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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 15 Dec 1976

Vol. 295 No. 5

Nomination of Member of the Government: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy Oliver John Flanagan for appointment by the President to be a member of the Government.

I might add, for the information of the Dáil, that subject to the Motion being approved, by the House, I propose to assign the Department of Defence to Deputy Flanagan.

This matter arises out of a series of events which were debated to some extent here recently and, perhaps, it arises more particularly out of changes the Taoiseach announced in his Cabinet two weeks ago. On that occasion the Taoiseach assigned to himself the Department of Defence and he now disengages from his responsibilities for the affairs of that Department by the assignment to it of Deputy Oliver J. Flanagan. When the Taoiseach made his announcement two weeks ago he simply announced changes in the assignation of Ministries. By doing so he thereby precluded the Dáil debating these changes at that time and the events that led up to them. Here now, on the second last day of the session before the Christmas recess, in a week when a regular plethora of Dáil business will be sought to be got through because of statutory problems connected with the termination of the fiscal year, we have the appointment of a Minister to the Department of Defence. The timing of this motion is rather difficult to understand having regard to the announcement two weeks ago and to the events prior to that announcement to which I shall refer in a moment.

Perhaps the significance of the timing is related to the fact that we are so late in the Dáil term with so much business to be got through in the relatively few hours that remain before the end of the statutory year Perhaps the other significant feature is the fact that this is removed by a least two weeks from the events which led to the making of this appointment and, therefore, two weeks removed from the public memory of these events.

I am not going to go into the suitability of Deputy Oliver J. Flanagan as Minister for Defence. He has been a long time waiting for a ministerial appointment. His past will be an indication of his suitability for this appointment and time will judge whether or not his appointment is justified. The only thing I can say about the timing in this respect is that Deputy Oliver J. Flanagan will not have much time to spend in it, fortunately for him and, perhaps, fortunately for the country because both he and his colleagues will be removed from office after the next election.

I think it well to recall the Taoiseach's role in this whole affair. A former Minister for Defence, Deputy Donegan, made his attack on the former President on Monday, 18th October. I am not going to go into the merits of that attack. I am not going to go into the denigration of the office of President on that occasion. I do not think it is necessary to do so but on Wednesday, 20th October, when the Dáil resumed after the summer recess—that is, having regard to the emergency reassembly of the Dáil at the beginning of September— I put it to the Taoiseach that he should ask for the resignation of the Minister for Defence because of the remarks he had made and because of the location in which they were made and, in the event of the Minister's refusal to tender his resignation, I asked that the Taoiseach should dismiss the Minister.

At that time, as we now know, the Taoiseach had already been offered by the Minister the Minister's resignation, which he rejected, but in his reply to my question on 20th October, apart from referring to what the Minister for Defence had said as a remark which slighted the President, for which he did apologise, he made no further comment on the Minister having tendered his resignation. In fact, he failed to disclose to the Dáil on 20th October that the Minister had tendered his resignation. He deliberately failed to disclose that fact to the Dáil, and the deliberate failure to disclose is, in my interpretation a concealing from the Dáil of that fact, a fact which, I suggest, the Dáil was entitled to know, and especially from the head of a Government which he and his colleagues describe as an open Government. That behaviour does not seem to me to be consistent with that of a Government that presumes to regard itself as an open Government.

On the following day, Thursday, 1st October, I tabled a specific motion for the dismissal of the Minister for Defence. The Taoiseach spoke for the motion, and again he neglected to disclose to the Dáil, concealed from the Dáil, the offer by the then Minister for Defence of his resignation. Again, he spoke of the full apology made by the Minister to the President which he regarded as being adequate for the purpose, and then—and this aspect of the matter makes it difficult to reconcile his action here today and his action of two weeks ago—he eulogised the Minister for Defence for his dedication and expertise generally in the running of the Department of Defence.

If the remarks made by the Minister at that time did not warrant the acceptance by the Taoiseach of the Minister's resignation or warrant the Taoiseach dismissing the Minister, if the Taoiseach's assessment of the performance of the Minister for Defence in his office was the correct one, why then do we find ourselves faced today with the appointment of a replacement Minister for Defence? Why was the Minister for Defence, as has been generally accepted in the meantime, demoted if the events leading to these actions were, in the opinion of the Taoiseach and the Government so insignificant as not to warrant any action? I wonder whether the smiles on the faces of two of the Ministers, one of them involved in the shuffle, the now Minister for Transport and Power, and the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, is a device to cover up their embarrassment for the part they took—and the part they took was similar to that taken by their colleagues—in endorsing the former Minister for Defence in his action and endorsing the Taoiseach in his failure to take action in relation to the statement of the former Minister for Defence? However, they are entitled to smile cynically or with amusement. It is a matter for them.


We have all heard of people whistling past graveyards, and I suppose it is a device in Dáil Éireann, if you are fearful or embarrassed about something, to feign a smile.

The only other speaker to the motion to which I have referred was the Taoiseach's Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy John Kelly, whose comments on the affair then and since do credit neither to himself nor the Government. The next day, Friday 27th October, the President resigned. Following the resignation I tabled a motion of no confidence in the Government. The Taoiseach countered this motion by an affirmative motion of his own seeking the confidence of the Dáil in the Government. That entitled him to open the debate. I would like to ask the members of the Dáil to throw their minds back to that very day. Well over a week had elapsed since the Minister for Defence had tendered his resignation. We had heard nothing about it, but an alert political journalist disclosed that fact and also the fact that he had tendered his resignation not only once but twice. Therefore, when the Taoiseach spoke that morning we were told for the first time, having already read it in the daily newspapers, that the Minister for Defence had, in fact, tendered his resignation on the Tuesday mornings and again on the Friday evening of the President's resignation.

Then we come to two weeks later when the Taoiseach had returned from the Summit Conference of the EEC in The Hague and, as is customary, gave notice that he intended to give an account of what happened in The Hague to the Dáil. However, by way of an aside—and as far as I know an aside of which no notice whatever had been given—the Taoiseach then announced the Cabinet changes before he went into the account of the proceedings in The Hague on the previous Monday and Tuesday. As we know, he assigned the Department of Defence to himself and made the other changes.

It was difficult to understand, first, why, in the light of what had been done, with his refusal to remove the Minister for Defence, his praise of the Minister in carrying out his duties, it was necessary at all to push the Minister for Defence from the job which, apparently, in the opinion of the Taoiseach, he had been doing so excellently and efficiently. It was obviously regarded by the country as a rebuke to the Minister for what he had said and done, but in the meantime the Taoiseach had succeeded in getting his own Deputies, and, indeed the Labour Deputies, into the division lobbies behind him in support of his actions. The Labour Deputies, I feel, trooped into the lobbies with some misgivings in all this affair, but I think the misgivings were, perhaps, more strident following the sudden announcement by the Taoiseach of his demotion of the Minister whom the previous week he had asked the Labour Deputies to support in the division lobbies. If Deputy Coughlan wishes to pursue that one, perhaps we can discuss it.

I will go further than that if I may.

Deputy Coughlan may or may not know of difficulties that could have arisen in his party as a result of that.


It is difficult for me to do that when every second line of every second speech in the recent Labour Party conference seemed not to be justifying Labour's performance as part of the Government——

You are stunned with the result.

——but an attack on Fianna Fáil, which shows very clearly to me that they are terrified of their lives of us.

The reverse is the truth.

(Cavan): May I laugh at that?

By all means. The same applies to the recent debate on the Government's handling of the economy, which rather turned on a debate of the Opposition's policy in relation to the economy. There was no policy to discuss except that of the Opposition on that occasion. I want to tell Deputy Coughlan that we all know of the misgivings that overtook the Labour Party if not on the day they trooped into the division lobby behind the Taoiseach in support of his Minister for Defence then, subsequently when the Taoiseach took action in relation to the same Minister for Defence and demoted him to what is regarded as a less important ministry.

It is not my intention to discuss Deputy Oliver Flanagan's performance, or his likely performance, or his suitability for the post. He will not get much opportunity of establishing himself, in my opinion, but what I have been saying is typical of the Government's handling of the country's affairs, particularly in the last 12 to 18 months. They bungled one aspect of administration after another. We have had bungling of budgetary matters, bungling of the national wage negotiations, bungling in the equal pay for women legislation and bungling in the promises made in the last budget to increase social welfare payments all round by 1st October. We have had the contradictory statements about children's allowances by the Minister for Finance and the Tánaiste, the second most important member of the Government. After two years of piling on oppressive taxes on petrol and other commodities we now have the Minister for Education, supported to some extent by the Minister for Finance, telling us that the country is overtaxed. It is they who have done this over the last three years in ways that were not regarded as being ordinary decent practice of tax imposition.

I should like to remind the House of the manner in which the colossal increase in petrol tax was imposed more than two years ago under the guise of the Imposition of Duties Act.

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy but I am sure he will agree that social and economic policy was discussed here recently and it would not be in order to reopen such a debate.

I submit I am entitled to discuss any aspect of Government policy under this motion because of precedent and, even to disregard precedent, because of the concept of collective responsibility and because the member of the Government who previously held the office now being filled by Deputy Oliver Flanagan was the Taoiseach. For those reasons I believe I am entitled to speak as widely as I wish.

I am afraid Standing Orders would preclude us from repetition in respect of some recent debates we have had.

In what way am I restricted?

In respect of widening the debate to the area of social and economic policy.

