Army Pensions Bill, 1959 ( Certified Money Bill) — Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

Is é cuspóir an Bhille seo roinnt aimhrialtachtaí a bhaint as na hAchtanna Arm-Phinsean atá ann faoi láthair agus soláthar a dhéanamh d'fheabhsaithe nó do lamháltais a ceaptar a bheith oiriúnach.

Faoi Achtanna 1923 agus 1927, ceanglaíodh ar bhaintreacha agus ar leanaí áirithe le pinsinéirí marbha— agus, ar an gcuid is mó de, ba dhaoine iadsin a maraíodh nó ar ghabh míchumas iad sa tréimhse 1916-1924— bheith i lánchleithiúnas ar na mairbh sin chun go mbeidís i dteideal liúntais a fháil. Anois, faoi ailt 2 agus 3 den Bhille seo, cuirfear ar chumas na mbaintreach agus na leanaí sin cáiliú le haghaidh liúntas gan an coinníoll atá i dtrácht a chur orthu. Chomh fada agus is eol, níor theip ach ar bheagán baintreach nó leanaí a chruthú go rabhdar i lánchleithiúnas ar a bhfearchéile nó ar a n-athair marbh chun críocha Achtanna 1923 agus 1927, agus meastar gur cheart an coinníoll a chur as an tslí anois ós rud é nach bhfuil a leithéid in Achtanna eile den tsamhail chéanna—Acht 1932, cuir i gcás.

Ar an gcuma chéanna, cuirfidh alt 4 ar chumas leanaí áirithe—agus arís, is cosúil nach mbeidh i gceist ach fíorbheagán—cáiliú le haghaidh liúntas i leith an athar mhairbh, fiú amháin gan eisean a bheith, ar lá a bháis, ina dhuine dá ngairmtear go teicniúil "pinsinéir pósta". Is iad na haicmí pinsinéirí a mbeidh feidhm ag an alt seo maidir lena leanaí, daoine a thug seirbhís sna Fórsaí agus a fuair pinsin faoi Achtanna 1946 nó 1949, agus arís, níl ann ach déanamh mar a dhéantar le daoine de na cinéil chéanna faoi Achtanna eile Arm-Phinsean.

Chun críocha na liúntas speisialta, foráiltear le halt 6, an tsuim ar a dtugtar "an tsuim iomchuí bhliantúil" a bheith mar a chéile do na daoine pósta uile. Mar is eol do Sheanadóirí, is mar a chéile faoi láthair an tsuim iomchuí bhliantúil do dhaoine a pósadh ar nó tar éis an lú Deireadh Fómhair, 1942, agus do dhaoine neamhphósta nó do bhaintreacha, agus dhaoine a pósadh roimh an lú Deireadh Fómhair, 1942. Fágann sin go bhfuil roinnt daoine a rachaidh an t-alt seo chun sochair dóibh.

Féadfar le halt 8 liúntas de £125 sa bhliain a íoc le mac buan-easlán nó, más neamhphósta nó ina baintreach di, le hiníon bhuan-easlán do dhuine a raibh seirbhís roimh an sos cogaidh aige agus a fuair bás de dheasca seirbhíse sa tréimhse 1916-1923. Más mac é, ní foláir an bhuan-easláine a bheith air sula raibh 18 mbliana slánaithe aige agus, más iníon í, 21 bliain. Ní heol do mo Roinn ach dhá chás den sórt sin agus rinneadh tagairt dóibh anseo nuair a bhí Bille na nArm-Phinsean, 1957, faoi bhreithniú.

Le halt 9, daoine a bhí ró-dhéanach in iarratais ar liúntais a dhéanamh faoi Chuid II d'Acht 1953, beidh caoi eile acu é sin a dhéanamh laistigh den dá mhí dhéag tar éis don Bhille seo teacht ina dhlí. I gCuid II d'Acht 1953, rinneadh soláthar le haghaidh liúntais do thuismitheoirí, do bhaintreacha agus do chleithiúnaithe eile ar dhaoine a raibh seirbhís roimh an sos cogaidh acu agus a fuair bás de dheasca seirbhíse sa tréimhse 1916-1923. Tá cuntas ag mo Roinn ar sheacht gcinn is tríocha d'iarratais dhéanacha a fhéadfar a bhreithniú ar achtú don Bhille seo.

