I think it is fairly obvious that it would be impossible to meet the wishes of all Senators. I take first the case that was made for bonds. Let us take a house worth £20,000, and furniture worth £10,000. Money will not be paid in respect of that £20,000, if that house is to be reinstated, until the work is begun and value received. Then the instalments will commence to be paid, and they may not commence to be paid until twelve months after the award has been given if the owner of the property does not start sooner the building operations. On the other hand, directly the award is made the owner of the property who gets compensation for £10,000 for the furniture receives immediately, I think, a sum of £2,000 in cash and £8,000 in securities. What is his position? No matter how rapidly he commences to collect his furniture it will be surely twelve months before he can store it in the new house. It may possibly be a very much longer time before he will have to spend the money on the furniture; and in the meantime he gets what he never got for his furniture, a return of five per cent. on the money. The furniture, except it is of an exceedingly valuable order, will not appreciate to that extent. Now, it is put that, having lost sterling, he should get sterling. He has not lost sterling. He has lost certain articles, and he says "I must get sterling." Who is to give it to him? Obviously, the citizens of the country. Therefore, in addition to getting compensation he must get sterling out of the citizen's pocket.
Now, is it fair to ask in the first place compensation, and in the second place to ask the people who are giving compensation, and their promise and their security and good faith, to discharge their obligations in respect of the bonds that are to be issued, and the securities that are to be given, in addition to put their hands into their pockets and supply money and hand it over to a person who may not be able to use it for eighteen months or two years, and possibly will not expend the whole of it at all? These are circumstances which possibly people with less responsibility may not be inclined to consider; but which we, having the responsibility of guarding the resources of the State, must take into consideration in making this burden as equitable and as fairly distributed over the shoulders of the people as we possibly can. It may not be a satisfactory explanation, but it is a fairly good one at any rate. The second point that was mentioned by Senator Jameson was a criticism of the Minister for Finance having authority or power to issue securities in certain cases or in any cases. There was a paragraph following which stated that
"Every Order made by the Minister for Finance under this sub-section shall forthwith be laid before each House of the Oireachtas, and if both such Houses shall, within the next twentyone days on which either House has sat after such Order is laid before the Houses, pass resolutions annulling such Order, such Order shall be annulled."
Now, the Minister for Finance, as will be seen, has no authority to do what has been said here that he would do. If he comes in with his liver out of order and says "I will only give 2 per cent. to-day," he has no authority for that. It is not a question of his saying "Yes" or "No," or of his saying "2 per cent., 3 per cent., 4 per cent., or 5 per cent." He must come down here, and no matter who the Minister for Finance may be, if he were affected with all the nonsense that is at present affecting the Irregulars, he would not have authority to deal with a question of this sort.
The Senator must not have read into this all that it means. Both Houses have power to discuss and to criticise, and to make the Minister for Finance answer for and defend whatever rate of interest he has decided upon. It is obvious the Minister for Finance must maintain at something likepar value the securities that are issued, and he would not issue securities unless they were of such value as would give the State a character amongst the nations. I do not think there is much in that point.
I would like to say that on this question of National Debt I do not mind much what Hamilton said or what Adam said, or any of those other people. If there is to be a National Debt there must be national value. If there be national value for the National Debt, then it does not matter. But if there is no national value upon which to build a National Debt, then there is a difference. Here there is nothing but the industry of the people and the business of the country, and except they are developed we are not in a position to bear a National Debt. This money that we are going to spend now is not for value received. It is to place us on a level with other nations, who are already far ahead of us so far as commercial and industrial activity is concerned, and it will, to a certain extent, restore our national honour. That is what we are going to buy back with the money we are going to raise. That is the serious thing for us to bear in mind. It bears, to some extent, on the case made in respect of personal injuries. I must say I have great difficulty in keeping my temper when I hear about this question of personal injuries. The Committee that is being set up to deal with compensation for personal injuries consists of His Honour County Court Judge Johnston, Dr. Hennessy of the Medical Council, and Dr. Henry Kennedy, who has had experience of the White Cross for some considerable period. The terms of reference of the Committee state:—
The Committee shall receive, investigate and consider applications for compensation presented by any person who has suffered loss by reason of having been injured in his person or by the dependents of any person who has died in consequence of having been so injured in any of the following cases occurring since the 21st January, 1919, namely:—
Where the injury was an injury to which the Criminal Injuries Acts would have been applied by the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Act, 1919, as amended by the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Act, 1920, had these Acts remained in force.
