took the Chair.
PRIVATE DEPUTIES' BUSINESS. - LOCAL AUTHORITIES (OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES) BILL, 1928—SECOND STAGE (RESUMED).
I do not intend to take up the time of the House to-day at any great length. I said all I wanted to say, I think, before moving the adjournment on the last occasion. I have already indicated my attitude and the attitude of the Labour Party towards this Bill as set out in the amendment on the Order Paper which has been moved by Deputy O'Connell, and which, as you know, seeks to substitute certain words and asks that the Second Reading of the Bill be deferred until a Select Committee, empowered to send for persons, papers and records, has inquired into and reported upon the working of the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926. I recognise that the setting up of the Local Appointments Commission was an attempt to evolve machinery which would produce the very best results so far as local authorities were concerned. I agree with much of what Deputy Hennessy said on the last occasion, and at the same time I find myself in agreement with much of what has been said by Deputy Ward. Perhaps there was too much stress laid on the religious test on the last occasion this Bill was under discussion. Deputy Ward touched upon a certain aspect of medical appointments which, as we all know, is present in various parts of Ireland.
Not alone is the aspect to which he referred present in Ireland, but it is present very largely in other countries. As we all know, it is present very largely in England and Wales, where certain religious persuasions predominate. People do not wish, particularly the female members of a family, to be attended by a medical man who is of a different religious persuasion to that which predominates in the district. I say this as one who has never stressed that feature before. I think that Deputy Ward has been misunderstood, perhaps wilfully misunderstood, though I have no sympathy with Deputy Ward or his Party, none whatever. Whilst I agree that the principle underlying the whole Bill is a very useful one, at the same time, in view of certain incidents that have occurred in the country in connection with these appointments where it could be easily proved that the best men have not been appointed, it would be well and in the interests of the Local Appointments Commission itself, that an inquiry should take place or a Commission should be set up to inquire into all that has been done up to the present and see whether, in the light of experience, this machine has produced the results it was intended to produce, because I believe the intentions behind this institution and the intentions in framing this measure were quite good. In some cases I do know that local opinion has been outraged by some of the appointments—I do not say violently outraged, but outraged. We cannot get away from the fact that in Ireland, at any rate, local opinion has a great deal to do with the appointment of such people as medical officers or solicitors to a local authority. Whilst that is present, unless we attempt by some other means to revolutionise our whole outlook and our whole psychology, I am afraid this institution of the Local Appointments Commissioners will not meet with that success which I feel sure the promoters had in their minds when they initiated that institution. As I have already said, I do not want to get into conflict with the medical men. I prefer to leave those people to fight their professional differences amongst themselves, always having in mind the possibility that I might find myself at some time on the surgeon's table with one of those fierce sawbones trying to get his own back.
Off your back.
There are one or two matters which I think we need not stress, but which must be present in the minds of all of us. There are other qualifications and other qualities desirable in a medical man in addition to having all the academic degrees that this University or any other University can confer upon him or all the postgraduate degrees which universities are able to confer on their graduates. There are certain other qualifications, and Deputy Ward has perhaps rather bluntly, if not broadly, hinted at some of these qualifications. I do not want to be embroiled in a discussion with these gentlemen, but I do think that that particular qualification might have been left undefined, and perhaps so much heat would not have been imported into the subsequent discussion. I am not going to mention—this may or may not be an innovation—the poor man's son, nor am I going to talk about the plain common people of this country. If there is one thing more than another that has been borne in upon me with all the Bills, amendments, and other things we have been discussing for the last couple of days, it is that whilst we hear such an amount of lip sympathy paid to the poor man's son and the plain common people, if the plain common people were consulted to-morrow they would tell you that they are absolutely sick of your legislation. What the plain common people of this country desire is a rest from legislation, a rest from people who want to alter the Constitution, for the time being at any rate. I am speaking strictly as a Constitutionalist. I was elected as a Constitutionalist, by the best constituency in Ireland. I want to put a plain question which any plain man in Ireland would ask to-day, and it is this: what is ten, thirty, or fifty years in the life of a nation? Could we not do some useful work for about five or six, ten or twenty or even fifty years, and give this Constitution a rest, and incidentally our own constitutions?
The Deputy must remember that we have left the Constitution Bills.
I understand that other Deputies want to speak, and I willingly give way and conclude by reitering that what we really want is a rest from legislation and a cessation from the tug-of-war between the Government Party and the Fianna Fáil Party, as between the upper and the nether millstones the poor man's son is suffering very much.
I did not intend to take part in this debate, but I feel that I must give expression to certain opinions which I have formed. At one time I thought it undemocratic that only one name should be sent forward to the local authorities for appointment, but I quickly changed my mind when it was pointed out to me that if three names, or even two, were sent it would entail three things which I think you, sir, mentioned in your speech— namely, that it would certainly not end the chance of bribery, it would not end the canvassing that has been going on, and certainly would end the possibility of the best man being appointed. For these three reasons I changed my mind and voted for the Act as it stands, and I intend to vote against this Bill chiefly for these reasons. One of the reasons I did not intend to speak in this debate was because I have not an intimate knowledge of the working of the Appointments Commission, but I did know from my medical colleagues that were serving on the Selection Boards, and I did know that they were men of the highest character, so far at least as my friends were concerned, who would let no consideration weigh with them except the consideration of merit. I felt perfectly sure that when these men were doing this unpaid work, this thankless job, they were doing their level best to select the best candidates.
I want to say, as far as the Appointments Commission is concerned, that certain doubts have arisen in my mind as to the action of the Commission. One reason was the speech made by Deputy Ward in connection with the appointment of a matron in County Monaghan. The second was in connection with a statement made by Deputy Coburn some time ago. After listening to these speeches I felt that all was not right with the Appointments Commission, and I feel that it is up to the President to make it quite clear to us that the names that were placed first on the list in the order of merit are sent forward to the local bodies for appointment. It is just possible that there may be some explanation of the fact that this is not always done. Deputy Ward has called attention to the fact that the moral character of a person should be considered as well as his other qualifications, and I admit that that is so. Statements were made from the Fianna Fáil Front Bench that unfit men were appointed, and one man in particular was mentioned who, it was said, had never been sober since the day he was appointed. That is a serious state of affairs. It strikes me that it is possible, where the first name has not been sent down to a local body for appointment, that the moral character of the person has not been inquired into until after his examination. If that were so, and it was found that the moral character of the person who stood first on the list would not bear the light of day, then I say that the Appointments Commission were right in not sending forward that name. Otherwise, I hope the President will tell us that there is no interference with the lists given to the Appointments Commission by the Selection Boards.
There are certain changes that might readily be made. I think, as was suggested to me by a Fianna Fáil Deputy, that it is right that the candidate should know what marks are allotted to each part of the examination. For my own part, I am a very practical person, and therefore I would give more marks to the man who could do things than the man who could write and talk about things. The man who is only a bookworm I have not much use for. But the man who is able to use his hands and do things in an emergency, who has practical experience, and some years practice as a house surgeon in a hospital, for instance, would stand in my regard high above any man with mere book qualifications.
