Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 12 Apr 1934

Vol. 51 No. 13

In Committee on Finance. - Vote No. 65—Army (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £984,487 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1935, chun costais an Airm agus Chúltaca an Airm (maraon le Deontaisí áirithe i gCabhair) fé sna hAchtanna Fórsaí Cosanta (Forálacha Sealadacha); chun costaisí áirithe riaracháin ina thaobh san; agus chun costaisí fén Acht Bunreachta (Leasú Uimh. 17), 1931.
That a sum not exceeding £984,487 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, 1935, for the cost of the Army and the Army Reserve (including certain Grants-in-Aid) under the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Acts; certain administrative expenses in connection therewith; and Expenses under the Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Act, 1931.

The Minister for Defence was speaking when the debate on this Estimate was adjourned last evening. I wanted to ask him one brief question and it might suit his convenience if I put this question to him before he resumes, so that he need not rise a second time. When the Minister adumbrated his scheme for the creation of a new Army he represented to the House that the prime purpose of that scheme was to provide a common platform in which men who had been operating in the civil war might be able to come together again. The developments which have taken place since that speech was made have resulted in some of us taking our own view about the validity of that justification for starting the new Army. However, we can leave that on one side. Assuming that the Minister is bona fide in giving that reason, I want to put it to him that the men who are so unhappily divided because of the civil war were at least 20 years of age in 1922, because all of them had served throughout the Black and Tan period and we may assume that they were at least 17 or 18 years of age when they engaged in active service in 1919.

If the Minister really feels that the only way to bring these men together again is by putting arms in their hands and inviting them to carry arms together again, I submit to him that he should confine his activities to men who are now between 32 and 40 years of age, because no one who is younger than 32 now can have experienced the division to which the Minister referred. If he does confine his attention to recruiting into the Volunteers men over 32 years of age, he will fulfil his purpose of bringing these men together on a common platform under arms for the purpose of obliterating unhappy memories. I venture to suggest to him that if he wishes to enrol young members of the community in this Volunteer force, for the present, at least, they should be enrolled in an unarmed body, the principal purpose of which would be the promotion of physical culture and sports and such other useful activities as may occur to him, but not for the purpose of carrying arms or training in the use of arms.

The Minister said here last night that the greatest safeguard against war is to be ready for war. There is not a single State in Europe, in which the armament manufacturers have got control, in which that argument is not being used. It is the very selfsame argument that brought down the World War upon the world. Everyone got ready for war and somebody got ready before his neighbour and made up his mind, seeing that it was his neighbour's intention to be ready sooner or later, that it would be better to strike him before he had completed his preparations. In the abstract, therefore, I challenge all the validity of that argument. In practice, I draw the Minister's attention to what is perfectly manifest, and that is that our country has a population and an area of such a kind as would make it absolutely unthinkable that we could defend this country in arms against invasion by any great Power. In so far as our territorial integrity is concerned, our only hope is the development of the League of Nations' spirit and our cordial co-operation in the activities of the League of Nations, not excluding their disarmament activities. I believe it would be a very valuable contribution towards that end if the Minister deliberately set up his Volunteer force on an unarmed basis. It would greatly relieve the anxiety of many people in this country who deplore the prospective training of our young people in the use of arms. It would set an example to the world of the sincerity of our belief in disarmament, and it would deliver the Minister for Defence of Saorstát Eireann from the hopeless fallacy that the best way to avoid war is to be ready for it.

I am concerned principally, however, to hear the Minister on the point I raised in connection with his allegation that the purpose of this force is to provide a common platform for men, who were parted in the civil war, to meet again, and I would be interested to hear from him how he would justify by that argument putting arms in the hands of young persons between the ages of 18 and 25 who were almost in the cradle, and certainly in the lower classes of the schools where they were educated, when the civil war took place. I think it is worthy of careful consideration and I do not despair that the Minister will yet do material good to the whole situation by announcing his intention of not making training in the use of arms part of the training of these young men, whatever he may consider necessary for their seniors.

I should like to mention a point——

I was speaking last night.

