Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Special Committee Defence Bill, 1951 díospóireacht -
Thursday, 20 Mar 1952


I move amendment No. 55 :—

To delete sub-section (2).

We discussed yesterday all that is involved here. It is the same as the amendment to Section 47.

Yes. I put it down for the same reasons as I gave yesterday on Section 47. That applied to officers of the permanent force, while this applies to the Reserve. As those arguments were not acceptable to the Committee in regard to the permanent force, I cannot imagine that they would be acceptable in regard to the Reserve, so I will not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 56 :—

To delete sub-section (6).

This raises a matter of great importance, as to whether an officer of the Reserve who is elected a member of the Dáil or becomes a member of the Seanad should have to relinquish his commission. I think this is the first opportunity that the Dáil or a committee of the Dáil has had of discussing this matter. Originally officers of the Reserve could be members of the Oireachtas. For quite a considerable period they were members of the Oireachtas.

A situation arose in which a person who was an officer and a member of the Oireachtas resigned his commission and subsequently, as far as I can gather, without any specific authority, there was a suggestion to officers who became members of the Dáil that they should resign their commission and that was accepted by the individuals concerned, up to a point, and they did resign. There has never been a hard-and-fast rule that they should resign and it is very undesirable that they should have to do so because they have been elected by the people to represent them in Parliament. This is one of the sections in which the Committee—and perhaps the Dáil subsequently—may have to take a decision.

Are you differentiating between an officer of the permanent force and an officer of the Reserve ?

This section deals with officers of the Reserve only.

My recollection is that under the 1923 Act, whatever conditions were obtaining at the time, the only restriction was that a permanent force officer in that case would not be on full pay. As far back as then it was visualised that an officer even of the permanent force could be a member of the Oireachtas, provided he was not an officer on full pay.

The position was left undefined and there was no legal bar, and that is the position up to the moment as far as statute is concerned. At least one officer of the Reserve was also for a period a T.D. quite legally.

You will find he was not an active member.

No. Later the Minister made regulations under which an officer of the Reserve would relinquish his commission and, in fact, that officer did so and accepted the position as such. You have, therefore, a gradual development from the case where it was legally possible, even for an officer of the permanent force, to be a T.D. and still hold his commission, to the stage where the Minister made a regulation under which an officer was, so to speak, discharged from the Reserve and there was no issue made of the case.

On the arguments in favour and against, Deputy Cowan and those with experience of the Army would all agree that it is highly undesirable that an officer in any category should be active in an ordinary capacity in the Army during the period he is a T.D. Supposing an officer of any rank becomes elected to the Dáil and is also on the Reserve, if he is active—that is, if he is called up for annual training and is doing local training in barracks—he will find himself mixing with troops and with other officers and having to fit in, low down in the machine. lnevitably, he will be getting complaints and information—especially on matters relating to defence. Either he must be inactive on all matters relating to defence while he is a T.D., or he must be inactive as a T.D. while he is an officer.

My own personal opinion, after considering this very carefully, is that if you were to allow him to retain his commission it would have to be in a category where he is completely inactive and cut off from the Army. The net question then is, whether you must cut him off from availability to the Defence Forces. Looking at it objectively, I think Deputy Cowan was very right to raise the matter.

We have been talking about constituting a class of reserve for retired experienced officers of the Regular Army who would not be active but who would be available. We have dealt with that on another section. There are cases where the Minister, for various purposes, might require, and where it would be desirable to have, officers who would have special qualifications or special experience, where there would not be a large number of them. Take one specific example. I am talking completely objectively but the case can in fact occur. Take the case of an officer who is, say, a legal expert, an officer who had, first of all, a great deal of administrative experience in the Army, who knew the Army legal code as nobody else in the country, probably, would know it, who in the House would be able to take an interest in these matters.

It seems to me that it is a pity to wipe out all chance of having his services in case he is required in time of emergency. In time of emergency an officer of that particular nature would be extremely valuable in an administrative capacity or in the legal department. As we know from the last emergency, it is rather difficult to get such people. I have taken that as an example. You can think of other people who might have special qualifications and who might be required.

Apart from that there is a possibility in regard to special duties that a Minister might want to consider in time of emergency. In time of war and emergency political differences in Parliament might become relatively secondary. It would not matter on what side of the House an officer with particular qualifications was. It might be that the Minister of the time might find it very useful to have that man who was also a T.D., and who could also be used in a special capacity, quite apart from ordinary rank. It might be useful that he should have a commission. Under the terms of this Bill he would be completely barred from doing so.

