DIOSPOIREACHT I gCOISTE.
DEBATE IN COMMITTEE.
Dé Máirt, 2adh Iúl, 1935.
Tuesday, 2nd July, 1935.
The Select Committee held its first meeting at 5.30 p.m.
Clerk to the Committee: I shall take nominations for the Chairmanship.
Deputy Geoghegan: I propose Deputy Norton.
Deputy Moore: I second the nomination of Deputy Norton.
Deputy Costello: I propose Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I second that.
On a Division, there voted:
For Deputy Norton:—Deputies Dowdall, Flinn, Geoghegan, Moore and Traynor.
Against:—Deputies Coburn, Costello, Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald-Kenney.
Clerk: Five voted for Deputy Norton and four against. I declare Deputy Norton elected Chairman.
Deputy Geoghegan: Deputy Norton I understand is in the Dáil and I suggest he should be so informed.
Deputy Norton: I would like to explain my point of view in the matter. I would prefer if somebody else were elected to the position of Chairman of this Committee. I am afraid it will take a good deal of time and it is just a possibility that I might be absent from town, in which case I think it would be awkward for the Committee. I think in the circumstances it might be better if a representative of some of the other groups was willing to take the Chair.
Clerk: I have no alternative except to declare that you have been elected Chairman.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: See how it works out in practice.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: It is open to Deputy Norton to resign if he feels so inclined.
Deputy Geoghegan: Is there power to appoint a temporary Chairman in the event of the unavoidable absence of the Chairman?
Clerk: There is.
Deputy Norton: If an arrangement will be made for a Vice-Chairman or Deputy Chairman to be appointed in my absence, I am quite willing to accept the position—but only on that understanding.
Clerk: It is the recognised procedure that in your absence another member will be called upon by the Committee to take the Chair.
Deputy Fitzgerald: That would be done ad hoc?
Clerk: Ad hoc.
Deputy Norton took the Chair.
Chairman: We will first take the question of having an official report of the deliberations at our meetings. Is it the desire of the Committee that there should be an official note of the complete proceedings of the Committee?
Deputy Costello: So far as we are concerned, yes.
Deputy Geoghegan: Will the transcript of the proceedings be distributed from day to day? What was done in that respect on other occasions? Are we supposed to take notes for ourselves or keep it in our heads?
Deputy Fitzgerald: What usually happens with the Public Accounts Committee is that an official note is taken. It takes some time, but you get the official transcript.
Deputy Geoghegan: As the meetings proceed from day to day?
Chairman: The Clerk informs me that this would be the first time we would have the procedure of a Committee having a verbatim report of everything said during the course of its preliminary deliberations. Usually the Clerk prepares a minute of the proceedings and it would be sent around, just as in the case of the Public Accounts Committee.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We had a verbatim report in the case of a Committee I was on—the Moneylenders Committee.
Deputy Fitzgerald: We get a verbatim report in the case of the Public Accounts Committee.
Deputy Costello: We are not bound by precedents. We want the thing and let us have it.
Deputy Moore: No decision could be reached until a chairman was elected. What we did before the election of a chairman was to agree that the reporters be permitted to be present. That was pending the election of a chairman.
Chairman: My own recollection of the Public Accounts Committee is that there was a verbatim report.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: There is no question about that.
Chairman: Quite apart from precedents, do we desire for this Committee an official report of the complete proceedings?
Deputy Fitzgerald: I propose that we do.
Deputy Geoghegan: I second that.
Chairman: I may take it that it is generally agreed. Now, as to the admission of the Press.
Deputy Fitzgerald: I propose that.
Deputy Geoghegan: I second that.
Chairman: It is agreed that the Press be admitted to all meetings of the Committee.
The next item is arranging a quorum for meetings of the Committee. We have 11 members on the Committee.
Deputy Fitzgerald: I think the quorum should be six.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I propose that seven members form a quorum.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: It might be rather difficult to get seven. I am in favour of the number, but I think it would be difficult to get seven.
Deputy Fitzgerald: If we meet during the Dáil hours, it should not be.
Deputy Dowdall: Seven members including the chairman?
Deputy Moore: I think seven is high.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Then take six, but we must have a majority of the Committee.
Chairman: I do not mind, but in fixing a quorum a majority is not usually aimed at. The Dáil fixes 20 in a House of 153.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: In my view there should be a majority in this case.
The Committee decided on seven members forming a quorum.
Chairman: The next question relates to witnesses appearing before the Committee. The suggestion is that they be examined on oath.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Agreed?
Deputy Fitzgerald: Yes. I move that the evidence of all witnesses be taken on oath.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Agreed.
Chairman: We will now need to fix the procedure to be adopted in connection with the meetings of the Committee—how often and on what days, what hours and what our procedure generally is to be?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I wonder would it be possible to lay that down hard and fast? Would it not be better to go on from day to day?
Chairman: What have the members of the Committee in mind?
Deputy Moore: Some of us would like to know generally whether meetings will be held in the morning, the forenoon or the afternoon?
Deputy Fitzgerald: The afternoon.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Very few could attend in the mornings.
Deputy Geoghegan: I have a feeling that the late afternoon would suit most of the members. It would certainly suit me best.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: At 5 o’clock?
Deputy Geoghegan: Say 5.30.
Deputy Dowdall: I understood it was arranged for 5.30.
Deputy Fitzgerald: For to-day only.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Say 5.30 until we get further experience.
Chairman: Will there be any cross-Channel witnesses or visitors in connection with the deliberations of the Committee?
Deputy Fitzgerald: I understood that some were over already.
Deputy Costello: It is highly likely.
Chairman: That might be a consideration from the point of view of arranging the meetings.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We could change from day to day if we thought it necessary. Let us decide on 5.30 for the moment.
Deputy Fitzgerald: That is only a direction for the moment.
Deputy Geoghegan: Until ordered otherwise.
Chairman: On what days shall we meet?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Leave that over for the present. My own view would be from day to day, but that may not be possible in the earlier stages; I think it will not. Leave that open for the time being.
Chairman: If we are willing to be guided by our experience from day to day in fixing future meetings and the time of meeting, when are we to have our second meeting?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I have an idea about the way in which this ought to be conducted and I would like to say a few words. I think we cannot really effectively enter into this matter until such time as we have all the documents before us and until we have had time to study them. There is, for instance, a lease dated November, 1934; then there is a sub-lease and reference was made in the Dáil to a licence. Then there are the files of the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Finance relating to the matter under discussion. It would be impossible for me and for anybody on the Committee to go into this matter until we have been furnished with copies of these relevant documents. When we have studied them, then we will be in a position to know what witnesses we will call and we will know all the questions which really arise on the matter. My suggestion is that to-day we should arrange that some official in a position to do so will produce all the documents in the power, possession or procurement of the Department of Industry and Commerce relating to the subject-matter of the Inquiry and all documents in the possession, power or procurement of the Department of Finance relating to this Inquiry. When we have had these supplied to us and when we have had a couple of days to study them, we can then go into the question of oral testimony.
Chairman: I take it that you desire to see the actual documents and have them inspected by members of the Committee either at meetings or in any other manner outside?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I wish to have them so that I may take them home and read them at my leisure.
Chairman: You desire copies, while the originals will be available for production here?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: The originals will be put in evidence by the official who produces them, but my point is that each one of us should have a copy of the relevant documents.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Would these documents have first to be produced here before they could be copied?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: They can be copied beforehand, but they need not be handed to us before such time as the originals have been put in in evidence.
Deputy Geoghegan: I think that, generally, Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney’s lines of procedure must be followed, but I do not want to be laden down with documents. I wonder would you consider the advisability of having a sitting at which an official of the Department of Industry and Commerce would attend with all his documents, good, bad and indifferent? He could produce them here. There will be no controversy about a lot of them or no difference of opinion. The Committee could then indicate what they require copied. There is no use in having all the files of the Department.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: My trouble is that until I have time and leisure to go through the files I do not know what I want. I cannot possibly know when a thing is read out quickly. I think it will be a tremendous waste of time if the documents in the file are to be read out. It may take days. If the documents on the file are to be read out it will be difficult to follow them. I have no idea how large the file is, but reading aloud is very slow and it will take up a terrific amount of our time. It would be much better if we were all furnished with copies of the originals that are to be handed in and sworn to as being everything the Department has.
Chairman: Suppose a sub-committee were appointed to examine the files and select from them whatever documents they thought would be likely to be needed?
Deputy Fitzgerald: Is it a big file? The chances are it is not.
Chairman: I am only giving my impression of what I saw on the Minister’s desk.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: It is only a matter of typewriting.
Deputy Geoghegan: Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney’s objection to reading the documents is a very substantial one. I do not suggest that the documents should be read. The file will be produced and it will be obvious that certain documents, from their description, will be so material that they will be circulated. Then it will not be a question of taking a vote as to what should be circulated. If any individual member of the Committee suggests that a document should be circulated, that ought to be circulated.
Deputy Costello: In a file of this kind if you leave out any document you may break the whole continuity of the story and not get the context or the continuity of the transaction.
Deputy Fitzgerald: My experience in a Government office is that you have to take a file and go right through it, because everything goes right back. If you try to short-circuit it you only have to go back again.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: It is perfectly obvious that at some stage of the proceedings the representative of the Department of Industry and Commerce will have to produce files. I suggest that we agree at the earlier stages to get him to do that and proceed from that basis.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I would like to have the copies ready there and then.
Chairman: The production of the files will obviously mean something more than placing the files on the table. Is he going to read them or is he going to be instructed to copy every single letter in the file? I must point out to members that they should indicate what they have in mind when they ask a representative to come here with the files.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Could we instruct him to appear with all the relevant documents?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: All the documents, whether he considers them relevant or not. He is not to be the judge.
Deputy Geoghegan: When he comes here and there are certain files, he will swear definitely that these files contain every relevant document.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Every scrap of paper dealing with the subject is necessary.
Chairman: Could we not decide to do what we intend to do with the file when it is produced?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I propose that when the Minister for Industry and Commerce comes he should bring with him 11 copies of the papers on his file. If a member does not like to read the copy, he need not. I want to see every one of the documents.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Let the official be instructed to come here with the documents and 11 copies thereof.
Deputy Geoghegan: How long will it take to prepare copies if every single scrap of paper has to be copied? I had a glance at the papers and there is a big number of them. Are we to be held up while they are being copied?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I will not go on with the Committee unless I have all the necessary documents which will enable me to form an impartial judgment I cannot to that unless I see the files.
Deputy Geoghegan: Several names have been mentioned in the Dáil. It seems to me that each gentleman whose name has been mentioned in connection with this matter should attend, and he should make discovery on oath of all documents which he possesses, just the same as the Minister. I do not see than any distinction can be drawn between them. Any gentleman who has been mentioned should attend here. I suggest that at the very earlier date each of those gentlemen should be asked to attend here to depose on oath as to the documents he has. The need to examine him generally may arise afterwards.
Chairman: What documents have you in mind?
Deputy Geoghegan: Any he has.
