Perhaps Deputy Mulcahy would indicate at this stage the subjects that he and Deputy O'Higgins propose to take on the amendments they have tabled.
These motions were put down in order to secure a reasonable date for the discussion of the Army Vote, and for no other purpose. I propose to move my amendments as far as they turn on sub-head A, sub-head P, and sub-head P (1), sub-heads Y (2) and (4).
Would the Deputy state the numbers of the motions on the amendment sheet that he proposes to move?
Nos. 2, 42, 72 and 76.
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £2,168,199 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, 1940, chun an Airm agus Chúltaca an Airm (maraon le Deontaisí áirithe i gCabhair) fé sna hAchtanna Fórsaí Cosanta (Foralacha Sealadacha); agus chun costaisí áirithe riaracháin ina dtaobh san.
That a sum not exceeding £2,168,199 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, 1940, for the Army and the Army Reserve (including certain Grants-in-Aid) under the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Acts; and certain administrative expenses in connection therewith.
In introducing the Supplementary Estimate for 1938 it was stated that the annual Estimate for 1939 would be based on an establishment of 1,435 officers and 28,066 other ranks, and that the cost would be about £1,850,000. The establishment is made up as follows:—Regular Army: Officers, 715; N.C.O's., 2,061; privates, 5,201. Reserve—Classes A and B: Officers, 220; N.C.O's., 911; privates, 4,589. Volunteer force: Officers, 500; N.C.O's., 2,726; privates, 12,578; total: 29,501.
As compared with the establishments for 1938 this force shows an increase of 3,614 all ranks, that is, 78 regular officers, 962 regular soldiers, 195 Reserve and Volunteer officers and 2,379 Reservists (including Volunteers).
The pay, cash allowances, maintenance and servicing of this force are estimated to cost £1,832,864, and the details are as follows:—Pay, £850,277; cash allowances, £255,935; maintenance, £400,858; servicing (including civilian personnel), £325,794; total, £1,832, 864.
On the occasion of the Supplementary Estimate it was stated that we intended to provide certain capital items at a cost of about £5,500,000. Some of these items were covered in the Supplementary Estimate to the extent of £239,619, and in this annual Estimate for 1939 to the extent of £1,388,685. The details of the £239,619 taken in the Supplementary Estimate have already been explained, and the details of the £1,388,685 taken in the present Estimate are as follows:—Sub-head (J), heavy machinery lorry, £1,400; sub-head (M), clothing, £42,000; sub-head (O), signal stores, £3,676; tentage, £3,150; aircraft, £168,085; aircraft stores and spares, £35,784; machinery for lorry, £1,305; sub-head (P), artillery stores, £781,103; ammunition, £177,439; battalion equipment, £50,945; searchlights, etc., £85,500; air corps guns and spares, £2,898; sub-head (Q), engineer tools and stores, £1,400; sub-head (V), barrack services, £34,000; total, £1,388,685.
No time has been lost in placing orders for the materials required, but the delivery of such is a matter beyond our control. If, therefore, we find that certain material covered by this Estimate cannot be delivered within the year, we are reserving the right to transfer the money to other material which can be so delivered and which forms part of the equipment covered by the £5,500,000 for capital items. In other words, although the sum of £1,388,685 provided for capital items in the present Estimate is meant primarily to cover the items outlined, it must not be taken, if deliveries cannot be obtained, as necessarily and exclusively confined to those items. If material is not delivered within the year, then there will be no alternative but to provide for those items either in a subsequent Annual Estimate or by means of a Supplementary Estimate. In point of fact, a large percentage of the stores covered by the £239,000 for capital items and £100,000 for A.R.P. will not be delivered within the financial year, and will, therefore, have to be carried forward to another year.
The pay, allowance, maintenance and servicing of the Army take, as we have seen, £1,832,864, and capital items take £1,388,685. There remains, therefore, a balance of £79,615. Of that amount, the provision of stores in respect of A.R.P. takes £34,554, and the balance, £45,061, covers the renewal and maintenance of existing capital stores. Hence the total gross estimate of £3,301,164 is made up as follows:—
Pay, maintenance and servicing
Renewal and maintenance of capital stores
I move that the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration. I think I am entitled to say that the case for the motion has been made more fully out of the Minister's mouth than it could be made through the voice of any other spokesman. Nobody would realise that we have just listened to a demand for £3,750,000—an unprecedented demand. We have been told what the money is required for, but we have heard nothing as to why the money is required, or according to what plan or idea it will be spent. Speaking as one Deputy who would be anxious to see full and whole-hearted co-operation behind certain State services, the Army being one, I had hopes that the Minister would have availed of the opportunity of moving this Estimate to clear up the huge masses of confusion left in the mind of every Deputy following the last Army discussion we had here approximately a month ago. The Minister is not blind, deaf, or hopelessly foolish, and he certainly must be convinced that at the close of the last Army debate every single Deputy, as well as every interested person outside, was left doubting as to which extreme the Army policy was moulded on.
To refresh the minds of Deputies, I may say that that debate was opened, not by an ordinary speech, but by a memorandum which was circulated and handed to every Deputy, and the Minister religiously followed every line and sentence of that memorandum. So far as that memorandum contained an outline of broad policy, it was a policy of neutrality, in the first place, and isolation, in the second place. Neutrality, and if our neutrality were violated by an aggressor, then we were to do the best we could alone within an expenditure of £10,000,000 and with an army of 30,000 men. That was definitely the policy laid down and the whole debate on that occasion followed definitely the lines of the memorandum. There was no provision for allies in any eventuality and, when one speaker after another from this side of the House dealt with the absurdity of thinking that any country in 1939 could defend itself within the sum of £10,000,000 or with 30,000 men and pointed out that the wealthiest and mightiest countries in Europe were losing no opportunity to win to their side another ally, no matter how weak, no matter how poor, no matter how small, and that the whole trend of defence in modern times was to get as many as possible to line up on behalf of each country if that country were attacked, when we pointed out the absurdity of the policy of the memorandum vis-á-vis such a state of affairs no correction was made. The debate went on and the Taoiseach followed the line of the Minister and the line of the memorandum. There was no hint and no sentence to convey that our defences, if we were called upon to use them in the face of attack, were to be in partnership with any country. In fact, the Minister stressed that point in the memorandum so fully that he told us that, whatever our defence plans were, not one little bit of those plans was or would be known to any country outside. The debate proceeded on the lines of the policy laid down by the Minister—neutrality, in the first place, and isolation, in the second place; fighting, if necessary, the world alone; fighting alone the mightiest nation in the world if that nation should attack us. The debate went along those lines until Deputy McGilligan rose to speak.
Deputy McGilligan asked a few very pertinent questions. He asked what was the reason of the complete change of policy between April, 1938 and February, 1939. Fortunately, the Taoiseach was sitting alongside the Minister when Deputy McGilligan was speaking. The Deputy quoted a speech of the Taoiseach in April, 1938, in which Army policy, following the Agreement between this country and Great Britain, was outlined in a more candid manner than the Taoiseach generally uses in making important statements. There was a pronounced absence of ambiguity in April, 1938. The policy announced then as Government defence policy was contained in the hope that this country would continue to enjoy a position of neutrality which would not be violated by any country, but there was a definite statement that it would be folly for anybody to think that, in a modern war, a country like ours could expect or hope to be neutral that, in view of our geographical position and the importance of our food supplies to Great Britain, it was folly to expect that we could remain neutral. The Taoiseach went further in April, 1938. He said that not only was it folly to hope to remain neutral but that the only country that would attack us would be a country that was at war with Great Britain that, in the face of such an attack, Great Britain would immediately spring to our aid and that whatever money we spent on defence should be spent for the greater efficiency of the combined forces of this country and Great Britain. One of his phrases was to the effect that, obviously, to meet such a situation— the situation being an attack on this country by a Power at war with Great Britain—we should plan on the idea that there was only one ally we were bound to have and that that ally was bound to be Great Britain; that, therefore, our plans would have to be made on that basis. The Taoiseach said further in April, 1938:—
"If we were attacked by a European Power, whether England willed it or not, force of circumstances would make her an ally of ours in her defence. Therefore, in planning defences to meet such an occasion, in order that the greatest possible strength should be behind this nation to defend its rights, the planning should take place on the basis that we want to have the combined forces as effective as possible."
At the end of the last Army debate these particular quotations were read out in the presence of the Taoiseach. He said clearly that there had been no change in policy, that he had nothing to retract, that those statements of April, 1938, still represented the policy of the Government and the defence policy of this State. We Deputies, irrespective of what Party we belong to, were left to put through a Vote of many millions of pounds on a statement of policy enunciated by the Minister in violent contradiction of the statement of policy enunciated by the Taoiseach. If co-operation is desirable—and it is desirable—it can be based only on candour. Otherwise there can be no sure or firm foundation for co-operation either in certain phases of the life of this nation or between Parties behind certain services in this country. Had we any candour there? Had we any candour in that statement by the Minister when he introduced in the printed statement that last Army Estimate? Is there any candour in this printed statement to-day? There is the customary side-stepping of any decision that may be a bit unpleasant or politically difficult. But it is not by cunning side-stepping of obstacles that the country is either to be pushed forward or to be made strong in defence. Each country at different times might prefer to defend itself alone if the job could be done successfully alone. But no country nowadays, and no country ever again, will be able to defend itself alone in the event of a world war—and it looks as if practically every war of the future will be something approaching a world war. We know that the Minister has too much commonsense to think that an Army of 30,000 men—of whom only 8,000 are regular soldiers and the rest part-time volunteers—could stand up for a month against any Power that was powerful enough to invade this country. We know it is absolute nonsense to think of standing up against such an invader alone. If in the event of a world war this country is successfully invaded, that can only be done by a country that has beaten the British Navy to the ropes. If there is a country powerful enough to burst up the British Navy and successfully to land in this country, then I think that no matter what views the Minister may have, no matter what views his 8,000 regular soldiers may have or his 22,000 part-time men may have— no matter what opinions these 30,000 men would have, or what the opinions of the Minister himself may be, if what I am talking about happens the new factories in this country would be better employed working overtime making Swastika badges than in making war munitions to fight the invaders. I do not know if making the Swastika badges would not be a better defence.
If you come down to facts you will see what the situation is. Look at the world powers to-day. There are no two of these that were not at some time in the past at each other's throats. The question of the defence of the country is too serious a thing to let political playboyism cross its tracks. We have here a huge demand and we have behind that demand the mentality of political playboys who might mean to do a certain thing but dare not say they mean to do it. One outstanding characteristic of the present Government—and it has been stamped on them ever since they became a Government—is that the only time they are ashamed to say what they are doing is when they are inclined to do the right thing. When they are doing the mad, asinine thing they start the ballyhoo band around the country, but when they are inclined to show a streak of commonsense they are afraid to admit it. The position that we are in at present is that we have got from the Government two diametrically opposite policies of defence. We are asking here for £3,500,000. Which policy is that to implement? The dáil that is going to vote for that policy and the taxpayers who are going to pay for it are entitled to an answer to that question. On the broad question of policy that must be answered. It must be answered by somebody who has some sense of responsibility.
The Taoiseach's pronouncement is that neutrality is folly and that if we are expected to send food to Great Britain it is foolish to expect to be left out of any war that may come. Is that folly? Is it on that basis that we are going to spend this huge sum of money? I agree with the Taoiseach absolutely that we cannot expect to be left entirely out of the next war. If we are day by day to feed the British Army, the British Navy and the British population, we cannot expect to be left out of the next war. In modern wars food is at least as important as munitions. When a country is supplying food to maintain the armies and navies of one of the belligerents, that country is bound to get attention from the enemy country of the belligerent to whom it is supplying food. In this matter I agree with the Taoiseach and not with the Minister for Defence.
The Minister comes here to look for an instalment of the £10,000,000 to bolster up a policy which the Taoiseach says is folly. We are not sufficiently wealthy in this country to spend £10,000,000 on any folly. We are not sufficiently wealthy to have the Minister for Defence come in here and ask for £10,000,000 for a thing or a policy which the Taoiseach brands as folly. If we are to adopt the Taoiseach as the more responsible of the two members of the Government who spoke on this matter, then that £10,000,000 is going to be spent on the assumption that the Minister's outline of policy is bunk, and that the Minister could not understand anything that the Taoiseach said. The Taoiseach could not understand the people who said that they thought this country could be neutral. Are we to spend the £10,000,000 on the policy as enunciated by the Taoiseach, that neutrality was absurd; that it was folly, and that whatever we spent was to be spent, first, on the assumption that we were going to be attacked, secondly, on the assumption that Great Britain was to be our ally, and that that £10,000,000 was to be spent to get the greatest efficiency within the combined forces of Great Britain and Ireland? That is the policy as outlined by the Taoiseach.
Before we vote this huge instalment of that money in order to start that policy, we have to get some statement as to whether that is the agreed Government policy and as to whether the Minister is to-day demanding that money on the policy as announced by the Taoiseach? If the Minister is demanding that money on the policy as announced by the Taoiseach, then will he tell us what preliminary steps have been taken in order to secure the highest efficiency of the combined forces of Great Britain and Ireland? Have there been any staff talks? Have preliminary arrangements been made for co-operation as outlined by the Taoiseach?
One would imagine, in view of the highly contradictory statements made from the Government Front Bench a month ago, that the Minister to-day would clear the air; would either stand by his own policy or stand by his Leader's policy. To-day he comes in here looking for £3,000,000 odd, and he does not even attempt to stand by his own policy, nor will he stand by his Leader's policy. To-day he merely does Dick Turpin and asks for the money, but gives no reason—neither his own nor the Taoiseach's reasons. Now, the Minister may have a very docile majority in this House, but I do not believe the mentality behind that majority is so foolishly docile as the Minister seems to expect. Questions will have to be answered, and now is the time to answer them. We had those two statements of policy, and now is the time to clear the matter up. As I said, I subscribe to the view that neutrality, no matter how desirable, is not to be expected in the next world war, except on the basis of our giving up selling a pig or a sheep or a bullock or an egg to any outside country. We cannot afford to do that. We have got to face up to the fact that we are going to sell more of our agricultural produce during a war than ever we would sell during peace times; that we are going to get bigger prices and sell more. I agree with the Taoiseach that that— even if there were no other reason— is going to involve us in the war.
In the second place, assuming that the Taoiseach is right and the Minister is wrong, we have got to size up the situation; we have got to see what are the possibilities and what are the probabilities of that involvement, and what particular shape or form it will take. First of all, there is the position as outlined by the Minister, and that is that we have merely got to declare ourselves neutral, to point to 8,000 soldiers and 30,000 volunteers, and that our neutrality is going to be respected because those 8,000 soldiers will bring more pains than gains to any nation which attacks us; that our neutrality will be respected merely because it is declared, and merely because it is desired. Of course, according to the Taoiseach that is nonsense. If a declaration of neutrality and an expenditure of £10,000,000 would keep nations independent, then a few nations which existed a few months ago and no longer exist would have been there for all time and, of course there never would be a war and nobody but a fool would spend £500,000,000 on armaments if a declaration of neutrality, £10,000,000 and 30,000 soldiers were all that were required. We can rule that out as worthy only of the Minister—as folly, in the words of the Taoiseach—so we have got to face up to the fact that we are going to be involved and the next question is: In what way? Are we going to be involved by armed invasion, or can armed invasion safely be ruled out, or at least written down only amongst the remote possibilities in view of the fact that the mightiest navies in the world will be sailing around our shores?
We have got to come down to possibilities. If there is no combination lined up against this country, and if the statement of the Taoiseach is correct and we need fear attack only from a country at war with Great Britain, then we may safely assume that attack by way of land invasion is entirely out of the question, or, if it does take place—if the British Navy, the French Navy, and so on, are so completely routed that there is a successful land invasion of this country— then the war is over. In my opinion that is a possibility too remote to be taken seriously. Our most probable involvement in that war, I think most people will agree, is involvement by air attack on this country. Our supplies to Great Britain are so important to the life of the British nation and the British Army in time of war that everything possible must be done and will be done by England's enemies to interrupt our communications, to paralyse our transport system, and terrorise our people. The one form of attack that appears to be very probable is attack from the air, periodic bombings, and in this state of circumstance we are spending practically all our money on turning out an infantry army, on turning out at least a ground army, and we are spending only a small percentage of our money on the meeting or repelling of air attacks.
I do not believe for one moment that the Taoiseach's policy has been put into operation. I do not believe that even the beginnings of making provision for the efficiency of the combined forces have yet been implemented. I do not believe that we have even gone to the point of preliminary discussion, because I do believe that if we had half an hour's conversation with any European Power viewing war as a reality, they would tell us to spend £99 out of every £100 on protecting ourselves as best we can against air attack, and to spend our other £1 out of each £100 on infantry. If we can afford to have only a small army—a regular army of 6,000 or 8,000 men—then those 6,000 or 8,000 men should be technical men, should be the expert officers and the expert soldiers, should be the men whom normally it takes years to train. In any big emergency, or in any grave crisis, you could clothe that skeleton with infantry men according to your man-power. Those infantry men could be trained in a period of from a month to three months. Most of us were alive and able to read and observe at the time of the Great War, and we saw how quickly infantry men were turned out—highly efficient infantry men, both officers and soldiers. The uniforms could scarcely be made as quickly as fairly efficient infantry men were turned out. In a few months more they were highly efficient. But in the flying corps, in the artillery corps, in any of the engineering corps, or in any of the special services, it takes at least three years to train a man. Yet, we are to spend our money on having an army— a small army, a tiny army—mainly of infantry men; but, we are told, an expansible army. Imagine expanding an army by putting untrained men into the technical services. If the maximum of the financial demand that can be made is being made—and I believe it is—then within that money it is specialists we should retain, specialist non-commissioned officers and specialist privates. We should build up that small army of the men it takes years to train. I do not believe that there is any sounder mind at the back of the inner details of Army expenditure than there is in regard to the enunciation of Government policy.
I put down this motion to refer this particular Estimate back for further consideration because, as I said at the beginning, I am sincerely desirous, as far as possible, of getting co-operation behind whatever the defence policy of the country may be. Before there can be co-operation, there must be a clear understanding of what that defence policy is. Then those who oppose that policy can oppose the whole thing, and those who approve of that policy can offer their co-operation. But, you can neither get support nor co-operation behind two conflicting policies announced from the same Government Front Bench. We are entitled to know, before this debate closes and the Vote is taken, and before the money is passed, whether the money is to be spent on carrying out the policy as enunciated by the Taoiseach in April, 1938, and sponsored by him at the tail-end of the debate in February, 1939, or whether it is to be voted to support the policy enunciated by the Minister in February, 1939, which is a complete contradiction of the policy of the Taoiseach.
I rise to second the proposal to refer this Estimate back. At the present moment I could understand the House being willing to pass extra supplies to the Army and to the Department of Defence if any effort, no matter how slight, had been made to convince the House or to put before the country any policy whatsoever, because two conflicting policies cannot be regarded as a satisfactory policy for the country. Having studied as carefully as I could the various statements of the Taoiseach, the Minister for Defence and the Acting Minister for Defence, made last April and made in the debate one month ago, I can only express myself as completely dissatisfied with the way in which the country and this House are being treated on this particular Estimate. It is clear that, so far as the Minister is concerned, he has no policy to put before the House. This would be the formal occasion for the Minister to explain what the policy of the Government was, and—I was going to say to clear up any ambiguities that might be left from the last debate—to clear up the mass of confusion that emerged from the Government side of the House on the last debate. What have we instead? We have not had even a hint that the Minister thinks it is necessary to do that, but merely an indication of how he intends to spend a certain portion of the money that this House is going to vote—some details on that. But, there is not a single syllable devoted to any justification for spending that money and asking for more money this year than ever before. I put it to you, Sir, that it is absurd to ask the country to spend money on defence when there is no policy of defence put before the House. So far as I can gather from the Minister's speech last month, and his conduct to-day, the conduct of omission more than anything else, not only is there no policy, but the Minister is determined that there will be no policy of defence for as long as he is at the head of the Department.
Surely the time has come when we might at least get the beginnings of a policy and not be left with that vague outline that the Taoiseach gave us. The House can appreciate how very vague an outline the Taoiseach can often leave us. We should not be left with that vague outline of a policy that the Taoiseach attempted to give us here one month ago. We had what practically amounted to a scandal here on the debate of a month ago. I have no doubt that the Taoiseach could explain that there was no contradiction in the actual words of the Minister and himself. How could there be when the Minister practically excluded all idea of policy? The thing was so well done that he must have deliberately excluded all idea of policy from his statement. But nobody can deny that there was complete contradiction in the spirit of the two things and anybody listening to or reading the two speeches was bound to come to the conclusion that there were two minds pulling in different directions: that there were undoubtedly two different policies being sponsored in this House by the Taoiseach who, for a while, was acting Minister for Defence, and the present Minister for Defence.
What did we get in the way of policy from the Taoiseach on the last occasion? Deputy O'Higgins has pointed out very clearly that he committed himself to certain general principles. But, beyond that, what did his speech consist of? A great deal of alleged history, and a number of constitutional irrelevancies, if I may so call them. Both from the Minister and from the Taoiseach, this is what we got as a policy—a great deal of talk as to what would occur if certain things which did occur had not occurred, and the position that we are now in in being able to come to some decision when certain things have actually occurred, for which the Taoiseach was responsible, and which leave us in a different position from what we were in previously. I think that is a very fair summing up of all the talk the Taoiseach gave us about the ports. He could not have a defence policy as long as the ports were an English occupation, but since he has got them into his possession he has given us no real defence policy. Neither has the Minister.
