Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 25 Oct 1939

Vol. 23 No. 12

Public Business. - Public Hospitals (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1939—Second Stage.

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

I am sure that all Senators are already aware of the purpose of the Bill. Its purpose is to amend the law so as to enable the Irish Red Cross Society to raise funds by means of sweepstakes. The Bill is urgent as it is hoped to run the sweepstake in connection with a race at Leopardstown in January next, and in order to enable the tickets to be sold it is necessary that the Bill should be passed as soon as possible. Consequently, it is hoped that Senators will agree to take all stages of the Bill to-day.

Any sweepstakes held under the Bill will be organised on the same lines as the Hospitals Sweepstakes and they will be governed by the restrictions contained in the Public Hospitals Act, 1933. That Act fixes 30 per cent. of the receipts of each sweepstake as the maximum which may be charged as expenses. If the expenses of a sweepstake held under this Bill exceed 30 per cent. of the receipts the excess will have to be borne by the promoters. No claim can be made by the promoters for compensation under the Public Hospitals (Amendment) Act, 1939, as Section 8 of the Bill provides specifically that that Act will not apply to any sweepstake held under the Bill. The scheme for each sweepstake will require the sanction of the Minister for Justice.

Hospitals Trust, Limited, have agreed to promote any sweepstake which the Red Cross Society may decide to hold. I understand that it is proposed to run a special race at Leopardstown on the 13th January, 1940, for the first sweepstake.

It is the intention of the Red Cross Society to make contributions from the proceeds of the sweepstake to similar societies throughout the world in accordance with the wishes of the subscribers. The basis of distribution will be specified in the schemes for the sweepstake. I understand that on the tickets there will be a space for persons to declare to what society they would wish a percentage of the money subscribed to be devoted.

I should like to make it clear that both the Hospitals Committee and Hospitals Trust, Limited, are satisfied that sweepstakes in aid of the Red Cross will not in any way prejudice the Hospitals Sweepstakes. In fact they believe that the effect will be beneficial. I understand that it is intended to organise a sweepstake in aid of the hospitals on the Grand National of 1940, or on some substituted race.

The Minister has indicated that he would like all stages of this Bill to be taken to-day and, so far as we on this side of the House are concerned, we have no objection to that being done. I am in favour of the Bill myself for a number of reasons. A few weeks ago in this House Senator Sir John Keane and Senator MacDermot spoke in a way that seemed to suggest that they were rather peeved that we were nonbelligerent in the present war. With that point of view I have no sympathy whatever. I said on that occasion, the theory that when there is going to be any war in the world it must be made universal is a theory with which I have no sympathy. At the same time, I feel that, arising out of the present war, we in this country may be called upon for certain corporal works of mercy. I feel that we cannot stand aside in the present situation as though we were not our brother's keepers in any way. Therefore I should like the Red Cross organisation in this country to have at its disposal very considerable funds to be used when occasion calls for them. We already have had an occasion when Irish activity was called upon in the case of the landing of the survivors of the Athenia in Galway.

Now, that sort of thing, or analogous things, may happen from time to time in the course of this war, and I think everybody will agree that it is desirable, when we have a first opportunity, so to speak, not of belligerent action, but of assisting in the relief of the suffering arising from this war, that we should not be handicapped for a lack of funds. Consequently, I welcome, as I am sure we will all welcome, the organisation of this sweepstake in aid of the Irish Red Cross and in aid of the Red Cross in other countries, according to the wishes of subscribers, as has been explained.

I really wish that I could let this matter pass without any criticism whatever, but unfortunately there are certain things in connection with it which do hit one in the eye. Of course, we all know that, when you are starting a new organisation, you naturally look around for a number of people to act as a committee in order to put that organisation on its feet. Now, I have seen in the papers a list of the men nominated by the Government to the governing body of the Irish Red Cross. I looked at that list and I shall tell you quite frankly how the list struck me. I saw the names there of certain people who had been prominently associated with the St. John Ambulance Brigade who, ipso facto, more or less naturally would go on to such a governing body, or men who, by their eminence in the medical profession, let us say, would be naturally regarded as suitable. Then, however, I looked down the list in order to see why, apart from the kind of people I have mentioned, one person rather than another should have been appointed to that body. I looked through the list to see if medical men, for instance, were chosen on account of their eminence in their profession. Looking at it as an impartial observer, and trying to get an idea as to what reason these people were selected by the Government—apart, as I say, from those who would automatically, so to speak, be nominated to such a body—as far as I could see the only unifying point amongst these nominees was their known activity in the service of the Party organisation of Fianna Fáil.