As I see the case, it can be summed up in this way : It is highly undesirable that any person who is a member of the Oireachtas should be an active member of the Army—that is, on occasions going into the Army as a member of it, mixing with the men and officers, and so forth. We are all agreed on that. On the other hand I think there is a case for having an express provision for holding officers of the class that that I have mentioned, and the suggestion that I would like to make would be, if it could be modified, that an officer of the Reserve, on becoming a member of either House of the Oireachtas, would be transferred into an inactive class, merely left, so to speak, on the same basis as a retired officer, an officer in name and recallable by the Minister if required in time of emergency, and otherwise barred from any activity in the Army except on such specific duties as the Minister personally might order him to do. I wonder do I make that distinction clear? If you could embrace him in the class of reserve we were talking about for the others it would be a good thing, although obviously the principle the Minister is aiming at in this section must also be upheld. I do not know if I have made myself clear to the members of the Committee.

The Chairman has in mind, I gather, that the fact of his being a member of the Oireachtas would not prohibit the officer from being on the Reserve but that he would serve under specially prescribed conditions ?

That he would be completely inactive and only function as an officer in so far as the Minister directly ordered and the Minister might not want to do that at all.

Have you given any consideration to this type of case, that occurred to me—say an officer of the Reserve is elected to the Dáil, say he is elected to a Dáil that will endure only a very short period.

That is another point.

He may have been serving in the Reserve as a captain or as an officer of some rank. He becomes a member of the House for seven months, a year or two years. By virtue of his being a member of the House his commission in the Reserve is gone. It could happen that a short period after his leaving the House the Army might be called up to deal with a wartime situation. The man might still be a young man and might be anxious to rejoin the Army.

What the Minister would answer you there is that you could recommission him with the advantage to the Minister that he could vary the rank to suit the case. That is not quite the case we are talking about

I adverted to the matter to you at the time. Personally I resented having to relinquish my commission on the Reserve because I became a member of the House.

I think every one of us who had to relinquish a commission did it with regret.

I made them do it for me.

You are not alone in that.

I think the three of us did.

Sentimental reasons do not enter into this or should not, but we have all been proud of the commissions we have held, and we all felt it an honour to hold them, and I am sure that every officer who would be elected would feel that, but I suppose that is not a valid reason. The essential thing in this is that the Minister's principle, both from experience and common sense, and especially from an unfortunate experience in England, seems to be a very sound one, that is, that you cannot be active as an officer in any sense—that is, be the Minister's servant and be the Minister's co-equal in the House dealing with defence measures. In practice, the objectionable thing turns up that you are a T.D., and there may be questions about soldiers' houses and all these things, and if you get information which you would get as an active officer in the Army, you just cannot bisect your personality. I think we must agree that the Minister is right in that approach.

What I am trying to argue and trying to support Deputy Cowan on is that there is a case for allowing such personnel, or certain of such personnel, at any rate, to hold these commissions barely during the time that they are T.D.s, to be available to be called on if for directed duty by the Minister. I have given a couple of cases.

Have you considered the case where, we will say, an emergency arose to-morrow ? I am talking personally, not so much in the abstract. Take a person as young as myself ; he might feel that his services might be better in the Army than in the House in certain circumstances.

One would have to resign one's seat in the House to go back, which might not be a very good thing, either.

That is the type of difficulty I visualise.

I feel that where an officer is a member of the House and where he has special qualifications, and would like to give his services to the Army, that he should have an opportunity of doing so. He might feel very keenly about it. On the other hand, the Minister might like to have him there. Where you have a man with special qualifications there should be an opportunity to let him back into the Army.

That case may be met in a later section by the Minister reserving to himself power in special circumstances to give a commission to a member of a House of the Oireachtas, if he so wanted, but it goes a little bit beyond that.

This would wipe him out completely from the Army.

Here are the reasons in summary : There is the argument that a man might have special qualifications and experience. There is the sentimental argument. There is one case that comes to my mind. I will not mention names, but all the Deputies who know anything about these matters will probably know who I mean. There was one man in this country who had the theoretical, scientific and technical knowledge in the matter of one aspect of a problem that is coming into prominence in connection with military matters. That man, in addition, has considerable practical experience of this particular technical thing abroad and was willing to put his services at the disposal of this country. He was used, I believe, to some extent by the Army for that purpose, for information. He was a member of the Oireachtas. Unfortunately, he is dead now. That particular man was unique in this country in his knowledge. He would have been the only person who would have some knowledge of the military aspect of the problem as well as the scientific and technical knowledge that was involved in it. He was unique and the only person that the Minister could call upon if he had to set up a section to deal with that in the Army.

And the Minister did call upon him, apparently ?

They did call upon him for lecture purposes, I understand. I think the Minister knows whom I mean. That man would have been the only person the Minister could have called upon to take over a section of that sort and, believe me, it is a section of warfare which might very well be a big problem for us and, on the other hand, one that we could do something about in the line of defence. There is a specific case. Up to the moment it would have been plain sailing. The Minister would only have to write an order and the thing would be fixed but, under the terms of this Bill, the Minister could be completely precluded. While I agree with the policy and agree completely with what the Minister is aiming at, I am trying to argue that the Minister should still keep a loop-hole for himself to deal with these cases.