It is Government policy generally for which the Taoiseach is primarily responsible. The Taoiseach is the person who is now giving up the portfolio of Minister for Defence. Am I restricted in talking about Government policy in such circumstances?

I am ruling out repetition of recent debates and I am sure the Deputy will appreciate the need for that.

What I am about to say is, in general, in relation to the Government's performance. Almost since the Government took office we have seen many examples of misleading propaganda, diverse and contradictory statements by members of the Governments in their attempts to cover up the disastrous performance of the Government in relation to all aspects of administration during that period. I have dealt with the Taoiseach's attempt at misrepresentation in not disclosing to the House certain facts in relation to the stance of the Minister for Defence following his insult to the President. He tried to misrepresent the Fianna Fáil statement on the economy when, during the course of that recent debate on the Government's performance generally he tried to claim that the Fianna Fáil economic proposals would cost £650 million. He tried to justify that by saying that the immediate precise proposals would cost £3 million, which they would not, and then said it would be necessary to increase the cost of government by £350 million in the coming year, something which would have to be done anyway. Even if the statement in relation to £650 million was true, more than half of that figure is because of the Government's mishandling of the economy. The implication there was that the £350 million would have to be found by either borrowing or taxation. There was no question of money coming in anyway from buoyancy.

I should like to know what happened to the marvellous economic recovery which the Ministers for Finance and Industry and Commerce promised were under way. What happened to the higher economic growth rate the Minister for Finance so confidently expected? Was all this another example of thinking out loud? The second example of this kind of misrepresentation of Fianna Fáil's position came from the leader of the Labour Party, the Tánaiste, Deputy Corish, when he said at his party's conference last month that our proposals for more spending by borrowing were a belated conversion from our earlier opposition to such action. That is not true. We did not object to temporary borrowing provided it was used to maintain jobs and keep down prices in the aftermath of the oil crisis. What we objected to, and still do, was the incompetent way the National Coalition borrowed huge sums and ran up enormous debts, driving up inflation and increasing unemployment. Moreover, the Government have run up these huge debts from foreign borrowings at a time when the value of sterling was going down making the cost of these borrowings to the Irish taxpayer all the greater burden. In spring 1974, we were attacking the National Coalition budget for this reason and now we have seen the folly of their policies. We have been consistent since then in our attack on these policies. The fact that we were correct can be seen in two ways. Firstly, the disastrous failure of the National Coalition's approach to our position generally, an approach which has led to record levels of unemployment and inflation. This is plain even to their most ardent support. Secondly, the National Coalition are adopting policies adumbrated and suggested by Fianna Fáil.

Earlier when we stressed the importance of investment and the need to hold down costs in order to preserve jobs we were scorned at for being reactionary allies of big business but today, when the jobs are gone and the dole queues are stretched to unprecedented lengths, we have not only Fine Gael Deputies but Labour Deputies preaching the same message of the need for investment; the need for incentives; the need for reasonable profits in industry in order to create new employment, the need for pay restraint in order to get people back to work. Why must they always inflict damage before they finally learn the stupidity of the extravagant claims to create an economic paradise, instantly and effortlessly, which they seem to have been making over the last three years?

I have given the Deputy a good deal of latitude but I am bound to say again that in my opinion this motion does not encompass a discussion on Government policy and that in any case we had a debate on Government and economic policy quite recently in November last. There should not be a reopening of that debate.

Is the Chair being motivated or guided by precedent in this respect?

I am motivated by the Standing Orders of the House.

And does precedent have any effect on the decision?

I have given the Deputy a good deal of latitude but the motion before us today deals with whether a certain Member should be appointed to the Government.

I will talk about appointment of Members to the Government in a previous debate in such a context and I refer the Chair to the Official Report of Dáil Debates on 6th May, 1970, column 640. The title of the debate was "Nomination of Member of Government". When I made a suggestion that the debate ought to be restricted to that very motion the then Leader of the Opposition said:

I want to make it quite clear that there can be no restriction on the extent of discussion. Any matters that are involved in this ... are open to discussion without restriction.

Later on in the same column, Deputy Cosgrave said:

Let us start with this but it must be clearly understood that there is no restriction on the terms of this discussion.

The discussion proceeded on that basis. We are now to conform to a different set of rules on this motion which bears the exact same title?

It may well be that the Taoiseach on that occasion referred to the circumstances surrounding the termination of the appointments of certain Members of the Government and so widened the scope of the debate at that time.

I shall try again and if I go outside the rules of Order as the Chair sees them, the Chair can stop me. I shall avoid conflict with the Chair because I respect the Chair's decisions and appreciate its difficulties but we have not succeeded in getting the kind of latitude that would seem to have been accorded to Oppositions in previous Administrations. Perhaps it is a question of different interpretation.

The Chair will afford the Deputy every latitude but wants to dissuade the House as a whole from debating on this occasion the Government social and economic policy.

The Taoiseach is responsible for all these aspects of Government policy and administration and, as I argued earlier, the Taoiseach is just now relinquishing one post and assigning it to another. Generally, to deal with other aspects of the Administration, I leave myself in the Chair's hands as to whether in his opinion I am transgressing the rules of Order, unduly widening the scope of the debate in respect of which the only precedent of which I am aware is the one I have just quoted where it was asserted that there would be no limitation to the extent of the debate and that, in fact, was what happened. I shall not go into the matter in any greater detail except to complete what I was saying, that the Government have now adopted Fianna Fáil policies which they criticised some weeks ago. They propose tax cuts in lieu of wage increases. I accept that the level of tax cuts proposed, £50 million will only be barely sufficient—if sufficient —to catch up with the inflationary trend now standing at about 18.5 per cent for which they have been largely —I shall not say solely—responsible.

I was not present at the time but for the third time in this House—or perhaps the fourth—that I have spoken on this matter I have suffered the mispresentation repeated so often by the Minister for Local Government about housing. Housing is an area, as the figures will show ultimately of which the Government or the Minister for Local Government himself can hardly feel proud. Notwithstanding that the Chair permitted me several months ago to call on the Minister to withdraw his imputation against me about reducing or trying to reduce the number of local authority built houses, the Minister has been persistently making that charge. However, I shall ignore it. But I repeat what I said, that this Government have made it virtually impossible for people who wish to buy their own homes to do so because of the Government's refusal to increase the amount of grants and the level of income at which people will qualify for loans and grants.


Hear, hear.

The list could be extended but I do not want to come in conflict with the Chair who has restricted my scope considerably. There are very many other examples of bungling by this Government, of failure to be frank with people, of trying to confuse people's minds with contradictory statements—the Minister for Finance talking of reducing or abolishing children's allowances and then being told by the Minister for Social Welfare that he was talking out of turn. But the people and the House know the whole story down to the last sordid details. What is important now is to ensure that the people will get an early opportunity of giving judgment on the malperformance of this Government. Merited and justified though the Taoiseach may think the changes he has made in the Government are, I do not think he went far enough; he should have begun a bit higher up and changed the Minister for Finance because of the terrible financial and economic mess in which the country is at present. Perhaps it would be still better if he gave the people the opportunity to change the Government as a whole. That is what the people are waiting for.

The appointment of a Minister for Defence is probably one of the most important decisions that this House has to consider. It is important because it relates to the security forces and the Minister appointed must have credibility and enjoy confidence. In a period of national emergency it is even more important that we should have a Minister with credibility who would engender confidence, one who is not irresponsible or reckless in his approach to problems. We would like to hear from the Taoiseach or other Members why Deputy O.J. Flanagan is being appointed to the post of Minister for Defence. The Taoiseach gave no explanation as regards his suitability, no reasons why he was being appointed.

Common sense will demand an answer to these questions. Why was he appointed? It was not on merit. He does not have the loyalty one would expect a Minister to have because during the debates on the Offences Against the State Act he was plotting to overthrow his Leader. Even after the bombs had fallen he disregarded the advice of his Leader and marched into the division lobby to vote against that Act. In view of his recklessness on that occasion and his attitude to his Leader and to offences against the State, one wonders why Deputy O.J. Flanagan is now being promoted to this important post during a period of national emergency. Was it because of influence or power behind the scenes? Where does the power lie which has put this Deputy into the Department of Defence? These questions will have to be answered. I will deal in greater detail with this sorry situation as the debate proceeds. Why and how are the two important questions at the moment.

Perhaps some members from the Government benches will clear up the doubt in many people's minds about this situation. What power did Deputy O.J. Flanagan exercise over the Taoiseach? It was a self-appointment and a self-announcement; it was not an announcement from the Taoiseach.

The situation in the Department of Defence over the years could be described by most responsible people as a sorry mess and a joke. The Taoiseach has set himself up as a little Hitler. His Ministers for Defence are mere puppets. Within the past three weeks we had three different Ministers for Defence. The Taoiseach lasted fewer than three weeks and now we will have a new Minister. Deputy Donegan when Minister for Defence was a puppet and carried the can for many irresponsible actions which can be laid at the Taoiseach's door. I will deal with this point in more detail later.

