Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Use of State Cars.

28.

asked the Minister for Justice what rules govern the use of State cars by Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries; and if he will state the terms of any directives issued by the Garda Commissioner governing the use or supply of such State cars.

As the House has been informed on previous occasions each Minister and Parliamentary Secretary is given the unrestricted use of a State car.

It is not a function of the Commissioner, Garda Síochána, to give directives governing the use or supply of such cars and, in fact, no such directive was ever given by him.

There is a long standing instruction to the Garda from the Minister for Justice that, except as a substitute for a car that has broken down, not more than one car at any one time is to be supplied to any Minister or Parliamentary Secretary without the advance sanction of the Minister for Justice.

On 12th November I was informed by a Minister that earlier on that date he had been given a second car, on requisition made by him direct to the Transport Section in the Garda Depot, as he required it urgently as the car ordinarily allocated to him was otherwise in use and not readily available. I approved of the requisition and at the same time I caused a reminder to be given by my Department to the Garda Transport Section of the standing instruction that a second car was not to be supplied to any Minister or Parliamentary Secretary without advance sanction from me.

It seems to me that this question, put down by Deputy O'Higgins, arises from an article featured in the Sunday Independent of 7th February which was full of misstatements and malicious innuendo to the effect that the recent retirement of the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána was associated with a directive given by him tightening up on the use of State cars. As I have mentioned already, it is not a function of the Commissioner to issue such a directive. In fact he never did issue such a directive and on the relevant date on which a Departmental reminder was given to Garda Headquarters in the matter, and for some time afterwards, he was absent on sick leave. An innuendo in the same newspaper article that extra Government cars were used in the Roscommon and Galway byelection campaigns has no foundation whatsoever.

The question of providing Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries with means of transport was dealt with in the Reports of the Shanley Committee of Inquiry into Ministerial Salaries etc. presented to the Minister for Finance in 1937 (ref. P. No. 2948), paragraph 63 which reads:

We consider that the existing arrangement whereby cars and drivers are supplied from a common pool is probably the most satisfactory method of providing official transport for Ministers and is clearly to be preferred to the payment of an independent transport allowance to each Minister.

The practice in this regard has gone on without interruption during a period of over 30 years and has been given the approval of the Dáil on a number of occasions.

29.

asked the Minister for Justice if he will state on what occasions, if any, Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries had the use of two State cars on the same date, giving the names of the Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries concerned, the dates on which each had the use of two such cars, the purpose for which the cars were used, and the estimated cost of the use of the cars on each such occasion.

I am not in a position to answer the question as put. To enable me to do so would require examination of Departmental files in conjunction with police records covering a period of over 40 years. Up to 1963, police records in relation to the use of State cars were not retained after the cars in question had ceased to be serviced by them.

During the past ten months of the present financial year, there were 15 occasions in all on which a second car was, with the approval of the Minister for Justice, supplied on special occasions to Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries, of whom there are 17.

Would the Minister inform the House what was the specific occasion he referred to in his previous answer on which permission was given for the use of the second State car?

The occasions as set out on my file vary. There is the occasion of statesmen visiting this country who are given the use of a State car during their stay here. Indeed, if the Deputy wants to pursue this matter further, it was dealt with very fully by Deputy MacEoin who, as Minister for Justice, in 1950, had occasion to check on the activities of other Government Ministers at that time in regard to the use of State cars. The Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon, at that time had, over a period of 12 months, utilised the facilities of a second State car 14 times.

During my first two years in office, I used my own car. I never, as Minister for Agriculture, used a second car. I should like the Minister to tell us, in regard to the occasion mentioned by him in answer to Question No. 28 when he said on one occasion he specifically authorised the use of a second State car, on what occasion he did so?

That was on the occasion of the visit of a statesman from another country. I shall give further details to the Deputy if he requires them. I mentioned the case of Deputy Dillon to show that on other occasions a second car was used.

The Minister alleges on 14 occasions I used a State car, and I deny that.

I will make the file available to the Deputy and the House if necessary.

All I know is that on many occasions I used my own car.

We all had to use our own cars.

The fact to which Deputy MacEoin took exception was that Deputy Dillon, in the use of a second car, even though it was his own, had the full time use of a State driver and of State petrol.

Why should I not have had? I had no State car and I used my own car and no other car, but I had a Garda driver because the law required that.

Is it not a fact that 17 State cars were in use in the byelection in East Galway?

I specifically stated in my reply, as the Deputy would have heard if he had been listening, that, during the course of the East Galway and Roscommon by-elections, there was no occasion on which an extra car was made available to any Minister or Parliamentary Secretary of this Government.

Question No. 30.

That is not the question I asked the Minister. Were 17 cars not in action?

Question No. 30.

The Minister is evading that one.