Now, I am being perfectly straight in this matter. I saw the names on that list of two men who had both, what you might call, held positions analogous to that of the D.M.S. in the Army, but who had held such a position in forces operating against this State. I was struck by the inclusion of names of men whose only distinction, that I knew of, was that they had Fianna Fáil associations, and by the omission of the names of men who were eminent in the medical profession but who were not supporters of that Party. Now, I do not want to stress this too much.

Perhaps I should say at this point that this matter does not appear to me to arise on this Bill. The council was set up by the Minister for Defence under the Red Cross Act.

I understand, Sir, but I am only bringing it in order to show that we are now promoting legislation the purpose of which is to get money from the Irish public for this organisation, the controlling body of which will be nominees of the Government who, presumably, will have to do with the collection and expenditure of that money. I think it is relevant in this way: that in such circumstances as now exist, even more than in ordinary circumstances—and in speaking as I am now I only want to give the Government an opportunity of reassuring the country at the present moment as to the position, and we are all very anxious to assist the Government in every possible way—it is necessary for the Government to show that it is giving the country a fair deal and that it is not using the present position, when, as one might say, our lips are closed to discussion, to do things that might not bear discussion.

Now, I have had experience of the starting of organisations, and I can quite understand that anybody who has to do with the starting of an organisation has to get an organising committee, or a committee of a temporary nature, to run that organisation, and that such a person often has to choose the people nearest to him and those whom he knows best. Consequently, I would be completely in agreement, if such a committee were known to be of a temporary nature, but the fact which hits me in the eye is that these new members who have been selected by the Government—apart from those who, as I say, would naturally be on such a committee—are all of the one, and only one, political persuasion. As I have said, I myself have had to do with the starting of such organisations, and I know that it is usual in such cases to get an organising body together that would function for six months or 12 months, as the case might be, in order to get the preliminary work done, and then the organisation that was formed would elect its own controllers. I would be quite happy, therefore, if the Minister would say that these nominees of the Government have been put there for the purpose of getting this thing under way and that then, after six months or 12 months, or whatever may be the necessary period, another method of setting up a controlling body will he brought about. I would suggest, for instance, that, since the Red Cross Society is an organisation notably associated with the medical profession, the correct way would be for the various institutions associated with medicine in this country, on a sort of vocational line, to be invited to nominate their own selections to this body. I should like to have some assurance from the Government on that point, because a number of people outside have remarked to me that the Government, apparently, have selected —apart from those who, as I say, were associated with the St. John Ambulance Brigade and so on—only those doctors who were of a certain political persuasion, and that the only grounds that seem explainable to the public for the selecting of these people were that they were of the one political persuasion.

Now, I have no objection to these people being nominated to such a body. As I have remarked, the names of two of these were associated with the equivalent rank of D.M.S. in the Irregular forces in 1922-23. I have no objection to their being members of this body, no more than I think that there would be any harm in having two people who had held the position of D.M.S. in the Army. As I say, I have no objection to that, or to the fact that doctors might have certain political views supporting the present Government—very far from it, and in fact I think it might be quite desirable to give such nominations to people of a particular political persuasion. As far as I can see, however, this has been a holus-bolus selection of political partisans. Perhaps the Minister will assure us on this matter.

Now, there is another thing to which I should like to refer. The Hospitals Sweep was founded some years ago and it went on merrily and received wonderful support both in this country and in other countries, and as far as I can see the first change in its success, from the upward grade, was when the Minister for Finance—and we have every sympathy with him in his efforts to secure money—looked around for new hen-roosts to raid and imposed a new tax on the Hospitals Sweepstake Trust. That, undoubtedly, brought about at that time a very considerable reaction in England, because it was felt that here we were in this country seeking funds which were nominally to be used for the help of the sick poor, but from which the Government evidently saw a chance of enriching the national Exchequer. Now, in the case of the present sweep, with which we are dealing, we are told that the money subscribed will be made available to the countries associated with the Red Cross, in accordance with the wishes of the subscribers; and that is very good. Mind you, I do not want to close up any avenue of money to the Government at the present time, and I am sure none of us wishes to do so, but it does seem to me that the taking of that money injures the Hospitals Sweepstake. It was not enriching the country.

