I think it was after April. In any case, my purpose in mentioning it is, so that we might get the benefit of debate, so that the conduct that occurred at that time will not be repeated, and that we will have a public statement from the Minister, that in future the Guards will not be encouraged in any way to take any part in political activities, but to remain a neutral body in all these matters. After all, the respect which we have for law depends largely on the non-partisanship and neutrality of the judges and of the police. I had one example of their political activities in Waterford where it was reported to me that detective officers had made special enquiries about my activities in the city, which I think is a most objectionable thing to do about a public representative. It could have been done for no other but political purposes.
[An Leas-Cheann Comhairle took the Chair.]
The enquiries were with reference to the meetings I was having. Again the conduct of the Guards recently was most fatuous when they made a raid on certain premises occupied by the Cumann na mBan and seized leaflets which advocated the buying of Irish goods as against British goods. These leaflets were seized and solemnly held for some time before being returned. Surely the Minister could employ persons with at least the capacity to read before sending them to seize whatever they can lay hands on. Of course it is an outrage on citizenship that such a thing should be allowed at all.
Certain statements were made recently by the Commissioner of Police and I hope the Minister will see that the same kind of statements will not be made again. They arose out of a controversy about school attendance, where the Commissioner of Police made an attack on the District Justice in Waterford, and suggested that the administration of the School Attendance Act was not being properly carried out. The District Justice replied that any decision of his that had been appealed had been upheld, and he stated that if there was any other case where the police were dissatisfied, they could have appealed. I hope the Minister will see that in future statements of that sort are not made by the police authorities.
There are other statements which require to be noticed. A particular statement was made which is more calculated to bring ridicule on the police than anything else, and certainly disregard and contempt of certain judges. By way of obiter dicta Judge McElligott at Ennis made remarks in reference to the police. He said that they were buffeted by politicians, they were ballyragged by justices, they were beset by solicitors, and badgered by counsel. I do not know if there is any remedy for that sort of thing, but I think a public protest should be made against such expressions being used by one Department of the State about another Department of the State, and casting slurs on every one concerned.
Last year I referred to the large amount of travelling expenses under sub-head D. I pointed out that the expenses were very high, and asked the Minister to look into the matter. I gathered from his introductory statement that travelling expenses had actually been increased by £1,000. I do not quite follow that, because the Estimate appears to be just about the same. In any case, my contention remains the same, that it is a matter upon which there could be a very considerable reduction.
I also submitted to the Minister last year that he should issue an order that the police should buy Irish manufactures, and that they could, for instance, get excellent Irish bicycles. His answer was that he was not going to interfere with them. That is a most extraordinary attitude on the part of the Department. Here is public money being spent by public officials and it is not to be spent upon Irish manufactures. Surely we are entitled, when it is a question of public money used by public officials, to see that Irish manufactures, where they are as good as foreign manufactures, should be exclusively purchased. It would be very easy if the bicycles did not give full satisfaction from the point of view of police work to arrange for orders upon such an extensive scale as would make it worth while for the firms assembling or making bicycles in this country to adapt themselves to whatever the requirements of the police may be. Some months ago a rumour was rife that a charge had been made against a high police officer in reference to defalcations in connection with the secret service funds. Without going into the details of the matter, I would be glad if the Minister would give us information on it.