Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 5 Feb 1953

Vol. 136 No. 2

Military Service Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 1952—Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

When the debate was adjourned last night, I was speaking about the possibility of speeding up decisions with regard to applications for military service pensions, and I had referred to the suggestion made by Deputy McGrath that the Minister could possibly examine the position from the point of view of setting up another board, in the light of the fact that the opinion has been expressed that the present board would take four, five or six years to complete its investigations and that, in view of the age of the applicants, it would be rather a long time and that the cost would be the same. If another board were set up to act in conjunction with the present board, the time would be at least halved. I recommend it to the Minister for his consideration.

The Minister made reference in his opening statement to his intention to introduce amendments to the Army Pensions Acts. Knowing the Minister's concern for the Old I.R.A. and how they will benefit under the Acts, it was a very welcome statement indeed, and, in paying tribute to the Minister for introducing his Bill, we must also pay tribute to him for the Army Pensions Act of 1946 which, in my opinion and in the opinion of all Old I.R.A. men associated with me, was the greatest boon of all time to the Old I.R.A., because it catered for a section that could not have been catered for under any of the other Acts. It is surely the greatest Act passed for the I.R.A. and I have no hesitation in describing it as such. I am glad to hear the welcome news that the Minister intends to improve it further, because improvements are very necessary.

One matter which perturbed many people interested in that section is the fact that medals were issued that did not carry a special allowance. That was the cause of great upset to the people concerned, but now I understand that there is to be an extension of time and that that grievance will be cured. In dealing with any improvements that may be made in the matter of special allowances, there is one factor which must be taken into consideration, the means test. I was astonished a couple of years ago tofind that there was a different system of assessing means in the case of Old I.R.A. for special allowance purposes from that applied to them for old age pension purposes. Surely we should at least have uniformity in all Departments with regard to the assessment of means, but I am sure that, in view of the representations made to the Minister during the past couple of years, he will ensure that that grievance will be removed.

Another great injustice obtaining at the moment arises in connection with the marriage date. Under various Pensions Acts, but more especially in the case of applicants for special allowance, there is a marriage date which precludes any member of the I.R.A. who married late in life from being treated as a married man under the Act. It applies also in the case of some of the Army Pensions Acts. That injustice should now be removed, and if a date has to be fixed before the date of application, a reasonable date should be fixed by which applicants could be regarded as married persons.

It is true, as some Deputies have said, that this matter has been talked about a little too long, but it is a source of great satisfaction to find such unanimity in the House, and a source of great satisfaction to the Old I.R.A., or those of them who are left now, to know that each and every Party and every member in the House is anxious to see that they get recognition for services rendered when this country required their services. Again, I pay tribute to the Minister and also to the House for the manner in which it has received this Bill, and for its decision to honour any awards which the country can afford to make these members of the I.R.A.

I do not intend to detain the House very long on this Bill but, nevertheless, I feel that I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without voicing my opinions on it. In speaking to it, I shall not cast any bouquets whatever at the Minister. On the other hand, I hope that he will not think that my remarks in any way reflect on his efforts at the moment. Anything I have to say, probably refers, just as much to any Minister forDefence who held that portfolio since the establishment of this State. This Bill is all right in its own way because it goes a little step further than other Bills went, but to me it appears only cheeseparing, so far as the Old I.R.A. are concerned. In my opinion it is just a little gesture, held out until such time as all the people who might hope to benefit by it are dead and gone. Quite a number of them have already passed away, and the vast majority of those still living are, we might say, on the brink of the grave.

I speak particularly of those people in rural Ireland who took a noble part in the national struggle. Some of them had to go back to their homes, if they had such, to face penury and want when the struggle ended. The opinion of those who have passed away in regard to the treatment they received when they were alive, I do not know, but I know what that opinion should be. It is the opinion of those who are still alive, and it is that they have been badly treated by all Governments and by the various Ministers for Defence, no matter who they were. The trouble, to my mind—and it is not confined to the present Minister; it has been the experience of each and every Minister and of every Government that ever held office here—is that the best intentions of Ministers appear to wither under the dead hand of the Department of Finance. When it comes to providing a few pounds one way or another we at least should not make any compliment about it, and we should give it willingly but, as I say, it appears that the dead hand of the Department of Finance always nullifies the best efforts of succeeding Ministers and succeeding Governments.

The present Minister, like his predecessors, has tried to help in a little way to satisfy the claims of the Old I.R.A., but I am quite sure the Minister realises that this Bill, to a certain extent, is useless. There are references in this Bill to pensions not exceeding £100 and to pensions not exceeding £125 per annum. To the ordinary person down the country, especially to the individual who would like to be a critic of the I.R.A., it would appear from these statements in the White Paperand in the Bill that all I.R.A. pensions started at £100 per year whereas, as the Minister knows quite well, five-sixths of the pensions payable are less than £25 per year. In many cases they range from £6 to £7 a year. Then you take up the White Paper and this Bill and read: "Not exceeding £100 per year, an increase of 50 per cent.". God bless the dead hand of the Department of Finance! The man who is getting £6 a year will now get £9. Surely he will give them a clap on the back. Surely he must be delighted with that magnificent increase from £6 to £9. Surely the Minister himself must realise that that is just a drop in the ocean. I shall not say that it is done for political purposes. Far from my saying that, it is not worth such an allegation. Many of these men would not lend themselves to any game of that kind even though some people say, and it was said in this House, that they do lend themselves to political purposes. Many of them never did.

In going through the Bill, you find that some people are getting pensions ranging from £200 to £300. They are quite all right; they are well away in this world, and they generally have other means of living—not that I say that they are not entitled to such pensions but to the people who have got miserable pensions and who probably did just as much in their own way as those who are getting much higher pensions, to people who are now offered 50 per cent. on pensions of £6 or £7 per year, this Bill is a disgrace. It is a disgrace to all sides of the House, to the Government and to the Opposition. I think it is a mean, despicable way of treating these men. I do not intend that as a reflection on the present Minister or the present Government or even the present Opposition; I think it applies to every Government and every Opposition that we have had in this House since the State was established. I well remember that, in days gone by, many people in the rural areas—and in the cities, I suppose, as well, though I knew little about cities in those days— who rendered devoted service in the struggle were despised for their efforts by certain sections. The people who belittled them—I watch the descendantsof those belittlers to-day and they would do the same thing—said that the Old I.R.A. were nothing but pensions hunters, job hunters and self-seekers, but we, who know the truth, must realise that the men who carried on the struggle from 1916 to 1923 carried on the tradition of the men of 98 and of other movements for national freedom. Realising that, we must admit that they are not being properly treated by Irish Governments to-day.

