IN COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - VOTE No. 24—ORDNANCE SURVEY.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £15,422 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1929, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí na Suirbhéireachta Ordonáis agus na mion-seirbhísí a bhaineas léi.

That a sum not exceeding £15,422 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ordnance Survey and of minor services connected therewith.

We are opposing this Vote. In the British days, I understood this department was practically a department of the British Army, and from what I can gather it is practically the same now. I have a letter here from one of the dismissed civil assistants—one of the men dismissed in 1916. I should like to read first his notice of dismissal:—

"When I was discharged in 1916 I had twelve years' service as a temporary civil assistant, and if I had been retained I would, in the ordinary course of events, be put on the pension list in September, 1918. During the Truce period the discharged men from all branches formed an association, called the ‘Victimised Civil Servants' Association,' and made representations to the late Mr. Michael Collins, who promised to look into their claim, with the result that some men were reinstated immediately, and the Ordnance Survey, with one exception, were reinstated in February, 1924. The terms were that for civil assistant, pensions service would count from the date of their discharge by the British Government, and the temporary civil assistants would have to do a qualifying period of 15 years from the date that they were discharged before they should be put on the pension list. A good number of us were obliged to accept these terms through force of circumstances. Needless to say, we feel that having to do another qualifying period is a great hardship, and, further, that, according to present Civil Service Regulations, we would not, even at the end of 15 years, be then eligible for pensions, as there is a regulation to the effect that the Civil Service Commissioners will not put any person on the pension list who is over 50 years old. Also the probability is that we would not be able to pass the standard of physical fitness which is also essential at such an advanced age. I am one of the youngest of the men concerned, and at the end of the qualifying period I would be 53 years old. I would be forced to retire at the age of 60, assuming I was put on the pension list at the age of 53."

I do not want to weary the House, but I want to contrast that with the treatment meted out to people already drawing disability pensions from the British Army, and while I think these men may be all right, I think the others should get fair play. This man says:

"That would be a very poor recompense for my 41 years spent in one of the most useful and most intricate of the public services."

And under these circumstances he asks me to bring the matter before the Dáil and he says:

"In asking for this concession, we are only asking to be put on equality with our colleagues, who joined the British Army during the Great War. These men were never taken off the Ordnance Survey pay list, and received increases of pay, and were put on the pension list while serving in the Army. They were also excluded from all examinations required, and are now, I am glad to say, working side by side with us."

He is not a very bitter man apparently.

"——as there were only two killed and nine or ten wounded. The remainder did not get a scratch, but are all drawing disability pensions, with few exceptions."

"We got this question raised with the Minister for Finance about two years ago, but he was (we believe) prompted by the Ordnance officials at Phoenix Park (the Acting Director and the Chief Clerk, who belonged to the old gang) with the result that he denied that we were entitled to pension rights, and the fact that we got compensation did not entitle us to any further consideration."

Well, he got miserable compensation. I think there is a case for this man's position to be reviewed. I believe that this was part of the British Army establishment when the British Army was here, and if the present Army were taking it over I could quite understand their not wanting to have these civilian officials in their way, and to have it under the Army might be the proper thing to do. But I understand that is not the position, and that it will not be the position, and in that case I certainly say that these civilians should get at least the same treatment as the British military got. Some time ago I brought up the case of a Mr. Rowland, and the Minister had some correspondence with him after I raised the matter in the Dáil. The Minister said that this man had got a very fair trial. He was one of the civilians who was dismissed for not joining the Army, and he got reinstated along with the rest when the late Mr. Collins had them reinstated. He fell foul of some of these discharged British soldiers, and I mentioned in the House before the case of one man he had trouble with. Since then I was down in Roscommon, where I met people who can vouch as to the truth of the statement made by Rowland with regard to the conduct of this man, who was superintendent of one of these sections. He behaved in a disgraceful manner. I actually met people who were prepared to give evidence if necessary. Mr. Rowland alleges that his case was not properly heard, that he simply got the usual drumhead courtmartial, which could be expected from a Department which is run at present by people who served the British Army faithfully and who at present, I believe, are doing the same.

