Committee on Finance. - Vote 63—Army.

Deputy Dillon, at the outset of to-day's business, raised a question as to whether a motion could be accepted from him for a secret session to discuss the Army Estimate. Standing Order No. 72 grants the right to make such a motion, without notice, only to a member of the Government. The motion could not, therefore, be accepted from a Private Deputy.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £5,961,052 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, 1943, chun an Airm agus Cúltaca an Airm (maraon le Deontaisí áirithe i gCabhair) fé sna hAchtanna Fórsaí Cosanta (Forálacha Sealadacha), agus chun Costaisí áirithe riaracháin ina dtaobh san; chun Costaisí Oifig an Aire Coimhriartha Cosantais; chun Costaisí i dtaobh daoine áirithe do thriail agus do choinneáil (Uimh. 28 de 1939, Uimh. 1 de 1940 agus Uimh. 16 de 1940); chun Costaisí áirithe fé sna hAchtanna um Chiontaí in aghaidh an Stáit, 1939 agus 1940 (Uimh. 13 de 1939 agus Uimh. 2 de 1940), agus fén Acht um Réamhchúram in aghaidh Aer-Ruathar, 1939 (Uimh. 21 de 1939); chun Cúl-Sholáthairtí Leighis d'Ospidéil Síbhialta, chun Costaisí áirithe de chuid an Fhórsa Chosanta Aitiúil (ar a n-áirmhítear Deontaisí-i-gCabhair) (Uimh. 28 de 1939); agus chun Costaisí áirithe i dtaobh an Chuimhneacháin speisialta ar Eirghe Amach 1916.

That a sum, not exceeding £5,961,052, be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1943, for the Army and the Army Reserve (including certain Grants-in-Aid) under the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Acts, and for certain administrative Expenses in connection therewith; for the Expenses of the Office of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures; for Expenses in connection with the trial and detention of certain persons (No. 28 of 1939, No. 1 of 1940 and No. 16 of 1940); for certain Expenses under the Offences Against the State Acts, 1939 and 1940 (No. 13 of 1939 and No. 2 of 1940), and the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1939 (No. 21 of 1939); for Reserve Medical Supplies for Civilian Hospitals; for certain Expenses of the Local Defence Force (including Grants-in-Aid) (No. 28 of 1939); and for certain Expenses in connection with the special Commemoration of the 1916 Rising.

The Estimate for the Army Vote for the financial year 1942-43 is presented in the same unusual form as its immediate predecessor last year. As was then explained, the form was and is determined solely by reasons of public policy, in that the Government has decided that it would not be in the public interest to publish the manifold details which go to make up the gross sum of £9,037,512, or the net sum of £8,942,052 which the Dáil is asked to approve and to vote.

When this emergency form of the Estimate was introduced, an undertaking was given that the details of the Estimate would be presented to the Department of Finance, that the Departmental accounts would be kept by the usual sub-heads, that the control by the Department of Finance over the expenditure under the different sub-heads would be unimpaired and that every effort would be made to stamp out any disregard of regulations or any tendency towards negligence or waste. That undertaking has been faithfully carried out—the details of the present Estimate were submitted to the Department of Finance, the monthly accounts are rendered to the Comptroller and Auditor-General on the basis of the ordinary sub-heads, the control of Finance remains intact over all expenditure, and during the past year any infringement of regulations or any negligence, default or waste has been punished and stopped. In other words the form of the Estimate has not and will not affect in any way the usual methods of financial control.

The strength of the Army stands at present at about the same figure as it did this time last year. That is not bad, but in view of the constant danger which confronts this country it is not a position which can be regarded with satisfaction or complacency. The fact of the matter is that a very large number of men are required to complete war establishments, and it must be admitted that the response to the appeal of members of the Government and the Defence Conference for more recruits has not been all that it should be or all that was expected. An appeal is, therefore, made to individual members of this House to bring before the youth of their constituencies the vital need of the Army for more recruits, and their duty to fill the gaps in the ranks of the forces.

