessful and the appointment later cancelled? The facts are that this young man, who without any influence, or without a recommendation from anybody, was declared eligible for the appointment and succeeded in getting the position. Subsequently, the man who was a friend of Deputy Michael P. Murphy, was advised to go to the labour exchange and register instead of receiving the sickness benefits which he had been getting at the date at which this vacancy was declared to exist. When this other man had registered at the labour exchange the position was readvertised and the young man who had honestly got the job was put out of it.

The full forces of the Labour Party in West Cork, with Deputy Michael P. Murphy in the van, were brought to bear against this young man who had been enjoying for six weeks all the comforts that such a position gave him. It is nothing short of disgraceful that a young man, fully competent of doing the duties assigned to him, should be displaced for no other reason than that he was not a supporter of the Labour Party in West Cork. I would not begrudge the position to any young man, irrespective of what Party he belonged to, provided he had been honestly appointed to it. The man who was subsequently appointed had a family, it may be said, while the original appointee had not. That is not the point at issue here. The real point in this matter is that no man can feel secure in his position unless he ispersona grata with the local Deputy who supports the Government for the time being. That is a disgraceful situation which should not be allowed to exist, and I would advise the Minister to direct his attention to it.

The man who was originally appointed to this post had been issued with a uniform, had gone to the expense of procuring a bicycle and was raised from a temporary auxiliary postman to the status of permanent auxiliary postman. He was subsequently told that his application had not been successful. In face of that the Minister to-day says the appointment was cancelled. Such a state of affairs should not be allowed to exist. Otherwise confidence in the Post Office service and in the manner of staff recruitment will be completely undermined. I am sorry to see this Minister in this position. It is true that this young man was not registered in the exchange at the time of his appointment because he was working as a temporary postman then. That cannot be held against his eligibility, however, because neither was the man subsequently appointed registered; he was drawing disablement benefits at that time and he had himself registered on the advice of the local Labour Deputy.

Did the Deputy ever hear of the appointment made by Deputy Childers at Knocknagoshel when he displaced a married man with a big family?

It seems to be a feature that succeeding Ministers for Posts and Telegraphs have to appear here once or twice, or more frequently, on the Adjournment in regard to the appointment of auxiliary postmen. It has been the fate of my predecessors and I suppose I could not escape forever. These appointments are made very frequently, sometimes every week and certainly some every month. It is not a bad tribute to me that, after two and a half years in office, this is the first time I have had to appear here in relation to such a matter. As I say, I suppose I could not escape all the time.

Since I had the honour to become Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, I have striven to interpret the rules fairly and impartially and to get the best possible service, having regard to the domestic circumstances of the applicants. I may say that there are numerous applicants for all these posts and that a good deal of consideration must be given to all the applications before an appointment is made. Any young man who has had a good primary education and who is sober, honest and correct can do the job. Each applicant, of course, thinks that he is better qualified than any of the others. Very few appointments have been made in which it has not been suggested that the wrong man was picked, but, as I say, this is the first time that a question has been raised on the Adjournment in relation to the matter since I took office.

First of all, I want to say that Deputy MacCarthy and Deputy J. Lynch made a mistake when they said the young man was uniformed. He was not uniformed. In a supplementary question to-day, Deputy MacCarthy asked if I was aware that the young man was registered at the labour exchange and was the only one registered at the time. My answer is that this young man did not come to the labour exchange at any time. When the post office had a vacancy, they sent to the labour exchange for a nomination and the labour exchange said they had no one suitable in that area. There is a radial distance which is considered suitable for the recruitment of postmen, but that is really a matter for the postmaster rather than for the labour exchange. I have their letter on the file and if anyone wants to challenge what I have said, he can consult the Minister for Social Welfare and check its accuracy.

This young man had worked as a casual and, in the absence of a nomination from the labour exchange, he was put on by the postmaster. He was appointed under delegated powers: that can be done without the labour exchange. We go there generally, but there are certain times when such powers can be used, as in this case. At the same time, I heard that there were three unemployed men in the locality with responsibilities and I cancelled the appointment of the young man. He had no uniform at the time: that was in the process of going through. I cancelled it and asked them to go to the labour exchange again. Then they submitted two names—the married man and a single man, plus this young man. These were considered. I gave the position to a man and I object to his being styled a chairman of the Labour Party. I did not know he was a chairman of the Labour Party. I knew him by his name—Donovan. He has a wife and five young children. The other was a young man of 19 years. In view of the fact that the man who had a wife and five children was unemployed, I had no hesitation in giving the decision in his favour. Since then, the other young man has been engaged on temporary relief work and we have done anything we could for him, short of giving him priority over a married man with a family.

As I have pointed out, the young man in question did not come from the labour exchange. He was appointed by the Department without my knowledge or consent, under delegated powers. When it came to my knowledge that there was a more deserving case in the locality, I immediately made inquiries and acted in the way in which I did.

Was he not registered in the labour exchange when he got his temporary appointment? He was brought from it to take this temporary appointment. That is my information.

He then held the post. Is the Minister not also aware that he filled in the form for the uniform? Whether or not it was made, he got it officially. He got that form and he was getting his uniform and being put out as a uniformed postman. All that was cancelled by the Minister.

He had not reached that stage at all. He had not been uniformed at all. He might have got the form for admission, but that would not cover him.

I am sure the Minister realises that I would not make a false statement in such a matter. I am speaking from information supplied to me. My information is that he was registered at the labour exchange, that he was called for temporary work, that he registered in between his spells of employment, that he got the form from the sub-postmistress to be measured for his uniform, that he filled in that form and returned it to the post office.

I thought the Deputy said he was uniformed.

The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 29th November, 1956.