It is difficult for Deputy Cowan and myself to talk about these things. In one sense it may appear that we are prejudiced in the matter. We are taking completely objectively and I am giving that particular case which has nothing to do with anybody in the Oireachtas at the moment and it was a very glaring case.

I see great difficulty in doing what you suggest, Mr. Chairman. I cannot see how any man can be a T.D. and carry out the responsibilities he has undertaken to his people and at the same time hold a commission of any sort in the Reserve, thereby being subject to certain regulations, to be called up, to be available for duty. I am thinking of an emergency. In an emergency he is going to have a dual duty. They may clash.

They may and, on the other hand, they may not clash. The duties assigned to the late Deputy Brian Brady in connection with the Red Cross were very similar indeed to the type of duty that I am visualising for a member of the Oireachtas if he were in the Army. I completely agree with Deputy Colley that to make him battalion commander, or company officer, or battalion officer, is out. I am thinking of very special duties, such as, say, the head of a research department, the head of biological warfare, functioning as a special legal adviser to the Minister, and so on, on a defence council and matters of that sort.

Could these duties not be carried out by such a man without his actually holding a commission ?

Up to a point, yes, but there is another matter that could arise there where a commission might be necessary. I mentioned Deputy Brady, who went abroad for the Red Cross during the war.

Suppose the Minister had an officer of that nature whom he might require for something else. The cover of the commission gets over a lot of difficulties in such a contingency. It makes it completely easy for mixing with the Army, disclosing Army information outside the Cabinet and so on. Take the case of a research department where you are handling military personnel. I was a member of a body during the emergency in which three Army officers were linked very closely with the Emergency Scientific Research Bureau. If we had all been civilians, our position in dealing with the Army, which was really the executive end of the bureau for a lot of their work and certainly for defence, would have been difficult and anomalous. Frankly, I would go no further than to urge that the Minister should consider something on the lines of a retired list by which a man would have his commission in name, like a retired officer—that would probably satisfy the point of honour as well—and recallable as a Regular Army officer who resigns. We have argued that the Regular Army officer who retires should be on a retired list. He is an officer merely in name in that case. He is completely free and does not touch the Army until called back and that would be the position in this case. If the Minister can not see his way to go that distance with us, I strongly urge him to keep power for himself, without having to bring in legislation, by which he can commission practically anyone in the State, even if, as a matter of policy, he never does it.

We will accept that one of the greatest examples of good citizenship is membership of the Reserve, and to be an officer in the Reserve is an example of the greatest citizenship. In the normal way, the people look to their representatives to be good citizens, and it is because they are good citizens that they elect them to represent them in Parliament. It strikes me as being wrong that, where you have a perfect citizen because of his Reserve membership, he must forfeit, as it were, his badge of good citizenship because he is elected by his fellow-citizens to be their representative in Parliament. In considering a matter of this kind, we have to look at other countries. In Britain, it is a common thing for an officer on the Reserve to be a member of Parliament and to discuss matters of defence, although I agree with the Chairman that we should not go that far. In France and Germany, it is quite a usual thing, and, in fact, is the proper thing, for a member of Parliament to be an officer of the Forces, and he does not lose his commission because he becomes a member of Parliament. To be an officer is regarded as the highest form of service. We had the position during the first world war in which a Minister of State, Mr. Churchill, still a member of Parliament, was out and fought in command of a battalion—not only a Minister, but a vital Minister who had mobilised the Navy and who went back afterwards to become Minister for Munitions. There was an example of perfect citizenship which in no way interfered with the war effort, with discipline or anything else, so far as Britain was concerned. During the last war, we had examples of naval officers of high rank coming back to the House of Lords and some to the House of Commons and complaining about inefficiency.

That is the objection.

I am only mentioning it. Their complaints had very desirable results. I agree that we should not go that far, but the fact is that, in principle, there is nothing wrong in being a member of the Reserve and a member of the Dáil. The Chairman has put to the Minister the very happy solution that if an officer of the Reserve becomes a member of the Dáil he will be immediately transferred into a special class which will enable him to retain his commission, which is a badge of great honour and which every officer who held a Reserve commission felt was a great honour, and will be available to be utilised when the Minister thinks his services ought to be utilised in the interests of the State. It means that there is no necessity, simply because a man has the confidence of his fellow citizens, for him to give up his commission which he has gained by his ability and which he treasures and honours. The situation under the 1923 Act was that a man could be a member of the Dáil and could hold a Reserve commission, and nothing ever went wrong with regard to it, but unfortunately we have, bit by bit, reached the stage at which, if a man is a member of the Dáil, he must give up his commission.

Mr. Collins

Another case has been running through my mind which strengthens the argument of the Chairman for a Special Reserve category for people on the Reserves who may become members of the Dáil. A situation might arise where, from a recruiting point of view, it might be of immense value to the Minister—let us say it was necessary in the morning—to have such a Reserve class. There would then be members of the House of all shades of political thought available to the Minister, if he desired to embark on an intensive recruiting drive, and that is something, I think, worth considering.

