Committee on Finance. - Vote 66—Army Pensions.

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £410,611 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir o thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31 adh lá de Mhárta, 1937, chun Pinsean Créachta agus Mí-ábaltachta, Pinsean Breise agus Pinsean Fear Pósta, Liúntaisí agus Aiscí (Uimh. 26 de 1923, Uimh. 12 de 1927, agus Uimh. 24 de 1932); chun Pinsean Seirbhíse Míleata (Uimh. 43 de 1924 agus Uimh. 43 de 1934); agus chun síntiúisí agus costaisí iolardha ina dtaobh san, etc.

That a sum not exceeding £410,611 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, 1937, for Wound and Disability Pensions, Further Pensions and Married Pensions. Allowances and Gratuities (No. 26 of 1923, No. 12 of 1927, and No. 24 of 1932); for Military Service Pensions (No. 48 of 1924 and No. 43 of 1934); and for sundry contributions and expenses in respect thereof, etc.

Tá soláthar déanta ins an Meastachán so chun pinsean agus liúntas créachta agus mí-ábaltachta d'íoc fé sna h-Achtanna Arm-phinsean, míle naoi gcéad a trí fichead (1923) go míle naoi gcéad a dó triochad (1932), agus i gcóir pinsean seirbhíse fé Achtanna na bPinsean Seirbhíse Míleata, míle naoi gcéad a ceathair fichead (1924) go míle naoi gcéad a ceathair triochad (1934). 'Sé méid iomlán an Mheastacháin sé chéad agus cúig mhíle déag, naoi gcéad agus aon phúnt déag (£615,911); sé sin, dhá chéad agus cúig mhíle fichead, naoi gcéad agus naoi bpúint (£225,909) de bhreis ar Bhóta na bliana míle naoi gcéad a cúig triochad/sé triochad (1935-36), agus siad so leanas na neithe is mó is cúis leis an méadú san:—

Fó-Mhírcheann C — Réiteoir agus Coiste Cómhairlitheach. — Athrú ar phearsanradh an Choiste agus méadú ar líon na Foirinne na neithe is bun leis an mbreis, dhá mhíle, trí chéad agus dhá phúnt sheachtód (£2,372) i gcóir na bliana míle naoi gcéad a sé triochad/seacht triochad (1936-37), £2,372.

Fó-Mhírcheann G Pinsin agus Aiscí Créachta is Mí-ábaltachta. —'Sé is mó fé ndear an méadú fé'n bhFó-Mhírcheann so ná an soláthar atá déanta chun ochtó (80) pinsean nuadha mí-ábaltachta do dheonadh sa mbliain míle naoi gcéad a sé triochad/seacht triochad (1936-37), fe théarmaí Achta na n-Arm-Phinsean, míle naoi gcéad a dó triochad (1932). De bhrigh go bhfuil gach pinsean nuadh dá ndeontar fé'n Acht so iníoctha ón gcéad lá d'Abrán, míle naoi gcéad a dó triochad anuas, caithfear soláthar do dhéanamh chun riaráiste cheithre mbliadhan d'íoc i dteannta soláthair do dhéanamh i gcóir na bliana airgeadais seo chughainn. 'Sé glanmhéid an mhéaduithe ar Bhóta na bliana, míle naoi gcéad a cúig triochad/sé triochad (1935-36) ná seacht míle dhéag, ceithre chéad agus ceithre púint déag, £17,414.

Fó-Mhírcheann H—Liúntaisí agus Aiscí do Chleithiúnaithe, &c.— Na liúntaisí do deonadh sa mbliain airgeadais, míle naoi gcéad a cúig tríochad/sé triochad (1935/36), ní shroicfidh siad an t-iomlán dá ndéantar soláthar leis an Bhóta, agus dá bhrigh sin, déanfaidh san deifir do'n Mheastachán so.

Níl sa tsoláthair airgid de'n bhliain míle naoi gcéad a sé triochad/seacht triochad (1936-37) ach timcheall le leath an mhéid a cuireadh i n-áirithe don bhliain, míle naoi gcéad a cúig triochad/sé triochad (1935-36), agus fágann san go bhfuil luigheadú de chúig mhíle, ceithre chéad agus seacht bpuint ochtód ins an tsuim airgid is gádh i mbliana, £5,487.

