Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 15 Feb 1939

Vol. 74 No. 5

Committee on Finance. - Vote 65—Army.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim Bhreise ná raghaidh thar £323,370 chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1939, chun an Airm agus Chúltaca an Airm (maraon le Deontaisí áirithe i gCabhair) fé sna hAchtanna Fórsaí Cosanta (Forálacha Sealadacha); chun costaisí áirithe riaracháin ina dtaobh san; agus chun costaisí maidir le coinneáil príosúnach áirithe síbhialta.

That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £323,370 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1939, for 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 in connection with the custody of certain civilian prisoners.

Speaking in the Dáil on the 29th April on the Agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Taoiseach said that the negotiations were begun on his initiative because it was impossible for any Government to do its duty by our people, or to make proper plans for defence, in view of the British occupation of our ports and the military and naval facilities which they could claim under Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty. He indicated that, following the restoration of the ports, the Government proposed to go into the whole defence policy and lay it before the House at the earliest possible moment. The Taoiseach also expressed his belief that the defence measures which would be proposed would impose a considerable burden on the people, but that the people would have to face that burden if they wanted to be free.

The Minister for Finance, in introducing the Budget last year, made provision for spending an additional £600,000 for general defence purposes. The Supplementary Estimate which has been circulated gives details as to how £384,575 of that sum has been spent. Savings on other sub-heads amounting to £61,205 have reduced the actual additional expenditure for the financial year to £323,370.

In order to give the Dáil a clear picture of the measures which the Government propose to take to strengthen our defences, I have caused to be circulated with the Supplementary Estimate a White Paper showing the details of the annual Estimate for the coming financial year. It will be noticed that provision is being made for an increase in the personnel of the permanent Forces, the Reserve and the Volunteers. Provision will also be made next year for spending on warlike stores and equipment £1,000,000 more than the average of such expenditure for the past three years. This sum, together with the £239,000 in the Supplementary Estimate, gives a total of £1,239,000 to be spent this year and next on what we may term capital expenditure. In addition, the Government have approved plans for spending on the purchase of stores and equipment, on the building of aerodromes, and the home production of ammunition, a sum amounting to £4,261,000. This makes a total of £5,500,000 for capital equipment and stores, part of which has been bought and all of which will be bought as quickly as possible. I estimate that the maintenance of personnel, civilian and military, and the renewal of stores, will cause the annual Army Estimates to rise to £2,250,000, when the Army reaches the planned strength and when we are manufacturing ammunition at home.

I have no doubt that protests will be made against spending an additional £500,000 annually on the Army Vote, and against spending £5,500,000 for capital equipment, and I am quite prepared to admit that I would prefer to see the increased expenditure for defence purposes spent on the development of our social and economic life. But, taking the world as it is, and after the closest and most exhaustive examination of the situation and of all the proposals for increased expenditure on the Army, the Government, with the utmost reluctance, have arrived at the conclusion that it is necessary to spend at least this much for defence purposes if our people wish to be allowed continue their economic and social development according to their own wishes and for their own benefit, rather than in accordance with the wishes and for the benefit of an outside Power.

The world we are living in at the moment is far from being a pacifist's Utopia. And although the attitude of our people generally is one of peaceful intent towards all other countries; although their deepest desire is to be allowed to develop their resources and talents in peace, and peacefully to absorb our lost territory, we cannot rely in these times on that attitude saving us from attack by major Powers who might wish to conquer our country either for the sake of our resources or our market, or for use as a base from which to attack their enemies. The final decision of a General Staff contemplating such attack will be based on whether it will bring them more pains than gains, upon the measure of resistance likely to be encountered by them. If we wish to be left in peace we must be prepared to make sacrifices of time, energy and money for defensive preparations, and so show that although we are peaceful we are not pacifist, and are prepared to defend ourselves vigorously if attacked.

Prior to the new Constitution and the agreements made with Great Britain in April last, it was very difficult to make any plans for defence to meet the complicated situation that would have arisen in the event of a European war; very difficult indeed. not only by reason of the British Army and Navy being in possession of certain definite defended harbours, oil fuel stores and war signal stations, but because of the unlimited demands— demands without any effective limit whatever as far as Ireland was concerned, as to character or extent—the demands which might have been made, in accordance with the terms of Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty of 1921, "for such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for the purpose of such defence as aforesaid", the latter phrase covering defence activities by British sea, land, and air forces.