It is perhaps fitting that I should quote again a statement which was previously quoted in this House, a statement of the Commander-in-Chief of the Republican forces in 1916, Pádraig Pearse. To-day he is but a memory, but with some people his memory will live forever. I regret to say that there are some in this generation who have almost forgotten his name. Just before he was captured in 1916 he made the following statement:—

"I desire now, lest I may not have an opportunity later, to pay homage to the gallantry of the soldiers of Irish freedom who have during the past four days been writing with fire and steel the most glorious chapter in the later history of Ireland. Justice can never be done to their heroism, to their discipline, to their gay and unconquered spirit in the midst of peril and death.

Let me who have led them into this, speak in my own and in my fellow-commanders' names, and in the name of Ireland present and to come, their praise and ask those who come after them to remember them."

To ask those who come after them to remember them! Those are the words of Pádraig Pearse, the commander who was responsible for the existence of Dáil Éireann. Those were the words of the commander who went out and was probably despised, with his few soldiers to drive from their country— at least from this portion of it—the forces of the mighty British Empire. He succeeded in doing it and he laid the foundations for commanders-in-chief such as Collins who fought with him in those days and for those who followed. Many of those people are going to their graves. I regret to saythat many of them are forgotten. Would it not be only right that we, benefiting from their work and their sacrifices, should do something that would be decent and helpful to the few remaining heroes?

I think it was in the Irish Pressto-day that I saw the sad spectacle of an Old I.R.A. man being evicted from his home in the City of Dublin. Regardless of our political views we must make an attempt to end things of that sort once and for all. Does the Minister or any Deputy in the House think that the increase from £6 to £9 per year for the Old I.R.A. men in rural Ireland is a generous offer at the end of their days? I would ask the Minister—he will have every member of Dáil Éireann behind him—to try and abolish the withered hand of the Department of Finance and give to the few Old I.R.A. men who remain a pension that will maintain them in comfort to the end of their days.

The Minister, I think, told us that the implementation of this Bill would cost roughly £400,000. Surely he must realise that that is a very small sum, even though it is better than nothing. I heard a Fianna Fáil Deputy speak yesterday, and say that there should not be a closing date for applicants. I do not want to score any political points. Section 5 of the Bill provides:—

"That the time limit laid down in the Military Service Pensions (Amendment) Act, 1949, for the submission of petitions for the re-examination of rejected applications made under the Acts of 1924 and 1934, shall be extended to a date six months after the Bill becomes law."

He was making the point that that date should never be closed down. Many of the Old I.R.A. had to fly to different parts of the world on account of the existence of the unfortunate civil war. They may come back some day, and it may be necessary that it should be open to them to apply.

On a previous occasion when Fianna Fáil were a Government I remember they passed a Bill—I think it was either in 1947 or 1948, if my memory serves me correctly—fixing a datebeyond which no further applications would be received.

It was in 1945.

I forget the year. I am not making that as a political point. I do not want to do so. I am glad of the change of heart. That is very, very necessary. Did I hear a grunt from Deputy Killilea?

That expression should not be used towards the Deputy.

It is only to be expected from him. What I said was that the date was extended upon a number of occasions.

What did the Deputy say?

I said the date was extended on a number of occasions.

A Bill was passed on one occasion which had the effect of putting an end to accepting any further applications, and if the Deputy looks up the records he will see that. I am speaking about the lower pension groups.

I believe that a pension of at least £50 to £100 should be paid. Anything lower than that would not be of any use whatsoever at the present time. Having regard to the few people in the lower income groups they should at least get the kind of pension to which I have referred. I do not believe the taxpayers would mind one bit what it would cost and the few who did would have very little consideration as far as I am concerned.

The Minister will be asked by the Department to which I refer from where this money will come since it cannot be got from taxation. I can point out to the Minister that not so long ago, through certain legislation passed by this House, £140,000 was remitted in connection with the dance hall tax. That would provide £140,000 and I am sure that there is not a Deputy on either the Fianna Fáil or the Opposition side of the House but would agree to that dance hall taxbeing imposed and that the £140,000 got therefrom be given as extra pensions to the Old I.R.A.

Some time about the period of the last Budget certain legislation was passed that allowed the tobacco manufacturers to get away with £1,000,000. I am quite sure if that money was put back again it could be used to give the Old I.R.A. extra pensions which they so badly need. I am not making those points to embarrass the Minister in any way or to belittle what the outgoing Government did. I am making those points to prove to the Minister that he can show the Department of Finance where the money can be got. I would also like to say that there are quite a few in this country, who have not yet got any recognition whatsoever.

I know people who should have qualified for pensions but who were turned down. I know of an ambush which took place in my own area early in the fight for Irish freedom. Some of the people who took part in that ambush got pensions while the applications of others, who fought by their sides, were turned down. Provision should be made whereby such cases can be reviewed. I am afraid that the reason for the rejection of certain claims stems from the civil war. Some officers went on one side and some on the other. I fear that some verifying officers did not forget the ravages and the troubles that occurred during the civil war. I appeal to the Minister to look into that matter and try to settle it once and for all. He should endeavour to bring such men whose claims were rejected within the scope of the Act even if it is only into the lower pension group for the moment. It would be something if he even brought them into the under £25 a year group. These people should get that recognition.

I again appeal to the Minister to reconsider the case of those people in the lower pension group—the under £25 people. A 50 per cent. increase in their case is just nonsense. I believe that each and every one of those people should get a pension sufficient to free them of financial worry for the rest of their lives.

My second appeal is on behalf of those people who are genuinely entitled to pensions but whose claims have been turned down because of bad friends or bitterness.

I believe that this Bill will go through the House—and the sooner the better. I trust that the Minister will give sympathetic consideration to the claims of those people on whose behalf I have spoken.

I think every Deputy welcomes this Bill. I have the honour to come from Enniscorthy. In 1916, a band of men from that town took part in the Rising in the City of Dublin. Very few towns outside Dublin, Galway and Enniscorthy took part in the 1916 Rising.

I know men in my own town whose pension claims were turned down by the Referee while other men who fought with them were awarded pensions. I may say, in passing, that a pension of 3/6 a week to a man with 1916 service is an insult—and when he becomes unemployed that pension is used against him in the labour exchange. I am glad to see that these restrictions are being discontinued.

Like Deputy Donnellan and other Deputies, I should like to see the pension of men in the lower pension group increased. The ordinary workingman is the one who suffers most. He lost his employment through imprisonment, whereas business people had their own ways and means of getting on when they came out of prison. The unfortunate workingman was thrown out of employment. He became unpopular. At that time the majority of such men had to seek employment across the water. Here we have well-to-do people drawing big pensions, while other men, who did the same work, draw only 3/6, 6/- and 8/-. Now, we are told, they are going to get an increase in pension—an increase, as Deputy Donnellan pointed out, of from £6 to £9. Any man who served in 1916 must be approaching 60 years of age now.

