The terms in which the Minister put forward this Bill were that this is an effort—and I think a laudable one—to give as it were an Irish legislative basis to regulations governing the Civil Service. The debate we have had so far shows an appreciation by the Seanad of the value of introducing such legislation and the opportunity it affords us of making suggestions, many of them valuable ones, with regard to the improvement of the general arrangements governing the relationship of the employer to the employed within the Civil Service.
The first point I should like to mention is one that has been mentioned by Senator Kissane already, and it struck me, too, that Section 5 demands some clarification or amplification. Section 5 says: "Every established civil servant shall hold office at the will and pleasure of the Government." It may be, as Senator Kissane presumed, that that is a regulation attitude, that the civil servant is only there at the will and pleasure of the Government, but it savours to me of something a little bit too authoritarian, too autocratic and it seems to me that this Bill, in that section, gives a little too much power, unmitigated by any proviso or right of appeal. It seems to imply that the established civil servant is only there at the will of the Government, and can only remain there at the pleasure of the Government. There are in other sections certain modifications of that, but that bold statement ought to be qualified by some such phrase as "save in so far as he holds the office under certain other sections and certain provisions referred to therein."
One might relate to that what Senator O'Brien said about Section 7, the question of security of tenure and the obligation on the employer—the Government, frequently under this Bill —to say why it is no longer their "pleasure" that an established civil servant shall continue to "hold office."
Senator Stanford mentioned the question that has been mentioned too by others—in fact I think I raised it myself on a previous occasion—of permission to civil servants to engage in politics. If I remember correctly the Minister previously answered that question with a great deal of emphasis, saying we did not want the sort of thing that happened in certain other unnamed countries in which you have a reshuffle of the whole Civil Service with a change of Government. He is obviously on sound ground there. We do not want that kind of thing happening, but I am not quite convinced that a larger measure of permission to most of the junior grades of civil servants to engage in politics would bring about the kind of chaotic situation the Minister envisaged. You could have a bar above a certain level to engaging in politics but that would leave most of the minor civil servants much greater latitude for engaging, as they ought to, in the politics, both municipal and national, of the country. Therefore, I would support Senator Stanford and Senator Murphy on that point.
The question of the retirement age was mentioned by Senator Cogan. I should like to hear from the Minister why it is we have these three or four different retirement ages. Civil servants to whom the 1919 Act applies are retired at 60; others retire at 65; and some can be kept on in certain circumstances until they are 70; and the unestablished civil servants can be kept on until they are 75. Others—and there is a whole group of them referred to in sub-section (5) of Section 8—do not have these provisions applied to them at all.
I should like to hear from the Minister how it is there are so many different attitudes towards the retirement age. Senator Cogan implied somewhat jocosely that life in the Civil Service made you unfit for anything else afterwards, and that it was not fair to ask you at 65 to take up a new life. That is true, I am afraid, of all professions. Once you are in them for a time, you find it hard to change. I would agree with Senator Cogan that the retiring age of 65 is rather young, for another reason, that is that you have a large amount of talent, experience and skill in the person and in the minds of the men of 65, who are being compulsorily retired now. It would be of great benefit to the country if those qualities were to be retained.
I have no patience with the attitude that those senior men "ought to get out" in order to make way for younger men. I should be inclined to judge it more on whether or not they are giving efficient service to the community, and I think in the big majority of cases men of 65 in senior positions or in any position in the Civil Service are giving perhaps their maximum service to the country in those years; and I believe consequently that we are setting the retiral age a little too young. Senator Cogan suggested something good when he suggested that civil servants might be given the option of retiring at 65 but should not be compulsorily retired.
I should also like to ask the Minister why it is that in sub-section (4) of Section 8, paragraph (c), it is stated that the retiring age for non-established civil servants may be raised as high as 75. I am not quite sure why it is thought that the unestablished civil servant is efficient at his job at 75 but the established civil servant is burned out at the age of 70. I wonder what is behind that? Is it that the salary of the unestablished man is so niggardly that he is kept on because of the pension that implies, or is there some other reason why the unestablished civil servant is a better man at 70 than the established civil servant? I do not quite see how that is arrived at.
Sub-section (5) of that same section gives you the list of people to whom sub-sections (1), (2), (3) and (4) do not apply. I am sure there is a good reason for that. Probably other legislation governs those people, but I note that all these people, to whom these sub-sections do not apply, are connected with the legal profession. They are all lawyers: Master of the High Court, Taxing Master, County Registrar, and so on. I should like to have some clarification from the Minister as to why it is that they are excepted. I am prepared to be told that the conditions for them are in fact similar under other legislation but if so I think we should be told that. My curiosity has been aroused by sub-section (6) which refers to other legislation, to the Act of 1859, and we are told that it does not apply. We can, of course, look that up for ourselves but I would be curious to know what the relevance of that is.
The final point I want to make, and in my opinion the most important one, is in relation to Section 10 which in the first sub-section says:—
"Women holding positions in the Civil Service, other than positions which are declared excepted positions under sub-section (2) of this section are required to retire on marriage."
I am aware that in many Acts we include that principle, and I think it is a bad one. I have said so before in this Seanad, and I wish now to say so again. In this Bill we have a section demanding that women retire on marriage. That seems to me to be a primitive and obscurantist view of the role that a married woman can play in society, and I even go so far as to say that it seems to me to be repugnant to the Constitution, which in Article 40, says:—
"All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law."
It is true that, in other parts of the Constitution, there is a reference to the special position of women, but it does not seem to me that there is any legitimate Article in the Constitution which permits the Legislature to act in this way against married women.
Article 41 says:
"In particular the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved."
That is all perfectly true but it does not give power to the Legislature to insist that married women shall play their part in the State exclusively in the home. Article 41 also states:
"The State shall therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home."
Here it refers to "mothers", not to married women. There are childless married women, but it points out, not that mothers must be kept in the home but shall not be "obliged by economic necessity" to leave the home in order to earn a living. Again, in Article 45 sub-section 4, paragraph 3, it is stated:
"The State shall endeavour to ensure that the strength and health of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children shall not be abused and that citizens shall not be forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their sex, age or strength."
The emphasis is on the refusal of the State to allow men or women to be forced "by economic necessity" to do certain things, and I suggest that this section of the Bill forces women, whether they like it or not, to leave particular types of work when they marry. I regard that as deeply retrogressive and I believe that married women who are born equal and free citizens of this country should not be forced to leave their posts in the Civil Service or elsewhere on marriage. I agree that it is a good thing to ensure, where we can, that women should not be forced through economic necessity to work, but, if they so desire, I believe they should be free to do so, and should not be forced to retire on marriage. I think the country suffers a continuing loss by reason of the fact that women teachers, doctors, dentists, health officers, lawyers, civil servants and so on are deprived of their rights of continuing to serve in their positions if they want to, by such a section as Section 10. This is a free democratic country, and indeed an attempt is now being made to guarantee equal status for every citizen and we have a Bill coming before the Seanad soon, a Bill to get equality of status for married women and here we have a Bill which is refusing equality of status with men to married women, refusing the equal right of free choice in their way of life after they are married.
I would go further and say I sympathise with what Professor O'Brien said about the question of the readmission of widows to the Civil Service, but I should like to see women not compulsorily retired on marriage, but married women who had voluntarily retired given an equal chance with widows to re-enter the State service, if they so desired. A woman could leave the Service on marriage, bring up a family of children, and then desire to re-enter the Service at a later stage in her married life, no matter what her position in the Civil Service was. I should welcome a change in those provisions which would make for a more equal status for married women in the Service and a better utilisation of the married woman's skill, competence, knowledge, and training for the service of the community.