Le halt 10, ceaptar a chur ar chumas duine iarratas a dhéanamh ar phinsean pósta nach raibh sé i ndon a éileamh ar alt 39 d'Acht 1953 a achtú toisc a phinsean míchumais a stad ar feadh tamaill san am áirithe sin. Níl i gcuntas ach cás amháin den sórt sin. Le halt 13, cuirfear leanaí áirithe a uchtaíodh faoin Acht Uchtála, 1952 i dteideal sochar faoi na hAchtanna Arm-Phinsean amhail is dá mba leanaí iad a rugadh de phósadh dleathach do na tuismitheoirí uchtála. Faoi alt 14 agus an Sceideal le chéile, ní bheidh ann a thuilleadh, chun críocha na liúntas speisialta, aon dáta reachtúil maidir le hiarratas a dhéanamh ar Bhonn Seirbhíse (1917-1921).

I dtaca leis na forálacha eile den Bhille, cuirtear síos in ailt 5, 7 agus 12, i ndáil le cuid de na sochair dá ndé antar soláthar leis an mBille seo, an prionsabal a rialaíonn cód na nArm-Phinsean i gcoitinne—is é sin, más cás créachta é, nach foláir an pósadh a bheith déanta roimh dháta na créachta agus, más cás galair é, roimh dháta an urscaoilte as na Fórsaí. Le halt 11. cuirtear rud as an tslí is deacair a léiriú agus a tháinig, i gan fhíos, de na focail inar cuireadh alt d'Acht 1953.

Mar is eol do Sheanadóirí, is rud achrannach ar fad cód na nArm-Phinsean agus ní furasta, i ráiteas gairid, cur síos go mion ar Bhille dá leithéid seo. I gcásanna ina bhfuil cuntas ag mo Roinn ar dhaoine a dhealródh bheith i dteideal i mbreithnithe faoin mBille agus a mbeidh orthu iarratas a dhéanamh chuige sin, tá beartaithe scéala a chur chucu an túisce ina dtiocfaidh an Bille ina dhlí agus deis a thabhairt dóibh ar iarratas a dhéanamh. Ar eagla go mbeadh cásanna ann nach bhfuil ar eolas ag mo Roinn, cuirfear fógra sna páipéir nuachta ina míneofar an scéal chomh soiléir agus is féidir.

The purpose of this Bill is to remove a few anomalies from the existing Army Pensions Acts and to provide for a number of improvements or concessions which have been represented to be desirable. Certain widows and children of deceased pensioners— broadly speaking, these were persons who were killed or incurred their disabilities in the 1916-24 period—were required under the Acts of 1923 and 1927 to have been totally dependent on the deceased in order to be eligible for allowances. Such widows and children will now, under Section 2 and 3 of the Bill, be enabled to qualify for allowances without the imposition of the condition in question. Only a few widows or children, as far as is known, failed to establish total dependency on their deceased husband or father for the purposes of the 1923 and 1927 Acts, and it is considered that, in these few cases, the condition should now be removed, seeing that it is not contained in other similar Acts, for instance, the 1932 Act.

In the same way, Section 4 will enable certain children—again, only a very small number is likely to be involved—to qualify for allowances in respect of the deceased father even if he was not, at the date of his death, what is technically known as a "married pensioner". The classes of pensioners in respect of the children of whom this section will apply are those who, having served in the Forces, were pensioned under the Acts of 1946 or 1949, and again it is a case of according the same treatment as is given to similar types of persons under other Army Pensions Acts.

Section 6 will, for special allowances purposes, make what is known as "the appropriate annual sum" the same for all married persons. As Senators are aware, the position at present is that the appropriate annual sum for persons married on or after the Ist October, 1942 is the same as that for unmarried or widowed persons, and lower than that for persons married before the 1st October, 1942, so that a number of people will benefit under this section.