That is about the staff. I would like to know what we are spending £46,270 on at present. I understand that only a few areas—part of Roscommon and Mayo—have been revised. I speak subject to correction, but I think it took three years to produce the revised sheets for these areas. I know that there were several applications for them, and it took about three years—I may be a little out in that—to get these sheets available for the public. I also raised the case of bad work on a certain bog, and I got the usual answer. I do not blame the Minister, because he has to rely on his officials, but I do suggest that these people are part and parcel of one institution, that is, the British Army, that an independent investigation into the work of the whole Department would certainly do no harm. I would also like to know what proportion the indoor staff bear to the outdoor staff, because it is the outdoor staff that has to supply all the material for the work of this Department, the people who go into the fields, revise and survey—I think it is only revision work that is being carried out now—but I would like to know what proportion these staffs bear to one another. I may not be able to get an answer now, but I might get it some other time. I would also like to know what is the proportion of the indoor staff to the staff that was in the office at the time that the British handed over the service. It is common knowledge that a number of valuable plates that were there at the time were either taken away or destroyed by the British, and it is also said—I cannot prove it, of course— that when the service was about to be handed over a number of these Royal Engineers who were ranked as soldiers were put on the permanent Civil Service list, so as to be eligible under Article 10 of the Treaty. If that is not so, I would like to have it contradicted.

In recruiting for the service in the British days boys who went into the office had to give an undertaking that they would join the Army on reaching a certain age. It was really a branch of the Royal Engineers, and that is why the pay was so miserably small. This gentleman who gave me his case is engaged at present as a surveyor working side by side with Land Commission officials, and I understand that there are others in the same position. He says he is a competent surveyor, and I am sure if he was not he would not be employed. There is a very great discrepancy in the salaries paid to people like him, who have to go through this hard field of work of the Survey, and the salaries paid to Land Commission surveyors. The maximum he can reach is £150 per annum, and I think the lowest class of surveyor in the Land Commission has from £200 to £275 per annum, plus bonus. I do not think that that is fair. If a man is able to do his work—and I am sure he is—it is not fair to ask him to work side by side with people of the same profession at a lower salary than they have. These men got their training through practical experience in the field; the others were university men, I suppose, men better situated in life and able to get a university degree. But the actual surveying of land that they are doing is done as well, if not better, by these other people, and I think that there is a good case for a re-examination of this whole position.

With regard to the treatment of the civilian officials, and in fact of the whole institution, I think it would need to be overhauled. We cannot prove all we hear, and we do not want to believe it either until we are certain, but we would like to have a complete investigation of the position there so that we would know if it is a fact that this institution is still working in conjunction with the British Army. I believe it is, but if that is not so I would like to hear it. I have a list of positions held by the Royal Engineers, and it shows that the whole staff is simply a Royal Engineers' staff. I am sure that some of the civilians are just as good. Royal Engineers are in the Drawing Department, the Printing Department, the Computing Department, the Publications Department, the Vandyke Department, whatever that may be, and it appears to me that there are practically no civilians at all. If this is going to be a branch of the Army I suggest that it should be a branch of your own Army. Whatever I have to say against that Army as such—and I am glad to see the Minister for Defence is taking notes—you should make this a branch of your own Army and not have people whose loyalty to Ireland can certainly be questioned, but whose loyalty to the British Empire cannot.

It is always refreshing to hear a Deputy speak his mind, regardless of the consequences to his Party, and it is doubly refreshing when it comes from that side of the House, because I am afraid that Deputy Boland's reference to the British Army and to the Royal Engineers will lose him some true and tried supporters. I remember during the last elections a meeting at Castleknock in Co. Dublin, not very far from the headquarters of the Ordnance Survey, and there were two determined and persistent interrupters there. One was Deputy Brady, who left his own meeting and came down to ours to heckle me, and the other who was not as courteous——

If Deputy Cooper will permit me I wish to contradict that statement flatly. If Deputy Cooper remembers rightly, I went down and made an appeal to the audience listening to Deputy Cooper. I think only I did he would not have got a hearing— and I must say in justice to Deputy Cooper that he thanked me for getting him a hearing.

I do not quite remember saying that. I agree that Deputy Brady's interruption was perfectly courteous and fair, and I think Deputy Brady will remember that he asked if he might put some questions to me.

Precisely.