However, these causes of enmity and strife between ourselves and our nearest neighbour have been ended satisfactorily in the best interests of both countries, and for some time past our General Staff have been drawing up plans in the light of the following facts:—(1) That our sovereignty over the Twenty-Six Counties is complete and so recognised internationally; (2) that the only authority which can commit us to war is the assembly of the elected representatives of the people— the Dáil; (3) that it is not the policy of the Government to attack any nation, and that we have no commitment to join or be involved in any war; (4) that it is the policy of the Government to repel any attack which might be made upon our territory.

These facts negative the possibility of our being at war with Britain unless attacked by her, and, therefore, the only other situations we have to plan for are: The maintenance of neutrality; attack by a power with which Great Britain is at war. It is assumed that it is most unlikely that we should be attacked by a power not at war with Great Britain. In all probability such an attack would come only from a power seeking to make our territory the cockpit of its war with Great Britain, or as a base from which to attack her.

Keeping in mind the general situation I have outlined and the urgent necessity for quick preparations, our problem has been to arrive at the best distribution of the funds which the Government propose to place at our disposal in order to secure quickly and most efficiently the maximum strength of the Defence Forces. Luckily for the people and the Exchequer, we have highly trained officers at General Headquarters, at the Military College, and in the corps and services throughout the Army. Supporting the officers we have highly trained N.C.O.s and men both in the permanent Forces, in the Reserve and Volunteers. I have kept continually before all ranks the problems with which we would be faced should we be called upon to expand. These problems have been studied carefully for years. Knowledge has been gained in the military colleges at home, in England, in America and in France; experience has been gained in the rapid mobilisation, training and equipment of large bodies of Reserves and Volunteers. All types of weapons and equipment have been tried out. I can say with confidence that every penny placed at our disposal will be used with the utmost economy and efficiency for the strengthening of our Defence Forces.

When the expansion which has been planned reaches its maximum we will have an Army of 30,000 all ranks consisting of 8,000 permanent Force, 5,000 Reserve and 17,000 Volunteers. On mobilisation it will provide:—(1) General Headquarters and G.H.Q. troops highly trained and equipped; (2) a striking force highly trained and equipped; (3) an Air Force consisting of land planes and sea planes for the interception of bombing raiders and for reconnaissance and coastal patrol; (4) an anti-aircraft artillery branch for the protection of the larger cities and vital areas; (5) garrisons in the forts and principal cities; (6) school and depôt staffs for the training of officers and other ranks; (7) cycle squadrons for protection of particular areas; (8) a munition branch for the production of small arms and other ammunition; (9) a coast watching service; (10) a coast patrol and mine-sweeping service. In addition to equipping the troops I have mentioned, we will have a number of rifles and machine guns for arming troops which will be raised for local protection or general purposes. Ancillary to the Army, proper A.R.P. will be organised and equipment provided for large centres of population. Civilian first aid workers will also be organised and trained on a voluntary basis.

At the present time we have an Army of 21,000 all ranks. If to-morrow we were ordered to mobilise detailed plans exist whereby the most vital of the fighting units would be manned and equipped to the utmost possible extent. We are working at high pressure to organise, train and equip the services which have not hitherto existed, i.e., A.R.P., coast watching, coastal patrol, and mine-sweeping. A rapid expansion is taking place in the Air Corps and anti-aircraft defence. Arrangements are being completed for erection of an ammunition factory, and we have already secured the site. The attainment of the planned expansion depends of course on our obtaining material and men. Orders are being placed for the material we require, but the assurance of rapid delivery is, of course, a matter which is not entirely under our control. The obtaining of the increased personnel is, however, completely under our own control, and in order to make the most effective use of the material which we have and are purchasing we require 1,000 more men for the permanent force, 9,000 more volunteers, and large numbers of voluntary workers for A.R.P. and first aid. Once these estimates have been discussed by the Dáil I believe we can look forward with confidence to obtaining all the men provided for. I trust that no matter how we may differ as to details, the wisest and most patriotic sections of our people will realise the urgent importance of bringing the Army up to strength and will do all in their power to assist us in getting the best type of recruit for the permanent forces, the Volunteers and A.R.P.

