Would the Seanad wish to discuss Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7, the four pension increase Bills, together?
Message from Dáil. - Army Pensions (Increase) Bill, 1962 (Certified Money Bill) — Second and Subsequent Stages.
I think we could take that group together, since they all deal with the same subject.
Yes, mainly pensions. We can group them together and observations can be made right over the field.
Sa mBille seo tá údarás an Oireachtais dá iarraidh agam ar an Seanad do mhéadaithe atá dá n-íoc cheana le lucht buntáiste faoina hAchtanna Arm-Phinsean. Tá an íocaíocht sin faoi scáth mheastacháin fhorlíontaigh a thug an tAire Airgeadais ós comhair na Dála de dhruim fhoráil san gCáinfháisnéis ar ghlac an Dáil leis roimh scor an tSamhraidh. Thosaigh an íocaíocht an chéad lá Lúnasa.
This Bill is to provide statutory authority for the increases in pensions and allowances under the Army Pensions Acts, 1923 to 1962, outlined by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement earlier this year. The increases are already being paid on foot of a Supplementary Estimate for pensions approved by Dáil Éireann on the 18th July, 1962. They are effective as from the 1st August, 1962, except in the case of pensions and allowances granted under the Army Pensions Act, 1962, where the effective date is the 4th August, 1962, the date on which that Act became law.
The Bill covers all categories of pensioners and allowance holders for which the Army Pensions Acts provide. In accordance with the increases approved by the Minister for Finance for State pensioners generally, officers who retired before the 2nd November, 1955, and whose pensions are related to their Army pay on retirement, have had their pensions brought up to the rates hitherto appropriate to officers of similar rank and service who retired on the 2nd November, 1955, and the pensions thus arrived at have been increased by a further 6 per cent. The pensions of officers who retired on or after the 2nd November, 1955 and before the 16th December, 1959 have been increased by 6 per cent. Pensions not related to pay, married pensions, further pensions and allowances to widows, children and other dependants have been increased by 20 per cent. Special allowances have been dealt with by way of a flat £13 increase in each of the "appropriate annual sums".
On current expenditure, the estimated cost for a full year of the increases for which the Bill provides is £127,000—£50,000 in respect of disability pensions and allowances other than special allowances, and a net £77,000 in respect of special allowances.
When closing, I shall be glad to give any further information which Senators may require about the Bill. In form, it is similar to other increase Bills which have been before the House at various times in past years.
In my opinion, there is very little in this Bill on which to congratulate the Minister or the Government. The cost of living has been increasing over a number of years and is continuing to increase at the present time. Many of the people to whom we now propose to give increases of pension helped to fight for the freedom we have in Ireland; they helped to build up the country and many gave the best years of their lives to doing that work. We should be very grateful to them. They helped to put the State on firm foundations and, if they had not done so, we would not be in a position to deal with the Bill which we had before us earlier today, giving increases to Deputies and Senators. These people are entitled to more than the crumbs from the table and that is all they seem to be getting under this Bill.
I suppose some of us must be thankful for small mercies but there is very little we can do about it now, as the increases have been paid since 1st August last. When the judges got their increases, they were dated back to 1st November, 1961, and there was a very big difference in the amount paid to them and the amounts now being paid to these pensioners. I disagree with the principle that a man who has a good, secure job, and who retires on a big pension, should get a huge increase, while the fellow at the other end of the scale, with a low wage and a miserable pension, gets a very small increase. Some of the people with whom we are now dealing are getting as little as 3s. and 4s. a week.
Judges who had £100 a week got increases of £14 a week. A retired judge got an increase of £600 per annum in his pension, an increase of £12 a week. Where is the justice in that? His pension was increased from £3,200 a year to £3,800. If we look at this Bill, we find that people who gave of their best in the past, men who lost all they had and who have suffered ill-health ever since, are getting increases of 3s. 6d. and 4s. If we can give some people £12 a week, surely, in a Christian country, we should be in a position to give those people greater increases than the meagre allowances they are getting in the Bill?
These increases are supposed to compensate them for the continued uprise in the cost of living and for the hardships caused thereby. Many of them are incapable of working or of adding to their means in any way. They retired on pensions awarded to them when the cost of living was much lower than it is to-day. They looked forward to security in their old age. I think they are entitled to it. They deserve to be treated better by the State than they are being treated to-day. It cannot be denied that among those people hardship exists and in many cases, I have been informed and I believe, it is severe.