Section 8 will enable an allowance of £125 a year to be paid to one permanently invalided son or one permanently invalided and unmarried or widowed daughter of a person who had pre-truce service and died as a result of service in the 1916-1923 period. The permanent invalidism must have existed before the child, if a son, reached the age of 18 years, and if a daughter, before she reached the age of 21. Only two such cases are known to my Department; they were mentioned here when the Army Pensions Bill, 1957 was being considered.

By Section 9, persons who were late in applying for allowances under Part II of the Act of 1953 will have a further opportunity of doing so within the twelve months after this Bill becomes law. Part II of the Act of 1953 provided for allowances for parents, widows and other dependants of persons who had pre-truce service and died as a result of service in the 1916-1923 period. My Department has a record of 37 late applications which, upon the enactment of this Bill, will be able to be considered.

Section 10 is intended to enable a person to apply for a married pension which he was unable to claim following the enactment of Section 39 of the Act of 1953 because his disability pension had become temporarily discontinued at the particular time. Only one such case is recorded. By Section 13, certain children adopted under the Adoption Act, 1952, will be made eligible for benefits under the Army Pensions Acts as if they were children born in lawful wedlock to the adopting parents. Under Section 14, taken in conjunction with the Schedule, there will no longer, for special allowance purposes, be any statutory date of application for a Service (1917-1921) Medal.

As to the remaining provisions of the Bill, Sections 5, 7 and 12 set down, in connection with some of the benefits for which this Bill provides, the principle which generally governs the Army Pensions code—namely, that marriage must have taken place, in a wound case, before the date of the wound and, in a disease case, before the date of discharge from the Forces. Section 11 removes a difficulty of interpretation caused unwittingly by the wording of a section in the 1953 Act.

As Senators know, the Army Pensions code is a very complicated one, and it is difficult, in a short statement, to go into all the details of a Bill such as this. It is intended, where my Department has a record of persons who would appear to be eligible for consideration under the Bill and where they will have to make application, to communicate with them as soon as the Bill becomes law and give them an opportunity of applying. To cover the possibility that there may be cases of which the Department is not aware, an advertisement setting out the position as clearly as possible will be inserted in the newspapers.

I welcome this Bill as I have always welcomed every Bill which tends to improve the lot of those who offered their lives, or suffered wounds or diseases, for the cause of the independence of the country. I welcome it very specially because of one section in the Bill which makes provision for the dependants of men who died, men who were killed in action, and for whom, unfortunately, down the years, no provision has been made in any of the Army Pensions Acts.

We have had Army Pensions Acts passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas over the past 35 years, but as time went on, it was found that there were various anomalies in them, and perhaps I should describe some of them as injustices, which necessitated amendments from time to time. That is of course as it should be. Deputies in the other House, and Senators here, have always been most anxious to make provision for disabled I.R.A. men and their dependants, in so far as it was possible to do so, at the time of the passing of those Acts. As time went on, we always found that most of the Acts had fallen short in some way or another of what was required. However, I am glad that we have an opportunity of improving and amending some of the Acts again and I am grateful indeed to the Minister for giving us this opportunity by bringing in this Bill.

In December, 1956, I moved a motion at column 1675, Volume 46, of the Official Report, asking the Minister:

(a) to abolish the closing dates for applications for military service pensions and military service medals, (b) make provision for invalid children of I.R.A. men killed in action, and (c) make all I.R.A. service medal holders eligible for a special allowance irrespective of the date of issue of the medal provided that the claimants are otherwise qualified.

I added my voice to the voices of other Senators in welcoming a Bill that only barely remedied some of the grievances, and I say now, and I said then, that while this Bill goes another part of the way to give reliefs which we all desire to give, I am still not satisfied that it goes far enough. In fact, I am disappointed that there are not further amendments in this Bill to some of the older Pensions Acts. I should like to say that I hope the debate will—past debates on these matters here and in the other House have encouraged different Ministers and Governments to bring in further amendments—succeed in having a little more done.