I do not want to make a speech. I merely wish to ask the Minister if, when replying, he would give some particulars concerning the instructions issued by his Department as to the necessity of securing all-Party representation on the sluagh committees.

I was speaking last night on a reference which Deputy Fitzgerald made to the sluagh committees. Deputy Fitzgerald said that the sluagh committees should be abolished after the recruiting had been finished—that they would tend to become a nuisance. I do not agree with him on that at all. The instructions which were given to the Army with regard to the sluagh committees were that every effort should be made to a get a representative sluagh committee going—a committee that would be representative of all Parties—and from the reports I have no reason to think that they are not representative. The sluagh committees, in the last analysis, are approved by me. I have to sign my agreement to them before they become operative. Already there have been 151 committees formed and 24 are in course of formation. In practically every one of the 151 committees there are representatives of all the different Parties in the State. There are some areas where that is not the case.

Is the Minister aware that in certain areas in my constituency —I am speaking from knowledge—the method of forming these committees is to invite to some centre the chairman and secretary of the surrounding Fianna Fáil clubs and nobody else?

I should like the Deputy to support that statement with evidence to me, if he has such evidence, because I am interested in getting it. The instructions definitely were that representatives of all Parties were to be invited. I, myself, invited representatives of all the Parties here to co-operate with me in this matter. I saw the Chairman of the Labour Party and asked him to get his people to co-operate with us.

If the people are not asked to co-operate they will not do so.

That is true, and if the Deputy will give me particulars of what he has alleged, I shall be glad to enquire into it.

I invite the Minister to find out how many representatives of Labour in my constituency are on the committees.

The Deputy should send those particulars along to me and I shall inquire into them. As I was about to say, there were some areas in which we could not get representatives of the old Cumann na nGaedheal Party. They definitely refused to co-operate, and that was as a direct result, I take it, of the lead which was given by the United Ireland Party here. However, we have succeeded in getting representatives of the different Parties in practically all the committees I have seen. That was our intention, and I would not feel that we had succeeded in any area—succeeded in the way that I would like to see the Volunteers succeeding—if, in every area, we had not representatives of all Parties on the committees. I would count it a failure in that district if we did not have representatives of all Parties. We cannot do that, however, if a certain political Party definitely tells its members not to join. How can we do it? We cannot conscript them on to the committees, and if one or two Parties are not going to co-operate with us, we are not going to wait for their co-operation.

I should like to know from the Minister who was responsible locally for inviting representatives.

The person responsible would be the area administrative officer. I suggest that Deputy Davin ought to see the area administrative officer about the matter.

But it is the duty of the area administrative officer to get representatives of all Parties on the committees.

It is, as far as he can. The sluagh committees, in my opinion, have a very valuable function even after the Volunteers are formed. In every country where there is a territorial army, such as England and other places, you have similar bodies to look after the welfare of the Volunteers, to encourage recruits to join, and to make arrangements with the employers and the parents of the Volunteers to let them off for training. Sluagh committees which we have formed will carry out exactly similar functions. There are some cases in which there is difficulty in getting employers to let off their men, and the members of the sluagh committees will approach an employer and ask him to arrange that the Volunteer gets off and that his work is there for him when he comes back. They have also the function of arranging for sports and inter-sluagh competitions.

The sluagh committees that are working already have done very valuable work. We only opened recruiting a few weeks ago and already over 10,000 men have applied to join the Volunteers. The exact number given in the last report was 10,185. Only a number of committees are working in full going order up to now. We will have a difficulty in a few weeks of having to sort out the applicants and having to refuse a number of men coming forward and put them on a waiting list. The sluagh committees have worked hard and I believe they will continue to take an active interest in the Volunteers in the different sluagh areas and that they will be very valuable guardians for them.

Deputy Dillon made the point that if we wanted to reunite the men who were parted in the civil war we should restrict recruiting and not go below the age of 32 years. We have made arrangements to recruit three lines of Volunteers. The first line will be for young men between 18 and 25; the second line for men up to 35, and the third line for men between 35 and 45. If there are any men beyond that age who were in the civil war they can become associate members of the sluagh without any liability for service. I think that is catering sufficiently for the older men who fought in 1916, during the Black-and-Tan war or on different sides in the civil war.

