Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 28 Nov 1956

Vol. 46 No. 13

Civil Service Commissioners Bill, 1956—Second Stage.

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

Aire na Gaeltachta (Pádraig Mac Loingsigh)

As the Minister for Finance is engaged in Dáil Eireann, I am instructed by him to take the Second Reading of this Bill. It is the measure complementary to the Civil Service Regulation Bill, 1956, to which the Minister for Finance referred when dealing with the latter Bill earlier to-day.

Recruitment to the Civil Service is at present dealt with in the Civil Service Regulation Acts, 1924 and 1926. Certain amendments to these Acts are made necessary by the Civil Service Regulation Bill, 1956—for example, the Section in the 1924 Act dealing with the making of regulations for the controlling of the Civil Service about which the Minister for Finance spoke on the other Bill has to go. It has been decided to avail of the opportunity thus presented to carry out a general overhaul of the 1924 and 1926 Acts so as to overcome certain defects which the actual working of the Acts has brought to light and to introduce some improvements in procedure. The Civil Service Commissioners Bill, 1956, will, accordingly, replace and supersede the Civil Service Regulations Acts, 1924 and 1926.

Whilst the Civil Service Commissioners Bill is a fairly long and detailed measure, it does not seek to change in any way the principles governing recruitment to the Civil Service. The general framework of the 1924 and 1926 Acts is retained. Recruitment will be in the hands of independent Civil Service Commissioners appointed by the Government. The principle of compensation is reaffirmed and the Commissioners are given a regulation-making power which will enable them to determine the precise form of competition.

The power to make appointments in the public interest which was provided for in the 1924 and 1926 Acts is retained. It has been thought well, however, to provide that, instead of requiring a person approved for established appointment in the public interest to undergo the process of obtaining a certificate of qualification from the Civil Service Commissioners, he should be deemed, on appointment, to possess such a certificate.

The Bill also contains some new material about appointments in the unestablished groups. This, however, is really a rounding-off of the provisions of the existing Acts about corresponding established appointments and is intended to fill certain lacunae in the 1924 and 1926 Acts.

As in the case of the Civil Service Regulation Bill, I do not think an account of this Bill's various sections is called for at this stage and such detailed information as is required can more conveniently be given on the Committee Stage.

I might, however, say a few words about Section 27 (3), which is new. It provides that a Special Commissioner of Income Tax appointed under the Income Tax Act, 1918, will be appointed to an unestablished position in the Civil Service unless the Minister for Finance determines that such appointment should be to an established position.

Appointed Special Commissioners of Income Tax, that is, as distinct from the Revenue Commissioners, who are ex-officio Special Commissioners, have very important duties, which are semi-judicial in nature—they act as an appellate tribunal for hearing appeals against income-tax, surtax and corporation profits tax assessments. Special Commissioners have been appointed from within the Civil Service and from outside it, but it has never been quite clear that persons appointed from outside the service could be taken as appointed to Civil Service positions. Section 27 (3) removes this doubt.

Where non-civil servants are appointed to carry out the important duties of Special Commissioners, they must be barristers or solicitors of standing. It is important from the point of view of recruiting Special Commissioners that the Minister for Finance should be able to offer a pensionable appointment—if he thinks this necessary. Section 27 (3) enables this to be done.

The remaining changes in the Bill are of a minor order and are designed to overcome administrative difficulties revealed by experience and to clarify the functions of the Civil Service Commissioners in certain respects.

Baineann an Bille seo le ceapadh na gCoimisinéirí iad féin, ar an gcéad dul síos, iad siúd go mbeidh sé de chúram orthu earcaíocht don Stát-Sheirbhís a riaradh mar is gá. Mar gheall air sin, is ceart féchaint chuige go mbeidh na daoine sin oiriúnach i gcónaí chun é sin a dhéanamh. Tá sé de dhualgas orthu socrú a dhéanamh i gcónaí go mbeidh na hiarrthóiría bheidh ag iarraidh dul isteach sa Stát-Sheirbhís oiriúnach agus oilte in gach aon tslí chun gnó na Seirbhíse a dhéanamh i gceart. Chuige sin, mar is eol do gach aon duine, bíonn comórtas oscailte, agus sin é mar is fearr é, dar ndóigh, i slí is nach mbeadh aon chúis gearáin ag aoinne sa desire thiar thall. Ina theannta sin, bíonn agallamh le déanamh acu—na daoine sin a n-éiríonn leo sa scrúdú comórtasach. Ag tagairt don agallamh, is dóigh liom go bhfuil an t-am tagtha chun luí amach níos déine agus níos dúthrachtaí ar cheist na Gaeilge, is é sin le rá, go dtabharfar gach cabhair do na hiarrthóirí a bheidh ag teacht chun an agallaimh, teanga na Gaeilge a labhairt.