As a follow-up to what Deputy Collins has said, there is a big advantage from the point of view of national defence in having people in the House who have, so to speak, an interest in it. Unfortunately the tendency in peacetime has always been to put defence on the long finger in Parliament and not to spend the money necessary on it because it is not a matter of immediate concern or popular. Most Deputies take that line. It is significant since the emergency that the people who have been most vocal in matters of defence have been people who have served in the Defence Forces, and it would be useful from that point of view. If I may summarise the proposal I am putting to the Minister, it is this : There are a number of people in the community in whose special qualifications from the military angle it would be highly desirable for the Minister to take an interest almost immediately. I am thinking of surgeons, who would not be active in the Army in the ordinary way—people to whom the Minister gave second-line commissions in the last emergency but who, perhaps, never wore a uniform even once. There are people in the transport organisation and people in the communications or postal organisation. There would also be technical people, such as chemists, physicists and University people whom the Minister would be able to get to take a commission but who would never be active in the ordinary sense. These people are going to be vital in a situation of modern war. The day when you fought with a rifle and bayonet and a few field-pieces is gone. All this technical background and organisation is necessary in modern war and you are not going to meet that position—and I want to make this clear—by commissioning young graduates. What would happen ? No matter how good he is, as soon as he gets on in life he finds that he has not got the time and you find him becoming inactive, if he does not resign.

He will not hold an active Reserve commission. There is a whole class of people for whom there should be a special class of Reserve and who should be encouraged to take an interest in defence matters and who can be got together occasionally for the purpose. If we were completely alive to our defence planning, some approach of that nature would have to be made. In the case of all these people, you would have to pay some retainer and I suggest that you can fit into that category the T.D., putting in the special qualification that he draws no emoluments whatever while he is a T.D. Leave him his bare commission, but leave him to be called upon by the Minister, if and when wanted. What I am urging on the Minister is that he should not tie his hands by legislation and put himself in the position that he will have to come back later on with further legislation. We are all agreeable to his policy, subject to our advocating that the bare commission be left to T.D.s, and we suggest that he should not tie his hands but should enable himself to handle the matter in such a way that he can do what he thinks proper without legislation in that regard. I think we have made a fairly strong case.

Mr. Brennan

Would all these officers be on half pay ?

No pay.

Mr. Brennan

Are officers on Reserve not so paid ?

The position was that in the Reserve the pay was broken up at that time into so much for being an officer, so much for attending training and so forth. He was completely inactive and got only a proportion.

Mr. Brennan

My reason for asking is that I felt that the conditions you were laying down, of giving up all emoluments when he became a T.D., would impose a strain on his financial position.

No. We would all agree that in the particular circumstances it would be desirable that he would not, for this reason that, if he is interested in Reserve pay, he would not approach the problem presented by the laying of an Order on the Table of the House as objectively as he otherwise would.

I think we are all agreed on that.

He would receive no pay.

I suppose I may come in now ? You will agree that Army officers have had a field night on this matter. I am going to oppose this amendment with all the strength I can command. The Chairman, I know, has said that it would be highly undesirable to have an officer of the Forces also a member of the Oireachtas, and I think we will all agree on that. So far, the various Governments which have been in power have each played their part in endeavouring to keep the Army outside politics. The arguments advanced to-night have been in favour of giving members of the Army the same rights to discuss political matters as the members of the Oireachtas itself, but I think it would be highly undesirable.

I think that the Minister is stretching what we have said a little bit far.

Deputy Cowan has referred to the British Parliament. I recollect that very unsavoury matters were raised in the British House of Parliament by people of the type to whom he has referred. There was something of a scandal, if I do not make a mistake, regarding a close relative of the gentleman to whom Deputy Cowan referred.

In fact, he showed up something that was a scandal. That was Mr. Sandys.

That that should have happened is a proof that it is possible for people giving active service in the Army also to give a type of active service in the House of Parliament which might well be detrimental to the interests of the people. From that point of view I think it completely undesirable.

The Chairman knows as well as I know that during the emergency we commissioned many persons who had outstanding experience in one or another phase of technical and commercial affairs. For instance, we commissioned the chief engineer of the post office because of his outstanding ability with regard to electrical matters.

And his peculiar knowledge of the communication system of the country which was very special.

Yes. We commissioned the chief transport officers of the railway systems. The purpose of the commissions was to enable the army to have at its disposal the specialised knowledge which these people possessed. Therefore, we would not have to take any additional powers in this Bill to enable us to secure the services of people such as those to whom the Chairman has referred. We can do the same again should an emergency arise.

There is the other point of view, that it is quite possible that a Reserve officer who had become a member of the House might prefer to remain a member of the House than to be called back to the Army. Certainly, in an emergency, he could not be called out on permanent service and be active in the House at the one time. Either the House or the Army would have to suffer and that again would be undesirable.

