That a Select Committee consisting of eleven Deputies, to be appointed by the Committee of Selection and with power to send for persons, papers and documents, be set up, publicly to investigate and report to the Dáil on all the facts and circumstances connected with and surrounding the decision of the Executive Council that the retention of Mr. E.P. McCarron in his post of Secretary to the Department of Local Government and Public Health was no longer possible, and to make such recommendations to the Dáil as they consider necessary in the public interest.
In moving this motion, Sir, I am very deeply conscious of my responsibilities, and fully appreciative of the importance of the issues involved, not merely to Mr. McCarron personally, but also to the public service and the community as a whole. If Deputies would consider this matter calmly and impartially and apart from political passion and bias, I think that this motion would be unanimously adopted by the House, because it concerns something which is necessary to the establishment of certain vital principles in the public life of this country. It is necessary, not merely as a matter of ordinary elementary justice to Mr. McCarron, that he should be given some public platform or some public opportunity of vindicating his public character and his integrity and efficiency as a public servant, but it is necessary also in the public interest that public officials—both governmental officials and officials of local authorities—should be assured of the security of their tenure, and that they should feel that in exercising their functions they are entitled to exercise them entirely irrespective of the political policy of the particular Government for the time being. The public is entitled to expect that every Government, no matter from what Party a Government for the time being may be drawn, will get impartial advice from public officials, but that the public officials of this country will not be turned into a further wheel in the political machine of any political Party in this State. Mr. McCarron occupied a very responsible position in the public life of this country and in the public service. He was well known throughout the length and breadth of this country. But if this case had reference to the humblest civil servant, to the meanest man occupying the most subordinate position in the public service of this State, the same principles would be involved and the same issues would have to be considered.
It is over two months now since the public Press conveyed to a startled public the information that Mr. McCarron had been removed from the office which he had held so long and so honourably. The position of a permanent head—we now have to put the word "permanent" into inverted commas—of the Department of State known as the Department of Local Government and Public Health, if not the most important position in the State, was certainly the second most important position in the Civil Service of this State. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health himself stressed the importance of the Department of Local Government and Public Health in the life of every individual in the State in the speech he made to the Cork Chamber of Commerce last month. I am quoting from the Cork Examiner of the 21st January of this year:
"Continuing, he referred to the important part which the Department of Local Government played in the ordinary everyday life of the country. Everybody, no matter what part of the country he lived in, rural or urban area or city, was subject in some way to the operations of the Department."
For nearly fifteen years Mr. McCarron directed successfully and honourably and to the satisfaction of all sections of the community the affairs of that great Department which so intimately impinges on the life of every citizen of this State. He was in touch with public authorities throughout the country. He was in intimate association with men of all Parties in this House, and of all sections of political thought in the country, and there has never been a breath of suspicion against him. There has never been, throughout that lengthy period, a suggestion from anybody, even from the Fianna Fáil Party when in opposition, that he was anything but a man of integrity and efficiency, and of the utmost probity and honour. There has never been a suggestion that he had not carried out his duties to the satisfaction of everybody in this country. He was in intimate touch with the philanthropic associations throughout the country, to their great benefit. Never, as I say, was there the slightest suspicion during all that time that there was anything wrong. During the five years in which the present Government have carried on the affairs of this country there was nothing to show that they had anything but the fullest confidence in Mr. McCarron's administration of that Department. To impartial outsiders it seemed that his Minister went out of his way, in the speeches he made publicly and at private functions, to laud the work of Mr. McCarron in his Department. The phrases he used, the laudations he poured upon Mr. McCarron, were something that I think no other public servant in this State has ever got from any other Minister. Members of this House have listened to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health publicly and privately bearing testimony, as a responsible Minister of this State, to the efficiency and integrity and impartiality of Mr. McCarron. Consequently, the citizens of this State were profoundly shocked when the bald announcement appeared in the newspapers of 1st December of last year that Mr. McCarron had been summarily dismissed from that position which he apparently had held so honourably for so long. Nobody was more surprised than Mr. McCarron.
