Deputies on this side of the House, I admit, are at a disadvantage, because we were the losers, and what is being decided now is the division of the spoils. It is a well-recognised fact that the spoils go to the victors. I do not personally complain about that, but I think that the rules the House has drawn up for the division of the spoils should at least be kept. I asked the Minister whether he has made any effort to get evidence as to the statements made in claiming pensions under the Military Service Pensions Act. I do not remember what answer he gave, but I understood that there was no determined effort ever made. I know that I have been available for the last five years since I got out of jail, and people who were in the battalion to which I belonged have got pensions. I was quite prepared to give first-hand evidence as to whether these people belonged to it or not. As a matter of fact, I believe that in a few cases I did. Deputy Aiken referred to a particular case. I am going to state the details of a certain case without mentioning the name. It may enlighten members as to what is being done, and as to the efforts made by this tribunal to get evidence corrobo rative of the statements made by these people, or to see if they are true. These details concern one particular individual. I can give the dates too.
I happened to be in charge of a battalion in Co. Dublin, and an effort was being made to extend the organisation of the I.R.A. in that particular area. In one part of that area, very near the city, we were hard up for men who would be capable of taking charge of a company. There was one particular man whose name now appears on the list of pensioners. I will give you the amount he received, but I will not mention his name. He had a sum of £836 9s. 2d. handed into his fist, and a pension of £78 15s. awarded to him. I found it very hard to get a company working in that area, probably due to the fact that we had not men really capable of taking charge. This man had been arrested on suspicion by a Sergeant Dunney in the Tallaght area. Anyone who was active in the Dublin area knew him. I found there was nothing wrong with this individual after he was let out, and I went down to interview him. I knew he was a pretty able man. I am sure of the date, because it was on the Friday that Macready went to the Mansion House to discuss terms. An ambush took place on the Naas road that very day, and the shots were being fired while I was speaking to him. I asked him if he would take charge of the company. He hesitated, and finally I could not get any good out of him. He told me to come back the next week and he would give me an answer. On the following Monday the Truce was signed.
Before I went back to him I went to the O.C., Dublin, to see if it was advisable to take people of that sort into the I.R.A. He said: "Oh, yes. We can put them on the run anyway if the Truce is broken." That man was very near the statutory date at any rate. The 11th July was the date. He might say it might have slipped his memory, and that it was only a few days afterwards, but a few days made all the difference in the world in that case. I was not in jail when that man's case was decided, and I was quite prepared to give evidence. I would not have given evidence while in jail, but I was quite prepared to give it after I came out. He is a fairly young man, and is getting a pension of £78 15s., and he has already got £836. However, that has been given to people who have no pensions, and I suppose I have no growl about that. That is only one case. If my word will not be taken I believe that I could get evidence to corroborate what I say. I think when I happen to know one case of that sort there must be numerous others.
I cannot say how many people are getting pensions. We have not got the exact number. I really believe that there would not be more than 50 per cent. who could properly prove their claim, even under this Act, for a division of the spoils. That is a serious position. When I am able to state that, and I state it absolutely on my own knowledge, i am sure that there are many other such cases all over the country where people, who dodged the issue when there was trouble, sneaked in afterwards when they could get into an armoured car in order to attack and beat us. Not only were they paid for doing that, but they got something that they were not entitled to at all—they got money for fighting against the British.
I know something about the case that Deputy Aiken wished to raise. That particular gentleman is getting the maximum pension. That means that he must have given the maximum service. It means that he must have taken part in the 1916 Insurrection. For one week's service then they got five years added. I happened to be in Belfast jail at one time and a man who is still a very high-placed officer in the Free State Army was there too. Maybe I am wrong about him and I had better not say what I was going to say, because the I.R.B. is still in existence. I am not quite certain about that case and I will not say anything further on that line. Anyway, at the time I could not speak to him without reference being made to the efforts of that particular individual in stopping the County Limerick Brigade from taking action in Easter Week. How can it be contended that that individual is entitled to a maximum pension? There are two cases which it would be well to investigate and I suggest that 50 per cent. of all the cases are on the same basis.
The Minister made an important admission when he stated that he had not access to the files. Seeing that there is no advertisement issued indicating that certain men are applying for military service pensions, I would like to know how are the public to be protected, particularly when the Minister's officials, and especially the Comptroller and Auditor-General, have not the right to inspect necessary documents? I believe that the information should be made public that certain people are about to apply for pensions and this will give an opportunity for objections to be made. I do not see how it is possible to control this thing at all under present circumstances.
As regards publicity and the giving of persons' names, there is nothing in that, because many names have been published in the Press all over the country. Again, I presume that those gentlemen are proud of their records. They have nothing to be ashamed of, and I do not see that there should be any objection to publishing their names. If they are promoted in any service the fact is usually disclosed, and if they get a pension I do not think they have anything to be ashamed of. I cannot see why there should not be an arrangement for an advertisement inIris Oifigiúil indicating that Major So-and-So or Sergeant So-and-So was about to claim a pension for his services. Anyone who would have an objection to that could come forward. I think that would be a very desirable practice. We are told here that the Minister has no power to look at records, and the man who should check all public expenditure has been precluded from looking up essential documents; he has been precluded by the Act that is still in operation. What hope have we for the future when conditions will be made more drastic? The decision of the Board of Assessors is going to be made binding on everybody.
Deputy Aiken referred to this Bill as one means of subsidising Cumann na nGaedheal, and I think there is no doubt whatever about that. It is simply a device of the Government to keep in this country a well paid organisation so that they can call up the members of it whenever they want them. They have them in every constituency and they actually have them in this House. There are people here who are getting military service pensions. Some of their services could be called in question too, but we will leave that alone. They are here, anyhow. There are army pensioners who decide very often what the policy of the Government is going to be. On many occasions two or three votes decided what steps should be taken by the Government and on the majority side there have been as many as six army pensioners. Is there any country in the world that would pension people for the amount of service that has been given in this country? They would in other countries give a lump sum and finish at that, but here the men are given pensions. These people, for a start-off, were supposed to be volunteers, imbued with the spirit of patriotism and determined to risk everything, even life, for the sake of the country. We find them now trying to bleed the country white. Is there any country that would give pensions to people who have actually improved their stations in life since they started in this Army?
I understood that the principle behind a pension was that on entering the public service, either in the army, the police force, or anywhere else, a man more or less handicaps himself for engaging in any commercial work or business or trade, and it is only right, when he has given the best years of his life in a specialised service, that the State would recompense him by giving him a pension. What do we find occurring? We find that people who started as dust-bin men—and I respect dust-bin men, because I would not like a week to go by without my dust-bin being emptied—drawing pensions of twice the amount that they were able to earn in private life. In addition to that, I see them getting about £2,000, and that is an absolute outrage.