Chairman: Are you referring to documents between himself and the Department or between himself and some other persons who are likely to become interested in this project?
Deputy Geoghegan: Both.
Deputy Costello: I think mat is rather wide. I make no objection to it, but I think a general order of that kind would be quite unworkable for an outside person. There are certain documents that probably he would not produce—of course I do not know— but at all events the main thing we require is to get the Departmental files to enable us to get a history of the transaction and be in a position to ask relevant questions of the witnesses who may be subsequently called before the Committee. We feel we cannot do any useful business unless we have the Departmental files and other documents first. When we have an opportunity of studying them we will then be in a position to deal with the whole matter, to deal with things that are brought forward here, adequately and quickly. We want this inquiry speeded up as rapidly as possible. We feel this is the only possible way that we can bring the decisions of the Committee to a close at the earliest possible moment.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I suggest that we agree with both sides. One side suggests one set of documents and another side suggests another set of documents. Let them have all the documents.
Chairman: Is there agreement to ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce to cause these files to be available, with copies for each member of the Committee?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: And the Minister for Finance also.
Chairman: And the Minister for Finance.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: All documents in their possession, power or procurement. These are sanctified words. Deputy Geoghegan is familiar with them.
Deputy Geoghegan: I agree that that form should be used.
Chairman: Perhaps we had better ask for more than 11 copies. If the proceedings are going to be made public, we had better ask for 20 copies. We can decide about their disposal afterwards.
Deputy Fitzgerald: You mean for the Press?
Chairman: For the file, for the officials and perhaps for the Press.
Deputy Geoghegan: We may as well have an abundance of them. They will be copied mechanically.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I see a difficulty in relation to some individual witness, such as Deputy Geoghegan has in mind, in producing 20 copies.
Deputy Fitzgerald: He did not press that point.
Deputy Geoghegan: I felt that it would not be fair. I was waiting for you to deal with this particular file. I merely suggested it to give the matter concrete form. There has been more than one name mentioned. I do not pick out this particular name for any particular reason but Mr. McGilligan has loomed very largely in this. I think Mr. McGilligan should appear here and tell us all his documents and it would be unreasonable to ask him to bear any expense in connection with the copying of these documents. I think they should be copied at the public expense but should be made available by Mr. McGilligan at a very early date.
Deputy Costello: I think you need not worry about the expense to Mr. McGilligan. You have all the documents he has, beyond the file.
Chairman: I take it that that is a matter that can be raised when these files are produced.
Deputy Geoghegan: Contemporaneously.
Chairman: Except that we will not know who the persons are until we see the files.
Deputy Geoghegan: Certain names have been mentioned in the Dáil. I do not think it was claimed that the list of persons mentioned was exhaustive and we had probably better not pick out one person at this stage.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: What I would suggest—I do not know whether the Clerk to the Committee would agree with this—is that they should ascertain from these two Departments as to when they can have these files reasonably ready and the copies reasonably ready and that notice be sent to us as to when we should meet again.
Deputy Fitzgerald: They will probably be ready by Tuesday.
Deputy Moore: Do I understand that these copies are not to be circulated until they have been sworn to?
Chairman: I think they should be proved and put in evidence in a formal way.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I do not think they need be proved. The copies can be made before they are proved.
Deputy Geoghegan: By proof, I was merely suggesting that the official should attend formally to swear that he has not any other documents.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: And our next meeting must be purely formal at which we call these officials.
Deputy Moore: Would it not save time if we had these documents in advance?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: It would facilitate us very much if we had them in advance.
Chairman: There cannot be much delay between his appearing here and the circulation of the documents. It might be well to do the thing in a formal way, so as to be sure that we have documents which are testified to. The proposal is:
That the appropriate officials of the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Finance be requested to attend before the Committee with all original files in their possession, power or procurement relating to the subject matter of this inquiry, and be requested to bring 20 copies of each document in the respective files.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I should like the wording to be a little more definite, and I suggest that the words “That the secretary of the Department . . . . or some official having knowledge of the matter nominated by him,” be substituted.
Deputy Geoghegan: “Or other person duly authorised by him who has knowledge of the matter.”
Deputy Dowdall: If he were away, he could not authorise.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I am sure he will not be away. Secretaries usually take their holidays in August; they do not take them when the Dáil is sitting.
Deputy Costello: As a matter of precision, I should like to have the words “files and documents.” There may be documents not on the file. You will not have a counterpart lease, but there is such a thing in the possession of some Minister, and it would hardly be on the file.
Deputy Geoghegan: With reference to the earlier portion of the motion, my point is that the Department should produce here not merely original documents but copies of documents on their files as well. The originals may be in the possession of some other person.
Deputy Costello: The word “document” will cover it.
Deputy Geoghegan: It is qualified by the word “original.”
Chairman: The amended motion is:—
That the Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Secretary of the Department of Finance, or other duly authorised officials, who have knowledge of the matter, be directed to attend before the Committee with all documents in their possession, power or procurement relating to the subject matter of this inquiry and be requested to bring 20 copies of each document.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney said “nominated by him.”
Chairman: The words in the motion are “or other duly authorised officials.”
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: That will do.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I move.
Deputy Fitzgerald: I second.
Question put and agreed to.
Deputy Geoghegan: There is just one other matter with regard to the circulation of the transcript of evidence. Is it intended that the proceedings of to-day will be circulated to-morrow or the next day, in much the same way as the proceedings of the Dáil are circulated or will they be circulated merely at the end of the inquiry?
Deputy Fitzgerald: The ordinary procedure at the Public Accounts Committee is that the Committee meets on Wednesday morning and before the following Wednesday, we should have the copy, so far as evidence is concerned.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Do you in practice have it before the following Wednesday?
Deputy Fitzgerald: We do, although the transcript in relation to the last meeting was rather longer. Normally, however, we got it before the following Wednesday.
Chairman: There would be limitations to that. The Public Accounts Committee might meet once a week but this Committee may sit to-day and meet the day after.
Chairman: The copies of the proceedings will be made available as soon as possible.
Deputy Geoghegan: There is another matter to which I wish to draw attention. If any person who is affected by this inquiry desires to be represented by counsel and solicitor, is he at liberty to be so represented?
Chairman: That seems to be covered by the terms of our appointment.
Deputy Fitzgerald: The terms of reference are too wide for that.
Deputy Costello: I see no reason why they should not be allowed to be represented.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: If a person wants legal representation, I think he should be entitled to legal representation.
Deputy Moore: Are there any rules with regard to these Parliamentary Committees?
Chairman: I am advised that it is usual to get an order from the House included in the terms of reference.
Deputy Costello: That is merely practice. Is it not a matter for our own procedure? We have the fullest control in these matters.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Is there anything to prevent us from giving the right to representation by counsel and solicitor?
Chairman: Nothing that I see in the terms of reference.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We may be bound by some rules.
Deputy Costello: There are no Standing Orders dealing with this matter?
Chairman: Standing Order 62 reads as follows:—
The rules as to procedure in the Dáil shall apply to procedure in Committee of the whole Dáil, and in Select or Special Committees, except that
(i) a motion or amendment need not be seconded;
(ii) a motion to proceed to the next business cannot be moved;
(iii) a Deputy may speak more than once on the same question.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I merely want to know have we the power.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We will assume the power and let anybody question it.
Chairman: I am advised that we have not got the power.
Deputy Costello: What is that opinion or advice based on?
Chairman: By virtue of this Standing Order, but, at all events, if it is likely to be some time before the copies are available and if it is desirable that we should put ourselves right with the House, can we not speedily get that authority from the House?
Deputy Costello: With great respect, I do not think we require such authority from the House. We are appointed as a Select Committee of the House to inquire into certain matters. That is obviously a state of affairs which is not covered by that Standing Order referred to. The Standing Order certainly does not preclude us from hearing anybody we like, even the counsel who comes in here as a witness. If he does not come in as counsel, he can come in as a witness.
Chairman: We are appointed by the House and the House has laid down procedure to govern us.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Is there any rule which says that we shall not have counsel before us?
Chairman: This Standing Order says that the rules as to procedure in the Dáil shall apply. You obviously could not be represented by counsel in the Dáil——
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Because the Dáil does not examine witnesses.
Chairman:—in making a case for or against a Bill.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Nobody can speak in the Dáil except a Deputy.
Deputy Costello: But, at Private Bill Committees, counsel always appear.
Deputy Moore: Is there a Standing Order with reference to Private Bills?
Deputy Costello: Are we merely speculating? Have we a concrete case of anybody wanting it? We can wait until it arises.
Deputy Geoghegan: I merely put the question because I did not want this sort of discussion to occur if an application was made. I think the Committee ought to know its own mind.
Deputy Costello: I know my own mind and I know of no concrete case.
Chairman: The Standing Order dealing with the appointment of Select Committees (S. O. 65) says:—
The Dáil may, on motion made after notice, appoint a Select Committee to consider and, if so permitted, to take evidence upon any Bill or matter and to report its opinion for the information and assistance of the Dáil. Such motion shall specifically state the terms of reference to the Committee, define the powers which devolve upon it, fix the number of Deputies to serve on such Committee, state the quorum, and may appoint a date upon which the Committee shall report back to the Dáil.
The power of a Select Committee to report opinion and make Special Report is the subject of another Standing Order (S.O. 66):—
A Select Committee, empowered to send for persons, papers and records, may report its opinions and observations together with the minutes of evidence taken before it to the Dáil, and also make a special report of any matters which it may think fit to bring to the notice of the Dáil.
Deputy Geoghegan: Does that imply that we have not power to fix a quorum?
Chairman: The motion properly should fix the quorum.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: It says “may fix.”
Chairman: The Standing Order says “Such motion shall specifically state . . . .”; again, “define the powers devolved upon it” governed by the “shall”; “fix the number of Deputies to serve on such Committee” governed by the “shall”; and “state the quorum” governed by the “shall.” The only permissive portion is the “may,” revolving around the date.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I submit that, on the statement the Chairman has made, it is doubtful, with the balance against our power, unless we get specific permission to get counsel. I am in favour of anyone who desires it having counsel if he chooses, but I want to have it settled before it comes up in relation to some specific case. What I suggest is, if, in fact, such an application does come before us and we find that we have not the power, we will be prepared as a Committee to take the necessary steps to get the power.
Deputy Geoghegan: What about this actual difficulty of the quorum. If we have not power to appoint a quorum, we have not the power to proceed if there is a single member absent. Are to-day’s proceedings valid? Deputy Good is absent.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: We are not in a position to go and ask for more powers. The Chairman must rule on the matter.
Chairman: I am advised that there are precedents for committees fixing their own quorums and subsequently altering them.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We are not finding any particular thing which has any binding effect. We simply make a report to the House and it is the House which acts on our report. I do not see that, if there is a little error here or there, it vitiates our power at all.
Deputy Geoghegan: Unless this is a duly constituted committee, is a witness privileged in regard to anything he says? I do not know.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: There is that difficulty, undoubtedly, that somebody may refuse to attend.