It is not true to represent, as Deputy Dillon has done here to-day and as he seems to think, that the only object in organising the Volunteers is to reunite the men who were parted in the civil war. That is not the only object. That is what I hope will be one of the happy results, but the primary object of organising the Volunteers is to provide this country with a cheap, effective and efficient defence force. Notwithstanding what Deputy Dillon says about our weakness in self-defence, I believe we can organise here at a cost that the country can afford a defence force which will protect our country from invasion in time of war. We have the standing Army, the Reserve, and the Volunteers, and I am perfectly certain that we can make it not worth while for other countries to incur our enmity.

Deputy Dillon's argument that the last war was caused by armament firms and that the next one was going to be caused by the same people is simply ridiculous. The reason for the last war was trade jealousy and that England wanted to squash a trade rival, and the next war will probably be caused through the same reason.

That is ridiculous.

I should like Deputy MacDermot to prove it, because it is even admitted by the British themselves. On this, as on other occasions, Deputy MacDermot will say things in defence of the British that they would not have the face to say themselves. They would not have the cheek to do it; they get somebody as foolish or as impudent as Deputy MacDermot to do it.

The Minister is moving further to the left.

There were only a few minor points raised on the Estimate last night. Deputy Fitzgerald said all the medical officers brought in since 1922 were appointed after the professors in the different universities were consulted. He said that a few were brought in in that manner in 1924. I have had an examination carried out, and I find that that is not a fact—that there were no medical officers taken in in 1924, and never at any time were professors in the universities consulted as to the doctors who should be appointed as medical officers in the Army. During the last two years two doctors have been commissioned and, following the ordinary procedure, they were appointed directly by the Executive Council. They were men in every way well qualified by experience for their particular job. That was certified by the university professors who examined and passed them, and gave them their degrees.

The point was made last night by Deputy Fitzgerald and others that in taking in 20 additional officers and commissioning them as captains, we were doing something that affected adversely the chances of promotion of junior officers. That is not so. The Army has been increased by the addition of 24,000 Volunteers. As a matter of fact, as a result of the organising of the Volunteers, a number of officers, who in ordinary circumstances would have no chance of promotion, will be promoted. Deputy Cosgrave asked last night whether the general headquarters staff was consulted about the organising of the Volunteers.

I do not think so. I think I asked did the Minister get expert advice on the matter.

That is the expert advice to which I took it he was alluding.

I would be glad if the Minister would use my own words.

We will take it that he asked did I get expert advice.

I think I mentioned that there were some officers sent out to America, to England and to France, and I asked if they had been advised.

Yes. I pointed out in reply to that that while Deputy Cosgrave was President an effort was made to organise volunteers, and that there were only 358 appointed. At that time the organisation of the Volunteers had the approval of the Military Staff, and our present effort to organise the Volunteers has also the approval of the Military Staff. As a matter of fact, they have put very earnest and enthusiastic work into it. The officers throughout the whole of the Army who are associated with this particular work are night and day engaged in organising and doing everything to make it a success. You have very hard work performed even by the non-commissioned officers of the regular Army here, in training the Volunteers. It throws additional work on to them, but they all realise the national and military importance of making the Volunteers an efficient part of the defence forces. All the officers and non-commissioned officers of the regular Army who are associated with the work are doing their utmost to make it a success.

Did we hear the Minister correctly when he said 24,000 Volunteers?

It was to be 15,000. Has it been increased?

It is 24,000.

It was originally 15,000. Has it been increased?

I introduced a Supplementary Estimate here some time in February last, and estimated that we would have 10,000 recruited before the beginning of this financial year. In this particular Estimate we are discussing here to-day there is provision for a further 14,000, that is 24,000 all told, between the first and second lines. Deputy O'Sullivan said last night something to the effect that the officers whom we brought in for this work were coming in at the 11th hour. I want to say that the officers recruited for this purpose have been in the game since 1914. The majority of them have been fighting, as they thought best for the national cause, since they were youngsters. Deputy O'Sullivan also said that the size of the President's meetings had something to do with the Volunteer halls. That is a fantastic excuse to explain away the popularity of the President. I think I have replied to all the points that call for reply, but I want to say in conclusion that I am satisfied that the country is getting full value for every penny of money we are asking for in this Estimate. I am satisfied also that the country cannot afford not to spend it.