Very little is being done in the Bill to give those unfortunate people security, to give them justice or in my opinion to give them even the ordinary fair play to which they are entitled. We can all criticise this Bill on the ground that the increases are meagre, especially when we compare them with increases given in this House and in the Dáil over the past year. In the Dáil, the Taoiseach spoke on judges' salaries and said they should get a salary sufficient to put them in a position in which they would be as far as possible immune from improper influence of any kind. It would have been better if the Minister for Defence and the Government in introducing this Bill had given these pensioners increases that would keep them as far as possible immune from hunger and want. They are not getting any such increases in the Bill and, in spite of the increases they are getting, great hardship still exists among the people who did so much for the country when good men were needed.
I think it was on Budget day last May that pensioners got the first indication from the Minister for Finance that it was proposed to introduce a Pensions Bill to cushion them against the increase in the cost of living. Many increases were brought about during the year and over the past few years as a result of deliberate Government policy.
Is it not about time the Senator came to the main provisions of the Bill?
If the Senator wants to make an attack on the judges, he can have another opportunity.
If State money is allocated, I am entitled to make a comparison between what has been paid to one section of the community and what is being paid to other sections. I claim that, if the money is there to be allocated, those on the lower rung of the ladder are entitled to a higher increase than they are getting. High hopes were definitely raised in the breast of each and every one of those people when they saw that the Government could give an increase in pension of £600 a year to one particular man. If that man got that increase, which brought his pension up to £73 a week, surely to God those people were entitled to say: "At long last there seems to be plenty of money in the old kitty and this time we will get our fair share of it". They were entitled to think that and I dare say they did think that but they are not getting it now.
As far as the Government are concerned, the Fianna Fáil mountain has been in labour since last May and it certainly has produced a mouse. When we compare a man getting £73 a week——
Will the Senator stop rehashing his crossroads talk?
It is disgraceful to think of these meagre increases, especially when they come from a Party like Fianna Fáil who claim to represent the poor people of the country. There is no denying they made many people poor but they did very little afterwards to help them.
It might be no harm to refer to the statement made in the Dáil by the Minister on this Bill in answer to a question raised by Deputy Tully, Volume 198, No. 7:
We try to be sympathetic towards the applicant but surely Deputies will recognise we must take every precaution to ensure that people who do not deserve recognition should not get it. We know the amount of dissatisfaction caused when people who have given no service manage to get letters and representation made and probably slip through. The knowledge that they have succeeded causes an amount of ill-feeling among those in the locality who gave good service and knew the neighbours in the area who also gave good service. If they see somebody who did not deserve it getting recognition, they think, at least, there is maladministration.
The amount of snobbery associated in America with claiming descent from those who came over in the "Mayflower," leads one to believe that that ship was overcrowded and when many of us see the number of recipients of military pensions in this country, we are forced to believe that the fighting units must similarly have been overcrowded.
It seems a bit late in the day now for a Minister or any member of the Government to talk about people who do not deserve recognition getting it. Is it not a well-known fact that people who did no fighting, who never carried a gun, who never even used a blackthorn, got pensions, and very good pensions, all for one reason: that they were members of a certain political Party or helped to get that Party into power in 1932?
When the Blue-shirts failed.
I would ask the Senator to come to the Bill.
The Minister referred to the fact that people who did not deserve recognition had slipped through. That is a well-known fact, and, if the Minister mentioned it, we are entitled to speak on it. It is a well-known fact that people are drawing pensions—and we are about to vote money to them today—who never fought. They got through in the past and were helped through and a blind eye was turned in the past 30 years by the Government.
Two Coalitions were in for six years. Why did they not correct it?
It is also a fact that people who did nothing but rob banks or trains or pillage institutions have got recognition and are drawing pensions, good pensions, from the taxpayers.
I believe that Fianna Fáil never hesitated to use the people's money to buy votes and keep themselves in power through fair or foul means. If they now want to appeal to the responsible and conservative elements of our people, we are entitled to point out to those people that it was they, and they alone, who engineered all that the Minister stated here and closed their eyes to it from 1932 to 1962. If they now have qualms of conscience and are making a death bed repentance, it is better late than never. It is unfortunate and a pity for this country that it ever happened and was allowed to happen.
There will be no election until 1965. The Senator should wait until then.
Mr. Ted O'sullivan
It is very hard for a man of my age and experience to remain silent under the attack made by the last speaker upon the men who fought for this country.
