Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 6 Dec 1950

Vol. 123 No. 11

Adjournment Debate—Baltinglass Post Office Appointment.

Deputy Cogan has given notice to raise on the motion for the Adjournment the subject matter of Question No. 50 on last Wednesday's Order Paper.

Last week I gave notice that I would raise on the Adjournment the question of the manner in which the appointment of a sub-postmaster in Baltinglass was made. I regretted that the Minister, through illness, was unable to be present to answer that question last week, and I am glad that he is here to-night to explain what prompted him to make this extraordinary appointment. Miss Katie Cooke acted as postmistress for many years in Baltinglass. Last April, at the age of 83, she decided to retire and to assign her premises, which had been used as a sub-post office, to her niece. She made that decision, believing that her long and faithful service in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, as well as the long and faithful service of her niece, also in that Department, would be appreciated, and that no difficulty would arise in having this office transferred to her niece. The Minister, however, had some time previously made a rule which, at any rate, debarred Miss Cooke from securing the transfer, and which provided for the advertising of that position. I do not know if the Minister at the time foresaw coming events. It really does not matter very much, and I am not much concerned, as to whether the position was advertised or not. I am solely concerned about the manner in which the appointment was made, about the type of person who was appointed, and about the injustice that was inflicted upon Miss Helen Cooke.

We have always believed that merit should be taken into consideration in the making of public appointments. We have always believed, or at least I have always believed, that political pull or political influence should not be the main consideration. Miss Helen Cooke had 14 years of faithful service in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. It is a quibble, a contemptible quibble, to suggest, as was suggested last week, that she was not a direct employee of the Department. She was doing the Department's work in her post office. She was managing it and assisting her very aged aunt to manage the office, and with that long service she was at least entitled to fair consideration. Was that consideration given?

When I spoke to the Minister about this matter, after the position had become vacant, he told me that there were some small complaints against Miss Cooke. He told us to-day that there were no serious complaints against her. Complaints? What does the Minister mean by complaints? There are complaints against every public official in this country from the highest to the lowest, but have there been any charges proved against Miss Cooke? I asked that question to-day. I asked it, too, of Miss Cooke's superiors in the Post Office service. I asked the postmaster of Naas if there had been any charges or irregularities of any kind proved against Miss Cooke, or even seriously alleged, and he told me that the sub-post office in Baltinglass was one of the most regularly run, one of the most correctly run, post offices in the country, and that, if anything, the two Miss Cookes, Miss Helen Cooke and her aunt, erred perhaps in being too strict in enforcing all the regulations of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. Yet, this is the conscientious and faithful family that has been victimised.

We have in Baltinglass this family of Miss Cooke and her aunt. They have run this post office for years. It is being taken from them now. Miss Helen Cooke's aunt is now an invalid. She is 83 years of age, she is in very feeble health and she is depending on her niece for her living. Yet these two poor defenceless people have been ruthlessly deprived of their sole means of livelihood in order to provide an appointment for a hanger-on of the Minister's political Party.

That is the position as it stands to-day. I do not ask for tears from anybody. The people of Baltinglass do not want any tears shed. They are prepared to fight their battle through to the end, regardless of what opposition may be piled up against them.(Interruptions.) I think that some Deputies here are beginning to find that, from beginning to end, they have no ground to stand on. When they have no case, they think that by barracking and interrupting they can prevent me from presenting the true facts of this case—the glaring facts, and this glaring injustice against two defenceless women.

You are on slippery ground now.

The suggestion has been made that, in some way, Miss Cooke and her aunt were not true nationalists or good Irish citizens. I challenge any Deputy to go down to Baltinglass and make that charge. Everybody in Baltinglass knows that Miss Helen Cooke has always been a staunch, true nationalist, though her position as sub-post mistress did not allow her to take an active part in Party politics. It has been suggested that her opponent for this position gave service in the L.D.F., but did not Miss Cooke also give faithful service in the Irish Red Cross all through the emergency? Is it seriously suggested that a lady sub-post mistress could put on battle dress and carry a rifle during the emergency? That is the contention that is being made here now. The L.D.F. was established to defend this country and not to wage war on lone defenceless women. It was never intended that service in the L.D.F. should carry with it the opportunity of securing lucrative jobs.