Deputy Geoghegan: I have not looked into this. I am not saying it is so; I merely suggest it is possible for that situation to arise.
Chairman: Could we ask the Dáil to fix a quorum, in order to comply with this particular Standing Order and to decide the point about the power to hear counsel?
Deputy Geoghegan: And to authorise us from time to time to alter that quorum.
Chairman: While that is being done, I take it that there is no difficulty in our making this other motion in respect of these documents?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: If we could get power to decide our own procedure, it would save all the trouble.
Chairman: We require a formal motion in the Dáil on that subject.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: We have first to send a formal recommendation from this Committee to the Dáil.
Deputy Fitzgerald: It will not take the Dáil five minutes.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I move, as a recommendation from this Committee to the Dáil, that in matters in which the procedure is not defined, the Committee have power to decide its own procedure.
Deputy Geoghegan: By resolution of the House or by general Standing Orders?
Chairman: The Standing Order provides that the powers of a Select Committee are defined by motion passed by the Dáil.
Deputy Fitzgerald: If the Dáil says that the procedure shall be such as shall be decided by the Committee, the Dáil has then decided.
Chairman: Unfortunately, it has decided what our powers are.
Deputy Fitzgerald: If it says that our powers include the power to decide what our powers are, it defines them in a very wide way.
Chairman: The terms of reference of the Select Committee are not ambiguous in respect of the power but only in respect of the quorum, in not defining the quorum or the position of counsel.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: It does not define the position of witnesses.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: It says “power to call witnesses.”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: But if they are privileged after we have called them?
Deputy Geoghegan: The point I was suggesting was that if we are not entitled to fix the quorum, we are not entitled to proceed at all unless all 11 members are here, or if we proceed without being duly constituted, we are not a committee at all. Once the quorum is validly fixed, everyone is safe.
Chairman: Could we get agreement on this question? Suppose we fix the quorum and ask the Dáil to consent to that being the quorum and to the right of counsel to be present and that in relation to any other matter not specifically covered by the Standing Orders or the terms of reference, the Committee have the power to decide?
Deputy Geoghegan: Adding to the fixing of the quorum, the words “with power to alter the quorum from time to time.”
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: That can be done this week before the papers come to us.
Chairman: With regard to the preparation of the report of this meeting of the Committee, does any member of the Committee desire to see it before it is presented?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I take it that it will be handed to the Ceann Comhairle and that, in all probability, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will move it in the Dáil.
Deputy Fitzgerald: You, Sir, will see it.
Deputy Moore: I was going to suggest that this is the holiday season and certain persons have been mentioned who will be essential witnesses. Should they not be notified that they may expect to be called here as witnesses? Otherwise, you might have this prolonged for several months. I do not think it is desired to prolong it unnecessarily.
Chairman: We cannot say yet whether we shall require them or not.
Deputy Moore: There are certain persons mentioned and I have no doubt that they will be essential witnesses.
Chairman: We must wait until we get the documents.
Deputy Moore: Would you consider the question of pairs during the proceedings here? It would not be the wish of the Committee, I am sure, to adjourn on the ringing of the bell for a division.
Deputy Fitzgerald: I think that is right.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: We could all pair with one another.
Deputy Fitzgerald: There is one member on your side who would have to go in to vote. There are the Chairman, five Fianna Fáil members and four members of our Party.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Whenever that comes up, we can meet it.
The Committee adjourned at 6.40 p.m. until a date to be fixed.
Dé Máirt, 16adh lúl, 1935.
Tuesday, 16th July, 1935.
The Select Committee met at 5.30 p.m.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We ought to decide on some of the witnesses we will call and in what order we will take them.
Chairman: We had an application from Senator Comyn for permission to appear before the Committee. We will decide what other witnesses we need and in what order we will take them and with whom we will start. Could we arrange that at the next meeting we would have the Secretaries of the Departments here to testify that these are the documents?
Deputy Fitzgerald: Yes.
Chairman: That is one matter disposed of. What witnesses will we require and who shall we take the next day? Senator Comyn has offered to come. I take it we will want the lessees.
Deputy Fitzgerald: The immediate lessees, not the sub-lessees.
Deputy Moore: There are no sub-lessees so far.
Deputy Fitzgerald: There was a sublease made out.
Chairman: Can we agree on having Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: They are obvious witnesses.
Deputy Costello: I have quite a number of witnesses, but I do not want to name them to-day, because I have not completed the reading of these documents yet. When do you propose to have the next meeting? I know Deputy McGilligan is anxious to give evidence very soon.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: There are a whole lot of very obvious witnesses.
Deputy Costello: If Senator Comyn wants to come and if it is decided to take him first he would require the whole of the time that we would have at any sitting here, I should imagine. Perhaps we could hand in a list of the witnesses we think would be required to Mr. Christie?
Chairman: If the different groups communicated with him it might facilitate matters.
Deputy Costello: I suggest that we hold a short meeting next Thursday to decide on the witnesses and the order in which they will be taken.
Deputy Dowdall: What objection is there to taking witnesses to-morrow?
Chairman: They are available if you desire to have them.
Deputy Costello: We have not got all the documents yet. We will have to have all the documents before we can start. It will save considerable time and trouble if we are in a position to put aside irrelevant documents.
Chairman: Could we take Senator Comyn this week and at the conclusion of his evidence fix a day for other witnesses in the subsequent week
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We have heard about other documents that came to Mr. Leydon’s notice and in order to appreciate Senator Comyn’s evidence we would want to see them.
Chairman: We have these documents; they are here now.
Deputy Traynor: Would it be possible to have a number of witnesses ready for next week? The proposal to sit on Thursday to hear witnesses is the best proposal put forward so far. It is better to go ahead as quickly as possible. I cannot see why it should be dragged on.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Everybody on this side is anxious to have the matter brought to a very speedy conclusion if we can. At the same time, we cannot start until we are in a position to start. It would be best if Deputy Traynor and his group drew up a list of the witnesses that in their opinion ought to be called and we will draw up a list of our witnesses. Possibly Deputy Good will express his view too. A great number of the witnesses selected by both sides may be the same, and there may be some supplementary witness which either side want.
Chairman: There seems to be a general view that we meet on Thursday to fix on the persons who will be witnesses and the order in which they will be taken. We will meet at 5.30 on Thursday.
Deputy Fitzgerald: It might be well to have Mr. Leydon and other officials to prove documents at the same time.
The Committee adjourned at 6.25 p.m. until 5.30 p.m. on Thursday, 18th July.
Déardaoin, 18adh Iúl, 1935.
Thursday, 18th July, 1935.
The Select Committee sat at 5.30 p.m.
Deputy W. Norton in the Chair.
The Committee having taken formal evidence from Messrs. J. J. McElligott and J. Leydon (reported in the Minutes of Evidence) continued their deliberations.
Chairman: We arranged at the last meeting that we would have a list of particular witnesses and arrange the order in which they would be taken.
Deputy Fitzgerald: The first witnesses would be the officials, and from them we could clarify our minds on certain things arising out of those files. It struck me that I would like to have an official who dealt with this to put a number of questions to him when I glanced over the files. That seems to me to be the first stage.
Chairman: I take it that it is agreed to summon the officials who dealt with this matter in the Department of Industry and Commerce?
Deputy Geoghegan: Does that mean every gentleman whose name is endorsed on the cover of these files. A number of these seem to have done matters of a very perfunctory nature. Should we not have Mr. Leydon in the first instance?
Deputy Fitzgerald: I include him, of course.
Chairman: I take it that he would be necessary in all events.
Deputy Geoghegan: I think his examination will probably reveal the particular officials Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald has in mind.
Deputy Costello: Mr. Leydon has undertaken to give us the names of these officials so as to enable us to form an opinion as to who is who and who is responsible.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Could we not wait until Mr. Leydon gives that list to the Secretary. It can then be inspected and then any witness whom any member of the Committee wishes to call will attend on the next occasion.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We want to get on with our witnesses immediately. That is the reason I was anxious.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I see no objection to recalling Mr. Leydon.
Deputy Geoghegan: Mr. Leydon and Mr. McElligott have stated that they will supply a list of people. When we get that let us direct the gentlemen named on that list to attend at the next meeting. Probably the Clerk to the Committee would circulate to members a list of the names supplied to him.
Chairman: When the list is received from Mr. Leydon, the Clerk can summon all the persons so named as witnesses to the next meeting.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Yes, and we will call the ones we think advisable.
Chairman: Can we fix the next meeting?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I suggest next Tuesday.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Could we not meet to-morrow?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: The morning is unsatisfactory for men who have work to do and who cannot attend.
Chairman: You will hardly get a satisfactory meeting on a Friday. If we wait until Tuesday next could we not have some further witnesses next week?
Deputy Geoghegan: I suggest that we sit continuously on the Parliamentary days.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Yes, and sit right through until we have finished. On Tuesday, we can take Industry and Commerce, and then if we are finished we can take Finance on Wednesday.
Chairman: If we think we are likely to finish with Finance on Wednesday we have another day and we might get some other witnesses. I have a request from Senator Comyn to give evidence.
Deputy Geoghegan: It may possibly be that the evidence of the witnesses from the Department of Industry and Commerce will, to some extent, dovetail into that from the Department of Finance and if they were all in attendance on Tuesday possibly we could do them all.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: What hours do we propose to sit on Tuesday? We begin at 5.30 and rise at what hour?
Deputy Geoghegan: I suggest that we rise at 10.30. It is better to be rid of this thing.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Would we have a break for food in that time?
Deputy Geoghegan: Yes, from 7.30 to 8.30 for dinner.
Chairman: We will probably dispose of all the Departmental witnesses on Tuesday and we will want witnesses for Wednesday and Thursday.
Deputy Moore: Should we not decide who they will be?
Deputy Fitzgerald: What power have we to bring outside witnesses?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: We have power to send for anyone in the jurisdiction but not outside it.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I think the next witnesses should be members of the Oireachtas when we have finished with the civil servants. Senator Comyn, Deputy Briscoe, the Minister for Industry and Commerce and Mr. McGilligan will all want to give evidence. They would appear to me to be the next in order and they are here in the House.
Chairman: Are you suggesting them in that order?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I do not mind what order they are summoned in.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Would we be able to get them out of the House whatever they are doing. If Deputy McGilligan comes will someone be cast against him?
Chairman: I would expect so. It is proposed that we call these four for Wednesday next.
Deputy Costello: You will not finish those on Wednesday and Thursday together.
Chairman: It is agreed to summon Senator Comyn, Deputy Briscoe, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and Deputy McGilligan to attend at 5.30 on Wednesday.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. I have had experience of kicking my heels outside doors and I object to it. We might segregate them out in some way.
Deputy Costello: You could say to them: “You need not stay here if you do not want; we will send for you when we want you.”
Deputy Geoghegan: Each gentleman ought to obey the summons of this Committee. If they have any other obligations later they can make a request to the Committee.
Chairman: We will have to take into account that Senator Comyn may be wanted for the Chair in the Seanad.
