MacSwiney (Pension) (Increase) Bill, 1960 (Certified Money Bill) — Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Tá soláthar á dhéanamh leis an mBille chun údarás reachtúil a dheonadh do'n mhéadú de £61. 16s. (atá á íoc ón lú Lúnasa, 1959, i leith, ar údarás Meastacháin Bhreise le haghaidh pinsean a ritheadh i Dáil Éireann ar an 22ú Iúil 1959) san Phinsean de £500 sa bhliain is iniochta le baintreach Thoirdhealbhaigh Mhic Shuibhne.

Is ionann an méadú sin agus an méadú a luaigh mé i leith baintreach le siniúir an Fhorógra 1916 agus dá bhfuil soláthar déanta le hAlt 17 den Bhille Arm-Phinsean.

The Bill provides statutory authority for an increase of £61. 16s. (which is being paid since 1st August 1959, on the authority of a Supplementary Estimate for pensions passed in Dáil Éireann on 22nd July 1959) in the pension of £500 per annum payable to the widow of Terence MacSwiney.

The increase is the same as that which I mentioned in the case of the widow of a signatory of the Proclamation of 1916 covered by Section 17 of the Army Pensions Bill.

We have been dealing with groups, but in this Bill we are dealing with a person, an identified person. I have only one comment and I think there is only one comment to be made. Surely a State like this, which proposes to raise and spend £140,000,000 in the current year, could offer a greater pension increase than 24/- per week to the widow of Terence MacSwiney. The Minister should take this away and amend it, so that the conscience of this House and its sense of history will not be affronted by so meagre and miserable an offer. If he insists on this Bill to-night, he should get a photostat of it and send it to the producers of the film Mise Eire to be included as a 1960 epilogue.

I should like to support what Senator Barry has said and to relate it also—and I think he would agree with me—to the next Bill that will be before us, and which relates to two specific widows. I should first like to ask the Minister one question, that is, whether I am right in thinking that these pensions are not subject to income-tax? It is not quite clear in this Bill, and perhaps the Minister, when replying, will answer that question, for it makes quite a considerable difference. I think I am right in saying that this is not subject to income tax, but that point does not become apparent in the Bill.

Senator Barry has made the point that we might feel a certain shame about the amount. I agree. We can also feel a certain sense of bewilderment at the fact that it was not until 1950 that anything at all was given to Terence MacSwiney's widow, Mrs. Muriel MacSwiney. This is an amendment of the very first MacSwiney Bill, which came only in December, 1950. That is quite a long time after the death of Terence MacSwiney! In 1950, and I looked up the Dáil Debates, in Vol. 123, Col. 1826, the then Minister, the late Dr. O'Higgins, introduced the Bill—which, incidentally, stated, and I quote "The pension shall be deemed to have commenced on 21st day of September, 1950"—that was the measure of the back-dating of this pension. From December, 1950, it went back only to September of that year. The Minister said that this lady, Mrs. Muriel MacSwiney, and I quote—

"could have had a pension for the last 26 years. At the time she was well blessed with the world's goods. She did not apply. Times have changed. Her circumstances are different."

That is what the Minister said, in justification, if you like, of the lateness of the award. "She did not apply," so she had got nothing till 1950.

Before I go on, I should like to ask whether, then or earlier, if the Minister knows the answer, any award was given, or annuity, or sum, for the education of the daughter of Terence MacSwiney and Muriel MacSwiney? Of course 1950 would have been too late for a grant for her education. Therefore, I should like to know now if any such grant had been given long before?

I do feel that it was up to us all, and I do not think it is right to speak just about one Government in this connection, to do something about all of this long before 1950. As Senator Barry has suggested, I think that all this sounds terrible: "She did not apply.""She was well blessed with the world's goods" and so on.

In actual fact Mrs. Muriel MacSwiney, Terence MacSwiney's widow, had lived in ill-health and considerable misery since 1932. She had had a serious break-down in health due to the kidnapping of her daughter Maura in Germany. The daughter was brought back to Ireland, and concealed from her mother, and the mother, when she appealed and pleaded was given no redress by the State, by the Courts, or by other authorities, all of whom connived in this robbing of a mother of her natural rights in regard to her own child, the only daughter of Terence MacSwiney.

I am not saying this out of my own head; though I do know something of the facts, personally, because I saw the girl in my own home, in my mother's home, after she was brought back from Germany where she had been kidnapped. Mrs. MacSwiney herself as recently as last October wrote as follows to the newspapers, and I quote from a copy of a letter written in her own hand:—

"I was forced to apply for a pension in 1950, owing to an eighteen year long serious illness, caused by the kidnapping of my daughter, and subsequent taking from my guardianship because I am not a Roman Catholic; this as with many other parents was my only crime. You published the similar case of Mrs. Corcoran in 1950.

"I was never offered——"

and the word is underlined

"——a pension by the Irish Government."