As I say, most of the talk was taken up in proving how, in circumstances that no longer exist, we could not have a policy, and no effort was made to indicate to this House or the country what the policy is now that these alleged difficulties in the way of having a policy are removed. In the course of the debate, largely by way of answer to interruptions of Deputy McGilligan, a dim foreshadowing of policy was dragged out of the Taoiseach. Is that the way to treat either the country or the House when the Government is embarking on increased expenditure of this kind? No definite conclusions to be drawn. I doubt if you take the two statements of the Minister the last day—and, after all, owing to the Minister's conduct to-day, these are the only things we have to go on—and the answers by way of interruptions, particularly the interruptions of Deputy McGilligan's speech, you will find a single thing that you cannot put its opposite against it. So I must conclude that the Government, having been unable to agree on a policy, have deliberately left this House in the dark as to what is the real purpose of this increase in expenditure. They are going to spend it, but that is all. We do not know what useful purpose will be served by the spending of this particular sum of money.
You will remember we were told that the reason for the haste in opening up negotiations with England—I am afraid the country did not appreciate that that was done in any great haste —was the policy of defence. The Taoiseach was so obsessed with the necessity of bringing in a policy of defence, that negotiations had to be entered into over 12 months ago with the British, the negotiations that finally concluded in the agreement of a year ago. Where is that policy? Have we even the slightest policy of that kind? Is it not time that he gave up the habit that the Taoiseach has of always insisting on our competency to do certain things, now that we have the power to have a policy of defence of our own, now that we are internationally committed to nothing, that we should instead set about having a policy? Will he tell us how he has used, and intends to use the competency that he has got, and also the increase of freedom that he has got, to serve this nation? Surely the time for all these constitutional irrelevancies and this delving into one-sided history, is past. The very proposal to spend such extra sums, apart from the seriousness of the times, would demand that men in the position of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Defence would face their duties more seriously, and also would treat the country more fairly.
Neutrality is a most desirable ideal, one with which I candidly confess in the present position of European polities, and seeing what has been done in the last three or four years, I have the fullest possible sympathy. But it is not facing the facts of the European situation at the moment for the Minister for Defence to come down and tell us merely that this Europe is no pacifist Utopia. What you want to do, and what you have to do, and it has to be done sooner or later, is to put yourself in the position that we are now in, the Europe of the present day, and in the type of Europe that it is.
Neutrality! It was never more desirable than at the present time if it could be preserved. The Taoiseach made it quite clear that, though it is the most expensive type of policy on which we can embark, it is the one policy that we cannot carry through. You have his statement in the debate a month ago to that effect: that of the different types of defensive policy the policy of neutrality is the most expensive. His speech the last day, and his speech 12 months ago, showed clearly that he has no idea and no hope that that policy can be realised. Can anybody pretend that the great bulk of this increased expenditure that we are now asked to vote is going to be used or will help in the slightest degree, apart from having an effective air protection which is known to be effective, will enable us any better to preserve that neutrality? Before I go on there is one thing that I want to make clear, and it is that if our neutrality is broken, if an attack is made on us and if this Government or any other Government determines to resist that attack, the young people of this country will fight. Of that I have not the slightest doubt. What the result of that will be is another matter, if the attack or the invasion is serious, but as to their willingness to answer any call of that kind I have not now and never have had the slightest doubt.
I take it for granted that the increase in the Estimate envisages a reasonable possibility of war. If you ask me is there going to be war or not, I give the answer now that I have always given—"I do not know." Nobody is in a position to know except, possibly, one or two men. But we cannot count on the continuance of peace. I do not know where the next crisis will be, about what the next crisis will be, and I do not think there is any information in the hands of anybody that will enable them to answer these questions. I will admit that there is one element of hope: that it takes two to make war, and that we may hope that certain Powers will refuse to fight. No matter what happens it is a hope I fully share and I candidly acknowledge. I am afraid that I can only regard a number of things that have happened in the last six months as invitations to a crisis, to future crises, and to still more crises. How any sensible man can read the signs and happenings in any other way has always surpassed my imagination. It takes two to make a war. I am afraid it may sometimes take two to maintain peace, and whether or not the Europe of which we are a part, a Europe in which we occupy an extremely important strategic position, may be plunged into war because certain people may determine that war is not to be postponed. The policy of saving one's skin is excellent. I wonder whether the same Powers will have any skins to save when the policy is brought to its completion.
Any postponement of that catastrophe involving Europe and involving us is good. We can always hope that Providence will intervene: that if men seem to be able to contribute very little to it that Providence will intervene in some way to save us from the proper fruit of our follies. It may. I see no other way out of it, certainly none in the wisdom of man. I do not know when the Minister for Defence will be called upon to shape a policy which he has not now, whether it is next week, next month or six months hence. But any sensible man or any sensible Minister must realise that he may be called upon to face the necessity of a policy and shape a real policy, dealing with the facts of the situation as we find them, either in a week or a month or six months I see no evidence of any such intention on the part of the Minister. In his previous statement the Minister spoke of the care he had given this for the last five or six years. Is there the slightest evidence of it in the Minister's conduct in this House?
I spoke of the scandal of the debate on the last occasion. What was it? Here was a debate conducted for more than three-quarters of its length on the question as to whether there was an adequate supply for air protection in the form of aeroplanes and anti-air raid precautions. The debate went on, and it was not until the debate was practically over that the Taoiseach intervened and told the House quite casually that, of the £5,000,000, £2,000,000 was intended for that. If you follow the debates in any other House where they take these matters seriously, such as across the Channel, you will find details of what they expect to do and dates by which they expect them done. Here we have an Estimate presented to us and we are told that so much will be spent in the purchase of aircraft. Will the Minister tell us, for instance, what effective aircraft he expects to have at his disposal in six months' time? It there any information of that kind vouchsafed to the House? Does he expect the House to be tamely satisfied with his mere word for an increased Estimate of this kind?
I see no great grounds for confidence in the continuance of peace. I see no grounds for hope that, if the crisis comes, this country will have a policy, some policy anyway. No matter what it is, let us have one. Neutrality in the kind of world that exists at present when, if war breaks out, it will be a life and death struggle for both sides! The Taoiseach has more than once in this House and elsewhere insisted on the extraordinary strategic value of our position. In a life and death struggle involving countries which have shown every sign that they do not care anything for international morality or obligation, do you think there will be on either side any respect paid to neutrality if, as the Taoiseach boasted, we are in such an important strategic position? Can the Government not make up their minds and get rid of the idea that the issuing of a slogan is the same as having a policy? Where lies the interest and safety of this country and this country alone? If there is this life and death struggle, will it be a mere chance on which side we are ultimately to come in after the confessedly futile attempt to maintain neutrality, namely, which will be the first to violate our neutrality? I gather that that is the only conclusion to be drawn from the speech of the Minister; that no matter what the result of the war may be supposed to be, no matter where the interests of this country lie, whichever is the first country to violate this fragile neutrality is the one which is to be fought against and we are to be ranged up on the other side. I take it for granted that that is the policy of the Minister, if there is any policy. That is the meaning, anyhow, whatever the slogans which are to do the work of a policy. What a "toss of the coin" sort of policy!
I do not think the Minister appreciates, and I doubt if many people in the country appreciate, what the future may be at any moment. On the morrow of Munich I put myself two questions. I realised that peace was such a desirable gift at present that almost no price was too heavy to pay for it. The other question I immediately put to myself was: Is there any delivery of the goods? Everything that has occurred since has convinced me that there was no delivery of the goods; that instead of making the situation clear, it made it more confused; that it was an invitation to further and further aggression. People talk of treaties as scraps of paper. Most Deputies remember the effective propagandist use that was made of a celebrated scrap of paper in 1914. Is not the international floor of Europe at present like the porch of a church, with confetti, so to speak, all over the place, with treaties torn up, and torn up by every side? That is the Europe in which we put forward neutrality as our main policy! It is to be a toss up when we are compelled into war on which side we shall come in.
I do not know whether that is the serious consideration given to this question by the Government, which is supposed to be responsible to the people of the country. Every person who has his eyes open should have seen the continual growth in Europe over a number of years past of two outstanding evils of the most pronounced type that ever threatened humanity, evils that are essentially identical, whether you call them Bolshevism, on the one hand, or National Socialism on the other hand. European statesmen shut their eyes deliberately to the existence of these dangers and evils, and we and everybody else have to face the consequences at present of that shutting of eyes. Statesmen have stretched out their hands to grasp in friendship the bloodstained hands of people who sponsored these two evils. I admit that the other side shook hands too, but on their own terms. Words and promises were relied upon from men who have made it a very principle of their policy that no promises bind them. Yet that is the world in which we are expected, in our magnificent strategic position, declared on one occasion by the Taoiseach to be more important than several Gibraltars, to believe that these kind, gentle people will overlook us.
Does anybody pretend that, if it benefited the German Government in the morning, they would hesitate for a moment to bomb this city in order to prevent us from sending supplies to England? Let us face it in another way, too—face it in both directions. If it becomes a life and death struggle with England, are the Minister for Defence and the Taoiseach, because they have entered into negotiations with that country in the last 18 months, so convinced that all the international virtue in the world is so innate in Great Britain that she will not violate the neutrality of this country if she finds it necessary to her existence? That is a view I cannot accept of English statesmanship or of any European statesmanship at the present time. Europe has seen the menace grow day after day and statesmen refused, like the Minister, to read the signs of the times. Speech after speech was made in the British House of Commons year after year, pointing out that Britain was getting into an inferior position with regard to aircraft. Time after time the assurance was given, as the Minister will now give us an assurance, that the necessary measures were being taken. What is the position now? What is the excuse for the unparalleled surrender of Great Britain and France last September—the most humiliating surrender in the history of Great Britain since the loss of the American colonies. It was even more humiliating than that. The excuse bruited round was that she was afraid the city would be bombed and that no real preparation had been made to meet the menace. What was the explanation given the night before last by Lord Halifax in connection with the surrender of Czechoslovakia? That they were afraid of the bombing of the City of Prague. Yet the Taoiseach and the Minister for Defence in practice scoff at all that.
What is our policy against air raids? Is not the policy of the Minister somewhat like this: "We shall have to do something to keep those people who are talking about the matter quiet." It is quite obvious that for the Minister invasion remains the main danger. Let us leave aside the question whether or not invasion is possible. Let anybody read the Minister's statement last month and he will learn that the landing of an army in this country is the main contingency against which he wants to provide. We shall have to face a situation that is not of our making. That does not relieve us of responsibility for facing it. There is not a land in Europe and very few, if any, lands in America in which there has not been intense propaganda by the two great movements, the very embodiment of evil, to which I have referred, with the result that national unity in these countries is broken. We saw that last September. Have any inquiries been made as to whether anything of the kind is going on here? Are we too high-minded to inquire into those things? It was quite clear last September that many people in the two great western democracies, as they are called, thought, as many solid conservative Germans had previously thought, that they could drive out the Satan of Bolshevism by the Beelzebub of National Socialism. Statesmen wrote letters to the papers to that effect at the height of the crisis. That is the kind of menace that has to be faced, and I doubt if a single thought has been given to that so far by the Government of this country or as to what our position would be with representatives of the different sides in this country.
It may be that we are too far west to copy some other statesman. It would be very hard to get west of us without going to America, but we cannot adopt the semi-ostrich-like policy of some of the Great European statesmen—the Premiers of England and France, Poland and other States, who, like inverted matadors, are trying to push the bull over to the other side in the hope that he will strike at that other side. Nothing that we can do will determine that. But if he decides to strike west, as he well may, then our position will be of supreme importance to both sides in the conflict. It is well we should realise that. We shall be in quite as important a position as any country in Europe which has been walked upon. Talking of "walking upon", not much is to be said for the present Chancellor or policy of the Reich—to my mind, they are the incarnation of evil—but the only people the Chancellor has walked on up to the present are his enemies. That cannot be said of everybody.
In support of what policy are we voting this money? What are our relations with the different countries which may to-morrow come into conflict? Do we know? Have we made any inquiries? We have a Minister for External Affairs. He is often "external" when crises are on. In the conduct of his Department, has he got any inquiries made as to the attitude of other countries towards our neutrality? Surely that is a relevant thing if we have a policy. The Minister speaks of neutrality. Has any of our Ministers in Berlin, Rome, Paris or London made inquiries about the professed attitude of these Governments towards us in case of an outbreak? That is an obvious step which no country would neglect. We read of Ministers of other countries taking that step every day. Has anybody read of a single one of our Ministers going for advice or information on these matters? One of them was sent for to get information—the High Commissioner in London. Has any effort been made by our Department of External Affairs to find out the attitude of other Powers towards us? Would any country in Europe neglect to make soundings of that kind? Under its present leadership, is the Department of External Affairs merely a ceremonial body? Is its function merely to regulate ceremonial affairs in this country, or without this country, particularly concerning the headgear of the Taoiseach? Why are we maintaining Ministers in every capital in Europe if that information is not at our disposal? If the information is at the disposal of the Government—which I doubt very much —why is it not passed on to members of the House when dealing with this question of neutrality? Have our representatives, whom I do not blame, been instructed by the Minister for External Affairs, who was at one time Acting-Minister for Defence, to find out what the attitude of the different countries likely to be engaged in the conflict will be?
We were told—this is the kind of realistic approach to this problem we are to expect—by the Taoiseach in the last debate that we cannot guess who will be in the next war. He went on to correct himself by saying that "we do not know for sure." We are to frame a policy without taking the trouble of making up our minds as to what exactly that policy is meant to do. The Taoiseach will not take the trouble of ascertaining who is likely to be in the next war and what the different sides will be. What can you expect when you have a Minister like the present Minister responsible for defence policy and a Minister for External Affairs responsible for what should be the direction of policy in external matters? Certain questions were put from this side of the House. I myself put them more than once and no effort was made to answer them.
There is no good in the Minister saying that he repeated what the Taoiseach said. If the House would turn to what the Minister said in the concluding portion of his speech last month, pretending to represent the Taoiseach, they would see what I mean. The Taoiseach said that a breach of our neutrality would come from our providing food to Great Britain. This is how the Minister put it:—
"I myself pointed out in my original speech, our first problem is the maintenance of neutrality, and the second, which is most likely to come about, is to defend ourselves in case we were attacked by some Power that wanted to use this country as a base of attack on England."
These are the Minister's words, as reported in column 767 of the Official Debates of the 16th February. That is what is likely to occur—not merely an invasion but an invasion on such a scale that an attack on England can set forth from this country. Air raids!! These are secondary considerations!! But everybody knows that they are likely. But what is likely, according to the Minister, to the extent that it is the thing against which we must particularly guard? Such a conquest of this country that it may become the basis of an attack on England. Is not that supreme nonsense, to put it no stronger than that? That proves that the Minister has not even thought, even as far as the Taoiseach has thought, of what is likely to bring about a breach of neutrality in the case of war, as Deputy O'Higgins pointed out and as the Taoiseach himself pointed out on more than one occasion. The Taoiseach put it clearly that nobody can expect us to go on exporting our agricultural produce to England without trouble arising through our doing so. We cannot expect neutrality to be observed in a life and death struggle between England and a foreign Power. That is where you get up against the real problem. But the Minister for Defence avoided that completely. Foodstuffs will be brought into Great Britain from this country and foodstuffs will also be brought in here from Great Britain.
Anybody can read the Taoiseach's speech and find that he realises that in time of war we cannot be self-supporting, that we must import certain things on which our very life depends. That was made quite clear by the Taoiseach in column 720 of the Official Debates of the 16th February last. The Taoiseach said:—
"We have got to get in here supplies of various kinds. Do you think that these supplies would be given in the ships that belong to Great Britain, for example, if you were to refuse to give the goods which would purchase these supplies, the goods that they want? Trade between Ireland and Great Britain during a time of war would be essential for the continuance of the economic life here, and because it would be so, it might be regarded as a matter of vital importance by some outside country that might be at war with Britain, and, despite any declaration of neutrality that might be made on our part, the nation whose interest would lie in the stopping of that trade might try to disorganise it and prevent it, and might try, for example, to bomb our harbours..."
Was there a single word dealing with that policy in the speeches of the Minister for Defence? Food comes into Great Britain. Protection of that food is essential in the event of war. According to the Taoiseach, protection of that food is equally essential to us. What is our attitude to be? If these ships bearing food directly to us are attacked, have we any interest in the matter? If ships bearing food from outside, via Eire, to England—if that was thought desirable—are attacked, have we any interest in the matter? If the food is to come to England first, and we get our share of it from England, have we any interest in that particular matter? Surely, the obvious thing, if it were possible—and I gather from some experts that it is—would be to prevent these convoys reaching either our harbours or the English harbours.
If we insist on supplying Great Britain with food supplies essential to her in time of war does not the Minister think that England's enemy would bomb our harbours and wharves and otherwise prevent supplies from us to England. That is the danger. But the Minister is still so wedded to the one-in-a-thousand chance of invasion that he makes that the whole pivot of his policy. He says himself he is not going to prophesy. He said, as reported in column 764 of the Official Debates of the 16th February last:—
"I am not sufficient of a prophet to say that, though this country were protected by the whole British Navy, no troops could get through here from a Continental Power. I am not sufficient of a prophet to say that such troops could not land here and create a great deal of havoc and destruction if not opposed."
Now, the Minister lays aside the crown of prophet. He pushes it aside. That is not the crown that he says he is going to wear. Yet his speech has proved to the hilt that his whole policy is based on the one-in-a-thousand chance that invasion might come; but it is brought to a complete absurdity by the Minister when he says that sufficient numbers would land to make this the base of attack against England. Now it is almost incredible to think that a mind of that kind is governing the defence policy of this country. I object to voting money which I am not in the slightest degree convinced will further the defences of this country to anything like the extent of the amount asked for. I am convinced that, were the actual amounts which were previously at the disposal of the Minister utilised properly, he could do much more effective work than he is doing now.
I am not so sure about the Minister, but apparently the Taoiseach at all events has given up the old slogan: "England's difficulty, Ireland's opportunity." As a matter of fact, it very often happened that when she was in a really bad pinch it was then we got it very badly in the neck. But what is the Minister relying on now? On that European situation which I have sketched, that European situation where the whole floor of the continent is littered, as I have said, with the confetti of torn up treaties, on that situation where the principal statesmen of Europe are content to act the part of what I called inverted matadors. What is his one hope, his one reliance? That we shall make it not worth while for somebody to invade this country. He forgets about the bombing. He has such reliance on British virtue—he, the Minister for Defence—that in practice he is quite sure they will not violate our neutrality even though their very life may be in question. Certainly, we have witnessed many conversions, and if that is a conversion it is one of the most extraordinary we have seen. He refuses to face the problem of what is likely to happen and what is unlikely to happen. We are told that aerial defences are very costly. That is all the more reason for limiting ourselves to one particular line. There is no good in following the great Powers. Even Great Britain, experts hold, cannot try to be in the first rank on the land, in the air, and on the sea. But we have to try them all! If your resources are limited you must make up your mind to make the best estimate you can of what is likely to occur —I tried to point out to the Minister what is likely to occur—and try to meet that situation, instead of trying to meet all sorts of fantastic and imaginary situations. That would have been the sensible way to approach this problem, but that is the way in which the Minister refuses to approach it. There was nothing whatsoever in any of the speeches made to-day or on the last day which convinces me that, in what is undoubtedly a perilous situation for every country, there is the slightest attempt on the part of the Minister to face that real situation. We are told he relied on experts. We are told he has his duty. Well, so have we. We have at least our duty to insist that some attempt be made to show that this money is not being merely wasted; to show that the Minister is not merely spending money to prove he is doing something because there is a crisis on, and because he was caught completely napping last September after six years' study. The only way he can show something is being done is by spending money! But that is no proof that it is being even moderately well spent. Nowhere in the Minister's statement was there any proof that the money is being spent usefully. It is because we have no such proof that we must ask the House to refer this Estimate back.
I do not wish to go any further into this matter. The Minister said he must rely on his experts. Well, the least he might get from his experts is some policy to put before this House. He should at least make a pretence of putting some policy before the country. He has not done so, and we can only conclude that he has no policy; either that the experts have given him no policy, or that he will not allow the experts to give him any policy. That, Sir, has become rather a frequent habit in this House. I had to protest against it a fortnight ago in the case of the Taoiseach in connection with an entirely different matter, the Treason Bill, where instead of bringing forward arguments to refute what was said on this side of the House he referred to his experts and to the advice that was given. If that habit is to be adopted, then a much simpler method can be adopted as regards legislation and as regards Estimates. The Minister can simply say: "I want £3,000,000. That is all about it. Give me £3,000,000 and I will appoint a committee of experts and they will expend the money." As regards legislation, the Government would simply say: "We want certain things done. Here are the general lines; we will appoint a committee of experts, civil servants, to carry out the details of it." That is not sufficient, and no Parliament which has any sense of its duty can allow treatment of that kind to pass. Because of the blatant failure of the Minister to put any policy before this House, I second the motion that this particular Estimate be referred back.
I am not at all surprised that the House is speechless. It is a rather strange situation that so important a matter as this can be passed over with a few speeches. I support this motion that the Estimate be referred back for consideration upon many grounds. First, I think that the Minister has treated the House very unfairly. As a matter of fact he has treated the House with contempt in the manner in which he has introduced the Estimate. He produces this document and simply reads it, makes a series of calculations, and tells us that he proposes to spend in this particular way. Then in paragraph 6 he tells us that if the material is not delivered within a year they will spend it on something else. In the last sentence we are told that in point of fact a large percentage of the stores will not be delivered within the financial year. Therefore, I take it if the stores cannot be supplied we will have to tell the people with whom we are at war that the war must be postponed for another year; that we cannot go on. That shows very little appreciation of the situation. In my opinion the Government should have established an economic council last year, because anybody could see that this situation was likely to develop, and there should have been a survey of our whole resources in the event of war.