I said to Deputy Brady, who was not a Deputy then, that as he was a voter I was perfectly willing to answer any questions that he put me. There was another interrupter who was not as fair or courteous as Deputy Brady, who was in fact somewhat offensive, not only towards myself, but to my colleagues when the meeting was over.

Mr. BOLAND

The Deputy ought to keep to the point.

Let Deputy Boland not anticipate the point. The other interrupter was a man who is in receipt of a pension from the Royal Engineers, so that Deputy Boland has supporters in the Royal Engineers that he did not know about.

We have them everywhere.

He may have thrown away their votes this evening.

Mr. BOLAND

Not at all.

That is only a small point. I would not intervene only for the fact that Deputy Boland, I think unjustly, because he is a kind-hearted man, enunciated a doctrine that would be very dangerous and harmful to a large number of men. He suggested— at least it might be so read—that the fact that a man was in receipt of a disability pension from the British Government meant that he ought not to be employed. I do not know if Deputy Boland knows that there are degrees of disability pensions. A man with 100 per cent. disability pension would not be fit for employment, while a man with twenty per cent. disability might be fit for almost any kind of employment except severe manual labour. I should be sorry if it went out without contradiction from me that the fact that a man is in receipt of a disability pension, even a small one like 12/6 a week, would indicate to anyone that that man is unfit for any form of employment. As a matter of fact I have no doubt whatever that in the Ordnance Survey there is a fair amount of sedentary work, planning and apploting maps, corrections and so on, that a man with even fifty per cent. disability pension—a man who has possibly lost one foot or one leg—could do perfectly efficiently. I do not know the details of the case that Deputy Boland has quoted. I do not want to lay down the law on that, but I want to appeal to Deputies in all parties, including the Labour Party, not to let the doctrine go out that any man who is getting a disability pension should not be employed, because disability pensions in a great many cases are so small that that would condemn a man and his wife to starvation.

Mr. BOLAND

That is not what I meant to convey, that a man who gets a disability pension should have no other employment, but I say that the civilian employees who were dismissed in 1916 should be put on the same footing as those serving in the British Army. I am not saying that they were not doing that according to their lights, but, as I am told, they were put on the pension list while serving with the British Army. I wonder does Deputy Cooper stand for putting them on? He probably did at the time. I do not know if he does now or not.

I have had a good deal of correspondence with people in the Ordnance Survey who are not satisfied. I do not know the details and could not pronounce an opinion in this case, but I am glad that Deputy Boland gave me an opportunity of saying that this is a special case, with regard to the Ordnance Survey, and that he does not mean it to be conveyed that every man with a disability pension is unfit for employment.

Mr. BOLAND

The Deputy has not answered my question yet—very wisely, too.

I would like to repeat Deputy Boland's question and to ask how many of these individuals are on field duty as distinct from office work. I would also like to know if it is a fact that men who refused to serve with the British Army have been victimised. I want a definite reply from the Minister. Were more favourable conditions given those who went out and served with the British Army than to those whose national principles would not allow them to do so? Are the civilian clerks victimised at present?

There are some questions which I would answer better if I had notice of them. For instance, the details of the main point that Deputy Boland raised with reference to the civil assistants—although I did deal with that two or three years ago—I have forgotten. I remember distinctly that the case was put up to me and that I went into it. I do not now remember the details clearly. The position about this office is that these men were handed over to us with the exception of thirty or so who were reinstated by the Provisional Government. They have Treaty rights and are entitled to special pensions if dispensed with. It means that we cannot alter the organisation of the office without incurring a substantial pensions liability. I could not say at the moment how many men are outside and how many men are inside. I know that there is a surplus staff of over thirty, most of whom, if not all, are actually working for the Land Commission, because no work could be provided for them in connection with the Ordnance Survey. That surplus arises because of the reinstatements made by the Provisional Government. In one sense, if we gave those men as being outside people it would not exactly show the proportion outdoor or indoor in connection with the Ordnance Survey. However, if the Deputy will put down a question he can have full information. The Ordnance Survey was a military office under military control before the change of Government. It is now a civil office, though it is intended to have a certain liaison between it and the Army in future. It is now actually a civil office and the head of the office is now the Commissioner of Valuation.