We had hoped that a man with a mind of his own, who would be uncontaminated by the prompts of the Taoiseach, would have been promoted to this post. Patronage by the Taoiseach to friends and cronies has become very evident in recent times. He made a horrible mess of Defence. While Deputy Donegan had many shortcomings, no one can deny that he was concerned about security. One of his faults was that he yielded to the Taoiseach's whims, did his bidding and did not think for himself. We know the sorry mess the then Minister made of illegal promotions which, in many cases, were the friends and cronies of the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach in recent weeks again decided to show his contempt for the young officers in the Army by making promotions available to people of the Equitation School. While some of these men may have been nearing promotion stage, nevertheless the promotions have disturbed the confidence of the men who have made a career of the Army. Promotions must be based on merit and military ability. Hard hats and horses are no substitute for military efficiency. For the future we want Ministers for Defence or Taoisigh who will not interfere with or upset the morale of the Defence Forces during a period of national emergency. The Papa Doc approach of the Taoiseach is all too evident in his complete disregard of junior officers and officers entitled to promotion. While these recent promotions were within the law, they were on the basis of the men's ability to sell horses. In one of our newspapers these promotions were referred to as "promotions personal to themselves". Nevertheless they were an injustice to the many because they were not based on military efficiency.

Down the years members of our Defence Forces, officers, NCOs and men, gave creditable service on battlefields abroad and carried the flag with distinction in the interests of justice and peace. These people were not promoted. It is a sad day for the Defence Forces when the sale of horses takes precedence over military efficiency. I thought the Taoiseach would have come to his senses after the appalling situation that developed after the illegal promotions by Deputy Donegan of the Taoiseach's cronies and friends.

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy but he will appreciate that it would not be in order to go into detail in respect of matters appertaining to the Department of Defence on this motion. I have allowed the Deputy to make references but detail is not in order.

That is what this debate is all about—corruption and jobs for the boys.

The Chair will decide these matters.

In view of the enormous amount of corruption that is taking place, it will be very difficult not to go outside the rigid lines set by the Ceann Comhairle. Nevertheless, to operate within those rigid lines, we can still expose the situation. I want to point out that the illegal promotions took place at the behest of the Taoiseach and that the then Minister had to carry the can but got no support from the man who prompted him. His desertion of Deputy Donegan on two occasions was all too evident.

Recently he came into this House and misled us about his confidence in the then Minister. At a later stage he ratted and threw the man to the wolves. While this man had shortcomings, I would hate to see a colleague of mine betrayed and thrown to the wolves as this man was by the Taoiseach. Maybe in the not-too-distant future Deputy O.J. Flanagan will be thrown to the wolves too.

Again, I ask why was this irresponsible man, this character assassin, appointed to this post? We all know his track record over the years and that must be a factor in his promotion here today. Whatever instructions the Taoiseach gives to the new Minister, promotions must be on the basis of military merit and not on hard hats and horses.

The morale of the Defence Forces is at a much lower level than ever before and this is a very serious matter. Recent promotions have aggravated responsible officers who felt they were in line for promotion. It would appear to me that during the next few years we will have more officers appointed from outside the establishment than within the establishment because of the extension of service and the basis on which officers were promoted recently.

I want to say in relation to the Papa Doc approach of the Taoiseach that his contempt for the institutions of State is all too evident. The law and order song which he and his Ministers have been singing for far too long is used only when he feels it is to the advantage of himself and his party. His contempt for the highest office of the land was shown all too clearly by his action during the recent debate on the Donegan affair. His reference during the 1973 ard-fheis to Árus an Uachtaráin being turned into a funeral parlour is another indication of his irresponsibility and his attitude towards the institutions of this State. I would hope that in a short time we will have a new Taoiseach who will respect the institutions of State and who will be concerned about law and order not for the sake of party considerations. This self-styled law and order group are exposed now because of their complete and utter irresponsibility.

The appointment of a Minister for Defence during a period of national emergency, without any explanation as to his credibility or his standing, without taking into consideration the man's track record and background, is appalling. The misleading of the Dáil, as pointed out by Deputy Lynch recently, is a factor that brings discredit on the Taoiseach as the Leader of this House. He is not the only Minister who has tended to discredit the institutions of State.

To arouse the minds of the people at home and abroad we have another Minister endeavouring to project himself as being another armchair general. That is one thing which the Coalition parties are not short of, armchair generals. In the person of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs we have a man who is fomenting civil war, who speaks about Lebanese situations developing in this country, who is ultraconservative, who is not concerned with the unity of the nation or the fight for freedom which took place in the past. The men of 1916 have been trampled on by references to them by the Minister and by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach. The fascist-type tactics of many of the Ministers is very evident in statements both inside and outside the House. The Taoiseach, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Lands and other Ministers have adopted the same type of tactics.

There must be a realistic approach, in the area of defence, to the security problems which confront the nation, but security is being threatened by putting into office an irresponsible Minister. I have outlined here the type of man that Deputy Flanagan is. Before I deal with his suitability, I want to say that he was plotting to overthrow his present Leader when we were discussing the legislation in relation to offences against the State. He disregarded the advice given by his Leader and marched into the division lobbies to vote against the Act. What forces have been brought to bear on the Taoiseach? What non-elected influence and power has been brought to bear to have this man promoted? Remember that the Taoiseach did not make the announcement. It was made in defiance of the Taoiseach by Deputy Oliver John Flanagan himself.

I would hope that the patronage has stopped and that the situation will be terminated whereby the morale and efficiency of the Defence Forces is being disturbed by irresponsible actions of the Taoiseach and his puppets. Puppets they are and Deputy Flanagan has got this promotion on the basis that he will do exactly as he is told by the Taoiseach just as the previous Minister. The same fate will befall Deputy Flanagan when he makes mistakes which he is bound to make because of his irresponsible and reckless approach to problems. His appointment now is a sorry joke. Forget the horse trading in relation to Army efficiency. Get down to the basis of military efficiency and ensure that the Army is fit and able to deal with an emergency situation in an effective way.

There are other matters regarding the Defence Forces which are disturbing the minds of the people and one of them is the selection of cadets. The method of selection is suspect and must be examined at the earliest possible opportunity. The diversion of key officers into dead-end positions is horrifying. When influence is used in the selection of personnel there is a continuity of corruption that can only lead to a terrible situation in the future. Some realism must be brought to bear and there must be a fair method of selection and promotion. As the Taoiseach is the defence dictator, I would appeal to him to show some responsibility at this late stage and ensure that those people who have served the nation wisely over the years will be duly appreciated and will get promotion on the basis of merit and then on seniority, all other things being equal.

One small section of the Army which has no military value should not be singled out as the only avenue for promotion to senior rank and as the most important area in the Defence Forces to which a person could direct his energies if he wanted to be promoted. If this particular racket continues then many people will have second thoughts about the equitation school and its continuity and will judge it in a very different light. The selling of horses is no substitute for military efficiency and promotions should be based on efficiency and merit.

I wish to draw attention to the difficulty one experiences in trying to obtain information about the Defence Forces and their activities abroad. Even by writing to the Secretary General of the United Nations one cannot break through the barrier, the purpose of which seems to be to ensure that information will not be given to the Members of this House.

I want to refer to the reports which I saw time and time again from the Minister for Foreign Affairs in relation to the Congo operation. What is printed in them has turned out to be a tissue of lies and when I endeavoured to get further information to counteract those lies in the United Nations' official report I was told by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that some of the information that the United Nations had could not be revealed until the people who gave it were dead. A book published by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has substantiated what I say now, that many of the reports of the United Nations dealing with the activities on which I sought information concerning members of the Defence Forces in action abroad were a tissue of lies that must have percolated from the United Nations Organisation in the Congo at the time. This was the responsibility of Deputy Conor Cruise-O'Brien, now Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. Until matters like this are corrected and factual and full information is given to this House to enable us to assess fully the credibility of the work done by Irish soldiers abroad, a serious doubt must remain in my mind about the coverup by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. It was his office and he was responsible, and when the reports were published if he did not have them corrected he was again responsible for the erroneous reports now in the library of this House.

For a considerable period, three years, there have been no promotions in the FCA to senior rank. Nevertheless, the Taoiseach can promote officers in the equitation school and make personal appointments there while men in the field training personnel to combat subversive organisations and to maintain security within the State are completely disregarded. It is illogical that there should be personal promotion at this stage within the Defence Forces when members who have been entitled to promotion for the last three years are overlooked, cast aside and not allowed to do their duty as they should be, and are not getting promotion to which they are entitled. Members who should have been promoted and who want to soldier on and serve this nation loyally and faithfully are now reaching the age limit. They now find themselves phased out into civilian life because of lack of opportunity. It is illogical that personal promotions would take place while promotions are due in the field and are not being given to the people entitled to them.

I hope there will be some sanity in relation to defence affairs and to promotion for not alone the permanent Defence Forces but also the FCA. It is a disgrace that the matter has been handled in this shabby way. If a man has got a horse and a tall hat he does not register for promotion in the eyes of the Taoiseach.

The Deputy is going into the kind of detail in respect of defence matters which would be more appropriate to the Estimate.

We had the dictation of the Taoiseach in relation to other matters that have disturbed the Defence Forces. I am not going into detail on all the matters that have disturbed the minds of many persons serving in the Defence Forces. They are all too well known to the Taoiseach because in many cases he was responsible. He is the dictator. He is the Papadopolous directing the activities. He is the man who prompts the Ministers to make silly pronouncements. I would not be surprised if the statement made recently in a military barracks at Mullingar had, beforehand, got some prompting from the Taoiseach and other members of the Cabinet as to what he might say, and he probably said it in the wrong way.