I feel, and I must say it on this occasion, when we are increasing this pension in a rather niggardly way, that I consequently regard this whole pension and this increase, as a form of reparation, a form of conscience-money, to try to compensate, to a very small degree, for the very great wrong done to the widow of Terence MacSwiney. This was a grave injury, and one which, alas! was subsequently condoned by the Irish powers-that-were, both temporal and spiritual, condoned by action and inaction, and by shameful silence on the part of all those who remained deaf at that time to the pleadings of Mrs. Muriel MacSwiney in relation to her daughter, and I feel in duty bound to say these things, as we now pass this Bill to increase her very small pension.

Nothing, of course, is sacred to Senator Sheehy Skeffington, because he holds nothing sacred.

In view of the Minister's remarks about not having looked after the other pensioners, at least we did look after Mrs. MacSwiney.

No; she did not get the increase in 1956. We are giving her the increase which you did not give her.

The Minister ought to keep quiet on the subject. Not alone did the late Minister, Dr. O'Higgins, arrange this, but by a coincidence, I had a hand in the matter. The particular part I arranged was that it was to be free of income tax. I take it that on this occasion, the Principal Act applies and that this increase is also free of income tax, small though it may be.

This is a very clear case of the inadequacy of the increase which is being given. The pension, as fixed in 1950, was £500. The increase given at present is £61. 16s., an increase of the order of 12 per cent. The cost of living has risen by about 40 per cent. since 1950. The Minister has made no attempt to justify his failure to increase this pension by 40 per cent. or to bring the increase in pension up to 40 per cent. higher than the £500.

From the earlier part of what Senator Sheehy Skeffington had to say, it is clear that the State has a certain obligation, late as that obligation is discharged, but once a pension has been fixed at £500 in 1950, I think it is clearly the duty of the Government to ensure that this pension keeps pace with the rise in the cost of living.

This case does not fall into the Minister's beloved category of 6 per cent. This is sui generis. The Minister has made no case for bringing it up only to £561. 16s. I think it is absurd. The mean, miserable and narrow approach of the Minister to this matter is shown when you find that in a statute of this House increasing a pension it was not found possible to bring the 16/- to the round pound. That is a fair indication of the Minister's attitude.

I am at a loss to know what Senator Sheehy Skeffington was talking about. I feel that much of what he said was entirely out of order. It seems that he just rose for the purpose of introducing a little bit of bad taste into this debate and casting a slur on the religious views held by the majority of the people of this country. I do not know what other reason he had for introducing this extraneous matter into this debate. It is a pity he was allowed to do so. It is an abuse of the privilege and good taste of the House.

Senator Sheehy Skeffington related his point to the question of pensions.

He should not cast slurs for no reason. I agree with what Senator O'Sullivan said.

The only reference I made to religion was a quotation from a letter to the Press by Mrs. Muriel MacSwiney, explaining the circumstances under which she had applied for the pension.

You should have some respect for her circumstances at the time.

The Minister harped on the fact that the previous Government did not give the increase to these people in 1956 which they gave to other pensioners. The Minister knows as well as anybody else that Rome was not built in a day. The Minister for Defence at that time had a Bill on the file. He was preparing a Bill which was not only to give an increase in pensions but also to provide pensions for the widows of the people who died from disease contracted on service. The Minister knows that very well.

I know there is no truth in it.

The Minister knows that there was a financial crisis in 1956. He knows that because of the promises which his people made, there was a change of Government in 1957. If the present Minister for Defence was really so concerned, why did he wait four long years to give this meagre increase to those unfortunate people after his Government had deliberately increased the cost of living by over 12 points?

The main criticism here again is what is called the inadequate amount of the increase. It was stated that I gave no explanation of how this increase was arrived at and that it did not, in fact, come within the category of the 6 per cent. increase granted by the Minister for Finance in his Budget statement last year. In fact, I did, of course, give that explanation on the first Bill I introduced here—the Army Pensions Bill. I mentioned that in the case of a widow of a Signatory of the Proclamation of 1916, we were applying not only the 6 per cent. increase granted in 1959 but also the 6 per cent. increase granted in 1956 to other State pensioners but which was not granted in this case. In introducing this Bill, I said that the aim is the same as that which I mentioned in the case of the widow of a Signatory of the Proclamation of 1916 covered by Section 17 of the Army Pensions Bill.

In this Bill, we are giving, first of all, the 6 per cent. increase given to other State pensioners in 1956 but which was not given to these people. We are giving that and we are then applying the present 6 per cent. increase to the pension so increased. That is the explanation of how the amount is £61. 16s. We are now giving the two increases in these cases. I should have liked to have done it in the other cases also but the financial situation would not allow of that.

With regard to the statement that a Bill was being prepared to do all the things that Senator L'Estrange says there is no truth whatever in that and Senator L'Estrange knows that well. It is just the product of his imagination. There was no such Bill whatever in preparation.

The Minister should relate his remarks to the Bill.