I cannot subscribe fully to the assertion made by Deputies O'Sullivan and O'Higgins that we are nearly certain to be involved to some degree in the next war, because I am satisfied that neutrality is possible, notwithstanding anything which the Prime Minister may say. Deputy O'Higgins said that neutrality might be too costly because it would possibly mean that our market should be thrown overboard. Well, if the situation were fully examined, I think that, in the event of war, we might find that the amount of surplus agricultural produce which we would have to sell would be very slight; that the home market would consume practically all of it. In any case, if our neutrality could only be retained at the cost of throwing overboard the export market, I would without a second's hesitation say: "Overboard with it," because retaining the foreign market at the cost of your life would be at too great a price. There is no doubt about it that, if war comes, it will not be a war of conflict for victory but it will be a war of extermination. While, personally, I might be prepared to take my chances in that, I do not think that the Government or any Party in this country has the right to put the people of this country into that situation, if it can be avoided. I am satisfied that it can be avoided.
It is a very peculiar position in which to find ourselves when the Government, upon whom the responsibility rests to have a defence policy, speaks with two voices in the matter; one the voice of the Taoiseach, saying that we will be involved, and that the policy of the Government is to make the combined forces as effective as possible; and the other, the policy of the Minister for Defence, under which we are to have neutrality and grand isolation. Of course, that is the way, and has been the way for the last six, seven or ten years in this country, with Fianna Fáil. It has one policy for British consumption and another for the dumb back-benchers that are at present in the Fianna Fáil benches, and their supporters down the country. That has been the policy of the Government— one foot in and the other foot out. There has never been fair dealing with the people of this country.
The Taoiseach feels that there are certain standards he must live up to when he is in London, Paris or Rome, and another one at home. There are two policies even in other matters as well as defence. You have the Minister for Defence telling the people, or at least it has been said on his behalf, down the country, that there is no question whatever that when Great Britain is at war that will be our golden opportunity. Certain members of the I.R.A. and Old I.R.A. people have been told that all this thing about combined forces and everything like that is only so much eye-wash, and that the Minister for Defence will lead the Army in another direction altogether when a certain situation arises.
I know the Minister for Defence will come to heel the very moment the Taoiseach speaks as well as every other member of the Fianna Fáil Party. Therefore, we may take it that, although there are two voices, there is one policy, because the Taoiseach has said so, and notwithstanding anything the Minister for Defence says, I take it that the Taoiseach's policy is the one that will obtain. In that case, if that is the policy of the Government, this whole question of saddling the Irish people with this colossal expenditure, at a time when two-thirds of our people are hard pressed, financially embarrased and broken, is an outrage. If we are going to be part of the combined forces, there is no reason in the world why the British should not supply us with the material, at any rate, because it will be part of their defence. I suppose that would be out of keeping with our national dignity. I suppose that we must keep up our national consciousness and that we must pay for everything through the nose, let who will get the benefit of it.
I notice that in the various subheads of the Estimate there are rather peculiar items of expenditure. I am glad to see we have one lorry, at any rate, that is going to cost £1,400 and we are going to pay another £1,305 for something to put on it. I would suggest that that lorry should be used by the Government to rail-road themselves out of the country altogether and that it would be well-spent money.
The Taoiseach, in speaking the last day, said there were certain sums to be spent on artillery and certain sums for aircraft. In this particular Estimate, the aircraft has dwindled to a very small figure—£168,085 for aircraft and £35,000 for stores and spares. I know very well, of course, that that is as much as the air corps, as at present constituted—to use a hackneyed phrase—could absorb, but that is a position that should not obtain at this time of day. I would like to know from the Minister what steps he is taking, or if any steps are being taken, to develop, extend and expand that force. I am aware of the fact that hundreds of splendid young men have been induced by some means or other, in some cases economic, in some cases the desire for excitement, to leave this country for the Air Force in Great Britain. It is sad that when our country requires the services of these men that they are not availed of but that they are handed over or allowed to go over to Great Britain, because I am satisfied, as has already been stated, that the real danger in the event of an attack on this country is from the air and that the vast majority of our man power in the army should be trained and developed towards resisting that particular type of attack.
I hold that the Minister, when introducing this Estimate, should have given a reasonable explanation of what the defence policy was and that he should have indicated that he was speaking for the Government as a whole when he was announcing that particular programme and that he could assure the House that there would be no danger of the Taoiseach coming in and initiating a different one.
I would also like to know if orders have been placed for this material, and, if so, where? Notwithstanding all the plans for munition factories and the rest, are we in the position that we are still depending on the ancient enemy to supply us with all our material? Is it a fact that the ancient enemy has now become an ally, and that we are definitely committed to the policy of the combined forces? I hold strongly, and speaking during the last general election on several occasions, I insisted that, in my opinion, neutrality is possible, and that the people of this country should have a Government that was determined to maintain that neutrality at all costs. The fact that the people did not accept that point of view simply means that their mental abilities were deadened by the dope that the present Government Party was administering to them; but I am satisfied that, when the day comes, the people will not be such sheep as to be driven into a war in which they have no interest. We have no territorial ideas; we have no colonies to defend. We only want one thing, and that is to be left alone so that we may develop our own life in our own way. As I said here before, if we are attacked, or become involved in a future war, it will be because the Department of External Affairs will have failed to do its duty properly. Every single Government in Europe should be sounded and informed as to what our intentions and wishes are and of the steps that we are prepared to take to uphold them. If we do that we can, as I have said, maintain our neutrality very definitely.
I do not agree with the view that the supplying of foodstuffs to a civilian population is a breach of neutrality, but if it is held to be so then that export trade must go overboard. I would like to be assured by the Minister and the Government that that situation has been examined or, if not, will be examined, and that a full valuation of the losses and gains has been made. As far as I can see, all wars that are being waged at the present time, or that are likely to be waged in the future, will be wars for losses or gains. There are not any principles involved. A number of people shout about the case of dictatorial Government in one place and of extra-super democrats in another, and that both are upholding their particular principles. Of course that is all nonsense. Every country. I hold, is entitled to have whatever form of government it desires. We do not wish to impose our particular view upon any country. What we say to them is: "You can have what you like but leave us out of the matter." But if those countries go to war, it will be either for monetary or for territorial gain and, as we have not any particular ambitions in that direction, I say we have no interest in such wars. I think that our history should be a sufficient warning to any Government that would attempt to come in and stay here. I want to say definitely that it is immaterial to us whether the British or the Germans should attempt to do that and try to impose their particular cult on us. If either were to attempt it we would resist it. Even Germany might find it too costly to stick the attempt for 600 or 700 years, because I am satisfied that the staying power of our people is no less now than it has been in the past.
For these reasons, as well as for the lack of information on the part of the Government, I propose to vote against this Estimate, and to vote for the motion to refer it back. I would ask even the few members on the Government Benches, if they have the interests of the country at heart, not to give the Government a blank cheque in this matter. It may be that they have received information within their own Party which the Minister has decided to withhold from us. I hold that if that has been done, it is wrong because, in my opinion, the information should be given to all Parties. The country is the common property of us all, and its welfare is as much our interest as theirs. I say that when the Leader of the Government has definitely put forward a policy in which he says that we are bound to be involved in the next war and, further, that the idea of voting this money is to make the combined Irish and British forces as effective as possible, Deputies should think twice before giving a blank cheque to the Minister for Defence or to the Government of the day. I ask the House to support the motion to refer back the Estimate. If they respond to my appeal I am satisfied that they will have done a good day's work for the country and will have given notice to the Government that the Irish people are not sheep to be driven.
I desire to support the view put forward by Deputy MacEoin that it is possible for this country to maintain its neutrality in the event of a European war. I think that the Government, in shaping their defence policy, should be guided by that idea: that we are not committed to, or bound to be dragged into any European war in which England is involved. The policy outlined by Deputy MacEoin was, in my opinion, a common sense policy. It was in striking contrast to the policy outlined by Deputy O'Higgins who, apparently, was endeavouring to make it clear to us, and to everybody, that, no matter what happens, there is no possibility of escape for this country if England is involved in war.
He did not say that.
Common sense would indicate that there is always the possibility that this country may be saved from being involved in war. First of all, we have got to ask ourselves why should any Power engaged in a war with Great Britain attack us. The assertion is made that we may be attacked because we are supplying food to Great Britain. The supplying of food to a nation engaged in war does not constitute a breach of neutrality. For that reason, it would not justify an attack on this country. We must also remember that any nation involved in war with Great Britain must calculate the exact effect of an attack upon the neutrality of this country. They must calculate the effect which it would have upon opinion in all English-speaking countries, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia. There is no doubt that, even if these countries are already involved in war with Germany, or whatever country it might be, an attack upon the neutrality of this country would strengthen the determination of these nations to pursue the war, and would strengthen the anti-German forces in these countries.
There is no doubt that the Irish race is a formidable force throughout the world that it is a far-flung race, and that it has ramifications in almost every part of the world. If Germany were engaged in a war with England it would be her best policy to endeavour to secure a certain amount of sympathy from those Irish people in all parts of the world. If they made an attack upon a neutral Ireland, they would kill whatever hope there might be of securing that sympathy or support, and the German Government, if it were engaged in a war with Great Britain, would be slow to take that step. There is, therefore, a possibility of this country remaining neutral. I do not think it is right that anybody should try to convince this House or the Irish people that they must inevitably be involved in war, thereby depriving the people of this country of any hope of saving themselves from the effects of a European war.
In this Estimate it is proposed that £3,750,000 be provided for defence, and the question that naturally arises in the mind of any ordinary taxpayer is: "Are we going to get real value for that money, or is that money going to provide any safeguard whatever for this country?" Ordinary intelligence should convince anybody that there is not sufficient effective protection being provided to justify that expenditure. If, for example, this country were invaded by a foreign Power, as has been suggested by Ministers, the expenditure of that sum would not be sufficient for the defence of the country. On the other hand, the provision made for air defence in these Estimates is so small that the expenditure would not protect the cities and towns if attacked from the air. There seems to be no justification for this colossal increase in the Army Estimates. There is no indication that it is going to do any good in the event of a war. To my mind, the most effective safeguard for this country is to endeavour to prevent people, so far as possible, from crowding into the cities and towns. It is only the cities and towns that are in a vulnerable position from aerial attack. The whole policy of the Government should be directed to the ruralisation of the country. I hold that the expenditure contemplated would be far more advantageously applied if spent on the development of the agricultural industry. After all, food is perhaps more important than guns in the position in which this nation is situated. There is no reason why money, which is so urgently needed for the relief of unemployment and the development of the agricultural industry, should be squandered on armaments which, as far as any person can see, will be of no value whatever. There is absolutely no reason why the taxpayers should be penalised by putting up this amount of money.
Deputy MacEoin made a much more prudent suggestion. He suggested that the first step in the defence of the country should be the setting up of an economic council and the concentration of all the intelligence and all the expert knowledge in this country upon making the country economically secure. So far as making this country secure from a military standpoint is concerned, I do not think it is possible. Therefore, so far as expenditure upon defence is concerned, I think that the Government would be well advised to go slowly. After all, the maximum amount that this country can afford to spend upon defence will not make any material difference in the international situation. The maximum amount that we would be in a position to spend, even if we were to line up definitely with the forces opposed to Germany, would not strengthen those forces to any extent worth mentioning; whereas if the amount which we contemplate spending upon military defence were applied to agriculture, it would so strengthen this country economically as to make us a more effective nation for our own defence in time of war. That, I think, is the first consideration which the Government should have in mind. I would advise the Government not to be misled by those people who tell us that we must completely give up the idea of neutrality and must plan our defence upon the assumption that we cannot be neutral.
Will the Deputy tell us where he is going to get foodstuffs to supply the country?
We are at present a food exporting nation, and my belief is that this country is capable of enormously increasing its agricultural production. I hold that if the money which it is contemplated to spend on defence were spent on the promotion of the agricultural industry we would increase our essential food supplies to such an extent as to make it possible for the country at least to exist, even if it were impossible to import foodstuffs. Deputy O'Higgins stated that you cannot expend money efficiently, effectively, or usefully upon defence unless you have a certain alliance or a certain understanding with Great Britain. I do not hold that view. I think that whatever money is spent on defence will be usefully applied, irrespective of the nation with whom we intend to enter into alliance. We must have the nucleus of an army. That is the most we can expect to have. If we have that, there is no reason why the same system of defence would not apply, no matter whether we are in alliance with Great Britain or any other country. There is no reason why this country should commit itself to a definite, irrevocable alliance with Great Britain. There is a possibility that, even from the point of view of Great Britain, it would be better if this country were neutral. If the question were carefully considered, I do not think they would seek to induce or coerce this country into an alliance with them in the event of war. In the last war the small, neutral nations did not do any harm to the big Powers which were at war. They provided a certain amount of food to the warring nations and they helped to relieve the hardships of war. They provided medical assistance and various forms of relief which. to a great extent, mitigated the hardships of war. There is no doubt that a neutral Ireland could contribute in the same way to the relief of the sufferings of the various peoples throughout Europe, and Ireland might become, to some extent, a sort of military hospital in the next war. I do not think that there is any reason why Great Britain should coerce this nation into war, and I do not think that there is any justification for militarists in this country seeking to rush the country into war without allowing the people to use their own commonsense and intelligence, as Deputy MacEoin has done.
One could scarcely fail to be struck this evening by the inadequate and incomplete speech delivered by the Minister in introducing an Estimate of such enormous proportion as that which is now before us. Under this Estimate, we are going to spend £3,250,000 on the Army, having recently voted a substantial supplementary amount and made provision for capital expenditure during the coming financial years and succeeding years. I think we ought to have had from the Minister a much more comprehensive review not merely of the Army as a machine, but of the Army in relation to the national outlook of our people in the event of the fructification of any of the contingencies likely to lead to war in Europe. The Minister contented himself with a speech giving us the number of persons in the National Army, the Reserve and the Volunteer force. He calculated that with quite meticulous accuracy, and he went on to tell us the cost of servicing that force under various heads. One waited in vain for a statement from the Minister as to what the general defence policy of the country was, and one searched in vain in the statement for any indication that the House was being taken into the confidence of the Government as to the future defence policy of the State. In other countries where democratic Governments still live and where Government is responsible to Parliament, the introduction of an Estimate to provide funds for the army is usually accompanied by a comprehensive review of defence policy and a declaration as to the nation's stand in the light of factors then existing. Here, we merely had an accountancy statement from the Minister which took no cognisance whatever of the situation that exists in Europe to-day or of the likelihood, or absence of likelihood, of our being involved in any of the grave crises likely to arise out of a continuance of these events.
When we were discussing the Army Estimate last month, I said that I doubted very much whether, even when we had spent the sum of £9,000,000 on armaments, we would have given the country a scrap more protection than it enjoyed before that sum was spent. I believed then, and I believe now, that it is quite impossible for a small nation of 3,000,000 persons, largely a peasant population, with undeveloped resources, low productivity and a low national income, to be able to raise for armament and defence purposes the gigantic sum which some of the powerful military and commercial nations of Europe are able to raise for this purpose to-day. £9,000,000 represents a very substantial portion of our tax revenue and I doubt that, even when we shall have spent the money, our people will have any more protection than they had before. For a small nation, the expenditure of £9,000,000 represents a gigantic sacrifice. It means the turning of that type of expenditure, which could be useful and constructive from the social and economic point of view, into a channel from which no social or economic advantages of a substantial character are likely to accrue. Yet, we are evidently contemplating the doing of that with an ease and grace born of the acceptance of our destiny, in the event of a European war, as on the side of one group of belligerents or another. I reject as a policy of military folly and national suicide that our people must necessarily line up on the side of any of Europe's future belligerents. I think that the strength of our nation and the hope of its continuous growth and prosperity reside in not making up our minds to-day that we are going to be in the next European war on the side of one group or another. We have nothing effective to contribute to either side. As a small nation, with limited resources and a small population, our greatness can never lie in a military line. The one chance we have of distinguishing ourselves as a great people is in the realm of the arts and sciences, in building up high standards of social legislation and establishing a high standard of private honour. We can never be a big nation, in the military sense of the term, and it is useless and dangerous for us to be aping the highly militarised nations of Europe.
Deputy O'Higgins, in the course of his speech this evening, played a great deal with the difference of opinion which, he said, existed as to our defence policy as between the Taoiseach and the Minister for Defence. He, apparently, lauded the Taoiseach on the wisdom of his combined forces policy and chided the Minister for Defence for having spoken of a policy of neutrality and isolation. Whether, in fact, there is that difference between the Taoiseach and the Minister for Defence it is not possible for us, on the evidence at present available to the House, to say. But if there is a difference of view, I personally prefer the viewpoint of neutrality and isolation instead of the policy of utilising the combined forces. I think, however, that Deputy O'Higgins prefers the policy of collaboration with Great Britain. His whole speech this evening was one which might be summed up in the words "make a deal as quickly as you can, make an alliance as quickly as you can."
The Deputy argued that we could not hope to escape from involvement in the next war and that we surely will be declared belligerents if we supply food to a country at war with another country. That is an understandable point of view. One may disagree with it, but it is understandable. There are a lot of people in this country who accept that point of view because of attachment to Great Britain, or because they feel it is political futility for the people of this country to fight on their own a foreign invader. I think that is a dangerous point of view. In the last war people paid heavily for that point of view and got very little in return for the price they paid. A similar line-up in the next war would, perhaps, get our people the same kind of ingratitude that they received following the last war, when self-determination was a kind of religion that could be put into operation in every portion of Europe and of the world except in that portion of Europe and the world nearest to Britain. Britain herself prated loudest about the fruits and the principles of self-determination. Deputy O'Higgins said that we are certain to be involved in the next war; that the mere supplying of foods and goods to a belligerent would automatically bring us into war with that Power's enemies. If that is to be our conception of our position in the event of a European or world war, then a lot of other things arise to our view.
If it is certain we are to be involved on one side or the other in the next war what is the purpose of going ahead and building a single house in the country—if we believe that escape from the next war is impossible? Then are we to stop all kinds of planning to-day and stop until the war annihilation is over? We are not to build another house or another hospital or do anything in the way of adding to the capital value of the country's assets in the form of building houses. If we are so certain to be involved in the next war and that we will be made a target for attacks by the enemy of the people with whom we are associated what is the good of doing anything now in the way of development?
But nobody suggested that we should suspend house building or hospital building, or the other beneficent capital development which has been taking place here for many years past. That, however, is the logical end of the argument put forward by Deputy O'Higgins—that escape from involvement in the next war is impossible for us. I think that Deputy O'Higgins' line of making a deal, in making an alliance is a highly dangerous policy for this country. That line suffers from a further defect, that even if we adopted that policy and took that advice we still would have got no security whatever.
Czecho-Slovakia recently had an alliance which if she had never been lured into making would probably not have left her in the position in which she is now. We know what happened in the long run. First, a substantial slice of territory was ceded to another Power and this was followed up by further action by the same Power. So that the position now is that Czecho-Slovakia no longer exists. Her alliances did not save her. Her entanglements with other Powers did not save her. Being combined in a military game with other Powers did not save her from annihilation in the course of the past few weeks. Then, again, we have a tragic reminder in the case of Ethiopia which was encouraged by friendly Powers to resist Italy. Nations posing as her friends encouraged her to resist. She was persuaded it was her best possible line to be in alliance with other Powers, but in due course Ethiopia ceased to exist as an independent nation. Alliances with other Powers are no security at all for small nations.
There is no example in the past history of Europe in which any type of alliance saved the small nation from the danger of military subjugation. References to a similar policy here or the adoption of a similar policy here will not give our people any guarantee of independence. It will only bring them into the possibility of being involved in a war in which they have no interest. If one wanted to examine the wisdom of any policy the first thing to do is to probe to what extent other European countries which are closer to the scene of potential war are doing in the matter of protecting themselves. Switzerland, situated in Central Europe, surrounded on many sides by possible enemies, does not find it advantageous to line up with one group as against another group of Powers. Their policy all along has been to proclaim their neutrality until Swiss publicity and propaganda have saturated the minds of the people of the world with the idea of her neutrality and with the thought that an invasion of such a country can never be justified.
Does the Deputy think that people outside Switzerland would have the same idea if the Swiss had not armed?
I do not know, but I do know that Swiss arms would be almost as worthless as our arms if Switzerland to-morrow were to be invaded by a military machine such as Germany is capable of putting into the field. The strength of the Swiss people is not in their arms. She would be over-run in a short time as assuredly as Czecho-Slovakia has been over-run——
And Czecho-Slovakia had lots of arms.
Yes, according to Czecho-Slovakia standards, as we after this expenditure would have lots of arms according to our standards. Czecho-Slovakia is reported to have over 700 aeroplanes and the finest armament works in Europe. Yet the 700 aeroplanes, the finest armament works in the world, and as courageous a people as there is in Europe, could not withstand the march through her territory of a relatively small portion of the German army. I think the same could be said to-morrow of Switzerland. If Switzerland were to spend twice or three times what she is spending on armaments to-day, I do not think she would have security against the possibility of attack. But let us go elsewhere. Let us go even to Denmark, to Sweden, to Norway, even to Belgium and Holland. Those are all small countries with a population and with problems approximately comparable to our own, and there is no panic there to line up with someone else.
Are any of them completely disarming?
I am not advocating complete disarmament.
The Deputy is not. I am glad to hear that.
I thought the Minister was listening.
I was doing my best.
The Minister's best is very poor, I am afraid. All those countries are roughly comparable to our own in size and population and problems. Not one of them is bursting to make an alliance with anybody. Even Denmark, which possibly stands the risk of being threatened in the event of a European war, which was the kitchen garden of Germany in the last war, and is the potential kitchen garden in the next war, does not find it necessary to make an alliance with Germany or to make an alliance with Germany's possible enemies. Denmark and those other small countries realise that the best policy for them to pursue is a policy of neutrality, a policy of standing clear from alliances and entanglements in which they have no interest.
But it is neutrality supported by arms, and relatively more arms than we have.
Folly supported by arms, according to the Taoiseach.