We have a situation in the Curragh where a prison was built in the middle of a military barracks. I understand that the Taoiseach was responsible for this decision, that he was partly or to a large extent responsible for the selection of this site, a site that has caused concern to military personnel, officers, NCOs and men, in the Curragh Camp. I hope that serious matters such as the location of a prison in the middle of a military establishment such as the Curragh will not be repeated in the future. It is a serious situation that has caused great concern and made the post vulnerable. Maybe that is the reason why it is left lying aside. The House has been misled in relation to this prison by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs on one occasion when he answered questions in relation to defence on the Estimates that were before this House.

The Deputy is getting very far away from the matter before the House.

This relates to the defence area in general where people make statements that they know to be untrue. The collective responsibility of the Government lay in that each and every member knew the reason why the prison was being built and the circumstances under which it was built, but this House was misled by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs on the occasion of an Estimate here. When I questioned him in relation to it he told me that no prison was being built in the Curragh. When I asked the reason why it was built there and mentioned how it had disturbed the minds of personnel serving there and how it made the post more vulnerable than it was, the Minister misled this House.


Order. Deputy Dowling.

There is no need to lie about the situation.

The Deputy knows full well that it is wrong and disorderly to ascribe to a Member of this House that he deliberately misled the House.

If the Chair wants me to withdraw I will rephrase what I have to say. If the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, who was dealing with the Estimate for Defence at that time, was not aware of what was happening within the Cabinet and of the development of a prison in the Curragh, then he was completely out of touch with his colleagues. It would appear that only a certain segment of the Cabinet knows how this country is being run and some of the facts about this very important matter. I feel that the Minister did know and that he misled the House on that occasion, because the record——

I have already ruled on that, Deputy. The Deputy may not say that. It is not in order to say that any Member deliberately misled this House.

On that occasion I can say that he was a stranger to the truth.

I do not know what the implication of that remark is.

In relation to the matters I have referred to, we must now get on with the job of security and the career structure. We must create the necessary confidence. This is going to be a vast problem with the decline in morale. Promotions should not be based on hard hats and horses. There should be something more than that in relation to promotion.

Deputies should not indulge in repetition.

Such promotions disturb the minds of responsible people and those who are members of the Defence Forces. I want to get back to the question of the appointment of Deputy Oliver Flanagan. As I stated earlier, the appointment of a Minister for Defence in a period of national emergency is most important and the confidence and the credibility of the individual are all-important. When we look across the page of history what do we find in relation to the man now being appointed as Minister for Defence? We find that he has been adjudged absolutely irresponsible. These are not my words, they are the words of other people. One wonders why he was promoted and how he was promoted. It is very disturbing when the man can announce his own promotion. What hidden or open influence is there behind this promotion? It is disturbing in this particular appointment to have influences outside of the House operating. We would like the Taoiseach to come out into the open and tell us the pressures which were applied to him.

Deputy Oliver Flanagan has been a long time in the House. He has been described in many ways in different countries. He has been described as O.J. Flanagan, MP, in one country because that is the way he signed the register. I want to deal, first of all, with the suitability of this man for the post of Minister for Defence. On 13th November, 1972 we had a very important debate on the Offences Against the State Bill. I want to quote some of the statements made by Deputy Flanagan before I deal further with his appointment and his other actions in the past to show how completely unsuitable he is for this post. During the Second Stage debate of the Offences Against the State Bill, 1972 in Volume 264, column 563 of the Official Report he stated:

I left this House with a clear conscience. Although I had no guarantee I would return here I considered I had performed a noble and just act and so long as I was at peace with myself I knew I had justified my membership of this House. There is nothing more difficult to live with as an uneasy conscience. Therefore, a Bill of this kind must be examined by every Deputy and each one of us must realise that he will have to live with his conscience.

He went on to say in column 564 of the same volume: cow the people and to threaten them with tanks, bayonets and with stripes on uniforms. We have seen an example of this recently in this country.

This shows the type of man Deputy Flanagan is and his respect for law and order on that occasion with his references in the House in relation to the Offences Against the State Bill, in relation to the role of the Army and the role they would play in relation to offences against the State. He was the only member of the Fine Gael Party to vote against the closing Stages of that Bill. This is the man we now have with those bayonets, stripes and authority over those people. This is the man who is now being put in charge of the Defence Forces. He had contempt for law and order, as indicated in his speech in the House on the Second Stage of the Offences Against the State Bill. We are now in a period of national emergency and this man is being put in charge of our Defence Forces.

I want to go further to show the type of man Deputy Flanagan is and how irresponsible he is. This is not alone on our assessment but on that of the Judiciary in relation to aspects they examined of the reckless and irresponsible action of Deputy Flanagan in this House in relation to another matter. I will point out a few items to show how hypocritical this man is and the type of man the Taoiseach is now appointing to the very sensitive area of defence where he will have under his command thousands of men whom he despised in the House. This man had contempt in 1972 for the officers, NCOs and men of the Defence Forces and for the security of the State.

The Taoiseach only gave three or four lines of a statement to the House this morning. He gave no explanation of Deputy Flanagan's suitability. He could not do so because he knows the man is completely unsuitable. I want to quote from the Locke's Distillery Report of Tribunal, 1947. The report states:

In like manner, we found it necessary to exercise extreme caution in dealing with the evidence of Deputy Flanagan. We found him very uncandid and much disposed to answer questions unthinkingly as if he were directing his replies elsewhere than to the Tribunal.

He showed complete disrespect for the tribunal on that occasion. The report goes on to state:

On several occasions he contradicted himself and was disposed to shift his ground, when he found that answers already given would lead him where he did not wish to go. He was, on other occasions, in conflict with testimony which we believed to be true. In respect of two matters we are satisfied that he told us what he knew to be untrue. One of these was of little importance save as a test of his credibility. The other was of some importance. He denied that he took any notes of his first interview with Mr. Cooney, Junior. Mr. Cooney said he did and was not cross-examined upon this. Recalled specially upon this point towards the close of our sittings, Mr. Cooney repeated this evidence and again was not cross-examined.

Those learned gentlemen who sat on that tribunal went on to say:

We are satisfied, and so find, that Deputy Flanagan did take notes at this interview and we can attribute his denial only to the supposition that the notes, if produced, would not substantiate his evidence as to what Mr. Cooney told him. In the circumstances, in so far as the matter is material, we feel more disposed to accept Mr. Cooney's evidence relating to that interview than that of Deputy Flanagan.

Those are the words not of a politician but of the learned gentlemen from the bench who sat on this particular occasion. On page 17 of this report they go on to state:

We found it quite impossible to follow or appreciate Deputy Flanagan's ever shifting evidence as to the meaning to be attached to the allegation that a Minister of State had a keen personal interest in the sale of the Distillery. There is not a scintilla of evidence that any Minister had a particle of such interest. The charge is an extremely grave one. We are satisfied that it is wholly untrue, that it is entirely without foundation and that it was made with a degree of recklessness amounting to complete irresponsibility.

They are not my words or the words of a politician. They are the words of a responsible member of the Judiciary, who found him completely, absolutely reckless and irresponsible. That is the man that the Taoiseach has promoted or has been forced to promote to the position of Minister for Defence. Deputy Flanagan announced his own promotion and at a later stage after some hassle the Taoiseach decided to fall in line. No reasons were given in this House as to why this man has been proposed for the position. This man who has been adjudged by the Judiciary as reckless and irresponsible will now be in charge of a vital force at a time of national emergency. How low can we sink? What pressures were applied by non-elected representatives behind the scenes to ensure that this man was promoted? Before this debate is over we may have an indication of the pressures that were applied. The tribunal also said:

We accept, without reserve, the evidence of Senator Quirke and Miss Quirke with reference to the gold watch and also the evidence of Dr. de Valera and the Taoiseach. In our opinion there is no foundation to this allegation and we consider that the charge contained was made with extravagant references and complete absence of a sense of responsibility.

We are being asked to support that man. In Schedule 21 of this tribunal 49 persons who gave evidence on oath are named. I am not merely throwing charges across this House. This is evidence given by people on oath and it is the assessment of the members of the Judiciary who examined the situation. How many times in the future will we have to deal with Deputy Flanagan's irresponsibility in the House? On all too many occasions in the past we heard Deputy Flanagan's irresponsible charges in this House. This report shows the type of man Deputy Flanagan is and that is the type of man that the Taoiseach chooses to put into this sensitive post during a period of national emergency. One would think that the Taoiseach, who gave military service to this nation, who served this nation in arms, wisely and well, would have some respect for the people who are now serving, and for the security of the nation in the future, and that he would not put this position into the hands of an irresponsible political pauper who will make statements of one type or another to project himself. As a result of this tribunal, Deputy Flanagan was shown up for the man he is, by responsible people in a responsible manner. Having been given the benefit of the doubt, he has been assessed as being irresponsible and reckless. If Deputy Flanagan made these charges before, he will make them again. Despite these charges of the past, the Taoiseach has chosen to put this man in charge of the Defence Forces. This man has been regarded as being irresponsible and as a liar before a tribunal.

Order. If the Deputy is going to make serious allegations of the kind he has outlined, he must quote the exact words from the tribunal. He ought not to add or subtract from it or make deductions.