What was the method by which this announcement was made—this announcement which stirred the public conscience of this country more deeply than it has ever been stirred in the history of this State since it was established in 1922? A bald announcement was made in the Press of 1st December of last year. The first intimation that the people of this country got that anything was wrong came over the wireless on the night before. The news that was sent throughout this country and to all other peoples who listened-in to our station on that night was couched in such language as to bear an innuendo very detrimental to the interests of this loyal, efficient and faithful servant of this State. Care was not even taken that our public radio station should not be used in a manner that would give rise—as it has given rise—to slanderous rumours and lying statements being dissipated, and uneasiness felt by practically every section of the community. Then the Press came along with their announcement. The official announcement was made in a letter to Mr. McCarron:—
"I have to inform you that on the 28th instant the Executive Council removed you from the office of Secretary to the Department of Local Government and Public Health, with effect as from 1st December, 1936."
That in itself was a crime against the public, not to speak about Mr. McCarron. The way that announcement was made and the tone of the communication and the language used would in themselves be sufficient to justify the establishment of a tribunal such as we ask for in this motion. Then the Press came along and, taking only a section of the headlines that appeared in the Press on that day and the following days, let us see the captions that the public of this country and neighbouring countries were treated to as a result of the manner in which this action was taken by the Government and the form which the announcement of that action took. Here are some of the captions taken at random from some of the newspapers. The Irish Press, the Government's own organ, had the heading “Civil Service Sensation”; another paper, “Government Bombshell”; another paper, “Dismissal Sensation”; another paper, “You're Fired”; another paper, “Official Sacked”; another paper, “Sacked Civil Service Chief”; another paper, “Short Shrift.”
What were the public, ignorant of what had gone on behind the scenes, to infer from all this? What was the meaning that was taken by all sections of the community? What was the interpretation that was put upon things by the Government's action? It was that there was something deeply wrong with the administration of the Department of Local Government and Public Health by its so-called permanent head. No reason was given why this drastic action was taken without any notice to the public or even Mr. McCarron, as it subsequently appeared. Rumours began to be spread and to become rife. People asked themselves: "What is at the back of it?" The Government must know these rumours have been going around for the last two months and no action has been taken to justify the probity and integrity and efficiency of this faithful servant of the State, who served all sections of the community here for 15 years and gave his loyal and unstinted service to the present Government for five years, and against whom no complaint was made by the present Government or by his Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary during that period of five years.
No step has been taken or is indicated as being about to be taken to give that small measure of justice to Mr. McCarron. We ask the people's representatives here in the people's Parliament to see that that measure of justice is given to Mr. McCarron, that he is given some opportunity of publicly vindicating his character, efficiency and integrity. It was with no object of getting any political party advantage that this motion was put forward in my name or was put forward by the Party to which I have the honour to belong. What other inference could be drawn from all that I have adverted to except that there was some grave public delinquency behind all this and that the Government had thrown the cloak of silence over it in a spirit of charity towards Mr. McCarron? As people are saying throughout the country and as they have been saying during the last few months, "There is never smoke without fire and there is something wrong." The political hacks of the Fianna Fáil Party throughout the country have been spreading insidious rumours, foul slanders, against Mr. McCarron in an effort to bolster up the Government formed from their own political party.
It is necessary for me to advert as briefly as I can to the circumstances leading to the removal of Mr. McCarron from his office. Mr. McCarron has made certain of these facts known to the public through the Press and it is right that Deputies— if there are independent Deputies, and I am sure there are in this House to-day, who wish to bring an independent judgment to bear upon this question—should get a very short connected narrative of the events leading up to Mr. McCarron's removal from office. It is a matter of common notoriety that so far as any intimation has been given by the Government of the reasons why they removed Mr. McCarron from office, that those reasons were in some way or another connected with an appointment which had been made in the Portrane asylum and had some connection with some events in connection with Ballinasloe asylum.
It is a matter that everybody is aware of that a vacancy occurred in the position of resident medical superintendent of the Ballinasloe Mental Home some short time ago through the death of Dr. Mills, the then resident medical superintendent. In accordance with the settled practice of the Department of Local Government, that post fell to be filled through the machinery of the Local Appointments Commissioners, and intimation was conveyed to the committee administering the affairs of the Ballinasloe Mental Home that the Minister could not accede to the request which had been put forward that a certain medical officer who then held a position in the mental home should be promoted to the position of resident medical superintendent. It is well known that the greatest possible influence was brought to bear upon the Minister and the Government by the Party from which the Government is formed to secure the appointment of a particular individual to that post.