Fó-Mhírcheann K—Pinsin Seirbhíse Míleata.—Is de bhárr an tsoláthair atá ghá dhéanamh chun dhá mhíle (2,000) pinsean nuadh do dheonadh fé Acht na bPinsean Seirbhíse Míleata, míle naoi gcéad a ceathair triochad (1934), an méadú fé'n bhfó-mhírcheann so.

Na pinsin a deontar fé'n Acht so, táid iníoctha ó'n gcéad lá de Dheireadh Fóghmhair, míle naoi gcéad a ceathair triochad anuas, i dtreo is go gcaithfear suim airgid do sholáthar ní h-amháin do'n bhliain reatha, ach fós chun riaráiste d'íoc.

Sé iomlán na suime méaduithe atá dá soláthar ná dhá chéad aon mhíle dhéag agus cúig chéad púnt, £211,500.

Fó-Mhírcheann L—Deontaisí Nach Cinn Reachtúla.—Táthar tar éis soláthar do dhéanamh fé'n bhFó-Mhírcheann so do mhac agus d'inghean Tomáis Mhic Dhonnchadha nách maireann. Tháinig Donnchadh Mac Donnchadha i n-aois a ocht mbliana déag ar an dara lá fichead de Shamhain, sa mbliain míle naoi gcéad is triocha; agus beidh bliain is fiche slán ag Barbara Nic Dhonnchadha ar an gceathrú lá fichead de Mhárta sa mbliain, míle naoi gcéad a sé triochad; agus dá bhrigh sin, scuireann na liúntaisí atá ag dul dóibh fé seach fé sna h-Achtanna Arm-Phinsean. An méid airgid (trí chéad púnt—£300) atáthar ag cur ar fáil, soláthróchaidh sé i n-aghaidh na bliana i ngach cás ochtó púnt (£80) i gcóir costais chothuithe agus seachtó púnt (£70) i gcóir táillí oideachais do réir na lánrátaí reachtúla.

Soláthruigheadh amhlaidh cheana ins na meastacháin roimhe seo mar leanas:

Do Dhonnchadh Mac Donnchadha i Meastachán na mblian, míle naoi gcéad a h-aon is triocha/a dó is triocha (1931-32), a dó triochad/trí triochad (1932-33), a trí triochad/- ceathair triochad (1933-34), a ceathair triochad/cúig triochad (1934-35), a cúig triochad sé triochad (1935-36); agus chun táillí oideachais i gcás Bharbara Nic Dhonnchadha i Meastachán Breise na bliana míle naoi gcéad a ceathair triochad/cúig triochad (1934-35) agus i Meastachán na bliana míle naoi gcéad a cúig triochad/sé triochad (1935-36).

Mr. Lynch

On behalf of Deputy MacEoin I move: "That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration." I had not an opportunity of discussing with Deputy MacEoin what line exactly he was going to take or why he wished this Estimate to be referred back, but I am satisfied that it should be reconsidered as a protest against the administration of the Military Service Pensions Act, 1934. The Estimate provides for an increase of £225,909. As set out in the explanatory note, £211,500 of that amount is accounted for as being in respect of the Military Service Pensions Act, 1934. I do not quite know what is meant by the first paragraph in the explanatory note, "The increase under this sub-head is due to provision being made for more than 2,000 new pensions under the Military Service Pensions Act, 1934."

I do not know whether the Minister will tell us that these 2,000 pensions are going to fall on the finances for the coming year. If he does surely he is joking, because at the rate of progress of the Advisory Committee, as they are called officially, since they started duty, it would take them something like 50 years to deal with the number of applications they have. It would certainly be a very big number of years before anything like the extra £250,000 would fall on the taxpayers. I am afraid the extra sum is put in here merely to attempt to stifle some of the complaints that are being made by applicants, who have been pressing and pressing from every quarter, to have their claims dealt with, and so far have failed. It is common knowledge that the rate at which the applications are being dealt with is extremely unsatisfactory. I am sure there is no Deputy who has not been approached by various applicants in connection with their cases, every one of whom has had grievous complaints to make about the board. One cannot believe all the complaints that are made, but Deputies are fair game for hearing complaints, and there is no doubt that they could not be so general if there was not some really good foundation for at least portion of them. The way I looked at the Military Service Pensions Act was this. However one might have looked at it when it was brought before the House, whether one opposed it or supported it, the moment it was passed through this and the other House, it got the sanction of the Oireachtas and was placed on the Statute Book. Then certain persons immediately got certain rights and became entitled to those rights.