I said the men who did not fight.
Crocadile tears were shed about these increases not being sufficient. Immediately we had an attack made upon the men in receipt of pensions. It is a terrible thing that in 1962—46 years after the events—a man who was not born then, should stand up and in a free democratic assembly malign these men. I am ashamed of the men of his Party, who took an active part in the events of the time, who sat and listened to it. I had to sit and listen to it. I am sure these remarks will be treated by the people of this country with the contempt they deserve.
I welcome this Bill sincerely and heartily. Anything that this or any other Government will do to compensate these people, I am grateful for. I am grateful, indeed, for this increase which is, incidentally, the biggest increase we have yet got under any of the Bills. It is strange that this much maligned Fianna Fáil Party are the only Party who increased those pensions at any time.
That is wrong— an increase of 50 per cent. was given.
Has the Senator the dates?
Yes, it is here.
This increase of 20 per cent is more generous than any of the others. As I said on a few occasions before, when we had increases here, my only complaint all the time was that they were too little and that I hoped I would see the Minister come in the following year with a further increase. These are my hopes tonight.
I am dissatisfied with other aspects of these Bills. I am dissatisfied with the last Bill which sought to increase disability pensions for dependants who qualified under the extension of the marriage date. I am dissatisfied with the way the percentage of disability was assessed to rule out persons who, I thought, should come under the Bill. I am disappointed that persons under 50 per cent. disability did not qualify at all in the extension of the marriage date. However, a few of those matters were raised in the other House and I am glad to see that the Minister is giving the question further consideration. We hope to have him back here early next year when he has given that further consideration to them.
I noticed that in regard to a question raised in the other House the Minister stated that it was possible for disability pensioners who had not got their final awards to get treatment in St. Bricin's Hospital. If that is so, I think it is very unfair to persons who have got their final awards. Persons who accepted their final awards are deprived of any further benefits.
In the other House, the Minister said that St. Bricin's would be overcrowded if such pensioners went for treatment but it should be possible to devise some scheme by which the Department would accept responsibility in the local hospitals for the treatment of those men who were suffering from the effects of an old wound, disease and so on. I think that should be within the power of the Minister and the Department. If they cannot accept them in St. Bricin's Hospital at least responsibility should be accepted for them in their own local hospitals.
I made an appeal on a former occasion for some assistance to bury some of those pensioners when they died, especially men who were in receipt of special allowances. It would be hard for a man and his wife, who have no means whatever other than £130 a year special allowance, to save much towards burial expenses. I advocated that some fund should be set up in the Department of Defence upon which the relatives of such persons could draw if they were unable to meet burial expenses. If such a fund were created, I do not think there would be much of a draw on it. Still it would give people great heart and security if they knew it was there.
I have been approached, not very often I must admit, when some person dies in poor circumstances. One does not like to tell the relatives to go to the home assistance officer. I have been asked if there was any fund in the Department of Defence which would help to meet the bill. There is no fund. I think there should be a fund. I hope very sincerely to see the Minister here again next year, as we have seen him year after year, with a further increase.
I think this is the first visit of the Minister to the Seanad. If that is so, I welcome him.
As Minister for Defence.
As Minister for Defence. I also welcome the Bill, but, before I say a few words on it, I would ask Senator O'Sullivan to bear with the youthful enthusiasm of those young men who would like to give twice as much to the Old IRA and the Army. I have no doubt that the words of the Senator who spoke before him were ill-judged and not as well thought out as they might have been. The point at issue here is that there is to be an increase in Army pensions and in Old IRA pensions and, as far as I am concerned, I should like to say that the 20 per cent increase in Old IRA pensions is more than I expected but not as much as I should like to have.
It is difficult to provide a yardstick as far as the Old IRA are concerned. In the case of the Army, you can make a comparison between pensions and pay but you cannot do that in the case of the Old IRA. What we should try to give them is a sum commensurate with the services they gave to the State. Not even the youngest among us can pay sufficient tribute to the Old IRA and what they have done for the State. Every one of us who served with the Old IRA, including Senator O'Sullivan, knows that nobody ever dreamed there would be pensions when we were serving in that body.
There is no doubt that when pensions were first decided on, they were very small. Some of them could be regarded as only a bare recognition of the fact that a man had served in the forces responsible for the formation of the State. Members of my company got pensions as low as 2/6 a week. One family I have in mind—it would be wrong to mention names here—had a member killed in 1916 and four others fought from 1917 to 1921. The youngest of them who, probably because he was in my company, was, in my opinion, the best, got 2/6 a week. That has risen to about 7/6 or 8/- now.