Without notice, I am not in a position to say whether or not a grant was given for the education of the girl mentioned by Senator Sheehy Skeffington. I said that these statements were made previously by Senator L'Estrange and other members of the Fine Gael Party.

I never made the statement——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator will resume his seat.

I have heard statements made that a Bill was in preparation to reopen the question of military service pensions which is one of the things Senator L'Estrange mentioned now. There is no truth whatever in that. There is no trace of any such Bill ever having been in the process of preparation.

On a point of order, the Minister is now condemning certain statements made here by a Senator and which were peculiarly within the knowledge of the Senator, that is to say, Senator O'Donovan. Senator O'Donovan stated that the Bills which the Minister says are not on the files of the Department of Defence were in fact being prepared when he was in Government in 1956, and I understand it to be the practice and the procedure in this House in a matter of that kind——

I do not think that is what Senator O'Donovan said.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That is not a point of order.

I understood that a member is always entitled to make a point of order.

This is not a point of order.

An Seanadóir Ó Maoláin is not a kind of assistant chairman in this House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

An Seanadóir Ó Maoláin did not make that point.

He is constantly trying to create disorder.

I only tried to put the Senator right.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill considered in Committee.
SECTION 1.
Question proposed: "That Section 1 stand part of the Bill."

Would the Minister consider improving this addition to this pension, to make it fairer and more proper? I think the sum is ridiculous.

I have done as much as could be expected. In addition to giving the six per cent. increase given to State pensioners generally in the Budget, I have also given in this case the increase given to other State pensioners in 1956, and I think that is as far as I could be expected to go.

The Government can spend £10 million on jets and £5 million on television. They should give a little more in this case.

I raised a point on Second Reading which the Minister has not dealt with. I referred to the cost of living having risen by 40 per cent. since 1950, while this Bill provides for only a 12 per cent. increase. I take it to have been accepted by the Government in relation to the increases in judicial salaries that where the cost of living had risen by 15 per cent., the salaries should also be increased by 15 per cent. That was the view expressed by the Minister for Justice and, consequently, I presume that principle should be applied in the case of this pension.

I want to be quite specific about this. The Minister for Justice stated in the Dáil that from the last occasion on which the judges' salaries had been increased, the cost of living had risen by 15 per cent. and the only reason he saw for not increasing judges' salaries by 15 per cent. was that under the Constitution the salaries could not be reduced and therefore it was fair that there should be a lag between a rise in the cost of living and the giving to the judges of full compensation.

That was the principle accepted by the Minister for Justice in relation to judicial salaries. The Taoiseach spoke to the same effect in relation to these increases in the Dáil. I cannot see any reason, therefore, for the decision in this case, nor has the Minister furnished any explanation why this pension has not been increased by 40 per cent. as it should be.

It was found possible in the Budget of 1959 to grant an increase of six per cent. to State pensioners, and that increase has on this occasion been given to these people, and in addition, the six per cent. increase which apparently the previous Government did not find it possible to give to them has also been given.

I am certain there is such a thing as overestimation in Budgets. Is the Minister telling the House that the Budget of 1959 was so finely cut that there was not even 4/-, to bring £500 up to £562, available in the Budget calculated by the Minister for Finance? That is the kind of thing of which the Minister is trying to convince us. Of course, the Government could have increased this pension and other pensions a good deal more if they had wanted to do it. The fact is that the money was there and they have not done it and the Minister has given us no explanation.

Nobody would object if the Minister made it £750.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without recommendation.
Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

We say no, Sir.

Will Senator Burke indicate why he says no?

Because we consider the amount granted inadequate.

Because we have a sense of history.

We are giving what you refused, in addition to the six per cent. granted this year.

We gave it to them.

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 12.

  • Brennan, John J.
  • Carter, Frank.
  • Cole, John C.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Farnan, Robert P.
  • Fitzsimons, Patrick.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Hogan, Daniel.
  • Lahiffe, Robert.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • O'Brien, George A.T.
  • Ó Ciosáin, Éamon.
  • Ó Donnabháin, Seán.
  • O'Dwyer, Martin.
  • Ó Grádaigh, Seán.
  • Ó Maoláin, Tomás.
  • O'Reilly, Patrick.
  • Ó Siochfhradha, Pádraig
  • O'Sullivan, Ted.
  • Quinlan, Patrick M.
  • Ruane, Thomas.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Tunney, James
  • Walsh, Laurence J.
  • Walsh, Louis.

Níl

  • Barry, Anthony.
  • Burke, Denis.
  • Carton, Victor.
  • Crowley, Patrick.
  • Donegan, Patrick.
  • L'Estrange, Gerald.
  • O'Quigley, John B.
  • O'Sullivan, John L.
  • Roddy, Joseph.
  • Sheehy Skeffington, Owen L.
  • Sheridan, Joseph M.
  • Stanford, William B.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Carter and Ó Donnabháin; Níl, Senators Burke and L'Estrange.
Question declared carried.
Question: "That the Bill be returned to the Dáil" put and agreed to.