I should like to ask the Minister a question with regard to the matter raised by Deputy Davin, that is, the representation on the sluagh committees. Deputy Davin, I think, very farily asked that the House be informed as to what instructions were issued to the officers with regard to procedure in those cases. I should be very anxious to know if their instructions contained something like this—that they were first to go down to the districts and they were for a day or two to consult all the Fianna Fáil people and go around with them; after that happening for about a week they were to call on a few United Ireland Party people? That is what happened in my district. I know some members of my county council were called on, but only people who were Fianna Fáil. I did not happen to be called upon myself, but I did not mind that. I also know, and I should like to know if the Minister is aware, that some people whose names are included in the sluagh committees definitely refused to go on those committees, being opposed to the militarisation of young men. In that connection I could give him one name in my own district. That is one of the committees, I assume, which the Minister has included in the number on which all Parties are represented. That gentleman did not agree to go on the committee, but still his name is included publicly. I should like to know if the Minister is aware of that.

In the same connection I should like to ask the Minister if he thinks it would be necessary to take steps to prevent people being intimidated from acting on those sluagh committees. He has probably been informed of a case of this kind, where a bank manager in a particular town was approached to go on a sluagh committee, and agreed to do so. A particular customer of that bank, having heard about it, promptly intimated to the bank that unless the manager withdrew from the sluagh committee he would withdraw his account. That bank manager has since been transferred to a very distant part of the country. Obviously, no Government could allow intimidation of that kind, and I should like to ask the Minister if he thinks it necessary to take any steps against it.

I should like to ask the Minister a question. I want to know from the Minister, does he propose to introduce, in the near future, or at any time, legislation, the object of which will be to make further provision for soldiers on discharge from the Army, their time having expired?

The Minister stated that the area administrative officer would approach or had instructions to approach members of the House in the various areas. Not one of the four members sitting on this Front Bench has been approached in that connection.

I did not say that at all.

What was it then?

They were instructed to endeavour to form representative committees in every district, and that they were to approach all Parties.

Well, none of the four persons here present was approached in this connection. The Minister misunderstood my reference to expert advice on the question of the foundation of the Volunteer force. I wanted to know if it were considered by expert military officers and recommended by them, or if it was recommended by the Minister, and if he had got the assistance of the officers in carrying it out. In other words, is it a civilian proposition or is it a military proposition? That is what I wanted to know from the Minister. I wanted to know if it was decided by the Minister that it should be done, or was it the military themselves suggested that this was the best way of forming a Volunteer force?

Well, I do not know that I will answer that question, but not because the answer would not be satisfactory. Anyway, it is Government policy and it has been carried out.

That satisfies me.

Deputy Brennan raised some point about a man having resigned after he went on the committee, or saying that he had not given full approval—

He never agreed to allow his name to go on.

If the Deputy gives me the particular case I will inquire into it. I will inquire into it with this in the back of my mind, that possibly that particular gentleman agreed to go on the committee when he was approached by the area administrative officer, and then withdrew when he was approached by some of the United Ireland Party, who are trying to squash the Volunteers.

No such thing. The gentleman himself—he is Mr. Dowdall, a shopkeeper in Roscommon—came to me and complained that his name was published in the Press as agreeing to be a member of the sluagh committee, while he was definitely opposed to the militarisation of young men.

I will inquire into that case.

They are going around trying to stop the organisation. What are you talking about?

We cannot conscript members of the United Ireland Party into the Volunteers, and so into the Volunteer sluagh committee.

We are not going to try.

Apparently you are.

I asked the people here in the Dáil to co-operate with us, and their answer to that was to vote against it. Now that the Volunteer organisation is going ahead and being a success in spite of them they are crying and saying: "Why were we not brought on it?" Can they make up their minds one way or another? Do they want it or not?

We are not saying that.

What are you saying?

I said the allegation that all Parties were to be approached was never carried. out, was never attempted to be carried out, and was never meant to be carried out.