I think the Minister should devise some method of finding out exactly how much an old IRA man ought to receive in compensation for services rendered to the nation 40 years ago. I know it is difficult, but these people are a diminishing group. I am sure there are only about one-third left of the original gallant band who fought during those years.
The Old IRA pensions are being increased by 20 per cent. Despite what Senator O'Sullivan may say about the exuberance of Senator L'Estrange, and despite what I may think myself—I do think individually on occasions—that is a tremendous fillip to the recipients of larger pensions. But I do not think the Minister imagines the amount it will mean to a man receiving 7/6 a week. Would the Minister therefore reconsider the whole situation with the view to awarding increases in future on a differential percentage basis— giving a higher percentage to the recipient of the lower pension and a lower percentage increase to the man receiving £10 per week? That is merely a suggestion.
The Army pensions have been increased by six per cent since 1955 and as far as my knowledge goes from my association with the consultative council, members of which met the Minister for Finance, I think the Minister did a fairly good job in the circumstances. The Minister for Finance gave us his word on that occasion—and I always rely on the word of Deputy Dr. Ryan—that these pensions would eventually reach parity with other State pensions.
To digress from the question of Army pensions for a moment, up to now we approached Ministers on these matters in sections—the teachers, the Garda and, of course, the old soldiers —and we all worked like blazes and got nowhere. Early last year, however, a consultative body was formed, comprising all State pensioners, and these men have worked very hard. They have sent deputations to the Minister for Finance and I am happy to say they have achieved this degree of progress along the road to parity with other State pensioners. I hope complete parity will be achieved next year and that pensions will be far in excess of the pittances these men who fought for their country have been receiving. We hope to see the day when a man who joins the Army can look forward to a State guarantee that he will receive sustenance in his old age.
I do not like introducing clichés but somebody said once that the degree of civilisation a nation has achieved can be measured by the fashion in which old people are treated and sustained. It was the old people of today who fought to make our nation a reality. Very soon, we will be moving, I hope, into an organisation that will dispel borders and frontiers and we will measure up our old soldiers, to try to get parity with men who have freed various nations on the continent. I had experience in London representing the old soldiers of this country with the World Veterans' Organisation and it would make most of us in this House ashamed to see how those nations in Europe treat the men who freed their countries as compared with the men who serve their countries. All honour to the man who joins the Army or Navy of his country and is prepared to die in its defence, but those who work against the oppressor and free their country are soldiers apart and entitled to special consideration.
I do not dare to apologise for the enthusiasm of Senator L'Estrange, and I understand his enthusiasm as a young man when he looks at old IRA men in his constituency. They are probably writing to him, despite his youth, asking him to have things done as referred to by Senator Hayes and Senator O'Sullivan earlier tonight. There is a degree of penury existing amongst old soldiers right back to 1917 and it is our job to rectify it no matter who is in power, because there is one thing we agree on and it is that those men should be fairly treated. From 1922, we have had Governments mainly composed of IRA men and they have done little or nothing for the Old IRA, their own comrades. You cannot blame the average man for being sceptical about the past. In my experience—and I have reasonably wide experience in the Old IRA—it is only the Old IRA who talk about the Old IRA, who erect monuments to them and say that the Old IRA were the greatest people on earth, but the people who can do them good and who know that to be true do nothing about it.
One could speak for many hours on this subject. I could bring a lot of comment to bear on it. I will say finally that despite what others may think, this is a move in the right direction—a 20 per cent. rise to the Old IRA is, after all, one-fifth more than what they have got. In the lower grades, it is not something on which one could go out and have a wonderful night, but I am prepared to trust the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Defence. I am prepared to believe that the Army will achieve parity with the existing rates next year. If not, I will be more than 100 per cent. behind Senator L'Estrange in his criticisms, but I have that feeling that a lot was done for the Old IRA this time and that a fair amount was done for the old soldier.