Taking everything into consideration, I think that the wisest thing we can do is to insist that an officer of the Reserve who becomes a member of either House of the Oireachtas shall thereupon relinquish his commission. We have had the position where Reserve officers were allowed to stand for election. If they were elected, they resigned their commissions and if they failed to secure election they continued to be Reserve officers. I think that that was fair. It meant that if an officer was not elected to the Oireachtas and his services did not become placed at the disposal of the Oireachtas, the Army could still call upon his services and any specialised knowledge he might possess. If he was elected to the Oireachtas, the Army lost his services and the Oireachtas was the gainer. That, I think, is the reasonable way to look at it.

It would be deplorable if we were to have in course of time an Army containing members serving different political Parties. While, perhaps, filling important military posts, they could also be important members of political Parties. That would be most undesirable. I doubt very much if the Army itself would be pleased with such a position. Men who have made the military profession their life work would not wish to avail of it. They would prefer to devote themselves exclusively to their profession. They would not wish to try to sit on two stools, the political stool and the military one. From that point of view also I think it highly undesirable that the amendment should even be pressed.

Mr. Collins

Would the Minister consider meeting our wishes, say, in the case where an officer of the Reserve is elected to the House for a short period by giving him some opportunity within a period after losing his seat in the House of being reinstated ?

That could always be done under the Act as it stands.

He could be recommissioned at any time.

The Minister has made the point to us about the professional man, but the Reserve officer is spare time. It is not his profession so the Minister's argument in that regard is not as forcible as it seems at first sight. The argument about politics could be pressed further ; if it is the Minister's argument that all Reserve officers should be debarred from politics, what about the officers of the Reserve who have held very high position in political organisations such as organisers and so forth ?

I have pointed out that they stood for election.

If the Minister makes that argument and presses it to its logical conclusion you should remove their commissions as well and then you will remove all chance of having a Reserve of officers.

Mr. Collins

If you press the Minister's argument to its logical conclusion there will be no political say at all for anybody in the Army.

No, that is not correct.

Mr. Collins

We are well aware, and the Minister must be aware, that there are officers of the Reserve who are not candidates for the Dáil at all at the moment but who are infinitely more active politically in some Parties than any Dáil Deputies and whose political activities are of infinitely more consequence than the activities of Deputies.

I have admitted that I have said that they may stand for election, thereby making it clear that they have strong political views.

Mr. Collins

It is not a question of standing for election. Some may be directors of elections and some may be directors of political organisations.

If you apply that argument to the man who is elected it is not so very strong. If he is active politically he may be a very active officer—attend for annual training, and so on, whereas if he is a member of the Oireachtas he is suspended during the time he is a member.

I thoroughly agree with what the Chairman has said regarding politics and also with what Deputy Collins has said. We have been inclined to look at politics from the wrong viewpoint. Politics is the science of government. Everyone has laid that down. Even the Pope has laid down that people should take an active interest in politics and that it is a sign of good citizenship to do so. When the Defence Forces Act, 1923, was brought in, that was one of the reasons why the Army was not debarred from voting. Every member of the Army is entitled to hold his political views and express them. He is not entitled to hold a meeting under the auspices of a political Party in a barracks—that is laid down in Standing Orders—but he is not and never has been debarred from expressing his political views.

I am in complete sympathy with the Minister's point of view regarding politics and that is why I would like this suspended.

Some officers are not members of political Parties at all. I could nearly put the speaker in that particular category at the moment. There are individuals who are very active in the organisation of political Parties as organisers, as members of comhairlí ceanntar, constituency councils, or as members of the executive of the different Parties. They can be as politically active as they like and retain their commissions. It seems to be wrong that simply because they have been elected to the Dáil, because they have the confidence of the people who elected them in their constituencies, they must resign. I want to say clearly, from the point of view of Deputy Colley who expressed the view some time ago that it was highly undesirable, that I do not see anything more undesirable in an Army officer being a T.D. than a national teacher or a member of a local authority.

Then why has none of the Governments which have been in power adopted the Pope's recommendation as the Deputy has expressed it?

Because he has only expressed it recently and neither Government here had an opportunity of doing anything about it. It takes time to bring it into normal life. The decision in the Bill is not based on any logic. It just happened, and the effort now is give it statutory authority.

Mr. Collins

It may have happened as a result of an upheaval that should be forgotten and should not guide us.

A certain thing occurred which had nothing to do with politics.

Mr. Collins

It started what developed subsequently into this move to exclude officers, or anyone with a taint of an Army commission, from membership of the Dáil.

It was never decided by principle.

Mr. Collins

I think the Minister is right to this extent that if he puts such Deputies into a special reserved Army category and after that they become active in that category they cannot continue to be Deputies.

The Minister has the right to put a person into any category he likes.