At the present time it would be an assistance to this Bill if the Minister gave an assurance that the arrangement made by the Government about 1933, or whenever it was, for seizing an amount of this money for the Exchequer would not be pursued in the present case. I am sorry to have to refer to another matter, to the political colour of the nominees of the governing body, because it is a thing which has hit people in the eye for some time. One would not mind if one saw a man from Fianna Fáil, who was a strong partisan if, at the same time, he was a man of great distinction in the medical profession. I saw one name on the list that I recognised as eminently distinguished in the medical profession. As far as the others go, why was A chosen instead of B? The only answer that comes to mind is because he has been a very strong Fianna Fáil supporter. Apart from that, and independent of that, I may say, as far as I am concerned, that I intend to support this Bill, and I understand that on this side it is proposed to facilitate the Minister in getting all stages to-day.

I do not think it desirable to follow Senator Fitzgerald into the political aspect of the Red Cross organisation, but I ask if we can get a frank statement from those who know, as to the objects of this Red Cross Society. I only say that in the interests of the society itself. There is at present certain apprehension, as there always is in this country unfortunately, founded to a great extent on rumour, and to a certain extent on suspicion, as to how the funds of this organisation may be used. I am sure the greater frankness we have the better it will be for everybody and for the society itself, in that it will encourage people to subscribe who may, at the moment, be somewhat hesitant. The general functions of the Red Cross Society are well understood, and this organisation, I understand, is on all lines with the existing Red Cross Societies with headquarters at Geneva, but we should like to see the Government in a position to give information, because they are footing the scheme in the Bill, and also to be more explicit as to the term "war," and those who are suffering as a result of war. Unfortunately "war" has many and varied meanings. We ought to have an assurance that it is only war between constituted authorities and politically constituted sovereign States is referred to. I need not develop the point, that there is a loophole, and that "war" in another sense—civil war, for instance—might be called "war," but I do not imagine that the victims of civil war would be eligible for the receipt of assistance out of these funds. Similarly I should like to know—I suppose the answer would be in the affirmative—if sufferers from, say, Poland and refugees generally from Europe, would be eligible for support from the Red Cross Funds. In fact, speaking generally, the more explicit the assurances the better it will be for the Red Cross Society itself.

With regard to the Bill itself there are one or two points that I should like to deal with. I should like to know from the Minister why

the expression "the society" means the Irish Red Cross Society;

the expression "foreign society" means a society or organisation in a country other than Ireland which has objects or functions similar or analogous to those of the society;

Why cannot that be simply made any other Red Cross Society affiliated to the International Red Cross Society at Geneva? Why should not a grant be given outside this country to other Red Cross Societies? I think that would make the matter much clearer and the meaning much less susceptible to rather indefinite use. In the same way, I should like the Minister to say why the Government wants power to control this scheme. Surely, when so much money is available from the sweepstakes, it would be sufficient to hand it over to a properly and legally constituted body called the Irish Red Cross Society. Why should it be necessary for the Minister to attach any conditions to the use of the money? I was hoping that the Government would keep out of it altogether, beyond giving the constituted authorities power to raise the money and having got the money, handing it over unconditionally to the Red Cross Society which is bound by statutory rules and obligations.

I would prefer not to take part in this debate as I was at the inauguration of the society, and have been for some time interested in the promotion of the Hospitals Sweepstakes. Surely there are certain misunderstandings going about, and seeing that there are, as a Senator I might help to get rid of them. Senator Fitzgerald said he would not criticise the structure of the central council of the society, if it were there simply for the purpose of organising the society, and then handing it over to the Government. The central council was nominated by the former Minister for Defence to organise and control the society up to next June.

I saw that.