I have possibly greater experience of examinations than anybody in the Dáil. One of the reasons why I thought it would be no harm to send down a short panel was because I had frequently found that it is extremely hard to determine from the first three candidates in an examination who is the best man. But there is a great difference between a man who can obtain 80 per cent. at an examination, which includes practical work and a man who obtains the minimum that the General Medical Council allow, namely, 50 per cent. If I thought that a man who had obtained 80 per cent. was not going to get a post, and that a man who only got 50 per cent. was going to get it, I would say that that was absolutely wrong, because I maintain that we should give these positions to the ablest men. So much was this a fact that I have advocated for years a national medical service to be entered by competitive examination. As I say, examinations are not everything that one could wish. There are men rejected at examinations who are much better than those who get through. That very often happens.
I want to say a word about this question of drunkenness. In the past there has been unquestionably a good deal of that type of thing prevalent among dispensary doctors. One could not find fault with them. They were placed in a country district without much society to amuse them, or much encouragement to do any work, because there was no prospect of promotion, as there would be under the scheme that I had in my mind—namely, the grading of the various districts, so that a man could be promoted from the worst district gradually up to the best, as he gained experience and had improved his knowledge. But in the ordinary course of events a man was sent to a poor place in the country. He had no society, and the people were accustomed, when he went to a case and was kept up at night, to place some refreshment before him. That was common, and it lead perhaps to the man taking a little too much drink. As far as that is concerned, I want to say that we now have an Irish Medical Council, and if there is such a thing as men not attending to their business, or showing a laxity in morals, it is quite possible and right that complaints should be made to that body which would deal with the cases. Therefore I suggest that it is not fair for men to say that they have obtained information in confidence, and therefore are precluded from speaking about it. It would be much better not to speak at all, or much better still to come out into the open and say that these men must be brought before the Irish Medical Council to have their case judged there.
These are a few of the things I wanted to say, but I want chiefly to lay stress upon the fact that if I thought the names my colleagues who are serving on the selection boards place upon the list in order of merit were not submitted to the local authorities, I would advise my colleagues no longer to serve on these boards. I put it as far as that.
It is said there is huggermugger going on. I do not say there is. I heard some complaints, but very few, and I think I would have heard more complaints if they were general, with regard to medical appointments. It is up to the President to see that, subject to the limits that I have explained, the first name on the list is sent to the local authority for appointment. I have put a reservation on it, namely, that it is possible that the moral character of the man may have to be inquired into and if his moral character does not bear the light of day, then the second or third name would have to be sent down. But I would object, entirely, to having, what I have been told has happened, the name of the man placed fifth on the list sent down to the local bodies. I take that for what it is worth; I do not know whether it is true or not. If it is true I should object to it most strongly. I intend to vote against this Bill for the reasons I have given.
Many charges have been made by Deputies on the opposite benches against this Bill, introduced by the Fianna Fáil Party, to amend the Local Officers and Employees Act, 1926. There were charges that it is insincere, and that it is an attempt to go back to the old days of corruption in public life in the making of appointments to the various offices under the local authorities. The record of this Party, and the individuals composing it, many of whom have been, for a considerable time, before the public in various ways, can be examined so far as public appointments are concerned and so far as any suggestion of corruption in public life can be made. If anybody in the House, on any side, can bring forward any suggestions of corruption, or any item relating to appointments to public offices which would suggest that there was corruption, I would be glad to hear it. I would be glad to hear it because we would hope to clear the air. I would not be glad to hear a charge of corruption substantiated against anybody in the public life of the country, on this side of the House, or on the other side. I hope we will not be able to prove definite corruption against anybody here in public life. I certainly say, so far as my friends are concerned, I defy anybody to suggest that this Bill is brought in for the purpose of enabling anybody in the country to carry on corruption.
We stand for cleanliness, honesty and straightforwardness in public affairs, and it is because of the grave suspicions that are in our minds. relating to the appointments that have been made under the Act of 1926, that we bring in this Bill and endeavour to have a little light thrown upon the appointments that will be made in the future and a little publicity about them. There is one safeguard in the public life of any country with regard to public affairs, and that is the light of publicity. There may have been cases of corruption in the past; we all heard of a few cases, not many, in some parts of Ireland. Our standard of public morality is high. Our standard is not as low as the passing of the Act of 1926 would suggest. I repudiate the suggestion that it was necessary to pass an Act taking from the public men of Ireland, of any party, the right to make appointments, because that was the suggestion, and the suggestion came from the last place and from the last person that it should come, namely, President Cosgrave— that the public men of Ireland were dishonest and corrupt. They were not, and he ought not to have made that suggestion. There are people, like Deputy Hennessy, who know nothing of public life from inside except what they have learned in the last few years since elected here.
I have been associated with public life in Ireland for many years.
You know nothing of public life from inside, and it comes very ill from the Deputy or from anybody else to suggest that the public life of Ireland was corrupt. It was not.
I never accused public men in Ireland of being corrupt or of being guilty of corruption.
You insinuated it.
I did not. I said there was favouritism, and I stand by that, and I said, when the Bill was introduced, that everybody who voted for me voted for me because they were my cousins or my friends, or some other relative, and not having any regard to my qualifications. I do not want to appear as a slimy hypocrite here.
I had in mind what Deputy Hennessy said when he was speaking here before, when he told us about his early training in corruption and his early training in nepotism. He was brought up on it, he told us. I disagree with him in suggesting it was corruption even that his own family and friends were guilty of. I say it was not corruption. But if he talks of nepotism, I do say that nepotism is possibly more rampant under the present arrangements that we know nothing of than under the old.
It was suggested, as I remarked before, that Deputy de Valera said we were going to get details of some of these matters from speakers on the opposite Benches.
You are so certain that you have covered your tracks.
The last person who should interrupt on this matter is the Minister who has just spoken.
Is it not a fact that we were promised some details on these matters?
Will you please have manners. The Minister often lectured this House on manners and on morality, and he was kicked out of the Executive Council by his old collegues because of want of morality in 1924.
That does not arise on this Bill.
It does arise. This is the gentleman who talks of stern morality. Stern morality mar eadh from that source. He was the very one, above all others who, holding an important office in the Ministry at the time, was called upon to resign, or, as I put it, was kicked out by the Vice-President—the President was ill, probably opportunely, as he did not like to do the job. He did not like to do it himself, so he got the Vice-President to do it while he kept out of the way. He was kicked out because of his want of morality in regard to the work of an important State Department.
Would it not be better for the two Deputies concerned to settle this little family squabble outside?
I am sure Deputy O'Kelly would not like to make a false charge. I was a member of the Army Commission which investigated that matter, and—
I submit that Deputy Cooper is also out of order.
It was an error of judgment and not corruption.
I make no statements without being able to substantiate what I say——
The details are what we want.
I will give you the details.
This is not the time. I do not think I can allow the Deputy to go into that now.
This Act—the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act—is shrouded in secrecy. It is all done in the dark. These appointments are made in the dark, so far as this House and the public are concerned. That is why I raised this point. The gentleman who is in charge of that department now did other things in the dark before, and was accused of doing them in the dark by his own colleague—the late Vice-President.