Where the injured person was or was likely to be excluded from the benefit of the Criminal Injuries Acts as so applied, by reason only of the injury having been inflicted by members of the British Military or Police Forces.
Where the injury was sustained without default on the part of a person being a non-combatant in the course of belligerent action between the British Forces and the Irish National Forces or in the course of operations by the National Forces against persons engaged in armed rebellion against the Government of Saorstát Eireann whether before or after the passing of the Constitution.
The Committee will recommend to the Minister for Finance what sums should in reason and fairness be paid in the several cases above mentioned, regard being had to,inter alia, the actual earning capacity of the injured person prior to the injury, and to the impairment of earning capacity attributable to the injury and to the actual extent of dependency of dependents upon the deceased person prior to the death or injury of the deceased person, and to any effective provision made by the deceased person for his dependents by way of insurance or otherwise.
The Committee shall in general recommend awards by way of lump sum but shall also recommend in the alternative monthly or quarterly allowances in cases of injury considered likely to be permanent. The payment of a periodical allowance may be recommended to commence on the first day of April, 1923, but a payment of a sum in the nature of arrears, but not exceeding the amount of one year's arrears, may be also recommended.
The Committee shall not recommend an award in any of the following cases:—
(1) Cases eligible for any award under any Act making provision for Army Pensions.
(2) Cases in which a final decree under the Criminal Injuries Acts was obtained prior to the 12th of February, 1922; and
(3) Cases in which the British Government have undertaken full liability.
If in this case of personal injury the word "charity" is used, it should be used only in the sense of love and of humanity, for the awards will certainly not be alms. What is the case made for this? A very strong case, a very powerful case, a case in which very intemperate language is used, a case in which stress is laid upon the moral liability of the nation, a case in which we are upbraided for being seated here upon seats of velvet while the unfortunate people who have put us here are suffering, and their dependents in want. What is the alternative? A very easy alternative — to go back on this Bill and to restore to claimants their legal position under the Acts of 1919 and 1920. Will you do that? It is a serious responsibility to take, to ask local authorities to do this. There is considerable hesitancy about accepting an offer of that kind. And why? Because it means that you place immediately upon the backs of the people a burden which they are not prepared to bear. Some people look to the Treasury as if it were the Treasury of the British Government, or the Treasury of some enemy of the State, and they forget that it is the Treasury of their own country and that the money got out of that Treasury must be paid in taxes by the people of this country or by those who come after them. In no case that I know has there been a marked disposition to place immediately upon the shoulders of the people this burden. Why then all this talk about legal liability and moral liability and the debts we owe to the dead, and so on? I have in mind one case. In that case there were four male members of a family and they had been in the struggle from the commencement. Two of them are dead. Not one penny has been claimed from the State, or has been paid by the State, or has been received by the members of that family by way of compensation. The other two members of that family have spent pretty long terms in gaol. The members of that family and their children, and everybody like them, will be taxed to pay the compensation that is awarded to the others. They do not grumble about that. When it is really brought home to the people that it is they who are responsible for any moral or legal liabilities there are, there is reluctance to place immediately upon the shoulders of the ratepayers that liability. These monies that have to be raised in respect of this Bill have to be paid in our generation or the next, if we are ever to progress as a nation. That fact must be borne in mind. It is a very serious consideration in this business.
