Committee Reports::Report - Proceedings and Minutes of Evidence - Exclusion of Certain Duly Authorised Visitors::22 March, 1934::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Déardaoin, 22° Márta, 1934.

Thursday, 22nd March, 1934.

The Committee met at 12 noon.


The Leas-Chathaoirleach.





Siobhán Bean an Phaoraigh.

Colonel Moore.



Colonel P. Brennan (Superintendent of the Oireachtas) called and further examined.

345. Cathaoirleach.—Colonel Brennan, the members of the Committee have now read the printed report of the evidence which you gave before them on the 14th instant and some of the answers which you then gave raised matters of such grave importance that the Committee desire to examine you again, so that you should have an opportunity of confirming, and if necessary amplifying, some of the statements made by you. Do I make myself clear?—Perfectly, Sir.

346. In your answer to Question 280 you stated that, at your interview with the Clerk of the Dáil on the 16th February, after you had told him that you proposed to admit Senator Miss Browne’s visitors in accordance with the order which I had given you through the Clerk of the Seanad, the Clerk of the Dáil informed you that, where you were concerned, his orders would override all others, whether from the Cathaoirleach or the Clerk of the Seanad. You repeat that in your answers to Questions 284 and 285. That is a very grave claim on the part of the Clerk of the Dáil to have made, if it was made. Is it possible that you are mistaken?—No, Sir. Those were the very words he used, and I made a note of them shortly afterwards while my recollection was fresh. I remember thinking at the time that the claim was an extraordinary one to make.

347. Did the Clerk of the Dáil qualify that statement in any way?—No, except to say that the Seanad was continually causing trouble in Leinster House, and the best thing would be if they got out of it.

348. I see that, according to your answer to Question 285, the Clerk of the Dáil instructed you on Tuesday, 20th February, that Blue Shirts were not to be admitted to Leinster House, even though they had cards of admission to the Seanad. I take it that that instruction was verbal? —Yes, but in view of the seriousness of the position which I thought might arise subsequently, I said to him, “You will have to give me that order in writing.”

349. What did he say then?—He said he would.

350. Did he, in fact, do so?—No, Sir.

351. I gather that you tried to explain to the Clerk of the Dáil what you thought was the position?—Yes, but he told me I was not there to think.

352. According to your answer to Question 313, the Department of Finance in a letter dated the 31st August, 1928, thanked the Clerk of the Dáil for his service as a member of the Safeguarding Committee. You had not told us that the Clerk of the Dáil had ever so acted. Can you explain?—In my answer to Question 260, line 4 of which should read “the Clerk of the Dáil” instead of “the Speaker,” I said that the Speaker, or rather the Ceann Comhairle, nominated Mr. Malone to act on the Safeguarding Committee. He nominated Mr. Malone on the 16th December, 1926 to act in the place of the Clerk of the Dáil, to whom a letter dated the 14th September, 1926, had been addressed from the Department asking whether he, that is the Clerk of the Dáil, would be prepared to act on the suggested Committee for Safeguarding. The Ceann Comhairle nominated Mr. Malone because the Clerk of the Dáil was absent on leave at the time. I understand that at a later stage the Clerk of the Dáil sat on the Committee. On the last occasion when I said “the Speaker,” it should have been “the Clerk of the Dáil.” It was “the Clerk of the Dáil” I should have said, as the letter was to him.

353. Did you have any conversation with the Clerk of the Dáil in connection with your original summons to give evidence before this Committee of ours?— Yes, on the afternoon of Monday, the 5th March, the Clerk of the Dáil called me to his room and asked whether I had heard anything about the Seanad Committee’s inquiry into the Blue Shirt incident of the 21st February.

354. Was anybody else present?—Mr. McGann, the Assistant Clerk of the Dáil, was present. I informed the Clerk of the Dáil that the Clerk of the Seanad had given me written instructions to hold myself in readiness to appear before the Committee when summoned, perhaps at 4 p.m. on the following day.

355. Did the Clerk of the Dáil offer any opinion on that?—The Clerk of the Dáil stated that the procedure was irregular, and that the Clerk of the Seanad should have sent a notification to him, the Clerk of the Dáil, in the first instance, saying that my attendance before the Seanad Committee was required. The Clerk of the Dáil seemed to wish to convey to me that I could appear before the Committee only with his knowledge and consent. “But,” he added, “that can go. You had better attend as a matter of courtesy.”