Turning now to the Supplementary Estimate, it will be noted that we are asking the Dáil to approve a gross expenditure of £384,575, which, when offset by certain savings, is reduced to a net sum of £323,370. The Estimate may be said to be due to the following main causes:—(a) The maintenance of the coastal defences; (b) the purchase of stores in connection with the transfer of the forts; (c) the increased establishment of the Army, and the consequent increase in civilian personnel; (d) the equipment of the Army; (e) Air Raid Precautions.

In regard to the maintenance of the Coastal Defences, the direct expenditure borne on this Estimate, apart from the cost of military personnel may be generally said to be as follows:—Maintenance Stores (sub-head S), £3,230; Civilian Maintenance Staff, (sub-head C), £15,123; Vessels (sub-head S), £7,729; British Instructional Staff (sub-head C), £4,038; Rents (sub-head T), £158; Insurance (sub-head W), £515; Telephones (sub-head X.1.), £50; Fuel (sub-head R), £700; Transport (sub-heads H.I. & L.), £1,527; Total, £33,070.

Hence the direct expenditure on the forts, apart from the cost of our own military personnel will be about £33,070 for the current year, and the corresponding figure next year will be £30,817. The cost of military personnel on the forts will be about £49,634 for the year 1938 and £69,072 for 1939, but it may be possible to reduce the latter figure to £50,995. In future normal years we estimate that the total cost of all services in the forts will be about £50,000 a year of which about £40,000 will represent the pay and allowances etc. of military and civilian personnel. It is also intended at a future date to spend about £6,760 on modernising the signalling and fire control equipment in the forts in order to make them completely up-to-date and efficient.

Stores were purchased at the forts to the extent of £30,109. The details of the purchases are as follows:— Consumable Stores—(Petrol, Food, Medicines, etc.) (sub-heads F, K, L and R), £2,675; Engineer Tools and Stores (sub-heads Q and S), £4,381; Movable Warlike Stores (sub-head P), £12,798; Wireless Stores (sub-head O), £85; Barrack Stores (sub-head V), £9,470; Total, £29,409.

In addition, grants were made to Private Regimental Funds in respect of private property such as squash courts to the extent of £700 (sub-head U), so that the total involved was £30,109.

The third cause of this Supplementary Estimate is the increased strength of the Army, and a consequent small increase in the civilian staff of the Department. The cost of the latter is £2,758 (sub-head Y) and the cost of the former in pay and maintenance is £24,200. This sum is distributed over 11 sub-heads. As regards the increased strength of the Army, it is necessary to explain that the peace establishment of the Army before the Government's recent decision was 641 officers and 6,334 other ranks. The annual Estimate for 1938 was based on a strength of 620 officers and 5,800 other ranks. That left a deficiency of 21 officers and 500 other ranks. During the year, partly owing to the transfer of the forts but mainly owing to the international situation, it was decided to increase the Army by 17 officers, 4 cadets and 500 other ranks, and the cost of that increase is represented by the figures just given. For the purpose of raising the regular Army to that strength a recruiting drive was undertaken, and the results were satisfactory.

The strength of the permanent force as covered by this Estimate is 637 officers and 6,300 other ranks. The Estimate for 1939-40 is based on a strength of 715 officers and 7,262 other ranks, which will be an increase of 1,040 all ranks. The strength of the reserve in 1938 Estimate was 525 officers and 18,425 other ranks, but the figure in the 1939 Estimate will be 720 officers and 20,804 other ranks—an increase of 2,574 all ranks, and the total cost of the whole Force in pay and maintenance will be, as I have already said, about £1,850,000.

The fourth cause of the Supplementary Estimate is the necessity of repairing deficiencies in the equipment of the Army, and the Estimate remedies that deficiency to the extent that it provides for the following capital items:—

Clothing—Sub-head M


Barrack Services—Sub-head V


New Work—Sub-head S


Air Corps Equipment—Subhead O


Motor Cycles—Sub-head O


Artillery Adaptors—Sub-head P


Ammunition—Sub-head P


Engineer Equipment — Subhead Q



The sum provided for clothing and barrack services is simply an instalment towards building up reserve stocks which is necessary for mobilisation. The provision for new works is a carry-over from previous years which will be completed this year. The sum of £132,965 will go towards providing machines for the air corps, as well as air and ground equipment for the corps generally. The motor-cycles are needed for the training of all corps and services other than the cavalry and signal corps which already possess machines. The adaptors are wanted for the conversion of horse-drawn artillery wagons into motor-drawn vehicles. The engineering equipment consists of essential defence stores.