I find that special allowances are reviewed every year. From time to time, I have to get in touch with the Department of Defence on behalf of men who were granted a special allowance. Thatallowance is granted only from year to year. In order to get an allowance in the first instance, a man must submit to very severe medical examination, and if he is not a deserving case the allowance will not be awarded to him. In these circumstances, I feel that that severe examination in St. Bricin's Hospital should be regarded as sufficient and that the case should not have to be reviewed every year.

Every Deputy has received correspondence from the Mansion House Committee in regard to this amending Act. I have a letter here from the North Wexford Brigade. Those pensioners in my constituency who are in the lower pension group are not satisfied with the provisions of this amending Bill. It is just another case of the more you have the more you get.

According to the Mansion House Committee circular, there are 17,000 claims still waiting to be dealt with. At the rate the Referee is hearing claims, I suppose the lifetime of this Government will have ended before they are all dealt with. The inter-Party Government opened the door to the Old I.R.A. That door was closed in 1945 by the then Fianna Fáil Government and no more claims were to be heard after that. When the inter-Party Government came into office they brought pressure to bear on the Department of Defence and on the Minister for Defence to reopen the claims of Old I.R.A. men. I am glad that, as a result of that action, some people received a pension.

I was talking to a man who was a member of the firing party at Deputy Brennan's funeral. He was one of our leaders in 1916 and he was sentenced to death. When I met him at the funeral I told him that I had received the Bill that morning, that I had not had time to read it but that I thought that an improvement was coming. His reply to me was: "Jack, it is not much of an advantage to me." That man, who was one of our leaders in 1916, is in the lower pension group.

A man who died recently was awarded a pension only during the term of office of the inter-Party Government. That man went on hunger strike and, further, he was one of thefirst men in County Wexford to go into Volunteer uniform. The Fianna Fáil Government rejected his claim and he was not awarded a pension until 1949: he did not live long to enjoy it. There are a lot of grievances throughout the country.

I consider that there should be no hesitation whatsoever about giving a pension to a man who has had 1916 service. I do not agree that any man who took part in the civil war, no matter on which side, should be granted a pension.

I never agreed with that, but I certainly agree that the 1916 men, and the men who served up to the time of the Truce and during the Black and Tan struggle, should be compensated because they risked their lives, and a good many of them lost their lives. I have found, on a few occasions, that when an Old I.R.A. man died and his pension came down, that the widow who received it had to send it back. She was not even allowed to keep it to meet the funeral expenses. Some Old I.R.A. men who died in Britain had to be buried there because their people could not afford to bring them home. That is a sad state of affairs.

I think the Minister should have gone further in this Bill. Some people may ask, where is the money to come from? My answer is that if there was a world war in the morning the money would be found as it was found in this country during the emergency—£7,000,000 for the Army. If there was a war there would be no question as to where the money was to come from. Surely to goodness, the people who by their sacrifices made the setting up of this House possible and gave us the liberty to come here as the elected representatives of the people, should get some compensation. It should not be necessary for us in these days to be making these appeals for the 1916 men and those who served up to 1921. I remember putting a question to the Minister in 1945 with regard to men in receipt of medals. The medals were given without a pension. The Minister, however, at that time brought in the special allowance so that 1916 men who had lost their health or were getting on inyears, were able to get it. That is a thing that was welcomed. It was something which those men deserved to get.

I have been a member of the House for ten years, and during all that time I have spoken on this matter on the Estimates and on other occasions. I come from a town where the men there took part in the 1916 Rising. I know them, and I know their position as well as anyone. I know the hardships they went through, of how they lost their employment and how they were despised by some people during that period. I think that if the Minister were to improve the Bill by giving a decent pension to the few who remain now—those who served during 1916 and up to 1921—everyone in this House and outside of it would be pleased.

Everyone honours and salutes the 1916 men. I hope that the Minister will be able to improve this Bill on the Committee Stage, even if he has to fight his colleague, the Minister for Finance, to get the money. The increase proposed in the Bill is very small. It is miserable when one has regard to the present cost of living. What use is £9 a year to a man who has no other means, who may be unemployed or who may be invalided and cannot work? That man will still have to go to the home assistance officer to seek some help. That is a degrading thing. I think the Minister must understand now, after hearing the views of some of his own Party, that this Bill is not as satisfactory as the House would like it to be. I agree it is an improvement. Everyone welcomes any Bill that is brought in for the betterment of the people, whether they be old age pensioners, military pensioners or others. Deputy Donnellan spoke about the £140,000 that was given back to the dance hall proprietors. If that tax was put on again, that amount of money, if made available, would satisfy for all time the Old I.R.A., and there would be no grumbling. If that tax were put on again in order to raise £140,000 to supplement the pensions of the Old I.R.A. men, the Minister would get the support of the House. I hope that the remaining stages of this Bill will go through quickly.

I do not like the present Pensions Board. If a man was turned downby the Referee in 1934 or 1936, how is that Referee going to alter his decision if the same man comes before him again? He is a man who probably should not be there at all. He was not a very popular man with the I.R.A. I think it would be very hard for him to change his mind. Therefore, I think a new board should be set up. The Old I.R.A. organisations have suggested that the board should consist of former officers who had served in their own areas. They know the companies and battalions that these men belonged to, and they know what they did. If someone in Dublin Castle is sent down to hold a sitting in the courthouse in Enniscorthy, what does he know about the men I speak of? The local officers are the men who can speak on behalf of these men. At present when a man goes before the board he may be told that he is not a person to whom the Act applies, and so he is finished with.

I think that something should be done with regard to the constitution of the board because there is such a thing as spite. I said here before, although the present Minister disagreed with me, that if you did not see eye to eye with some officers, even though you had a genuine case, they would not give you a reference. I know that has happened in my own town. I think it would be much better to have a board composed of the local officers of the area. They are in a position to vouch for Old I.R.A. men whose claims are still outstanding.

I hope that this Bill will be improved, especially in the case of those men who are in the lower pension groups. There are men getting £40, £50 or £60 a year, but then you have other men who are going to get only £9 under this Bill. That is going to mean no improvement for them, and these are men who, probably, have no other means. These are the men we should be anxious to look after. I know well-to-do people who have big I.R.A. pensions, while men who served in the ranks have only 3/6 or 5/- a week. That is not fair. I have met a lot of those men and they were disgusted when they saw the increases they were going to get on the smallmeagre pensions which they have at present. If the Minister improves the Bill and decides to get more money to meet the cases that I have mentioned he will have the full support of the Labour Party and of all Parties in this House. If he comes forward with a Supplementary Estimate to improve the financial provisions in this Bill I am sure he will get it through the House without any opposition.