356. Can you say what he meant by that?—I suppose he meant that he was my official superior in such matters and that I could appear before the Committee only with his knowledge and consent, as is the practice in regular Civil Service departments.

357. Did he say anything else?—Yes, he proceeded then to inform me that the Seanad could not censure me; that if any censuring was to be done, he himself was the only person who could administer censure to me.

358. Why should he suppose that the Seanad wished to censure you?—I think it was a method of telling me that the Seanad had no disciplinary control over me whatever; that such control was vested in him solely and that, with regard to the incident being inquired into by this Committee, if there arose a question of my having disobeyed the Cathaoirleach’s order of the 21st February regarding the admittance of Senator Miss Browne’s Blue Shirts and of having obeyed the order of the Clerk of the Dáil, the Seanad could not make me amenable, and that any attempt on the part of the Seanad to do so would be effectively countered by him. That was the general impression he gave me.

359. Was there anything else said on that occasion?—A general discussion followed and, in defence of my position as an officer having responsibilities to the Seanad under your Standing Orders, I pointed out that I was appointed in a particular way—the method of my appointment is governed by the specific terms of the Report of the Joint Standing Committee on the Oireachtas Staff, published as a White Paper in March, 1924—and I hazarded the opinion that, consequently, the Seanad might be expected to have some control over me and, therefore, power to censure me if it thought fit. The Clerk of the Dáil disagreed violently with this viewpoint of mine. Among other things, he said that if I ventured to place before this Committee such a view of my position in the Oireachtas Establishment he would have to take a serious view of it. He went so far as to say that he would treat it as insubordination on my part.

360. That would look like a threat, would it not?—Yes. I left his office with the impression of a threat having been made against me.

361. Cathaoirleach.—That fairly clears the matter so far as I am concerned. Would anybody else like to question Colonel Brennan?

Senator Colonel Moore.—His evidence seems to me to be very clear and definite.

Leas-Chathaoirleach.—Quite clear and definite. We want no more, I think.

Cathaoirleach—Thank you very much, Colonel Brennan.

The witness withdrew.

Senator Miss Kathleen Browne called and further examined.

362. Senator Johnson.—There are one or two points in your evidence, Miss Browne, that I would like to have cleared up. The letter which you sent was referred to by the Cathaoirleach, and, as indicated in the question that he put to you, it appeared that you wrote saying you desired to introduce to the Visitors’ Gallery two visitors who would be wearing the blue shirt uniform of the League of Youth, and requesting the Clerk to place the matter before him and to ask if he would give his approval. I take it that is a correct summary of the letter you wrote?—Yes.

363. That was on the 13th February, and the meeting of the Seanad was a week afterwards—a week or so. How did you know the visitors would be wearing the blue shirt uniform of the League of Youth?—I knew they ordinarily wore the blue shirts.

364. And, therefore——?—They would be wearing them that day.

Senator Colonel Moore.—Therefore, it was not a badge of the society they belonged to if they ordinarily wore it?— I ordinarily wear it, except when it is in the laundry. I am getting a second one. I have not got a second one yet.

365. I am not asking any questions in relation to the laundry. I am only asking you do they ordinarily wear it. You said they ordinarily wear the blue shirt. Does that mean they ordinarily wear it like I, or you, or anybody here might wear it, and they were not wearing it as a badge of the society?—Oh, no. I do not say they wear it absolutely every time they dress; but I knew they would be wearing the Blue Shirts—not an ordinary blue shirt; I knew they would be wearing the Blue Shirt identification dress—I do not call it a uniform—of the League of Youth that day. I made that clear, because I knew they would be wearing it, and I wished the Cathaoirleach clearly to understand that. That was my purpose in writing. The Seanad was not sitting that week, and I did not quite know where to find the Cathaoirleach. That was why I sent the request to the Clerk of the Seanad.

366. Senator Johnson.—You said you did not know they would be dressed in that way. You said they might possibly be dressed in that way?—I saw that in the report that was given to me. I did not mean to imply that. I did decidedly know they would be wearing the Blue Shirts.

367. Cathaoirleach.—I said to you: “According to our records, Senator Miss Browne, you wrote to the Clerk, under date the 13th February, 1934, intimating that, at the next meeting of the Seanad, you desired to introduce to the Visitors’ Gallery two visitors who would be wearing the blue shirt uniform of the League of Youth …”?—Yes, that is quite what I meant; that is correct. The other was either a slip of my tongue or it was not taken down correctly—anything that infers that I did not know they would be wearing the blue shirts. I wished the Cathaoirleach clearly to understand they would be.