After that the branches of the society which, it is hoped, will be formed will elect their own governing body. I think that takes away something from the criticism that was made. I heard the criticism that was referred to to-day. I have been at every meeting of the council, and speaking from my experience, I think it was not in any sense a political body or that anyone was there because of political attachments. There has been criticism by others similar to that put forward by Senator Fitzgerald to-day, and when it was made I regretted that the council and its constitution should be left open to what I believe is an entire misconstruction. It is possible that some of my medical friends, who have been nominated on the council by the Minister, have had strong attachments to the Party to which the Government belongs, but apart from that, it would be impertinence to suggest that they were not excellent and representative men in the medical profession. One of the gentlemen that, I think, Senator Fitzgerald had in mind is, in fact, President of the Irish Medical Union at the moment. Another was the former honorary secretary of that union who was mainly responsible for its foundation within the last half-dozen years. If, as Senator Fitzgerald had suggested, the Medical Union had been asked to recommend certain names to the Minister for Finance, I am sure such gentlemen as these would be amongst those who would be suggested, regardless of whatever might have been their political opinions or regardless of what suspicions there might have been about their political leanings.

Senator Fitzgerald said that the first hitch in the history of the sweepstake had been when the Minister for Finance of the Fianna Fáil Government put his hand into the bag. There was a hitch before that when the Minister for Local Government and Public Health of the previous Government had got his hand into the bag. That was when the descent in principle began and when the funds for the particular purpose for which the sweeps were founded were deflected to another purpose. That was when money was granted from the sweepstakes for the relief of rates and for the relief of the public purse. That has been done and Senator Sir John Keane and I would not have thought it necessary to raise the point now if this matter had not been referred to by Senator Fitzgerald.

I was about to draw attention to another point to which Senator Sir John Keane has referred, that is the rather loose definition of "foreign society". "Foreign society" is defined in the Bill as an expression that

"means a society or organisation in a country other than Ireland which has objects or functions similar or analogous to those of the society."

I do not think there is any need to have the definition as loose as that. Almost every country has recognised the Red Cross Society. That is recognised by its own Government and vouched for by its own Government— the international organisation in Geneva and Paris. I think we would lose nothing if the definition would be a reference to the Red Cross Society in some other country. With the loose definition that is here it is possible that difficulties may arise about the granting of moneys to societies which, though having excellent objects, might not have the same recognised position and might not be regarded as non-sectional in other countries. I would ask the Minister to reconsider that matter in the second clause of Section 2 before the Bill is carried through this House.

Certain fears have been expressed as to the possibility of this project on behalf of the Red Cross Society interfering with the functioning of the Hospitals Sweepstakes. I am bound to say that those who have studied the question are of opinion that so far from interfering with the Hospitals Sweepstakes this project will benefit them. What I mean is that this country will become more popular because of its desire and its efforts to contribute something to the welfare of people in other countries. Certainly it has to be admitted that the contribution to the Red Cross Society in other countries is somewhat precarious. The Hospitals Sweepstakes got most of its funds from foreign countries. I understand that is the view of its promoters. I think this measure will render the Hospitals Sweepstakes more popular because of the fact that this country is showing its recognition of the generosity with which foreign countries in the last eight or nine years have subscribed. Those concerned with the Hospitals Sweepstakes believe that this Red Cross Sweepstake will help them, and they have also another important point in view, namely, the giving of employment. At present one cannot hope for the same amount of support of the sweepstakes during the period of the duration of the war as was given in recent years, and in consequence it would be impossible for the promoters to go on giving at all the same amount of employment as they have been giving in recent years. But the throwing in of a new sweepstake to be held this winter will enable the promoters to keep on a much larger number of employees in employment for the next few months than if this sweepstake had not been projected. This may not justify the sweep being held, but at all events it will have the sympathy of every citizen. The project has a good deal to be said in its favour apart from its object in providing funds for the purposes of the Red Cross Society. That is all I have to say.