The fifth and final service covered by this Supplementary Estimate is A.R.P. It will be observed that a sum of £101,000 is included under sub-head P (1) for A.R.P. The Taoiseach made a statement in the House on the 26th October last regarding the question of the defence of the civilian population in the event of air attack. He referred on that occasion to the intention of the Government to introduce legislation making it compulsory on local authorities in certain areas to carry out schemes which would cover the action required to be taken by them in the event of the areas being submitted to air attack. It is quite possible that, during the progress of a major European war, in which this country was not directly involved, precautions would have to be taken in certain areas here such as would be necessary under conditions equivalent to the existence of a state of war.

The Government will undertake responsibility for providing, at the cost of the Exchequer, certain services and training equipment, appliances and other material, and will pay grants to local authorities amounting to a certain percentage of their expenditure on approved schemes. The provision made in the Estimate is in respect of equipment such as anti-gas respirators, oil skin protective clothing, decontaminating materials, instructional fire-fighting equipment, and other instructional equipment which has been obtained or is on order for free issue to the public, and to the A.R.P. services to be organised by the local authorities. A further sum of £34,544 will be included in the Estimates for 1939. It is considered that, to meet the final expenditure on the scheme, a further sum of £375,000 will have to be provided, and this sum is included in a total sum of £5,500,000 proposed to be provided for general defence purposes to be drawn on by means of Supplementary Estimates as and when expenditure falls to be incurred.

No matter what is done by the Government to afford protection to the civilian population, any such action would be largely negatived unless the civilian population were trained to take its part intelligently. Given active and intelligent co-operation by the people, and with the expenditure of comparatively small sums by the State and local authorities, we can save the lives of many adults and children who would otherwise be killed or maimed in the case of a sudden air attack. For this reason great importance is attached to the need for the training in advance of personnel who may be required to carry out duties in connection with schemes of air raid precautions. The training of air raid precautions instructors has been proceeding for more than six months past at a school in Dublin which has been established by my Department for the purpose, and the following numbers of instructors have been trained:—Gárda Síochána, 48; Dublin Corporation, 35; Dun Laoghaire Borough Corporation, 4; State Departments, 37; Port and Docks, Dublin, 8; utility undertakings, 24; industrial and business concerns, 40; medical officers—local authorities, 37; medical officers—voluntary hospitals, 29. I may say that a number of these instructors are imparting instruction at the moment to persons who will be under them.

A number of handbooks for the instruction of the civilian population and the personnel of A.R.P. services is in course of printing, and supplies will be available shortly. I expect at an early date to introduce legislation in regard to A.R.P. A large amount of preliminary work will, however, be necessary before an accurate estimate of the expenditure involved can be framed, but much preliminary work in the preparation of schemes can be, and is being done, in advance of the legislation. Officers of my Department are in close contact with the City Manager and Town Clerk of Dublin, and his principal officials for the purpose of working out details of the various aspects of the scheme for Dublin with particular reference to casualty service, shelter accommodation, restricted lighting arrangements, extra fire-fighting facilities, and the air-raid wardens' scheme.

We commenced with Dublin because it is our largest and most vulnerable target, the place in which the most destruction of life and property could be caused by possible air raids. The experience gained in dealing with the difficult Dublin problem will make it comparatively easy to make plans for the other large cities and towns. An A.R.P. organiser was appointed by the City Manager at the beginning of last month. He has also appointed a chief air raid warden and a divisional warden for each of the areas into which the city has been divided for the purpose of organising the general scheme. Air raid wardens will be voluntary helpers chosen from responsible members of the public as leaders and advisers in small areas in which they are known and respected. They will be constituted as agents of the air raid precautions service in all aspects of the scheme which require direct contact with the individual, e.g., a census of the population of the areas by households for the various purposes of the scheme such as evacuation, the fitting and distribution of respirators, instruction and guidance generally. The civic authorities will, at an early date, issue an appeal for voluntary service as wardens, and I would earnestly exhort all those who are in a position to render such service to reply readily and promptly to this appeal when issued.