Deputy Fitzgerald: I think the Clerk will fix that up.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We have decided to take those four, but not the order in which they are to be taken.
Chairman: It may be possible that some of the witnesses would desire to be represented by counsel.
Deputy Fitzgerald: They can arrange that.
Chairman: We would want to arrange our procedure as to the way in which we will receive counsel. A memorandum was made by the Clerk to the Committee as to the manner of regulating procedure:—
“A witness appearing by counsel will, following the examination in chief by his counsel, be subject to cross-examination by the Committee, each member in turn. The examination in chief should be completed before cross-examination by the Committee begins. Witness may, however, be asked by a member of the Committee in the course of the examination in chief to interpret some portion of his evidence. If a witness in the course of his evidence is asked any question which he considers improper he has his counsel to protect him. Counsel does not make any preliminary statement.”
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I think counsel should be entitled to address the Committee at the end, either at the end of the evidence of his witness or at the end of the proceedings.
Deputy Costello: Is there anybody going to come with counsel at all? So far as I know there is not.
Chairman: If counsel did appear we would require to know in what way we would receive him.
Deputy Geoghegan: I may ask questions but it is not my intention to cross-examine anyone.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Is that drawn up from British practice?
Chairman: I am informed that the procedure indicated appears to have been followed in the case of a public inquiry conducted under Westminster procedure.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Deputy Geoghegan is using the word “cross-examination” in the sense of a hostile witness. The memorandum used it in the sense of anyone that would ask a question. We are in the position of judges putting questions.
Deputy Geoghegan: It is merely that this may go on the record and I did not want it to appear on the record that any member of the Committee when cross-examining a witness that would appear before the Committee, would appear as if he was adverse to that witness.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Witnesses may be asked by a member of the Committee in the course of the examination in chief to interpret some portion of his evidence. The witness should be subject to examination by the Committee.
Deputy Geoghegan: I have no reason to think that any barrister has been briefed to appear, but as we are dealing with this matter should we not provide for the contingency of counsel in rival interests appearing here. Then there would be true cross-examination.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Is not that referred to here? The examination in chief is to be completed before the cross-examination begins.
Chairman: Need we decide that matter to-day? We are calling Departmental witnesses next week and they will not be rival witnesses.
Deputy Fitzgerald: They will not be represented by counsel either I take it.
Chairman: I could not say that.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Leave out the “cross” of “cross-examination” and then let it read “the examination in chief shall be completed before examination by the Committee begins.”
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Make it “the examination in chief representing rival interests shall be completed before examination by the Committee begins.” A witness may be asked to interpret some portion of his evidence. The only thing is whether the examination by the Committee or cross-examination by counsel representing rival interests will come first.
Deputy Geoghegan: I do not like the idea of cross-examination by rival interests at all.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Then you will have two words “examination” in that sentence. You will have to define the other “examination” by inserting “by the Committee.”
Deputy Fitzgerald: That is quite fair.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I take it that counsel if he appears has a right to sum up.
Chairman: That summing up to be at the end of the examination of his own witness or later on?
Deputy Costello: That would be no use at all. If counsel is to have any sort of complete summing up it should be at the end of all the evidence.
Deputy Geoghegan: I agree with that. He cannot give us any help at any other time except in relation to the evidence of his own witness. If we allow him to make a speech at all it should be at the end, at the conclusion of all the evidence.
Chairman: Need we make any specification for that? The only thing we are ruling out is an opening statement.
Deputy Moore: If counsel is allowed to address the Committee at the end would each person who thinks he may be affected by the inquiry be entitled to do the same?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: If anybody chooses to bring in a counsel he will get himself into a position which nobody else will be in. The whole question is whether or not counsel will be allowed. I am rather inclined to suggest that they should appear only for the purpose of eliciting evidence. I do not see why all these five people should have counsel making speeches at the end.
Deputy Fitzgerald: I quite agree.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I do not see if a person has counsel why he should not have the advantage of having his case summed up.
Deputy Geoghegan: How many is there likely to be? So far as we can see, at the outside there will be only three or four.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Could we agree that for the present counsel appear for the purpose of eliciting evidence and we can decide the question of whether or not they will be allowed to make any statement afterwards.
Chairman: We can let this statement stand with the two alterations of deleting the word “cross” in the first two lines. We can decide the other matter if it arises.
Chairman: The next meeting of the Committee is on Tuesday at 5.30 p.m.
Deputy Geoghegan: Can you limit in any way the time within which we will know who intends to present himself as a witness apart from the persons whom we will call as witnesses ourselves?
Chairman: Not unless you give me power to apply the guillotine motion.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I think that unless witnesses came forward between now and next Thursday they should not have a right to appear.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: That is very difficult. Suppose that some evidence is published reflecting on somebody, that person may want an opportunity of answering that.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I only make the suggestion. Perhaps Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney will give us some other definition of formula.
Deputy Fitzgerald: We are considering our own convenience with regard to next week to-day. We feel that we have time enough as we are full up to next week.
Deputy Geoghegan: There is a letter here on this file from a London solicitor who seems to desire to come over here and give evidence. I do not want to come back in August if I can avoid it to listen to him.
Deputy Costello: You will get complete unanimity on that.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We can tell the gentleman that the inquiry is on.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Who is it?
Deputy Geoghegan: Harris, Sugden and Co. Where inquiries are held in regard to housing schemes there is usually something in the nature of an official advertisement published telling the public generally.
Deputy Costello: By the time we have heard the four or five witnesses we are to hear next week I think we will be in a position to give a complete list of the witnesses we want.
Chairman: We will allow the matter to rest there until after next week.
The Committee adjourned at 6.30 p.m. until 5.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 23rd July.
Déardaoin, 25adh Iúl, 1935.
Thursday, 25th July, 1935.
Following upon the adjournment at 7.30 p.m., the Select Committee resumed at 8.30 p.m.
Deputy W. Norton in the Chair.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I want to confirm something before we proceed. You remember the Interim Report that went through the Dáil and was passed?
Deputy Geoghegan: Was it passed precisely as recommended?
Chairman: Yes. [To Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance]: Do you desire to ask Mr. Leydon a question?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Yes.
Deputy Geoghegan: Before Mr. Leydon is recalled, I suggest to the honourable members of the Committee, and I suggest it in the hope that it will not become a matter of controversy, that fixing a quorum of seven members was something that would not have been done, if there had been more time for reflection in regard to it. We have now sat for, I think three days, and we have all had experience of the work of this Committee being held up, because there were only six members present At one time to-day we had only six members. So much of the evidence here is evidence of a Departmental nature, while necessarily it must be given, still it is Departmental and is merely a reiteration of matters that can be found in the documents circulated in confidence to the Committee, so that a person’s absence from the Committee at a particular moment, for practical purposes, is not very material. What all that is leading up to is this: I suggest it would make for the rapid working of this Committee, and for the smoother working of it, if the quorum were reduced, say, to four. Having regard to the proportion that the quorum bears to that in the Parliament—in the Dáil—to the total number of members, as well as the proportion recognised in local government bodies through the country, I suggest that if we determined on four as the quorum of this Committee we would not be acting unreasonably. The Interim Report provided for alteration of the quorum from time to time. I do not want to introduce something that might be to any great degree controversial, but I suggest that the quorum might now, with great advantage to everyone here, be altered to four.
Deputy Costello: Personally, I would very strongly object. After due deliberation we came to the conclusion, in the circumstances of this inquiry, to have seven, and I do not see any reason for a change. I will not say that it will lead to a very serious controversy, but it might, and I suggest it would be very improper to change that now. I would certainly oppose it.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I think the argument Deputy Costello has put up, if he considers it, rather works against his conclusion. We met, and, after very careful consideration, decided to recommend a quorum of seven, but stated that the Committee be empowered to alter the quorum from time to time. In other words, after deliberative consideration, as Deputy Costello rightly says, we fixed the quorum at seven. After deliberative consideration we decided that would be the right kind of quorum, and we did so with the intention of recommending to the Dáil that we should have power to alter the quorum in the light of our experience.
Deputy Costello: I see no reason to alter the point of view I put forward. I do not want to put it any further. If necessary, I will give a clear reason why I do not want it done. I do not want to raise any controversy in the Committee that can be avoided.
Deputy Geoghegan: Experience has shown clearly that seven is absurd.
Deputy Costello: I think we are working extremely well.
Deputy Geoghegan: The efforts of the Committee have been delayed and retarded because a quorum of seven was necessary. It was retarded for an appreciable time to-day, although there were six members of the Select Committee present, merely because one was absent. Six members were present, but they had to wait and waste their time, which presumably is of some value. Our experience now is much more valuable as a guide than any theoretical views we had when the figure seven was suggested. I think that figure was purely an arbitrary suggestion at the start, and was not the subject of any discussion or any consideration at all. I feel that we are sinning against the light if we continue to adhere to this arbitrary figure of seven that was first suggested.
Deputy Costello: I am strongly in favour of keeping to the figure seven.
Deputy Geoghegan: Why?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I think this is a Committee which ought to have substantial representation—a majority representation.
Deputy Geoghegan: Everyone should be here. Then I am for the whole 11.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: If you are I am entirely opposed to that.
Deputy Geoghegan: You were practically half an hour late. I am merely mentioning that.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I am perfectly aware of the fact, but I am only one. I do not want to get into a controversy, but the suggestion that the whole 11 should be present is ridiculous. Someone might be ill. I think the Committee should carry on, not with a small fragment but with a very substantial number.
Chairman: The difficulty has been that we were held up for half an hour to-day while we were waiting for one member to come and make the quorum of seven. Even though that was mentioned, I think other members were about the House, and if they had shown any prompitude in assembling the difficulty of a high quorum would not have manifested itself in any inconvenient way. Perhaps Deputy Geoghegan would agree to leave the matter in abeyance for the time being.
Deputy Geoghegan: Certainly.
Chairman: It being understood that a better effort would be made to assemble promptly.
Deputy Geoghegan: It was indicated by you—and you can correct me if I am wrong—before the adjournment for dinner, that the course of our future procedure would be determined upon this evening. In view of that, I thought it right to mention this matter now, because I think it is a very relative consideration. If, at a time, as you have indicated, when the Dáil is sitting, and Deputies are in the precincts of the House, on a day when there is only an Adjournment Motion on, these Deputies will not attend here, what chance have we of adhering to this unusually high quorum on a day the Dáil is not sitting? Is our business to be held up? As soon as we came in now, the Clerk furnished me—I presume handed a copy around—with a print of the evidence given here at an earlier date. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the reporting staff and the editing staff that got it into form and produced it. It is a wonderful production, and gives literally, word for word, questions and answers since the inquiry started. Therefore, if a Deputy is absent for a short time, as he must necessarily be— many of us have our own private affairs to attend to—he has the assurance that he may, in his own home, in his own time, read every word of this evidence. Presumably, he will have an opportunity of reading it before any conclusion is reached. Therefore, it seems to me that his presence or absence during a particular quarter of an hour, half an hour or hour is, from his point of view, quite immaterial, whereas, from the point of view of the other members who are in attendance, it is of great importance, because it may mean the making or unmaking of a quorum. I appeal to Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, whose other interests may keep him away, not to press his objection. I make the same appeal to Deputy Costello. Deputy Costello has many other calls upon his time and may very reasonably be absent at a time when this Committee is sitting. I appeal to him not to press his objection, but to let it go forward as a matter of unanimity, that a workable quorum be resolved upon. I have suggested four as the quorum. Any number suggested is really arbitrary. I have alleged that seven is an arbitrary figure. If anybody thinks that five would constitute a better quorum, I have no objection. Subject to that, I have no objection to the matter remaining over but, when we come to consider our time table and our further sittings, that point, I think, should be taken into consideration.
