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:
...to 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.