The statement was made on behalf of the Minister that suitability of premises was a consideration in the making of this appointment. The Minister knows that the premises which had been used as a post office are first-class premises. They have been used exclusively as a post office, no other business was carried on there, and they are eminently suitable. The premises to which it is proposed to transfer the post office are a licensed premises which have never been carried on regularly. That is the position as everybody in Baltinglass knows and, because they know it, they are determined——

On a point of order——


Sit down.

He will not sit down.

On a point of order——


Sit down.

Surely the Deputy is entitled to make a point of order.

I quite agree. I shall hear the Deputy on the point of order.

It has been stated by Deputy Cogan that the premises concerned were not carried on in a proper manner.

It is an expression that should not be used.

Is that a proper remark to make in this House?

There were no R.I.C. in the town.

It is an expression which should not be used.

Very well.

I hope Deputy Cogan will bear in mind that the post offices at Charlestown and Carndonagh are also in licensed premises.

A determined effort is being made to prevent the case of Miss Cooke being heard in this House. An attempt is being made to shout down the first Deputy who has raised this question. I want to make my statement as briefly as possible as my time is limited, and Deputies know that, but I will make my case. The question of financial stability arises and also the question of character. The Minister knows the relative merits of the financial stability of this family who have been there for many years and that of their opponents. I will pass over the question of character. Who is the person appointed? He is a young man who has got this position which has been taken from these two defenceless women.

He served the country, what you never did.

He is a young man in his twenties and in the full vigour of health. He is the son of an extensive merchant, holding a large licensed premises, a large drapery, a butchery and a grocery business. That young man has many opportunities available to him without taking away the livelihood of two defenceless ladies. Surely a man in the full vigour of health with such a large business premises has the world at his feet, so to speak. He has opportunities of making a living without encroaching on the living of two people who have served the country and the Department faithfully and well. I have answered the question with regard to his service in the L.D.F. Nobody will take from him the credit due to anyone who served in the L.D.F. There were hundreds of young men in the Baltinglass district who also served faithfully in the L.D.F., but they did not seek to take from Miss Cooke her means of livelihood. The only merit that the successful applicant can claim is that he is the son of a man who was a member of the county council up to the last election and who is a member of the Minister's Party.

The issue raised by this question and the issue raised in Baltinglass is whether we are to have public positions filled on the basis of merit alone or on the basis of political graft and corruption. That is the clear-cut issue raised by the people of Baltinglass upon which they are prepared to stand vigorously to the end. There is no merit whatever on the side of this appointment. It bears on its face all the marks of the cold-blooded brutality and immorality of Soviet rule. The Minister has many times denounced in Wicklow Red rule and Communism. He has even accused members of the Labour Party of Communism. What is Communism but a form of gangsterism which fills up appointments, not on merit, but on the basis of those who served most faithfully on the Party line. The people of Baltinglass are standing firm on this issue. As I told them in Baltinglass last week, they have lighted a fire which has spread throughout the land. It is a fire which will blaze and burn until the public life of this country is finally and permanently cleansed.

As I am personally involved in this case, I want to repudiate absolutely that I had any responsibility for a decision that was made ten months after we had passed out of office.

What about Charlestown and Carndonagh?

The Deputy should allow Deputy Little to proceed.

I want to point out, however, even though that regulation was made and the appointment had to be advertised, it did not prevent the Minister from appointing the niece of the present holder as the most suitable person for the position.