Some criticism has been passed on us on the ground that in this Bill we seek or we seem to have impugned the National credit. We are informed that credit is a very serious thing to be tampered with. We know that. That is the point of view that the Ministry had in mind when they considered this question — National credit. We have not broken any promise that we made as far as I know or as far as has been brought under my notice in connection with this Bill. Anything that we have undertaken we have carried out as far as our ability permitted us, and our capability of discharging obligations in this respect will be eventually according to the ratio of the damage that has been done. In other words, if this damage is to go on to five times the extent and that our National capabilities are X, obviously if we have reached X at present there will be but one-fifth of X when the thing is stopped. As to the question of National credit we are only starting business. We know quite well that every person who has suffered loss cannot be compensated to the extent of the loss that has been suffered. It is impossible. Apart from the sentimental loss, which is irreparable, the material loss cannot be made good. You cannot give back to persons what they have lost. You cannot restore the simple little articles that there may be in any house. You cannot restore immediately all the place. You cannot restore the health that has been undermined by reason of the damage done and the inconvenience placed upon people by the mental anguish that has affected some members of a family, perhaps all the members of a great many families, that have been injured in these cases. What we have endeavoured to arrive at is as fair a distribution of what we can afford to pay as is possible in the circumstances. If on consideration of the Bill it can be shown to us that we have failed in that respect, then it is our duty to meet the Seanad and to see how far we can remedy any defects that there are in this Bill.
I said this evening that I had no recollection of the language that was used and put to me as having been used by me in relation to the Railways. I was certainly surprised to hear the statement. I believe on the part of the State we made a good bargain. I believe on the part of the Railways that they made a good bargain. One must bear in mind, in connection with a service like that, that the State would be justified in paying more to maintain the service than if it were a question of simply restoring it months, or a year, or two years after the damage had been done. Keeping open transit was one of the most important considerations and is at the present moment a consideration of some importance. We are collecting rates and taxes and we are levying liabilities upon people who must certainly get the facilities that the Railways afford them. If the Irregulars think that by concentrating on the Railways they are cutting the throat of the Nation they are making a very serious mistake. A Nation's throat is not so easily cut as all that. There may be a considerable amount of inconvenience and a considerable amount of expense incurred in keeping open these Railways. They did not get £3,000,000. They did not get 1 per cent. of £3,000,000. I mentioned the sum that we had paid on account to one of the Railways. I think it was something like £30,000. There is certainly a remarkable difference between £30,000 and £3,000,000. Another case made was that we are legislating ourselves out of our moral and legal liabilities. Well, we can legislate ourselves back again into our legal responsibilities anyhow, and the way in which that can be done will be found in the Schedules, and if there be an objection to restoring these two Acts that I have referred to a particular Clause dealing with the subject can be put up for consideration and we will see whether or not the local authorities will be so anxious to assume these legal and moral responsibilities as we are told they should.
I must say that on the whole this Bill has been very favourably received in the Seanad. I expected very much more opposition to it, not because of its infirmities, but because it was natural where there was a number of diverse interests and where so many people were affected, that they would speak for the class to which they belong, and that even if one were not personally affected by any particular Clause in it that some friends of the Senators might be so affected. A good deal of criticism has been indulged in in another country about this Bill. A great number of people have alleged imperfections in it and have alleged against this State that we never really intended to bear our share of contributing towards the losses that they had sustained. People have made claims against us and have slandered our country and have received money, not to a very large extent, but to a small extent, on the ground that they had lost property here and suffered wrongs, and so on. I thought that in an assembly like this, where there are friends of such people, there are opportunities of criticising every single Clause which appears even to do an injustice to those people. The statement I made at the very last stage dealing with this Bill was to the effect that if it were shown to us there was an injustice done to any order of the community, and if it were proved that there were certain people who have claims against the State who could not benefit by getting these awards under the terms of this Bill — that it would not be safe for them to come back, as their lives would be in danger— we would consider this and introduce an amending Bill. I did not, I think at any time indicate that we contemplate an amendment of this other than in these terms, and on the basis of the compensation awarded. In other words, if a man had a castle which it would take £100,000 or £200,000 to restore but which had no market value approaching that sum, it was never our intention to have him awarded that sum and let him clear out of the country because it was unsafe for him to live in it. It was our intention according to this Bill even if a building had no market value that the measure of compensation would be such as would afford him much the same sort of accommodation in some other place. If I have left out any points or not answered some of the questions put to me by Senators, I will be very pleased to do so if they repeat them now.