When, as I say, the Act was placed on the Statute Book, I understood that the aim of the Oireachtas was to place both parties to the civil war on exactly the same footing—persons who took part in the civil war on the side of the present Government and those who, at the time, were members of the National Army and fought for the State and for the Provisional Government. I think that is an ordinary, intelligent reading of the purpose of the Act. I am satisfied that if the Act were administered in that spirit— namely, if the men who applied under the 1934 Act, persons who were friends of the Minister himself, were treated as well as those who claimed under the 1924 Act, in other words, if the two sets of applicants were treated on an equal footing—this House would have done a very good day's work in passing the Act, because I believe that there is nothing that would tend more to end the bitterness created by the civil war, than that all the old pre-Truce volunteers, who took different sides in the civil war, should now find themselves treated on exactly similar terms. I believe that is the ideal that every member of the House should aim at and wish to have fulfilled, no matter what side he took in the 1922 trouble. I believe it is especially the duty of every Deputy who was himself a pre-Truce volunteer to see, as far as he can do so, that the 1934 Act will be administered just as generously as the 1924 Act was administered.

It is not to-day or yesterday I took that view of the 1934 Military Service Pensions Act. I took that view of the Act from the moment it had passed through this House. The very moment that I saw that the late Humphrey Murphy was appointed a member of the Advisory Committee, I made it my business to see him in connection with the administration of the Act. I gave him, as far as I could, as one member of the Board of Assessors under the 1924 Act, my experience of the administration of that Act, especially with regard to the administration of certain matters which, if there was to be fair treatment of new applicants, would have to be dealt with on the same basis as that on which we had dealt with certain parties under the 1924 Act. Perhaps I have not made that quite clear. Every pre-Truce man will remember that after the 1916 period— and both Acts commence to operate as from that period—there were two or three years of comparative inactivity. Now, there is provision in both Acts for considering service during that period, so that undoubtedly there are certain persons who are entitled to get pensions for that period. It was particularly to that period that I addressed myself when I was speaking to the late Humphrey Murphy, and I told him how we dealt with it under the 1924 Act. He agreed with me that our manner of dealing with it appeared to be an extremely fair way of dealing with a period for which, otherwise, nobody could possibly qualify.

The Act covers service during that period but if you define active service literally there may be very few persons indeed who could show any activity whatever, apart from being in jail or on hunger-strike, and that in itself could hardly be called active service. There would be very few indeed who could claim to have had active service during that period. I told him that we dealt with such cases in this way: where we found a 1916 man who had attended Volunteer parades for that inactive period, we took into account the fact that he had been a 1916 man, and we assumed that if there had been any activity in the comparatively quiet period between 1916 and 1919 he would have been one of the persons on active service. Therefore, we carried forward for him his 1916 service into that inactive period. Then we came on to the men who were particularly active against the Black-and-Tans and who came into prominence in 1920 and 1921. We said that if these men had been members of the Volunteers in 1917, 1918, and the early part of 1919, their service should be carried back into that inactive period. I say that is only fair. Since there is a provision in the Acts for taking service during that period into consideration, I think that was a fair way of treating applicants who claimed to have served during that period. I regret, however, judging by many of the cases about which I have heard, that the Act has not been administered from that angle.