In regard to this question of recruitment, it must be pointed out that during the past year the military authorities have adapted the conditions of Army service to meet the exigencies of the civil occupations of soldiers. Thus, there has been introduced a system of agricultural leave whereby soldiers formerly employed on the land may be released from Army service to take their part in agricultural production. It is, therefore, possible for young men of the farming community to join the Army and undergo training during the slack periods of agricultural production, and then to obtain leave when operations on the land demand their services. In this way service in the Army may be combined with service on the land, and the balance of agricultural and military requirements maintained.

Again there has been introduced for other occupations a system of indefinite leave whereby a soldier, once fully trained, may obtain leave to resume his former occupation, or to take up a job if he has succeeded in getting one, or if his studies for any of the professions have been interrupted through his response to the call of the Army. These points are mentioned and stressed because it is felt that if they were more widely known the response to the call for more recruits would be better.

As regards actual conditions in the Army we have within our very limited financial resources done our utmost to maintain and improve the conditions under which soldiers serve. Our soldiers are as well, if not better, fed, housed and clothed than any other Army in Europe, so that although their pay may not be as high as we would like it to be if our financial conditions permitted, the conditions under which they are serving are as good as we can make them. For married men we have during the year increased the rates of marriage allowance payable to the wives and children and for men who enlist for the duration of the emergency we have extended the date whereby they can qualify for marriage allowance.

Another extension of privilege which we have been able to concede is the grant of a free railway warrant to all married non-commissioned officers and all privates when going on annual leave.

The discipline of the Army has, on the whole, been satisfactory and the number of serious moral or criminal delinquencies has been relatively light. In the conditions under which the Army so rapidly expanded two years ago it was inevitable that some undesirables should have succeeded in entering the ranks, but they have been gradually weeded out.

Similarily the medical authorities report that the health of the Army has been excellent and that there has not been any epidemic even of the mildest variety. This satisfactory position is, of course, due in no small measure to the conditions already mentioned under which the Army is housed, fed and clothed.

The morale of all ranks of the forces is admirable, and the men have taken to their training with interest and zeal. During the year the organisation of the different arms has been developed and their training has been progressively intensified. During the autumn, manoeuvres and combined exercises have been carried out on an extensive scale, and each arm of the service has had practical experience of what its functions would be in relation to all other arms in the event of active service. The House will be glad to hear that there has been a steady increase in the supply of equipment, and though in relation to our needs that supply is as yet but a trickle there is every hope that during the coming year it may develop into a steady flow. In many respects, indeed, and despite still many grave deficiencies, the Army is better equipped to-day than at any other period of its existence.

An integral part of the Army proper is the L.D.F. which was taken over from the Gárda Síochána at the beginning of 1941. Our whole aim regarding this force is to make it a self-contained replica of the Army proper for the purpose primarily of local defence, but also of acting as a useful ancillary in case of need to the Army itself. The force is organised on a basis of groups, districts and areas within each of the four military commands. Each group is, as far as possible, organised and divided on a functional basis similar to that which obtains in the Army itself, and the training of the whole force is not only modelled on that of the Army but is co-ordinated with it. During the winter months training had of necessity to be confined to theory of the weapons used, and to instruction in drill, but advantage will be taken to hold courses, camps, exercises and manoeuvres at which practical experience is given in the use of the weapons and in the functions of the force in relation to local defence and to the Army generally. The fact that the exercises and manoeuvres are held conjointly with the Army and under the supervision of Army officers acting as umpires not only adds interest to the work, but gives the force a practical demonstration of what they may have to face under active service conditions.

Command officers dealing with the administration of the L.D.F. report that the discipline and morale of this purely voluntary body of citizens are good, and they speak in most encouraging terms of the force as a whole. Recruiting for this force has continued even during the winter months, and the response has not been unsatisfactory. But against this increase we must offset the wastage due to resignations, discharges, and casualties generally, so that there is still ample room for more and more recruits for this force as there is for the Army itself. The attendance of members of the L.D.F. at special parades held from time to time throughout the country has been exceedingly good, and if the activity of the force were to be measured by this standard, it would leave little to be desired. The same thing cannot, however, be said of the attendance at ordinary parades and drills in each district. That, of course, is in a sense only to be expected, but what needs stressing is that, in order to fit themselves for the defence of the country, each unit should endeavour to attain in the shortest possible time the utmost proficiency in the use of its arms, and the clearest practical lessons in what is expected of them in case of need. What is felt is that the urgency of the problem which confronts us is not generally realised, and that if it were realised, the gaps in the ranks would quickly be filled and the activity of the members vastly increased.