One of the developments in recent years on the Continent has been the recognition of Belgium, a small country, that her entanglements with Great Britain and France were calculated to cause considerable difficulty for her, and expose her people to the possibility of attack. Notwithstanding the persuasion that was used on Belgium to retain a stand-in on an alliance policy, the Belgian people realised that their real safeguard was in keeping clear of entanglements. There has been acceptance of that in recent years, and the point of view now is that Belgium is not to be regarded as entangled with either one or the other group of possible European belligerents. There is no case that I can see for this country—and that is the collective wisdom of a lot of small countries in Europe thinking along the same lines—having an alliance with any big group of possible belligerents. We have no interest whatever in securing an inch of anybody else's territory. We have no Imperialistic aims whatever, and we ought not to go to war on the side of any Power to make safe for her territory to which she probably has no moral or legal right whatever. If, therefore, the Taoiseach talks of combined forces, I think the red flag of danger is up for our people. It is a dangerous policy, and equally dangerous is the attitude of Deputy O'Higgins who asks whether any staff talks have yet taken place to ascertain in what way the combined forces can be most usefully employed in the event of attack. It has been alleged, as one of the reasons for a line-up between this country and Great Britain, that there is a danger that the supply of food by our people to Britain in time of war will be regarded as a hostile act. That may be true, but whoever says that is at least not drawing on experience. In itself, it was not regarded as a hostile act during the last war.
How many neutral merchant ships were sunk?
I know the Leinster was sunk 13 miles off our coast, although Britain was defending our coast.
How many more would have been sunk but for submarine activity?
If the Deputy will just contain himself for a minute I will do my best to explain. It is well known that, during the last war, countries like Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway supplied Germany and Austria with a considerable quantity of foodstuffs which they were not able to get from overseas, and there was a recognition of the legitimacy of that trade, because the same countries supplied goods to Britain, France and other countries which were at war with Germany and Austria. There was a clear acceptance of that position, and the British Ambassador remained in the capitals of those countries which were supplying Germany and Austria with goods, while those countries kept their ambassadors in Britain and in France although supplying Germany with goods. Nobody can dare to suggest that the supplying of goods brought about even a diplomatic rupture. There was no ambassador recalled, even though countries like Denmark supplied both sides with food, and collected the money from both sides. There is no question, therefore, of that in itself being an act of war.
How many ships did those countries lose?
Deputy Benson asks how many ships were sunk. How many neutrals were killed in the last war? We all know that happened, but I am making the point, and it cannot be contradicted, that the supplying of goods by one country to another country was not regarded as an enemy act by the enemies of the country which was so supplied. Nobody can attempt to deny that.
They were a subject for attack, though.
Deputy Benson says they were a subject for attack. I wonder if Deputy Benson knows that in the case of a ship going into a German harbour with goods, if it is seized by Britain and prevented from going in there as an act of self-protection, under international law the British could not even intern the crew much less confiscate the cargo. That cannot be denied, because it is an accepted fact under international law. I do not say the same could happen to our people——
Is not invasion banned by international law?
Will the Deputy tell us what section of international law bans invasion?
I will look it up for the Deputy.
I think the Deputy ought to look it up.
How much international law is observed by belligerents during war time?
A varying amount of it.
The clauses that suit.
Just as little or as much as suits.
A very substantial portion of international law survived the last war.
The same as the armies—a substantial portion survived.
That is Deputy O'Higgins' point of view, and it is the point of view of those who advocate the policy: "If there is a war make sure to get into it." The point of view which has been expressed, and the question which have been asked from the Fine Gael Benches indicate to me that the whole belief of that Party is that you cannot escape from the next war and, therefore, make a deal and get into it now. That is the substance of the remarks of Deputy MacEoin appears to dissent from that point of view. I hardly imagine he will dissent when he reads Deputy O'Higgins' speech.
I do not want to interrupt the Deputy, but he has developed that line for the greater part of 20 minutes. My point was that we got two policies stated from the opposite side—one, that neutrality was folly and that we had to have an alliance with Great Britain, the other that neutrality was sound and whatever defence we had to put up we would put up alone, and I asked which policy we were voting the money for. On another occasion I will state my own policy for the benefit of the Deputy.
The Deputy did say we were bound to be involved in a European war.
I said that in my opinion we were bound to be involved to the extent of an air raid or two.
That is all Deputy Norton is saying.
That is my opinion.
I think Deputy O'Higgins will hardly deny that, in the course of his speech this evening, he gave his benediction to the Taoiseach's policy and said he preferred it to the policy of the Minister for Defence.
His opinion as to involvement, yes.
The Deputy will hardly deny that he said this evening, in the course of his speech, that it was folly to imagine we could escape involvement in the next war.
The Deputy is again wrong. I quoted the Taoiseach as saying that and I subscribed to that opinion.
Now Deputy O'Higgins says that he quoted the Taoiseach as saying that we could not escape involvement in a European war.
And that he subscribed to that opinion.
That is the point which I have been making. That is the point from which Deputy MacEoin has been dissenting. That is the point which has now embarrassed some of Deputy O'Higgins's friends who sit behind him.
It is a matter of opinion. It is not a matter of policy.
I said at the beginning that one could understand it, even if one did not agree with it, but I think it is a dangerous policy and that there is no safety in it so far as this country is concerned.
It is not a policy. Opinion is not a policy.
The Deputy can split hairs and divide the atom if he likes. I am not going to enter into competition with him on that. He knows perfectly well that when he says that the Taoiseach said we could not escape involvement in the next war and when he stated he agreed with that as an opinion he was, in fact, subscribing to the viewpoint of the Taoiseach that escape from involvement in the next war is impossible. That, I say, is a dangerous policy.
No; a policy arises out of that.
I pass from that kind of literary finesse, to make this observation—I think that, in all the circumstances of this country, a policy of neutrality and isolation, so far as we can ensure it, is the best possible policy for this country. Nations in the cockpit of European wars have not found it necessary to resort to alliances and have found it dangerous to do so. We are the outpost of Western Europe. We have a natural advantage in being the outpost of Western Europe. We are away from the main theatre of war, away from the main battlefields of Europe. We ought to take advantage of that position and recognise that we have a defence there, in our geographical position, better than all the armaments with which this small country is capable of equipping itself.
If we are attacked, what will happen? What would the Deputy do?
Attacked by whom?
By anyone. By any one country or two countries or three countries.
Let us examine that for a few moments and examine it in particular in relation to the Taoiseach's speech last year.
I am asking you a question. If we are attacked what will we do?
Let me make a reference to the first matter first because one is surely entitled to know the viewpoint of the head of the Government on this subject. The Taoiseach's point of view, in April of last year, was that the only possible attack was likely to come from Britain's enemies, and then for the purpose of attack upon Britain. With an enormous west coast available to any Continental air Power, over which bombers and warplanes would have to fly in order to get to the east coast, I cannot see why it would be necessary for these Powers to make an attack upon the east coast of Britain and neglect the west coast which is screeching out for attack. I do not think the possibility of attack from a European Power is as real as the Taoiseach imagines or as real as Deputy O'Higgins imagines and I do not think the danger of involvement is as great as was alleged either by the Taoiseach or by Deputy O'Higgins. There is nothing in the present European situation that makes it so necessary for us at this stage to resort to entangling alliances which may only ensure that we will be involved in the next war, whereas, if we were not so hasty and so precipitate, we might keep out of it.
The Minister asks, assuming all that, what would you do if you were attacked? The most you can ever hope to do is to resist with all the resources at your command. But, have no illusions about it, from the point of view of competition in armaments, the only body likely to invade this country will be a big air or sea Power and the European air or sea Power that could invade this country could only do so when every scrap of resistance by Britain had fallen down. Britain would not do that so much for love of this country as in a desire to protect herself.
If that stage has been reached, it is the height of folly to imagine that we, with 8,000 regular troops and a total army of 29,000 people, could ever hope to put up an effective military resistance to an invading power of that kind. I think we could do what we were able to do for the best part of 700 years—make it impossible for that country to stay here, to carry on a civil administration here, or to pretend to exercise any civil or administrative domination here. You could prevent that happening, even if you never had arms. It has been shown in the past that a relatively unarmed people have been able to bring to an end a civil and administrative machine here, even though it was operated by one of the most powerful military nations in the world.
That is a different thing from trying to resist in arms. That is a different thing from putting gun against gun and bayonet against bayonet. In an attack of that kind, I do not think there is any capacity in our people to stand up against a gigantic European Power. I think all that is in our people is a talent and ability to wreck any machine which the invading Power might try to create here or seek to make function here.
I am not opposed to the expenditure of money on the Army within reasonable limits, but I do think it is folly to lull the people into a sense of security by giving them the impression that the expenditure of £5,000,000 or £5,500,000 or £55,000,000 could give this country security from attack or protect the people in the event of attack. In the long run, our resources are going to be financial resources, economic and industrial resources, plus military resources, but these must be limited in a country of 3,000,000 people. In my view, there is no ground whatever for thinking that the expenditure on the Army of even £30,250,000, much less £3,250,000, could give our people security. I think the best policy would be to maintain a reasonable Army, and to provide for reasonable expenditure on the Army, creating the nucleus of a Power capable of resisting in the event of attack. That policy, I think, can be defended and justified. I think it is an illusion to imagine that the expenditure of a very large sum of money on the Army is going to give us, in the long run, very much greater resistance than we have at the moment, certainly not resistance comparable at all to the expenditure of a large sum of money on additional capital equipment.
Let us bear in mind that two or three years hence, before the guns and the armaments which we buy are used, that we may discover that they are regarded as obsolete from a military point of view. Then we will again proceed to go the full round of the circle, and of making a further contribution for capital military expenditure of that kind. I believe that the best policy for this country to pursue is one of maintaining our neutrality, as far as we can possibly do it, but we will not do it by the Taoiseach talking about the combined forces on the one hand and by Deputy O'Higgins saying, on the other, that he agrees with the point of view, and wanting to know when the staff talks between the British and the Irish armies are likely to take place, or whether they have already taken place. Speeches of that kind are calculated seriously to misrepresent our position in Europe. I think that the best policy for this House and this country is to proclaim to Britain, to Europe and to the world that we desire to preserve our neutrality: that we are not going to have anything to do with entangling alliances that would commit us to wars in which we have no interest, and out of which, for whatever sacrifices our people might make, they would get just as little gratitude from those on whose side they fought as they got out of the last war.
Obviously, our initial policy at any rate ought to be one of neutrality. I think the vast majority of our people would agree with that. It is, of course, a matter of opinion as to whether we can remain neutral or not. Most of us differ on that. If it were possible to remain neutral, we would be all anxious to do so. In the event of war the position as regards our neutrality will depend, I think, on how far we are anxious to maintain our present economic position. We have been told by Deputy Cogan and Deputy Norton that the supplying of food to a country at war is not an act of war. We were reminded that in the big war, small nations supplying some of the big Powers engaged in that war with food were not interfered with. But there is no analogy between that situation and the situation that may develop in the case of a future war.
In connection with the Estimate, the principal objection I have is as to the manner in which it is proposed to spend the money asked for. In the first place, I think the amount asked for is ridiculous. I am satisfied that the manner in which it is proposed to spend that money is wrong. If, in the face of the mighty navies of Britain and France, an enemy can effect a landing here, then our Army can be of no use as a defence force to resist that landing. It is utterly foolish to spend huge sums of money on the development of an infantry force. I believe that most Deputies on this side hold that view. In the event of war, I am convinced that we are open to attack here as suppliers of food to Great Britain. Are we to continue to supply her with food in the event of war? Evidently there is a difference of opinion amongst Deputies on that. Deputy Cogan said that if necessary he believed that we should not supply her with food if it would interfere with our neutrality in any way. I think it is absolutely essential that we should do so if we are to maintain our economic position.
I think it was Deputy MacEoin made that statement.
But Deputy Cogan agreed with Deputy MacEoin.
Is there anything wrong in that?
I disagree with both of them, because I believe that we must maintain our export trade. That possibility may involve us in attack from an enemy country. We all realise that the most vulnerable point in Britain's defence is her food supply. She is a big nation and not nearly able to feed all her people. She has to maintain a mighty navy to protect her food lines all over the world. It is as important, if not more important, for Great Britain to be able to import food than to be able to maintain a supply of munitions. We are proposing here to spend money on an infantry force and on obsolete forts which are absolutely useless and worthless from a defence point of view. As I have said, if we are attacked I believe it will be as suppliers of food to Great Britain. It is not likely, I think, that we will have an enemy force attempting to land here. That is a remote possibility. Of course, if that is possible then we as a nation and our neighbours are going to be wiped out. But, on the other point, I believe it is necessary for us to maintain our export trade. There are some essential foods that we must import. Consequently, we must export as well.
Suppose we fail to supply our principal customers with food during a war period, and if they can do without our food supplies at that period, then they are certainly not going to take supplies from us in the post-war period. We believe that we are going to exist after the next war. At least we hope to. In the case of our agricultural produce, we hope to have an exportable surplus. When the war is over we will want a market in which to sell that surplus. As I have said, if we fail to supply our principal customers with food during the war period they are hardly going to become customers of ours after the war.
If she sends her ships here she will get all the food that we can give her.
There is no analogy whatever between the position that existed during the last war and the position that will exist should war break out in the future. In the case of the last war, you had no such thing as long-range aircraft. The position is different now and I can visualise something like this happening: On a Thursday morning you have, say, two or three cattle boats loaded and ready to leave the Liffey. Aircraft from Germany may arrive, flying low over the Liffey, and drop bombs on any shipping they may find in the river and destroy it. They may do that as a warning to us that if we continue to supply food to Great Britain they are going to visit us again. I believe that it would not be a very big proposition to provide against such an attack if we had the necessary anti-aircraft guns at the ports where we export our live stock and foodstuffs, as well as sufficient aircraft available. We need hardly visualise the possibility of the visitation of a huge number of aircraft from Germany. If 20 or 30 bombers came here to bomb our ports, I think it is possible to develop our air arm to meet such an attack, and possibly ward it off—anyway, to give them a fine, warm welcome.
What about Denmark?
Denmark does not concern us at all. We have a certain economic position that we want to maintain and I believe that it is possible to maintain it by spending a reasonable sum of money. I do not believe that it is necessary to spend the sum of money suggested, and certainly not in the way we are told it is going to be spent, which I think is both useless and worthless. What we ought to concentrate upon is developing our air force to protect us as food suppliers, because there is a possibility that we might be attacked as food suppliers to Great Britain. It is possible, and I think probable, that that will happen. For that reason, I think the necessary provision ought to be made to see that we can continue supplying that food because, as we know from the last war, the supplying of food is a most valuable asset to us. We increased our production and we were paid war prices for everything that was purchased. If Europe is involved in a big war, are we going to drop our production here? What are we going to do with our produce if we do not export it? When the war is over, where are we going to look for a customer to buy our surplus production here? For that reason I believe that a certain amount of money ought to be spent—not the full amount asked for, as I do not think that is necessary —in developing our air strength and providing anti-aircraft guns at the ports from which we export livestock and foodstuffs. Money spent in that direction will be very usefully spent.
How are you going to protect them from Dublin to Dingle?
How will you protect your cattle four miles off the coast?
If the British Navy were not there during the last war how many cattle boats would we have sent across? There is no use in talking rot about it. During the last war we got our stuff across, and it was not by our own resources that we got it across. The boats were protected by the British Navy. We are an independent country and someone has referred to our national pride. We can hardly expect the British to come and protect us inside our own country and along the Liffey. When the boats go outside the port of Dublin during a war the British will be so anxious to get their food supplies that they will give the necessary protection through their navy and air force. If that cannot be done, there is an end to this country. There is no use in not facing the facts. Some money ought to be spent in that direction. But any money spent on the development of an infantry force, in anticipation of a possible landing here by a foreign Power is, to my mind, being spent foolishly and worthlessly. If such a situation develops in Europe that there is the possibility of a country at war with Great Britain making a landing here for the purpose of attacking Great Britain—because naturally the landing would be for that purpose and not for attacking this small country—that would be the end of us.
I certainly believe that money could be well spent in the other direction. I believe there is the possibility of warding off such an attack as I have suggested. It would not be a big concentration of aircraft. It would be a relatively small one, and it would be within our power, if we were properly equipped, to ward off that attack or, at all events, give them such a warm welcome that they would not be so keen on coming back. If we are not in a position to defend our economic position here and to maintain our export trade, then they will give us the first warning visit, and if we persist they will visit us again. In that respect I think money can be very usefully spent, and it will be spent in the interests of our agriculturists. I should like to tell Deputy Cogan that it will be definitely spent in the interests of our agricultural people. It will be a sad situation if we are not in a position as an agricultural community to export our surplus produce. What are we going to do with it? How are we to do without the necessary commodities that we as a civilised people must try to import? I am opposed to the spending of this huge sum as being unnecessary; but I agree that a reasonable sum must and ought to be spent, and I hold that the amount of money proposed to be spent is not going to be spent in our economic interests.
I did not intend to speak on this Estimate as I am not very clear about this matter. One party wants to spend the money and another party does not want to spend the money. We are a food-producing country, and I think it is up to England, if she wants to be supplied with food, to protect this country. I think the best defence that the people of the country could have if there was a war, and the best way to spend the money would be to give it to the farmers in order to produce more food. If the money which it is proposed to spend on defence were given to the farmers to put them in a position to grow food, then if war came, they would be able to take advantage of the trade in food. But at present the farmers are not in a position to produce food, or to do anything, because more than half the farms are unstocked.
The Deputy is getting away from the Estimate.
I am not.
In the opinion of the Chair, the Deputy is.
Instead of spending this money on defence, I maintain that it should be given to the farmers, because I think that if war comes England will see that the food supplies from this country are protected in order to get food for herself. That is my reason for voting against this Estimate. I have been dumbfounded at certain speeches which were made. Half the speeches were in favour of spending the money and the other half against it. I am voting against this Estimate because I think we are wrong in spending this money on defence. If we spend £100,000,000 and if one of these great Powers want to come into this country, they will come in in spite of us. If we are not defended by some big Power, we shall be wiped out of existence.
I am definitely of opinion that this country should, at all costs, maintain its neutrality. Deputy Hughes is a fairly good farmer, and every man should attend to his own job. The defence of this country is in the hands of the Department of Defence and let them look after it. Our job here is to supply them with the necessary money. Defence is their job. That is what they are paid for.
They ought to do it right.
We know more about farming than we do about modern warfare. If it comes to a question of the preservation of our export trade involving us in war, then I say "drop the export trade," or, instead of the tri-colour, put a big bullock up as a flag and let us say that that is our standard and that we sacrifice all things to it. A certain amount of money was spent by this country during the past four or five years as a sort of insurance in the production of wheat and sugar which would help to make us self-supporting. Our economic expert should see what kind of stuff is absolutely necessary to this country—what imports we cannot do without. It seems extraordinary that 3,000,000 people in an agricultural country cannot be kept alive without imports during a war period. Our whole export trade is not worth the sacrifice of the life of one decent young man. I agree with the Vote because too much has been sacrificed in getting what independence we have to risk the loss of it, either by foreign countries coming in here for any purpose or by England coming in to endeavour to get food or other supplies. Our job is to maintain our absolute neutrality.
If you are let.
It is our job to do it and I do not agree with Deputy Hughes that we cannot do it. I believe we can do it and that, further, we can make it impossible for any invading force to exist here for any length of time. We have made enough sacrifices for freedom in this country to know that what we have is worth preserving and fighting for. I will not cavil at the Vote of any sum necessary to maintain the independence and freedom we have. On the other hand, I do not agree with those Deputies who put forward the viewpoint that in order to preserve our market in Britain for bullocks or other livestock we should plunge this country into war. If that is to be the dividing line, if we cannot export cattle to Britain without involving this country in war, then I say "Do not export them." Our first duty is to ourselves and to our young people. As for having a market when the war is over, if there is another European war, God alone knows whether there will be anybody to whom to export goods. Some of them would be very little loss in my opinion. I would not shed any salty tears if there was not an Englishman over there to buy a bullock belonging to us.
I agree with the Vote for the reason that I believe that we should be prepared to make any sacrifice necessary to keep this country independent. If it is a question that our export trade will involve us in a breach of neutrality, then I say "Abandon it." You cannot bring back life to a man that is dead. If you involve this country in war you will have very little cattle to export anywhere and very few people to produce them.
If there are differences of opinion between the Taoiseach and the Minister as to the policy of this country in regard to its Army, it appears that the Minister has gained one recruit from his own Party on behalf of the neutrality programme. I rather agree with the Taoiseach, as Deputy O'Higgins did, that it would be extremely difficult to preserve our neutrality in the case of another European war. I do not suppose that there is a Deputy in this House who likes war. We have a motion down to refer this motion back. My principal reason for voting against the Estimate is that any money we expend in increasing our infantry and armed forces will be practically useless. The Minister, in an interjection a few moments ago across the House during Deputy Norton's speech, said that when we speak about neutral countries, the neutrality of these countries is supported by arms. If any money we could, within our resources, vote would make our neutrality, supported by arms, effective, very few Deputies would oppose the Vote. But I do not believe that that is possible. So far as making our neutrality effective, I think that the Vote of this additional money will be ineffective. That is the principal reason I am opposed to it. I do not believe that the spending of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 extra, mainly on our infantry, will have the least influence in making our neutrality effective. If we are to spend money, I agree with Deputy O'Higgins that we ought to spend it in the way which will have the greatest possibility of effectiveness. That way lies in the extension of our air forces. I do not agree with Deputy Corry or with one of the Deputies on our own side who said that the cessation of our exports in time of war would be desirable, in any event. I think it would be undesirable, in any event. I think that it is vital to this country to maintain its exports of agricultural produce. I believe that it would be the duty of this country to preserve and, if possible, protect its exports.