I know nothing about the individual cases that Deputy Boland mentioned. I could either take him as asking a question now and write to him about it or he could put down a question and I will give him any information available. But I am satisfied that there are no people in the office being paid who are not fit to do the work. They may have disability pensions but they certainly are fit to do the work or they would not be retained. We cannot take notice of all the other sources of income they may have or what their pensions cost. If they retired on pension and did not work the cost of their pensions would be inflated because of their rights under the Treaty. The office is of a peculiar character as compared with others. There has been a great deal of trouble with the staff, a great deal of friction between the civil employees who were discharged and afterwards reinstated and the other employees in the office. I am satisfied that the faults were not altogether on the side of the men who went out to the war.

Deputies will remember that there was a certain amount of discussion in this House because handbills which appealed for votes for General Hickey during the last Seanad election were supposed to be printed on the Ordnance Survey machines and with paper belonging to the Ordnance Survey. Such bills were printed, but the investigation convinced me that they were printed by the reinstated men for the purpose of making trouble for the others. We were not able to convict anybody, but I was convinced that was the purpose. While I cannot say that those men who were in the Army are innocent of a certain amount of blame the reinstated men are not persecuted saints altogether.

Deputy Boland mentioned a rumour that a good deal of stuff was taken away by the British and destroyed when the taking over took place. I think that is entirely groundless. The Deputy also suggests that there should be an independent scrutiny of the condition of the office. We set up a Committee which inquired into certain matters. I am not sure if I remember all the people who were on the Committee, but it was set up because of certain allegations made in this House. I think the chairman of the Committee was Mr. Sears. Mr. Seán McGarry was the person who raised the matter in this House, but he afterwards refused to act on the Committee set up. There were also on the Committee the Secretary of the Executive Council, Mr. Diarmuid O'Hegarty, Professor Purcell of the National University, and I think Mr. Quane of the Department of Education. There was some other Engineering man, perhaps Mr. Nicholas O'Dwyer of the Department of Local Government, but I am not sure of that. They went into the matter at great length and found a great many of the allegations—in fact, all of them—to be unfounded.

There was one matter that had to do with the scientific basis of the Survey, which they did not think it worth their while to go into, but so far as the general working of the office was concerned, they were satisfied, and we are satisfied that the whole series of allegations made by an officer of that Department, who had gone into the National Army, against the head of the office were untrue. The report was somewhat lengthy. As far as I remember it was not printed, but a copy of it was placed in the Library, and I am sure it is still there. In any case I suggest to Deputy Boland that he should read that report because it deals with a great many matters which are the subject of rumour outside. I think he will find some doubts he may have cleared up in regard to them.

I only remember I looked into the question of the civil assistants at the time, and I was satisfied that in reinstating them in all the circumstances the State was acting reasonably well by them. Not having notice of the question, and it being three years old, I am sorry I am not able to reply more fully to the Deputy.

Would the Minister go into this matter again, because no one can deny that the people who worked in a civil capacity up to the time of the Great War should have as good terms as those who joined the British Army. I am not blaming those who joined the British Army, but I do not think it is fair to treat those people who, for national reasons, took a different view of the war badly. I have made a statement which the Minister can investigate on the authority of that letter. Some of them were put on the pension list, while actually in the Army, and were also rushed into this office when the British were handing over, and made eligible for pensions under Article 10.

That might be.

Mr. BOLAND

There is also the point about fully qualified Engineers. Are they going to work side by side with people in the Land Commission with not half their salary?

Suppose it is true that people were rushed on the establishment list when they should not have been, we cannot help that. When they were established they got their pension rights. Are we to deliberately put other people on an equality with them who have no claim on their merits?

Mr. BOLAND

I would not say that.

Does the Minister admit that many of those men who are reinstated now, and who gave valuable services during the Tan period to the I.R.A., are to be put in a worse position than those who joined the British forces during the war?

The Deputy will have to put down a question. I cannot give him a definite answer.

I ask are they in a worse position than those who served in the Army. If the Minister cannot give an answer to that, I would like to know what he is there for.

A DEPUTY

Were the plates and the maps removed by the British?

There was nothing valuable taken. I refer him to a report which deals with that matter.

A number of plates were taken from the Ordnance Survey which cannot be replaced without a survey of the country.

I am not satisfied with that.

Are you not?

I am not.

Did you find out?

Vote put and agreed to.