In the few remarks which I have to make on this Bill I intend to confine myself to what I consider to be the most pressing aspects of the cases which the Minister is seeking to remedy. I shall deal first with what is set out at the end of the Bill where it is proposed to extend the date. Deputy Donnellan was not exactly right in stating that divisions that occurred in the continuation of the national struggle were responsible for some of these men not getting recognition. That had very little to do with it because men who faced such dangers together did not forget one another to that extent. In my opinion it was due mainly to two factors, the first being that many officers, keymen in many cases, who knew the men of their companies, battalions or brigades and knew of their activities were killed in the national struggle and were not there to verify for them.

The second factor responsible for the fact that some men did not get recognition is one that the Minister will be well aware of and which applied more to country districts than to cities. In order to keep a company unit in a district, men who went out on activities to-day had to be back at work tomorrow so that it would not be recognised that they had left the area. If they were to be of any use to the movement they had to be back at work on the following day. Then the question of continuous service arose. These men were available for service and they did go out. Very often when these men were called out, not being in the flying column, they were placed at the outskirts of an ambush position and when they were questioned as to whether they fired shots or had taken active part in the ambush position, even though they were the first lineon which the security of the ambush position rested, they got no recognition because they had not fired shots or for some such reason.

That approach to the problem was all wrong. I know men who are getting on in life, whose health is failing although not to the degree that would qualify them for special allowances, who have got neither medals nor service certificates, and perhaps they will have passed to the Great Beyond before the board considers their cases.

From that point of view I press very strongly on the Minister the need to establish two or three boards, one in each province, and to put one man of the present board on each of them so that their general efforts may be coordinated. The cases could then go before the Referee.

Detailed cross-examination of witnesses on something that happened 32, 33, 34 and 35 years ago is altogether unreasonable. It is unreasonable to expect minute accounts of these matters, and very often a question that is put by a man who has spent years at cross-examination may upset a witness. If there is any little contradiction apparent it is goodbye to his chances.

My first appeal then is for those people whose cases have not been considered or whose cases have been turned down at first hearing. I know a man who was sentenced to death and who was prayed for in church who has got no recognition. That man is illiterate and is ashamed to admit it. That case and many others are standing injustices, and are a reflection on the way that the matter has been administered. I hope we will get near to a remedy now for these particular cases, and that those that have not yet been examined will be examined without too much delay, and that those who deserve re-examination will get it.

As regards the lower group to which reference has been made, it would be a decent thing to fix a minimum pension. An appeal has been made for that. There should be a minimum of £12 or £13 10s. a year. I do not goup to £40 or £50 because I know there are certain limitations. No matter how sympathetic we may be, there are these limitations, and we cannot get over them. Therefore, our appeals must be reasonable. In many cases that applies to men who gave continuous service, and who were essential men in their particular units, men who had to continue at their work and who were called out for activities as required in their districts and the surrounding areas.

There are men who lost opportunities in their professions as a result of taking part in the national movement, perhaps university students or people who had intended pursuing educational courses of one kind or another. They spent seven or eight years of their lives on the hills or in prison cells and, as somebody said, were despised afterwards because of their activities, and because they found it difficult to get employment and had to emigrate or go into walks of life for which they were not prepared. The whole economy of these men was upset. They married late in life. If some of them have a little more than others, because of the position to which their comrades elected them for their leadership and military skill, and by reason of these services and by reason of the fact that military success in many cases depended on their ability— nobody got any more than he deserved —such men are a small proportion of the number who served their country in those days.

This matter must be attended to now because in three or four years the opportunity for compensating these people will have vanished and men will have died without receiving any recognition of their sacrifices. In their own localities their deeds are well known to their neighbours and everybody sees that they were not looked after as they should have been. I appeal, then, to the Minister, as all sides of the House have appealed to him, to try now, regardless of a little extra cost, to set this matter right. By the initiative of the Minister and with a united House we should be able at long last to give these men what their deeds and sacrifices deserve.

The present Bill gives members of the House and members of the other House an opportunity at least to say a few words of gratitude to those who made it possible for this House to exist. Some of them made the supreme sacrifice. Others are still with us. Their sacrifices have resulted in the fact that a body of free Irishmen, elected by the free votes of the Irish people, can sit in this Chamber and manage the nation's affairs.

It is the culmination of a 700-year struggle for independence, and if this Bill did nothing else but give us an opportunity to express our gratitude and to show that those who did make sacrifices were not forgotten, it is a very good thing. The Bill, however, is a disappointment to some of us who expected it to have a much wider scope. Unfortunately, the scope of the debate confines us to the Bill, but I want to express dissatisfaction that it does not go as far as the Minister's statement when replying to a Private Members' motion some time ago led us to believe it would go.

A vast number of the existing pensions which this Bill proposes to increase are very small, and the 50 per cent. increase granted in some cases is a joke, as the original pensions were a joke. I am referring to some of the lower pensions. If we had statistics available to us—the Minister can enlighten us on this point when replying—I believe I am right in saying that they would show that 80 per cent. of the pensions are under £25 a year. To my own knowledge, some of them are as low as £9 per year. That represents the princely sum of 3/6 per week, and the proposal to increase that by 1/9 per week is perpetrating a rather crude joke and making little of those who did their best to establish freedom in this country.

I think that all these pensions should be revised and I speak now in a spirit of fair play to those who took part in a very dangerous and very arduous struggle. To my own personal knowledge, some of these did what was an unpopular thing in those days and, apart from the actual danger of being under fire and under suspicion by theCrown forces at the time, some of them had their livelihood affected and were more or less blacklisted as a result and perhaps have had their whole life's prospects destroyed as they were young men at the time. We who are now enjoying the benefits of their heroic work should at least acknowledge it in an open and manly way.

Some Deputies mentioned that money can be found for other things. It can be found for things that seem very frivolous in the eyes of the people down the country. The remission of the dance hall tax which brought in £140,000 a year is one instance of it. This Bill will cost something in the neighbourhood of £400,000. When we can find money for rather frivolous things, things which the people down the country think could wait, it would seem as if we were inclined to treat this matter in a very lighthearted manner. To the pension of £9, or 3/6 per week, we now propose with all the pomp and panoply of Government to add 1/9 a week. I should like to know how anybody could arrive at the conclusion that a person's services in establishing the freedom of this country for a period of three years, if not longer, could be measured at 3/6 per week. It is a puzzle to me how any person could calmly sit on a tribunal and say to such a man: "We have decided that what you contributed to the freedom of this country is worth 3/6 a week." The decent thing to do would be either to give a worthwhile pension or else give none at all. No matter how we look at it, there was a certain insult and slight contained in reducing the amount of the pension to that level.

I should like to deal with another matter that members of this House and the other House come up against very often. Under previous Acts, the rank held by some of these applicants was reduced. Why a person who held a certain rank should have that rank reduced when the people in his neighbourhood knew what rank he held is beyond me. That is an injustice which should be remedied. The Minister should not leave it to Private Deputies to move amendments, but should take it on himself to amend the previousActs in so far as they allowed anybody or any board to arrive at a decision to reduce the rank of an applicant for a pension.