Deputy Norton seemed to suggest that there was no danger to our exports to Great Britain, that Britain for her own sake would protect the exports to feed her people. She probably would when our exports got a certain distance across the Irish Sea. Does Deputy Norton or any other Deputy suggest that the British would send their men-o'-war into the Dublin docks to protect the loading of our ships on Thursday mornings—taking cattle over to British markets or taking any other foodstuffs to feed their people? Would it not be the case that Britain would help only after our food ships got beyond the three-mile limit? Deputy Hughes said that whoever is at war with Britain would probably take the line that the Power would hit hard at Britain by destroying ships bringing food to her. He said there would probably be a few aeroplanes over Dublin to give us warning. I do not think that would be the line of action in the case of any belligerent. They would not give us any warning. If an enemy Power fighting England were able to get 20 or 30 aeroplanes across that country they would certainly drop their bombs on the ships loading in our ports. There would be no warning before bombs were dropped into the Dublin docks. Would Deputy Norton resent that?
Of course, he would.
Deputy Hickey would not consider it a friendly act?
Certainly not, because we would be neutral in the war.
The Deputy believes in this possibility. The Deputy thinks it is possible and he believes it is even probable. But I may tell him that it is almost a certainty that if a belligerent Power managed to get across the barrage that would be set up across England to prevent enemy aeroplanes coming here, one of their first acts on reaching Dublin would be to destroy any attempt that we would be making to send exports out of this country.
I am not afraid to take the line that it is in the best interests of our country that some arrangement should be made with a friendly Power that would preserve our neutrality. If that arrangement could be made, it should be made. If it is in the minds of the Government in asking the House for this Vote that some such arrangement is possible, then some part of my objection to the Vote would be met. I do not altogether stand for this high national principle that we are to be independent and neutral in the next war. I do believe that our policy anyhow lies in protecting our own trade. I know that we ourselves are unable to defend our trade, and I believe that if any outside friendly Power to whom we are sending exports, or making an attempt to send these exports, could lend a hand in protecting these exports we should combine with them in that direction. The way of helping would be by increasing the forces that would make that combination possible and effective. We could only do that by a great increase in our aeroplanes and air force. We can do that at much less cost than it is proposed to incur in the direction of land armaments and land forces. I believe that the country generally would not be disposed to criticise any decent expenditure of money likely to be effective. Deputies on this side are opposed to spending millions of money which the great majority of our people believe will be of no use.
Any little extension that we can make to our standing Army at the present moment can have no influence in preserving our neutrality or in any other direction. Certainly it would be ineffective in expelling any military force that might get here. I agree with Deputy Hughes when he says that it is not in the line of probability that any attempt will be made to send a standing army here to attack us. I believe a European Power would not consider that worth their while unless a certain Power near us had been already conquered. I do not believe that we are in any danger from that line of attack. I believe the danger is that attacks will be made on our exports of foodstuffs and on our imports as well. Our duty to ourselves would be to help in the formation of some line of defence in combination with the British that would help us to defend ourselves and our exports.
I expected that on this Vote there would be made some definite statement with regard to the policy that this country was to pursue in the future, having in view the probability of a European war. That expectation was not realised in the statement which the Minister made when introducing this Vote. We were not told whether, in the event of war, this country is definitely to assert and maintain its neutrality or whether it is to be linked up with some other Power and be involved with that Power in the event of war. I think it is very necessary that the Minister should make a statement and clear up that matter on this Estimate. The idea of neutrality has been pretty well debated, but there is one point that has not been stressed in this debate. That is that this country, as far as the people are aware, has never definitely stated that its policy in the event of war is neutrality. We have never definitely stated that.
The idea seems to have got abroad that in the event of war this country must become involved and have a definite alignment with Britain. That idea has got a certain amount of confirmation from the statements made here from time to time. It is a point of view with which I am not in agreement. I think at this Stage there is no necessity for this country to declare its allegiance and alignment with one or other of the possible contending Powers in the event of war. The safest policy and one that will receive the approbation of the country is a policy of definite neutrality. It has been argued that countries which had in some sense a neutral policy have been over-run in the last few months. I believe, myself, that the reason those countries were over-run was due to the fact that they had not declared their neutrality but they had definite alignments with certain Continental Powers. If neutrality is to be our policy I do not see the necessity for this very large expenditure on armaments and this very large expenditure on the Army. There is possibly something to be said for bringing the Army up to certain accepted modern standards, but, if the attitude of this country is that in case of war we will definitely be involved, then I say it is mere waste to spend such huge amounts of money in the hope that we will be able to make a stand against the modern armies of the first-class powers with which we will be involved on either side in a European conflict. I should like to ask the Minister whether, in case of war, the amount asked for in this Vote will be sufficient to safeguard the country for any appreciable length of time? Is that amount sufficient to withstand the attack of any modern power in Europe? That is a question to which I think we should get a definite answer in this debate. We ought to be told what exactly is to be the policy of this country in case of war—whether we would remain neutral or whether we are likely to be involved?
In this Vote we are being asked to provide £3,250,000. In the Minister's statement he has told us that orders have been placed for materials required, but that the delivery of such materials is a matter beyond our control. I should like to ask the Minister where those orders have been placed, when they were placed, and what is the exact extent of those materials? I should also like to ask him why he says that they cannot be delivered within the year? What is the reason which has led him to that belief? If those materials are being acquired in preparation for an emergency, and if it is assumed that that emergency will arise before very many months, I should like to know what use those materials will be if they can not be delivered within the year? In other words, are we making preparations to defend this country in the event of a war within the next few months, or are we assuming that war will not come to this country or to Europe within the year? If the latter is the case, then I am quite satisfied that the policy about which the Minister has told us—the policy of placing orders for materials which will not be delivered within the year—is the right one, but if war is to come within a few months, as some prophets tell us, then of what use is a policy which is going to provide us with war materials when the war is over? The Minister, in his statement, tells us that a large percentage of the stores covered by the amounts for capital items and for A.R.P. will not be delivered within the financial year. If the position is that within the next few months there is going to be a definite clash between the nations of Europe, who are ostensibly arming for war purposes, and if those materials, which I take it are calculated to lessen the number of casualties in case of air raids, will not be delivered within the financial year, of what use will they be to this country?
I should also like to ask the Minister what exactly is meant by the provision of £34,000 for A.R.P.? I think we were told when the Supplementary Estimate for the Army was being discussed that the local authorities in Dublin and in Cork were to be asked to provide an amount to supplement the amount for which the Government were asking the House. Is that still the policy of the Government or is this £34,000 intended to meet all the liabilities in connection with A.R.P.? The whole statement of the Minister is so indefinite that one cannot get any idea of what exactly is the policy, even behind the purchase of materials required in connection with A.R.P. Of what are those precautions to consist? Are we to take the example of what is being done in Great Britain, where gas masks are being served out to the populace and where air-raid shelters are the fashion? We do not seem to have any idea of any attack on this country from the air. From the Minister's statement one gets the idea that we have no definite policy either as a neutral nation or as one which is to line up with one or other of the belligerent Powers. I think we may take it that underlying the statement of the Minister is the assumption that war is not so inevitable as some people think. The materials which are now on order will not be delivered within the year, and it seems to be the assumption that in the meantime everything will go happily.
At the same time, we are going to spend £3,250,000 on what seems to be unimportant details, and we are also to expend a capital sum of £5,500,000. That expenditure is apparently being made in order to preserve human life in the event of war. Now, Sir, we are very apt to forget that we have 105,000 people unemployed in this country, and very little provision is made to preserve in some kind of decent fashion the lives of those people in peace times. Many of those 105,000 people have families, and all that the State can provide as a means of sustenance for those children in peace times is 1/- per week, but in the event of war we will spend millions to preserve the lives of which we think so little in peace times. On reading the Minister's statement the difference between what can be done in peace times and what can be done in war times strikes one very forcibly. I want to say very definitely that if more attention were paid to preserving life in this country in peace times it would be a much better policy for the Government than embarking on this futile armaments race. The sane and safe policy for this country, considering the smallness of the population, and considering our position in the event of a European war, is one of neutrality and to proclaim that to the world.
During the week-end we had the Prime Minister of England calling in the Dominion representatives in London, including the representative of Eire, to tell them the exact position, or what he expected would be the exact position, with regard to the outbreak of hostilities in Europe. I wonder did our representative, at that Conference of Dominion representatives, tell the Prime Minister of England that this country will not be involved in a war, as far as it is humanly possible to avoid it? I think that that should have been the purpose of a representative of our country in any foreign country, that is, if he reads aright the feelings of the people of this country.
We have been warring for the last 700 years. We have gone through two wars within the last 20 or 30 years and the people of the country, of our generation at any rate, know well what war means. They know the destruction and the misery that war brings in its train, and I am very sure that the people of this country as a whole would not be anxious to become involved in a war, especially in a war where the issues are the imperial gains of one or other of the combatants. Our mission should be to make it clear that war has no attraction for the Irish people at any rate, and, as far as our influence goes in the nations where our people are in exile, to let those people know that we are not becoming involved in any war, whether on behalf of the group with Britain or on behalf of the group who will be their possible opponents.
I would like, Sir, then, when the Minister is replying that we would be able to get some clear insight into the possible position of this country; what exactly is the policy behind this Vote of £3,250,000; what exactly is the meaning of looking for materials and goods which cannot be delivered within a year and what is the policy under which we are going to spend £239,000 for capital items, which will not be delivered within the financial year. I think that the House is entitled to information on these questions and I am sure that the Minister in replying will give us a definite statement with regard to the answers to those questions.
This is, perhaps a very appropriate topic for discussion at the present time because, as we are all aware, the nations of the world, particularly the nations of Europe, appear to be on the brink of war. Therefore, it is all the more reason that this country, in its actions and in its policy, should clearly define to the world at large what exactly its position is in this international crisis. It should. I submit, show the world that this country intends to remain neutral.
Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted, and 20 Deputies being present,
As I was saying, it is absolutely necessary that we should define our position to the world. The real way in which we can do so is by showing what our attitude is towards our defence forces, so far as expenditure is concerned. I agree with what Deputy MacEoin stated earlier in this debate, that there is very little danger of this country having to abandon a policy of neutrality in any conflict that might take place during the next few months or during the next few years, but there is one way in which we can draw ourselves into the vortex of hostilities, if and when they come about, and that is by assuming, in a minor garb, the proportions of a war-mongering nation. We have here a Department called the Ministry of Defence and we are discussing now the Estimates for that Department. I want an explanation, and I am sure the people of this country want an explanation, as to what we are doing with five bombing planes. For a long time I have been anxious to know whether we had in our possession for use in this country a bombing plane at all and, to my surprise and amazement, listening to the wireless on St. Patrick's Day, I learned from the Irish news that the military parade that took place here in Dublin on that day was accompanied by five bombing planes. What do we want in this country with bombing planes? Whom are we going to bomb? Is it the Isle of Man or is it the Isle of Wight or whom are we going to bomb? I suggest there is only one explanation and that is that we must have some secret agreement with some country; at all events, that we are going to come to their aid in some bombing expedition in the near future.
I only rise in this debate for the purpose of making a protest against the existence in this country of bombing planes and against the expenditure of public money on bombing planes. I think our air force would be very much better served by taking a few planes down to the country equipped, not with bombs, but with bags of seeds and manures for the unfortunate farmers who will have to foot the Bill.
It was with surprise that I listened to some of the views that we heard expressed here this evening in a war-like atmosphere. I had fondly hoped that we here in a peaceful country could have kept out of the vortex of this war-like atmosphere that seems to be spreading to-day all over Europe. I take a different view possibly to that expressed by most Deputies either in support of or in opposition to the motion to refer back the Estimate. My view is that we are unable to support an expenditure on war-like material of between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000. I was amazed when I heard a Deputy on the opposite side say that he did not care what the expenditure was: that it was the job of the Department of Defence to say what amount of money was wanted, and that he was ready to support the demand of the Department no matter what it was. That, in my view, was an extraordinary view to have expressed in the Parliament of a democratic country. Surely our first duty here is to satisfy ourselves as to the necessity of all proposed expenditure, and, secondly, in our present circumstances to control that expenditure as much as possible. After the statement made by Deputy Esmonde, I can see no justification whatever for this expenditure unless there is some understanding with some of the great military and naval Powers of the world, an understanding to the effect that we are going to co-operate with them in any upheaval that may take place in Europe.
I hold that in the event of a European conflict our best line to take is our defencelessness. I do not agree with the view expressed here that it is necessary to defend our export trade. Surely if there is any justification at all for this expenditure it is that we may protect the lives of the people. Our export trade will look after itself. My main objection to this Estimate is that in our present financial position we cannot afford this huge expenditure. The burden already placed on the people by our national debt, the taxes they are bearing, the cost of living and the effects of our adverse trade balance is simply appalling, and on top of all that we are now to have an expenditure of between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000. In respect of £3,250,000 of that, it is not going to increase production in the country. On the contrary, as one speaker has already pointed out, all that money is to go out of the country for war material which cannot be delivered until March, 1940. What is to happen between this and 1940? I think, in view of that position, that we should not incur this expenditure at all. I can see no reason for the extravagance in this Estimate unless there is to be co-operation with some great military power. Without putting too fine a point on it, I expect that if there is to be co-operation, then it is to be with our nearest neighbour. I am not hostile to that neighbour, and neither, I think, is anybody in the House. I feel for the anxieties of the people of that country in the threat that overshadows them at present, but let me make it clear that I feel a great deal more for the anxieties of our own people. I thoroughly understand and appreciate their embarrassed financial position. The people entitled to our first consideration in a matter of this kind are our own people who are being asked to carry this extra burden in addition to the heavy imposts that they are bearing at present due to our high cost of living and our enormous national debt.
Our people are not in a financial position to become a co-operator on a large scale with any great power. In my opinion it would be far better for them to run the risk of being bombed than to submit to the limitations which all this expenditure will necessarily involve. I think it is an extremely dangerous role for this country to take up—of having pretensions as regards being a great military nation, or of being associated with great military nations. That should not be the line for this country to take up. If this House were really to consult the interests of the people it would concern itself more with the problem of our depopulated rural areas and with the weight of taxation that is pressing down all classes of the community. It should take any risks rather than burden the people with additional taxation. Why should we have this expenditure? Is it to meet some imaginary attack from aeroplanes across the sea. As the leader of the Labour Party pointed out it will be to the interest of our neighbour across the sea to protect us. If, by any chance, our neighbour is unable to do that there is nothing that we can do to defend ourselves in face of some of those big Continental powers. I have heard some people down the country talk about this proposal to spend £10,000,000 on bringing our Army up to a certain strength, on supplies of military equipment, and I was going to say on naval excursions, but that might be regarded as sarcastic. They added, sarcastically, that, with all this expenditure, we could not keep out the smallest force.
The extraordinary proposition made here is that we should face this huge expenditure, and that in respect of £3,250,000 of it the war material that we are to purchase cannot be delivered until March, 1940. I think that when the people realise what the reaction of this expenditure is going to be that they will say it would be far better to run the risk of attack than to incur such expenditure. In opposing this Estimate I want to put it to Deputies that in my opinion they should be more concerned with the ordinary interests of the people than in the purchase of military equipment and in exporting money for guns, air planes and bombing planes. Some Deputy, I do not know from which side of the House, said to-night that if the passing of this Estimate would put more money into circulation it would have a good effect in his opinion. It is going to put money into circulation in other countries and it is going to add to our national debt and increase taxation. It is because of the very futility and uselessness of it that I oppose this Estimate.
I find myself, in the main, in agreement with the previous two or three speakers. It comes very strange from the Government that they should plunder the people of the little residue of property they have left to put up an annual expenditure of about £9,000,000. For what purpose? The Minister for Defence knows that when his Party were in opposition their principal theme was: what do we want an army for in this country; what do we want so many police for? The only use the Army was put to in this country in the Minister's opposition days was to track down Republicans. Is the Minister going to use the Army for that purpose now? That is the one purpose for which it is going to be used. With whom are we going to war? The Taoiseach said within the last fortnight, and I was glad to hear him say it, that this country is as free as any country in the world. I agree with him in that. But why does it not function as a free country? Is the Taoiseach, who is also Minister for External Affairs, acquainted with the secret diplomacy of Europe? If he is, can we get anything from the Minister for Defence as to the dangers ahead in Europe and as to why this requisition of £9,000,000 is being made?
Are we going to engage in war on either side? If we are, let us consider what it means? We cannot act the coward. If we lead Great Britain to believe that we are going to support her in war, and we find after the first shots have been fired that our little Army is depleted, are we going to take the next step, the obvious step, the same as Great Britain and France will take and as countries on both sides will take, namely, conscript the youth of this country? We should know before the House passes this Estimate whether there are any secret commitments. I have not the least doubt that there are. What Great Britain lost on the swing boats she is going to make on the round-abouts. The annuities question, which was supposed to have been settled, is now coming up in a different and far more dangerous guise. The Irish people are now being asked to foot the bill for national defence. What the previous speaker said is quite true, and no Englishman will disguise the fact. An Englishman said to me 25 or 30 years ago that even if Ireland were a free country, if Great Britain were threatened she would have to occupy and fortify Ireland, not for the purpose of invading Ireland, but for the defence of Great Britain.
The fortifications at Lough Swilly and Bere Island, which were taken over with such a flourish of trumpets, will not defend Ireland. Will the guns at Cork or Lough Swilly defend Limerick or Galway? Of course, they will not. These defences, which are being maintained and for which we are going to pay, are imperial defences. I have no objection to contributing our share for imperial defence, but let us call it that. Let it be imperial defence, and let it be only our share. Is £9,000,000 our share? The ratio has been put at 66 to 1. This is £9,000,000 for imperial defence. How has the Government anticipated events? Anybody who has read European history or anybody who lived through the Great War and who saw the atmosphere in which the Treaty of Versailles was negotiated and signed and saw the populations of Germany and Italy increasing, knew that some day the reckoning would come, because their problem is similar to the problem we have in this country, but on a considerably larger scale. It is a question of dividing the ranches amongst the congests. That is the problem in Europe to-day. We knew that that time was coming. The Government should have known that this country would be called upon to face privations even as a neutral nation.
What have we been doing during the last six or seven years? Making this country unfit to defend itself. The one way we could defend ourselves was to produce plenty of food. We are not equipped for doing that now if war broke upon us to-morrow, thanks to the Government which now wants to fleece the taxpayers to the tune of £9,000,000, and which has been fleecing them for the last six years. Half a million calves, that normally would be worth £2,000,000 the moment they were dropped, were worth nothing under the policy of the Minister and his colleagues. That is the essence of the defence. Great Britain's greatest trouble at present is to secure her bread line, to keep the trade routes of the world open, so that her food supplies will be safe in time of war. We did everything possible to destroy those supplies in the last six or seven years in the economic war that considerably reduced the national income. That is acknowledged to have reduced the national income in agriculture, in transport, and now in housing. The Government are going to set up commissions to inquire into these phases of economic life so as to know how the problems confronting the country should be solved. While our economic life is in such a bankrupt condition, we are going to spend £9,000,000 on defence—£9,000,000 on war, as previous speakers have rightly put it. The money is not to be spent as a national insurance or with a view to increased productivity but to buy warlike commodities in a foreign country. The Minister and his colleagues ought to be aware of the financial and economic disaster to this country a year ago when £10,000,000 of working capital was gathered up and exported. The export of that £10,000,000 a year ago has produced the housing inquiry of to-day. When we, in the Dublin Corporation, went to look for money for housing we could not get it.
We cannot debate housing in Dublin on the Army Estimate.
If the savings of the people are to be raided for a loan for war, then there will be no savings left to build houses for the people.
This money is not being provided by way of loan. It is being voted in the ordinary way.
It is worse still if it is to take the form of increased revenue.
The Vote has nothing whatever to do with housing or the difficulties of the Dublin Corporation.
Except that we are asked to put up £90,000 for A.R.P. I do not think that any European nation would be aware of our existence if we did not start to shout about it. I do not think that the Germans would risk one plane on a voyage to Dublin if we did not advertise the fact that we have five bombing planes. The best form of defence we could adopt would be for the Minister for Defence to take out these planes ceremoniously beyond the Baily lighthouse and dump them into the sea. Their possession only attracts enemies or potential enemies, and they defend nothing, even with the "Muirchu" thrown in.
It would be interesting to hear from the Minister for Defence who is going to attack us. I have a recollection of blood-curdling speeches being made in favour of this country joining in the sanctions ramp against Italy. That was done only when Great Britain had done it. Great Britain found that that was wrong and, automatically, we found it was wrong. When we went down to the poor "mugs" at the cross-roads, we shouted "Up the Republic". Everything of an international character done here is obviously dictated by Great Britain without any sign that we are called into consultation or that any suggestion as to an Irish viewpoint is made. The same thing happened when a request from various quarters was put to this House that we should recognise the Nationalist Government of Spain. We did not do it. The Government Party voted against its recognition, but they recognised it when Britain had decided to recognise it. If we have a secret agreement with Great Britain—and it is quite obvious we have—and if our Army of 30,000 men and five bombing planes are going to be the terror of Hitler, the sooner we know it and the sooner Hitler knows it the better. He will not sleep soundly after he hears it. We heard a lot before about secret agreements. If there is not a secret agreement in this case, why are we to spend money defending the very ports that Britain defended before? Why do we not develop a foreign policy of our own instead of waiting to be told what to do by Great Britain? So far as I can judge the situation, if Great Britain goes down, we shall go down with her Acknowledge that fact. Do not be trying to wink with one eye that you are republicans and separatists while, with the other, you are plotting imperialism. We can be national, we can be republican and, at the same time, recognise our geographical position. If we had an intelligent foreign policy, we might not only be able to contribute something internationally, but we might be able to influence Britain's foreign policy and help to straighten out many awkward situations. There is no sign that we have a foreign policy at all though we keep up a Ministry of External Affairs and send a delegate to Geneva now and again to attend a banquet. No useful purpose has ever been served by our Ministry of External Affairs. I should like to have an unequivocal declaration from the Minister that no secret agreement exists. I should also like to have an unequivocal declaration from him that we are in no way committed to war.