Deputy Fitzgerald: There are two points in what Deputy Geoghegan has said. Just before we adjourned for dinner, he referred to our method of procedure. I understood that the only point that was to be raised on our reassembly was whether this Committee should meet while the Dáil stood adjourned.
Chairman: That was my understanding.
Deputy Fitzgerald: That was what was said. I am not suggesting that Deputy Geoghegan is misrepresenting the position, but he must have understood that a matter of wider reference was to be raised.
Deputy Geoghegan: I agree entirely with what the Deputy has said. I rather thought that what he indicates involved the other question—that if a quorum of seven is unworkable while the Dáil is sitting, it will be still more unworkable when the Dáil is not sitting. I agree that that subject was not touched upon at all before dinner.
Deputy Fitzgerald: In that case, the Deputy is assuming that this Committee will meet during the adjournment. Perhaps that was decided while I was out.
Chairman: No; I waited until you would be present.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Deputy Geoghegan seemed to think that the whole matter was quite simple and would involve no inconvenience, because we would get this written report of what takes place in our absence, if we should happen to be absent. The main purpose of this Committee is to examine witnesses. Some of the witnesses to be called will be, what I may describe as, “outsiders.” Possibly, they will be from England and will be men whom we cannot arbitrarily call back any time we want them as we could, to some extent, with civil servants. I might be absent and I might get a copy of the evidence given by a particular witness. That evidence is given in response to questions. I might find that, on one point which, in my opinion, was all-important, there was no record of evidence merely because question had not been put. When I come to the subsequent meeting, that question cannot be cleared up because the witness may have gone back to London or wherever he came from. I do not think that Deputy Geoghegan’s argument with regard to the written report has much effect.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: May I put this point——
Chairman: I take it that, having made the suggestion, Deputy Geoghegan is now content to allow it remain in abeyance.
Deputy Geoghegan: Yes. it will allow us more time to think about it.
Chairman: Perhaps we had better decide the second point at this stage, when we have a full attendance— whether the Committee is to sit while the Dáil is not in session. Some members of the Committee have indicated that they will be out of town while the Dáil is not sitting, or that they will be otherwise engaged, and will not find it convenient to attend.
Deputy Geoghegan: As one who ordinarily leaves Dublin on the 1st August in each year, which is the day when the calling of my trade cases— the courts close down in July—I foresaw that the Committee might continue to sit beyond that date and, accordingly, I have not made any arrangements which would entail my leaving Dublin on the 1st or 2nd August. I presume that every member of this Committee must have foreseen the possibility that this Committee would continue its sittings into August. No member of the Committee—unless he had more information than I had— could have been cocksure that the Dáil itself would have adjourned this evening. I had hoped it would adjourn this evening but, until yesterday or the day before, I had no great reason to believe it would. I think that it would be a pity to break the sequence of thought that must exist now in the mind of everybody here by adjourning until November next, because I understand the Dáil will adjourn until the 30th of October. It will increase the labour of this inquiry enormously. I think it is in the interest of everybody—officials as well as members of the Committee— that the Committee should continue its sittings until it reaches a conclusion. I should like to propose that the Committee sit to-morrow afternoon, that it resume on Monday, and that it continues its sittings on each day, other than Saturday, until its business is concluded, at such hour in the afternoon as is generally acceptable to the members.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Deputy Geoghegan has referred to what I might call his personal inconvenience arising from not knowing beforehand that the Committee would not sit while the Dáil stands adjourned. Deputy Geoghegan was represented on the Committee of Selection which selected the members of this Committee. Two members of this Committee were appointed without assent on their part. I think that that is true of Deputy Good, and I know that the representatives of our Party on that Committee proposed one name and the Party to which we do not belong arbitrarily rejected that name and put on Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney. If anybody is to talk about inconvenience, these two members, who were put on this Committee without their prior assent, have reason to talk. Having been forced on the Committee, they have rather prior consideration to Deputy Geoghegan.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I certainly took it for granted that this would be a Committee which would sit only while the Dáil was sitting. I have arranged to leave Dublin to-morrow afternoon and go to my constituency in Mayo. I do not return until Monday. In the ordinary course, I shall remain until Wednesday and then go home again. I shall be in my home in Mayo until the courts reassemble on the 10th October. It is perfectly obvious to me that there cannot be continuous sittings of this Committee because there will be witnesses whom we have not summoned at all. Some of them are coming from England.
Deputy Geoghegan: Who?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I take it that Mr. Heiser will be a witness. Then there is a gentleman who has written that he is most anxious to come. I think one gentleman has telegraphed to the Government.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I expect he will be available.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: If this Committee is to do its work correctly, it must make an effort to get Mr. Heiser. I have no reason to think he has any objection to coming here. I do not know what Deputy Geoghegan’s inside knowledge may be. I have never been in touch with Mr. Heiser. It seems to me that the Committee must hear certain witnesses and then wait for a few days until other witnesses are available. If the Committee were to sit from now on continuously, it would mean, so far as I am concerned, several journeys from Mayo specially for this purpose, and I am not prepared to do that.
Deputy Costello: I cannot congratulate myself that I am able to disarrange my own business as easily as Deputy Geoghegan is. I had to make arrangements for August and September months ago—before I knew a Committee was to be set up—and I cannot break these arrangements. I am completely tied up until about the 20th September.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Having regard to the seriousness of the issue, the position which the investigation has reached and the fact that names are now in the public eye in relation to charges of this kind, responsible members of the Dáil will take a very serious moral responsibility in leaving these charges hanging in the air, as is apparently suggested, for a period of two months. I understand the inconvenience. I came up from Mayo at very great inconvenience merely to attend a meeting of this Committee. On a previous occasion, I came from another distant place. Under the impression that we would have got down to brass tacks and got through this inquiry more quickly, I had arranged to leave on Sunday for the Continent for a definite business purpose. I think I am bound in decency to people whose names are now canvassed all over the place in this matter to cancel that arrangement and put myself to whatever inconvenience is necessary in order that this thing shall be brought to issue at an early date. I do not want to do that, but I think I am bound to do it. If it was a question of seven, we might find difficulty. If it was a question of five or four as a quorum, we would be able to carry on. The evidence will all be recorded for the information of the members who are not able to be present. Even if the quorum were seven, Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald might not always be one of those seven and the argument appealing to him so strongly before would break down in any case. While he has attended well, I cannot assume, and he cannot assume that, right through the session, he will be the one vestal virgin whose lamp is never allowed to go out.
Deputy Fitzgerald: I make no such promise.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I think we are responsible, as members of the Dáil and as members of this Committee, to those whose names are now public property in relation to charges which we have been commissioned to investigate and to bring to issue. To leave those charges hanging up over a period of two or three months, would be a wrong act in my opinion.
Deputy Geoghegan: I have never heard of a trial involving the personal honour of individuals being interrupted in this way. I am amazed that Deputy Costello or Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney should make that suggestion. I do not mind Deputy Good so much, because he would not have the same point of view. But I am surprised that anyone acquainted with legal procedure should, for a moment, suggest that a trial of this sort, which is the nearest thing you can get to the trial of a charge of crime, should be interrupted for three months. I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that it is a very serious matter that this group of Deputies, meeting as a Select Committee, should allow personal convenience, personal comfort, to stand in the way of reaching some conclusion one way or another in this case involving issues so fundamental, so serious and so far-reaching as the issues that appear in the Terms of Reference. I would invite some members of the Committee to study the Terms of Reference. I think that some of the questions that were put here rather revealed that the Terms of Reference are not present to the minds of some members of the Committee.
Deputy Fitzgerald: There are two points with regard to what Deputy Geoghegan has said. The first is as to the charges in the Terms of Reference. As regards the charges or allegations that have been given in the Terms of Reference, I disregard them completely, because these allegations, I may observe, were not made. They were only invented for the purpose of the Terms of Reference. With regard to the personal statement of the Parliamentary Secretary, I hope he will not take it that in anything I say on that I mean to be offensive. He referred to having to come back from Mayo and about his arrangements for going on the Continent on business. The Parliamentary Secretary is a fulltime public servant in receipt of a salary, and his whole time is dedicated to the public service, and, consequently, in attending here he is only giving one form of public service instead of another. I do not consider, if I may say so, that his position is in any way analogous to that of other people here who have to earn their living in another way.
Deputy Costello: In reference to what Deputy Geoghegan has said, that this Committee ought to reach some conclusion, may I say that my idea of the Committee is that the Committee ought to reach a proper conclusion and not some conclusion by a small portion of the Committee. I agree with Deputy Geoghegan that we have to take this thing seriously. We have to take our time on it, not to reach some conclusion, but to reach a proper conclusion. We cannot do that if we are to be sitting here day after day, and at a time when our own arrangements are being upset, when we are all tired at the conclusion of a year very arduous, both from the professional point of view and from the public point of view. If we were to continue sitting on here in these circumstances I suggest that we would not reach a proper conclusion.
Chairman: I want to make my position clear. I demurred, as the members of the Committee will recollect, at being asked to take the Chair at the meetings of this Committee, because I felt that circumstances would necessitate my absence from town. Next week my trades union duties will require me to be in attendance at the Trades Union Congress in Derry from Tuesday—certainly from Wednesday morning—until the end of the week, and in the following week I will be absent from the country on official duties for a period of about ten days. I will be available about the 20th or the 21st August, but not earlier. I am willing to resume, if that suits the convenience of the Committee, about that date rather than allow the matter to remain over until the Dáil resumes after the summer recess. The engagements to which I have referred are engagements that I must fulfil.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: It seems to me an outrage to hold this thing up in the public eye, in the position in which it is, for two months.
Deputy Coburn: It may be the Parliamentary Secretary’s view that it is an outrage, but that may not be the view of the general public.
Deputy Geoghegan: The public will be shocked if we stop now for holidays.
Chairman: So far as my absence is concerned, it will be no holiday for me. I would much prefer to continue sitting on than undertake the duties which I must absent myself to attend.
Deputy Geoghegan: A deputy chairman can be elected.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Then we are going to lose the service of the Chairman until the whole thing is over?
Deputy Geoghegan: That was contemplated by the Dáil when giving the Committee power to fix a quorum.
Deputy Coburn: Is it the Deputy’s opinion that four members out of eleven are sufficient to deal with this?