I base my argument on what the learned gentlemen of this tribunal heard in evidence. I did not hear all the evidence but these men are beyond reproach and that was their assessment of the situation. Many times in this booklet Deputy Flanagan's absolute disregard for the truth, his irresponsibility in dealing with the affairs of State is shown. This is the most sensitive ministry in the Cabinet and it calls for dedication and responsibility of the highest order. Over the years we have been accustomed to Deputy Flanagan's reckless approach to every matter that has come before the House. This is the man above all other men that the Taoiseach chooses to put into this sensitive position. The Taoiseach should be charged with absolute and complete irresponsibility if in the knowledge of the contents of this report he proposes Deputy Flanagan as Minister for Defence. The members of the Judiciary called it reckless irresponsibility. They are being kind. They regard it as extravagant recklessness and a complete absence of a sense of responsibility. The Taoiseach now asks this House to accept this man as Minister for Defence.

The Defence Forces are vital in a period of national emergency and this man has been proposed to fill the position of Minister for Defence and this House has been asked to accept this man and to vote confidence in this man who has been adjudged as reckless and irresponsible by responsible members of the Judiciary. It is too sad that members of the Defence Forces will now be saddled with such a man. The appointment of this man amounts to recklessness and complete irresponsibility. The Taoiseach knows the facts and he knows the man so it is complete and absolute irresponsibility to promote him to this position. What pressures were applied by this man, this self-appointed Minister, on the Taoiseach? This man must have a great hold over the Taoiseach that he can dictate what post he will take and how he will operate. Having regard to the evidence presented by responsible members of the Judiciary, it is beyond comprehension that any Taoiseach would promote a man who was as reckless and irresponsible. These men were kind in their assessment of the Deputy. Some 49 persons gave evidence on oath before the tribunal and they indicated he was absolutely irresponsible, that he was guilty of recklessness and complete irresponsibility.

We are being asked to approve the appointment of a man guilty of all these things to a sensitive post. Is that the respect the Taoiseach has for the dedicated members of the Defence Forces, that he would put a man of this calibre to deal with this important Department? He is appointing a man whose evidence the tribunal found was wholly untrue and entirely without foundation and which was made with a degree of recklessness amounting to complete irresponsibility. That is the person being appointed to the vital area of defence. Whatever faults Deputy Donegan may have, he may have been acting on the advice of the Taoiseach or other members of the Cabinet. He may have been prompted before he went to Mullingar barracks and he may have been encouraged to say what he would not have uttered normally——

The Deputy must not make allegations he cannot sustain.

I am dealing with the facts of the situation.

The Deputy is making allegations.

We know what Deputy Donegan said at Mullingar barracks. We know what brought about his downfall. We know how the Taoiseach, the Government and their supporters came into this House to vote confidence in Deputy Donegan and we know also that at a later stage the Taoiseach hit him with an axe and kicked him out.

The Deputy is making allegations against the Taoiseach and members of the Government.

What I say is a statement of fact. This is what happened in this House and at Mullingar. There is no supposition attached to it; it is factual.

Allegations are not factual.

What I have said are substantiated facts and that is why the man was kicked out of office at a later stage. We cannot allow this kind of hypocrisy to continue.

The Deputy will not be allowed to use words such as "hypocrisy".

It was the height of hypocrisy for the Taoiseach to bring his Government and supporters into this House to vote confidence and then to kick out the Deputy at a later stage.

The Deputy will not be allowed to use the word "hypocrisy". He must withdraw it.

In what respect?

In the way the Deputy has used it. The Deputy said the Taoiseach was guilty of hypocrisy.

He was stupid in his approach.

The Deputy will not say that either.

Then, the Taoiseach was completely irresponsible in dealing with this matter. He is responsible for his Ministers, he is responsible for those who support him and who were motivated by his promptings. In my opinion there is no doubt that when Deputy Donegan made his statement at Mullingar he was motivated by what he was told and by the promptings of the Taoiseach.

The Deputy continues to make allegations.

Is it in order for the Deputy to repeat himself?

Perhaps it is necessary because it does not seem to be getting through. If anything seems to be offensive in this House it usually means it is getting to the target. There is plenty of other material I can use. The Deputy can speak next if he is allowed. I will not be muzzled. If the Deputy wishes to make a contribution, he can do so. With regard to the proposed appointment of Deputy Flanagan to the office of Minister for Defence, we have shown clearly that he is completely unsuited for this sensitive post. The hypocrisy attached to this debate is appalling. We know that pressures must have been applied and in years to come this appointment will be a joke. I have no doubt that the lobby trotters of Fine Gael and Labour will ensure that this man who has been judged irresponsible by the learned gentlemen who dealt with the tribunal will be appointed to this important post. We are being asked to appoint such a man to a sensitive position in a period of national emergency.

I hope some sanity will prevail before this debate is completed. Perhaps the Taoiseach will reconsider the situation and take the right action. Perhaps he will be courageous enough to remedy the situation. He has all the facts. He knows the situation and the man and knows the kind of evidence he gave to the tribunal. What would happen in a period of national emergency if such a man were in the vital area of defence, a man who disregarded truth and common sense and whose tissue of lies were disregarded by the Judiciary? How can we expect such a man to operate in the sensitive area of defence where the lives of thousands of men and the security of the nation may be at stake? When the lobby trotters vote through the appointment today, they will be doing a great disservice to the nation and to the House.

I would appeal to the Taoiseach even at this late hour to reconsider the appointment on the basis of the man's track record, on the basis of his irresponsible approach, and on the basis of the assessment of the man by the Judiciary. He should be assessed on that basis, not on the bricks he can fire from the Government benches, and not on the manner in which he will try to bolster up the fallen arches of the Coalition Government. What is the pay-off for? It is important to ask: why the pay-off at this stage? Why is he being paid off? He is one of the most junior of the Parliamentary Secretaries. What hold has he got over the Taoiseach? What did he say to the Taoiseach? He is a self-appointed Minister.

For the first time the Taoiseach indicated this morning that he was appointing Deputy Flanagan as Minister for Defence, but Deputy Flanagan indicated himself that he was to be promoted. What hold has he over the Taoiseach? Why was he able to make an announcement of his own promotion? These are questions which will be asked and which must be answered. Over the years Deputy Flanagan has proved himself in many ways. This document proves that. He is the most professional character assassin in the business.

The Deputy will not be allowed to make those allegations. The Deputy will withdraw the words "character assassin".

If I have to withdraw the words "character assassin", I will say the man is a stranger to the truth. He is the most professional stranger to the truth in this House. The members of the tribunal were not politicians. It is a sorry state of affairs that, in a national emergency, the Taoiseach should decide to appoint such a man. Deputy Flanagan is a nice man to meet outside the division lobbies. He is a pleasant person to speak with, and he is a good friend of mine. Nevertheless, his appointment to this high office is another matter. His appointment at this time in this sensitive area is another matter.

It has been proven, not by Members of this House but by members of the Judiciary, that he was absolutely irresponsible and reckless. The evidence he gave was disregarded as being untrue. This is the man the Taoiseach now asks this House to accept as Minister for Defence. This is a man in whom the House is being asked to vote confidence. We will see what the lobby trotters will do today. How irresponsible can the Taoiseach be in presenting a man like that to this House as Minister for Defence, knowing his track record, knowing the mind of the man, and knowing how reckless he was? At that time he was not a member of the Fine Gael Party. He is now and he is acceptable with all his faults and with all his warts. The Taoiseach should tell us why he is promoting him and what pressures were applied for that promotion. He has not told us why a character assassin is being promoted.

The Deputy has again used an expression which the Chair has ruled out of order.

I am using that expression based on the findings of members of the Judiciary.

The Deputy will not be allowed to use that expression. The Deputy will withdraw it.

If there was any other suitable term I would be happy to use it.

The Deputy will not be allowed to use that expression.

The irresponsibility——

The Deputy will first withdraw the expression to which the Chair has taken exception.

Character assassin?

Yes. The Deputy will withdraw that expression.

If it suits the Chair I will withdraw it, but it does not alter my opinion.

That is not a withdrawal as the Deputy knows.

You cannot alter my thinking. In accordance with the rules of the House I withdraw the expression and substitute the term "stranger to the truth". Today we are asked to carry out a very important function which relates to the security of the nation and which relates to the Defence Forces. It is an insult to the serving members of the Defence Forces that this House, by sheer weight of numbers, should place in charge of responsible men who have laid their lives on the line an irresponsible Minister, a person who has been judged as absolutely irresponsible by High Court judges. They are not my words. They are the words of the judges who examined that case —a degree of recklessness amounting to complete irresponsibility——

The Deputy is repeating himself.

——extravagant recklessness, and a complete absence of a sense of responsibility. This is the man we are being asked to accept as Minister for Defence. At that tribunal those gentlemen sifted through all the evidence. On Saturday 7th February, 1948, immediately after the general election, Deputy Flanagan who headed the poll in Laois-Offaly sent a telegram to Mr. de Valera: "Laois-Offaly's answer to the Locke Tribunal leaves no doubt as to the belief in the existence of corruption. Eagerly awaiting the assembly of Dáil Éireann to reopen this and other similar public scandals". In all the years since, he has not reopened that or the other public scandals. He has an opportunity to come into the House today and reopen it and wipe the slate clean if he can. Let him come in here and project himself as an honourable and honest man who is suited to this important post of Minister for Defence. I believe there will be no answer to this challenge to Deputy Flanagan. He will hide behind the curtains until the lobby trotters are forced into the division lobbies, but that does not alter——

On a point of order, is it not the position that on a motion like this the person named is not entitled to be heard on his own behalf? This is a false challenge issued by Deputy Dowling. Is not that the position according to precedent and Standing Orders?

