MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
De Céadaoin, 4adh Meán Fhómhair, 1935.
Wednesday, 4th September, 1935.
The Select Committee sat at 2.30 p.m.
DEPUTY W. NORTON in the chair.
Chairman.—We have a quorum and I propose that we start business now. We arranged that Deputy McGilligan would be examined to-day.
Deputy P. McGilligan.—You may have arranged that, but it may not come off. Perhaps I will be allowed to make an explanation?
Chairman.—Before the Deputy begins, perhaps he will first take the oath, which will be administered by the Clerk.
Deputy p. McGilligan, B. L., sworn and examined.
1127. Chairman.—You desire to give a personal explanation?—Yes. I saw by the paper this morning that I was supposed to be here yesterday. I just wish to clear up the position in which I find myself. I got a note from you, Sir, on the 19th July asking me to attend on Wednesday, 24th July, at 5.30 p.m. to give evidence. I was in attendance then and, of course, I was not called on to give evidence. The next thing I got was a note this morning from your secretary setting out:—
“I am instructed by this Committee to request you to attend a meeting to be held to-morrow, Wednesday, 4th instant, in Room 91 at 2.30 p.m. The Committee desire to take evidence from you on the subject matter of their inquiry.
I was not in town until quite late yesterday. If I had known what was the proper terminology I would probably have instructed my maid to say I was off for the afternoon—which appears to be a legitimate excuse. The fact is I do not feel in a position to give evidence to-day. I was away for a month and, although my papers were rather carefully put away, I would require some little time to refresh my mind in relation to certain matters. Of course I could start giving evidence, but I could not hope to go into any detail because I think the evidence that I give will necessitate the calling of from 12 to 14 witnesses; there will be at least so many people brought in. I have to collect the information that I had and still have in my possession and the information that I had from which I spoke in the Dáil on the dates on which I did make statements—14th June, 19th June, and 25th June. I do think that it is a little bit casual that I would be asked through the medium of a telephone message last night to drop into the Committee to give evidence on what I at least consider a highly important as well as being a completely disreputable and sordid matter.
1128. It was decided by the Committee yesterday evening to invite you to attend for the purpose of giving evidence?—Yes.
1129. If you are in a position to give any evidence to-day, in so far as you are in that position, I think the Committee would probably like to hear you?—If I could be obliged with a copy of the Official Report of the 14th June, the 19th June, and with the Press reports, and if I could get the Official Report of the evidence given since the opening of the inquiry, I would be in a position to make certain comments, particularly on the evidence already given, as I go along; but I would consider that a highly unsatisfactory way of dealing with this matter. 1130. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.— When do you think you will be in a position to give evidence?—Twenty-four hours would do me. But I have business arranged for Friday and also for Saturday. I am sure I could go through what I might call the preliminaries to-morrow, provided I have some time between now and this time to-morrow. So far as I am concerned I think I should be entitled to see, not the newspaper reports, but the Official Report of the evidence that has been given so far. It may have a considerable bearing on the irregularities that I think have occurred in regard to this whole matter.
1131. Chairman.—I do not want to put anything in the way of the Deputy giving evidence, and I will facilitate him in so far as it is in my power to do so. I think the Deputy’s request for such evidence as has been given can be legitimately acceded to?—I have the newspaper reports and I have the two statements made by the Department and Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe. That is all the information I have before me. I could speak from memory on quite a lot of matters, but it would be subject to revision when I get the actual documents. I would be in a position to-morrow to give evidence and again early on Friday, but I must ask leave to be excused at 4 o’clock on Friday and 2 o’clock on Saturday.
Chairman.—Do any members of the Committee wish to suggest anything?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—My view is that it is not any value to take evidence from Deputy McGilligan which he may subsequently have to revise. I think we ought not to ask Deputy McGilligan to give evidence until such time as he is fully prepared to put the facts which he wishes to place before the Committee fully and carefully before us. A rushed and therefore inadequate statement would not be satisfactory in my judgment.
1132. Deputy Geoghegan.—Were you ready, Deputy, to give evidence on the 19th July?—I was. I had my papers in order, collated. It is not so much that I want to bring in a mass of papers; it is really that I want to keep my memory fresh.
1133. You say it will be necessary to refresh your memory before you could place yourself in the position you were in on the 19th July?—I do not know that it is necessary, but I might otherwise be apt to be very long-winded. I do not propose to be brief at all, even when I come prepared; but I would be very much more long-winded and would have to go more around about matters than I would if I had 24 hours in which to refresh my memory. Then, again, I have never seen the Official Report of the evidence already given. I did get a look at one copy, but the fact is I have not read any of the evidence except what I saw in the newspapers.
