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.