In making that declaration I think we should be told by the Minister why Mr. Dulanty was summoned the other day to a conference by the British Secretary for Dominions. What transpired at that conference? Did Mr. Dulanty give any assurance of neutrality, help, hostility or what attitude it was that he adopted there? This is not a question to be decided when the Government, the Minister and his colleagues will have dictatorial powers here under a Coercion Act, with 30,000 of a standing Army, and with no freedom left to the citizens. That would not be the time for us to wake up some morning and find that we are committed to a foreign country and that when our Army of 30,000 is knocked out the youth of this country will be conscripted to go to a foreign country whether they like it or not. The whole thing seems to me to be very ominous. So many things are happening at the same time that they really seem ominous.
I hope the Minister will make it definitely clear that they are no secret commitments. Whether there are or not the country will have to get a declaration and they can take that declaration for what it is worth. The logic of events, as far as I can read them, obviously point to a secret agreement. They obviously point to the fact that what will happen will be that the money that was formerly paid in annuities is going to be doubly paid now in expenditure for war preparations for imperial defence entirely out of proportion to what our fair share should be. I believe whether the cause is just or unjust, whether Britain's enemies are our enemies or not, that we are committed to take our stand in Britain's wars whether we like it or not, and that we have to pay for it even though we have not the money now to stock our land or to build much-needed houses.
It is quite apparent from Deputy Belton's speech that he is not an expert on foreign affairs.
We will hear the expert now.
In that respect I do not think there is any Deputy among the average Deputies of the House who is an expert in these affairs. If the Government believe that there is real need for making preparations for our defence, or that we are in a vulnerable position, then the necessity for voting this money should be clear to us, having regard to the present situation in Europe. I believe the House will readily agree to the amount required under this particular Vote. The chief reason why I got on my feet is to express my disappointment with the attitude of the Dublin Corporation on the question of defence. In that connection I should like to tell Deputy Belton that he would be doing a much greater service to this country and making a much more generous and patriotic contribution towards her defence plans if he exercised his influence on the Dublin Corporation in expediting plans for the defence of the civilian population in the City of Dublin.
The responsibility for putting the defence position or problem that exists before the Dáil is that of the Government. The opposition that this Vote encounters here, I am quite sure, may be laid entirely at the doors of the Government. Any opposition that this Vote for the defence of the City of Dublin meets with here is entirely due to the Government. This is a Vote for a total expenditure of £3,252,199. It is presented to us with the words of the Taoiseach that it is the first time that any Government had to come in here in the face of an international situation with the responsibility that they have to provide for our defence. That is what the Taoiseach said as reported in column 718 of the Official Debates of the 16th February last. The Debate that has taken place here on the defence question during the past month or two is attributable to the utter futility, incompetence and lack of clearness on the part of the Government in putting before this Parliament what it is we are called upon in the present circumstances to defend. From what are we to defend these things? What machinery we are to use in order to carry out that defence? These things have not been put before us by the Government.
The Minister must know that there is no section of our people and no Party in this House that will not join in one solid body to defend any interest in this country that is seriously jeopardised. I invite the Minister or any member of the Front Bench or of the Fianna Fáil Party to challenge that statement. If there is any question upon which unity of purpose, unity of outlook and unity of understanding is necessary it is the question of what we have to defend here—what it is that we are likely to have to defend these things against and the machinery by which we have to defend them. There is no question upon which greater unanimity, understanding and approval can be got, than upon that question.
If the interests of this country are jeopardised in any way or threatened from a military point of view, we may not be able to understand who or when or in what particular circumstances these dangers will come to our door-steps. But we could have some kind of common understanding of what they were likely to be. We are not so fond of splitting hairs here, arguing for the sake of arguing, that such problems as threaten this country cannot be clearly seen and understood by every section of the people of this country and by every Party in this House. Has the Minister for Defence or has the Taoiseach in the several speeches which both have made to this House on matters concerned with defence given any chance to the House to understand these matters clearly? Have they told the House what threatened this country in a military way? Do they think that you could have the type of discussion through a conference of all sections of the House that you have had if in any earnest, sensible way a possible threat to this country was set before the House from the Government Benches? You could not have such a discussion as we have had if that matter had been put before us in the manner I suggest. When you have the type of discussion that we have had here it is because the Government have failed to state it.
It is because of the Opposition.
It is because the Government have failed to state it.
It is because the Opposition will not see—deliberately will not see.
Will not see what?
Will not see the policy or understand it. It has been put before them a thousand times.
Will the Minister for Defence, when he is replying, take the debates that there have been in the House and pick out the sentences that have been spoken either by the Taoiseach or by himself, or any group of sentences taken here and there from any of the various debates, and string those together and tell us that that is what they want to say in a simple way? If he does that, he will be doing something to clarify the situation. But if the Minister wants to challenge the bona fides of the people on these benches, or of the people on any benches in this House, in discussing any defence problems that this country has, and how they should be faced up to, then I would not be able to comment on an attitude such as that in words which would be within the realm of Parliamentary language. I think it is an insolent thing to suggest to any Party in this House that they are not prepared to sit down and discuss in a simple and sincere way what those problems are, and then to pass on from that to discuss equally sincerely and equally simply what should be done to prepare us to face those problems. If the Minister would even now, before this debate ends, take from the words which have been spoken in this House here a group of sentences which he can tell us enshrines in any clear or simple way what the problem is—to deal only with the problem—then I do assure him that he would have made some advance.
What is the position? The Taoiseach has stated that the Government which is now putting those matters before the House is the first Government which has had responsibility for doing that. Surely the first Government—or the Government calling itself the first Government—which had to shoulder an onerous responsibility like that, should come before us and be prepared to discuss the details in a simple and clear way. The Minister for Defence says, as reported at column 766 of the Official Debates of 16th February:
"I do not think I should delay the House too long in going into all the details of our defence programme. As a matter of fact, I am not going to do it."
He winds up on a note which I hope suggests that he does feel his responsibility in this particular matter, because as reported in column 769 and 770 of the 16th February, he tells us that we cannot all run the show. He tells us that:
"Even the Minister cannot go into every detail of matters that concern his Department, and he has to entrust the work, in my own case, for instance, to certain army officers and civilians. They carry out a lot of the work connected with defence."
Continuing, he says:
"The point I am coming to is that I have to trust some military officers in connection with some of the points in the defence programme I put before the Dáil last night. I also have to trust civilians for their calculations as to cost, etc., and the Government have to trust me to go into the whole matter in fair detail. They had to accept it that the document I put before you and the figures I gave as to cost were a fair representation of what was going to be done. They had to trust my judgment, after hearing the arguments, that the plan proposed was the best in our present circumstances."
What is wrong with that?
Nothing is wrong with it. I think it is a sign of developing sanity and developing responsibility on the part of the Minister. This is a thing to which I urged that some attention should be given when we discussed the Army Estimate, I think it was in July of last year. I asked that we would not have the lives frightened out of us by imagining that the country could be blown to pieces, that Dublin could be blown out of existence by some military force or another. I asked that if there were problems they should be posited to us here in this House; that we should have some understanding as to who were the expert people that were telling us those were the problems which we had to face, and that we should have some expert people who would tell us the lines upon which those problems had to be faced. I said at that particular time that if there was anything on which we in this country had to congratulate ourselves in connection with the Army it was that through all the vicissitudes of years that are past the Army had been able to maintain its morale. The officers who are in charge of the Army to-day are not only the same officers who formed the National Army in the beginning, but you might say the same officers who controlled the Army during the fight for the liberation of this country from the British. The only thing which can be deduced from the fact that to-day we have the same officers, under a very different Government, is that they are the men who are fit for the job. But it was pointed out that for six years past they have not been allowed to utilise their intelligence, they have not been able to act as professional people, stating in a professional way what the military dangers to this country were, or stating in a military or professional way what was the machinery that should be set up in this country to combat those dangers.
It appears that the Deputy knows very little about that.
The Minister is not helping us to know much about it.
The Deputy should not pretend to know what he does not know.
If the Minister would pretend to tell us about the things for which he is responsible we would listen to him very gratefully. There are some things about which I would be grateful if the Minister would listen to me for a moment. We have been told that the Minister has had to depend upon some military officers in connection with the defence programme here. I should like the Minister to say, first and foremost, which of the military dangers to this country set out from the Front Bench here are those envisaged by our military staff as the dangers to this country? Nowhere in what I would call the front Ministerial window, where prominent parts of the problem are displayed, do I find anything which I would expect to have been put before the Minister by his military staff. In the second place, there are substantial junks of this Army which are told we are to have, and substantial junks of the cost of that Army for which I do not believe any Military Council is responsible. The seriousness of the matter which we are discussing may be judged by the statement of the Minister on 15th February, 1939, when—as reported in column 530—he told us:—
"Officers of my Department have made considerable progress with plans for providing facilities whereby the non-essential 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."
Continuing, he said:—
"Arrangements for the continuance of the education of evacuated children are being considered."
I should like to know, and I think the House would like to know, in circumstances where this type of thing is contemplated, to what extent we are hearing something in the individual imagination of the Minister for Defence, something in the individual imagination of the Taoiseach, something arising out of either the policy or propaganda of the Government—to what extent we are being treated to things arising out of such considerations, or to what extent it is a statement with regard to our military problems served up by the proper Army Staff? For one thing, it is certain that in matters where we might expect to be told the simple truth, we are not told it.
The Minister, when dealing with the Supplementary Estimate on February 15th, 1939, said (col. 524, vol. 74 of the Official Reports) that at the present time we have an Army of 21,000 all ranks. He also indicated (col. 523) that when the expansion which has been planned reaches its maximum we will have an Army of 30,000 all ranks. The Minister told us that at the present time we have an Army of 21,000 all ranks. That is what he told us on the 15th of February, but that was not so. The real truth was that our Army, on that particular date, for the year to which it referred, was only 49 per cent. of 21,000. The Minister, when telling the Dáil of the size of the Army, exaggerated it by about 50 per cent. In fact, when he told us that the Army was 21,000, the actual size of the Army was about 10,230. When I was speaking—adverting to that aspect of the Minister's statement—I drew attention to the fact that the Volunteer Reserve, which, as indicated in the Minister's provisional Estimate, was intended to be 12,800 last year and intended to be 15,800 this year, would be about 2,000, according to the figures given. Then, however, we had, in respect of the amount deducted below strength, £80,000 from £95,000, leaving £15,000 as the amount to be spent last year— representing a little over 2,000 instead of 12,000. The Minister intervened, then, to say that was not so—that the typing of the provisional Estimate was done in a hurry in his office, that the figures of £80,000 and £15,000 had been transposed, that they had anticipated that 12,000 would be the number of the Volunteer reserve last year but that, actually, it was 9,200 "in some way or another". Now, I do not know why you can have men in an Army "some way or another" but I would challenge the Minister that he had not 9,200, in any way or another, in the Volunteer reserve last year and that the figures implied by the official statement, under Y2 of the present revised and the present submitted Estimate, which is exactly the same as what was submitted in the provisional Estimate, indicate what the Army strength was. I submit to the Minister that the statement made in February last, that we had an Army of 21,000, was a statement that was absolutely incorrect and that, on the same basis, the figures he circulated to-day, where he indicated that, in the Volunteer Force, there would be 15,804 officers and men, bringing the total Army, when mobilised, to 25,501, is misleading and incorrect— that the Army will not be that strength and that it will be smaller by at least 6,000, than is indicated here.
I say that we cannot even get the simple facts that are definitely available. I can understand men having different ideas as to our dangers and having different ideas as to how these dangers should be tackled. We may even understand Ministers speaking with different minds and different voices here, but we cannot understand, let us say, a defence council, as a whole, making plans that can be spoken about with different voices; and we do expect that when we are discussing the voting of such a substantial amount of money as £3,250,000—such a complete revolution in spending on the Army— the House will not be misled as to the actual expenditure on the Army to the extent of 25 per cent. The Minister told us, on February 16th last—column 756, volume 74:—
"I think that our first and most urgent line of defence, that our most urgent work, is the equipment of an Army that will be able to defeat the invading forces, were they to set foot here on our shores."
I do not know whether the Minister for Defence has been really examining stuff put up to him by the Army chiefs or whether he has been going back and reading H.G. Wells, but so far as anything he has said in this House is concerned; it could easily be taken that he has been doing nothing but reading H. G. Wells and allowing his imagination to run riot. I admit that if you take H.G. Wells in one hand, and the daily papers in the other, and read what is happening in, say, South Eastern Europe, a man's imagination could easily run riot. I can quite imagine that happening, but I cannot understand a man such as the Minister, who has a group of responsible colleagues in the Cabinet with him, and who has the whole Army staff and the general atmosphere of an Army entourage, allowing his imagination to run riot in that way. Does the Minister sincerely intend us to take it that he has been advised that the invasion of this country by forces that can land on foot is the thing that is first to be feared here—the thing that has to be specially prepared for? If so, why is it that the City of Dublin is being asked to provide £90,000—or whatever it is—for evacuation purposes or A.R.P. business in the City of Dublin? Why is it that evacuation against an invading air force is the thing that is planned? We are not told anything about arrangements for, say, the evacuation of Galway, the evacuation of Cork, or parts of Kerry or Waterford, against an invading force. The very presentation of the different aspects of the Minister's case shows that there is neither rhyme, reason nor sincerity in the whole thing.
If we take the Minister's statement as a whole, there is no evidence of military staff work. There is no evidence of military thought. We are driven to the conclusion that politics is what is being played at, just as they were for the last six years, that the professional Army mind in this country is made to take a back seat, and that politics is what is being played at in this question of defence. It is only here and there that we get, in an odd way, a glimpse which shows that there is any understanding of what our defence problems may be. We get it from the Taoiseach. On column 720 of the Report of the Debates for the 16th February he is given as saying:—
"Trade between Ireland and Britain during a time of war would be essential for the continuance of the economic life here and, because it would be so, it might be regarded as a matter of vital importance by some outside country that might be at war with Britain, and despite any declaration of neutrality that might be made on our part, the nation whose interest would lie in the stopping of that trade might try to disorganise it and prevent it, and might try, for example, to bomb our harbours and wharves, and otherwise prevent the supplies that we would be sending from here, in pursuance of our normal trade, from being sent out from here."
Even the Taoiseach cannot keep on a straight note because, as part of our problem, he says:—
"We also have to envisage the possibility of Britain trying to make use of our territory for reasons for which we do not want her to make use of it."
Now we have the Minister for Defence telling us here that a ground striking force to resist an invader who puts his feet on our territory is the first and most urgent thing we want here. We have the Taoiseach putting his finger, in the first place, on an interest vital to us, and, in the second place, on the one thing that nobody here has suggested would bring us into a position of being charged with a breach of neutrality. The Taoiseach's view is that if that carrying on of our normal economic life did, in the opinion of any hostile power, bring us into a position in which we are infringing our neutrality in a war in which Great Britain and they might be engaged, what they would do would be to bomb us. I think it is an insult to the intelligence of the Dail here to suggest that our Maginot Line is not on the sea or in the air. To come here asking us to vote £3,250,000 for an Army that will only be wanted when an invader has put his foot on the soil of this country, is the kind of thing that the Minister can thank for not being able to get the kind of reception he would like in this House, and that he might naturally expect to get if he were dealing seriously with the question of defence.
The whole attitude of the Government is such as to suggest to this House, and I am sure to the people of the country, as a whole that there is no military danger at present. If there is, then surely the Government is the most inconsequential, the most incompetent, and the most insincere group that ever held responsibility in this country. How can we think that the liberties of the people of this country that have been spoken of with such feeling as things worth fighting for for the last 700 years, and that would inevitably be fought for, if necessary, for another 700 years—how can we think that these things are in jeopardy when the subject is treated by the Executive Council to-day, by the Minister and the Taoiseach in the Dáil, which is the custodian of these liberties, in the way in which it was treated? It is humiliating, and it makes us full of concern to think that an Assembly which we want to keep democratic which is understood to be democratic and which consists of no element but the freely elected representatives of the people, can be told by the Minister in this fashion that serious dangers threaten us, dangers which will entail sacrifices and for which even in the distressful financial condition in which the country is placed at the moment we have to pay £3,250,000 this year. The Minister must make up his mind that nothing can defend this country except the strength of the people, guided by their national intelligence, and that if the Government continue to befuddle the national intelligence with regard to the question of defence, any strength which the country may have is going to be wasted and broken and no front bench of Ministers can make up either in defensive strength or in general intelligence for the defensive strength and intelligence of the people as a whole. The Minister charges the Opposition in an oblique way with interfering with the success of his defence plans. He said in the Dáil on February 16th, column 769 of the Official Debates:—
"The Opposition, if they want to use it, have a power that would make it very difficult for the Government here to get all the troops that we require."
I wonder what was the Minister thinking of. If the Minister thinks anybody sitting on any bench here is going to interfere with the recruiting scheme for the Army, then I do not know where the inspiration or the roots of his thoughts would come from. The Army is an institution that has been, in spite of a very difficult history, completely detached from Party politics in any way. Even his handling of the Army, in particular, has not brought it within the realm of politics. If anything is going to bring the Army within the realm of politics, it is the way in which the defence problems are being treated at the moment, and have been treated, I might say, since last summer by the present Government. The Minister may have his feelings about things that are said, either about the treatment of the defence problem or the organisation of the Army, but I think he ought to be able to persuade himself that we want to keep the Army out of politics. He ought to be able to persuade himself that we are concerned with any defence difficulties that this country may have. If he can make any small attempt to persuade himself of these things, then I think he should even if he had to defer addressing himself to the question of winding up the debate until to-morrow, review what has been said from his side of the House on our defence problem, and make an extract from these statements that, strung together, might indicate that they have something clear in their minds that they want to convey to the House. Up to this there has been no such thing. They have taken the alleged defence difficulties and thrown them here in the utmost possible confusion that they could be thrown, so that every type of objection has to be raised about the various aspects of the proposals, and every type of criticism that might be made about our general defence position. It is the Government's responsibility to see that nothing is misunderstood with regard to defence here, that, as far as possible, any confusion would be taken out of our discussions. We are opposing this measure because we have seen nothing in its treatment by the Government that would show us there is any problem to be dealt with. There is an absence of sincerity, an absence of conviction, and an absence of plan in circumstances in which there should be neither one nor the other.
I want to draw the Minister's attention to a matter of minor importance. At least it seems insignificant in comparison with the questions of high policy discussed this evening. We do not feel called upon at this side of the House to justify our attitude in voting for this Estimate. At all events some of the speeches we heard were rather interesting, if amusing. I was listening to Deputy Belton's speech, and he seemed to be trying to find out from the Government whether we were pro-British or anti-British. It seemed to be insignificant what the answer was. We were rapped on the knuckles about Abysinnia, and the Deputy then said that the question of defence was comparatively unimportant, because if the British went down we would go down, and therefore we ought to be all pro-British. I do not accept it as axiomatic that if the British go down we would go down. From that point of view I think we are justified to a much greater extent in voting for the Estimate. The average Irishman can see a good many possibilities in the situation. I think one of the most tragic things about Czecho-Slovakia was the fact that they were not given a chance to fight. Another tragic side to recent events was the report that so many officers of the Czech Army who, we are given to understand were brave men, committed suicide. At all events this Vote indicates that if we are attacked by any big bully our attitude would be that of the Abysinnians, the Arabs and the Chinese. The Chinese may be a small nation from the military point of view, and in that sense are in the category of some small nations in Europe that succumbed at the first suggestion of attack. This Vote, however, indicates what our attitude would be if attacked. At all events we are not going to present an entirely unprotected front to a potential enemy. What I want to draw the Minister's attention to concerns the question of marriage allowances for soldiers. I have been approached by members of the first Irish-speaking Battalion on this subject. It may seem comparatively unimportant as I suppose soldiers' existence cannot be related to high policy.
The sub-head relating to pay is being debated separately, and the Deputy will have another opportunity of discussing it.
I will not take up the time of the House again, and I hope the Minister will take a note about it.
I am as interested as Deputy Bartley in the defence of the country. We have an Estimate here for over £3,000,000. My honest opinion is that even with an Estimate of £3,000,000 it does not matter who comes here, as all the opposition we could put up would not be worth talking about. They can walk in at any time. I wish to refer to the sub-head A3—Expenses of Equitation Teams at Horse Shows.
On a motion to refer back general policy rather than particular items should be discussed.
I suppose the Sluaighthe is part of general policy.
There is a motion to refer back that particular item. I take it the Deputy does not want to duplicate the debate.
Are they not portion of the Army?
I will hear the Deputy on that.
I believe that that portion of the Estimate, which amounts to a good deal, is really ridiculous. There is an Estimate for £2,000—Payments to Secretaries of Sluaighthe. I should like if the Minister could say how these secretaries are being paid, or whether the whole Sluagh in some cases really consists of the secretary. From what I know at present it does. As to recruiting down the country and going through the different small towns with a pipers' band looking for recruits, I do not know whether that is for the Sluaighthe or for the regular Army. In regard to the Sluaighthe, or the Volunteers so called, the Minister should consider the matter seriously, as they are costing a good deal of money.
He should take it seriously and if he intends to have a Volunteer force, he should start some form of reorganisation. Promises were made some years ago that Volunteer halls would be erected in different districts, but, instead, halls are being engaged for the ordinary training of this Volunteer corps. I should like to know what number of men attend, say, a few halls in each province, for any particular drill at present; what rent is being paid for these halls; and where halls have been erected, what is the cost of them and what use will be made of them in future, because, so far as I can see the Volunteer force in the country is a force. It is no harm to have it a dead force because I could never see that the type of men in that force could be any use to this country. I should like to know what the £2,000 is being paid for, and, if there is a proportion of the money for the regular Army being spent in the training and organisation of the Volunteer force, what it is. I should like to know whether the bands going through the country at present are recruiting for the regular force, or for the Volunteer force. If they are recruiting for the Volunteer force, is a portion of the money for that purpose being charged to the Volunteer force?