What has been said by Senator Fitzgerald with regard to nominations is only what can be said in the matter of the constitution of any organisation. That is to say that no matter who is nominated to any of these positions some objection can be made to the nomination. When the Irish Tourist Bill was being passed through this House, it was said that the board or committee should have been nominated by the Local Appointments Commissioners. The fact remains that whoever is nominated to one of these positions, there will be objections from one source or another, and the statement will be made that the right people were not appointed. If most of us were asked our opinion in the matter of the promotion of this Red Cross Society sweepstake, I really think that our findings would be that the passing of this Bill was unjustifiable in this sense that it is a case of killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. Very many people think that this new sweep is like drawing a red herring across the path of the Hospitals Sweeps. I took it to be the general view of the people that if the Hospitals Sweepstake people, and the other beneficiaries of the Hospitals Sweep agreed to sacrifice one year's earnings or funds and devote them to the Red Cross Society it would have been a much better thing than the starting of a new red herring and drawing it across the greater organisation. I am sure, however, that that is now beyond recall, having gone so far as we have. It is only for us to make the best of the matter as it stands. I am sure every support will be given to the new organisation in providing funds for the Red Cross Society. But in everybody's opinion that has not been the best way to go about it. I repeat again that it would have been much better if one year's net profits of the organisation were devoted to the work of the Red Cross Society. I am afraid this new sweepstake will do harm to the other and more prosperous institution of the Hospitals Sweepstake. However, we are all prepared to give it our general support.

I am glad that Senator Rowlette has referred to Senator Fitzgerald's remarks about the personnel of the board as an impertinence. I also would like to voice the same opinion——

Mr. Hayes

I think Senator O'Donovan is maligning Senator Rowlette.

I do not think so.

Mr. Hayes

Oh, yes, the Senator is attributing words to Senator Rowlette that he did not use.

If so I will say myself that it is an impertinence.

Mr. Hayes

That word was not used by Senator Rowlette.

The word was used.

Mr. Hayes


I did not use the word "impertinence."

Senator O'Donovan must accept the word of Senator Rowlette.

I think it is unfortunate that the debate has taken this turn. The Bill was not debated in that spirit in the Dáil. Following Senator Fitzgerald there was Senator Sir John Keane, and one would almost have gathered from his remarks that almost all the funds of the Red Cross Society were to be devoted to the Fianna Fáil organisation. We had one of the Senators referring to the funds and the other referring to the personnel of the board. Senator Sir John Keane had a good deal to say as to the way the money was to be spent, and finally he said that it should be devoted according to the rules of the Red Cross Society. Still he makes a speech almost entirely on the lines that he wanted to know in what way the proceeds were to be spent. I regret that that tone has been introduced into the debate.

Having said so much, I wish to raise one more point, one which has not been mentioned by any other Senator. I put it to the Minister that, in the scheme sanctioned by the Minister, the fund subscribed in Ireland should be devoted to the Red Cross in Ireland. I will clarify that. As a neutral country, we do not want a census here of how many people are pro-German, how many are pro-British, and how many are pro-Polish; we, in Ireland, would find it very inadvisable to put on our tickets that we want the proceeds to go to Germany or to England. I can understand quite well that any person subscribing to the funds outside Ireland could opt that the proceeds—or the accumulation of the proceeds—from that country, would go to that country; but I think that the funds subscribed by the people here should go to the Irish Red Cross. The point is that we do not want so many Irish subscribers to say that they want the proceeds of their money to go to one of the belligerents in the present war. I think it would have a rather disastrous result if the people were to say they were pro-this or pro-that. It would be quite understandable internationally that the money which we subscribe ourselves in Ireland should go to the Irish Red Cross.

I did not intend to speak at all, until the last speaker rose, because the previous speeches—to which he objected—could have done no harm, except as they were emphasised by him. I have heard quite a lot of criticism, not of the persons nominated on the committee, but of the absence of prominent people connected with Fine Gael. I have not heard a word against anybody on the committee, but I was asked to make inquiries as to whether Fine Gael had refused to take any part. I would like to see the utmost publicity given to the statement made by Senator Rowlette to the effect that the Irish Red Cross will, after the 1st June—I think that was the date mentioned—have a central governing body nominated by the local bodies.

Elected, if that is the case. The way to make the Irish Red Cross satisfactory in the future is for everybody to take part, without regard to Party affiliations, in the local organisation. That is the way by which any defects can be remedied. I think is would be a mistake to blind ourselves to the fact that these criticisms took place.

As to the second part of Senator O'Donovan's remarks, what he suggests is, to my mind, quite impracticable. I do not know very much about sweepstakes, but I do know that a very large number of subscriptions apparently from Ireland do not come from Ireland at all. Most people in business have found that they have to oblige all sorts of people in various parts of the world, who wish to take part but do not desire the address to be given. The suggestion could be borne in mind by the committee, but I think it is clearly a case where we cannot discuss the details. That would remain to somebody with full knowledge. However, I do not think there is any harm in it as there is no disclosure of the figures of the amount that came from here, and I do not think that there could be. My object is to suggest that the blunder which was made by the Minister in the general composition of the first committee could now remedy itself by all sorts and sections of the community taking part in the local organisations.