Is the Minister for Local Government and Public Health in charge of the department for making appointments? I hold he is not.
I have nothing to do with it.
He sanctions the appointments.
On account of the things that were done in the dark, it was said of the present head of the Department of Local Government and Public Health that there was no candour, no frankness, and no straight dealing in him, and one cannot do the business of the nation in the dark.
The Deputy cannot now go into these details. We are not now discussing the Minister for Local Government and Public Health.
Deputy O'Kelly is entitled to make his speech. General insinuations have been made against public bodies and——
Deputy Coburn will please sit down.
I am entitled to speak on a point of order.
What is the point of order?
That Deputy O'Kelly is as much entitled to make a speech without interruption as the Ministers are entitled to make general charges of corruption, bribery, and dishonesty against public bodies in the State. I hold that the Deputy is quite entitled to speak.
That is not a point of order.
With all respect, I do not want to disagree with your ruling, but we are discussing a matter which relates to honour and public morality——
Yes, "stern morality," to quote the Minister's words. Where the question of the whole standard of morality in public life is at stake, and where we are lectured from the other side when we bring in this Bill, and told that we are endeavouring to go back to the days when there was no high standard of public morality and honesty in the country, I hold that I am entitled to refer to this matter. I say there was no time in my recollection when there was not a decent standard of morality in the country. That is my recollection after twenty years in public life. I do suggest that such a lecture ought not to come from that source. It is rather a brazen thing coming from the source from which it comes, and I think I am in order in pointing out and giving my reasons for stating that it is rather brazen and rather a piece of effrontery from that individual to lecture us on our morality when that gentleman himself was punished by the Executive Council for want of morality in connection with an important State Department. He was definitely charged by the late Vice-President, and the charge was evidently agreed to by the majority of the Executive Council at the time and by the Government, that because of want of candour, and want of frankness and want of straight-dealing, and because of the things that were done in the dark by the then Minister for Defence, the present Minister for Local Government and Public Health, he was called on to resign.
I think, having said that, that the Deputy ought to proceed to deal with the Bill.
This is very relevant to the Bill.
I do not think so.
If you do not think so I must go on, but I would like to say that I have quotations here from the late Vice-President and from the speech of his present colleague, Mr. Desmond Fitzgerald, the Minister for Defence, and they both agreed that in their opinion there was a want of stern morality at that time on the part of the Minister, proving what I claim is correct, that at least the charge that we have not a standard of morality that would entitle us to bring in a Bill of this kind ought not to come from that side. It ought not to come above all from that individual.
Give us the details of the corruption in regard to the appointments made by the Local Appointments Commissioners.
I have given you the details of your own corruption and I will give you more if you look for it.
The Deputy will have to be allowed to make the speech in his own way.
It is a pity the Minister could not move the closure on the Deputy.
I am sure he would have liked to move the closure in 1924 when his own corruption was being talked about. Perhaps he would like to do it now.
No, on the contrary.
We do not wish to introduce any Bill that would give any licence or liberty to anybody in the country to use improper, immoral, or corrupt methods in making public appointments. We have some confidence in the public men that will be elected after they have been elected. We, I believe, are as anxious as any individual or Party in this House to see that the standard of morality is improved and that the standard of public appointments and the standards of those who would be selected for public office be high. We do say that the country elects those people, and these people once elected to these positions, and having the confidence of the country, are entitled to consideration in the making of these public appointments. They are as entitled as we in Dáil Eireann, and they are more entitled than any selection board that might be nominated at the suggestion of Deputy Hennessy, by the Minister for Local Government, or anybody else to make these appointments. Deputy Hennessy dislikes the old arrangement. He probably had not as much pull under the old arrangement as he has now. He is probably now chief medical wangler to the Local Government Department by reason of the fact that he is a Deputy and a member of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party.
It is absolutely false of the Deputy to suggest that, and I may say it is cowardly.
It is cowardly to suggest that I ever tried to wangle the Local Government Department because the Local Government Department has nothing to do with these appointments.
Deputy Hennessy had not, except in his own area, much influence. He evidently had a good deal there and he used that with great advantage to himself. But he had not probably much anywhere else inside Ireland. He has not much influence with the doctors in the rest of Ireland, because, as Deputy Ward said, he had only five per cent of the doctors in his Medical Association.
If the other remarks by the Deputy are as truthful as that——
The Deputy did not deny it, and he has not denied it now that only five per cent. of the medical men in the country are in his Association.
As a matter of fact I will——
We are not going into a discussion on the Medical Association now.
If the other statements of the Deputy are in keeping with that, we can know how truthful his words are.
We can deal with the matter here now.
The Deputy cannot discuss the matter now.
It is not a trade union.
It is not a trade union, but it ought to be.
When they are sending in bills you know where they stand in regard to each other. Whatever organisation they ought to be in they are not going to be in his. Evidently he has not got that much pull that he could suggest or make appointments through the country, but he can probably do so now with greater effect.
I think the Deputy ought to leave that matter alone.
I do not think it is fair to suggest that the Deputy has anything in the world to do with the matter.
I treat the whole thing with the contempt it deserves.
That is right.
That is better than any medicine.
I am perfectly easy in my mind over the matter.
Therefore, the Deputy would not have anything to do with the making of appointments in this country. He told us the other day that he makes plenty of appointments across the Channel. If he is able to make them at that distance, I am suggesting more or less by way of compliment to him that if he is able to make them in England surely he could do the same in Ireland.
That is equally false. I never said such a thing.
Take your medicine, Doctor.
There is nothing of the quack in it, anyhow.
There are some who could take medicine with advantage.
Let us have some order, please.
I will come back to the matter now and then. With all respect, there was a good deal of rambling in the discussion that has gone on in connection with this Bill, and many Deputies have gone out of their way in order to get a rap at Fianna Fáil. We here are trying to get a little of our own back.
Shake the bottle again.
Strange to say, the doctors seem to be the people who like it the least.
Repeat the dose.
The President in his criticism of the Bill set out as a serious objection to the Bill that it would upset two Commissions; it would upset the Local Appointments Commission and it would upset the Civil Service Commission. I wonder was the President serious? Was he serious in suggesting that it was a very serious and grave objection to the Bill that these two Commissions should be upset? I do not think he intended that that should be taken seriously.
I know the President is fond of a sly joke now and again, and that may be his sly joke on the amount of work that these six or seven Commissioners have to do.
There are four in all.
It would be killing work to take the duties of the Local Appointments Commissioners and put them on to the Civil Service Commissioners. That is offered as a serious objection to the Bill—the putting on to the Civil Service Commission of the work of the Local Appointments Commission. Our idea is that the work of the Local Appointments Commissioners would be decreased with advantage by trusting the people, trusting the elected representatives of the people of all Parties. We know the Fianna Fáil representatives can be trusted, but we do suggest to you that the Cumann na nGaedheal representatives elected on county councils, the Labour representatives, and the Independent representatives, ratepayers or otherwise, elected on county councils, are deserving of a little trust from this House, and from President Cosgrave and his Party. It is good enough at general election time, when elections are on for this House, to talk of the will of the people and trust the people, but when it comes to appointing a person to any office of a local authority in the country, then they are all corrupt, they are all full of bribery, they are people without honour, and they are people without honesty. That is a thing that I, at any rate, from my experience of public life, will not stand over.
