asked the Taoiseach if he is aware that after more than one and a half year's special appeal for the manning of the Local Defence Force the response from young men, between the ages of 18 and 23, has been practically negligible; and in face of the continuance of the danger that threatens our country will he consider the enforcement of compulsory service to ensure the proper training of the full man power of the country.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Compulsory Service.
The response which has been made to date to appeals for volunteers for the Local Defence Force has not been unsatisfactory, but there are still a number of physically suitable and otherwise eligible members of the community who have so far refrained from offering their services. While fully realising that the force is an essential part of our defence organisation and one in which there is particular need for the services of active, physically fit young men, the Government proposes, for the present, to continue to rely on appeals to those who have not yet joined the Local Defence Force to serve voluntarily.
Will the Taoiseach say what he means by "for the present"?
We cannot know for the time being what the future may bring forth.
Does the Taoiseach not realise that repeated joint appeals were made to our people to join the ranks of the Local Defence Force and that far greater effect would be lent to these appeals were we in a position to say that we could put in their hands equipment which would match their valour?
There is no doubt that we should like to see a rifle in the hands of every member of the Local Defence Force, but at the same time it is a fact that for the one man who is armed there is work that five unarmed men could do. As I have said on a number of occasions recently, we cannot say until we have got, in the first instance, the regular Army raised to the optimum strength that we have set ourselves, that we are using the equipment to the very best advantage. In regard to that, I can only say that every effort is being made and, as I pointed out before, you can arm a man in a night but you certainly cannot train a man to be a good soldier in a night.
Would the Taoiseach undertake to those who have joined the Local Defence Force that time will not be wasted in considering what might be done to conscript people until the maximum effort has been made to perfect the organisation and the training of the men that are there at present, to inspire them with confidence in the job they may have to do, and to ensure that they will be fully prepared?
I thought we had a Defence Council to consider these matters.
The Deputy's question was a rather long one and I am not quite clear as to the particular point on which he wished to lay stress.
I submit to the Taoiseach that it would be a waste of time and imagination to make out plans for conscription until much more attention has been given to the organisation and the training of the Local Defence Forces that we actually have.
I can assure the Deputy that we are not at all anxious to bring in conscription, and I feel that it will not be necessary. The only reason I have used the phrase "for the present" is that we do not know what the situation in the future may be and we do not want anyone to assume that circumstances may not arise in which we would be prepared to take that step if it were necessary. I do not want anybody to think that there is any suggestion of the immediate contemplation of conscription. Every possible effort will be made to utilise the forces which we have got. I do not regard the response to our appeals as unsatisfactory at all, but anybody who goes through the country and sees the parades that I have seen must know that one can see on the sidewalk looking at the parade quite a large number of people whose places one would imagine would be in these parades.
The Taoiseach in reply to my question said he was satisfied that the response so far had been satisfactory.
I said "not unsatisfactory".
Well, it is the same thing. I asked the Taoiseach if he is quite satisfied that we are getting into the ranks of the Local Defence Force young men between the ages of 18 and 23. I have had a large experience of recruiting for the force and I know that we got quite a number of men of 30 years of age and over, men with responsibilities, but the number of boys we have got between 18 and 23 is negligible. These are the young men who are sneering at us from the sidewalk.
I am afraid I cannot add anything further to the statement I have made.