I do not wish to advert any further to that matter. I do not wish to mention individuals' names or go into the controversy at all, but it is necessary that I should advert to it very shortly. It is merely for the purpose of showing that the Minister apparently experienced considerable political difficulty from his own political adherents in reference to the appointment of a resident medical superintendent at Ballinasloe.
The position of resident medical superintendent at Ballinasloe and in all the other mental homes throughout the country is radically different from the position which existed until recently in the Grangegorman mental home, or rather the Grangegorman and Portrane mental homes. The Grangegorman and Portrane mental hospitals are, I understand, the fourth largest institutions of the kind in this State. The position of chief resident medical superintendent was occupied for many years by Dr. Donnellan. He occupied a position fundamentally different from that occupied by every other resident medical superintendent in every other mental home in this country. There was in the case of Grangegorman and Portrane a chief resident medical superintendent and a deputy resident medical superintendent. The chief medical superintendent had his principal functions in connection with the Grangegorman mental hospital—the mental home generally. The affairs of the Portrane mental home were administered by a deputy resident medical superintendent.
That position at Portrane was the only position of its type that existed in this country. It was recognised by the statutory rules governing these matters, and the chief resident medical superintendent had merely super-advisory duties in connection with the Portrane Mental Home. In the year 1925 the position of deputy medical superintendent in Portrane was recognised by the Department of Local Government as fundamentally different from the position of resident medical superintendent in the other homes throughout the country. The Minister will find on his files, if he looks at them, an official intimation to the Grangegorman Joint Committee recognising the fundamental distinction and allowing the joint committee to act accordingly.
Now, this is a matter of very considerable importance in considering the subsequent things which led to the removal of Mr. McCarron. The Department of Local Government and Public Health some time last year intimated to the Joint Committee of the Grangegorman Mental Homes that it was desirable that the officials of the Grangegorman Mental Homes and mental homes generally throughout the country should be retired on reaching the age of 65 years. To that proposal the Joint Committee of the Grangegorman Mental Homes intimated their adherence. In accordance with that decision Dr. Donnellan fell due for retirement last year. It was then the plan of the Grangegorman Joint Committee that they should erect a third mental home somewhere in their district, probably somewhere in the County Dublin. They thought, there fore, that the opportunity was a good one to reorganise the medical staff of their institutions—existing and to come. I must emphasise the fact that this third mental home which was then in contemplation by the Grangegorman Joint Committee would take a very considerable amount of time before it was erected and brought into effective operation.
When the new mental home, the third mental home under the jurisdiction of the Grangegorman Committee, would be erected it would be necessary to appoint a new man to fulfil the duties of medical superintendent there. With the concurrence of the Department of Local Government and Public Health, the Joint Committee of the Grangegorman Mental Homes decided to re-arrange their medical staff and, instead of having a medical superintendent with two deputy medical superintendents, one for Portrane and one for the new mental home, they decided that they would have a chief medical superintendent for Grangegorman and two resident medical superintendents: one for Portrane and one for the new mental home, and so do away with the position of deputy resident medical superintendent. That proposal was accepted by the Grangegorman Joint Committee and by the Department of Local Government and Public Health. The question then arose: what was to be done with the position that had to be filled on the retirement of Dr. Donnellan, and what was to be done with Dr. Blake, who was then occupying the position of deputy medical resident superintendent at Portrane? Deputies will forgive me for again emphasising the fact that the position filled by Dr. Blake was a position unknown in any hospital in the Free State—the position of deputy resident medical superintendent. Dr. Blake had carried on his duties as deputy resident superintendent in Portrane for a period of over five years. He had been in the service of the Joint Committee of Grangegorman Mental Homes for twelve and a-half years. There was no suggestion then, and there is not any suggestion now, that Dr. Blake did not carry out his duties efficiently and that he ought not to be left to carry out the duties he had hitherto carried out in the Portrane Mental Home. The only change that was contemplated was a change in the nomenclature. Dr. Blake, instead of being called deputy resident medical superintendent, was henceforth to be known as resident medical superintendent. There was no vacancy to be filled; there was no appointment to be made.