Instead of logic we have heard a lot of sophistry in the last few minutes. There is no analogy between a member of the Army and a member of a local authority or a national teacher as a member of the Dáil. We have all in mind in considering this Bill the effect in war-time. We do not know whether the crisis may be internal or external. It is highly undesirable that any officer, Reserve or otherwise, should be a member of the Dáil. I am more convinced than ever of that from the argument I heard tonight. When I heard the Chairman first I was in some sympathy with him, though I could see grave difficulties ; but on hearing the further arguments I am forced round to the view that the Minister is perfectly correct, that the only way he can control the question is by the clause he has here. In an emergency, if there are such persons as the Chairman has envisaged who are needed in some special capacity, he could exercise the power he has already and get their abilities in that way. I am very convinced that it would be a bad day for the country if Army officers, Reserve or otherwise, were allowed to become Deputies and retain their commissions.

I have a lot of sympathy with the Minister and believe he is right in principle. That is why I suggested a suspended position. The place I join issue with Deputy Colley is where he talks about the emergency. It is too late to wait until then. In the last war we had no organisation in the overhead sense. We need to have some conception of defence in broader plan. It is not enough to wait to commission these special types of people when an emergency has occurred. A lot of work has to be done before then. That is the argument for doing it now and for enabling it to continue. I agree that there are great difficulties. The only thing I would subscribe to is this complete state of suspension. I urge the Minister not to bar himself by legislation, to leave himself the freedom within the framework of the Act to do what will be appropriate in any particular case rather than have an omnibus bar on himself.

Mr. Brennan

He will have the power to do it.

He will not after this Bill is passed. He has the liberty at the moment. I would not quarrel with him or any of his predecessors on the way this matter has been handled.

I hope the Minister understands that no matter what Government is in power my point remains the same. This is a ministerial matter that comes before us and I feel sure it was in the Bill introduced in the last Dáil.

Even if this were a different Minister I would be putting forward the same views. The Minister is commander-in-chief for all practical purposes and is Chairman of the Defence Council ; yet he can be a very active politician also.

The Deputy is pushing a good case too far.

Mr. Collins

We had a situation before that could occur again. If this country were temporarily subjugated to some foreign power it might well be that, with a return to normal political entity, you would have a large number of people who served the country with distinction in the fight, who may be prisoners in jail, who would be elected by popular franchise to a new Parliament. If you are putting up a positive bar by legislation——

This would not operate in the circumstances the Deputy has outlined.

Mr. Collins

You have to remember that we could find ourselves temporarily without control of our own country but that would not affect the statute law.

The Government of the Republic pre-1920 had no bar. There was nothing to prohibit an officer being a member of the Dáil.

Mr. Collins

It goes back further than that—to membership of other organisations than the pre-Truce I.R.A. or the I.R.B. It goes back deeper into Irish history. It is not from the point of view of argument or in a spirit of contention that I am putting my view. I feel that we are committing in a positive way into a statute something that may not be in the best interests of the country and certainly is a complete breach of precedent in Irish history, even if you go back to the Confederation of Kilkenny.

I purposely did not put down an amendment, realising the Ministerial difficulty. I would have in mind something like this :—

An officer who becomes a member of either House of the Oireachtas shall forthwith be placed on an inactive list and shall receive no pay or emoluments—or, alternatively, he shall relinquish his commission if the Minister so directs.

Even if we accepted in toto what the Minister has said—and for myself I have reservations—I would still argue that the better way is to reserve the power, to leave it open to make regulations, not to tie it up in advance by legislation.

I agree with what the Cathaoirleach says. Sub-section (2) says that the President may, for any prescribed reason, direct that an officer shall resign his commission. The Minister could direct the President in that way. He should not tie his own hands, the President's hands and everyone else by putting this in here.

He could put in that the Minister may prescribe a cause for resigning a commission, if he wanted to be specific. I want to leave the Minister free. If this is passed as it stands, no matter how desirable it may be, he could not commission a member of either House of the Oireachtas. A T.D. would have to resign. He could not allow a T.D. to retain a commission, even as a technical expert. The Government and the Minister may be faced with a problem if an officer like the man I mentioned, with special qualifications, who was a member of the Dáil, was wanted to take charge as an officer in a special Department. (I am referring to the case of the gentleman who is dead.) Such a man would have to resign his seat, and that might cause a greater emergency especially if the situation happened to be a tight one, as it is inevitably going to be with proportional representation.

Mr. Brennan

You are taking away freedom from an individual to exercise his rights from a political point of view, of taking part in political organisations.

No, no.

Mr. Brennan

Is not that what it amounts to ?

I take it you, Mr. Chairman, were mainly concerned with special qualifications — and Captain Cowan to a lesser extent. There would be administrative difficulties.

The man could not be active in the line sense.

There is one expert in a particular field and the Minister can get him only in the Dáil at the moment.

If such a person were required, you know that Parliament can give powers to deal with the situation.

It would mean an Act.