I believe you do not get the best type of official by having them nominated by a select secret little clique in Dublin, because that is what is done. I know nothing about these Selection Committees. I met one gentleman who told me he had acted on one of these committees, and had honestly tried to do his best to select the best person. I am sure he did. I take it for granted all the other professional gentlemen or others who act on Selection Committees honestly do the same. I believe they will all act honestly, but my objection to them is not that they will not honestly try to select the best person, but that all these things are done in the dark, behind backs, and nobody in the country knows whether the person best qualified is appointed or not. You have to take the word of the Local Appointments Commissioners for them. I happen to know some of the Local Appointments Commissioners, and I would not take their word for anything.
Give us their names.
I would not take their word for anything. I took it to my cost once too often.
Hear, hear! So did I.
And there are people here now into whose minds that will sink. I hope so, anyway. I took their word and their oath too often to have any trust in them now. My belief is that they will act unscrupulously, so far at least as their political opponents are concerned. I believe that they will use methods that will not be straight, honest, or honourable where political opponents, at least, are concerned. That is my belief.
State the facts.
Is it not a fact that very many of the Fianna Fáil or Republican people have got appointments?
Not that I know.
I am prepared to withdraw and to apologise if that be true.
It is so.
If it is proved that the Local Appointments Commissioners have done that, I will say, in regard to my statement that they are prepared to knife their political opponents, that that is not so. I do not, want to make any false charge, any charge that is in any way false, and if it is proved that what I say is not true, then I will certainly most humbly apologise.
What you have said is untrue to my knowledge.
It is not in regard to the West of Ireland, anyhow.
I do not know anything about the West, thanks be to goodness.
There is absolutely no political distinction whatever exercised in connection with these appointments. Every candidate is taken on his merits, and whoever is selected is mentioned as the best candidate to the local authority for appointment without any reference whatsoever to the question of political considerations.
Is the President prepared to have a show-down on all the appointments made since 1922? Is that asking too much?
I should think it is asking a little bit too much.
Not at all.
There is one way of getting this thing examined, and that is by accepting the amendment of Deputy O'Connell. I am prepared to do that, and to stand over the findings of any committee that would be set up.
Let us have a show-down.
If what I am stating is proved untrue, I am quite prepared to come here in the whitest sheet that could be got, and I will make my humble apologies to the House.
You would not look a bit better.
Deputy Gorey would.
Deputy Gorey has all the good looks. As I say, we have some belief in the morality of those who had the privilege of making public appointments, and we stand for restoring that privilege to the people, with this condition, that there should be an authority somewhere—here in Dublin, or in Cork, if it would suit the Corkmen, or any where else within the ambit of the twenty-six counties—that would examine the technical qualifications that would be required in candidates to fill any office. We want that. We want the public bodies safeguarded against incompetent men or women being appointed to public office. We are satisfied that that is a wise provision, but we are not satisfied—I for one am not satisfied at any rate—that that has been the only qualification that has been demanded from candidates for public office inside the twenty-six counties since the Public Appointments Act of 1926 came into operation. We believe that public criticism and publicity is the corrective which will cure any corruption that may exist, and there is not much of it in Ireland, thanks be to God; there is not much of it on any side. And I say here, in front of President Cosgrave, who was in the Corporation of Dublin and who held various public appointments in Dublin for a long time, that in his public life he saw very little corruption amongst members of public bodies. It came badly from him—he was not here when I was speaking on it before—to suggest that there was corruption rampant in all the public bodies.
Will the Deputy quote any statement of mine to that effect in any report and say where it was made?
I say that you said that when you brought in and passed this Bill, taking away all power from public representatives.
Then may I take it that it is only on inference that the Deputy bases his statement?
He has no quotation?
The President has surrendered to the old gang that he was fighting for twenty years. There is no question about that.
He has put up the white flag.
What is the meaning of taking away from the elected representatives the power to make appointments?
To get the best qualified candidates.
I am with you there.
Your Bill does the same.
Will you have a little manners?
You are a bad judge of manners.
I listened to you and I did not interrupt you. If you want to ask a question that I can answer I will gladly sit down.
I say that your Bill is doing the same as the Act— taking the appointments out of the hands of the people——
Stand up if you are going to address the House.
—but it is doing it in a worse way.
With the interruptions that there have been I did not catch what Deputy Hennessy said.
I say that your Bill also takes the powers out of the hands of the local authorities, just the same as the Act, but does it in a worse way.
How many speeches can Deputy Hennessy make on this Bill?
As many as he made on the Vaccination Bill—twenty, I suppose.
I do not mind how many speeches Deputy Hennessy makes, because he is always amusing. We want a little lightness in this House from time to time.
I will meet Deputy Ward before any body of medical men——
On a point of order. Is Deputy Hennessy to be accorded the privilege of sitting in his place and of carrying on a conversation while another Deputy is speaking?
I suggest to the President that the mere fact of passing an Act taking entirely and absolutely out of the hands of the publicly elected representatives of the people any right to make appointments was a grave reflection on the capacity and on the honesty of these elected representatives of the people. If it was not that, I would like to know what it was. I read the speeches that were delivered while this Act was under discussion, and I got the impression that there was prevalent in this House, on all sides, at that time, an opinion that the public life of Ireland was full of corruption. I repudiate that suggestion. I do not think it ought to have been suggested by any party, whatever party they might be, that the public men of Ireland are corrupt, dishonest and inefficient. That is a suggestion that ought not to go out.
Is the Deputy making that charge against the members of this Party who supported the original Act?
I cannot at the moment give the Deputy the names, but I am giving him the impression that was made on my mind when I read over the speeches of members of all parties in the discussion on the Act when it was brought in.
It is a wrong impression so far as we are concerned.
I am glad to hear that. If my suggestion is wrong I withdraw it, but that was the impression left on my mind. I will look over the debates again, and will try to give definite quotations, when an occasion offers, with regard to these suggestions of corruption. But at any rate, from our side of the House we want to suggest—and I would be glad if the House as a whole would accept the suggestion —that the public life of Ireland is no worse in its morality than is the public life of any other country. I repeat that I believe the standard of public life and of public morality is higher here than in most countries that I have visited, and I have visited a good many in Europe and elsewhere. It is much higher, whether it relates to elected members of the legislature or to elected members of local authorities. It was a grave reflection, and I say it came badly from one who had such long experience as President Cosgrave had of the public life of the country, that such an Act was passed. It is to restore the good name of the country, to restore confidence, as Deputy de Valera said earlier, when speaking on this Bill, in the public life of the country, and in the morality of that public life, that we introduced this Bill. Of course, some may say, and perhaps with some reason, that it was introduced from a Party point of view. It was, in this respect: I candidly confess that we felt that Republicans were not getting a fair do, were not getting fair play, under the present arrangement. We know that it is most difficult to prove, because the qualifications are not made public, whether the best person is appointed or not.