Deputy Geoghegan: I have already stated that any figure short of eleven must necessarily be an arbitrary figure. The Dáil in its wisdom decided that it was not necessary for the full eleven to be present. I respect the view of the Dáil, and it is the opinion of the Dáil that the eleven should not be present.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: And the Dáil agreed that this Committee should have power to decide how many should be present.
Deputy Coburn: And the Committee fixed the quorum at seven.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: But we have special power to alter it if we choose.
Deputy Coburn: Now you want to change it. Had you not better reduce it to two?
Deputy Fitzgerald: We meet at 5.30 p.m. That was really to suit the convenience of Deputies whose ordinary avocation is the law. It would have suited me to meet at 3 o’clock, but we made that arrangement to suit the convenience of certain people. As far as I was concerned we certainly could have put more hours into this in the period that we have been engaged on it.
Deputy Geoghegan: What Deputy Fitzgerald has said is quite true. He and other members of this Committee very reasonably and very generously met the convenience of members of the legal profession on this Committee. But Deputy Fitzgerald will probably remember that when that was being discussed I stated that, while I was most anxious to be available at the Four Courts during ordinary hours, if the Committee decided that in the public interest it was necessary to sit at any other hour I would have sacrificed any professional advantage that I might have derived by doing otherwise. I do not say that by way of diminishing in the slightest degree my appreciation of the attitude, amongst others, of Deputy Fitzgerald, who was very anxious undoubtedly to meet my point of view.
Deputy Fitzgerald: I do not want to take from what Deputy Geoghegan said, but I understood from what he said yesterday or the day before that it would have meant a certain amount of inconvenience for him if we met earlier than 5.30. He seems to modify that statement now by saying that he could have arranged to attend at any hour fixed.
Deputy Geoghegan: I would have hated it, I admit.
Chairman: I have a motion from Deputy Geoghegan, that the Select Committee sit to-morrow, Friday, and from Monday to Friday inclusive next week and in each succeeding week until the taking of evidence is completed.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I second. I do not see how we can avoid doing that.
Chairman: You have heard the motion that has been proposed and seconded. Is there any amendment?
Deputy Fitzgerald: I proposed as an amendment that the Committee adjourn and arrange to reassemble when the Dáil reassembles.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I second.
Chairman: The Dáil may be coming back for a day to deal with amendments to Bills sent up from the Seanad.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Then I propose that we adjourn until the Dáil meets after the summer recess.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I second.
Chairman: I move as an amendment that the Select Committee adjourn until the first week in September.
Deputy Costello: I move another amendment, that we adjourn and resume on the 30th September. I am quite prepared to sit during the month of October, and as far as my arrangements are concerned I must have August and September free.
Deputy Traynor: I move as an amendment that we sit to-morrow and Monday.
Deputy Geoghegan: That seems reasonable, and perhaps we shall be able to finish on Monday.
Deputy Costello: With the considerations that are before this Committee it is quite clear that we could not finish on Monday.
Deputy Geoghegan: I am quite prepared to yield to Deputy Traynor’s proposal. I would be glad if the Deputy were to include Saturday, but I do not press that. We can see how we stand on Monday afternoon.
Deputy Fitzgerald: This point has come up because the Dáil is adjourning to-night. It seems to me that is what has raised this question. The question we have to consider is whether or not we should adjourn, and, if so, until when?
Deputy Geoghegan: I understood that the substantial objection was that members desired to leave Dublin on the 1st August.
Deputy Fitzgerald: The Chairman said he was leaving Dublin to-morrow.
Chairman: I will be in Dublin to-morrow, but I will be engaged presiding over a Party meeting during the greater part of the day. I shall be free on Monday and Tuesday.
Deputy Moore: I propose another amendment that we meet to-morrow, Saturday and Monday.
Deputy Fitzgerald: I think that means a direct negative. The question before us is what arrangement we should make as regards adjourning. This seems a direct negative.
Deputy Traynor: We can rediscuss the position again on Monday. A certain amount of business will have been done by then, and possibly we may see our way about bringing it to a conclusion. There is a definite proposal here that we sit to-morrow, Saturday and Monday.
Chairman: Am I to take it that Deputy Traynor’s amendment is withdrawn?
Deputy Traynor: Yes; in favour of Deputy Moore’s.
Chairman: I am putting Deputy Fitzgerald’s amendment first: that the Select Committee adjourn to the date of the resumption of the sittings of the Dáil after the summer recess.
On a show of hands the amendment was declared defeated by six votes to five.
Chairman: The next amendment is Deputy Costello’s: that the Select Committee adjourn to the 30th September.
On a show of hands the amendment was declared defeated by six votes to five.
Chairman: The motion now is: that the Select Committee adjourn until the 3rd September.
On a show of hands the amendment was declared carried by six votes to five.
Chairman: I shall now take the amendment suggested by Deputy Moore.
Deputy Geoghegan: That it adjourn from Monday next.
Deputy Moore: My amendment is that the Select Committee adjourn from Monday next until the date mentioned in your resolution—that after meeting to-morrow, Saturday and Monday, it be adjourned on Monday evening.
Chairman: I am taking the amendment of the Committee to sit on Friday, Saturday and Monday, and then adjourn until 3rd September.
Deputy Costello: On that point, I should like to say that the Committee has decided to adjourn until the 3rd September. We are starting what may be regarded as an entirely new phase of our considerations and there is no certainty that we will do anything other than begin this new phase if we sit on to-morrow, Saturday and Monday. Apart from the personal inconvenience that will be caused by reason of this arrangement, I think it would be highly undesirable that we should merely start this new phase and leave it over then for upwards of a month.
Deputy Geoghegan: Why do you assume it will not finish?
Deputy Costello: I think it is utterly impossible that we will finish in two days.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Personally, I think it could be finished in three days.
Deputy Fitzgerald: There are witnesses, I should imagine, who are not in this country and they will have to be communicated with. That can be done between now and our next meeting.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: You will be surprised what can be done if you try.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Even a Sovereign Government is not able to bring people by the hair of the head.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: We can try. If we really want to make a substantial inroad into the work of this Committee between now and Wednesday, we can do it.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Deputy Costello said that the probability was that we would not finish by next Tuesday. The Parliamentary Secretary says there is a probability that we will finish by next Tuesday. When two things are mutually contradictory and both are declared probably right, one of them is probably wrong. I think Deputy Flinn will agree that it is his assumption which is probably wrong.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: We will have made a special effort to carry out our duty as was given to us.
Deputy Fitzgerald: I should like to say——
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I am asking for the ear of the Chair. I was rudely and unnecessarily interrupted——
Chairman: Perhaps you would make your speech now.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Now, sir, the first opportunity we get—this is what it is going to look like—we renege our duties; we go away from them for the longest possible period we can. That is what it is going to look like in the eyes of the public. If we are considering the question of inconvenience to ourselves, we are not prepared to make a substantial effort. If we were unanimously decided on making a substantial effort, the spirit in which we would do it would have the effect of so changing our procedure that it would radically affect the position and we might get a solution well within the three days.
Deputy Coburn: I think the Chairman’s suggestion is a wiser one. It is a sort of compromise. I think the Chairman has a sense of responsibility to the public as well as the Parliamentary Secretary. A motion has been carried that we adjourn until 3rd September. I think, in deference to the Chairman’s position, that we should accept that.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: The point is whether before we adjourn to the 3rd September we put in three day’s work trying to do something in the matter. That is Deputy Moore’s amendment.
Deputy Moore: After two or three days’ more examination we would be in a better position to make arrangements for the future. We ought to find our way more than we have done up to the present.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Certain witnesses appear to me to be necessary. I think an effort can be made to get them before September, which is a reasonable time. Mr. Heiser can be communicated with and requested to come over. There is a solicitor who said he was anxious to be here and we can give him an opportunity of coming over. In addition to them, we must have Mr. Norman. We must communicate with him. There are other witnesses that occur to me.
Chairman: What time is it intended to sit on to-morrow, Saturday, and Monday?
Deputy Geoghegan: I think your convenience should be met, to some extent, to-morrow. You mentioned an engagement that you have.
Chairman: My convenience would be best met if we sit at 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock to-morrow.
Deputy Geoghegan: I propose that we do sit to-morrow at 9 o’clock.
Chairman: I do not want to inflict that.
Deputy Coburn: On a point of order, as I understand it, your decision was that the first question to be decided was whether this Committee would keep on sitting, notwithstanding the fact that the Dáil has adjourned. There was a motion proposed here that we adjourn until October—until the reassembly of the Dáil. That was defeated. There was another motion by yourself as a substantive motion that the Committee adjourn and resume on the 3rd September. That has been carried by a majority of one.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: The substantive motion has not been put.
Chairman: I am taking an amendment to it.
Deputy Coburn: I understood it was carried by a majority.
Chairman: It was carried as an amendment by a majority.
Deputy Moore: Perhaps, we could have a further compromise, that we sit on to-morrow and Saturday; perhaps that would be more favourably received.
Question—“That before the word ‘adjourn’ the words ‘sit on to-morrow and Saturday and then’ be inserted”—put, and on a show of hands declared carried by six votes to five.
Chairman: I am now putting the motion as a substantive motion.
Question—“That the Select Committee sit on to-morrow and Saturday and then adjourn until Tuesday, 3rd September”—put and on a show of hands declared carried by six votes to five.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: On this I want to make a personal statement. My personal statement is this: since I have entered into an arrangement which I cannot put off, I cannot attend to-morrow or Saturday. I wish the reason for my absence to be made known generally. I have stated it before, but I want to emphasise it.
Deputy Costello: I have long-standing arrangements for to-morrow, Saturday and Monday. I cannot, in any circumstances, be present.
Deputy Geoghegan: That makes my quorum resolution inevitable.
Deputy Costello: That means giving a Party decision on this matter.
Deputy Geoghegan: It does not.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: There are no Party decisions here.
Mr. Costello: In effect, a quorum will mean nothing but that.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: The only people who are prepared to do their work are a Party.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Knowing perfectly well that the other Party cannot attend, it is by brute force you are carrying this by a majority vote.
Chairman: “Brute force!” The Deputy’s imagination is a bit volatile to-night. It has been carried by a majority of one. Can we fix it for to-morrow or Saturday?
Deputy Geoghegan: Perhaps we could arrange for 10 o’clock to-morrow morning, but I understand the Chairman cannot attend.
Chairman: I do not object. The Committee can go ahead and appoint another Chairman.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I move that we meet at 10 o’clock to-morrow morning.
Deputy Geoghegan: I second that.
Chairman: Is that agreed?
Deputy Costello: Certainly not, because I have to be in court to-morrow.
Motion—“That the Committee sit at 10 o’clock to-morrow”—put and on a show of hands declared carried by six votes to five.
Chairman: Are we finished with our domestic motions now?
Deputy Geoghegan: With regard to the suggestion made by Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, I think it is inevitable that we should deal with this matter of the quorum. The Dáil contemplated, in so far as one can read their minds, that this Committee would continue to sit, within reasonable limits, until this matter was disposed of. One member now has stated, in very definite terms, that he will not attend.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: It is not a question of will not, but of cannot.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Might I intervene for a moment?