If the statement is that the United Ireland Party opposed this proposal throughout the country, it is absolutely untrue. No action was taken whatever in that connection by anybody that I know of in the United Ireland Party. No decision was taken by the United Ireland Party, as well as I know, to oppose it, good, bad, or indifferent.

May we take it, then, that the Volunteer movement has Deputy Cosgrave's support?

That is another question altogether. I cannot help stupid people who cannot see the difference, but I would assist them in every way possible to clear their minds in that connection, if they require it. If I am asked as a proposition, military or civilian, whether this is a good thing, which should be supported, I say that to my mind it is a silly proposition from beginning to end. If it is Government policy sanctioned by the Dáil, then I am not concerned about opposing it. If I had any responsibility for administration for some Volunteer force I should rather not spend £200,000, because I do not believe that money value will be got for it. Now is it clear what the difference is?

As clear as mud. When I wanted a Supplementary Estimate in this House it was spoken against by a number of members of the United Ireland Party, and was voted against by the whole Party.

In spite of the fact that we could not get any support for the scheme from the leaders of the United Ireland Party, the area administrative officers, and the Army administrative officers working on it were instructed by me personally, before they went down the country, that they were to make every effort in their power to get into each district sluagh committee representatives of all Parties. As to their preference in approaching one Party in certain districts before they approached another Party, I did not give them any definite instructions. They had to approach someone first, and it is not likely that they were going to approach first a man who had announced himself as being against it. If they did, it is not the way I would go about it.

Does the Minister really put forward the proposition that if a scheme from the start is opposed in the Dáil and that if we refuse to vote the money in the Dáil, we are bound to go out and oppose it? That is ridiculous.

I am delighted to hear Deputy Cosgrave's statement. The impression created was that they were not to touch it——

——that if they did they were committing an act of treachery to the United Ireland Party. I am glad he has given an indication that he will not jump, at any rate in public, on them if they join a sluagh committee.

The Minister did not answer the question I put to him. Does he propose to make any provision for time-expired soldiers leaving the National Army?

I think something should be done in that connection. Many ex-members of the National Army write to me pointing out that after long service they are being pushed out or being demobilised, and that they find it difficult to get employment. After serving so long in the Army it is not so easy to get into civilian employment. Surely whatever differences of opinion there are politically the Ministry should not pursue them in that connection. Something should be done for these men. They should not be put on the scrap heap after years of good service in the Army.

For the last ten years hundreds of thousands of men have passed through the Army, having been in it for two or three years, or for three months. We all know what a problem it is for ex-soldiers, after serving for a number of years, to get work. At least the men who are going out to-day are better off in this way, that if they are unemployed when they leave the Army they get unemployment assistance. That is what we have done, not alone for the ex-soldiers but for every unemployed person. Up to the present month there was nothing facing ex-soldiers for the past ten years except charity, when they could not get employment.

The Minister knows perfectly well that that statement is an exaggeration. In the first place, there is as yet no unemployment insurance awaiting any ex-soldier going out of the Army to-day or to-morrow. We were told it would be there a month ago. Previously ex-soldiers had this advantage, that there was a preferential scale in the way of employment in the Government service but that was withdrawn.

The preferential scale was given up.

Why then was there so much made about it and such objection taken?

There was objection by the people because there was such widespread unemployment. The preference amounted to this, that an ex-soldier got one week's work out of 52.

Excuse me.

What about the other couple of hundred thousand unemployed?

There were not a couple of hundred thousand unemployed.

May I have a reply to my query?

The only thing I can say to Deputy Moore is that if he gives me particulars I will have representations made to the bank concerned. I do not know if it is the bank was to blame or the manager, or whether legal action should be taken against the manager, or a threat to change the deposit.

Is Deputy Moore sure of his facts? I heard of a similar case from the Deputy's constituency, and the facts were exactly opposite to what he represents. I have no doubt that the Deputy made exhaustive inquiries before he publicly alleged that one of the banks victimised one of its servants for joining the Volunteer force.

There is no comparison between myself and Deputy Dillon. I am always sure of my facts.

Vote put and agreed to.