I have heard of several men, 1916 men, men who underwent penal servitude in 1917 and who became extremely active in the 1920-21 period, who have been cut out completely for that period. Who, in the name of heaven, could have given active service during that period if such a type of person is excluded? I think it is regrettable that the Minister does not see to it that the Act is administered more generously. It may seem a very strange circumstance that it should fall upon me to stand up here and champion the cases of persons against whom I have been fighting. I fought, and fought pretty hard against them but when that fight was over, it was over with me, and since the country, as I understand it, by the election of 1932, gave its benediction, if one might say so, to the activities of the irregulars in 1922, I hold that both sides in the civil war should be treated equally. If the Act continues to be administered as it is being administered at the moment, the men who were against the State in 1922 will continue to feel that they have a grievance and that they have not got fair play vis-a-vis men who were fighting for the State at the time. I have had a letter, amongst others, from some persons in America. I think it is a letter which has been circulated to probably every Deputy in the House. It is a letter from Sean Oglaigh na h-Eireann, New York, and it is signed by Frank MacCabe and Simon Egan.

One of the names is quite familiar to me. He is a man quite well-known to me because he fought, as a sergeant, in my company during the Rising. These men are now proceeding with the organisation of the old I.R.A. men in America. They have a plan which they have put forward. I do not say that everything that they claim is justified or that everything they ask for could be granted. They want a board set up to deal with the American applicants alone. I am afraid that would only extend the lack of co-ordination that already exists between the earlier Pensions Act of 1924 and the present Act, and would cause a greater lack of co-ordination between the set of persons dealt with under this Act and the previous Act. In my view the same board should treat with the applicants both in Ireland and America, and in that way the applications would be fairly expeditiously examined. In this letter it is stated that the old I.R.A. in America did a fair amount of sifting. They have wiped out a number of applicants and, eventually, sent forward about 300. These 300 men seem to have a good case, in my view. There is no doubt about the case of Frank McCabe. He was in America during the civil war, and comes under that portion of the Act which deals with those who took no part in the civil war. It is a pity that something is not done to get the cases of some of those men dealt with expeditiously. If sworn affidavits were taken from them before the Free State Consul and their cases put on the files I think it would be advisable. It is hard lines that those men who gave good service at one period, and are now far away from this country, should have anything like a feeling that they are being abandoned by their friends at home. As soon as provision is made for that I think it should be acted upon.

When I was speaking on the Vote on Account I suggested to the Minister for Finance at the time that the board dealing with this Act was wrong, and that he should set up completely new machinery in order to deal with applicants under the 1934 Act on the same basis as those dealt with under the 1924 Act. I told him that, as far as I was concerned, if he brought a proposal before the House to set up a board consisting of an independent chairman and two pre-Truce men who took his side in the civil war, I would support him; because I think that is the only way you can give these applicants fair-play. That is the only way you can give these applicants equal treatment with their comrades who were dealt with under the 1924 Act.

The board, as constituted, as everybody knows, consists of a judge of the Circuit Court, which is all right. The Minister has then two nominees, two pre-Truce men, and I think he could let the board rest at that. I see no reason whatever for having civil servants on a board of that kind. I think it is wrong. The training of civil servants is directed, if I may say so without offence, towards cheeseparing. Civil servants on a board of that kind will be there purely and simply for the purpose of cutting down pensions or excluding persons from pensions. There were no civil servants on the board under the 1924 Act. I think it would be desirable to have on the board under the present Act people who would not make any difference between sets of pensioners, and I commend that to the Minister.

To discuss legislation is not allowable on an Estimate, but since the section of the Act of 1934 with which we are concerned is an administrative section I think it is necessary that I should advocate this change. You cannot get the Act of 1934 administered in the same way as the Act of 1924 unless you change your board and have one similar to the board that acted under the Act of 1924. As that has not been done, and because of the slowness with which cases are dealt with, and because the pensioners, to my mind, are not all getting what they are entitled to under the Act, I move that the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.