As to the main Estimate of £3,000,000, I firmly believe that there is not sufficient information before us to show that this sum should be expended in the way in which it is proposed to expend it. The item for engineers' stores has been reduced. We have taken over certain defences in this country, supposedly for the good of the country, and engineers' stores should play a prominent part, but the Estimate has been reduced from £12,865 to £5,650. If we are sincere about defence, how is it that these stores are reduced by that amount? I do not like to see the cost of stores going up, but I want to get some idea from the Minister as to why these stores are reduced by £7,000. It is the one item that should go up, if we take defence matters seriously. I believe that we are not getting value for the amount of money that we are asked to vote, and, so far as the £3,000,000 are concerned, we might as well throw them into the sea.
What are we able to do with it? It is not our job to defend this country. There is no nation going to say a word to us. The defence of this country is a job for the people with whom the Taoiseach made his agreement recently. It is up to them to protect themselves and they can protect themselves through this country. No matter what Hitler, Mussolini or any other person comes we will not be able to stop him. In view of the country's financial condition, in view of the position of agriculture and in view of the unemployed and the distress in the country, I think the Government should consider that matter seriously. The country is certainly taking it seriously. We have paid the first instalment of £10,000,000 for the three ports. We are due now for another instalment and it is possible that, inside another few months, we will have another instalment staring us in the face. I believe the value we can get for the £3,000,000 is not worth it. We are a very small country and we are not able, as an island, to defend it as countries which are able to put up 50 times as much money as we can. We are not defending it for ourselves, and the Government know it. We are defending it for another country which they always said was their enemy.
I do not altogether agree with my colleague, Deputy Brodrick. I think we ought to have defences of some kind or another in this country, but a funny position has arisen, with the present turmoil and trouble from one end of the world to the other. Defence is a thoroughly big problem which is made all the more troublesome here because we are a small island divided into two parts. The Minister comes along with an Estimate of £3,250,000 to defend this island, but he does not tell us in what way he is going to defend it. In one breath we are told that we are going to stand on our own and be neutral, and in the next that we are to be an ally of the British. I cannot quote from the different statements from time to time, but in very unmistakable terms we are told that we would be almost an ally of the British in time of war.
The trouble I find with this Estimate is that the circumstances of the country do not warrant the spending of £3,250,000, and surely do not warrant the spending of that sum without the House and the people being told what is the system or the line of defence. We have not been told that, and we have not got the slightest idea of what it is. We are completely befogged as to what is the system of defence. I hold that a line Army is of very little use in this country in present world conditions, and that if we are going to spend money, most of the money should be spent on anti-aircraft, and that so far as that is concerned we should have the best technicians in the world. Eight thousand line men, no matter how many more Volunteers you have, are not going to be much use. This country is certainly not going to be invaded by any foreign people whatever. If there is going to be any invasion, it will come by air. Everybody who read the papers, or has followed the conditions in Europe for the last six or eight years, knew that some of the Central European Powers were going to be attacked. I am assuming that we are allied with England in this thing. It is in the air that all these European Powers are most formidable. We are not providing in this Estimate for sufficient anti-aircraft guns. I do not want to say that you should spend more money. I do say that the money we propose to spend is even too great. Whatever we do, we ought to provide adequately against air attack.
I am sure the Minister has given this matter considerable thought. Has he given it enough thought? Is this thing purely haphazard, or has he done it after consulting perhaps the British, or some other Powers? Is he spending this money to please some other people? If he is not, I cannot understand for a moment what this Estimate is about. What good would 30,000 men be in this country? Not worth a match, except to cope with internal trouble. I do not believe it would be worth 30/-, not to mind £3,000,000, to have 30,000 men here in order to stop the country being conquered by any other nation, if you except a few small countries. If England were wiped out, any of the big Powers could come here and take over this country. Let the Minister tell us that he has some idea of how this country is going to be defended. Do not let him tell us, as he tried to in the past, that we are going to be neutral. So long as the people would not be let go hungry, I would stand for any taxation in order to see that there would be a decent defence. But I will not stand for any expenditure unless we are told what we are doing.
I ask the Minister to take his courage in his hands, and let there be no more politics so far as this country is concerned. We have had quite enough of that sort of thing. The situation is very serious in Europe and all over the world. It is as serious for us as for other nations. I do not care what we may have said about England in the past, or how great an enemy she might have been in the past. Any amount of countries all over Europe have been enemies one with the other; they have been cutting each other's throats, and they fought against one another; but when the time comes to protect themselves, they try to do the right thing. Let us try to do the right thing.
I am opposing this Vote on this ground: that the system of defence put up is hopeless from the point of view of defending three-quarters of this island. If you had the whole island, it would be much cheaper to try to defend it, but in the position we find ourselves, it is just hopeless. Let the Minister tell us if there is any alliance—I am sure there must be. I hope there is, but if the Minister does not tell us, then why in the name of God are we going to vote for something that is very foolish? It looks very foolish to spend £3,000,000 trying to defend three-quarters of an island. What can the Minister do, even with 30,000 men—the whole Volunteer reserve force, officers and all? He cannot do anything. It is really very foolish, and I would like him to take the House and the people of the country into his confidence. Let him stop his political play-acting and tell the country what he means to do. Unless he does, I could not be a party to the spending of £3,000,000. Let me emphasise that the air is the principal thing, especially for us, because no soldiers are going to land here to take this island, except they have blown England and some of the other countries off the map. I will have to oppose this expenditure until I hear a more satisfactory explanation from the Minister.
I would like to join with those who have already protested against the extremely casual manner in which the Minister introduced this Estimate. As has already been pointed out, it is the customary thing in most countries that, when an Estimate of this character is introduced, a general explanation of Government policy is indicated. The Minister's introductory statement consisted very largely of figures, without in any way indicating the Government's policy on this very important matter at this time. One of the matters before the House and the country lately was the question of the defence of the civil population. This Estimate shows a reduction in that figure of £66,000 compared with last year, and we have not had a word of explanation from the Minister as to the reason for that. Recently, in reply to a debate on the subject, he was able to satisfy himself, at least, that the Department was proceeding with the matter, and yet we have this Estimate here, with a reduction of £66,000, roughly two-thirds of what was voted last year.
There is one other aspect of the debate to which I would like to refer, and it is the question raised by some members, the question of neutrality. Deputy Norton argued from events that took place in the last war that this country could continue to supply food to Great Britain and yet maintain its neutrality. Possibly, under international law, it could do so, but at the same time, if the Deputy's memory will go back to those years, he must realise that many of the ships of the countries that were supplying food to the United Kingdom at that time were torpedoed in strict defiance of international law. In many cases the ships were torpedoed without notice, and in the most barbarous fashion. Since those days there have been tremendous advances, such as we do not appreciate here, in the construction of aircraft, and they have out that method of dealing with the importation of food on a rather different footing. I have no doubt that in another war efforts would be made to prevent the importation of food, not by the use of submarines and the torpedo, but by the use of aeroplanes and bombs. If any country at war with Great Britain decided to bomb this country, they would make arrangements to do so unless we take adequate steps to prevent it. Whether we can take adequate steps with our small resources is another matter, but we can take some steps and, although we might technically remain neutral, that would obviously, in my opinion anyway not prevent us from being bombed and being treated just as the neutral ships were treated in the last war by submarines.
I would like to add my voice to those who have spoken, in asking the Minister to give us some outline of the Government's policy. I am not posing as a military expert, and whether the best possible use has been made of the sums of money that are going to be spent, I could not say. Presumably, the Government are in the best position to judge that. But the ordinary man in the street seems to think that aircraft and anti-aircraft defences are the lines on which this country, for a start, ought to try and defend herself. I do not think that there is anybody on this side who is anxious to see us involved in a European war, but some speakers seemed to argue that, because we can only spend a small amount, nothing ought to be spent at all. If one can understand the reports of what happened out in China, where there is no anti-aircraft defence, the aeroplanes can come down till they practically can make a certainty of their targets. I am sure the Government are quite alive to the possibility of that occurring here. For instance, not forgetting ourselves, in a war we would prefer that this House should not be selected as a special target. I, personally, would prefer that hostile aircraft planes should be kept at a height from which the chance of hitting this particular House would be as small as possible.
There is one aspect that I did not notice anybody mentioning, except in the most casual and passing fashion. Supposing there was a war to-morrow, it is quite certain that whatever trade we had with foreign countries would immediately disappear, and equally certain that whatever return cargoes we had would also disappear. We would be left in the position that, willy nilly, we would have to trade via England. While we have an exportable surplus of certain foodstuffs, we are absolutely without other foodstuffs. I do not know whether the Deputies are prepared, for the duration of a war, to give up drinking tea and coffee. They will have to be imported into our country.
Some of the speakers seemed to advocate that we should declare that we were not going to send any foodstuffs to England. Whether that would save us or not, is a very nice question. I would like to urge on this House that, if we are not going to send foodstuffs, presumably, we would not get other economic necessities in return. One has only to go down the quays of the river and to look at the ships coming in, and see what is coming in in them. They are not coming in here for fun. They are all loaded with commodities that are used by this country. If a war broke out to-morrow we would be left without any goods coming in, unless we were prepared to trade in return for certain other essential commodities.
Another matter would be that our workers would be left with no employment in this country. Anybody who remembers what happened in the last war knows that the workers had to flock over to the other side, with disastrous results to the industries of this country. Are the Government prepared to face that, as a result of the policy of doing nothing, and sending out nothing, and getting nothing in? I think really the time has come when the Government ought quite frankly to declare their position on this Estimate. Nobody wants to suggest that they should declare their wish to embark on a war, or that they are prepared to embark on a war without knowing what it was about, but, certainly, the ostrich policy of hiding our head in the sand and waiting for events to turn up, can only result in our having missed the tide both ways.
I think Deputy Dockrell's speech is about as wise as the others which came from the opposite benches. He wants us to do something now, but he will not tell us what it is to be. I remember, when I was a boy, there was a certain neighbour of mine who went to court, where he was asked where he was at such a time. He said: "At that time I was over with my friend, so-and-So, discussing the affairs of Europe." I am perfectly certain that all over the country you have neighbours in each others' houses, discussing the affairs of Europe, and I will swear this, that, in 99.9 per cent. of them, there is a much more intelligent discussion of the affairs of Europe than has taken place here this evening.
Deputies have allowed themselves a lot of freedom in discussing the affairs of Europe this evening. I am not going to allow myself the same freedom, because I have some little sense of responsibility.
It is time you got it.
It is alleged that the Government's policy is not known. If there is any portion of the Government's policy that should be known by every member of the House and by every person in the country, it is this question of the Government's defence policy. Here in the Dáil, in April, 1938, there were many discussions upon it. When the Taoiseach came back from London, he emphasised that one of the things that brought him to the point in his decision to go to London to open the negotiations was because he wanted to clear the decks so that we might see what we were going to do to face the crisis which he saw in the immediate future. He outlined generally then what he thought should be our defence policy for the future. Here, about a month ago, when the Supplementary Estimate was being introduced, I outlined the Government's defence policy and I outlined it in writing, carefully, and handed it to the Deputies. Deputy Dillon even thanked me for having handed it to him. I am perfectly certain that every intelligent person in the country, who really wants to know what the Government's policy is, is fully cognisant of that policy, both from the outline given by the Taoiseach and other Ministers and by the outline I gave myself a month ago. However, there is none so blind as those who will not see, and certain of the Deputies opposite say that still they do not know what our defence policy is. You have all the lines of criticism from, say, Deputy O'Higgins to Deputy MacEoin and from Deputy Brodrick to some of the other Deputies on the other side who take a completely opposite point of view. One of the most familiar phrases used on the opposite side to-night by each Fine Gael Deputy who got up was, "I do not agree with Deputy So-and-So,"—who is a member of the same Party—"in regard to a defence policy."
Deputy O'Higgins and some others seemed to indicate their desire for an alliance: to pick upon some European power, in their opinion preferably our nearest neighbour, and have an alliance with them and to depend upon that alliance——
And the Taoiseach.
——for our future safety. Others of them, like Deputy MacEoin, would not touch any other European power with a 40-foot pole, and particularly the British, and wanted the policy of neutrality or isolation. The Government is in this position: that we want neutrality, but we are not such blooming fools as to think that we are going to have neutrality merely by wishing for it. We know perfectly well that, in the present position of the world, there is no use in trying to substitute a wish bone for a backbone. We want to put this country in the position that, if our people want to have neutrality, they will have such force as will make other countries respect that neutrality or think well before they interfere with it. That policy, as I say, has been put forward several times in the Dáil. In view of the allegations that were being made, the Taoiseach on the 20th February last gave a statement to the Associated Press which I will read for Deputies. It appeared in the newspapers here on the 20th February, 1939:
"The desire of the Irish people and the desire of the Irish Government is to keep our nation out of war. The aim of Government policy is to maintain and to preserve our neutrality in the event of war. The best way and the only way to secure our aim is to put ourselves in the best position possible to defend ourselves so that no one can hope to attack us or violate our territory with impunity. We know, of course, that should attack come from a power other than Great Britain, Great Britain in her own interest must help us to repel it."
The Taoiseach also said that the Irish Government "had entered into no commitments with Great Britain. His Government was free to follow any course that Irish interest might dictate."
He told us in the Dáil that neutrality was folly.
The Taoiseach, speaking in the Dáil and replying to some people who thought that we could have neutrality merely by wishing for it, said that the idea that neutral laws would be recognised by the Powers, purely because they were laws was a foolish idea.
It was foolish because we were supplying cattle, he said.
I have the quotation here. It appeared in February and was quoted by Deputy McGilligan on the 29th April—I take it in the year 1938.
"There is a great notion which I can never understand that somehow or another there will be a big war and that we can supply goods to Great Britain, and that somehow we will come through unscathed."
We will not come through unscathed in war in my opinion unless we have such force as will make the countries hesitate to attack us. I do not want to go any further than by saying that in this particular situation I would like to be as small as I could, to avoid any form of notice. If I were found cut I would like to have such arms at my disposal that I would make the other fellow regret that he had found me out.
There was the usual question raised here to-night as to how we should spend money on defence. I went into that fairly fully a month ago, and I do not think there is much necessity to go into it in the same detail again. We are trying to protect our country as best we can with the sum of money at our disposal. Deputy O'Higgins says that he would spend £99 out of every £100 on air defence: that is either on air machines or in anti-aircraft guns. Well, there is no other country in the world doing that at the moment. Out of the £5,500,000 we propose to spend, roughly, about half and half— that is, half on anti-aircraft guns, aeroplanes and so on, and half on other services in the Army. It is foolish to think that you could stop an invasion by air raids—that, if an invading force were to land, we could stop them by bombardment by machine gunning from the air. That would be impossible. Any modern force could move forward, even a few thousand of them, if we had not some ground troops to stop them.
Could we not harass an invading fleet with aeroplanes?
That has to be proved yet. We could harass it, but as, to how much damage could be done to a modern battleship by aeroplanes I do not think any expert knows.
Say a convoy.
That is a different proposition. Some of the things that Deputy Mulcahy said were fantastic. I do not know how modern troops would come if they were going to invade this country at the moment. There are three ways in which they could come: (1) in the air; (2) on the sea; (3) under the sea; but however they come, we should be in a position here to see that a small force—that is, a small force taking European standards—could not be detached here, and walk through this country with impunity. We envisage having about 30,000 men fairly well-armed and equipped, a force that we think will ensure that such a proposition will be thought out very carefully before it is carried out.
It is extraordinary that in the last war vital positions were held by small forces. The Dardenelles were held by a few thousand men at the beginning. If the British troops that went to take the Dardenelles had a few thousand extra soldiers, beyond the marines, it would have meant a great difference in the course of the war following 1915. We are organising our ground forces and air forces. We are spending a certain portion of our money on aircraft and another portion on anti-aircraft guns. It is wrong to call the aeroplanes which we have bombers. It is a popular name for them, but they are really reconnaissance machines. They are not any danger to a European Power because they could not carry a load of bombs that distance. But they certainly are useful for our purpose as reconnaissance machines and as light bombing machines, but they are not bombing planes in the ordinary accepted sense of the term.
Have you no fighting planes?
We have. Deputy Norton, so far as I could find out, felt that it was dangerous to ape, as he called it, highly-armed European forces. I tried to find out from him whether he would spend any money at all in increasing our defence forces at present, but I do not think I got an answer. We are not trying to ape anybody in Europe. Unfortunately, we have to follow their example and endeavour to strengthen our defence forces to a certain degree. We believe that this is a valuable country, that our freedom is valuable, and that our people are prepared to make sacrifices of time and money to see that no one will come in here with impunity. The small European countries that Deputy Norton quoted which were neutral in the last war and which hope to remain neutral in the next are spending very much more of their national resources than we are. I think that whatever security their arms and their will to fight gives them is a greater security than any laws of neutrality or any written treaties at the moment. If the small countries in Europe cannot depend on their own armed forces, they need not rely on anything else.
Deputy Mulcahy raised the question of the strength of our Army, and said it was untrue to say that we had 21,000 men in February last. He based that upon his calculations of the expenditure on the Volunteer force. I want to say in regard to sub-head Y (2) that the figures of £80,000 and £15,000 were not transposed, as I said in my interjection on the Supplementary Estimate. The figure of £15,000 does not correctly represent the expenditure on Volunteer force pay last year. As a matter of fact, it was £15,000 plus £12,000, bringing it up, I think, to £27,000. The figure I gave in the debate on the Supplementary Estimate was 21,000 men. That is made up as follows: We had 601 regular officers and 6,332 other ranks on the 18th February. In the Class A reserve we had 4,463, and in Class B, 366. In the reserve of officers we had 210. In the Volunteers, first line, we had 7,242, in the second line 2,061, and in the third line 281. Then there were 243 Volunteer officers. That is a total of 21,799.
How many first line Volunteers?
How many trained during the year?
There were trained up to the present date, 3,564; that is, 47 per cent. of the first line came up for training. The second line are not called up for training.
Then 53 per cent. of the first line were due for training and did not come up?
That is true. That is one of the reasons why I announced that we were going to change the whole system of training and, instead of having one month initial training and 21 days' annual training as heretofore, we were going to make it three months' initial training and nine days' annual training, so that we would have a better standard of training in the beginning, and it would not be a great interruption of a Volunteer's life to come up for nine days' training in the year. Anybody in any business, whether it is farming or business in a town, knows that a young man can go off for nine days and not be missed.
He can get a cut in his hand or a cold in his head and be off for the same number of days. A farmer's son or a shop assistant might be greatly missed if he were off work for 21 days. It is in order to give the young men of the country an opportunity of coming forward and doing their initial and annual training without serious interuption of their ordinary life that we are making the amendments in the Volunteer scheme which I outlined a month ago. The Deputy says that 53 per cent. of them did not turn up last year I said that was true, but 50 per cent. attendance is as large as I ever heard of in connection with a territorial force. I do not know what has happened in the past couple of years, but, normally, if there is no great fuss, you would get in a territorial force an attendance of from 50 per cent. to 55 per cent. The percentage in the case of the Volunteers has been more or less the same. Even in the case of our Army reservists, you never get a full 100 per cent. turn up. Take the A reserve. Last year we had 4,825, and of those 3,882 turned up, or 70 per cent. In the B reserve, 59 per cent. turned up, and in the Volunteers 47 per cent. The Volunteer officers turned up last year to the extent of 92 per cent, but it is sometimes hard to get the other ranks to turn up.
Does the Minister take into consideration the number of men who have gone over to England?
Some of them have gone there.
Then what about the percentages you are speaking about?
It is the common experience in all countries that in the case of reserves—whether regular army reserves or territorial reserves—you will not get 100 per cent. turn-up. The wives of some of them may be sick, or they may have to stay at home to do some job or other. A turn-up of 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. is regarded as exhaustive, just as a poll of 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. at a general election is looked upon as exhaustive. To return to the point raised by Deputy Mulcahy, we had in February 21,900 men. I took 900 off and gave a round figure of 21,000.
That is a fair estimate of our strength. In preparing the Estimates last year and this year, we gave ourselves latitude. We made provision for 12,000 first-line Volunteers. Deputy Mulcahy knows the difference between making provision in an Estimate and having the men. We gave ourselves elbow-room so that if the men came forward or if we made a drive we should have financial sanction and would not have to come to the House to get more money. The same applies this year. We have made provision for about 15,000 Volunteers of all kinds. It may be that we shall not have that number during the year.
If there is any prospect of fighting, you will not.
If there were a prospect of fighting, we would have them.
That is a reason why they will not turn up. I know that from experience.
Many charges can be levied against the Irish people but it cannot be charged against them that they will not fight.
Your Volunteers would not fight.
The Deputy is an old man and I shall not——
You will get better fighters amongst the old men than amongst the young men.
A lot of them will run after hares and do a bit of poaching but they will not do much more.
They ran after you.
Ran like hares.
In my opinion, the Volunteer force is composed of as fine a set of young Irishmen as ever fought for this country or ever offered to fight for it. In spite of opposition and in spite of sneers from all sides, they came forward. They have spent their time and energy fitting themselves for the defence of their country and, though I hope their courage will never be tested out in a war, if it is, they will stand the test better than a lot of those who affect to sneer at them.
From the point of view of the people of the country, if we want to have a fairly substantial Army, it is much more economic to have a small regular Army and a Volunteer force than even a fair-sized standing Army. The cost of a Volunteer is about £12 a year. A class A reservist costs about £19 10s. A whole-time regular soldier costs about £112, so that you can have ten Volunteers for the cost of one regular soldier. We can have them at a fair standard of training so that, on mobilisation, they can fit in with the regular units and with the reserve units and take the field at once. A number of Deputies have urged that what we should have is a small regular Army with power to expand. That is, in effect, the system we are working. We are providing for a small regular Army this year of about 8,000 men. Around them we propose to group regular Army reservists and Volunteers, so that we can put into the field about 30,000 men, fairly well armed and equipped.
The Minister told us that there were 7,242 first-line Volunteers in the current year. How many of these have been in the Volunteers since the force was instituted? How many of the original members of the force would be amongst them?
