The position is that the Dáil has no information directly, and none of its servants appointed to audit accounts has seen the details upon which the awards are based. I asked the Minister for Defence, for my own information, a question as to the years of service given by people who were awarded military service pensions, and which entitled them to those pensions. After three months the Minister forwarded to me a list of pensioners, and he said:—
"Having regard to the heavy expenditure of time and labour that would be involved in obtaining the other particulars asked for by you, the Minister feels the result to be obtained could not possibly justify such expenditure."
The Minister gave me the name of each pensioner, the amount he is receiving yearly, and also the county in which he is resident. I submit these details are not enough. In going through them I noticed that a large percentage of the pensioners are resident in Dublin, and also that the county of Meath has a large number of pensioners. I do not know the names of the men in County Meath, but I think I could not justify to myself—even from the point of view of the Minister that people who served during the Black and Tan war and during the civil war on the Cumann na nGaedheal side are entitled to a pension—voting for the sum required by pensioners in County Meath. I do not know, even from the Cumann na nGaedheal point of view, how such a large number of men in County Meath could have earned these pensions. People in other parts of the country when they were fighting made some noise, but it was very silent warfare in County Meath, as far as I know. In thinking over it, I am of opinion the only explanation regarding these pensions in County Meath that could be given is that the Minister was giving pensions to the old Fianna that are lying in Tara. There is no other possible explanation for it, as far as I can see. I think before the Dáil votes the money to the Minister for Defence, it should know exactly how it is to be spent, and how the people who are going to get it have earned it. We are dealing with public funds administered by three men who are direct nominees of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, and the money in this case can be used altogether for political purposes. Regarding County Meath, if the Minister is not paying out money to the old Fianna that are lying in Tara, he must be paying it to men who were in a secret army, because as far as the ordinary public are concerned, the people in County Meath had not an army that was making very much noise or doing very much public duty during the Black and Tan war.
In thinking over County Meath, and when the idea of the secret army came into my mind, I remembered that the head of the I.R.B. in County Meath is now the Cumann na nGaedheal Organiser of the secret army there— the secret Cumann na nGaedheal army of pensioners. Even though they did not do very good work during the Black and Tan War they can do it for the Cumann na nGaedheal organisation during the general elections or the by-elections. If these men are getting pensions for honourable service during the Black and Tan War why does not the Minister publish the full particulars? Why does he not tell the public of the people to whom they should render homage for services rendered to the country? Not alone has the Minister refused to tell the general public who these men are but the Board of Assessors appointed by him has refused to give particulars to the Auditor-General or his staff. Quite recently one of the Parliamentary Secretaries—and I think he will hardly deny this—when the list of people to whom pensions were awarded was going to be published in a local paper interfered and tried to prevent publication. They are even afraid to let people know the list of those to whom pensions have been awarded. That is a rotten state of affairs. It is bad for the country in general, and very bad for the people who are getting the money. Giving pensions to able-bodied men is likely to create a general prejudice against pensions, and I, for one, am for giving pensions to men who were disabled fighting for any cause they believed in, and for giving pensions to the dependents of men who fell fighting for any cause they believed in. I took part in the civil war, and I know that many of the men we were fighting against were misled by men opposite into the belief that the cause for which they were fighting was the right one for Ireland. Any of them who was disabled, or the dependents of any who fell, I would like to see getting pensions. This practice of giving secret pensions to people for secret service— service that is not public—is wrong and prejudices the whole case for giving honourable pensions to men who gave honourable service. I hope the Dáil will not give this £39,000, £15,000 of which is proposed to be allocated for these secret military service pensions.