Dr. Blake could not lawfully be removed from his position in Portrane. There was no appointment that could be lawfully sent to the Local Appointments Commissioners. In that state of affairs the Joint Committee of the Grangegorman Mental Homes requested that Dr. Blake should be confirmed in his new title of resident medical superintendent instead of his former title of deputy resident medical superintendent. The file had been for some time in one of the sections of the Department of Local Government and Public Health, and Mr. McCarron was requested by the Joint Committee of the Grangegorman Mental Homes to have the matter expedited. Mr. McCarron called for that file and saw how the matter stood. Deputies will realise that the Secretary of the Department of Local Government and Public Health would have an infinite variety of duties to carry on from day to day. Indeed it has been to me personally, as one who has seen this particular Department in operation for the last fifteen years, a miracle how Mr. McCarron carried on his multifarious duties with such tact, unobtrusiveness and lack of fuss. He had those multifarious duties to fulfil, and in the course of a few days he reached the file in connection with Grangegorman.
On that file was a letter ready for signature and ready to be sent out. I have not a copy of that letter, but may I state generally this: that Mr. McCarron came to the conclusion that if that letter had gone out from the Department of Local Government and Public Health his Minister would be caused serious political embarrassment? Mr. McCarron changed the letter in a number of ways, very unimportant ways, as will be seen by Deputies if the Minister produces that letter. He changed it in ways which were intended to ease the Minister's political past in reference to the Ballinasloe appointment. Mr. McCarron took the precaution, as he would in any file of a similar character, to put there and then a note on the margin of the file as to the reasons why he changed this letter. That letter should exist in the Minister's file with Mr. McCarron's note on the margin, explaining that there was a differentiation between the appointment of Dr. Blake as resident medical superintendent and the Ballinasloe case.
If that letter had gone out in the form in which it was couched originally, political embarrassment would have accrued to the Minister and nothing have been achieved except to cause unnecessary irritation to the members of the Joint Committee of the Grangegorman Mental Home. This letter, I understand, purported to approve of the appointment of Dr. Blake as resident medical superintendent, and used the phrase "owing to peculiar circumstances". But the Department must have known and Mr. McCarron knew that there were no "peculiar circumstances". That letter stated "owing to peculiar circumstances" they were prepared to approve of Dr. Blake's appointment as resident medical superintendent provided that the Joint Committee gave an undertaking that the new appointment that would be made years hence in connection with the new mental home would be sent to the Local Appointments Commissioners. Now, in the first place, that would, of necessity, without any undertaking, have to be sent to the Local Appointments Commissioners. In the second place, the appointment was not going to arise for years to come and in the third place the existing Joint Committee of Management of the Grangegorman Mental Homes had no authority to bind their successors. Accordingly, Mr. McCarron altered that. He said that there is nothing here happening with regard to Dr. Blake as the Department had already agreed and approved of Dr. Blake as resident medical superintendent. The whole thing occupied about ten minutes of Mr. McCarron's official time that day, and those ten minutes have caused him to lose his position as head of the Department of Local Government and Public Health. They have caused great public uneasiness throughout the length and breadth of the Irish Free State, and have shocked the public conscience of every decent man and woman in this State.
Mr. McCarron regarded that as an ordinary incident in his day's work and forgot all about it. The letter that was sent out reached, in due course, the Joint Committee, and the Joint Committee were pleased at Dr. Blake's appointment being put out of their way. Their proceedings were reported in the Press. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health saw the proceedings of the Joint Committee reported in the Press on Friday the 20th November. On Friday, the 20th November, he told Mr. McCarron that he had seen something in that day's papers concerning the reported proceedings of the Grangegorman Joint Committee on the previous day which was the cause of embarrassment to him, having regard to the political difficulties he had experienced over filling the vacancy in the post of resident medical superintendent at Ballinasloe Mental Hospital and the candidature there of a certain doctor. Mr. McCarron there and then explained to him that there was no parity at all between the position in Ballinasloe and the position in reference to Dr. Blake and he wrote and left for the Minister a memo., which the Minister must have, explaining the difference. He demonstrated to him that, so far from causing the Minister any political embarrassment, if the letter which was originally going out had gone out, the political adherents of the Government Party in Ballinasloe would have said this: "Yes, you are able to appoint Doctor Blake without sending him to the Local Appointments Commissioners because there were special circumstances there. Why are not there special circumstances in connection with Ballinasloe?" and the flood-gates of Fianna Fáil political intriguery would have been let loose on the Government and on the Minister for Local Government and Public Health in particular.