Deputy Geoghegan: I waive my priority.
Deputy Fitzgerald: Do I understand that the arrangement is that, as soon as this business is concluded, we are not going ahead with the hearing of witnesses?
Chairman: Oh yes, we are.
Deputy Fitzgerald: I see.
Chairman: There is no motion now, or have you a motion to propose, Deputy Geoghegan?
Deputy Geoghegan: I have. I propose that, pursuant to the terms of the resolution of the Dáil, this Committee decide that four members of the Select Committee constitute a quorum. Before proceeding with that motion, as I have not a copy of the resolution of the Dáil before me, I should be glad to know from the Clerk whether the resolution of the Dáil authorises that to be done?
I notice, sir, that certain members of the Select Committee have withdrawn, and I presume that you will now officially take cognisance of what has occurred.
Chairman: Our position now is that we have not a quorum.
Deputy Geoghegan: As regards the presence or absence of a quorum, I should be glad to know officially whether we have a quorum or not, and, before assenting to the statement that there is not a quorum present, I would ask that you yourself, sir, call the members of the Committee by name or direct the Clerk to call them by name.
Chairman: Very well.
Roll called; the following Deputies answered their names: Deputies Dowdall, Geoghegan, Moore, Traynor, Norton and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.
Chairman: The quorum fixed by the Committee at its last meeting being seven, and there now being only six members of the Committee present, there is not a quorum. Accordingly, we must now adjourn the Committee until to-morrow morning at 10 a.m.
The Committee adjourned at 9.40 p.m.
Dé Máirt, 3adh Meán Fhómhair, 1935.
Tuesday, 3rd September, 1935.
The Select Committee met at 5.30 p.m.
Deputy W. Norton in the Chair.
Chairman: The first item I want to bring to the notice of the Committee is a letter we have received from a firm of solicitors in town who are acting for the Irish Press in an issue which has arisen between that paper and Professor Holman, who was referred to in some statement published in that paper, and perhaps in other papers, by Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn. The firm of solicitors in question ask the permission of this Committee to publish a form of correction and apology arising out of the statement which appeared in the Irish Press. I do not feel that I could personally give that permission without the consent of the Committee. I think, therefore, it would be better if the correspondence were placed in the possession of the members of the Committee, so that the matter can be decided now.
The following letter was then read by the Clerk to the Committee:—
“12 Dawson Street,
2nd August, 1935.
Michael Christie, Esq.,
Private Bill Office,
Professor Holman v. the Irish Press, Ltd.
We understand that you are Secretary of the Joint Committee appointed to investigate certain matters relating to a mining concession in County Wicklow, granted by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe.
We act for the Irish Press, Ltd., which is involved in a matter which appears to us to concern your Committee.
On the 15th June, 1935, our clients published a statement submitted for publication by Senator Michael Comyn and Deputy Robert Briscoe, in the course of which they attributed to a Mr. Harrison, solicitor, of London, a statement which might be read as meaning that Professor Holman, President of the Royal School of Mines, London, had made a report to the effect that the deposit contained gold to the value of seventeen million pounds.
Professor Holman took violent exception to this publication on the grounds that he had never made the report alleged, and that the attribution to him of such a report reflected gravely on his professional position. After a long correspondence between the parties concerned, a form of apology for publication in our clients’ newspaper has been agreed to by Professor Holman’s solicitors, ourselves and the solicitor for Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, and we enclose a copy of this document.
Our reason for so doing is that your Committee might regard its publication as prejudicial to the questions which it has been appointed to investigate and, therefore, a contempt of your Committee. We therefore, apply to you formally for the permission of your Committee to publish the apology in the enclosed form. In so doing we may point out that the parties concerned, Senator Comyn and Mr. Briscoe, have, through their solicitor, approved of the document. As our clients are threatened with proceedings in the courts unless the apology be published promptly, we shall be glad to hear from you at the earliest moment.
Little, O hUadhaigh & Proud.”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Might I suggest that we do not read the form of correction and apology? What I rather suggest, if it is an agreed matter as between the solicitors concerned, is that we should decide this matter without having regard to the terms of the correction and apology. Then we are not concerned one way or the other.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I think we ought to hear it. I do not see how it can prejudice anybody. We would like to know—at least I, personally, would like to know—what has been withdrawn.
Chairman: It may be said, if we do not read the form of correction and apology, that we would probably, by inference, endorse its terms.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: That is what I am afraid of—that we will in some sense be held to be endorsing its terms if we approve of its publication after reading it.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: They ask us to hear it, and I certainly think we ought to hear it.
Chairman: I think we can still say, after hearing this document read, that it is not a matter that concerns us.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I have put the matter, and I do not mind one way or the other.
The following document was then read by the Clerk to the Committee:—
“Our attention has been drawn by Professor Holman of the Royal School of Mines, South Kensington, to our issue of June 15th, 1935, in which we published a statement given by Senator M. Comyn and Mr. Robert Briscoe, T.D., as follows:—
Last May Mr. Harrison, a member of an eminent firm of London solicitors, came to Dublin and informed us that his clients, a firm of underwriters, acting on reports from two mining engineers of very high international repute, Mr. Dunne and Professor Holman, President of the Royal School of Mines, South Kensington, proposed to float a public company with a capital of £250,000 on the basis that the deposit contained gold to the value of £17,000,000.
We are informed by Professor Holman that he objects to this statement in so far as it might tend to suggest that he had given a report to the effect that the deposit contained gold to the value of £17,000,000. We understand from him that in the actual report which he gave be described the nature and extent of the deposits which he had actually examined, the samples which he had taken and the results he had obtained and that he gave no values whatsoever in his report and that he expressly stated that no estimate of quantities was possible from the examination which he had made.
On referring to Senator Comyn and to Mr. Briscoe we have been informed by them that their statement was expressly a statement of which they had been informed by Mr. Harrison, a member of the eminent firm of London solicitors acting for the firm of underwriters concerned. Mr. Harrison informed them that the reports had been obtained from these eminent engineers and that his clients proposed to float a public company on the basis that the deposits contained gold to the value stated. Senator Comyn and Mr. Briscoe did not intend that their statements should read that Professor Holman had made a report that the deposits contained gold to the value of £17,000,000 and they do not, in fact, think that the statement which they made was capable of that construction.
We have pleasure in publishing this correction. We regret if the statement which we published was capable of the construction of which Professor Holman complains, and which was certainly not intended.”
Chairman: It does not seem to be a matter that concerns us.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I cannot see how it would be in contempt of our Committee at all.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: We have no objection to their publishing it.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: None.
Chairman: We see no objection to the publication so far as our Committee is concerned.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: It is not in contempt of our Committee at all.
Chairman: From the last day’s meeting of the Committee, I think it was the intention to recall Mr. Leydon for the purpose of asking him some questions which some members of the Committee intended to put to him. I understand that Mr. Leydon intended to be here this evening, but that during the afternoon he received a message to the effect that his child had been taken ill and, accordingly, he was called home. He has asked whether I would object, in the circumstances, to his absence this evening. Accordingly, I felt that, in his absence, the Committee would excuse his attendance here this evening.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I agree absolutely, Mr. Chairman.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I think I was the person who called your attention to this, Mr. Chairman, and, personally, I feel that you have acted in an absolutely proper manner.
Chairman: I take it, then, that, apart from the unavoidable absence of Mr. Leydon, we have finished with the Departmental witnesses. I think that Mr. Leydon was to be the last Departmental witness, unless some member of the Committee wishes some other Departmental witness to be called. On the last occasion, as I understand it, we also desired the attendance here of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy McGilligan and. I think, Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn. I understand from the Clerk that he has got in touch with these gentlemen, so far as it was possible for him to do so. Perhaps the Secretary would be kind enough to explain to the Committee what happened in the case of Deputy McGilligan?
Clerk to the Committee: I understand that Deputy McGilligan is only returning to town this afternoon, and that he will not be in town until about 6 o’clock. I left a message at his house.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Did you ask him to appear at any particular time?
Clerk to the Committee: The message I left was that he should attend as quickly as he possibly could.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: What about the Minister for Industry and Commerce?
Clerk to the Committee: I was in contact with the Minister’s office, but I understand that he will be away this afternoon.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Well, at any rate, I think that Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe are here at the moment, and I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that they could be called.
Deputy Geoghegan: First, Mr. Chairman, can we proceed with the examination of any witness before Deputy McGilligan after the official witnesses? On the form of the reference to us certain charges are made, and I think it will be necessary for us, first, to bear the evidence in support of those charges before we can usefully put questions to anyone against whom the charges are directed.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I do not see how Deputy McGilligan has any first-hand knowledge in this matter at all. Obviously his knowledge must be second-hand, and it is all contained in his speech in the Dáil.
Deputy Geoghegan: Surely, Deputy McGilligan must have some evidence in support of his charges.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: No evidence.
Deputy Geoghegan: There has been no evidence up to the moment in support of the charges.
Deputy Traynor: Surely it is not to be suggested that Deputy McGilligan is not to be examined in connection with the charges he has made?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Nobody has suggested that.
Deputy Geoghegan: If that is not suggested, and if it is agreed that he should be examined, is it not obvious that he should be the first witness?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: My point is that I do not see why we should adjourn this meeting because Deputy McGilligan is not present at the moment. It seems to me to be waste of time in the circumstances.
Deputy Geoghegan: In view of the circumstances, if we are to call other witnesses before Deputy McGilligan, surely it is a case of putting the cart in front of the horse?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I agree. Surely we cannot proceed without the prosecution having stated its case. I submit that we have had no evidence of any sort. kind, or description produced yet in support of the charges laid down, and I suggest that the only thing we could do at the present moment would be to agree unanimously that there was no basis—no shadow of basis, no suggestion of a basis—for these charges. I take it, naturally, however, that these charges have not been put forward without someone having something to say for them, and therefore I suggest that the man who is responsible for these charges, according to our terms of reference at any rate, should be called upon now to give us the basis of these charges.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Well, of course, I certainly do not agree that the investigations of the Committee up to the present minute have shown that everything is perfectly correct. However, that is a matter that we must consider later on. At the present minute, however, I am perfectly indifferent as to the order in which the witnesses are called, but I do not see the advantage of adjourning now, when there are witnesses present to be called. Apart from that, I certainly understood from what Senator Comyn said at the last meeting, that he was most anxious to be called.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Yes, but the mere fact that he stated he was anxious to be called makes no difference whatever in regard to what we are discussing now.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: What is the suggestion at the moment?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: My suggestion is that we must hear the accuser first.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Yes, but is it the positive suggestion that we should adjourn now?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Well, I should think so.