The same lack of a sense of urgency seems to pervade the minds not only of the general public but also of some of our local authorities regarding the initiation, expansion and completion of Air Raid Precautions Services, and here, too, there is a good deal of leeway to make up before we can regard the position as satisfactory. In some areas, county, scheduled and special, the various schemes approved by the Department have been taken up with admirable enthusiasm, and patriotic volunteers have given freely of their time and leisure to carry them out. But in others the schemes have either not been implemented at all, or have been put into operation in a dilatory and almost reluctant manner. In some cases the fault lies with the local administrative bodies but in others it is due to lack of enthusiasm on the part of the public. The Department is doing its utmost to provide the equipment necessary for the various schemes which it has approved, but there is no use in providing equipment unless men have been trained to work it. This is not to say that steady progress has not taken place in many areas during the past year, or that there has been any slackening of effort on the part of the Department in expanding and developing the various services which will be required in the event of air raids, but it does mean that more interest and energy must be put into the work by volunteers and local bodies if we are to be prepared for the incidence of air raids on our civilian population. On this subject, therefore, Deputies are asked to take a personal interest and to bring home by every means in their power the urgency of the problem.

Turning to aspects, other than military, of the Army's activities during the past year, Deputies will, no doubt, be interested to hear something about the results of our experience and experiment with the Construction Corps. Formed in October, 1940, the object of the experiment was to give the unemployed youth of the country, many of whom had no taste for soldiering, an opportunity to build themselves up physically and to train themselves for civilian occupations when their term of service had expired. The original term of enlistment was for a period of one year with 1/- a day pay (increased under certain conditions) with a gratuity of £10 at the end of that period. Under these conditions of service we have put through our hands several thousand young men, but at the end of their term of enlistment a large number of them elected to take their discharge. During their time with us they were engaged on work of a productive and national character, such as timber felling for the Army and for the Department of Supplies to build up a reserve of fuel, the drainage of bogs preparatory to the cutting of turf, turf cutting itself, the reclamation of land and the building of roads.

With the experience gathered during the past year, it has been felt that the conditions of service needed revision. In the first place, we feel that 12 months is not sufficiently long to give the training originally visualised when the corps was formed; and, in the second, it was thought that the rates of pay were not such as to attract youths to enlist. We have, therefore, altered the term of enlistment from one to two years, and we have raised the pay from 1/- to 1/9 a day—again increased under certain conditions—with a gratuity of £5 payable at the end of the two years' period of service. At the present moment we have 200 men engaged at Lullymore Bog, County Kildare, draining the bog in preparation for a turf drive next season. A similar number are engaged at Glencree, County Wicklow, and at Nadd, County Cork, on the same type of work, and at Cluais, County Galway, we have another 200 men of the corps working on the reclamation of land.

From a strictly military standpoint, it would be better to have the youth of the Construction Corps handling arms and ammunition rather than wielding pick-axes and shovels—learning how to use military weapons rather than engineering tools. But it was not military, but social-economic considerations, which led the Government to embark on this experiment of the Construction Corps. We had the problem of youths scattered all over the country, unwilling or unfit to join the Army, and, in the absence of work, degenerating physically and drifting into bad social and economic habits. The problem was and is to turn potential drones into active producers and good citizens, and the Construction Corps is simply a small, though not inexpensive, experiment in that direction.

The national shortage of fuel was another problem which the Army has helped to solve during the past year. Besides cutting turf for its own requirements, it has also cut for the national pool of fuel about 25,000 tons of turf, and between 10,000 and 12,000 tons of wood—a not unsatisfactory contribution to the solution of the problem. In addition, it has lent its mechanical transport for the haulage of turf cut by other bodies, and by this means it has conveyed to Dublin great quantities of turf. These points are mentioned to show that the Army not only carried out its own normal functions of training and preparedness for active service, but also participated to a very large extent in all activities calling for the maximum effort of a united people.