I should also like to ask the Minister whether Section 5 covers all previous applications which were rejected or whether it applies only to those who have military service medals. After having read the section and the explanatory memorandum I must confess that I do not feel clear on that point.

I will answer that later.

If the Minister could assure me now that it covers all of them I would not pursue the matter further. If not, I wish to make a plea that all those rejected should get some chance of again putting their case. I have not the slightest doubt that in some cases the applications were not supported by sufficient evidence. I suppose that is bound to arise. In the discussion on previous Bills, I think the number of applications rejected was given as 48,000. It would be safe to assume that some of these applications were not supported by sufficient evidence. Nevertheless, there must be among that vast number of rejected applications a substantial quota of persons who are entitled to some recognition.

It may be that because a member of the I.R.A. at that time did not take part in an actual ambush or fight his application was turned down. From personal experiences related to me by men who were not in ambushes I can say that they were in as grave danger as if they were in ambushes, as they were engaged in the task of taking arms, ammunition, bombs and land mines from place to place, sometimes within very close range of police and military. Many of them escaped at that time only by a hair's breadth by jumping over a wall or getting out of sight at the last moment. They were, so to speak, suspected. I suppose the police and the military and the Black and Tans had good reason to suspect them. They were taken out and beaten up, with the result that their health has never been the same and their physical condition has never permitted them to work and earn a livingas the rest of us do. They have been incapacitated in one way or another. To my own knowledge limbs were broken in some cases. Some of them were dragged at the tail of a lorry as the plaything of the wild fellows who were careering through the country at the time. I think all these should be taken into consideration, and where the board is satisfied that such things happened, and where they see that the applicant before them is physically or mentally incapacitated, and where they are satisfied that that incapacitation is due to the ill-treatment they received, there is, in my opinion, a justifiable case for awarding pensions to these people. While we are in this mood we should cover all cases.

There are men who risked their lives. There are men who deserted their parents, their wives and their children and went on the run. There are men who contracted tuberculosis because of the hardships they endured. I know that a certain member of this House has been virtually crippled because of the hardships he endured when on the run. There are hundreds of cases like his up and down the country. I do not think it is fair that their applications should be turned down. I do not think we are carrying out the last command given by Pearse before his execution. He said:—

"I desire now, lest I may not have an opportunity later, to pay homage to the gallantry of the soldiers of Irish freedom who have during the past four days been writing with fire and steel the most glorious chapter in the later history of Ireland. Justice can never be done to their heroism, to their discipline, to their gay and unconquered spirit in the midst of peril and death.

"Let me who have led them into this, speak in my own and in my fellow-commanders' name, and in the name of Ireland, present and to come, their praise, and ask those who come after them to remember them."

I think that is a very clear command from the grave. It is a command that should not be treated lightly or flippantly.

There are men whose word I believe and whose word I take. I have beentold by these men that they were prevented through the promises of some of those who are to-day sitting on the Government Front Bench from joining certain services. They were told not to join the Garda Síochána. They were told not to join the National Army. They were told not to take appointments in the Civil Service. They were told they would be looked after when Fianna Fáil got the control of the Government into their hands. One man has informed me that the present Minister and some of his colleagues made these promises. For a long time these men firmly believed that there would be some recognition of their services and of the sacrifices they made. I think the Minister and his colleagues should honour these promises. If the promises were made they should be honoured by them now when the Government has the opportunity.

I would like proof of the statement that I made any promise to any of the I.R.A. in respect of political matters. There is no use in making statements of that kind. The Deputy must remember that we try to act as honourably as we can in politics. I want to put this on record as far as I am concerned: I have never promised anything to anybody for the sake of securing political kudos. I think a statement like that coming from an ex-Minister is wrong and should not be made here.

I want to state clearly and emphatically that I can produce a letter.

Produce the letter.

I will not do that. I know the writer of the letter and the others who appended their signatures to it. I know them well enough to take their word.

And to ignore mine.

I do not mind what protest the Minister makes. I refuse to publish what these people have put in writing. I choose to believe what they say because I have known them a long time. Some of them are notsupporters of mine. Some of them are politically opposed to me. In justice and fair play, nevertheless, I want to speak on their behalf. While I do not accuse the Minister of telling a falsehood in the statement he made just now I nevertheless cannot disbelieve these men because I have known them all my life. I know their integrity and their truthfulness. I have never yet known any of them to lend himself to an untruth.

It should be very easy for them to produce some evidence of some statement of mine.

I can produce the letter and show it to the Minister. It is in my room at this moment.

Let it be produced.

I will give it to the Minister privately.

I want evidence of some statement I made to the particular individual to whom the Deputy has referred. That is what I want to see.

It is not one individual. It is a group of individuals. They say they were definitely told not to join the Garda Síochána, the National Army, the Civil Service or give their services to the country at the time, and that when Fianna Fáil got into power they would be looked after.

No such statement was ever made.

If the Minister or any of his colleagues did that, all I ask now is that they should honour their promise while this Bill is before the House. This is one place where we should be in a position to lay bare the truth, merely for the purpose of laying bare the truth and not for the purpose of hurting other people's feelings or trying to secure political kudos. That has always been my attitude.

I believe there is a number of deserving cases throughout the country for pension or recognition of some kind. Due to ill-health, to poverty or to the fact that they live in out-of-the-way places they were not aware of some of the provisions in some of theprevious Acts and consequently failed to apply within the time specified. Under Section 5 of this Act there is a provision extending the period to a date six months after the passing of this Act. May I point out that in the Land Act which I put through a few years back I fixed a date six months after the passing of the Act in order to give some latitude to a certain class whose land was being acquired by the Land Commission? In reply to a subsequent question it was discovered that there were 93 persons who could have benefited under a particular section, but of that 93 only 23 were aware of the provisions of the section and 70 failed to apply. The present Minister for Lands promised to bring in an Act rectifying that position. I think six months is too short. There will be many deserving people who will be unaware of that time limit, and I think the Minister should consider extending it for at least 12 months. The 70 people to whom I referred in connection with the Land Act were people who stood to benefit to the extent of £1,000 or £1,500, but they were unaware of the provisions of the section. I have not the slightest doubt that the same thing will happen in connection with this particular Act. I think the Minister should extend the period by ministerial amendment.