I am with President Cosgrave absolutely in wanting the best person appointed. I do not care what that person's politics or religion is; when it is a question of a public appointment I want to have the best persons who can be got appointed. But I am not satisfied, because we have not got the details, that that has been done, and there is no proof of it, beyond the words of gentlemen, some of whose words, as I say, I cannot accept. Fianna Fáil certainly gives way to no Party and to no individual in its desire to secure that only a person who will do the best work and give the best service should be appointed to a public office. I agree that, as President Cosgrave said, after all the central Government have a right to have some voice in these appointments. A good deal of money is sent down to these public bodies that helps to pay these people from the National Exchequer, and, therefore, from that point of view— and it is not the highest point of view, which is the public good—whether we pay directly or not, the central authority has a right to have some say in the matter. We are satisfied that they shall have a say so that they could see that nobody is appointed but persons who are thoroughly qualified to be appointed to any public office in any part of the area of Ireland over which the Free State rules. I quite agree with Deputy Anthony that there is, perhaps, a suggestion of hypocrisy for us to be always talking about the poor man's son. I do not want to go out of my way to drag it in, but I see a reference in a speech of the President to the poor man's son: "What about the poor man's son?" Most of us in this House are poor men's sons.
Over here, anyway.
I think the majority in the House are.
What about Deputy Flinn?
I think he is a poor man's son.
He is not a poor man himself.
He may not be. I do not know what his wealth is. I hope he is well off. We want to secure, as much as anybody else in the House, that whenever a poor man's son may be qualified by his education to get an appointment no bar shall be put in his way. But we do not believe that this Act makes it easier for a poor man's son to get an appointment than it would if amended in the way that our Bill suggests. I cannot see that. I am quite open to be convinced, if someone will point out to me how this Act makes it easier to give a poor man's son an appointment under a public board than would the Act if amended in the way we suggest. After all, we have scholarships to the universities offered now under the country councils, and other kinds of scholarships, out of public moneys, to clever boys and girls of the poor and rich alike. Of course, in most cases they are limited to people of certain means, but we have there an opportunity afforded to the poorer class of people, if they have clever boys and if they can afford to keep them at school long enough—often a difficulty arises there—for them to win scholarships. These boys or girls pass through their scholarship and university careers and get their degrees, and those who know best the value of these young people, and those most anxious, as a general rule, in my experience at any rate, to push their own scholars along, are the local authorities. That has been my experience in the City of Dublin. I have no personal experience of the public bodies in the rural districts and know nothing about them beyond what I have read. I know the City of Dublin as well as anyone, and I know public life there after twenty years' experience. We established scholarships in Dublin seventeen years ago on my suggestion, and we were always keen on shoving forward our own brilliant boys and girls. We were always keen on giving them a chance in preference to others who were equally qualified. If there was an appointment open in the public service, as long as I was connected with the municipal life, and if anyone who had won a scholarship under our scheme, who had turned out a brilliant and a satisfactory person, applied, there was always a sentiment in favour of giving him a preference over anybody else, even though another person might be equally well qualified. I would not say that we would not give a person who was as well qualified the appointment if we had one of our own scholars, but we certainly did have a sentiment in favour of our own scholars, no matter what class they came from, and, of course, they must have been from the poorer class when they got the scholarships. In my opinion, if all appointments were left under the conditions we have agreed about, that headquarters should satisfy themselves that only competent and properly qualified persons should have their names submitted to the local authorities, if appointments were left to the local authorities, in all probability the poor would have, I will not say more, but as good a chance as anyone else. That is my belief. In all probability they would have more, but they certainly would have at least as good a chance as any other class.
Deputy O'Connell said that these appointments should be above party. I agree. There has not been any decision of any kind in our Party on that matter. I think I can speak for the whole Party, and say that, if we could get agreement and that these appointments would be above party, that no one should be disqualified because of any conviction—political or religious— as long as that person was the best qualified, I certainly would work hard to have that agreed to. In my belief, that has not been the policy. The policy has been to knife Republicans. Possibly, Labour has come in for a share. I do not know. They can speak for themselves, but I know that Republicans have not got a fair do. We ask for no more from the gentlemen who have been in control during the last five years. They have been "downed" at every turn, at every chance, and that will continue to be the policy as long as this is conducted in the dark. We would be very keen on securing justice for all parties without reference to political convictions; justice for everybody in the country in the making of these appointments. If the committee suggested by Deputy O'Connell was agreed to, an arrangement might be made by which it could be secured that all parties would be represented on the Local Appointments Commission. If that were so, then, as long as we had our representative there, we would have to be satisfied always. We have not a representative there. It is like what you have in America. The party in power keeps all the jobs for their own friends, favourites and backers. That is what you have had, and that is what you will continue to have.
They are honest in America about it. They admit it.
They are. There they say you are one of the "outs"; we are the "ins." We have the spoils of war, and will keep them. That is open and above board. It is not open and above board with the gentlemen here. It is not straight. It is not the stern morality quoted by the Minister for Local Government, who is such an authority on morality. It is not morality, and, in my opinion, is not straight or fair dealing, and it is not getting the best type of individual into the public offices of the country. You get people who go in with bias and who conduct their work with bias—not always, of course. I will not say that you do not get good men even through the Appointments Commissioners. You do get men who work in an honest straightforward way, but you do not always get them. Even Deputy Dr. Hennessy, I think, occasionally might get a person who would not be a 90 per cent. Cumann na nGaedheal backer when he got in. Very often such people have proved to be fair and straight in their dealings with the public.
Deputy O'Connell, in criticising this Bill, said it was a very bad example of legislation by reference. As a matter of fact, there are only two Acts that had to be referred to, the 1926 Act and the Act establishing the Civil Service Commissioners. Therefore, I do not think there is much in the Deputy's point. The Deputy also deprecated the idea of the Fianna Fáil Party introducing this Bill to amend the Act. Can the Deputy suggest any other way of bringing in a Bill here if it is not to be brought in by a Party or a member of a Party? I do not know of any other mode of procedure. If legislation has to be introduced here, in 90 per cent. of the cases it has to be introduced by the Cumann na nGaedheal Party or its members, but it need not necessarily be so. Some very unnecessary legislation has been introduced by that Party. Some Party has to introduce legislation. I wonder would Deputy O'Connell tell us how else legislation is to be introduced if it is not introduced by some Party or an individual member of a Party?