I could not say that. So far as I remember, about 12,000 men joined the first line of the Volunteers. We have 7,400 so that we have trained and passed through about 4,000 who are not in the Volunteers at the moment. Another difficulty we had in the old scheme was that men could get out after seven days. We propose that, when a man joins, he will join for a definite period of five years and that, in order to divest himself of his responsibility, he will have to go through the same system as a regular soldier.
Are there any available publications from the Minister's Department showing the intake and the leaving each year in the Volunteer forces.
Those figures would be very useful if we could get them.
I could get them for the Deputy. The figures are available. I have seen them. There were a few points raised by Deputies. Deputy Bartley raised the question of the marriage allowance. I expect he wanted to refer to the number of soldiers who have got married and who are not on the marriage establishment. That is an old-standing grievance, and I am afraid it is one that is likely to continue. In all countries armies are organised on the basis of having a large percentage of unmarried men. Most of our military buildings are for the billetting of single men. We have very few married quarters, and we are limited in that way in the number of married men that we can provide for. A few years ago only 25 per cent. of the total strength of the Army could come on to the married strength. After some agitation we got the Department of Finance to agree to 27½ per cent. At that time, by allowing 27½ per cent., all the married men in the Army were on the married establishment. We provided for practically all soldiers who were married. At the moment we have another crop of those who cannot get in on the 27½ per cent., and who have to live on a single soldier's allowances.
Oh, oh! that is a nice example to set to the rest of the country.
Well, the difficulty is that there is the question of finance, and the amount of money that the country can spend on the Army, and also the question of accommodation.
God help the individual employer who made that sort of statement. Sermons would be preached all over the country on him.
The individual employer makes no difference between the married and unmarried man and that is according to trade union regulations too. I wish we had the marriage allowance for every person in the country that there is for the married soldier but that is not the system anywhere and even if it were we have the very practical difficulty of providing housing accommodation for a whole lot of married soldiers.
What about a rent allowance?
If it is necessary to change around units from time to time and if we were changing them we would like to be able to change the families with them. That is a very natural restriction to the number of married men we can have in the Army. That is my reply to Deputy Bartley.
Before passing from that, would the Minister say if he has any idea as to how much it would cost to provide for the married men who are living off the establishment?
At the moment I do not know what it would cost.
Would it be a very formidable sum?
I would not attempt to say right off. Deputy Brodrick alluded to the reduction in respect of engineers' stores. Last year there was a very big inflation of the engineers' stores because of the purchases we made in taking over the forts. This item came down to normal again. Deputy Benson alluded to the reduction in the A.R.P. We provided for an increase in the Supplementary Estimate. There was an item of £34,000 for A.R.P. and it may be before the end of the year we may have to come forward with another Supplementary Estimate with regard to the A.R.P. and a lot of the other Supplementary Estimates in this Vote dealing with the stores equipment. This Estimate that we are discussing was prepared last December and £34,000 was put down for this year. If the expenditure goes over that we will have to come again to the Dáil. I hope it will go over that. I am sorry that the Deputies representing the city are not helping to make arrangements to spend some of it.
On one occasion here Deputy O'Higgins was very wrath about the A.R.P. He complained that anything had not been done with regard to giving protection against air raids. I told him that the City of Dublin was not half as enthusiastic as he was and no matter what the Government staff may do they cannot get the enthusiasm of the corporation up to the point of spending the money. They are not entitled to pay it at the moment. I assure the corporation on behalf of the Government that whatever money was spent by them would be put right and I am sure the Dáil will back me up in that regard. I only wish that the Dublin Corporation would go ahead and do a little of what they were asked to do in connection with the A.R.P. That is all I have to say in the matter.
There is one question I want to put to the Minister. There is one point of some importance with which he has not dealt at all. That is whether he agrees with the statement of the Taoiseach that in the event of this country being attacked we were bound to have Great Britain as an ally?
Yes, I believe that, but I am not going to accept the Deputy's words.
They are the Taoiseach's words.
What the Taoiseach said was, that in the event of any country attacking this country, Great Britain would, in her own defence, give us a helping hand.
He stated that Great Britain was the one ally that we were bound to have.
In the event of another country attacking us.
And that we should base our plans on that.
That we should base one portion of our plans on that and that in the eventuality of another country attacking us our plans for meeting that particular situation should be based on making the combined forces of England and Ireland as effective as possible.
Those are the only conditions under which we would fight anybody? We are not going to fight anybody who does not attack us?
We are not.
And if anybody attacks us, Great Britain will be an ally?
If anybody other than Great Britain attacks us.
But the Minister has already told us that Great Britain attacking us is out of the question?
I hope so. I believe so.
I accept the Minister's word for that. In other words, the whole expenditure is based upon the possibility of an enemy of Great Britain attacking us, and in that event Great Britain is bound to be an ally of ours?
It is based on the Government's policy, first of all, of maintaining the neutrality of this country against all comers, and, secondly, of being as effective as possible in cooperating with anybody who will come to our assistance in the event of another country attacking us.
Does not the Minister agree that neutrality is not a defence policy? It is a pious hope.
Neutrality is the most important defence policy a country can have.
A defence policy begins when neutrality is violated.
- Belton, Patrick.
- Bennett, George C.
- Benson, Ernest E.
- Broderick, William J.
- Brodrick, Seán.
- Browne, Patrick.
- Burke, Patrick.
- Byrne, Alfred.
- Byrne, Alfred (Junior).
- Cole, John J.
- Cogan, Patrick.
- Corish, Richard.
- Cosgrave, William T.
- Keyes, Michael.
- MacEoin, Seán.
- McGovern, Patrick.
- McMenamin, Daniel.
- Mongan, Joseph W.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Nally, Martin.
- Norton, William.
- Curran, Richard.
- Daly, Patrick.
- Davin, William.
- Dillon, James M.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Esmonde, John L.
- Fagan, Charles.
- Giles, Patrick.
- Gorey, Denis J.
- Hickey, James.
- Hughes, James.
- Hurley, Jeremiah.
- Keating, John.
- O'Donovan, Timothy J.
- O'Higgins, Thomas F.
- O'Neill, Eamonn.
- O'Sullivan, John M.
- Pattison, James P.
- Redmond, Bridget M.
- Reynolds, Mary.
- Ryan, Jeremiah.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Allen, Denis.
- Bartley, Gerald.
- Beegan, Patrick.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Bourke, Dan.
- Brady, Seán.
- Breathnach, Cormac.
- Breslin, Cormac.
- Buckley, Seán.
- Carty, Frank.
- Childers, Erskine H.
- Corry, Martin J.
- Crowley, Tadhg.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- Flynn, John.
- Flynn, Stephen.
- Fogarty, Andrew.
- Fogarty, Patrick J.
- Friel, John.
- Fuller, Stephen.
- Gorry, Patrick J.
- Hannigan, Joseph.
- Harris, Thomas.
- Hogan, Daniel.
- Humphreys, Francis.
- Kelly, James P.
- Kelly, Thomas.
- Kennedy, Michael J.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kissane, Eamon.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- Little, Patrick J.
- Loughman, Francis.
- McDevitt, Henry A.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Maguire, Ben.
- Meaney, Cornelius.
- Moran, Michael.
- Morrissey, Michael.
- Moylan, Seán.
- Mullen, Thomas.
- Munnelly, John.
- O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- O'Loghlen, Peter J.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- O'Rourke, Daniel.
- O'Sullivan, Ted.
- Rice, Brigid M.
- Ryan, James.
- Ryan, Martin.
- Ryan, Robert.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Traynor, Oscar.
- Tubridy, Seán.
- Victory, James.
- Walsh, Laurence J.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Ward, Conn.
I move motion No. 2:—
That the Estimate be reduced by £15 in respect of sub-head A.
I do this for the purpose of getting the Minister to discuss with us where or what exactly are the experts he relies upon in the Army to guide him on professional matters. I drew attention to this matter on the Estimate in July last year. Since then we have what is called the most important aspect of our defence threat, on the one hand, variously regarded and reported here in the House. As far as the Minister himself is concerned, the most serious military threat to this country is the threat of invasion, and if we can understand the Taoiseach on the matter the most serious threat to this country is the bombing of Dublin or any other of our principal ports where food or goods are being transhipped from here to Great Britain.
Now, I want to know, and I am sure the country would want to know, on whose opinion either the one or the other of these positings of our defence problems is based. The country, and some of us here, would expect that the real authoritative estimation of where the threat lay, and which of these threats was the most serious and most urgent to be prepared for and met, would be stated authoritatively and professionally by our senior Army officers or whoever ultimately constituted our General Headquarters' Staff. We would like to know whether, in the estimation of the threat to the integrity of this country, the opinion of the General Headquarters' Staff or of our general officers was taken. In the second place, we have had brought out in recent years the fact that the Reserve as a machinery, with sluagh committees and sluagh secretaries— with particularly the kind of atmosphere that surrounded the Volunteer organisation—was not a scheme of military organisation that was propounded by the General Headquarters' Staff. It was a political idea, just as we are driven to imagine that the aspects of the threat with which this country is faced is probably a political idea also.
Within the last few days we have had the suggestion that our educational policy is being formulated and directed from, let us say, a back room. That would be a most undesirable thing, but we ought particularly to avoid the impression getting abroad that our defence problems are being sized up and our defence plans made in a back room. If we are maintaining an Army that is going to cost us this year £3,250,000 we are entitled, as part of the general organisation, to have general officers and a general headquarters staff who will stand out with prestige, authority and position before the people as the technical and professional experts who are going to guide them in considering their defence position and who will direct any defence operations that may have to be undertaken in this country. I want the Minister to assure the House that he has such a group, that they are not being stifled at the present day, and are not going to be stifled in the future, by the political considerations that stifled them in the past, because it is unquestionably chargeable against the present Government that they have prevented the ordinary operation of the professional minds of our Army experts in the last six years. There is evidence to-day that that mind is either confused as a result of political pressure brought to bear on it or not allowed to work and express itself.
Naturally, we cannot expect to get a statement of policy direct from military officers or from the General Headquarters' Staff. We have to take whatever information filters through from the Front Bench and, particularly, from the Minister. We cannot assure ourselves that we are getting the full benefit of the professional thought of our Army leaders at the present time. Now, with the emphasis that is laid upon the threat to our integrity and our independence, we ought to know and ought to have some picture of our military leaders in this country, if we are going to be paying this particular bill, in order to satisfy the country that there are men of standing and men of definite professional ability, untrammelled in their outlook on their professional affairs, serving their country and its needs in the Defence Department.
As I say, nothing that the Minister has added in his reply to the general debate on defence has cleared very much the position with regard to our policy because while the Minister quotes the Taoiseach as saying that Great Britain must come to our aid if attacked, the Taoiseach, on the 16th February, indicated explicitly, as reported in column 707 of the Official Report, that the British Government have no idea of what we are doing in regard to defence. The point I want to raise is: what assurance can the Minister give the House that the officers at the head of the Army are allowed to use their professional intelligence without being brow-beaten into portraying the situation in a purely political way? It is essential, having regard to the present expenditure and having regard to the statements made on our defence problems, that we should have an assurance that our professional Army staff should be left untrammelled in its judgement, so that the House can get definite, detached professional advice on these matters.
I want to raise a matter on this sub-head definitely relating to the pay of officers and other ranks. I expressly avoided dealing with the matter on the general debate because the motion referring to this sub-head was down here before us. I believe that latterly the Minister has embarked on a very vicious and foolish policy, in his treatment of officers in the Army. The rates of pay for all ranks were fixed very many years ago. The rate then fixed for officers, who were then professional men, was a reasonable rate for professional men. The rates then fixed for other officers were reasonable rates at that time because, in the main, our officers then were naturally inexperienced and untrained. That is a matter of over 15 years ago. Since that time every officer who was in the Army at that time has become a trained man, an expert at his job, a professional officer. There was naturally discontent at the difference in rates of pay between such men and men who had been professional men before they entered the Army. The way the Minister met that situation and that difficulty was by tearing down the rates of pay previously fixed for professional men. That was unjust to both sections of the Army.
The general body of officers, who could not claim to be professional experts 15 years ago, could claim now to be professional experts, and their rate of pay should have been raised to a reasonable rate of pay for professional men, rather than to tear down the rates for professional men. If the situation is as grave as a Vote for £10,000,000 would lead us to believe, then I want to put it to the Minister that the rates of pay for officers in our Army are foolish; that he cannot hope to attract by these rates the right type of people for officers.
During recent months I saw an advertisement appearing in the Irish daily papers, every day for three months, from the Admiralty representing the Air Force. They were advertising day after day in every Irish daily paper for young men between the ages of 17½ and 25 years, subject to medical fitness and having the school standard certificate. They were offering 12/6 per day for a post as observer for five years, with a gratuity of £75 at the end of the period of service. All that was required was that they should be between the ages of 17½ and 25 years, and that they should have the standard school certificate. Alongside that, our Air Force inserted an advertisement in the Irish daily papers looking for officers, these officers to be qualified engineers, holding a diploma from a university. The rate of pay offered was 10/- per day. Ten shillings per day for a qualified university engineer, and 12/6 for a raw schoolboy of 17½ years of age! It may be undesirable that we here should attempt to compete with the British on these lines, but, no matter how undesirable it is, that is the fact, and it is the fact that has got to be faced up to. What is happening at the moment with regard to the conditions of pay, the conditions of service, and the lack of attractiveness in the Irish service, is that the best material for officers is going into the British Army. The Minister spoke of our Volunteers, our soldiers, and young Irishmen generally as being possibly the best fighting material in the world. I subscribe to that, but we are sending ten of them abroad for every one we keep at home. Fifty or 60 per cent. of his Volunteers or reservists are merely in the Volunteers to get a taste for army life, but before 12 months go by, they are in the British Army. They are in the British Army because the possibilities of promotion are much greater, because the conditions are more attractive, and the pay is better. We are condemning professional officers, highly trained men after 15 years, to finish their service on a rate of pay that was considered reasonable before they had 12 months' army experience or had even done a day's training.
Everyone of these has done a long and stiff staff course, and passed examinations, and instead of the way the Minister is tackling the question, by worsening conditions for professional men, these conditions should be improved for those who now claim to be professional men. Further, with the very few vacancies for promotion from N.C.O.s to commissioned rank, and from the rank of private to N.C.O., the increments of pay should be carried on over the present period for all ranks. The only increment for the young officer is an increase of 4/- after five years' service in that rank. There is little or no avenue of promotion. It is unreasonable to suggest that an answer should be expected right away, but consideration should be given to the question of carrying on these increments for a much longer period.
Deputy Mulcahy raised a question about the responsibility of Army officers for Government defence policy. Under the Constitution the position is, as the Deputy knows, that the Minister for Defence is responsible to the Dáil. He must justify, propound and stand over that policy, and take whatever knocks are given on the head of it. If any Deputy does not like the Government defence policy the one person to blame in regard to that is the Minister for Defence. The country can be assured that while I take complete, absolute and sole responsibility for the defence policy, I take very good care to consult with Army experts on all aspects of that policy, and having consulted them, as Minister for Defence, I must make up my mind and take responsibility for that policy. As Minister for Defence I am in the fortunate position that I have a big number of highly trained and experienced men to consult on military affairs. For a number of years, practically ten or 12 at any rate, we have had a military college established, and through that college practically 90 per cent. of our officers have gone. Some of them, like engineers, or members of the technical forces, doctors or musicians have not gone through it, but apart from them, the majority of our senior officers have gone through the commandant staff course in the military college, and 90 per cent. of them have done a course of one kind or another at it. If it was not a commandant staff course then the senior officers would have done some other course. I believe it is true to say that I have as good advice on military matters as is available to any other Minister for Defence in any other country. That is not to say that the officers on whom I depend for advice have had the same personal experience of war, on a large scale, as officers in other countries, but they have available to them in the military college, and in the military libraries, books which set out in detail the experience of officers who took a personal part in various campaigns. I am convinced the advice I get is fair and reasonable, and is as good advice as I could get in any other country. That is all I am going to say about that. The constitutional position is that the Minister for Defence is responsible for Government policy.
Will the Minister answer one question?
I should like to know if the suggestion that our first and most urgent line of defence is the equipment of the Army, so as to be able to defeat an invading force, were they to set foot on our shores, and if that advice was got from the Headquarters' Staff of the Army, or if it is a decision that the Minister has personally taken on himself?
I will not go any further than simply to say, again, that I will not, by any process, or by any questions put to me, go further than repeating that the policy I have outlined as the Government's defence policy, is that of the Minister for Defence and the Government.
And we need not blame the Army officers, then?
You need not blame anybody but the Minister for Defence. Deputy O'Higgins alluded to what he called my foolish policy of reducing the pay of officers, particularly professional officers. I do not mind the Deputy criticising my policy in regard to any matter, but he should not mislead young people who are looking forward to the Army as a career, as to conditions of service in the Army. The Deputy said to-day that we are offering 10/- a day to young engineers. I have not seen the advertisement, but that statement is not true. The ordinary infantry officer coming in gets 10/- upon being commissioned. The engineer officer coming in gets 10/- plus engineer's pay.
May I interrupt the Minister, so that we will not be at cross-purposes? I was referring to an advertisement that appeared for the Irish Air Force, which said that they had got to be qualified engineers, and that the rate of pay was 10/-. I am speaking from memory, as I have not the advertisement here.
That is not so. I am not making any plea at all, and I never put forward the plea, that we were paying any of our officers on the same scale as the British. I never made that comparison. We are paying them more than the Deputy says we are paying them. I do not want young engineers to be led astray.
I quoted what appeared in the newspapers.
I doubt if the Deputy saw that advertisement in the papers. Here are the rates of pay for engineer officers. They start with £246 a year. They are at that rate for one year, and at the end of it, they go to £263. In addition to the £263, which is very much more than 10/- per day, they have other emoluments, which give them another £116 per year, or a total of £379, and if in a couple of years they get married there is marriage allowance.
I did not refer to other officers.
If we ask for officers with engineering qualifications we must give them engineers pay.
It was not advertised that way.
Also, in the air corps, he gets something extra, but we will leave that out. On the last occasion, the Deputy referred to what he claimed to be a fact, that a medical doctor can look forward to only £500 a year as a maximum. That statement is not true. There has been a situation in which there have been practically no promotions in the Army for a number of years, and the Deputy knows the historical reason for that as well as I know it myself. I believe that we should have more promotions both in the professional ranks in the Army and in the ranks in the other corps. The Deputy assumed that no one in the medical service would ever get beyond the rank of major. I believe that in the Army we have at the moment the directors of the various services should be of the rank of colonel, and, taking it that the Director of Medical Services has the rank of colonel, he will have a basic salary of £704. He will have £100 a year at least as Director of Medical Services and about £180 of allowances, bringing him to a few pounds short of £1,000 per annum. That is very different from the Deputy's story when he said on 9th March:
"Did the Minister tell the House that if an officer joins the Army Medical Service the highest rank he can ever obtain is that of major and the highest rate of pay he can ever obtain is as laid down here, something in the neighbourhood of £500 a year?"
In another portion, he said that the medical man can reach only half the rate that can be reached by the untrained man, and, later on, he said that the maximum pay he could ever obtain was 34/6 per day. I do not mind being blamed for what I do, and I do not mind being blamed for what I do not do, if it has not any public reactions. I think it is in the public interest to state that the Deputy's allegations as to the rate of pay for engineering officers here to-day are unfounded, and that his allegations as to the maximum rate of pay that doctors can achieve in the Army are also unfounded.
That I deny, but I will take it up on motion No. 17, which relates to medical officers.
The Deputy may get up on any motion he likes—on any motion which is in order, let me say for the benefit of the Ceann Comhairle. The fact of the matter is that, instead of the maximum being £500, it is almost twice as much.
If he gets a rank which is non-existent.
The rank does exist in the Army.
It does not exist in the Army Medical Service.
So did the rank of major-general.
And the rank of colonel, in my belief, should exist at the moment.
Why does it not?
That is a story I dealt with already.
He is changing his mind now, and leave him alone. He is going the right road, if a little too late.
The Deputy can take responsibility for that if he wishes.
I should be sorry to take responsibility for any action of the Minister.
When I am going on the right road, the Deputy might. I think I have dealt with the two points. The Deputy also referred to N.C.O.s. With the stepping up of the regular Army to 8,000, and with the provision of cadets for the Volunteer and Reserve battalions, we will have rather a large number of promotions from the N.C.O. ranks, and, generally speaking, within a short time there will be a fair number of promotions in the Army. There will be promotions in the various corps. As well as promotions in the officer rank, there will be also promotion among the N.C.O.s.
Is this motion withdrawn?
I think I have cleared the reputation of the general officers from any stigma that might attach to them from the statement of the Minister here, and I do not propose to press the motion.
I should like the House to understand that, in dealing with an Estimate, the procedure is as on the Committee Stage of a Bill, and Deputies cannot, after one item has been dealt with, go back to preceding items. The Deputy might move the next motion.
I did not intend to move motion No. 27.
The Deputy can discuss the sub-head without moving to reduce it.
In view of the Minister's remarks, in which he endeavours to imply that a statement of mine was untrue, I want the House and the public to be aware of the facts and the circumstances under which the statement was made. The highest rank in the Army Medical Service is, and has been for the last ten years, that of major. The new rate of pay for a major in the medical service is £1 10s. 6d. a day, going to £1 14s. 6d. a day. Speaking in the course of the debate and assuming that the existing scheme of Army organisation where a major is the highest rank in the Army Medical Service, I stated that if any officer was promoted to the highest rank of the Army Medical Service the rate of pay would be in the neighbourhood of £500 a year.
That would not be so either, because it would be over £900 on a rank of major.
It would be £1 14s. 6d. a day, after he had been five years in that rank. The Minister may be a mathematician, which I am not, but if he multiplies £1 14s. 6d. by 365, £500 will be nearer the truth than £900. I am prepared to bet on that without working out the calculation.
The Deputy might work it out before to-morrow and move to report progress now.
I move to report progress.