Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 4 Jul 1923

Vol. 1 No. 30



This Bill is certified by the Speaker of the Dáil as a Money Bill.

Ó's rud é gur ab é seo an chéad uair agam teacht annso ní mór dom a rádh gur mór an ádhbhar áthais 's bróid dom seasamh i Seanad Éireann. Agus is mór an athas dom gurab í an obair atá le déanamh—ag seasamh dom i Seanad Éireann—ná cabhrú chun socarú eigin a dheanamh chun baintrí agus leanbhí na saghdúirí a fuair bás agus chun na saghdúirí a guineadh a chosaint as an mbochtanas.

Saghdúirí a chuir an riaghaltas seo Eireann ar bun agus a chosain í go cruaidh tar éis í chur ar bun ar dháinseirí móra.

As this is my first appearance in Seanad Eireann, I would like to say that it is a great source of pleasure, and a considerable source of pride, to me to stand in Seanad Eireann; and that it is a particular source of pleasure that the work of the people of Ireland that I am glad to take part in, is to introduce to you a Bill making provision for the windows and the children of those who lost their lives; and for those soldiers who have suffered in limb, in the first place, in setting up this native Government in Ireland, and in the second place, defending it from the very serious dangers by which it has been beset.

The Bill, as it stands, proposes to make provision for the dependents of the men who gave military service and who lost their lives, or were wounded, during the armed struggle in Ireland in three distinct periods, the first being the Rising of 1916, when military service was given by the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army of that time; the second, the period extending, approximately, from January, 1919, when the First Dáil came into existence, to the 6th December, 1921, the date of the signing of the Treaty with Great Britain, during this period military service was given by Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise known as the Irish Volunteers or the Irish Republican Army; and the third, is the post-December, 1921, period, when military service was rendered by the Irish Volunteers or the present properly established Army. The Bill is not one on which very much discussion will arise with regard to the general principles of it. Provision, as I say, is made for the widows of the men who died during that period, for the upkeep of their children, sons up to the age of 18, and daughters up to the age of 21, and there are certain allowances for the completion of the education of children left fatherless. In the case of men wounded during that period, to the extent of being either permanently or partially disabled, provision is made as indicated in the Schedules attached to the Bill. The machinery for bringing the Bill into force is being rapidly organised, so that when the Bill is passed through the Oireachtas there will be no delay in bringing to the relatives of deceased men, or the men themselves, the assistance which the Bill provides.

I think some gratitude is due to the Minister for Defence for the promptitude with which he has introduced this very important measure. It will be generally agreed, I think, that the Bill is, in the main, equitable and satisfactory. It represents, I think, the minimum that we owe to those who died that the Nation might survive, and to those who risked or sacrificed their limbs for the same cause. Of course, no money can restore the lives that have been lost, or can adequately compensate the widows and the orphans or the immediate relatives of the heroic dead; but money can, at least, ensure that the widows, orphans and dependants of the men who died shall not be left in want of the necessaries of life. It will also make provision so that the children of these men shall obtain an education that will enable them to earn a livelihood for themselves and play their part as citizens hereafter. The provisions for the men wounded, or permanently disabled, although modest, are, at least, I think, an honest endeavour to meet, to the extent of the ability of the nation, its responsibility to those who have been maimed in its service. Just as important, in some respects, as the amount of the pension is the provision under Section 5 whereby the Minister for Defence has power to provide for any officer or soldier who may apply for vocational training. I hope we shall never witness here the sights that are so common in English cities, of crippled officers and soldiers trying to supplement their slender pensions by playing barrel organs on the streets, or hawking postcards, or little ornaments of one kind or another, painfully from one door to another. In nine cases out of ten a good vocational training would render such sights unnecessary, and would also save the country from well-merited charges of having failed to do justice to its wounded men. General approval of the inclusion of the Irish Citizen Army in the Bill will, I think be accorded, as also will the decision to treat all those who took an active part in the rising of 1916 as officers. Because of the loose nature of the military organisation then, it is only fair to assume that the responsibilities were more evenly divided, and the sacrifices more evenly shared, than perhaps at any subsequent period. It was at that time the seed was sown which was so effectively reaped in after years. I think the people generally are conscious of what they owe to those who shed their blood so generously for an unselfish and a high ideal. I think, because of that, the Bill will be warmly welcomed by the country, and the action of the Minister for Defence will be very deeply appreciated indeed because he has introduced this without any delay.