368. Senator Johnson.—There were two people in that position, happening to meet on that day and at that time, both wearing blue shirts. You knew a week beforehand they would be?—Yes. I had met them a week before at a meeting and they asked to be allowed to come into the Seanad.

369. Do you mind telling us what the meeting was?—The Ard Fheis of Fine Gael. There were various visitors there who expressed a wish to come into the Seanad, including those particular people.

370. Mr. Keogh Nolan is in business in town?—I only know these men in the organisation. I do not know them any other way. I only know them to meet them at meetings as I do hundreds of others.

371. Is it the habit of Mr. Keogh Nolan and Mr. Fitzgibbon to wear a blue shirt at 4 o’clock in the day?—I could not answer that question, but I know that whenever I have met them they have been wearing it.

372. How did you know, on this occasion, they would be wearing blue shirts?— I did know.

373. They told you?—No, they did not. I took it for granted. Nobody told me. It was because I had always seen them previously in blue shirts that I inferred they would be wearing them and was practically certain they would be.

374. I take it this is what happened. You got tickets with an intimation that it was essential for you to insert on each card the name of the visitor; that you gave the tickets, or sent them, to a friend and that friend gave the tickets to the two gentlemen named?—Yes.

375. Would you not have thought that would have been sufficient authority to bring them into the House from the gate?—How do you mean?

376. Did you not think the possession of these tickets was sufficient authority to bring them into the House?—From the gate, certainly.

377. Do you know if they presented themselves before you got down there?— No, they did not.

378. How did you know they were there?—Because I arranged to meet them there and conduct them in. I met them as they approached Leinster House; they were only coming to the gate. I do that constantly with my visitors for this reason, that several visitors of mine have been kept waiting for a very long time down at the rather uncomfortable place that is called a gate-house and I wished to avoid that, and I very often go down to meet my visitors. I always do that unless I am otherwise engaged.

379. Cathaoirleach.—I think it would be fair to Senator Miss Browne, where the same question was asked her before, that she should be told, so as to prevent her contradicting herself. Otherwise it would be tantamount to cross-examination.

Senator Johnson.—I am trying to reconcile the statements.

Cathaoirleach.—She gave specific answers to those questions previously and we must take them as true.

Senator Johnson.—I am not doubting Miss Browne’s word, but I am wondering how to reconcile some of the statements.

Cathaoirleach.—I will ask you to indicate to her what she said before so that she may know.

380. Senator Johnson.—I will do so. What I want to have made quite clear is the answer you made to Senator O’Hanlon and Senator Colonel Moore. When Senator O’Hanlon asked you: “There is no suggestion that you were bringing these visitors as a test—it was just in the ordinary way?” you said: “I brought the visitors in the ordinary way. It was intimated to me that these gentlemen wanted to come to the Seanad.” Senator Colonel Moore then asked: “It was not meant by you as a sort of challenge?” I wanted to find out how it happened that a week before the occasion you knew exactly how these gentlemen would be dressed and you knew exactly the time they would be arriving and you sent the tickets without having the names written on them?—I arranged the time they were to come myself. I generally do that. I always ask visitors to come about a quarter to three or thereabouts, so that I can bring them up. When the Seanad begins I dislike being called out of the Seanad, which constantly happens. I never write the visitor’s name on a ticket. I believe it is never done by a member of the Oireachtas.

381. That is not quite right?—I have never done it. I asked several members of the Oireachtas have they ever written a name on a ticket and they said “No.”

382. Senator Wilson.—Usually the attendant writes the name?—The attendant asks them to write their names or writes their names.

383. Senator Johnson.—Will you tell us the name of the friend to whom you sent the tickets?—Yes, Mr. Gunning.

384. Who is Mr. Gunning?—He is another Blue Shirt, if you want to know, a friend of these gentlemen. He was the only person I could reach in the time. I have very little time from the time my train arrives. I had no time to meet these gentlemen and, in passing, Mr. Gunning was the person nearest to me to whom I knew I could easily give my visitors’ tickets.

385. Is he an official in the organisation?—Yes.

Cathaoirleach.—Thank you very much, Miss Browne.

The witness withdrew.