Now, Sir, I move the adjournment of the Dáil until the 3rd of January, at 3 o'clock.
ADJOURNMENT OF THE DAIL.
I second that motion.
I had intended to ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he would take advantage of the opportunity that would be provided of making a statement on the Government policy with regard to the railways. The Dáil will remember that last week he did not feel it possible, in view of the delicate stage in which the negotiations were, to make a statement with respect to this matter. But, apparently the stage at which negotiations were then in has passed, because we see in the daily newspapers certain indications of the Government policy in this matter. It would be well, and I think the Dáil will agree, that matters of national policy — especially matters under discussion — should be divulged to the Dáil in the first instance, rather than to other bodies. But, in the absence of the Minister, of course we cannot expect him to make a statement. I take it that if the opportunity arises he will either make a public announcement officially or reserve any further communication on this matter to the meeting of the Dáil.
Before the President replies, I should like to say, as one who is taking part in the negotiations, that I do not wish to say anything in this Dáil or outside of it that would tend to widen the breach that exists at the moment between the parties to the negotiations. I wish to say, however, as a representative of this Dáil, and one responsible to the people, that I feel it is very injudicious on the part of the Government, or on the part of a Minister, to make a statement to a Trades Union delegation concerning a matter of policy which should first be made to this Dáil as a result of the report of the Commission and the consideration of that report by the Government. Certain inspired statements and misleading articles — I deliberately say misleading, because I know that some of the things in the papers are not a correct report of what the Minister actually said — have been made. It is not correct to say that the Minister made a statement concerning the attitude of the Government as to their policy regarding the future of railways. The statement that was made was actually a statement concerning a lack of policy, and not a definite policy on the part of the Government itself. I realise very fully that there are certain difficulties in the way of the Government at the moment, and I do not wish to harp on them in this Dáil, because they might be made use of in other places to the disadvantage of people who represent this particular area in the Free State. A leading article in the Irish Times states:—“The Free State will not begin to prosper until the national railway system has been reformed from top to bottom. The companies must be relieved of their financial burden.” That is a very serious statement, and it is actually a correct impression, but what I gathered from the negotiations that I took part in, during the last week or fortnight, was that certain railway companies or the directors of a particular railway have informed the Government, that they are not prepared to carry on the work of that railway after January 1st. Now, the adjournment of the Dáil is moved until January 3rd, and I feel it is a very serious thing for the Government to take a step that would mean the giving of a subsidy to a railway company to enable it to carry on, without acquainting members of the Dáil, who are responsible to the people for taxation in the Free State. I do not wish to go into details for reasons I explained, but I certainly think if that is the position that the Government is likely to be confronted with, then we on these benches and other members of the Dáil also are entitled to some statement as to the policy of the Government in a matter of that particular kind.
I have again to express regret for the non-attendance of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. It is unavoidable, because he is engaged on these negotiations which I think have been well described by the word "delicate." In this matter, as in all other matters, national policy should be first indicated to the Dáil, and I think the Dáil will recognise not alone is the Minister for Industry and Commerce likely to be the victim of reports put about of statements, or alleged statements, he made, published in the Press, but the same fate affects practically every other member of the Ministry. I have seen occasionally statements attributed to me, which I have not made. There is, perhaps, occasionally some skeleton of truth about them, but the flesh was not the flesh that was attached to the statements when I made them, and, it is quite possible that any chance remark may be interpreted in quite a different way to that intended. I have spoken to the Minister for Industry and Commerce rather casually to-day about this statement, and he was rather surprised at it appearing in the Press, and I gathered it was not a correct interpretation of what he said. I have not read the statement he made, and am not in a position to express any opinion on it. The situation with regard to the railways is delicate, I understand. It would not, I think, improve, by reason of any discussion that would take place here. It has scarcely come to the point on which a statement could be made, which would be of any value in dealing with the very difficult and very intricate matters that are in dispute. I think, members opposite will appreciate at least one of the difficulties of the situation which has affected some of their friends as much as the different views of the various companies might affect some of the other members of the Dáil. I refer to the fact, that these negotiations are not, I think, the subject of consideration by one particular union. There are certainly more unions than one, and the matter is complicated to some extent, as far as the employees are concerned, by that fact. We have been unable to avail ourselves of the advice of the Minister for Industry and Commerce for the last day or two, so I do not think any useful purpose would be served now by discussing this matter. I must admit as far as a statement of policy of the Government being disclosed, it is certainly the right of the Dáil that it should be disclosed here first, and I think Deputies may take it, that is the course we have in mind in all these matters.
Before the Dáil adjourns might I ask the Minister for Local Government whether he intends, or whether he will consider the question of paying a small sum in advance on pensions to pensioned Civil Servants. A number of Clerks of Councils throughout Ireland retired during the last twelve months, and their pensions have been held up. I got a few letters to-day, asking if I would press their claims for an advance of the pensions before Christmas. I would like to know when these retired officials of local boards may expect a settlement of their pensions.
I do not think the matter is one in which I can do anything, as I would have no power to make any payment. That is a matter really between themselves and the various Boards. The Boards in certain places are not in funds and have not been able, owing to the peculiar state of the country to pay. In some other cases, to which I think Deputy Byrne is referring, the matter is one, in which the difficulties were created more by the officials themselves than anyone else. If he is referring to the cases I have in mind drafts were sent out to some of the people for part of the amount due them but they returned them because they had not got the full amount.
I am not considering these cases. I mean men with families, who went out on pensions during the last twelve months from local Boards, and who are anxiously waiting payment on account, until such time as their pensions are settled by the Government. I have two or three cases in mind of which I can give the Minister particulars if he desires.
Perhaps Deputy Byrne will take up these special cases with the Minister.
In any special cases of hardship I would make a proposal to the Minister for Finance in regard to them.
Motion made and question put: "That the Dáil adjourns until January 3rd, 1923."
The Dáil adjourned at 6.45 p.m.