Deputy Esmonde may be peeved because he was not promoted. He may be a bit perturbed.

Who is the character assassin now?

If Deputy Esmonde wishes to speak he will have his opportunity. If he wishes to speak in support of this appointment he will have the same rights and opportunity as I have. If the Deputy wants my copy of the Locke Tribunal, he may have it with the greatest of pleasure. He might read it and see the type of man being appointed.

The Deputy made an allegation that Deputy O.J. Flanagan should come in here and deal with the matter. The Deputy cannot and Deputy Dowling knows that.

We must deal with this matter in depth and in the same manner as Deputy O.J. Flanagan would and has dealt with others in the past, recklessly and irresponsibly. We are being asked to vote confidence in a man in one of the most sensitive areas, that of defence.

The Deputy is repeating again.

I do not think there is any repetition in that. I am merely saying this House is being asked to vote confidence. Is that not a fact?

The Deputy knows he is repeating.

There are some things one cannot repeat too often, certainly in respect of a man as irresponsible as he is, to illustrate that he is irresponsible in a variety of ways one has to mention the fact on a number of occasions.

Repetition is not in order in the House.

The Offences Against the State Act, 1972, passed by this House was for a specific purpose, which is operational today, that of ensuring and maintaining the security of the nation. Deputy O.J. Flanagan completely disregarded that and said we were trying to cow the people and threaten them with tanks, bayonets and with stripes on uniforms. This is the man being put in charge of the Defence Forces. It is all too sad to think that the Taoiseach, with the vast number of potential Ministers behind him, with all the knocks on his door there were seeking promotion, could not have made a better choice. I understand the carpet was worn thin as a result of lobbying outside the Taoiseach's door, that they knocked the door in in an effort to get promotion.

Not the way Fianna Fáil did it.

The Taoiseach took what he regarded as the best of the bunch, Deputy O.J. Flanagan, about whom so much has been written in the past by learned gentlemen.


Deputies should cease interrupting.

It is just as well Deputy Lynch did not have to give the reason for Deputy Dowling's appointment to his Front Bench.

Would Deputy McMahon please cease interrupting.

The Deputy should ask him. Deputy O.J. Flanagan was a conscientious objector during the Second Stage debate on the Offences Against the State Act and, as one reads through the Official Report on that occasion, one gets an insight into his outlook. It is important to note that no other Member of the Fine Gael Party trotted in with the Labour Party on that occasion but Deputy O.J. Flanagan, the only Member disowned and disregarded by every other Member of Fine Gael on that vital question. No other Member of the Fine Gael Party appeared on that side of the division lobbies on that occasion. In 1972 he was disowned and despised by every member of his party.

He was never disowned in his constituency.

We will see what happens in his constituency next time.

The Deputy would like to have his vote, would he not?

Not at the expense of truth, justice and irresponsibility. If Deputy McMahon believes that an irresponsible man—and I shall not use the words I should like to use to express myself—absolutely irresponsible; and I would ask Deputy McMahon to read the Official Report of that time and see the man he will support today, see how he was regarded by the learned gentlemen of the Bench.

He was never in Green Street.

Will Deputies please cease interrupting?

Throughout his speeches here he was critical of the role of the Army. He indicated what he thought of them with their bayonets, stripes and uniforms. This is the man who contended that we were trying to cow the people and threaten them with tanks, bayonets and stripes on uniforms, that we had seen a recent example of that when a mob tried to rush the gates of this House and when the military were called out. If that is an indication of his trend of thought then surely Deputy O.J. Flanagan will not measure up to his responsibilities, will shy away from them if they demand courage and decision. And we find that he is a conscientious objector when we examine his statements in relation to the Offences Against the State Act. Either he is a conscientious objector or a liar.

The Deputy should not use the word "liar" in this House. The Deputy is well aware of these conventions of the House.

If he is not a conscientious objector, then he is lying.

The Deputy must not use that kind of expression. The Deputy is well aware of that.

The Deputy was either a stranger to the truth on that occasion or it is the other matter to which I have referred, whichever he thinks more suitable or less unpleasant to him. But it does not alter my opinion in relation to his activities in this House and his expressions of opinion during a sensitive period when other Ministers were endeavouring to ensure the security of the nation in a real and effective way.

Is the Deputy referring to 1970?

Will Deputies please allow Deputy Dowling make his own contribution?

Not May, 1970?

Deputies on all sides of the House know that the intention is that Deputies speaking will speak through the Chair, not to one another across the House. There should not be interruptions. When a Deputy speaks he should speak through the Chair and not to Deputies across the House. Other Deputies should cease interrupting until their time comes.

That is right, Sir. They are upsetting me.

At the time of that important debate on the Offences Against the State Act Deputy O.J. Flanagan was plotting to overthrow his own Leader. One wonders what pressure was exerted on the Leader after Deputy Flanagan made his announcement about this appointment. After the bombs had fallen Deputy Flanagan still indicated his contempt for his Leader and the party by trotting into the division lobbies, disregarding the views expressed in relation to a very sensitive and delicate period during which this legislation was debated. Even after the bombs had fallen Deputy O.J. Flanagan trooped into the division lobbies, having criticised the Defence Forces with, as he said, their tanks, bayonets and stripes. This is the man who is now being deemed fit to assume responsibility for the Department of Defence. At column 568 of the Official Report for 30th November, 1972, Deputy Flanagan said:

That is why I say section 5 of this Bill is a section which one would expect to be drafted by Fidel Castro or by a legislator such as Bulganin. This is undemocratic in all its forms. How can Fianna Fáil think they can say that this country cannot exist unless we have a law passed that every person who has a map, a photograph or a plan in his possession which, in the opinion of a garda, is not on him for a good reason can be thrown into jail?

I wonder what would the Deputy have to say about a man who was found to have in his possession a map of a military barracks. If we are to have regard to what the Deputy said in 1972, he would not regard such a matter as being serious. According to him anybody who wished should be free to have in his possession maps of military installations or plans designed to effect the sabotage of such installation. All of this is an indication of the total irresponsibility of the Deputy. As a lawyer, the Taoiseach must realise the extent of the Deputy's irresponsibility. During the sensitive area of which I have been speaking, the Deputy was plotting to overthrow his Leader. In announcing his intention to appoint this man as Minister for Defence, the Taoiseach did not endeavour to illustrate in what way Deputy Flanagan is suited to this post although we know that while attending a royal wedding on one occasion the Deputy referred to himself as an MP. He has appointed himself to the Department of Defence. On a number of occasions he has made it clear that he was the man for the job.

Leaks from the Department of Defence can be serious to the extent that this is the Department dealing with the security of the nation but we are now to have a man of leaks in charge of that Department. He is like a colander. However, we can only hope that common sense will prevail before this debate is concluded and that the Taoiseach will have second thoughts about this appointment. But should the appointment be proceeded with, even the simplest piece of information concerning the Department will be leaked to the Press if it is considered to have any political value in the Deputy's constituency. There will be no such concept as confidential information in relation to the Department of Defence.

The Deputy should not make serious allegations against a Member.

Down through the years serious charges have been made in regard to the Deputy. I refer, for example, to the tribunal report.

The Deputy is making his own serious allegations.

I have been basing them on the report of the tribunal.

The Deputy moves away when it suits him to do so. He has been making serious allegations against a Member and such serious allegations may not be made in the House.

I have been listening for a long time to Deputy Flanagan making serious allegations here but nobody appears to pay any heed to him. Perhaps he is ignored because he is irresponsible. However, I shall not pursue the point. I have no wish to embarrass the Taoiseach or the lobby trotters of the Government who will be asked to move into the division lobbies to support a man who has been described in a variety of ways by some learned judges.

I think I have dealt adequately with the question of the Deputy's suitability for the responsibility being entrusted to him but before I conclude there are a couple of matters I should like to mention. During a debate of this kind it is important that we keep an open mind and that we view the entire scene on a broad basis. It appears that the promotion of Deputy Flanagan arises from either of two reasons. It may stem either from his having something on the Taoiseach or from his agreeing to be a puppet in the minstrel show operated by the Taoiseach. The office of Minister for Defence is one for a man of merit, a man with a mind of his own. Deputy Flanagan's appointment is a self-appointment. He had let us know about it long before we had the informal announcement from the Taoiseach who, in a mere few words, told us of the intention to promote the Deputy. It is an appointment which is out of fashion since the Deputy has neither a horse nor a bowler hat. Therefore, some other pressures must have been applied in order that Deputy Flanagan would get this appointment.

There is the whole question of the sorry state of affairs that has led up to this embarrassing situation and I say it is embarrassing because of the manner in which the Taoiseach dealt with it, his bringing of Members of this House into the division lobby in defence of Deputy Donegan and then deciding to apply the axe so that the former Minister for Defence was an outcast from his party, an outcast from the Government when he got the axe from the Taoiseach. The savage and vicious way in which it was done prompted sympathy from even this side of the House. I felt sympathy for Deputy Donegan notwithstanding his irresponsibility and his shortcomings because of the way the Taoiseach's axe fell on him, the Taoiseach one day expressing confidence in him and a few days later giving him the boot. This shows pressures were applied to the Taoiseach from some source and he yielded to those pressures. As I said, Deputy Donegan's period in defence was not a very happy one. We know about the illegal promotions and how the regulations had to be changed.