The Estimate, therefore, for £9,037,512, which is now before the Dáil, covers not only the cost of the Army proper, but also the cost of such ancillary bodies as the L.D.F., the Construction Corps, and the A.R.P. services. The sum asked for constitutes a large percentage of our total revenue, but the House may rest assured that we are not asking for anything more than what we actually require. Indeed, it may well happen that, if the present trickle of equipment becomes a steady flow, or if the influx of recruits exceeds what we at present anticipate, we may have to face a Supplementary Estimate. Pending, however, that eventuality materialising, the House is asked to approve an expenditure of £9,037,512 on the Army for the financial year 1942-43.

In asking the House for the approval of the Army Estimate in the form as published, and under the conditions just briefly outlined, I desire to ask the House to approve of establishments for Regular, Reserve and Local Defence Forces which will not, during the year, exceed an aggregate of 250,000 all ranks.

This Estimate has not been the subject of discussion here in the Dáil for some time now, for reasons which are known to all members of the House and to the public outside. Personally, I am not at all satisfied with this Estimate. The amount is far beyond the resources of the people, and I believe that in almost any Department of the service the speech which the Minister has read out here could have been prepared. There was a not unreasonable request made, which, as far as I am concerned, I heard for the first time this afternoon, to have a private session discussion of this Vote. It was by no means an unreasonable request. The Minister has asked us to take everything that he said as absolutely the case. I am not satisfied either with the Ministerial conduct of this Department or with the establishment that is costing £9,000,000 and is likely to cost even more. I do not believe the country is satisfied. The explanation we have got regarding the activities of the Ministry of Defence, outside of its ordinary normal work of defence, would be laughed at in any other Department. Some 30,000 or 40,000 tons of fuel have been provided, probably value for £60,000 or £70,000, and that is mentioned as one of the activities of this Department.

In so far as we could follow what the Minister said, we were told that this Construction Corps is not a military matter at all. I should imagine that the Minister would have nothing else to do except to deal with military matters. If there are other matters to be dealt with, let the Government take up those matters, but do not let us have this farce of spending public money on defence when it is really a social question. The method of presentation of this Estimate for the last two years, without discussion here in this House, calls for greater confidence on the part of the Minister in the understanding and intelligence of members of the House. It is unreasonable to expect us to lump together this sum of £9,000,000, and take merely what any Civil Service official could have written out as a description of the work of the Department for the last 12 months. I am utterly and entirely dissatisfied with the sum of money involved, and with the value the country is getting in respect of it.

One would like to feel such confidence in regard to this matter that there would not be very much to say about it, but, when one reviews what has occurred throughout the world in the last three years, particularly the results that have followed where hush-hush policies were pursued, one cannot feel any great confidence in what is taking place with regard to this Department. Like Deputy Cosgrave, I feel that the least said about the Minister's statement the better. He referred to two matters which were outside his jurisdiction altogether, and of course the way the thing was done was lamentable. He told the House about the contribution to the national fuel supplies. How was that done? Hundreds of military lorries started off from Dublin somewhere about the month of November to bring turf to Dublin. From 50 to 75 per cent. of the turf they brought to Dublin was water. As a matter of fact, one would think they were providing a water supply for Dublin instead of fuel. I have been wondering whether that arose out of sheer cussedness on the part of the Department, simply because in the month of August last the Irish Independent called for the mobilisation of the Army lorries to bring fuel to Dublin. We can speak quite frankly about this matter. I should like the Minister to tell us when it was that the attention of the Department was directed to the mobilisation of Army transport for the purpose of bringing fuel to Dublin.