Mr. McCarron saved his Minister from that. He did his duty to his Minister, in full appreciation of his loyalty to his Minister as a public servant and in full appreciation of Government policy. I use that phrase because it occurs later on and because he was accused of a lack of appreciation of Government policy. I shall have something to say about it later on. Are we to take it that that is a lack of appreciation of Government policy in regard to jobs and jobbery and political intriguery? No other meaning can be attached to it, or is attached to it by the public. But if he is accused, as he has been accused, by the letters that came from the Government of a lack of appreciation of Government policy, let any fair-minded Deputy, or any decent person outside this House, take the trouble of considering the facts of this matter. If he does he must inevitably come to the conclusion that Mr. McCarron, when he was acting in connection with the Portrane appointment, was acting not merely in the public interest, but was acting in the interests of his own Minister and his political difficulties, and acting as a loyal, efficient and dutiful servant of the State would have acted in his place and as he was entitled to act as the permanent head of a big State department.
When the letter from the Department of Local Government and Public Health went out, Mr. McCarron thought no more about it. He assumed, as anybody would have assumed, that the Minister would have read his memorandum and would have appreciated what he had done. He assumed, as he was entitled to assume, but he wrongly assumed, that the Minister would have some spark of justice and decency in him, and that before he took any action against him he would have given him an opportunity of knowing what the charges were that were festering in his mind, in his politically corrupt mind arising out of these transactions. I will show the House in a moment that he did not take the elementary trouble to ascertain, or read the fully ascertained facts in connection with the case, before he recommended the Executive Council to dismiss Mr. McCarron for what he had done in connection with Doctor Blake and the Portrane Mental Home. Mr. McCarron heard no more about this matter from his Minister. He assumed that everything was all right. He went on with his work and forgot all about it. He had in his mind the things that his Minister had said during the last four or five years about him. He still had in his recollection the fact that a few days previous to this he had received personal hospitality from his own Minister in the Dáil restaurant, that he was driven home in the company of the Minister after a debate in the House in a Government car, in the Minister's car, and left at his own door. That happened a few days before the incident to which I have just referred occurred. There was nothing to lead him to know or suspect that he had not the confidence of the Minister. There is that fact for Deputies to realise that even then the Minister had nothing in his mind in reference to his lack of confidence in Mr. McCarron.
The next thing he heard was on Tuesday afternoon. His Minister called him in and told him that he had serious news for him. This was on Tuesday the 24th of November when he told him that he had been that day dismissed from his position as permanent head of the Department by the unanimous decision of the Executive Council. I ask Deputies to remember that fact which has not been contradicted. It has appeared in the public Press under Mr. McCarron's own name. The Minister informed him on Tuesday that he had been dismissed that day by the unanimous vote of the Executive Council. Mr. McCarron over his own name in the public Press took responsibility for that statement. I will read it from the Irish Press so that the Government cannot doubt its accuracy.
"The Minister had not read the papers concerning Doctor Blake's position until after my dismissal at the Executive Council meeting."
That statement appeared in the Irish Press on 1st December, 1936— that is over two months ago. I repeat here now what has not been contradicted by the Minister, that he, without telling Mr. McCarron that he had any fault to find with him, and without giving him any opportunity of making his defence or of knowing the charges against him, went in to a meeting of the Executive Council on Tuesday, 21st of last November, and secured from the Executive Council, by what means we cannot know or judge, a unanimous order dismissing Mr. McCarron from his post as permanent head of the Department without knowing the facts, without being in a position to tell the Executive Council the facts, without having the file with him, without having read the file. Could any greater indictment be made against any man, or any public man, than the mere statement of the bald facts I have just made? Can anybody conceive of a greater piece of injustice being perpetrated against any man than has been perpetrated by the present Minister for Local Government and Public Health with the full connivance of the President and his colleagues?