Officers of my Department have made considerable progress with plans for providing facilities whereby the nonessential population of the City of Dublin could leave the city at short notice if they so desired on the issue of advice by the Government that such action would be desirable. These plans are concerned largely with classes who might not be in a position to make arrangements for accommodation in another locality, or for transport, and would include children under school-going age who would possibly have to be accompanied by their mothers, children attending primary schools, the aged and infirm. The problem of finding alternative accommodation is being pursued and considerable facilities have already been provisionally earmarked. In this connection it is contemplated that it may be advisable to provide a considerable amount of hutments to be used in conjunction with existing buildings. Arrangements for the continuance of the education of evacuated children are being considered. It should be borne in mind that evacuation would have to be for the duration of the state of emergency. Those who are in a position to make their own arrangements for themselves and their dependants to stay with friends or relatives in the country would, of course, be expected to do so.

Evacuation of certain sections of the population in so far as it might be advisable and feasible would ease the situation in regard to the provision of shelter accommodation. In the latter connection I have had representations made to the City Manager and Town Clerk of Dublin with a view to ascertaining by survey the extent to which suitable shelter for those requiring it can be made available by the adaptation of existing structures. On completion of such survey it can be seen to what extent further shelter accommodation should be provided, and my Department has under consideration different types of shelters which might be required.

In regard to the Volunteers I wish to inform the Dáil that it is proposed to make certain changes in their terms of service. Heretofore Volunteers joined for 12 years but could resign, except when mobilised, upon giving seven days' notice. For the future the period of enlistment will be for five years, and discharge will be obtained only on the same terms as from the permanent Force. The age limits for joining the first line will be lowered from 18 to 17 years and raised from 25 to 30 and in the case of specialists to 40. The initial training period for first line will be extended from 28 to 90 days, but Volunteers will have the option of doing the equivalent of 90 days' training locally where facilities exist. The compulsory annual training will be reduced from 20 to 9 days. The annual grant for a Volunteer will be increased from £3 to £6 but of this £2 will be conditional on attending annual training, £3 upon attending local training and upon personal proficiency and £1 upon the general efficiency of the local sluagh.

You will get a great crowd of recruits on those terms.

The allowances of officers and N.C.O.s will also be increased and will similarly be dependent upon attendance at training and upon personal and sluagh efficiency. Existing Volunteers will have the option of continuing their service under the new conditions or of taking their discharge.

The lowering of the age limit and the reduction of the annual training will enable first line Volunteers to carry out their initial and annual training with the least possible interruption of their civilian occupations. Volunteers with special qualifications, such as engineers, fitters, electricians, motor drivers, wireless operators, signallers, etc., will not be compelled to undergo prolonged initial training. The second line will consist of men who have completed their service in the first line, or who are given permission to transfer into it. The third line will consist of Volunteers who are over age for the first and second lines and of Volunteers who cannot devote time for training in peace times but who are prepared to serve in an emergency. The experience we have gained in the last five years makes us confident that the changes outlined will attract many fine young men who could not leave their ordinary occupations for 20 days each year. The extension of the initial training period will give us a much higher standard of training than at present, and, by ensuring through tests that Volunteers keep up this standard through local training and firing practice, the nine days annually can be devoted altogether to unit training and exercises.

At present we have 7,465 first line, 2,058 second line and 280 third line Volunteers. The standard of training of the first line Volunteers is very good in the case of those who did more than 28 days initially, or who reached a higher standard through local training. Some of the Volunteers in Dublin who did all their training locally have reached a very high standard indeed, and better facilities will be provided for them in future. At present we have 243 Volunteer officers and 967 N.C.O.s who are all very competent to handle their units. Next year we hope to double the number of officers and N.C.O.s.

In conclusion, I wish to say that taking them all round the young men comprising the Volunteer force are as disciplined and well-behaved body of Volunteers as one could hope to find in any country, and, both from the point of view of the young men themselves and the general welfare and safety of the country, parents should encourage their boys to join. The initial physical and military training which young Volunteers undergo improves them both mentally and physically for any walk of life. The annual training is a welcome break in the yearly routine of both those who work on the land and in the towns. From the point of view of the community the Volunteer movement gives our young men a sense of discipline and provides us with an effective military force which we cannot afford to maintain on a permanent basis. And while we all hope and pray that European peace will be maintained, or that, if broken, we will not be attacked, we cannot afford to take either for granted, and we had better in these times follow the old advice: "Put your trust in God, and keep your powder dry".

Progress reported.