The old soldier today is a man who, from the age of 18 to the age of 41 or 42, has given the best years of his life to this nation. Some went on, foolishly, if you wish, until they were 50, and at the age of 50, the possibility of their survival in this rat-race for survival is very small. They gave all they had—their youth, their manhood and all they could offer—in defence of their comrades. They were prepared to lay down their lives equally in defence of Government property. These men are fighting reasonably hard to try to secure a better pension and, despite everything, I think there is a move to give them that. It is a pity that it could not be done this year. When they were working individually, approaching their appropriate Ministers, they were getting nowhere, but now when all State pensioners have formed this consultative council to which I referred, it seems to be an instrument for getting them the parity they are looking for and deserve. Please God, they will get it.
I should like in this House of the Oireachtas to pay tribute to these elderly men who are gathered at crossroads all over the country who have served the nation. They have not got the voices that some members of the Oireachtas have to make their case. They are waiting for us to give them something beyond a pittance. My last few words are that there is a move in that direction. Twenty per cent increase to the Old IRA is not too bad, if we are following that up, and in the case of Army men, the 1955 standard plus six per cent also is not too bad if it is on the way to parity with existing pensions in the Army. Therefore, I welcome the Bill.
Táthar ag fáil locht ar an méid atá dhá thabhairt ach is dócha dá mbeadh sé i bhfad níos mó ná sin go bhfaighfí locht air ar chuma éigin. Ach is breágh bog a thagann caint mar sin chun daoine agus b'fhéidir gan morán céille ann agus ná beadh na daoine sin chomh fial, flaithiúil sin in aon chor. Ar aon chuma, ní h-olc an rud é fiche faoin gcéad a thabhairt dosna daoine sin go léir agus na daoine ar fad ar fud na tíre atá ag fáil pinsean dá bhfaighidis an méid sin bheadh an scéal go sásúil.
Is mór an trua go gcaithfimid díospóireacht den tsort seo a bheith againn gach uair a chuirtear Billí den tsórt seo romhainn. Is minic a bhíos dhá cheapadh gur ceart Bille bunúsach a thabhairt isteach agus forálacha a bheith ann a thabharfadh údarás don Aire teacht anso agus na breiseanna a thabhairt ó am go chéile de réir mar a bheadh gá leo agus páipéar a leagadh ar Bhord na Dála ag tabhairt eolais ar an méid breiseanna a bheadh le fáil agus gach rud a bheadh i gceist.
Having said those few words in Irish, I do not propose to hold up the House too long. I agree with the last speaker that those in receipt of Old IRA pensions—military service pensions, as we call them—are a diminishing number. I should like to get from the Minister some time the number of recipients now as compared with the number ten and 20 years ago.
I should like, too, to refer to the question of Old IRA pensions being assessed as means against an old age pension. I am aware that there is a certain concession. An applicant for an old age pension is allowed a certain percentage free of calculation. I think, however, that the percentage should be raised or the means test should be abolished altogether. These military service pensions have been awarded to people on merit because they served their country and it was thought desirable that they should have some reward for the services rendered. Someone said to me recently that these people should get nothing at all because they never expected to get anything. They certainly did not expect it, but that is all the more reason why they should get it. I should like the Minister to examine this question of the means test again. I should like the stage reached at which these pensions would not be taken into account at all. Failing that, I think there should be an increase in the percentage free from calculation as means for old age pension purposes.
I welcome this Bill. It deals with those who obtained for us the freedom we enjoy to-day. We owe them some reward for that. The Minister is giving an increase of 20 per cent. and bringing certain other scales up to the 1955 rate, plus six per cent. He is generous in doing that. In a few more years, there will be no need to pay these pensions because the recipients will have passed away.
With regard to disability pension, I should like to mention one type of case. If a man in receipt of disability pension is brought to hospital and dies, a doctor, who never saw him before, may certify that he died of cardiac debility, or some other complaint, but not the one in respect of which he has a pension. The widow is thereby excluded from any subsequent benefit. I know of one case in the midlands where the widow was informed that, because of the nature of the death certificate, she was not entitled to any benefit. The number of cases in which this might happen must be very small and I appeal to the Minister to bring in some provision covering such cases in the future.
I also welcome this Bill. While we may not all agree that the increase is as generous as we should like it to be, it is nevertheless an increase, and any increase is to be welcomed. I am one of those who believe that nothing is too good for those who achieved the freedom we enjoy to-day. Some play has been made about those who receive such pensions. I am sure everyone will agree that when those men fought, they did not do so in the hope of getting a pension. Most of them never dreamed they would see a pension or that they would get a pension. Most of them joined with all their lives before them. Many of them suffered heavily and for many their lives were broken. For many the whole trend was changed. Some who might have gone to university missed out on that opportunity. Many of them, if they had never taken part in the fight for freedom, would be in very good jobs to-day instead of trying to eke out an existence, in rather dire circumstances in some cases. We all admire these people and, as far as we can afford it, we should be generous to those of them who are still with us. But for them, we might not be enjoying the freedom of expression we now have in our own Parliament.