What has the result been? Mr. McCarron got his full pension. I shall advert to that in a moment. If there was anything wrong he should not have got a pension. So sure as if the President and his colleagues had put their hands into the pockets of Mr. McCarron and his wife and young family and stolen therefrom £300 a year for the next 15 years, so sure have they been guilty of the sin of injustice and theft. May I read, for the delectation of the President and his colleagues, an extract from the current issue of the Irish Ecclesiastical Record? It is late for them, so far as Mr. McCarron is concerned, perhaps, to take this into their serious consideration, but at least, if this motion does not do anything more, it will expose the hypocrisy and the pompous humbug that surrounds the Minister for Local Government and Public Health in connection with this transaction and in connection with his public utterances about it. In the current issue of the Irish Ecclesiastical Record a reverend gentleman, writing in connection with constitution-making, says this:
"No matter how excellent our country's constitution may be, we should be ceaseless in our efforts towards making those that man it a little less selfish, a little less uncharitable, a little less ready to forget that the Moral Law binds as surely and as scrupulously in public life as it does in private life. When all is said and done, it is not by having a republic or a two-chamber legislature, or by any such institutional device, that we will be assured of having a good government. No; the best safeguard of the liberties of citizens and the best guarantee that citizens will be well governed lie elsewhere. They lie in a conscience tender and well-informed in the Christian principles of justice and charity on the part of the government personnel."
Can any fair-minded man or woman in this country think that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health or the President or any of his colleagues, who must share responsibility for this action in regard to Mr. McCarron—can any fair-minded person think that the Government personnel had a conscience tender and well-informed in the Christian principles of justice and charity when they dismissed Mr. McCarron without telling him what they had against him, what charge they were making against him, and without giving an opportunity of being heard in his own defence, and leaving slanders and libels being disseminated throughout the length and breadth of the country for the last two months without taking any steps to give the reason why this action was taken? In mere justice to Mr. McCarron, should he not have been afforded an opportunity?
Let me go back to a mere recital of the facts. I told Deputies that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, without having given the slightest notice to Mr. McCarron that he intended to bring this matter before the Executive Council or that he had any grievance whatever against Mr. McCarron, informed him on Tuesday that he had been dismissed. Mr. McCarron asked why he had been dismissed and he replied that he had not given him his full confidence. More pompous humbug—he had not given him his full confidence! He said that he had not given him his full confidence. Why, then, did the Minister give him his hospitality in the precincts of this House only a few days before, and why did he extend to him the hospitality of his car to bring him here a few days before? Why did he praise Mr. McCarron only a short time previously before the representatives of industry and business in this country if he had not his confidence? Mr. McCarron asked him there and then: "Why have I not got your confidence?" and the Minister was not able to tell him, on Tuesday 20th, why he had not got it. Having perpetrated this outrage, this gross injustice, this gross breach of the moral law, as I say, he was not able to tell him why he had done it. He had not read the file and did not know anything about the facts. Then Mr. McCarron, on the following Thursday, wrote a letter to the Government, or to the President—I forget which—asking that he be informed of the reasons that moved the Government to take this action. To that he got no reply and has never since got a reply. The Government met on Friday the 28th and made another order —this time a formal order—dismissing Mr. McCarron, or, to adopt the phraseology then used, removing him from his office, and granting him the fullest pension they were able to give him under the existing superannuation code. It would be interesting to go through the superannuation code in order to find out the power that illegally justified the Executive Council in doing that. It would be found that they got that power, not because they had no confidence in Mr. McCarron, but because they had the fullest confidence in him; and, because their consciences were uneasy, they gave him this conscience money. This pension is nothing else but conscience money. The money Mr. McCarron got from the Government is nothing but conscience money—inadequate conscience money, I admit, but still nothing more or less than conscience money, because the section under which they have power to give this pension is one that deals with the reorganisation of a Department for the purpose, if you please, of economy. Economy, indeed! Getting rid——