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.