Section 2 and 3 of this Bill will, I hope, remove many outstanding grievances, for example, where the dependent widow or child of an officer or soldier who was a member of the forces of this country could be declared not to be a dependant. That is a strange anomaly surely, that the widow or child of an officer or a soldier, because of the wording of the Act, was declared not to be a dependant. Surely it was time to amend that, and we are very glad indeed that it is being done.

In many of the cases to which I have referred, where certain children and widows were declared not to be dependants, even though they were dependants, gratuities were given. But under this Bill, an allowance can be given and, of course, the Departments of Defence and Finance will take credit for the gratuities already paid.

In Section 4, we have another anomaly rectified where orphan children of members of the Forces were declared not to be dependants because the father was not in receipt of a married pension. That sounds queer but, just like the other section we had, orphaned dependants of soldiers were not recognised as dependants because the father was not in receipt of a married pension. I am sure every Senator will welcome these two amendments.

Sections 5 and 7 appear to me to be continuing what I may describe as a marriage ban in connection with the Army Pensions Acts. I should like to have these two sections explained in more detail by the Minister because I did not get the full import of them. Why have we got one marriage date, 10th December, 1932, in this section and abolition of the marriage date, 30th September, 1942, in the next section? Surely, for the purpose of any Pensions Act, the marriage date should be the same all round, if we are to have a marriage date at all.

We see that the marriage date here is actually abolished—the date of 30th September, 1942—and in other sections the marriage date of 10th December, 1932, is retained. Therefore, Section 6 is very welcome indeed as it removes this marriage ban in respect of special allowances so that a person married after 30th September, 1942, will now, as a married person under the Acts, qualify where before he was treated as a single person. This is a great improvement and I am sure the House will welcome it as such. I am glad to see the marriage date abolished here. I hope to see it abolished or at least extended at any rate in other sections of the other Acts I have referred to.

As I said earlier, I, as well as many other Senators, made a case here in 1956 and again in 1957 for the introduction of Section 8. I held at that time, and I still hold, that it was a disgrace to this country and to both Houses of the Oireachtas that we had failed so far in our duty to the men who gave their lives for us that we made no provision in any of the Army Pensions Acts for the invalid or disabled child of such a man. Provision is made in all the Army Pensions Acts for the father, mother, wife, brother and sister of men killed in action, but, by a curious anomaly, no provision was made for that man's own child, if that child were invalided or disabled or unable to earn his or her living. Because of that, I heartily welcome Section 8 as making such provision even at this late date. I wish to thank the Minister for acceding to the request of the Seanad in this matter.

Section 9 extends the time for making these applications. I was glad to note that the Minister said it would be advertised in the daily papers. However, I think that would not be enough. So far as I remember, these matters were also advertised by way of poster in post offices. I suggest that that be done in this case also. There are not many cases in the country but if any one of them could not make application 12 months after the passing of this Act, it would mean bringing in another amending Bill here. Surely it would be much easier to advertise it by poster in the local post office?

Section 10 deals with persons who had not made application 12 months from the passing of the 1953 Act because their degree of disablement at the time had fallen below the minimum standard. Then, as time went on, that degree of disablement increased and they were locked out. We are very glad to see these people given justice because they are disabled and it is justice to the members of the Old I.R.A. as well as to all members of the Defence Forces.

Section 11 will correct an anomaly contained in the 1953 Act because of Section 10 and still preserves the marriage date with which, of course, I cannot agree. I cannot agree that these marriage dates must be preserved right down through the years. When you think of the age a man, giving him credit for starting very young in the service of this country, might be on these marriage dates, surely they are unjust and unfair? I shall refer to them further, I hope. Section 13 brings in certain children adopted under the Adoption Act, 1952. That is merely justice.

I should like especially to welcome Section 14 which abolishes the time limit for making application for a service medal. It is hard to understand why a time limit should at any time be imposed in this matter. It is hard to understand why a person may be entitled to a service medal today but will not be entitled to it five or ten years' hence or would not be entitled to it five years previously. There should be no time limit in that respect. The system of considering applications is very simple, except for the fact that many of the people who could verify these applications have passed away. Still, they have a certain system in the Department that works reasonably well. I do not understand why there should be any time limit and I am glad indeed that it is being abolished.