I think, perhaps, it is necessary for me to say a few words on this Bill that is being introduced, although very little is necessary to be said. We are all unanimous on that point. I just want to pay tribute to those who served with me in those first days. We served together and I know what men they were. I know how much they all thought of giving service to their country. None of them were looking to serve their own interests, but were willing to sacrifice their lives, and did sacrifice their lives, for their country. I think it will be recognised that these men, who succeeded in doing what generation after generation of Irishmen have tried in vain to do, ought to be honoured in every possible way. It is a small matter to give them a little compensation, or a little money to their relations. The honour that is due to these men will be recognised by all the generations that come after us; it will be recognised that they won for Ireland her liberty and her honour after the centuries that generations of her people had suffered so cruelly. I just want to say a word in honour of the men who died at that time, and who will be remembered for all time as the great heroes of Ireland.

Níl ao' rud le rádh agam mar gheall ar an mBille seo. Molaim é. Ach, caithfidh mé a rádh go raibh gach saghas áthais orm nuair a chualas an t-Aire ag labhairt as Ghaedhilg annseo. 'Sé an cheud duine é ó'n Rialtas a dhein é agus molaim-se é go h-árd.

I should like to express on my own behalf, and, I hope, on behalf of others, who have not always been supporters of National Government, our satisfaction that this Bill has been introduced. We are all Irishmen and we are pleased that these men who contributed to bring about Home Rule in Ireland, and to satisfying the aspirations which generations of our people have died and suffered for, and also the dependants who have suffered through their deaths, and the others who have been incapacitated by disease or the hardships which they have undergone, should now in the hour of victory be looked after and safeguarded. I feel sure that the knowledge that the Army has been properly indemnified for the sufferings they underwent will be an encouragement and a stimulus to what I may call the regular forces of the National Army to increase the efficiency which they have already attained, and to show by their good conduct that they are worthy descendants of our other Irish soldiers.

I would like to add a few words of tribute to the soldiers on whose behalf such eloquent appeals have been made to-day. We have had great and brilliant Irish soldiers in every age. I do not wish to make any comparison between the men who fought in the periods already mentioned and those who fought in the cause of Ireland in the generations which preceded them. There is one great distinction between the soldiers whom we are to-day endeavouring to do the merest justice to and the soldiers of the past—namely, that they were successful. We were told one time that revolution to be justified should be successful. When we look at the almost superhuman accomplishments of the soldiers of the past few years in the Irish Army—whether the Citizen Army or the men of 1916, or any of the others—I think we have to admit that what they did was marvellous. We must all admit that the spirit that animated them was one which was never equalled, and certainly never surpassed in the many great struggles of the past. We are only doing the merest and scantiest justice to them in this Bill. We have but one regret, and that is, that, unfortunately, the great work which they made it possible for Ireland to achieve by their labours has, to a certain extent, been tied up from a monetary point of view by the unhappy occurrences of the past twelve months. I think that every Irishman will agree that but the merest and scantiest justice is being done to them, and I am sure that it does not require any appeal to be made to us, as we are all too happy to facilitate the passing of the Bill.

On behalf of the members of the Seanad who have been for the last seven years carrying on the work of voluntary assistance for the people whom the Bill refers to, I desire to express my unbounded gratitude to the Minister for Defence for the introduction of this Bill. Those of us who worked on one Committee or another for the past seven years know what these people have suffered, and we also know what the people of Ireland did during those years and the money which they poured out to help the dependants of the men who have lost their lives. The people of Ireland never allowed any of these people to fall back upon the Poor Law, and, I think, that that is something to be proud of. For seven years the people of Ireland provided out of voluntary funds for the support of these people.

Motion made and question put:—"That the Bill be read a Second Time." Agreed.