With regard to disability allowances, it is fairly common experience that when medal holders and holders of certificates apply for disability allowances, there is a certain amount of investigation and a certain amount of red tape. This is something that should not exist. I appeal to the Minister to cut the red tape and be as generous as possible with these people. Nothing is too good for them. I welcome this increase and, like Senator O'Sullivan, I hope that in the very near future the Minister will be back with us again asking for a further increase.
There are quite a number of Old IRA throughout the country with special allowances. The present system of investigation of the means of these men is most uncalled for and unfair. The man who gets a special allowance has to satisfy the social welfare officer in the locality that his means are below a certain figure. If he satisfies the social welfare officer to that effect, he has a yearly visit from him and if his means increase by even £5 or if the officer can see that he has improved his financial position, his special allowance is reduced immediately. One investigation of the means of these men should be sufficient. The yearly investigation by the social welfare officer should be discontinued and the man who is found to be entitled to the pension in one particular year should be allowed to receive it for his lifetime.
Réitím leis an Seanadóir Ó Cíosáin nuair a dúirt sé go mbrathann sé cén taobh den chlaí ar a bhfuil tú nuair atá tú ag tabhairt breithniú ar Bhille den tsórt seo. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil sé de dhualgas ar an bhFreasúrtha na lochtanna a phiocadh amach ach ní raibh mé ag súil leis an meas madra a fuair mé anocht. Caithfidh mé é sin a mheas de réir mo thuairim féin agus déanfaidh mé é sin sul a mbeidh críochnaithe le mo chuid cainte.
Maidir leis an pointe eile a rinne an Seanadóir Ó Ciosáin faoin scrúdú atá a dhéanamh i leith phinsin an sean duine, tuigim go leigeann an Roinn Leasa Shoisialaigh an chéad ceithre scór punt saor agus is mór an cúnamh é sin do shean-óglach atá anois in aois a 70 bliain.
I take it I am entitled to regard the first speaker as the spokesman of Fine Gael in this matter and I must say he made some egregious errors. He spoke about how niggardly and penurious the Fianna Fáil Government are. In fact, he wanted to bring us back to the Civil War. I am not prepared to go back to the Civil War on a Bill of this sort, not that I cannot do it with as much conviction, seeing that I went through it myself, as Senator L'Estrange——
I did not mention the Civil War.
I did not interrupt the Senator, not with as much as a blink of an eye.
I never mentioned the Civil War.
The Senator did, by implication. It was as clear as daylight. I know the propaganda. Senator L'Estrange is a much younger man than I am. I know what the propaganda was 40 years ago. I had personal experience of it. It is true what Senator O'Sullivan said, that nobody did anything for the IRA except Fianna Fáil. I was listening to Deputy MacEoin in the Dáil last week and he made the case that everybody who was sworn in as a volunteer under Cathal Brugha as Minister for Defence—he mentioned Cathal Brugha,Beannacht Dé lena anam—was entitled to get a pension. But what did Deputy MacEoin's Government do in 1924? You had to have served in the Free State Army. Service in the Volunteers was good enough as pre-Truce service but to qualify for a pension, there had to be as well active service in the Free State Army against the Republicans.
What is wrong with the name "National Army"?
It was the Free State Army when I was fighting against it.
It does not matter. It was the National Army.
I had not picked out Senator Carton as the Fine Gael spokesman. However, he has one view in common with Senator L'Estrange, that it is not the Government and it is not Dr. Ryan who are responsible for these increases but some other organisation to which he was making vague references.
I did not make any remark suggesting that the Minister or Dr. Ryan were not responsible. I merely said that a number of these organisations were approaching their appropriate Ministers and getting nowhere; then they united themselves under a consultative council and approached the Minister for Finance and they have got this progress. Any more I did not say.
Deputy Dr. Ryan as Minister for Finance did not require any such urging to help the Old IRA. I should like to say to Senator O'Sullivan that the matters he has mentioned here about hospital treatment, the means test and so on, are constantly under survey in the Department of Defence, but it is not possible to give free hospital treatment to all the Old IRA as there would not be sufficient bed space for the purpose. Therefore up to the present, it has been confined to people with temporary disability pensions. Only those are eligible for treatment at St. Bricin's.