We do not want to introduce this as a Party measure. Far from it. We believe that the Act ought to be amended on the lines outlined in this Bill. We are not tied to every syllable in our Bill, but we are to the general principle, and we say that the Act ought to be amended on the lines indicated. If we could get agreement on the suggestion contained in Deputy O'Connell's amendment for the setting up of a Committee, we would be very happy to have legislation if it were on those lines. I trust it would not be Party legislation, but that it would be legislation representing the views of the House as a whole and introduced for the purpose of amending the Act on these principles for the betterment of the people as a whole, and for the purpose of securing better service than we believe is got in the public life of the country under the Act that is in operation. We do not, as Deputy O'Connell suggests, think that this Bill is perfection. I know the Minister for Local Government did not think it perfect. Far from it. I would say to him that he ought not to be so anxious to charge us with bringing in imperfect Bills. The less that he or anyone in his Department says about that the better. We have had examples recently of legislation that his Department introduced and of the cost that it brought on the country. What about the Mutual Insurance Act? That Act is not very long in existence, and we know now what the Courts of Justice think about it.
What about the Minor Drainage Schemes Bill introduced by the Minister's Department? That Bill has not yet got far enough to become an Act. It was introduced more than once, because of the incompetence of the Department—absolute incompetence. And, with all that, the Minister comes along and tells us how imperfect our Bill is. I would ask him for God's sake to dry up on that score. He has behind him a number of experts costing the country many thousands a year. I cannot give the exact figure at the moment. He has as Secretary of his Local Government Department a gentleman who is, of course, President Cosgrave's nomination. He must be the greatest expert in Ireland on local government.
And so he is.
I am sure he is, and that he is a good Secretary, and that in all probability he is a very competent man. The only thing I will say is this, that if he is a competent man he ought to protect his Minister.
The Deputy cannot criticise the officials of a Department by way of a side issue like this. I do not think it is right.
I am sorry, and I withdraw. I say that the official head of the Department is not responsible, but the Minister is. The Minister must accept the responsibility. If I have said anything about the official head of the Department, I am sorry and I withdraw it. The Minister, with all the technical advice available for him, proposed two Bills recently that had to be withdrawn. I do not know how many thousands a year it costs the country for all this technical advice. The Minister has in his Department technical advisers, engineering officials, inspectors and many others to give him advice. No doubt he did get good advice from these officials, and perhaps the reason the Bill had to be withdrawn was because he did not accept the advice of the Secretary to his Department. Probably if he had done so he would not have made this blunder, and would not have had to withdraw his Bill. In view of the fact that the Minister has all this valuable technical advice behind him he ought to be able to draft the Bills for his Department in such a way that the judges in the courts could stand over them, and would not have to sling them back contemptuously in his teeth, as they did in the last few weeks, and tell him that he did not know how to draw up Bills.
We do not say that of him, but the judges did. We would not do that. We leave that to gentlemen who know all about morality and all about the drafting of Bills. They are very fond of lecturing this House on this subject, but they are not so fond of it when they get a little back. It was suggested by Deputy O'Connell that if this Bill were passed it would tie the hands of the local authorities to a much greater extent than the Act does. I agree that it suggests to do that only in one respect, and that is in respect of appointments made under the system of competitive examination. The Minister for Local Government objects to our suggestion that, when appointments are to be made by competitive examination, only the name of the person who gets first place in a competitive examination should be sent down to the local authorities.
That is not a fact.
I would be glad if the Minister would explain.
The Deputy will see it in my statement.
If the Minister says I am wrong, I will be glad to hear it. Deputy O'Connell suggested on the last day of the discussion that we tied the hands of the local authorities, and the Minister for Local Government objected to our sending down only one name to the local authorities.
Again, that is not a fact.
My belief was that the Minister suggested that. At any rate, Deputy O'Connell suggested that we have tied the hands of the local authorities more than the Act does. That is so in regard to the appointment by competitive examination. I would suggest it is only right and proper that the person who comes first in a competitive examination should get the appointment, provided always that there is the condition about health, morality, and things of that kind, that ought to be, and, I am sure, are a condition by the Local Appointments Commissioners before an appointment is made. I suggest that once the local authorities agree to competitive examination you are certainly not tying their hands more than they want when you insist that once a competitive examination is held only the person who comes first in the list should be appointed. That has not been done in one case I know of. There was an appointment made to the Town Clerkship in Enniscorthy. I do not know how many sat for the examination, but I am told that the person who was fifth on the list was appointed. As a Deputy here says, and I believe something of the kind is true, the reason is that he was a member of the I.R.B., and certainly he was a most active C.I.D. and Intelligence officer in the Free State Army.
General Mulcahy's— the Government's—I.R.B.
Are there two of them?
I think there is only one. If the Deputy puts a question to the Minister, I am sure he will get all the information necessary.
A Deputy interrupted from outside the barrier.
Is it right for anyone to speak from outside the barrier?
It is not.
Even in defence of the I.R.B.?
We stand for competitive examinations where the local authorities wish them in consultation with the Minister. We certainly do not want to take any of the powers of the Minister for Local Government from him, where his effort and that of the local authorities jointly are to secure the best possible person for an appointment, except in so far as it is suggested to be limited by the Bill, but we do not want to take from him authority over competitive examinations. We believe competitive examinations suitable for the making of appointments, when agreed to by the Minister and the local authorities, should be held, and when held only the name of the person who gets first place in the examination should be submitted to the local authority for appointment. The Minister for Finance, in his criticism of the Bill, said: "It is left to the local authority to decide whether or not some method of selection other than competitive examination is to be resorted to." It is not. The Minister for Finance is entirely wrong. It is left to the Local Appointments Commission. It is left to the local authority in consultation with, and with the consent of the Minister, to decide whether a competitive examination may be dispensed with or may be held. It is the Local Appointments Commissioners who must issue the order. That is what is in the Bill, and not what the Minister for Finance said the other day. Evidently a vigorous effort was made last week by the Ministers who spoke on this Bill to throw all the mud and make all the representations possible on and around the Bill. Section 9 says:—
"(4) When for the purpose of filling any post under a local authority a competitive examination is held the name of the candidate who obtained first place in such examination shall be sent by the Commissioners to such local authority for appointment."
There is a corollary to that:—
"Whenever a local authority or the Minister requests the Commissioners to recommend to them the names of a person or persons qualified for appointment to an office to which this Act applies and the local authority in consultation with and with the concurrence of the Minister is of opinion that having regard to the knowledge and experience necessary for the efficient performance of the duties and qualifications prescribed under this Act for that office, the person or persons to be recommended as qualified for appointment to that office cannot be satisfactorily selected by competitive examination the Commissioners with the sanction of the Minister may dispense with the competitive examination required by this Act and may select the person or persons to be recommended,"
and so on.
That disposes of the statement of the Minister for Finance when he says it is left to the local authority to decide whether or not some method of selection other than a competitive examination is to be resorted to. It is left to the Local Appointments Commissioners and to the Minister for Local Government in consultation with the local authority. The Minister for Finance also said: "It is provided that there is to be no choice; the local authority is to have no choice if there is to be a competitive examination." Perhaps I was wrong in suggesting that it was the Minister for Local Government who objected to a competitive examination—who objected to the fact that there was no choice where there was competitive examination. If so, I am sorry. But the Minister for Finance certainly did. The Minister for Finance went on to say: "I do not see why there is to be no choice in the case of competitive examination, and there must be choice by the local authority in the case of competitive examination." I can understand, in view of the past experience, in view of the case in Enniscorthy which I have mentioned, why the Minister for Finance, and, perhaps, his colleagues, do not want the person who gets first past the post in a competitive examination appointed, and do not want an Act amended and passed by this House so rigid that only the best person could be appointed. In the Enniscorthy case the fifth on the list was appointed and I do not know how many candidates there were.