Deputy Geoghegan: I have listened to what the Clerk said as to his doing his best to get in touch with Deputy McGilligan, and I infer that, owing to the Deputy’s absence, it was impossible to get in touch with him in a formal manner. It seems to me, therefore, that we could send notice to Deputy McGilligan, if we can reach him, that we would try, as far as possible, to meet his convenience as to the time that would suit him to attend here; but that, subject to that, the terms of reference would prompt us to hear his evidence before that of any one else. The terms of reference state that this Committee is established:
… publicly to investigate and report to the Dáil on the following allegations made by Deputy P. McGilligan:—
That the demise of the State mining rights in respect of certain lands in County Wicklow, made on 1st November, 1934, by way of take note or prospecting lease, to Senator Michael Comyn, K. C., and Deputy R. Briscoe, by the Minister for Industry and Commerce was (a) made to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe because they were political associates of the Minister; (b) made under conditions of secrecy; and, (c) made at a time that the Minister was aware that another party or other parties were proposing to seek a demise of the same rights, on terms more advantageous to the State.
That is in the very forefront of the terms of reference, and I suggest that we must hear the gentleman who makes these allegations.
Chairman: Quite apart from that, however, it is a matter for the Committee to decide as to which persons it desires to hear and in what order it desires to hear them. If the Committee feels that it desires to hear the Minister first, it can summon him to attend. If the Committee desires to hear Deputy Briscoe or Senator Comyn first, it can summon these gentlemen. In the same way, if the Committee desires to hear Deputy McGilligan first, it can summon him. It is all a matter of ordering the proceedings of the Committee in the manner the Committee considers best calculated to assist its deliberations. If, therefore, any member of the Committee desires to move a motion fixing the order of the attendance of witnesses, that motion can be discussed.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Personally, I am perfectly indifferent as to the order in which witnesses are called, but I should like to say that I have come up specially for this meeting to-day.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I think we have all come up specially for this meeting, Mr. Chairman.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I do not want to have to wait.
Chairman: It is suggested, Deputy, that you are still in arrears with disappointments.
Deputy Dowdall: Might I ask whether Deputy McGilligan is residing in Dublin or outside the city?
Clerk to the Committee: In Dublin.
Deputy Dowdall: I suggest, then, that we should adjourn until 7.30 and that, in the meantime, Deputy McGilligan could be telephoned to.
Deputy Geoghegan: I will second that, if Deputy Dowdall makes it as a proposal.
Deputy Dowdall: I move that.
Chairman: Is that agreeable to the Committee?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I have no objection.
Deputy Coburn: I have a decided objection. I came here specially at 5.30 and thought that this meeting would take place. Now I find that it is to be adjourned until 7.30 on a merely technical matter.
Chairman: No, Deputy, that is not right. If Mr. Leydon had been able to be here, we could have proceeded in the ordinary way, but his enforced absence has contributed to this.
Deputy Coburn: Well, what would be the situation assuming that something had happened to Deputy McGilligan to prevent him from attending the Committee now or at any time in the future? Would not Deputy Flinn or any other member of the Committee proceed in their findings?
Deputy Geoghegan: I object to that suggestion very strongly.
Deputy Traynor: Deputy Coburn ought to withdraw the suggestion he has made.
Deputy Coburn: I am only putting a hypothetical suggestion.
Deputy Traynor: It is a direct charge.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: What on earth is the direct charge Deputy Coburn has made?
Deputy Coburn: What I have asked is: would not the members proceed with the evidence before them, irrespective of whether Deputy McGilligan attended or not, if it were found that he could not attend—that something had happened to prevent his attendance?
Deputy Dowdall: That is perfectly right, but nothing has happened to Deputy McGilligan.
Deputy Moore: Let us not be wasting time.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We are not wasting time.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: We could have something to eat in the meantime.
Deputy Coburn: On the charges there you can come to a decision without Deputy McGilligan, I suggest. Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe are present.
Deputy Dowdall: Deputy McGilligan’s evidence is the only important evidence, and if he cannot bring forward important evidence in support of his charges, I do not know where we are to look for such evidence.
Deputy Coburn: You have the evidence in his speeches in the Dáil.
Chairman: Personally, I think that Deputy McGilligan is anxious to come here.
Deputy Coburn: I am certain that he is anxious to come here.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Yes, but other people seem to be anxious that he should not be examined.
Deputy Coburn: I thought that Senator Comyn was most anxious to give evidence before Deputy McGilligan, unless I am a stupid man from the country who does not understand anything.
Chairman: Yes, but even assuming that witnesses are anxious to give evidence, they cannot be allowed to enforce their views on the Committee if the members of the Committee think otherwise.
Deputy Coburn: But according to the members opposite it is absolutely essential that Deputy McGilligan, give evidence first.
Chairman: We have a motion before us, proposed by Deputy Dowdall and seconded by Deputy Geoghegan, that we should adjourn until 7.30.
Deputy Traynor: Before you proceed with that, Sir. Somebody mentioned that Deputy McGilligan was out of town. If that is correct. I cannot see the object of adjourning for half an hour, when we could meet to-morrow at this time also.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Yes, but I suggest that 5.30 is a very bad hour to meet. It would be all right if the Dáil were meeting. Take Deputy Coburn’s case. He has to catch a train.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Well, when we proposed 10 o’clock in the morning on a previous occasion, that was suggested to be an absurd time to meet.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Yes, but when you made that proposal, it was with the deliberate idea that this side could not be represented.
Chairman: Would it be preferable to the Committee if, instead of meeting at 7.30 this evening, we were to meet to-morrow morning—Deputy McGilligan being summoned this evening to meet to-morrow morning?
Deputy Geoghegan: If Deputy McGilligan says that he will be prepared to attend to-morrow morning, I see no objection to that course. However, it seems to be rather futile to come back here to-morrow morning and find that we cannot transact our business. I have come here three times already, and you, Sir, have also attended three times, without avail. In such circumstances, I consider that it is an utter waste of time.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: It would be a far better thing if we met at a time when everybody would be available and not during the holiday period. I cannot see the terrible difference between holding our meetings early in September and in October. We could meet in October, and we could finish in a few days and have our report ready for the Dáil.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: There is something in what Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney has said. But after having deliberately allowed a charge to remain in the public view, without any evidence being advanced in favour of it, for a month, to extend that period now for an extra month would be merely a question of degree. I am prepared to agree with that point; but it does seem to me, still as a matter of degree, a question whether we ought not to reduce that period under which a contrived wrong is allowed to continue, and co-operate in the strongest possible way in reducing that period.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I am greatly taken by the impartiality of the gentleman who has opened his judicial mind to us, and has, now, deliberately taken the veil off his feelings, and let us see how completely prejudiced he is.
Chairman: What we are discussing now is not germane to the motion moved by Deputy Dowdall and seconded by Deputy Geoghegan. Unless there is some amendment to that motion I shall put it. I under stand that Deputy Traynor has a different point of view. Does the Deputy wish to move an amendment?
Deputy Traynor: I am only suggesting that coming back in an hour and a half does not seem to be of much use.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I agree with Deputy Traynor. We do not know the hour that Deputy McGilligan will get back to Dublin. He probably has been home in Derry and we can hardly expect him to come here immediately after his long railway journey. I suggest that we meet at 11 o’clock to-morrow.
Deputy Traynor: I suggest that Deputy McGilligan should be communicated with to see if he can come.
Chairman: When I allowed Deputy Traynor’s suggestion to be discussed I found it was being used as a peg for arguments and not for the purpose for which the Committee was set up. I am anxious to get accommodation.
Deputy Geoghegan: Perhaps you could ’phone Deputy McGilligan now? I think the train should arrive from the North about 5.30 p.m.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: If we could find that it was not convenient for him to attend this evening, I think we would be unanimous in adjourning till to-morrow.
Chairman: I will ask the Clerk to the Committee to endeavour to get into contact with Mr. McGilligan now.
After an interval.
Chairman: Mr. O’Toole, our Secretary, has been in touch with Mr. McGilligan’s residence, and he has learned that Mr. McGilligan is returning to town by car, and is not expected to be here before 7.30 or 8 p.m.; and it is even problematical whether he will reach at that hour. In the circumstances, I do not see that there is any use in meeting at 7.30 or 8 p.m. I think, therefore, we should adjourn to a date to enable Mr. McGilligan to be present.
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: Let us adjourn till 11 o’clock to-morrow morning.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Can we have his attendance then?
Chairman: Assuming he does not return until 10 o’clock, the normal method of communication with him would be by letter, except the Committee suggests some other means of communication.
Deputy Geoghegan: What is the requisite procedure? Is there any precedent?
Clerk to the Committee: By letter is the usual method unless in case of urgency we might find some other means.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: What is the amount of notice you would require to give a witness so that he should be expected to be in attendance?
Clerk to the Committee: That depends on circumstances.
Chairman: Would a meeting on Thursday morning be acceptable in order to give the witness a full day’s notice?
Deputy Dowdall: Could we not inquire whether 11 o’clock to-morrow would suit Deputy McGilligan?
Chairman: We have no means of doing that until he returns.
Deputy Geoghegan: Perhaps in view of what Deputy Dowdall says we should meet to-morrow morning. We will then at least know what Deputy McGilligan’s arrangements are.
Chairman: Does it suit the convenience of the Committee to meet to-morrow morning at 11 o’clock?
Deputy Coburn: I suggest you call no further meeting. Mr. Chairman, until such time as the Clerk of the Committee is assured that Mr. McGilligan will be able to attend. Surely it is for Mr. McGilligan to notify the Clerk when he is able to attend. If what Deputy Flinn states is true, that they are not prepared to go on without Deputy McGilligan’s evidence, I think it is useless to have a meeting until we have an assurance from Deputy McGilligan that he will attend on a particular day. If we meet to-morrow and Deputy McGilligan does not attend we will be in exactly the same position that we are in now.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: I agree with Deputy Coburn, up to a point, but I think he does not quite grasp the position. Everyone called before the Committee, as a witness, is entitled to a certain notice to be present. But having got that notice, it is not in his discretion not to be here. So far as reasonable notice is concerned each witness is entitled to such notice.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: Perhaps 2 o’clock to-morrow would be a good hour to meet.
Deputy Geoghegan: That is a very awkward hour. It means that if work is to be done very little can be done. But if no work is to be done by reason of the witness not turning up one’s other engagements are entirely upset. If I attend here at 11 o’clock and find the witness cannot attend I can make some other use of my time.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I suggest we meet at 11 o’clock on Thursday.
Deputy Geoghegan: I think Deputy Dowdall ought to be considered to some extent.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: We have not got much consideration on this side as to our arrangements.
Deputy Dowdall: We were to have a meeting here to-day and I am here, at all events, at some inconvenience, and I think we ought to get some consideration in regard to our private business.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I would agree if I had got any consideration in regard to my private business.
Deputy Geoghegan: I propose we meet to-morrow at 11 o’clock.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: I propose Thursday morning at 11 o’clock.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance: Could we compromise and say 2 o’clock to-morrow?
Deputy Moore: Make it 2.30 p.m. to-morrow.
Deputy Geoghegan: I still think that is a very inconvenient hour.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney: If Deputy Moore suggests 2.30 to-morrow I shall second it.
The Committee adjourned at 6.15 p.m. to to-morrow (Wednesday) at 2.30 p.m.