Ní fheadar féin an trí Ghaeilge is mó a déantar an t-agallamh sin—nílim deimhnitheach, ach murab ea, is dóigh liom gur céim siar é. Tar éis na mblianta go léir atá caite anois ag gabháil do theagasc na Gaeilge, sna scoileanna agus sna coláistí, ba cheart go mbeadh na hiarrthóirí oilte go maith chun an gnó sin a dhéanamh as Gaeilge. Cloisimse gearáin anois is arís mar gheall air sin, ach is fuiriste gearán a dhéanamh agus uaireanta, ní bhíonn aon bhun leis an ngearán. Má tá aon bhun in aon chor leis, ba cheart do no Coimisi néirí a bheidh á gceapadhd faoin mBille aire cheart, aire iomlán, a thabhairt don taobh sin.

Ina theannta sin, is dóigh liom nár chóir an scéal d'fhágaint mar sin. Ba mhaith liom dá bhféadfadh na Coimisinéirí córas a chur ar bun chun leanúint do cheist na Gaeilge nuair a bheidh na daoine istigh, is é sin más féidir leo é sin a dhéanamh, agus is dóigh liom gur féidir. Ní fheadar an mbíonn scrúduithe ann ó am go ham le déanamh ag na daoine sin sa Stát-Sheirbhís, go mór-mhór na daoine atá nua-thagtha isteach san obair, mar ba chóir. Is acu sin is fearr a bheadh an Ghaeilge anois, tar éis teacht ó na coláistí dhóibh.

Chun an misneach ceart a thabhairt do na hiarrthóirí agus chun cabhrú le labhairt na Gaeilge taobh istigh den tSeirbhís, ba mhaith agus b'oiriúnach an rud é dá mba Ghaelgeoirí iad féin, na Coimisinéirí sin. Is dócha gurb é fá láthair, ach ní leor sin: ba cheart go mbeidís dúthrachtach san obair, chun í a chur chun cinn. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil.

Sin é an méid atáa le rá agam anois i dtaobh na gCoimisinéirí, Coimisinéirí na Stát-Sheirbhíse, go mheidh triúr acu ann. Ansin, dhein an tAire tagairt faoi leith do na Coimisinéirí speisialta a toghfar faoin mBille seo, maidir le cásanna d'athchóiriú fé na dlithe cánachais, is é sin, chun ceisteanna a bhaineann leis an gcáin ioncaim a scrúdú. Ba cheart anois go mbeadh Gaeilge aca sin agus go dtabharfaí caoi do dhaoine a gcásanna a phlé as Gaeilge dá mba mhaith leo é sin a dhéanamh. Is mar sin is féidir cabhrú le hathbheochaint na Gaeilge taobh istigh den Stát-Sheirbhís agus is mar sin is féidir sompla a thabhairt do mhuintir na tíre ar fad.

Having said those few words in Irish, I do not think there is any great need for me to say much in English. I have referred briefly to the duties and responsibilities of the Civil Service Commissioners. No doubt in this State they will always be men of integrity. They have proved to be such down through the years and while there may be people in the country who imagine that pressure can be brought to bear on these, I am certain that no such thing can happen and that entrance to the Civil Service will always be conducted through open competition. As Senators know, there is also an oral test. I do not know if I am quite in order in referring to this, but I think that as far as possible these oral tests should be conducted through the medium of Irish. That is the way to spread the use of the Irish language among young civil servants. I do not know if it could be possible to have some arrangements by which the speaking of Irish within the Civil Service could be encouraged in after years.

I am also sure that these Civil Service Commissioners will always be people interested in the advancement of the Irish language and that they will give every opportunity to intending civil servants to make use of the Irish language. There is really no new principle in this Bill for, as I said, the principle of open competition is being preserved. In regard to this proposed amendment in connection with people appointed from time to time in the public interest, I think the amendment, if I could call it an amendment, is a welcome one, because now it will be necessary under this Bill for these people who are to be appointed in the public interests to get a certificate of qualification from the Civil Service Commissioners. Am I to take it that this is the case?