Mr. Brennan

I wish to register a protest against the action of the Minister in perpetrating such a gross injustice on a member of a family which had been associated with the post office in Baltinglass for such a long period. It boils down to this. We have in the person of Miss Helen Cooke a lady who has carried out the duties of sub-postmistress on behalf of her aunt for the past 14 years, and who has given 100 per cent. service so far as post office work or the responsibility entailed by that work is concerned. There has been nothing against her. In reply to a question, the Minister stated that there was no serious complaint, and we can take it that there was nothing against the young lady. Her financial position is not questioned. She has earned the trust imposed on her, has performed her duties satisfactorily, and is a credit to her family. Now why did the Minister decide to overlook the application of Miss Cooke when there was such a record of service behind her and behind her family? Why did he decide to appoint a young man who, from the point of view of practical experience in the important work of conducting a sub-post office and from the point of view of the technical knowledge required to carry out that work, had not the qualifications that Miss Cooke had? We all know and all the people of Baltinglass know that the particular gentleman concerned had no qualifications whatever.

It is a man's job.

Mr. Brennan

All I have to say——

You have no more to say.

You will not prevent the Deputy speaking. It is obvious something is to be hidden.

Mr. Brennan

The Minister has given us no particular reason as to why he should appoint this young man instead of Miss Cooke. The Tánaiste has intervened in the matter. Was the decision influenced by the fact that the Minister has such a high opinion of the father of the young man concerned?

The Minister is entitled to ten minutes for the purpose of replying. I am calling the Minister.

The father of the young man has nothing at all to do with it.

The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.


Before the Minister concludes——


I would like to ask a question.

The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

I would like to ask the Minister a question before he concludes.


The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

The difficulties which have arisen in filling the sub-postmastership of Baltinglass arise from a decision of mine in 1948. Some time after I became Minister for Posts and Telegraphs I instructed my Department that in future sub-offices should not be transferred to relatives except when the applicant was a husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, widower or widow of the outgoing sub-postmaster.

You lied to-day at Question Time so.


I will not shut up. Why did you tell a lie at Question Time?


You lied at Question Time.

The Deputy will withdraw that statement.

I will not withdraw that statement.

The Deputy will leave the House.

I will not withdraw. He lied at Question Time. He lied against his predecessor.

Take your medicine now.

Deputy Smith will withdraw.

I see no reason——

You are only a lowdown rat. You are only a lowdown mean rat.


Deputy Smith will leave the House.

If I go over there——

Come on. Come on. Anyone that likes can come over here.

I saw and see no reason——

You lied to-day at Question Time.


Order! Deputy Smith——

Did you not lie at Question Time? Did you not attribute that act to your predecessor?

Take the answer now when you are getting it.

You lied at Question Time. Did you not attribute that change in the regulations to your predecessor?

Deputy Smith will withdraw.

Why did you not tell the truth?

Deputy Smith wants someone to look after him.

But the Minister made a statement to-day in the House.

Deputy Smith has called a Minister of the House a liar. That statement must be withdrawn or the Deputy will leave the House.

I will not withdraw.

I will have to name the Deputy.

I do not care whether you do or not because, look here, it is time to have a show-down with you, too. You are a partisan and you have been a partisan for the last three years. You are a political partisan and a political hack since you have been in that Chair. You cannot name me because the Chair has to be occupied by the Ceann Comhairle and you are not Ceann Comhairle yet. You cannot do that.


I ask if Deputy Smith will allow me to make a statement to clear the whole position.

Deputy Smith will leave the House.

You have no right to ask me to leave the House because you are not Ceann Comhairle.

I ask the Deputy to leave. I will have to name the Deputy.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has no right to name me. You are usurping the Chair's functions.

I move that Deputy Smith be suspended from the service of the Dáil.

Question put and declared carried.

You are a political hack and that is what you have been for the last three years and we will expose you to the public as such.

On a point of order. Can a vote be taken after half-past ten?

I suggest the Guard be called and have the Deputy removed.

Grave disorder ensuing, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, under the provisions of Standing Order 52, adjourned the Dáil at 10.55 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 7th December, 1950.