I suggest the Deputy is misrepresenting the Minister for Finance in the matter. What the Minister said was: "I do not see why there is to be no choice in the case of competitive examination, and there must be choice by the local authority in the case of competitive selection."
I do not think that I have misrepresented the Minister in any way. He says here: "I do not see why there is to be no choice in the case of competitive examinations and there must be choice by the local authority in the case of competitive selections."
He does not see why the Deputies in their Bill require choice where there is competitive selection and no choice when there is examination.
Exactly, there is to be no choice when there is competitive examination. Competitive selection? That is something new. We do not know the term. When there is competitive examination anybody can get a copy of the examination paper, with the marks set out that are allotted to each question on the paper. Every candidate gets that in the case of competitive examinations, and knows where he is. Have we got that, or has the public got it in this so-called competitive selection? We know nothing about it. The Minister for Finance says: "I have been informed, and I believe it is true, that medical men who have some experience and who contemplate going forward for local vacancies have been taking out post-graduate courses and doing everything towards improving their qualifications, in the knowledge and belief that they would improve their chances of appointment. This Bill would stop all that work that has been going on." How, in the name of heaven, would it stop it? Our object, and the object of the Bill, and I do not think that anyone could suggest that there is any other object, is to get the best person appointed, and, in order to get that, we agree that there should be a bóard to examine the qualifications.
If anybody wishes to spend a greater amount of time than that spent by the ordinary man who barely qualifies, and spends it in getting additional experience and additional qualifications by means of post-graduate courses or anything else, we take it that all these additional qualifications will be taken into account by the technical heads of the Selection Board and the Local Appointments Commissioners. They will be taken into account as being additional qualifications, and any body, Selection Board or Local Appointments Commissioners, or even a local authority, would take into consideration in making an appointment any additional qualifications that would be possessed by candidates. Members of local bodies are not so stupid. Many members of this House are members of county councils, boards of health, and other bodies. Do they lose all capacity, all honesty, all idea of selecting good, straight, competent officials when they leave this House and sit on their county councils and boards of health?
The local authorities in some respects are not free to choose their own men. There is too much canvassing going on, and men with the biggest pull are appointed. Deputy O'Kelly knows that well.
I cannot say that I know that. I have been canvassed in my time, like everybody else, but does anybody mean to say that there is not canvassing of one kind or another, or a pull of one kind or another, under present conditions?
All the men whom Deputy Dr. Hennessy suggests to the Local Appointments Commissioners to put on Selection Boards to select medical men are supermen. They would not like anyone to suggest to them that their friends should be put in. Oh, no. Far be it from Deputy Dr. Hennessy, who is able to get so many jobs for medical men in England, to do anything in Ireland to get jobs for his friends. Deputy Carey is, I think, a member of the Cork County Council.
Deputy Carey will not suggest that he is a different man in Cork to the man he is here. There is nothing of the Jekyll and Hyde about him. He could not change. May be it would not be wise for him. He has not two faces to offer to the public like Janus. In his capacity here as a Deputy doing public acts we presume that he is above board and that he will do his best to get the best persons appointed to public positions, but when he goes to Cork. President Cosgrave suggests that Deputy Carey is no man to make appointments. He cannot do so. He is not honest enough or straight enough nor is his friend Deputy Sheehy.
Do not mind Deputy Sheehy. He is well able to meet you on any platform.
Deputy Sheehy and I met on platforms before and will again. We always enjoyed ourselves.
God forbid that I should be on your platform. I am not going to disrupt the country as you are.
I always listened with pleasure when he was calling the men of 1916 cut throats and murderers.
I never did. That is a falsehood.
The Deputy did.
Fair play now.
All right I will quote the Deputy's words on a suitable occasion.
I am prepared to meet you on any platform.
All right. It is always a treat to hear the Deputy.
You have a right to stick to the truth. I never called those men murderers. I stuck to my principles and always will to the end.
Certainly, I agree with you there.
Let it finish at that.
Certainly. If I stated any untruth so far as the Deputy is concerned I apologise.
You treated me unfairly by stating a falsehood.
Canvassing, according to Deputy Carey is wrong. I know, and others in this House know, that during the last week Deputies have been bombarded on all sides by aspirants to the Seanad. The lobbies have been filled with people.
Even by John Jinks.
There have been numerous aspirants to the Seanad. I saw one or two of them in the gallery and around the lobbies for the last week. Is it because there has been that canvassing going on for the Seanad that the Seanad ought to be abolished? I do not object to it being abolished, but would the President offer that as a reason for its abolition?
We are not abolishing positions. It is the system we are abolishing.
Will the President suggest that Senators should be appointed by the Local Appointments Commissioners?
By competitive examination.
Some of them might be excellent Commissioners. They are impartial at any rate.
I quite agree that some of the bright things in the Seanad would make excellent Appointments Commissioners. They would fill the bill well. They would do what they are told.
I am not so sure that some others would not do it, too.
I think you are right. The Minister for Finance said: "An official of the Local Appointments Commissioners, their Secretary, is present at the meetings of the Selection Board, and if there was any trickery being done by the Selection Board, the Local Appointments Commissioners have the means of checking and countering that." Does he think that is a safeguard? Is he so innocent as to offer that as a safeguard against jobbery, corruption, and trickery? I, for one, am not prepared to accept it. I say that these things that are being done in the dark by the Local Appointments Commissioners certainly give rise to suspicion. As the late Minister for Justice said in 1924, in reference to other things done in the dark, they gave rise to grave suspicions. They give rise to suspicion in our minds that may not be always justified. That is what he said about certain things done in the dark in 1924. There is grave suspicion abroad in the country, and we would have these suspicions wiped away under this Bill. I would like for the honour and the good name of the country that there should be no suspicion attached to the making of any appointment. I do not care who has to make them. We should get rid of that suspicion that exists. You may say that it should not exist, but it does exist, and it exists because the Appointments Commissioners are the nominees of a Party and have the partisan in their actions. Unless you can disabuse the minds of the public of that suspicion and reconstitute that Commission or set up first of all a Committee to examine into the appointments and then re-organise that Commission, suspicion will still continue.
The Minister for Finance said: "The check that Deputy de Valera seems to seek exists already. It exists in a form which has no harm in it, but which undoubtedly gives confidence." I wonder to whom it gives confidence? It gives confidence, if you like, to numbers of those in the country who have implicit confidence in the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, but not to anybody else. It is, I think, not good for the country, and I suggest to the Cumann na nGaedheal Party that it is not good for the country. I suggest in all seriousness it would be wiser if you had Local Appointments Commissioners who would have the confidence of all parties, Fianna Fáil included, for after all Fianna Fáil represent something in the country. They represent a fair number of the electorate in the country, and they are entitled to that consideration. That consideration they have not got in the past, and are not likely to get under the present Constitution of the Local Appointments Commission.