I thought it was the very reverse. I think that when people were appointed formerly in the public interest, they had to get a certificate, but under this Bill they are deemed to have a certificate when appointed.

In that case, I do not think it is a good change, I think the old arrangement was better.

Because it was a safeguard. It made sure that the proper type of person would be appointed and that every Tom, Dick and Harry would not be appointed.

The Civil Service Commissioners had no power in that matter.

I do not think there is much more I can usefully say on this Bill. We have been talking so much about civil servants, ex-civil servants and would-be civil servants all this afternoon that I think it is time to bring the discussion to an end.

There is just one matter I should like to raise. The Bill provides for the establishment of the Civil Service Commissioners and I think it would be absolutely desirable, and even essential, that any persons appointed to that tribunal should undertake, and should be prepared to undertake, that they have never been and are not members of any secret society, such as the society of Freemasons or the Kinghts of St. Columbanus, or any other organisation of that kind which would be concerned with appointments and the membership of which might to some extent influence their discretion and impartiality. That should be a rule absolutely binding and inflexible. Not only should persons who are appointed not be members of either of these societies or any similar society, but they should be persons who have never been members of such societies. That is essential for the protection of impartiality in the making of appointments, in the selection of candidates and the making of rules governing appointments.

One brief word arising out of the remarks of Senator Kissane where he suggested that the oral interviews for admission to the Civil Service should be conducted through the medium of Irish. I am prepared to support Senator Kissane in that suggestion to this extent, that there should be two oral examinations taking place at such an interview, one to ensure that the would-be civil servant is capable of speaking Irish and the second one to make certain that he is also capable of speaking English and speaking it correctly. We must remember that the work which civil servants have to conduct in their capacity as civil servants with the general public is by and large conducted through the medium of the English language. That may be regrettable, but we must face facts. It is absolutely essential that our civil servants, in addition to having a knowledge of Irish, should have a perfect knowledge of English, be able to speak it well and write it well and correctly.

I rise to support Senator Cogan on his very surprising but very right point on this Bill. He is absolutely right and I admire him for the courage he has shown in saying it. I hope the Minister and anyone else who will hear what this House has to say will bear in mind the fact that one of the things which is doing most damage to our nation at the moment is the existence of these conflicting secret societies and I do hope the Minister and other Minister will do all in their power to prevent their gaining any control of the national economy, or of the politics of the country. If not, the most just thing to do would be for the Minister to appoint one member of each of the two conflicting secret societies if he does not see his way to excluding both.

I am not a member of any secret society, but what I object to is that it is implied that a member of the Knights of Columbanus or other society which Senator Stanford mentioned——

On a point of fact, I mentioned no society.

You said two societies and I think it is an unfair attack on both societies to say that members of those societies would, if they were appointed on the commission, act unfairly. I have no axe to grind for societies. I think we have too many societies, but I regard this as an unfair attack.

I want to make only two points on this Bill. One is in relation to Section 15. I notice that in sub-section (3) of Section 15, there is reference to the various types of tests and examinations which may be conducted by the Civil Service Commissioners. Senator Kissane has already urged the necessity for an oral examination in Irish. I would not go the whole hog with him there, but I would agree with what is the uniform practice of the Civil Service Commissioners, that, when the test includes a test in a living language, the Civil Service Commissioners treat the living language as a living language, and always conduct an oral test in it. That seems to me to be an excellent thing. They treat not merely French, German, Spanish and Italian but Irish as a living language. I should like to feel that that spirit might soon be taken up and imitated by the Department of Education, which, as you know, from the point of view of examinations, treats Irish exclusively as a dead language.

The second point I want to make is in relation to Section 16. I will not delay the Seanad because I have already made the same point on the previous Bill. It relates to the question of excluding women from certain posts. Under sub-section (2) of Section 16, paragraph (b) permission is given to the commissioners to confine the competition to "a specified class" of persons, and so on, allowing them in fact to exclude women, and paragraph (c) which follows, that allows them to exclude a female candidate from the competition, if she be married. Both of these paragraphs, which provide that women candidates shall be unmarried or a widow, seem to infringe upon the ordinary citizenship rights of women and ought to be removed. It is high time we grew up in this country in our attitude to women, and gave them the equality of status which is frequently talked about, but which, in practice, is too frequently denied them, as it is in the terms of the two paragraphs to which I have referred.

As the points raised mainly are Committee points, I will undertake to bring them to the notice of the Minister who will, I am sure, deal adequately with them on Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for next sitting day.