I have been told there are some people getting pensions who are definitely not entitled to them. That is a thing I cannot prove; I give it for what it is worth and I will not stress that point further. However, if there are people who succeeded in getting pensions who are not entitled to them, surely there must be many hundreds outside who are deserving of recognition. I know a neighbour of mine who was almost as much in danger as those who took part in the actual conflict or combat. In case I cannot be in the House when the Minister is replying and in case Section 5 does not apply to all previous applicants, I would ask the Minister to extend the section to cover it. In case it only applies to holders of medals I would ask the Minister to consider that point and once and for all to clear up thisvery vexed and very contentious question which exists all over the country. Let him set the minds of the applicants at rest and say to those who are outside its scope: "Very good, you are out of it for all time" and give fair play to all those who are entitled to awards.

I think the Minister should take the opportunity between now and the Committee Stage to amend the Bill to cover all these points. If he does I can guarantee him the full support of the Opposition for the speedy passage of the remaining stages of the Bill through this House.

It is with a certain amount of hesitation that I rise to speak on this Bill. I am actually conscious of the fact that many Deputies who have spoken, and probably some who will speak following me, have much closer personal knowledge of the applicants who are likely to apply under the provisions of this Bill. But I feel, like Deputy Blowick, that it is necessary, for a number of reasons, for Deputies, whether they had actual service during the I.R.A. period or not, to take advantage of this Bill being introduced to pay a tribute to those who made this Republican State possible. I do that willingly and I offer them that tribute. As well as that I believe that those of us who, due to our age, had no direct contact with the Republican Army, may see things from a detached point of view, and that our observations of the clauses of the Bill, because of that very fact, may have some special value.

We also, as Deputies, have the responsibility of expressing the views of those members of our constituency who feel that they have a grievance to ventilate and it is our business to put before the Minister this grievance so that he might in his wisdom either extend or amend this Bill. I feel as an individual that men and women who have secured a certificate for service in the I.R.A., be it in 1916 or in the later period, should they, at any time, be totally unable to provide for themselves and their dependents, are entitled in justice to secure and have provided for them in this countryample financial means to enable them to carry out their commitments to their dependents. I say that irrespective of length, irrespective of the engagements that took place, should they be totally unable to provide for themselves through illness or disability, ample provision, so that they could keep themselves and their dependents, should be made for these people.

I feel that most members of this House and most people in the country would be quite glad and would be prepared to face the financial burden that that assurance would be given to those who served this country well. There is a number of people who are receiving very modest pensions under previous Bills. It is proposed to increase their awards by 50 per cent. I have in mind the case of a constituent of mine from Waterford City who made application under the first Act. After a long number of years his case was finally decided upon and he was refused a pension. He reapplied in 1949 and got an award of £5 4s. 9d. per year. He will now receive that plus 50 per cent. of it. Mark you, in 1949 it was admitted by the Court of Referees set up to investigate the case that this man did have I.R.A. service but because of the provisions of the 1949 Act it was not possible to go back further. Having waited over 15 years this man now finds that he has £5 4s. 9d. per year, dated from some time in 1949 plus a 50 per cent. increase. In his name and in the name of thousands like him who gave service to this country, I suggest to the Minister that he should increase, as far as possible, the award of the small servicemen to a minimum, I suggest, of £25 a year. I feel that any pension, any recognition of service, be it for long or short, should certainly not be below £25 per year. It is admitted, and I have heard it said here in the House that there must be some method of measuring service and awarding pensions. I was glad to hear Deputy MacCarthy on the opposite bench pleading the case of those lower pensioned people. It was not often due to their own fault that their service was not continuous. Being soldiers and having to obey orders, they were not put in a place wherethey could have active service and so they got small awards. In making the plea for a minimum award of £25, I feel that if the Minister chooses to implement it he will receive the approval not only of this House but of all the people in the country.

There is just one other section for which I would like to make an appeal. During the glorious week of 1916 a number of men and women in Dublin and in some other centres took their lives into their hands, to give back to this country its sense of independence. Those numbers are, in the course of things, dwindling slowly away. Most of those who served during the Easter Week Rebellion, the 1916 men and women, have in the main, due to entering the Army and for various other reasons, secured pensions of the rank from which they retired in the Army, and which provided a fair amount for them; but there are some men and women—one to my own personal knowledge—who served in 1916 and who are in receipt of a pittance of £21 a year. I would suggest that the Minister should investigate the number of those 1916 men and women who now receive less than £100 per year, and I would say that, as a tribute from this nation to them, the minimum figure should be provided. I suggest that the number would be small, the financial outlay little. Unfortunately, the time will be short for which it will be paid.

In conclusion, I would say to the Minister that we are glad he has seen fit to introduce this Bill, that we wish him well with it because it is giving some token tribute of the gratitude of the people of this country to the people who served her well in her time of need.

The Minister, to conclude.

I must refer initially to something for which perhaps I was responsible by reason of the fact that I made reference to another Bill that I was bringing in in a short time. That statement of mine resulted in some Deputies discussing some things which were outside the scope of the present Bill and bringing in quite an amount of irrelevancies. I refer to that nowbecause I do not intend to deal with any of the matters which were irrelevant to this Bill, as I will deal with them when they come up on the other Bill. I hope to be in a position to bring that Bill in before the end of the present session.

I would also like to refer to a statement that was made initially by Deputy Collins and later by Deputy Norton, I think, and more recently by Deputy Donnellan—that the "dead hand of Finance" appears in this Bill. Last evening, the Ceann Comhairle very rightly pointed out that a Minister is always responsible for whatever measure he brings in here. Civil servants are there as advisers to any Minister and if a Minister, in the course of his investigation of a particular subject, finds it necessary to consult with a civil servant as his adviser, it does not necessarily follow that he will take his advice. He may do so or may decide to use his own judgment. I refer to those remarks particularly because I want to put this fact on record. First of all, I do not think any Deputy here wants knowingly to injure the character of another. Whatever hostility we may have to each other politically, I do not think we are anxious to go that far, and I want to put on record that, far from the Minister for Finance doing anything in the nature of preventing me from getting the case which I put to the Government advanced, he was one of those on the Government who gave me most help in the consideration of the facts which I had to put before them.

The Government did consider this Bill over quite a long period of time. It was necessary that they should do so, to examine the pros and cons of the claims that were put forward. The claims were very wide and very extensive. On the occasion that I met a deputation which put these claims before me in the first instance, I suggested to the deputation at that time that these claims could not be covered by a sum less than about £2,000,000.

I held out no hope that the full claims amounting to that vast sum of money could be met. I do not thinkthe deputation realised the vast cost of their proposals. I say that because they were inclined to pooh-pooh the idea that they would run into any such sum as that, but my first duty in handling that claim was to have it costed. That is a necessary preliminary in the examination of a case of that kind by a Minister before he attempts to put it to the Government, and the costings I was given amounted to over £1,500,000, so that the rough estimate of my own that it would run into a figure of almost £2,000,000 was not far out.