The Dáil, by resolution, could decide that that person would be relieved from parliamentary work to undertake work of greater national impotance in the public interest, in any part of the Army or in a scientific bureau, as might be necessary, or even to go abroad in a special capacity in uniform.

It would need legislation.

Mr. Collins

You cannot relieve a Deputy of a public duty by legislation.

You have to move well in advance of an emergency. We do not want to find ourselves in a jam, with everything piled up at once. The Minister is making every effort this time to make preparations.

Mr. Collins

Parliament could not by legislation relieve a man of his public duty.

By a Bill ?

Mr. Collins

The elected representatives in the Dáil could not vote that he be relieved of his representative responsibility and sent somewhere else. It is unconstitutional.

We have discussed it very thoroughly.

He has the powers in sub-section (2), if the Government and he so think that they should make such regulations. They have it there.

And he can make these powers explicit, if necessary.

We are asking the Minister not to tie his hands by putting in that sub-section.

I am satisfied that I am not tying my hands. I want to impress upon the members of the Committee that during the last emergency I was given the most extraordinary powers by the House, powers that no other Minister for Defence ever had, and they were utilised always in the interests of the Army and the people, and in no circumstances were they ever abused. I am certain that the House would be prepared to do that for any Minister for Defence during any similar period.

At a similar period, but it is too late very often when the emergency is on you. We are talking about the preparatory time.

I know what you are talking about as well as you do yourself, and I know that no Government will be anxious unnecessarily to build up a Reserve of scientists or specialists and pay them the emoluments which their qualifications would require. We all know what our difficulties are. We must also know what our limitations are and we have to be reasonable in a matter of this kind. I am satisfied that this particular sub-section does not tie me and that it will not tie any other Minister for Defence.

Apparently, if this is passed, you cannot allow an officer of the Reserve to remain an officer of the Reserve if he is elected to the Dáil, no matter how expert he may be. You are tied to that extent.

I am satisfied that an officer of the Reserve who is anxious to become a T.D. is quite prepared to relinquish his interest in the Army and to take up his new interest as a Deputy. As I said a few moments ago, he has to concentrate on one or the other. We must presume that, if he is prepared to offer himself for election and if he is successful, he will apply himself wholeheartedly to his new position as a member of the Oireachtas. None of us could do two of these things successfully. We would have to apply ourselves to one or other and apply ourselves wholeheartedly to it.

The Minister will appreciate that the members who have pressed this are not officers. No member who has pressed this has any interest in this matter. None of us has a commission. We are ex-officers and we have no interest in it. This section is dealing with officers who become members of the Oireachtas and we are not in that category nor could we be in it. We have been arguing this objectively. Speaking for myself, I have no quarrel with the Minister's policy as he implemented it up to this but I do think it is unwise for him completely to tie his hand. I think he should do it by Order, as he has done heretofore, effectively.

If you are right and I am wrong, we can add the section that you want next year or in ten years, by a simple amendment. That is all that is necessary.

In the meantime you may have lost someone.

There is this objection, that a simple amendment may be to meet a specific case, which would make it more difficult and more objectionable for you. However, the matter has been pretty well discussed. Does Deputy Cowan want to press the amendment ?

Yes. I think it is so important that we should have the decision of the Committee on it.

Mr. Brennan

The Army should be independent of politics. If a man decides to remain an officer of the Army, whatever little rights he loses by virtue of the fact that he cannot become a T.D., I think that is part of something that he has to surrender in the interests of the community as a whole. I agree with the Minister that the Army should be kept clear of politics.

Would not that argument apply more forcibly to members of the Reserve who are extremely active in political Parties ?

Mr. Brennan

That may be, but would not members of the Reserve who become members of the Oireachtas have to resign their commissions ?

Under the regulations at the moment they would.

There are quite a number in the House already who have resigned.

Personally, I am not quarrelling with the Minister for having done that. I want him to do it by Order still, not to do it by the Bill.

Mr. Brennan

I would not agree with your suggestion, not that it is definitely clear to me, but I can see the difficulties the Minister would have to contend with as to where he should draw the line in the matter of the particular personnel that he would need.

Even members of An Fórsa Cosanta Aitiúil have to resign on becoming members of the Oireachtas.

Oh yes.

They are members of the Reserve.

I am satisfied that we were at all times in this debate concerned with men who had special qualifications, that we did not want to wipe them out of the Army completely, even though they are members of the Oireachtas. The Minister tells me that if he wants these men he can get them.

Mr. Collins

Not if they are in the Oireachtas.

If this section passes, and there is a person of unique and special qualification a member of the Oireachtas, the Minister has specifically debarred himself from getting him.

If he is so outstanding as that he could resign from the Oireachtas and get a special commission. That would meet the case if he were prepared to forgo his position in the Oireachtas.

That is hardly a fair thing to ask a man.

You cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Collins

Let us argue this to a logical conclusion again.