I hold that exactly the same case as has been conceded here in this section can be made for military service pensions. I believe that if a man, in the same way as in the case of a service medal, was entitled to a military service pension five years ago or will be entitled to one five years from now he is, of course, entitled all the time. If he does not make application for one reason or another—if he does not understand it or for any other reason—I do not see why he should be deprived of the opportunity of doing so, if at any time during his life he wishes to make application for something to which he is justly entitled, if it can be proved he is justly entitled to it.

We know we had a Pensions Board and a judge dealing with this matter. Nevertheless, at this stage, it should be possible to set up some simple system in the Department for dealing with them such as exists for dealing with verification in relation to applications for medals. I respectfully suggest that is a matter which calls for amendment.

I stated earlier on that Section 6 was welcome because it removed the marriage date for the special allowance. It is right and just that no man should be penalised because he marries at a certain date. It is morally wrong, surely. I feel sure that everybody will agree that it is a good thing to abolish that marriage date, but I fear that now that the marriage date has been abolished for the special allowance, we may be creating another anomaly in this Bill because we are retaining a marriage date for disability pensions and we are still saying that if a man did not get married by a certain date, he is not entitled to a married pension.

There is no reason why we should have any fears about abolishing that marriage date because since 1937 no further disability pensions can be granted, and therefore no additional persons can be brought in. I expect that at least 50 per cent. of the people who were wounded or disabled have passed to their reward. Surely it is only justice to remove this marriage date for the small number who are still alive and who have been disabled in the service of their country. There will be no marriage date or marriage ban for persons who, by reason of membership only, can qualify for a special allowance, but there is such a ban for persons who were wounded or disabled while actually fighting and serving their country and whose chances of living to a very old age are very much diminished because of their disability.

I appeal to the Minister, who has done so much in this Bill, to go this step further and bring in an amendment to rectify this matter. This is a non-contentious, non-political question and I request the support of all sides in relation to it. The few persons I have referred to who are still alive are all persons who have suffered from wounds and disease over the years, and in the ordinary course of nature, they cannot be expected to live to the same age as a man who never was wounded or never suffered from any of these diseases. They are the casualties left to us still from the War of Independence.

If the marriage date of December, 1932, is adhered to, it means that a man who married after the age of 30 years, putting it at a reasonable age, is refused the marriage pension. I do not know what the average marriage age is for the whole country, but I think that if a man marries at 28, 30, or 32, which would be the average ages in 1932 of men who fought in 1920-21, he should not be considered an old man and should not be barred from a married pension by reason of this fixed marriage date.

Under Section 7 of the 1943 Act in relation to special allowances, the marriage date has been 30th September, 1942. That means that a man could be 50 years and still get the married special allowance. Even that date has been abolished now, and rightly so, and it is very difficult to understand why we must retain the marriage date of December, 1932, in the other case.

It would appear, for some reasons unknown to me, that down through the years, the Departments of Defence and Finance have been very particular about retaining the marriage date, but if they are to retain a marriage date at all, why not make it the highest marriage date we have had, even though we have had to abolish it, that is, 30th September, 1942? It would be at least an extension of the 1932 marriage date and it would bring the disability allowance into line with the special allowance and would be an improvement of ten years.

I hope the House will assist me in pressing the Minister and the Government to accept what I consider to be a reasonable suggestion. I welcome the Bill for what is in it and appeal for the Minister's favourable consideration for the things that are not in it and which I think should be in it.

We on this side of the House welcome this Bill or any Bill that will be of benefit to the dependants of those who gave their lives for the independence of this country. The only thing I regret is that, as has been stated, over 50 per cent. of the people who would benefit even under these amendments have gone to their reward. There are various dates given in the different Acts and I have noticed that these dates are often overlooked. Even as late as this present year, nearly 40 years afterwards, we find deserving cases who have not claimed and through misadventure did not receive the reward to which they are entitled. As late as last week, I met two people who I know deserve a service medal and who are not yet in receipt of it. I know that dates have been extended from time to time but I agree with the previous speaker that there should not be any date.