The question then was how the Government should get down to coming to decisions on a matter of such very great concern to such a large number of people. We referred to a Bill which was brought in in 1950 by the former Minister for Finance. It was a Bill which applied to quite a number of people—teachers, civil servants, the Gardaí, I think, and others—and it was an effort to bring up the pensions of these individuals to a sum which the then Government regarded as fair and reasonable. When that Bill was being discussed here, I made a very strong plea to the then Minister for Finance to include among the beneficiaries the Old I.R.A. I pointed out that they were the only section of the community capable of having the Bill applied to them who were left out and I urged that he should include them. He resisted that appeal and gave his reasons—they were referred to here last evening by Deputy de Valera— but we in considering the provisions of that Bill came to the conclusion that they could best be applied to the Old I.R.A. claims, and the concessions which the Government has agreed to in this case are the same as those contained in the Bill of 1950.

A vast amount of play has been made with the small pensions, the pensions of £6 13s. 4d. and so on. I should like to know in what way can service be measured other than the way in which it has been decided by the Referee. There has been very considerable reference in this debate to the Referee. There have been, to my knowledge, at least four Referees, three of whom have been judges of the Circuit Court, and it is reasonable toassume that these men applied their full legal knowledge to the task with which they were confronted. I am also prepared to say that it is reasonable, again, to assume that men of that eminence are not going to bring to the discharge of their task such personal considerations as it was suggested they do bring.

It has been suggested here that the Referee, for some reason of his own, did not give one person a pension, while giving one to somebody else similarly circumstanced. Statements have been made here that in the case of individuals with identical service, a pension has been granted in one case and not in the other. I can hardly imagine that these gentlemen would, in any circumstance, deliberately go out of their way to refrain from giving justice as between two individuals. If the individuals concerned were entitled to service, I am satisfied that the Referee would not be so petty or small as to say: "I do not like the attitude of this gentleman, and, because I do not, I am not going to give him a pension." I do not think such a thing has ever entered into the examination of the cases by any one of the four Referees who have operated in respect of these pensions. These men have the evidence before them of the service given by the individuals and the very fact that they have given pensions as small as they have given is a proof of the meticulous examination they have given to the cases which have come before them. They have granted these small pensions because they were satisfied that the individuals were entitled to some form of pension.

When Deputies make the claim that there should be a minimum pension of £25 or some other sum—the minimum which the Old I.R.A. are claiming is in the region of £50—we must have some idea of what these claims are likely to cost. A minimum pension of £50 would cost £250,000. Deputies have assured me during this discussion that the people would not object to that sum being added to the sum which the Government proposes as the limit to which they can go, the sum of £400,000, which is additional, of course, to the sum already being paid to these pensioners. A minimum pension of£50 would cost £250,000 per year over and above the increases for which this Bill already provides. I do not know if Deputies when they give me an assurance that the public would not object to that, are speaking with any authority or that they have any means of finding out that that assurance would be honoured by the public.

In addition there is another claim, a claim on behalf of the 1916 men to a minimum pension of £100 a year. A minimum pension of £100 a year would cost in their case £90,000. These are large sums of money. Those two classes of pensions, which it has been suggested that the Government should concede, would amount to something like £300,000 in round figures, in addition to the £400,000 which the present provisions of the Bill will cost. I should like naturally if I were in a position to say that I could accept the propositions put forward by Deputies in these respects, but when one gets into the responsible position of being a Minister, one has got to look at the situation from the point of view of extracting that money from the public purse, and the public purse is John Citizen and his wife. However much we should like to avoid looking at it from that point of view, we must have regard to that position primarily before we can say: "Yes, we accept these conditions; we agree to them."

There is another aspect in regard to bringing this £6 13s. 4d. that was mentioned here, I think, by almost every Deputy up to say £20. There again I do not know whether the Old I.R.A. themselves would be enamoured of that proposal for the simple reason that £20 represents four years' service to a man who would rank as private. I wonder would the man who would have four years' service be satisfied to remain where he was if the man who had this small pension which represented about a year's service had his pension brought up to £20.

Would he not have £30 under this Bill?

Even if he had, the point I want to make is that the £20 man would immediately say: "Yes, I agree, provided the pension is proportionatelyraised in my case also," and I feel he would be justified in doing so. I want to point out to Deputies, although I am sure they realise it as fully as I do, that, as the pensions awarded were increased in the case of certain individuals, it simply meant that these individuals, in the opinion of the Referee, had a greater amount of service or a greater amount of responsibility. Some Deputies, in discussing the amount of pensions, seemed to speak slightingly of those who have larger pensions than others. I do not think that is proper. I think that the men who carried responsibility as officers and who were able to prove to the different Referees that they had that responsibility, if the Referee was prepared to accept their claim and give them that rank, were entitled to what they were awarded. I do not think there is anything wrong in that. Do we not all know that men who officered the Old I.R.A. had to take, in most cases, the greatest amount of responsibility? They had to plan the various campaigns that were undertaken by their units. They had in most cases to lead the men into the particular ambushes or incidents in which the enemy were attacked. If an officer was a good officer he was respected by his men, and it was not his fault that only one man out of 20 or 30 could be an officer. If he was selected as an officer and if he carried out his duties in the manner in which he should carry them out, surely no one will suggest that that officer is not entitled to whatever amount of money he is getting as pension? Something to that effect has been suggested here, and I do not think it should be.

These were the problems with which the Government were confronted. They were fully aware of the fact that quite a large number of individuals would get amounts that would be regarded as small but unless they were treated as in the 1950 Act to which I have already referred, I do not know what else could have been done. The Government could have, if the money were there—and in passing I should like to say that perhaps there was never a worse time financially to deal with these claims—got the actuaries whoframed the 1950 grade of pensions to draft another table of increases but all the time, as I say, at the back of the mind of the Government, was the thought, naturally, of the public purse. We were always faced with that limitation.

Listening to the debate it occurred to me when I heard some of the very severe criticism that was levelled at this Bill that this Government could have taken the easy way out that our predecessors took—that was to do nothing at all, to put it on the long finger. I did not give a promise to anyone that I would bring in a Pension Bill if I were returned to ministerial office. I never even discussed it with anyone and, to do the Old I.R.A. justice, they never discussed it with me so I was under no obligation good, bad or indifferent to bring in a Bill.

Did you not meet a deputation from the Old I.R.A.?

When the deputation came I naturally received them. I listened to the case which they made, I gave it the fullest possible consideration and, having done so, I produced it to the Government.

I made certain recommendations and I am glad to say that most of them. I were accepted. Some of them were rejected. I did not expect that all of them would be accepted. I did not expect that some of the proposals I put forward would have been added to, but I am glad to say that some of the proposals which I did put forward were not only accepted by the Minister for Finance, but in one case he helped to increase a certain concession in this Bill. In a vague sort of way there was a suggestion throughout the debate that the dead hand of the Department of Finance was reacting on this Bill. I do not think I need go any further on the question of the yardstick of service. Service is the only yardstick so far as I am concerned with which we can measure these pensions. If there is any other means by which these pensions could be dealt with I did not hear it referred to in this discussion. If we were to raise the small pensions to that of the minimumsuggested in the course of this debate, then I would be convinced and I am sure every Deputy in this House would be equally convinced that as soon as we did that there would be a claim by all the other people who are entitled to pensions in other grades. They would seek a proportionate rate of increase also.