They are getting it under the Local Appointments Commission.
I suggest that they are not. I have no evidence that they are.
I have evidence that they are getting it.
I will be glad to hear it when the Deputy speaks. Deputy Hennessy, in his speech the other day, said: "This Bill is giving an opportunity to the weak and venal. Moreover, this cannot be lost sight of, that the Opposition has declared that it means, so far as it is within its political influence, to man the local authorities." Of course, we do, and everything we do will be done in the open light of day.
resumed the Chair.
You will have the Press present to criticise, and the majority of the Press of the country supports the views of Deputy Hennessy. You will have these pressmen present, and if members of Fianna Fáil are guilty of corruption, I hope the Press will rub it in. I hope the Press will expose them, and I hope it will equally expose the members of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party or any other party who are guilty of nepotism, the same nepotism that Deputy Hennessy's friends and their families were guilty of. If they are guilty of nepotism at the expense of the country. I hope all these acts—acts that are not to the benefit of the country—will get the full light of day thrown on them. You would then soon end them, and you would soon end that type of public representative. We intend to try to get our friends elected on the various local bodies throughout the country. We have announced that fact. We did not act the hypocrite, and say: "No; we are going to keep politics out of the local boards of the country." You might as well try to keep the blood from flowing through the veins of a live man, through the veins of Deputy Hennessy, and think that he should live, as to prevent politics flowing into the public life of the country and into public boards. You cannot do it, and why should you try?
I suggest to the Deputy that the Bill does not try to do it. There is nothing in the Bill about it.
But there was in Deputy Hennessy's speech.
Only the bare reference. We cannot have a discussion on local elections.
He suggested that it was venal and improper for us to seek to get elected or to get those who are believers in the Fianna Fáil policy elected on public boards—that it was something improper and that we are getting them elected for venal purposes. That is a suggestion that should be answered, with all respect. I hope they will get elected, and I would not like, if I had the power to-morrow, to interfere with public boards or to prevent them from discussing politics.
That does not come into the matter at all, and I do not want the Deputy to discuss it.
I suggest that it is not for venal purposes. I suggest that those who seek to get on public boards in the country are people who are fairly well educated politically. Those of any political party in the country who seek to get elected on public boards, whether they like it or not, would, owing to the publicity that shines upon them there, have to act in the best interests of the public and appoint the best people. I do not see why all political parties, as long as people do take an interest in politics, should not seek election to public boards. There is nothing improper about it, and there is no reason why politics should not be discussed there. If I am wandering from the subject, I am sorry. "If this Bill is passed by any chance," Deputy Hennessy said, "the whole thing will lead to suspicion. In fact, when a candidate who deserved No. 1 place is not elected, that candidate will possibly think, if the description fits his case, that his misfortune was that his politics were those of President Cosgrave or his religion that of Robert Emmet or Wolfe Tone." I do not want politics brought into these public appointments. Neither does our Party, and our suggestion is that, because of the very reason that Deputy Hennessy suggests, suspicion does exist. That suspicion does exist, we believe, in the country. We have evidence of it. Deputy Hennessy said that this Act when introduced as a Bill was one of the most popular Acts ever passed. I would refer him to the number of resolutions passed by responsible and important bodies in the country denouncing it. I have a list of them here. I will not bother reading them, but if he cares to look through the Press, as I have done, and to make a list of all the public bodies who have passed resolutions—I do not suggest they were unanimous resolutions—he will find there have been resolutions passed by majorities, sometimes big majorities, denouncing the Act. If that is so, it cannot be the wonderfully popular measure that Deputy Hennessy suggested it was.
The General Election has indicated it.
It is not the same thing at all.
The two things were intimately connected.
You have in this case a very definite resolution on one point alone. You have one issue put before a public Board and they passed a resolution on it. At an election there are a hundred different questions on the programme. Here a definite resolution on a particular subject was passed by a long list of public bodies. There was one resolution passed against one phase of the Act by such an important body as the Co. Council's General Council, and it cannot be suggested that that is a Fianna Fáil or Republican body—it is a fairly representative body, at any rate.
The Bill makes no attempt to meet it in that respect.
It does not.
You have not read it; read it again. The Bill itself came in for a good deal of criticism, and that is all to the good—the more the better. The same, I suppose, applies to any Bill introduced here. The more honest criticism they get the better the result will be. I am glad that those who sponsored this Bill have had the privilege of listening to a good deal of criticism, and I hope that we will hear more, provided the result will be an honest effort to do something that will be better for the country; something that will give the country confidence in the men who conduct its affairs locally; something that will improve the standard of public morality—if it needs improvement.
It is suggested that Section 3 of the Bill sought to amend a section of the Act that was very explicit, and to amend it to such an effect as to make it ambiguous and not easily understood. Section 2 (1) of the Act states: "In this Act the expression `office,' to which this Act applies, means and includes (a) the chief executive office under every local authority." This Bill seeks to indicate what such offices are. All the chief executive offices are not set out. Perhaps it would have been better if they had been, but a number of them are, indicating the offices to which this Bill is meant to apply. It would have been, perhaps, more thorough if they had all been set out, but the suggestion made that because certain offices are not mentioned in the Bill they are therefore outside the scope of the Act is without foundation, because there still remains in the Act Section 2, paragraphs (b) and (c). Paragraph (c) says: "All such other offices and employments under a local authority as the Minister shall from time to time, with the concurrence of the Commissioners, declare to be offices to which this Act applies." We suggest that that covers anything that might be omitted from the Bill. Therefore there is no foundation for the suggestion that the Bill is not as clear as the principal Act.
There was a good deal of discussion about the suggestion that we made that in these appointments such a thing as local knowledge and experience should be taken into account. The President told us that that was taken into account. I am glad to hear it, but until I heard it from the President I did not know that there was any account taken of local knowledge and experience. There is a demand in the country, whether it be right or wrong, that at any rate, where possible, all things being equal, persons with local knowledge should be appointed, especially where medical officers are concerned. That may be a thing that this House ought not to accede to, but that is a matter for discussion. My own opinion is that where you can get a doctor highly qualified, and who is passed by the Appointments Commission as thoroughly qualified to occupy the post, and who is known to the people and knows the people, you will get better service from him than from a stranger going amongst them. They have confidence in their own and they will take, at any rate, such a thing as medical service from a man of their own, and they will have more confidence in him and will give him their minds and their story, medical or otherwise, with greater freedom than to a stranger. That is my belief, and it seems to be an idea that is fairly widespread, because there is a strong demand for men with local knowledge. If we put in the Bill that account should be taken of the possession of local knowledge and experience by a person going for any office, we did something that the President agreed is right and proper and that ought to be taken into account, but which does not appear in his Act, or at any rate which a great number here did not know existed. We did not know that the Selection Boards or the Appointments Commission in making selections did take account of local knowledge and experience, and we are glad to know it, but it emphasises the fact that these appointments are made in the dark and under conditions which the majority of the people do not know.
It being 2 p.m. the debate stood adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned until Wednesday.