I regret I did not hear what Senator Sir John Keane said, but if I am wrong he can correct me. I rather gather that he wished that the Red Cross funds should only be used for humanitarian purposes for people who are what one might call "accredited belligerents"; that is to say, where Governments have formally gone to war, the Red Cross would have the right to assist the wounded under those conditions, but the Red Cross funds could not be used to assist wounded men in any other circumstances. The whole point is: When is a war not a war? How can anybody tell? The war in Spain was a civil war, so-called; presumably, that is one of the occasions on which Senator Sir John Keane, if he had paid a subscription or given a donation to the Red Cross—which I hope he will do shortly —would object to the money being used. The war between Japan and China is not a war because nobody has declared war, though people are being killed all the time. Does he suggest that the Red Cross should not use its funds there?

May I be more explicit and say that I had in mind a so-called war which was much nearer home? Need I say more?

I think Senators all know exactly what is in his mind. We have got that much further on. Is it not reasonable to suppose that, where two lots of Irishmen are killing each other, the Red Cross funds could be used? Senator Keane has not come out completely in the open. He has kept back something. There again, is it a civil war? Would there be people who would not have the view which was in Senator Sir John Keane's mind and who would call it, not a civil war but a war between different nations? I do not think the Senator has really helped his case at all. If he had told us exactly what was in his mind there would be an answer immediately, but he has left us to infer certain things. Anyway, in a civil war, as such, I believe that Geneva thinks there is every reason why the wounded men should be succoured with Red Cross funds. I am not absolutely certain, but I have a recollection that I read on one occasion of somebody having written to Geneva for a ruling and having received the reply that certainly wounded men in a civil war must be succoured.

Most of this debate might have taken place more appropriately on the Red Cross Bill. I did not expect that the debate would continue in this way, but, as it has, it seems to me that Senator Rowlette has answered Senator Fitzgerald. After 1st July a meeting will be held, but the Government will have the right, I would like to point out, to nominate up to a third, I think, of the members. I do not see any reason why they should not.

There is nothing at issue between us, so.

Mr. Hayes


Well, I am not going to prolong the debate, at that rate, if that point is disposed of. Senator Sir John Keane asked for frankness from me: I think the House would have been pleased to have had a little more frankness from himself. I do not quite follow his point, but I see that one of the objects of the Red Cross Society —according to the Red Cross Act which was passed in 1938—

"shall be in time of peace or war to carry on and assist in work for the improvement of health, the prevention of disease and the mitigation of suffering throughout the world."

That is a very laudable object and I do not think there will be anyone who is going to object. Anyone who does should keep the money to himself and not trouble to subscribe. Even the victims of a civil war would be included, because, after all, they are all human beings; and, if they are unfortunate enough to fight one another, it probably means more hardship on individuals.

The people who suffer most generally are not those responsible.

That is very often the case. If Senator Keane had nothing better to contribute, he should not have spoken at all. On the tax point, the Minister for Finance will seek money wherever he can get it easily. Senator Fitzgerald should, as an ex-Minister, know that. If the Minister for Finance wants to balance his Budget and can get money by means of the sweepstakes, he will get it. The money obtained by the sweepstakes will be spent in accordance with the purposes in the Act, and a scheme must be submitted to the Minister so that he may be satisfied that it will be spent in a proper way. As regards the money handed over to the society, it is proposed that 20 per cent. be retained here and the balance be spent in accordance with the wishes of the subscribers, so that some of that money will come back here again. Twenty per cent. will definitely be retained.

So that there will be nothing for the Fianna Fáil organisation.

Perhaps the Minister would deal with Section 2.

We could not do anything in the Bill to meet the point raised but, in the scheme, we shall see that the matter is tightened up and that there will be a clear definition of what the Red Cross Society is. If it will satisfy the Senator, we shall provide for that in the scheme. We cannot do it now if we are getting the Bill to-day.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take the Committee Stage now.