He may be prepared to do special duty in the emergency —

Mr. Collins

He may be prepared to do special duty in the interests of the Army and still want to hold his seat.

And revert back to his seat. The matter has been pretty thoroughly discussed.

I think the fact that the people elected a man to be a T.D. should not debar him from serving his country in the Army.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá: 2 ; Níl: 6.


  • Collins, Séan.
  • Cowan, Peader.


  • Minister for Defence.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Brennan, Thomas.
  • Gallagher, Colm.
  • Carter, Frank.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 48 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 57 :—

In sub-section (2), line 31, to delete the words " may accept or refuse to " and substitute the word " shall ".

This is a very simple amendment from the point of view of understanding its effect. It is that instead of saying, as the section says, that the President may refuse to accept the resignation of his commission tendered by an officer, the section shall read that the President shall accept the resignation of his commission tendered by an officer.

In the discussion yesterday in regard to another section, the principle of this particular amendment was discussed at considerable length. I shall not go over the points that were mentioned yesterday evening but I want to say that in justice there must be equitable treatment. Section 50 prescribes that the President may dismiss an officer and the section sets out a whole lot of padding in regard to how he may be dismissed. It gives him the right of sending in an explanation, but it does not say that that explanation need be accepted. He gets a reasonable opportunity of making such representation but it does not say that whatever representation he will make will be given any consideration. Once you become an officer, you may be dismissed and, in justice, you ought to have the right to resign.

In case there might be any discussion on wrong lines in regard to this, I want to say very clearly that in time of emergency or when the forces are called out or are on active service, I do agree certainly that the release of an officer should be a matter in which the national interests are predominant. In ordinary peacetime, an officer who becomes a member of the Army does so voluntarily. He is commissioned by the President. The form of his commission is given to him and he served in the Army. He may be dismissed and I say that if he sends in his resignation that may be accepted because, to keep an officer in the Army against his will, would be a very foolish thing in ordinary peacetime. Sub-section (3) of Section 49 says that an officer who has tendered the resignation of his commission shall not, by reason merely of such tender, be relieved of his military duties. In other words, sub-section (3) clearly envisages that if he sends in his resignation it must be accepted. For these reasons I move the amendment which provides that if an officer resigns his commission that resignation will be accepted by the President.

Except where there were very compelling reasons, the President would always accept the resignation but there might be cases where he would be advised not to accept it. I mentioned one the other day on another section, where a man might be charged with a serious crime and where a very easy way for him to avoid court-martial would be to immediately tender his resignation. In a case of that kind, the Government would advise the President not to accept the resignation. There might be other cases where in an emergency for some reason of very little importance, an officer might want to get out of the service and where the Army authorities would be anxious to retain him and would advise the Minister to oppose his resignation. These are cases in which the President on the advice of the Government would refuse to accept the resignation. For these reasons, I could not accept this amendment. The number of occasions on which an officer's resignation has been refused could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand.

In any event, there is a question of principle involved. If there is to be an Army, the Minister must keep the position as it has been and as I understand it to be in all other armies. I personally would feel that it would be extremely dangerous and an unprecedented thing to make it mandatory to accept the resignation.

We want to be fair all round. The officer cannot have all the rights. The Minister representing the people must be left some rights.

There is a very serious question of principle involved.

Mr. Brennan

What is the cost of commissioning an officer?

It is not a question of cost. It is a question of a much more serious principle.

Mr. Brennan

If there is any cost, I should like to know what it is.

If an officer has committed a very serious offence, obviously, he would be taken into custody and would be charged as soon as possible. Clearly, his resignation would not be accepted until the court-martial had decided and the court-martial may dispose of the particular person by dismissing him or by giving him a sentence which involves his dismissal and even his dismissal with ignominy. I agree with the Minister that in peace-time no officer who sends in his resignation has ever been refused. It may be that in an emergency for some reason or another an officer's resignation may be delayed for a considerable period. I do not know whether that happened during the last emergency or not. Where you have the type of contract that we have here, a voluntary contract under a voluntary system of service, no man can be kept in that service contrary to his own will. It does not matter whether he is in the Civil Service or the Church, whether he is employed by a firm outside, a member of the Dáil or an employee of a local authority—under our general principles, no man can be kept in that employment contrary to his will. The whole principle involving the rights of men to strike is involved in this. There is an even bigger principle than members of the Committee may see at the moment involved in it, and, because that tremendous principle is involved, I feel that the decision of the Committee should be taken on it.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 1 ; Níl, 6.


  • Cowan, Peadar.


  • Minister for Defence.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Brennan, Thomas.
  • Gallagher, Colm.
  • Carter, Frank.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
Amendment declared lost.

The only place I know of where a man can be kept against his will is in jail.

Amendment 58 is purely a matter of draftmanship.

It is only a matter of drafting and if the Minister is advised that the word in the Bill is better than mine, I will not press it.

Amendment No. 58 not moved.
Section 49 agreed to.