Why should there be any date for anybody who deserves a medal? If he or she gave service that entitles him or her to a medal, I do not see why any Minister or any Government should stipulate an exact date for those applications. As I have stated, during the years those dates were extended and those Bills were amended. I hope that this Bill will go a part of the way towards helping these people. If the occasion arises in the near future, I know that every Senator will support any amendment that will give some consideration to the people who gave their lives to the country and service when it needed them.

It has taken from 1921 until now to give some benefit to an individual who was actually born the night her father died for Irish freedom. That is the case of Miss Blanchfied, in Carrigtwohill, who was born on the night her father died for Irish freedom in 1921. It took until 1959 to bring in a Bill that would help her to get a livelihood in her own country. I thank the Minister for that. The veterans of the old I.R.A. Association in East Cork, irrespective of what part they took after the fight for freedom, will also thank the Minister. He is the only person to take steps to give her a livelihood in the country for which her father fought and died.

We have many who have got medals, the old I.R.A. medals, during the fight for freedom. As one of the young generation, I know several of them. They may not have been in the flying column but they helped to achieve what gives us the right to be here today. I am sorry that a means test should be applied at all where the old I.R.A. are concerned. I know the Minister will give consideration to the old I.R.A. allowances and the means test some time in the near future. I am pleased that it was Deputy Boland, the Minister for Defence, who was the first to give that help since 1921 to the daughter of one who gave his life in that period.

I was delighted to see this Bill but rather disappointed that, when the Minister was making all these changes which are to confer benefit and which have been required for so long, there was one change that was asked for during all the years since pensions were given but which has not yet been given. There is no mention of it in this Bill. I refer to the widows of the men who served in 1916. None of these has received a pension. It was their act that brought into being the Army whose pensions we are discussing today.

I should like to ask the Minister to consider the matter. I am not referring to officers. I am not referring to the men who died or were wounded in 1916. I refer to the widows of the ordinary men whose initial act brought into being the present Army. I know of two cases myself, one of the widow of a 1916 man who fought all through the Black and Tan War who is trying to exist on the ordinary widow's pension of 20/- a week. The other is the case of a widow who is trying to live on less than 25/- a week.

I would ask the Minister to consider these. There are not so many of them left now. They are the widows of the ordinary men who were not able to put up any fund for the benefit of their widows when they were gone. These are widows who are left with no means of earning their living and I should be very grateful if the Minister would consider that question.

Not only have I raised the question but it has been raised through the years but for some reason or another it has always been the same that the widows of the 1916 men—the ordinary men who were out in the fight—were not entitled to any special treatment or any special consideration whatsoever and are allowed to spend their last days in penury and suffering and on the charity of other people. I should like the Minister to look into the matter and to give them something which will make their last few years, not years of penury and misery, but years of a little comfort, something they would have as a right and not subject to a means test.

I thank Senators for the manner in which they received this Bill. I think that, generally, the provisions it made were welcome even if there were a few complaints about things that were not in it. With regard to the matter raised by Senator Mrs. Connolly O'Brien, that I think, does not arise from the Army Pensions Acts or this Bill at all. The Army Pensions Acts refer purely and simply to disability pensions. What Senator Mrs. Connolly O'Brien referred to was military service pensions. I do not think you could possibly bring in a provision to apply only to the widows of people who were in receipt of military service pensions for service in 1916. You would have to include widows of all military service pensioners. It does not arise under the Army Pensions Acts but under the Military Service Pensions Acts. It would obviously be a big question to be decided. I cannot see how you could exclude other military service pensioners from it. It would be a completely new principle.

It would be justice if it were done.