One wonders why the Taoiseach left the decision to remove Deputy Donegan so long having put the House to the trouble of discussing the matter and bringing his supporters into the division lobbies. We would hope promotions henceforth in defence would be on an orderly basis, on the basis of merit and seniority, everything else being equal. We would hope a man's ability to ride a horse would not supersede military efficiency or technical ability or service. The morale of the Defence Forces has been completely shattered because of the way in which promotions were handled. The career prospects of men who dedicated their lives to the service of the nation have been shattered. I hope the appointment of Deputy Flanagan will not bring another rash of irresponsible promotions. The last thing I would like is a Defence Minister as a puppet of the Taoiseach. Apparently the Taoiseach will retain the say so. If he wants to be Minister for Defence, let him step down from this present position and be Minister for Defence. He has acted as Minister for Defence for the last few days. Let him not appoint a puppet and, when he does appoint a Minister, let him give the appointee the necessary power.

The Taoiseach has appointed the wrong man. I know senior and junior officers and men who were embarrassed in Mullingar because of the disgraceful manner in which the highest office in the land, that of President, was attacked. We did not find any officer on that occasion being expelled or those who clapped the then Minister being expelled. Responsible officers there bowed their heads in shame. We hope there will not be ever again a repetition of this bar room brawl. We hope we will never have another Minister for Defence making such reckless and irresponsible references to the highest office in the land.

We know the shortcomings of Deputy Oliver Flanagan. We know how prone he is to seeking publicity. He is now going into a very sensitive area and it is important that in a period of national emergency like this the Taoiseach would act with the responsibility befitting such an appointment. As the debate progresses, we hope the Taoiseach will have second thoughts and bring some realism into the situation. We hope common sense will prevail and that we will have a Minister for Defence capable of acting on his own without dictation from the Taoiseach. I hope that the Taoiseach will learn from the debate and take note of the problems that can develop when irresponsible people, people regarded as reckless by the Judiciary, are put into high office, such as that of Minister for Defence.

This debate is about corruption, jobs for the boys and hypocrisy. In the past three-and-a-half years this country has been presided over by a Government the members of which have corrupted public life by ruthlessly undermining the institutions of the State. We have a Government who, on the one hand, preach law and order and, on the other hand, make the most blatant and in some instances malodorous political appointments. They preach the defence of democratic institutions and, at the same time, by their behaviour they undermine the very institutions they pretend to defend. The whole fabric of life throughout the civil service, the Army, the legal profession and possibly even this House has not remained untouched by the Government's capacity to corrupt the concept of decency in public life.

How can the Deputy say that about the legal profession?

I am not suggesting that about the legal profession and the Parliamentary Secretary need not put words into my mouth that I did not say. The Parliamentary Secretary has a great capacity for that sort of thing. I am suggesting that the jobs-for-the-boys syndrome runs as a corrupt thread and has a corrupting influence on the public mind and that has been evident throughout the whole period in office of this Government.

It was this Government freed the legal profession from that sort of exercise.

This Government have ruthlessly taken the opportunity to appoint one officer in the Army over another because he follows the political dictates of the Coalition. On the other hand, there have been appointed to the Bench well-known supporters of the Government, and there is an example of this corruption, as I say, in the intellectual sense. I am not in any way charging the people appointed. In their own way they are decent, honourable men and men of integrity, but that does not get away from the reality of what the Government have done in the past three-and-a-half years.

The civil service itself has been corrupted by the appointment of place seekers. Supporters of the Government have been lodged in the civil service, even though on a temporary basis. It is well-known that members of the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party reside behind civil service desks during the tenure of office of this Coalition Government. That is the type of corruption they have introduced into Irish public life. I am not alleging anything against individuals. That is not my style, and I do not think it should be the style in Irish politics. What I am pointing out is the corrupting influence, the undermining of the entitlement of the citizen to seek a job in fair competition against his or her fellow citizens, through formal competition or otherwise. A competition throws up the best person, not always but most times, and the "otherwise" would be applying for positions through newspaper advertisements.

I am sure the Deputy would wish to come to the motion.

I am speaking on the motion that this Dáil has confidence in the person designated by the Taoiseach to be the Minister for Defence, and we are talking about collective Cabinet responsibility. This Government came into power on what can be described as a clean ticket. They were going to do the world and all with the civil service, the Army, the Bench and those other areas of important endeavour throughout our society. What have they done with them? I think I have outlined in brief what they have done with them. They have attempted to heighten in the minds of the people the principle that if you support the Coalition you will get your reward for so doing. It is the jobs-for-the-boys syndrome brought to a fine art, and no greater practitioner in that art than the political leader of our nation. The Taoiseach is entitled to the respect due to his office, and we give him that respect undeservedly and without equivocation, but the respect we refuse to give him is in relation to his role as a greater practitioner of the art of jobs for the boys than any other member of the Government.

On a point of order. I do not want to seem churlish. I am not afraid of these charges—I will deal with them in my own way and in my own time—but I think the Deputy should speak to the motion.

I have already invited the Deputy to come to the motion which deals with the appointment of a member of the Government.

I would like your direction in this respect. I was under the impression that this was a general debate and would be of a far-reaching nature. I do not want to go into the character of the person who is proposed to be Minister for Defence, but I would like your guidance on the confines of my contribution.

I am sure the Deputy is aware that the motion is on the nomination of a member of the Government by the Taoiseach. Social or economic policy or such matters may not be discussed under this motion. They have recently been discussed in the House. The Deputy may, if he wishes, make reference to the resultant reallocation of Departments that have been made recently, but discussion of recent events in regard to the resignation of the President are not in order.

I appreciate and understand the guidelines you have set for me, Sir. The Taoiseach, who, in a temporary capacity, took upon himself the mantle of the Minister for Defence, is falling into the same trap as brought about the recent presidential crisis, which uplifted from the presidency one of the finest people ever to grace Irish life as a judge either in this country or in Europe, who stepped down on a question of principle from the highest office this land can offer.

I hope the Deputy did not misunderstand the Chair. That is not in order for discussion.

I know that, but what I am saying is that what brought about that crisis was not entirely the utterance of the then Minister for Defence, Deputy Donegan. As Deputy Dowling said, basically Deputy Donegan is a very decent man. It is not my intention to engage in making him a public whipping post. The unfortunate man was probably under strain at the time. Let us be fair to him. Having had the decency to offer his resignation to the Taoiseach on a number of occasions, he effectively was exonerated and the responsibility for his continuation in office fell on the Taoiseach.

I want to come back to my point about the use of the Army as a political vehicle. On the occasion the Ministers for Defence and Justice were in Mullingar the then Minister for Defence uttered his unfortunate remarks. He had as an audience Army personnel but the Minister for Defence made a political speech. It is a dangerous principle to be using the Army for political purposes, either for making political appointments as has been done or for the making of political speeches. The Army has never been found wanting in the service of this nation.

This has been thrashed out on several occasions in the House.

I am developing a point and I am entitled to do so. I damn well reject the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary, his fascist attitude to suppress my right to speak in this House. I am not going to be suppressed by him.

The Deputy must not use such a phrase. The Deputy knows that that phrase has been held to be disorderly.

I am not going to be suppressed in this House by the irritation of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach.

I am sure the Deputy will withdraw the word "fascist".

I have been harangued here since the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach sat down to replace to the Taoiseach and I am not going to put up with it. Deputies are entitled to speak with freedom. I appeal to the Chair for protection.

I interrupted on the occasion on a point of order. I was interrupted many times yesterday in the House but I did not complain about it or become peevish in the way Deputy Andrews has. I did not call anybody a fascist either, least of all the man who called the Minister for Justice a fascist.

I object to the interruptions of the Parliamentary Secretary and if the Chair is not prepared to protect me, I will protect myself.

The Deputy is peevish.

I am not; I am annoyed at the Parliamentary Secretary's irritation and if he cannot take it he should get out of the House. He is going to get it.

The debate at present is irrelevant. Deputy Andrews will understand that if a Member raises a point of order the Chair has to listen but the Deputy can be assured that he will be protected in so far as the Chair is concerned.

I appreciate that very much.

I wonder what would Deputy Haughey have to say if I put on a performance like Deputy Andrews during the course of the debate yesterday?

The Parliamentary Secretary is sour and we all know that.

Not half as sour as the Deputy is about the appointment.

That interruption is unworthy of Deputy Lalor.

I am honoured that the Government should see the dangers in Laois-Offaly.

The interruption was unworthy of the Deputy.

The appointment was unworthy of the Taoiseach.

Is the reason why the Deputy was appointed to his position the fact that he was in danger down there?

Deputies should allow the Deputy in possession to continue otherwise the Chair will have no option but to suspend the sitting of the House.

We have them on the run in Laois-Offaly. The Europe men have come home.

What about Carlow-Kilkenny?

What about the hangers-on sent down to us; you kicked them out.

I am surprised at the Deputy talking about a man like that, a man who is a native of the county.

The Deputy need not be surprised; if he looks for it he will get it. I did not mention any names.

If the Deputies who are interrupting will not cease the Chair will ask them to leave the House. The Chair will be firm on this matter. Deputy Andrews is in possession and what happened in the recent past in regard to the Presidency is not in order. I hope the Deputy will keep to the motion. In doing so, he will be afforded every protection by the Chair.