There were various references to the Referee. There was one suggestion that under the 1924 Act a decision could not be arrived at by one individual, that it had to be arrived at by two. I think that is correct, but it is also correct for me to say that the Referee in practically every case that I know of arrives at his decision after consultation with the advisory body. The advisory body is there and their purpose is to advise the Referee. They usually advise him in respect to rank and length of service. As far as I know, he usually accepts that advice.

In some respects, I think one Referee went too far. He went so far that the House took the matter up, and as a result of the discussion which took place in the House, the matter was taken to court. I am referring to the occasion on which he shared the examination of the cases with his advisory body. The advisory body, having dealt with the cases, came to him and advised him that such and such amount of service should be given. But because the Referee was not sitting with the particular individuals to whom he gave that power, the court turned him down.

I do not think that the present Referee is departing in any respect from the custom that was originated by the first Referee, a custom which has been carried on by two or three others and which is now being carried on by the present Referee. There have been suggestions that the present Referee is hearing appeals against decisions which he himself gave. They are not appeals in fact, they are petitions. Anyone who knows anything about the 1949 Act knows that all it did was to allow individuals who believed they could prove they had service to petition to be reheard. They are being reheard, and the proof that the Referee is dealing with these caseswithout any prejudice whatever as to whether he heard the cases or not is to be found in the fact that about 1,000 applicants have already succeeded. I think that is as good a proof as anyone can get in respect to the justice which the Referee is carrying out in regard to these cases.

There was also the question of 28 days' notice. A notice of 28 days is given to all new applicants or to those who are coming up now as petitioners and who have not had 28 days' notice on a former occasion. Where the individuals have already been heard and have appealed and got 28 days' notice they are not now getting that notice. I do not think anyone can complain about that. We do not want to go on giving 28 days' notice every time a rehearing takes place.

Deputy Cowan suggested that where a person took part in the movement, and who subsequently joined the Guards or the Civil Service, his years of military service should count as pensionable service. I think that is correct, is it not?

It would not be practicable to count the period before a person took up a particular occupation as pensionable service in that occupation because he already has a military service pension in respect of that period.

Deputy Cowan and myself were at loggerheads in regard to the question of a sergeant who later reached the rank of commandant. I do not think Deputy Cowan was correct in suggesting that that individual first got his pension when he retired as an officer in 1951. I think there was a suggestion that that was so. The facts are that in 1941 he inquired about his pension, and it then became known to the Pension Branch for the first time that he had been discharged in 1935. The Pension Branch took the view that a notional discharge such as this was not a discharge within the meaning of the 1924 Act. On seeking legal opinion, they were advised that the discharge was an actual one, and that the pension was properly payable from 1935. The officer was informed of the position,including the fact that the pension as granted would be based on a sergeant's rank. He asked for the pension, and was given it retrospectively to 1935. He received some payment almost every year as distinct from other officers who had certificates under the 1924 Act. It was not until he finally left the Army that he questioned the rank on which his pension was based.

Deputy Blowick referred to Section 5 and asked if it extended the time limit for petitions. It deals with those cases where petitions were not made previously. It does not cover cases where petitions have been rejected already or where pensions were granted. He also said he knew of individuals who were severely injured in the course of their old I.R.A. service but who, despite the fact that they were severely injured, did not receive pensions. Actually, the position would be that if these people received injuries and could prove service they would have been entitled to apply for a disability pension if they could prove that the disability was incurred in the course of service given. Later, as Deputies well know, if the injuries, —as suggested, I think, by Deputy Blowick— prevented such a person from earning his livelihood he could have applied for a special allowance. Therefore, I do not think there is anything very much in that point.

Deputy Blowick also asked for an extension of the period for making applications to 12 months. I think Deputy Ted O'Sullivan went further and suggested that there should not be any limit at all: there might be something in that suggestion. After extending the right to make an application year by year for 28 years in one case, and year by year for 18 years in the other case, there does not seem to me, anyhow, to be much sense in putting any limit to the period now. No doubt there are legal aspects to the matter which I do not see and which Deputies do not see at the moment. That is how the matter appears to me.

Deputy MacCarthy went a little lower in regard to minimum pensions than some other Deputies: he suggested that the lowest pension should be £12. These are all suggestions of ways andmeans of getting over the difficulty of the very low pension. They are only suggestions, and I feel that any departure from the yardstick of service will lead me, and eventually the House, into very grave difficulties.

I am pretty certain that no Old I.R.A. man will object to giving £20 a year as a minimum pension to a comrade, but he will at least feel that if a man with one year's service is getting £20, as against his four or five years' service, his amount should proportionately be increased. That is one of the grave difficulties which I see in relation to these questions. As I said on other occasions when I was dealing with these Bills, the various views put forward by the different Deputies in the House will be examined very carefully and will be brought to the attention of the Government by myself.

I want to thank the Minister for correcting one aspect of the matter which I mentioned yesterday in regard to the sergeant who was promoted to the rank of commandant. The only information which I had was that which I had received yesterday. It was a copy of a letter addressed to the Minister in November, 1952, and the reply from the Secretary of the Department which stated that the date of his discharge determined his pension. I am glad to know from the Minister that the Department's view was the view which I held—that that notional, as they term it, but fictional, as I term it, discharge was not a discharge at all. That particular officer acted foolishly in claiming a pension before it had reached its maximum. I ask the Minister to have the matter examined again. I can assure him that it will come before him again, because I understand that five or six people are similarly affected and obviously a promotion from the rank of sergeant to that of second-lieutenant is not a discharge from the Defence Forces. I think the Minister would agree with that.

It is a technical discharge.

I am sure it will be possible to put this matter right.

What about my query in relation to Section 5?

The Minister answered that.

I am sorry I was not in the House.

The position is that applicants who have not petitioned before can do so under that particular section but if their case was re-examined on petition and a decision arrived at, then they cannot.

Does that mean that all those whose cases were examined before, and were rejected, are debarred?

Re-examined. That is only under the 1949 Act. They cannot re-petition under that.

In other words, the appeal is final.

They were heard under the 1949 Act.

What about the position of a man who was in any municipal or other employment, and who had three years' pension? When he retires from his present occupation those three years will be deducted from him. Is that position being amended? It is rather a petty matter.

I do not get the Deputy's point.

Deputy Hickey can raise that matter on the Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?

The 18th February.

Committee Stage ordered for the 18th February.