Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 10 Dec 1947

Vol. 34 No. 16

Garda Síochána (Pensions) Bill, 1947. (Certified Money Bill)—Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

The main object of the Bill is to give members of the Garda Síochána who retired between the dates 1st July, 1940, and 31st October, 1946, exactly the same rights are regards pension as have been given to civil servants under the recent Superannuation Act, that is to say, to give them the benefit of the cost-of-living index number up to 270 instead of the pre-emergency number of 185. Widows of members of the force, where their pensions are calculated on the basis of their husbands' length of service, will also benefit in like manner.

At the start of the emergency, the scales of Garda pay had been formulated on the basis of a cost-of-living index number of 185. This was also the index number on which Civil Service bonus was based. As from 1st July, 1940, Civil Service bonus was formally stabilised by the Civil Service (Stabilisation of Bonus) Regulations at this index number of 185, and remained so until it was formally permitted to rise to 210 on 1st February, 1945. It was stabilised at the latter figure until 31st October, 1946, when the operation of the Stabilisation Orders was brought to an end, and the index number of 270 was applied to Civil Service pay. Garda pay was not formally stabilised throughout this period but it was, nevertheless, kept in step throughout with Civil Service pay.

As the cost-of-living index number rose steadily throughout the stabilisation period from 185 to 290 it will be seen that the consequences of stabilisation was that the scales of pay of the force did not increase with the cost of living as might otherwise have been expected. In the case of men who ceased membership during the period this had an adverse effect on their retiring pay, and, consequently, on their pensions.

Now that pay scales reckoned generally on the 270 index number have been brought into operation as from 1st November, 1946, it is proposed to make compensation by reassessing Garda pensions awarded during the stabilisation period on pay reckoned on the index number applying at the time of ceasing membership subject to a maximum of 270.

There is another provision under Section 8 which provides that where a Guard left the service for political reasons, the period during which he was out will be allowed for pension purposes as was done in the case of civil servants who left the Service for a like reason.

I take it that the House generally will agree with this Bill, although I am not any more satisfied with it than I was with the Bill dealing with civil servants. I am not satisfied that this is the proper method of dealing with this particular matter. I am not at all convinced that a Guard who retired in 1938, when the cost of living was on an entirely lower basis than it is to-day, will be any better off than if he had retired after 1940 when the bonus was stabilised, or will be able to live on a small pension now. I do not think that this is the most equitable manner of dealing with this. The case here is not quite the same as that of the civil servants. I think the Government should have met the strong case that I made some weeks ago. I think it would be far more equitable to face the fact that a man who had given service to the State as a Guard, sometimes under very difficult conditions, may now be in very poor circumstances by reason of the fact that his pension, calculated at the time of his retirement and intended to be adequate at that time, has now become completely inadequate by reason of the cost of living. It does not seem to me to be equitable to pick out a particular year and say the pension is to be related to it. That is one of those things which is bound to be raised again. One of the theories put forward by the Minister for Finance was that the man may have had the bad luck to go out in a particular year. It has to be remembered that in 1940 the Government intervened and, by law, reduced what would have been the normal bonus under the arrangement which existed previously. Therefore they feel that they are obliged to give something as from 1940 and do not feel under any obligation whatever to deal with those who retired in the earlier years. I know that, in theory, you can draw that distinction, but, from the point of view of the State as an employer, I do not think it is a moral distinction or one which we can properly draw. If it were to be looked at from the point of view of what I call a good employer, he would decide the amount of money he could find for the purpose of dealing with his ex-emplovees and would try to see if he could not help all and not just those who happened to retire in a particular year.

I entirely approve of the Bill. I want to mention one point in connection with it. I do not know whether the Minister has taken it into consideration, but there are still a few old R.I.C. pensioners throughout the country. Their pensions were fixed when the cost of living was much lower than it is now. They are few in number; they are old; and they feel that they have nobody to speak for them. The instruction of the day was to get them out of the force, if we could, and I was especially appointed for that purpose at the time and several members of the R.I.C. very patriotically left the force and joined the friends of Irish freedom, Sinn Féin, as it was then. Now, at the end of their days, we should not forget the high motives they had when they left their employment at great risk to themselves.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

There is nothing about the old R.I.C. in this Bill.

But I should like something to be put into it. The Minister might be good enough to introduce an amendment for the purpose.

There is not a hope. When Senator Douglas raises one hare, Senator Honan raises another. That is what the Minister for Finance has to consider. If he starts to go back to 1938, there will be a borderline then, and, no matter how far back he goes, there will be such a borderline. He is dealing here with a matter with which he feels morally bound to deal because, by Government action, stabilisation was brought in and what he has done for the Civil Service he is satisfied he must do for the Guards, but he is not going beyond that. If he did, all these other questions would arise and we would not know where it would end. This is a simple Bill dealing with a particular matter and only with that matter.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.
Bill passed through Committee, reported without recommendation, received for final consideration, and ordered to be returned to the Dáil.