In reply to a question asked by me some time ago in this House, I received a list of persons who were receiving pensions under this Act. I was rather surprised at the large pensions paid and at the fact that a large number of these pensioners are now resident outside the Saorstát. What I wish to allude to in particular is that there seems to have been very bad judgment used in the giving of these pensions. I know two individuals in my own district whose cases were put forward for pensions. One definitely had no I.R.A. service whatsoever. He served for something like six months in the National Army and he received a pension. Another was a member of the I.R.A. from 1917 to 1922. He then joined the National Army and served until 1924. He got no pension whatsoever. I do not know how the discrimination came about but the facts are there and they can be vouched for even by officers of the National Army.
Some time ago, in this House, I made an appeal to the Minister for Finance in connection with some I.R.A. men who were wounded during the Tan war, and who are now absolutely dependent on their relatives. One of these is a case in the Cobh area. A brother of his was captured at Clonmult and executed. Two nights afterwards the house in which this boy was, a labourer's cottage, was raided. He was taken out and put against the wall to be shot. Whilst the Cameron Highlanders were moving back before firing, the boy, who was only dressed in his shirt, made a dash across the country for four miles. As a result of what took place he is entirely broken down in health, and in the past eighteen months he spent seven months in hospital. He is a total wreck and entirely dependent on his relatives, who are only ordinary labourers. I think a case like that is an outrage. Twelve months ago I appealed to the Minister for Finance in this case, but nothing has been done since. There are several similar cases in the district. One is the case of a boy who was shot by the Camerons. His aged father and mother are now dependent on home assistance. I think it is nothing less than a shame that these old people, whose only support was shot during the Tan trouble, should be left dependent on home assistance, while we have gentlemen with a couple of years' service walking about with pensions of from £60 to £100 a year, able-bodied young men. There is the case of a young girl whose two brothers were killed at Clonmult. Her health also has completely broken down, and she is practically dependent on Home Assistance. I think that is a state of affairs which should not occur with any kind of National Government in power. The Government claim to be representative of the people. I do not think the people would stand over that. I have been putting up these cases here practically for nine months. I made an appeal to the Minister for Finance. He said he would look into them, but nothing has been done since. It is apparently a case of waiting until the people die of starvation.
I consider that the paying of the huge amount of £253,473 in Army pensions to young men in the prime of life, whilst those who actually suffered, and who are now on the verge of starvation, are left to the charity of the local rates, is intolerable. I had hoped that when I brought these cases to the notice of the Minister he would at least have seen that that state of affairs would not be allowed to continue. I hope, at any rate, that there will not be occasion to raise them again here. The amounts paid in pensions to young men leaving the service are more than the country can afford. If the cases which I have outlined were looked after, there might be some justification for this expenditure, but not for paying pensions to able-bodied young men. I do not know why this discrimination has been made. Men who were good men in the Black and Tan days, and who afterwards joined the National Army and served for three or four years, are turned out without any pension, whilst individuals who had no service whatever during the I.R.A. period are paid pensions.
I have here another case of an ex-lieutenant of the National Army from Mitchelstown. He told me, and I believe him, that he was actually sworn in by the Minister for Finance himself. That man was on active service during the Black and Tan period, and afterwards served as a lieutenant in the National Army during the Civil War and was discharged without a pension, while we have pensions of £200 and £100 paid to individuals who had very little service during the Black and Tan period, if any. In that way, I say, there has been discrimination. These men with pensions have been touting around at elections on behalf of Cumann na nGaedheal candidates. I think that the whole thing lies more or less with the Cumann na nGaedheal agent in each district. Apart from any political question, I hope that these cases which I have referred to will be looked after by the Minister for Finance. I think that any National Government, or Government claiming to represent the people, should see that these cases are attended to before it is too late. It is not very heartening to see such cases as these coming before Boards of Public Assistance, some of them men who were active in the Black and Tan period, and who should, at least, be entitled to the nation's respect and support.