I agree with quite a lot of what Deputy Lynch has said. But I think if he were in a position to go over the awards made under the 1924 Act he would find they were not quite as generous as he seems to think. He would find that at least over half the men who got pensions did not get anything for the period up to 1919. If he had an opportunity of going over the awards he would find that in or about the same proportion, and in exactly the same type of case as he has put forward, to-day, the awards were more or less the same as under the 1924 Act. My definite advice to the referee was that he should treat them on all-fours. I think, from what I have seen, and I have examined quite a number of cases, it is quite certain that there is one thing in which every claimant for a pension would agree with Deputy Lynch, and that is that he should have got more. There was no pension claimant who would not agree with that. If Deputy Lynch had the duty of making these awards, I think he would find he could not have been more generous than the referee or the present board have been. There was a definite set of rules laid down as to service and all the rest of it. These were taken over by the new board and operated strictly. In every case that is similar to this question of military service pensions you will be bound to have a lot of differences of opinion as between one man and another. There is no sort of standard yardstick as you have in the measurement of space or of time. It is all a question of the opinion of the referee and of the board. I am convinced myself, from the cases which I have examined, that the refree and the board are doing their best within the law to give every applicant the right to which the 1924 Act entitled him. If any applicant thinks he has a grievance, the referee is giving him the right of appeal against the award. If he has anything further to say and wants to get his case reheard, it can be done. But finally a settlement has to be come to, and on rehearing according to the Act the referee has the power to make a decision which is binding on all persons and tribunals whatsoever, including myself. The referee has the statutory authority for coming to a decision as to the amount of pension that is to be awarded to any applicant. I am convinced, from what I have seen of the referee that he is a fair-minded man, and gives everybody everything to which he is entitled under the Act. My advice to him when he was appointed was to make sure that the pensions under the 1934 Act would be as generous as they were under the 1924 Act.

There is one other point which Deputy Lynch raised, and that was the U.S.A. applications. One of the big difficulties in dealing both with applicants here at home and applicants abroad has been that the referee did not get the co-operation from old I.R.A. bodies that he should have got if they wanted to get things speeded up. Under the Act the referee has to take into consideration the rank held by the applicant—the rank element being based on the rank held on either one of two critical dates, that is 11th July, 1921, or 2nd July, 1922. The referee has found that several applications were made for the same rank on the same date. He cannot award the rank to the first applicant, because, if the first applicant came along and convinced him that he was really the man who held that rank on that date in the unit in question, there might come along a second applicant who would be equally positive that he held it. The only thing the referee could do in a case like that was to ask the old I.R.A. officers in the various areas to agree as to the names of the officers who held the various ranks on each of the two critical dates. It is a simple matter for all the old brigade officers in a brigade in Kerry or any place else to come together and write out a list, saying:"The following are the names of the men who held the various ranks in this brigade on 11th July, 1921," and "The following are the names of the men who held the various ranks in this brigade on 2nd July, 1922." If that were done it would speed up the work of the referee enormously. Notwithstanding all those difficulties, however the referee and the board are getting on much more rapidly than the board got on under the 1924 Act, and I believe that when those records come in they will be able to go ahead five or six if not ten times as fast as they are going at the present time. They have had the utmost difficulty in getting those lists of the ranks. In the case of many areas that are complaining, the fault lies not with the referee and the board but with the local old I.R.A. officers who cannot get together and agree upon the lists. I only hope that one result of this debate will be that the old I.R.A. officers will provide the referee with an agreed list of their ranks on the two critical dates.

Another difficulty is in regard to the people who are in the United States and the people who are in Canada and Australia and all over the world. I got a circular—I think every member of the Dáil got it—from a certain group of old I.R.A. men in New York, who wanted to have a pensions board set up for New York alone. If a pensions board were set up for New York it might deal with New York and surrounding districts, but San Francisco is as far from New York as New York is from Dublin, so the people in San Francisco would say that a pensions board should be set up for them, and we would end up by having one in every large city in the world. It cannot be done in that way; the only way in which it can be done is by correspondence. Quite recently the referee issued a circular to every applicant who resides overseas, setting out in detail what he was to do; telling him to give the names of the officers who would be communicated with, and all that sort of thing. I believe that a number of those applications will be dealt with within the next couple of months, and that if people have any idea that those across the seas have been forgotten they will be disabused of that idea.

Would the Minister say if cases of applicants for pensions are being dealt with, as distinct from those who are looking for certificates?

All that the referee does is to deal with certificates. A person applies to the referee for a certificate that he has a certain number of years' service, and on production of that certificate to the Department of Defence the applicant gets a pension. I think I know what Deputy Cosgrave has in mind. The referee has tried to deal with applicants according to their need. Where the ranks of the brigade have been supplied, and where everything is clear so that the referee can arrive at his decision, he takes into account as far as he can the circumstances of the applicants, and those who are in need are dealt with first.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Vote put and agreed to.