I am glad to hear the Leas-Cheann Comhairle say that what happened in regard to the presidency is not in order. It is a pity that rule was not applied to the Minister at the time.

On the question of using the Army as a political vehicle and the dangers of doing so, it is clear that the occasion which gave rise to the crisis I am not allowed to mention is understandably unmentionable in Coalition terms. On Monday the Taoiseach fell back into this practice of using a visitation to the Army as a political occasion and trotted out a law and order message once more. It is probable that down the road from where the Taoiseach was speaking a post office was being robbed or an old woman was being hit over the head. That is the reality of the situation. It should not be allowed happen. My advice to the Coalition is "Hands off the Army and the Garda Síochána". They should be seen to be independent within the context of the framework of the State.

The Deputy should come to the motion.

I am making my point. I am not going to enter into a character assassination of the person who will become Minister for Defence. It appears that the only way one can contribute on the motion is to engage in that insidious practice. It is not my intention to do that. I thought this debate allowed us discuss the collective responsibility of the Government and the whole area of Government and their performance or lack of performance.

The Chair would like to tell the Deputy that we have already had a discussion on such matters.

I assume I can discuss matters which were not discussed recently. The capacity of the Government to go off on frolics of their own was very much in evidence recently. The Minister for Finance made a statement recently about the proposed abandonment of children's allowances and that information was communicated to the Tánaiste through the newspaper; one Minister communicating with another through the headlines of a newspaper. That is the sort of irresponsibility we are dealing with. The Tánaiste, having been made aware of the views of the Minister for Finance on this matter, condemned the idea that children's allowances and school buses would be abandoned.

That is social policy and it cannot be discussed on this motion.

Another matter which must be seen in the light of the proposed appointment is the question of the Labour Party's condition for participating in Government made known at their recent conference for entering into a new coalition. We have had the infamous Green Paper from the Government on the economy but there were no conclusions in that; they were all options. Our people were asked to judge the paper and come up with the answers. As I said recently, the Government are not prepared to govern; they run to the people every time they have a decision to make. They cannot and will not make a decision. I hope the Deputy who is to be made Minister for Defence will never be guilty of this. The Government have a track record second to none in the context of not doing things they promised. The Leader of Fianna Fáil last week sought information from the Government about a proposed local security force which the Government said they would set up a couple of years ago and of course it is as dead as the dodo. In the area with which I am charged for the time being, Opposition spokesman on Social Welfare, we had another perfect example—and I am talking not of the past couple of years but of this year, June of this year—when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare came here, full of fire——

The Deputy is again proceeding to talk on social and economic policy. Perhaps he would listen to the Chair for a moment. Discussion of the administration and policy of the Government as a whole or of individual members is not permissible in this debate.

If I may conclude that point, the Parliamentary Secretary came into the House to introduce the Social Welfare (Supplementary Allowances) Bill and we still await implementation of that legislation which was promised when the Bill was passing through this House and the Upper House. Nothing has since been heard of it and it appears that nothing will happen for quite a long time.

As regards the Member proposed to be Minister for Defence, I do not know what credentials he has. I do not intend to go into his character but I assume we can discuss his personal capacity effectively to become the clown prince of Coalition, for that is what he will become, Deputy Oliver Flanagan. It is very difficult to visualise this new role for the hot gospelling parliamentarian who could go to Princess Margaret's wedding in London and sign his name in the visitors' book as a Member of Parliament rather than as Teachta Dála. This type of behaviour worries me and his general approach to public life worries me and many other people. Discussing him in a political and not personal capacity, not in any sense of his character but rather his political performance which is what we are discussing here, when he did get the opportunity in Opposition he attempted to denigrate the reputation of decent people His attempt was unsuccessful because the reputation of those people he sought to destroy was unassailable. They were men who since the foundation of this State have made, and are making their contribution to Irish public life. They are men who, if they remained in private life could be far better off in terms of cash income than they were or are having dedicated themselves to public life either in an administrative capacity or otherwise, State managers and so on. It was the reputation of these people that the next Minister for Defence attempted unsuccessfully to undermine.

One can only wonder at his political capacity to take over the very important functions of Minister for Defence. He will undoubtedly become the clown prince of the Coalition, but having regard to his past behaviour one can only question the sincerity of some of it. These are all questions, which no doubt history will answer. We are probably too near the problem to be judged and in any case to sit in judgment on another person is, in my view, a very dangerous exercise.

You have been doing so since you stood up.

I beg your pardon.

You have been judging him——

I most certainly did not. I have been trying to get away— my function, I understand here——

I am not complaining about it; I am just saying that it is true.

I understand I am committed to the Chair's ruling and one is very narrowly limited in discussing this appointment and one must be very careful about crossing that thin line between a discussion on the proposed new Minister's political capacity and his character. If, in any way, I stepped over that thin line between those two things I apologise to the person concerned for so doing, but having regard to the ruling of the Chair one is narrowly confined in discussing the proposed appointment. It is not my intention to sit in judgment or be guilty, as it were, of engaging in judgment of this particular individual, far from it. As I said, that is a dangerous practice and to attempt to moralise on a matter of this nature is also very dangerous.

The unctuousness and sanctimoniousness of it—but you do not mind flinging the word "fascist" around the House.

No, I have no objection to flinging the word "fascist" at you or certain members of your Government, none whatever.

But you do not want to sit in judgment on people?

No, I do not.

That kind of talk was heard before from the man who founded your party.

Deputy Andrews on the motion.

I am very proud to be following the traditions of the great man who founded Fianna Fáil and I have no objection to it.

You are following some of the bad ones. If you want to attack him, have the guts to come out in the open and attack him but do not say——

Deputy Andrews on the motion.

I have just said to you that you are a fascist.

Deputy Andrews must not use that expression. He has been told that already. It has been adjudged not to be in order to use that phrase in the House and I am sure the Deputy will obey this Chair on that matter.

He will. It is just a matter of passing judgment——

The Parliamentary Secretary will allow the Chair to deal with the matter.

The Parliamentary Secretary is not very slow himself in passing judgment on people and situations.

But I do not claim to be a saint as you do.

I do not claim to be a saint.

You said that you did not want to sit in judgment on people —"Judge not that you may not be judged".

That is right. I do not believe in judging people. The Parliamentary Secretary is an expert at it.

This personal exchange is not in order.

You are an unctuous, moralistic——

Deputy Andrews should address the Chair on the motion.

——judge of people and situations. We are asked to vote confidence in this individual. No doubt the House will vote confidence in him and, as has been suggested by somebody else—it is not my choice of words—the dictatorship of the majority will once more crush the Opposition's point of view. The reality is that the Parliamentary Secretary will be at the top of the division lobbies counting the Deputies coming through to ensure that the appointment will be made and, in the nature of things, anything we say is not altogether a practical reality. However, we have the right to say this and will continue to do so until the Government's automatic majority operates to crush the opposition to this extraordinary appointment.

The majority have no right to do——

It is a pity the Parliamentary Secretary came into this House.


Deputies must cease interrupting.

Because of the chemistry between the Parliamentary Secretary and myself, we seem to clash on every occasion. If I was offensive to him, then, in the spirit of Christmas, I withdraw my remarks.

I apologise and will be good until 1.30 p.m.

Deputy Andrews on the motion.

The Chair's ruling in this respect limits one to a very narrow field. Having queried the political capacity of this individual to take up this post, may I express the hope that he can measure up—and I have the most serious and gravest doubts that he can do so—to this very important position.

If blame is to be shared in relation to this appointment, in my opinion the Taoiseach must accept the burden. The Taoiseach appoints the Cabinet, the Government and individuals to very important posts. The capacities and abilities of the individual appointed to the Department of Defence must be of a high order. His capacity to discharge his functions as Minister must be of a high order. There are other ministries where the same efficiency and high qualities might not necessarily be required, but here is one ministry that deserves a man of the highest ability. One can only query the ability of the person who, at the end of the day, will be Minister for Defence. When he is Minister for Defence, I hope he will discharge his functions in a reasonable fashion and will not engage in political clowning and recognise that he is in one of the most important security positions of the State. I consider the offices of Taoiseach, Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence to be critical offices at this juncture of our history. For this reason we express the hope that the next incumbent of the office of Minister for Defence will discharge his functions and duties with honour and dignity and that he will not be found wanting in courage. That is an extremely important quality for the office of the Minister for Defence.

I have the deepest respect for the present incumbent of the Chair. For that reason it would not be my intention to go outside his ruling, but it constrains one to a narrowness of debate. It is unfortunate that the debate cannot be widened to consider the 111,500 officially unemployed and the 40,000 unofficially unemployed. It is a great tragedy that we cannot have a discussion on the generation who are left stranded by the Coalition, the younger generation who are looking for work and cannot get it. It is unfortunate that we cannot discuss the plight of the young and the not so young unemployed and the great hardship unemployment imposes on these people and the dangers to our society, particularly in the context of leaving our young people unemployed for a considerable time because when bitterness and hopelessness creep in, these young people can turn their attention to other more insidious objectives.

I would like to take this opportunity of wishing the Chair a happy Christmas.

I come from the same constituency as Deputy O. J. Flanagan. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on his appointment as Minister for Defence. Although from a party point of view we differ, our relationship over the years since I entered the political life has been good. I want to get away from some of the earlier remarks because I do not want to be involved in them.

Debate adjourned.
Business suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.