Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Reported Statement by Deputy.

46.

asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to a statement by Mr. Blaney, former Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, that on or after January, 1970, the Government decided that a large surplus of small arms which had been advertised for sale should not be sold because the Government had decided that they would be suitable for arming the civil population of the Six Counties; and that these arms were later loaded on to trucks and left ready to roll in a barracks in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

48.

asked the Minister for Defence if he will state in respect of each of the years 1969 and 1970 (a) the quantity of arms advertised by his Department for sale, (b) the dates on which such advertisements were placed, (c) the names of the journals concerned and (d) whether all such arms were sold and, if not, why.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 48 together.

In the years 1969 and 1970 only one sale of surplus and obsolete arms was initiated by my Department. The items offered included 13,250 rifles, 1,878 pistols and revolvers, 32 machine guns, as well as quantities of accessories and spare parts.

The sale was not advertised as the Department have a comprehensive list of potential buyers. Tenders were invited in November, 1969, from some 70 persons and firms.

The arms were not sold as the Government decided that they should be held against the possibility of the so-called "doomsday situation" arising. This is as far as the Government decision went. It is not true to say that the arms were loaded on to trucks and left ready to roll in a barracks in Dublin.

Are we to take it that Deputy Blaney, the ex-Minister for Agriculture, who was a member of the Cabinet and attended on the day that the famous speech was issued that they would not stand idly by, is telling a deliberate lie when he states that those arms were offered for sale, that that was cancelled and that they were left ready to roll in case of eventualities in the Six Counties? Did he tell the country a deliberate lie when he stated that?

I have given a complete reply to the Deputy's question.

In what way has the Minister given a complete reply? The Taoiseach, in speaking in Cork last week, gave one answer that they were put in a lorry left ready to roll for doomsday. My God, we have doomsday here with the Government crisis for the past year.

I am calling Question No. 47.

Why is the Minister's answer different from the Taoiseach's answer last week in Cork? Why has he nothing further to add? Is he capable of answering?

The Deputy is contradicting himself. He does not know what he is talking about. The Taoiseach did not make that statement.

The Minister is the very man who does not know what he is talking about.

47.

asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the reported statement by Mr. Neil Blaney, former Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, that, when the Government decided to move Army units to the Border in August, 1969, the announcement that only field ambulance units were sent was an afterthought; and that the troops had sophisticated equipment, not just to look after the sick and wounded; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

As stated by the Taoiseach in his television address on the 13th August, 1969, the day the decision was made by the Government, the purpose of moving troops to the Border was to set up field hospitals.

The troops were also engaged in directing and conveying civilians from the North to the different refugee camps which were set up by the Army.

The military documentation on this matter makes it quite clear that the purpose of the deployment on the 13th and 14th August was to set up, support, maintain and protect the field hospitals and refugee centres.

Is the Minister aware that on the evening the Army were sent to the Border, theEvening Press and the Evening Herald stated in broad headlines that our troops were going to the Border and that they were not going for ambulance services alone but were going to move in? Is it not also true that the people of Derry and the nationalists welcomed them with statements? If the Minister's statement now is true why did not he or the Taoiseach deny the statements that appeared in the Evening Press, the Evening Herald, the three daily newspapers the next day and the statements which emanated from nationalists and people in Derry and Belfast?

I have made a statement. I do not propose to qualify what I have already said.

That is all the Minister is able to do. He has read out a statement and is not capable of saying any more.

I am calling Question No. 49. Will the Deputy please sit down?

The Minister is a disgrace to the office he holds. He is not capable of making a proper statement. He is not capable of adding to the statement he has already made.