I know that in August, or perhaps earlier, the Irish Independent repeatedly urged the mobilisation of Army transport to bring fuel to Dublin, when it was assumed the turf was reasonably dry. The turf never was dry, because it was cut too late. The Minister talked about the Army cutting turf. He sent members of the Army to cut turf for themselves and for others about the middle of June, at a time when the turf should be dried and on the roadside. In July he sent hundreds of lorries to Donegal to bring turf to the city. It was a disgrace, because nobody could or did burn that turf. In order to bring it here they used transport equipment paid for by the State. Petrol was supplied for the purpose of conveying wet, rotten bog to the city and it was handed out to the poor at £3 a ton. It would be highly improper on the part of this House to let that matter go without comment. There was a public notification to the Department as to what it should do in the fuel campaign. There was a suggestion in the Irish Independent with regard to the mobilisation of Army transport, a thing that was obvious and should not require any effort on the part of a newspaper or anybody else.

What was this contribution to the national fuel pool? Did the Minister handle any of the stuff? When you caught it in your hand it was rotten and wet and it fell away between your fingers. The Minister comes into the House with a Vote for £9,000,000 and he tells us that this was part of his contribution. As regards logs, it was not enough for wet, rotten turf to be brought into the city, but wherever they cut the logs they left them lying out until they became so sodden that when you used the axe to split them they were so full of water that it ran down when they were split. I think the Minister would have been very wise and well advised if he had drawn the blue pencil through those things.

I do not want to say very much about other matters, though I should very much like to. I will not elaborate certain things. The Minister mentioned that the strength of the Army has remained static since this time last year. One is curious to know what is the explanation of that. Is it not rather pathetic? As a result of a speech delivered within the last week at a function in this city, we now know what we were not supposed to know— we know the strength of the armed forces of the State. That is a thing that nobody was supposed to know or to refer to. I should like an assurance from the Minister that if something befall this country in the way of an invasion the Army will be in tip-top form and will give a good account of itself.

As regards training, is the Army getting that intensive, gruelling training that is so necessary in modern times? I am merely looking for information on behalf of the public and I am discharging my obligation to those who are putting up the money. Is the Army getting that intensive training that soldiers in modern warfare are called upon to stand up to? The Minister referred to the flow of equipment. I do not want to say very much about that, but every woman in this country with a red flannel petticoat knows where that equipment is coming from. You can be told that at the fireside, although very few in this country are supposed to know it. I would like the Minister to assure the House that the equipment now going to the Army is modern and that somebody is not putting something across this country. We are taxing the people heavily in order to purchase this equipment and I would prefer doing without the material if it is not modern and fully up to the requirements that are demanded in modern warfare.

There was a case heard in the Central Criminal Court recently, a case of a very unsavoury nature. There is no use in starting out to belabour the Minister because of that. Naturally, in an organisation like the Army, cases of that sort can happen. I must say that the evidence given in that case showed great laxity, and if that type of offence obtains to any great extent in the Army I think the Minister should see to it that every effort will be made to stamp it out and to see that no cases of that sort will occur in the future.

I was glad to hear the Minister talking about granting leave for agricultural purposes. I would be happier still if we could be convinced that it was more than just a mere statement. I wonder is the thing being done methodically? The Minister and Deputies know that when the emergency began young men in the country, men on the National Army Reserve, immediately joined up. Large numbers of these young men are married and have inherited farms from their fathers or mothers, or purchased farms. Of course, when the call of duty came in 1939 they immediately went back to the Army. I suppose they thought that things on the farm would pan out some way, and that the best thing to do was to join up, because the farm would be of little use if the freedom of the country was lost.

I suggest to the Minister that any member of the Army who would be useful in producing food from the land should at once be released. There are in the Army, even from my constituency, numbers of men who should be sent back to their farms and there should be no quibbling about this thing at all. If these men are required on their farms, or on their fathers' farms, they should be allowed to go back there at once. In many instances their fathers may be too old fully to make use of the potentialities of the farms and in those cases the sons should be immediately released. That should be done even within the coming week, because this is the most suitable time to undertake agricultural work.

I appeal to the Minister to see to the modern training and equipment of the Army. We have often read of commissions and inquiries in other countries about what took place there during wars, what sort of equipment was passed off on the Army. I would be sorry, when this war is over, if it were to be revealed that questionable equipment was put over on us.

I move to report progress.

Progress reported.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.30 p.m. until 3 p.m., Wednesday, 25th March.