No doubt, we would all like to do it if we could. The only other criticism was in relation to the question of the marriage date, in relation to the pensions of people who qualified under the Acts of 1923, 1927, and 1932. It is a universally recognised principle in this type of legislation, where there is a married element in a pension which relates to a disability arising out of service, that that element is granted only when the marriage took place prior to the date of the wound, if there is a wound, or the date of the discharge, if it is a question of discharge from the forces due to disease. The only case in which that was departed from was in the Act of 1953, which extended to 10th December, 1932—the date of the enactment of the 1932 Act—the qualifying marriage date for persons with pre-Truce service. This was done because it was argued that, prior to the enactment of the Army Pensions Act, 1932, people might not have known that they were ineligible for a married pension if they married after the date of wound or discharge. But it is only in respect of these cases that the qualifying marriage date is a date subsequent to the date of wound or discharge. In the other Acts, the date is the date of wound or discharge.

Special allowances are not analogous to disability pensions. A pension under the Army Pensions Acts is granted in respect of a disability or a wound received during service. Special allowances are completely different. They are granted to persons who had service or membership and who find themselves in need and unable to work, due to something that developed in their normal lives, and not necessarily arising out of any definite wound or disability incurred during their service. They have to prove membership only, and there is also a rigid means test applied to them, but the disability does not have to be related to any definite date.

The justification for removing the marriage date in their cases is that at the time they got married, they were not in receipt of a disability pension. In cases of disability pension under the Army Pensions Acts, the position is that if a pensioner got married after the date of the wound or discharge, it would mean that he was aware of the conditions obtaining. There does not seem to be a great deal of justification for giving him an increase in pension purely because he got married. As I say, the only cases where that has been departed from is in those covered by the Act of 1953.

I feel just as much inclined as Senators to make every possible provision for people who gave valuable service during that period but, as I say, it would be a complete departure from principle. However, in view of the pressure that has been brought here, and also in the Dáil, I will undertake to look into the matter, but I cannot hold out any promise of being able to deal with it. Certainly, in any case, there would obviously have to be some time limit since these are pensions which enable allowances to be paid to dependants after the death of the pensioner. That is another thing which does not apply to the special allowances.

Could we not bring in an amendment on the Committee Stage to cover that?

If we postpone the Committee Stage?

I understand you cannot bring in an amendment that will involve expenditure of money at this stage. I am only undertaking to look into the matter and I am not giving any guarantee that it will be dealt with because at the moment, at any rate, I do not see the justification for it.

There were some other questions raised and they were not really criticisms of the Bill. There was the question of why was there ever a time limit for applying for medals. It is obvious that it is a difficult thing to establish service in a lot of these cases, and obviously it is desirable that the applications should be in as soon as possible so that there will be a reasonable chance of being able to establish whether the person had service or not. The further it goes the more difficult that becomes, and it is desirable that there should be a time limit. However, in regard to applications for medals, we have given in. We have admitted defeat in that we have not found it possible to get people to apply in time and we have decided to remove the time limit for applying for the medals.

It would be a much bigger thing to do that for applications for military pensions because you have to establish elaborate machinery to decide the applications. The whole question has been reopened on a number of occasions and I think everybody has got ample opportunity for applying.

Might I ask the Minister a question arising out of his reply on the specific point raised by Senator Mrs. Connolly O'Brien in regard to the possibility of introducing a Bill for giving widow's pensions to widows of serving soldiers in the Republican Army and the Citizen Army of 1916? The Minister said——

The Senator must not make a speech. He may ask a question.

The Minister said that a separate Bill would be necessary but that he thought it would have to apply to all Army widows. Would it not be possible to have a separate Bill and confine it to the widows of 1916 serving soldiers? There was, after all, a considerable gap——

Acting Chairman

The Senator may not make a speech.

I should like to ask a second question, that is, does the Minister not consider that this would apply to a very small number of people, a number which is diminishing faster and faster, I think, by our neglect?

What I said was that it would be impossible to resist the pressure. As Senators know, when the special allowances were introduced originally, they applied only to 1916 men and they were then extended to all military service pensioners, and then eventually to all medal holders. Obviously, there are people who had not got service in 1916 but who gave probably just as valuable and meritorious service in the later struggle, and it would be difficult to exclude them. So it is a big question and I think it could only be considered on the basis of military service pensioners generally.

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