Senator L'Estrange quoted a remark of mine in the Dáil about the question of according recognition where it is not deserved. Does he cavil at it?
It is quite true.
And do others of his Party cavil at it? That is one stance he took up, that we are not giving recognition out with both hands. I could make a few caustic remarks——
Tá an ceart agat. What I was referring to in the Dáil was applications for medals. Deputy Tully had referred to a particular case in which he was then interested and on which he had a Question down, and the case was not meritorious. Is Senator L'Estrange suggesting that if the political backing is sufficiently strong, I should hand out medals? I do not intend to do that.
I examine very carefully every medal application that comes to me. If the verification is reasonably good within the standards laid down, then we always try to give the benefit to the applicant. The cases that have been turned down are cases without merit. Senators will appreciate that when these medals were first issued, no pecuniary advantage went with them. There were many people associated with the movement who did not have active service in the military sense, people who gave a good deal of service not recognised for pension purposes, and they applied for these medals as a memento of their association with the national struggle. There was not, perhaps, as close a scrutiny of the applications as there has been since the introduction of the special allowances. When the special allowances were made applicable to medal holders, it was decided that each case would have to be re-examined and that if a person had a medal to which he was not militarily entitled, that person would not be awarded a special allowance. These, like the military service pensions, have a close association with membership.
With regard to the military service pensions and the suggestions that the lower ones should be increased, Senator Carton referred to a pension of 2/6d. a week. I did not think there was any one as low as that.
That was very early on.
It has probably been increased to much more now. I would like Senators to realise that the amounts of these pensions are a yardstick of the service given by the pensioner. They were never intended as a contribution to livelihood and that is still so. It is suggested that we bring up the lower ones. How can we do that in fairness to the others if the pension is a measure of the active service these people have given?
To alleviate the difficulties of a number of Old IRA men who had very small pensions or no pensions, the scheme of special allowances was brought in. I do not know if Senator L'Estrange is claiming that as a Fine Gael achievement but it did help those with very small pensions. Very often, it is quite a generous allowance and, being a generous allowance, it is necessary that the claim for it be examined closely.
I say to Senator O'Sullivan that there are certain items in the means test which, perhaps, could do with overhauling. It is a uniform scheme, uniformly applied and there is no discrimination, good, bad or indifferent. I do not wish to pursue this discussion much longer. I think I have dealt with all the points made and I do not wish to be inveigled into the same line on which Senator L'Estrange introduced the discussion. Let me say this before I sit down—your friend can express his appreciation by praising you, your opponent can only do it by criticising you, and if I am to go by the remarks which Senator L'Estrange has made, I think the Bill I have presented to the Seanad is a good one.
Could the Minister give me any answer to the case I raised? The case is one of a person who has a disability pension because of illness or disease and that person, when dying, is attended by a doctor who never attended him before. In that case, he may issue a certificate giving a different cause of death and the widow will not get a pension.
Suppose an Old IRA man has a disability pension based on 20 per cent. disability and lives for 40 years after he has received the wound——
It would not be for a wound; it would be a disease pension.
The law as it stands at present is that the death must be due to the man's pensionable disability if his dependants are to get allowances. I have no freedom of action in the matter. I am bound by the findings of the Army Pensions Board. It seems to me that as regards the higher degrees of disability, the matter might require further examination, but I think the Senator will have to clear his own mind in regard to the cases that should receive favourable consideration. If a man has lived for 40 years after contracting the disability and dies of a cause different from the pensionable disability, it is very difficult to disagree with the doctors who did not certify that the death was due to the pensionable disability.
The case I am making is that the doctor who might issue the certificate might have no knowledge of the medical history of the person involved.
As I understand it, the position is that if a person who has a pension dies from his disability, the widow gets a pension but the Minister must get a medical certificate or he can do nothing about it.
But if another doctor issues a certificate, not knowing the medical history?
Surely Senator McAuliffe will recognise the fact that if the doctor knows nothing about the disability of the man, his certificate would be still more objective than that given by a doctor who has the knowledge.
I should like to refer to the Minister's remarks, which I do not precisely remember, to the effect that Senator L'Estrange has caused some sort of opposition but that you were more than satisfied when your friends were with you. If the Opposition can cause the Minister so much irritability we have been successful too.
I repeat what I said.