1134. So far as I am concerned I accept as a statement of fact that Deputy McGilligan had all his facts arranged on the 19th July and that he now desires to do something in the nature of refreshing his memory and going over the ground again. He has been on holidays and I will not oppose any proposition that this matter should stand over. But I do not know whether this will be helpful or unhelpful. Deputy McGilligan has said that he may be long-winded. Of course the Committee will not expect anything in the nature of a speech in the Dáil here. They will expect Deputy McGilligan to stick to statements of fact that are within his knowledge?—I do not accept the statement that I am long-winded in the Dáil at all.
1135. I put it, so to speak, in quotation marks. You used the words?—The fact is I will have to be more long-winded than I otherwise would if I proceed to give evidence now.
1136. The phrase was your own. I would not have suggested that you were long-winded. I want to make it clear that I was not using any epithet that was personally offensive to Deputy McGilligan?—I never took any offence from it. The only thing I could speak of to-day would be the two statements published in the Press on Saturday, 15th June, a statement by Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn and a statement by the Department. The only statement I have made was a short statement. The only matter relevant to this inquiry was contained in a statement in the Dáil on the previous day. If I had the Official Report of that I could relate it to what appeared in the paper. That would open the whole thing. I saw a statement published on Saturday, 15th June, to the effect that Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe alleged that they had been prospecting for something like four years and had spent a considerable amount of money. I could not find out where any considerable amount had been spent by them, but I know of people who were looking for money from them.
1137. Chairman.—The Deputy will have to refrain from making these comments until such time as he is giving definite evidence in relation to them?—One of the reasons I spoke in the Dáil was because I had information that it took a solicitor something like 14 months to get money from these people.
1138. We will probably hear that in the course of the evidence?—I hope so.
1139. Deputy Geoghegan.—There is very little to be gained by dividing Deputy McGilligan’s evidence into two or more parts. I think that a reasonable opportunity should be given to Deputy McGilligan to arrange his material. If Deputy McGilligan has business arranged for Friday or Saturday I am myself aware of the difficulty of rearranging business in our profession. I think the Committee should not insist on any right they may have to compel his attendance here. Possibly some day in the coming week would suit?—I do not think I am likely to be held up next week, with the possible exception of the 10th, but I could rearrange that business and get it taken by somebody else. I will be free to-morrow and on Friday up to 4 o’clock.
1140. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.— What time do you think you could commence your evidence to-morrow?—If I get the Official Reports before I leave this room I can spend to-night and to-morrow morning at them and commence evidence this time to-morrow.
1141. That would be 3 o’clock to-morrow afternoon?—Yes, but that will have to be broken on Friday and Saturday. I could not resume until Monday. I think I could be ready to-morrow.
1142. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—It would be a pity to have any patchwork in connection with the giving of evidence. We are all anxious that Deputy McGilligan and other witnesses should have a full and fair run for their money. The better plan would be to give Deputy McGilligan the full time which is necessary to enable him to be in a position to give evidence right off without interruption.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Yes, so that he can give evidence consecutively to the end. That would be more convenient for everybody.
Chairman.—Does that mean a meeting for next week?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Our better plan would be to make a clean cut and start next week, say, on Tuesday morning.
Witness.—On Monday morning if you like.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—That might be difficult for the members of the Committee who live out of town.
1143. Chairman.—Would next Wednesday morning suit Deputy McGilligan?— So far as I know. As a matter of fact, I will make it suit me. The matters that were arranged for Friday and Saturday were arranged before I got the note this morning.
Deputy Moore.—If we could meet for four or five hours to-morrow, why not do so? Surely there will always be reasons for adjournments; there are all sorts of conflicting personal interests.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I am strongly in favour of getting this work through immediately. We came here specially for a meeting yesterday and now I discover that there can be no work at all done this week.
Chairman.—The suggestion of a postponement until next week was made in order to give Deputy McGilligan ample time to prepare his evidence.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—There are other witnesses who could be taken.
Chairman.—That matter was decided yesterday.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—There is no reason why we should not sit to-morrow and get some of Deputy McGilligan’s evidence over.
1144. Witness.—How many days’ evidence are there in print?
Chairman.—About 86 pages of evidence we have had so far.
1145. Witness.—Does it entail much reference to files?
Chairman.—Yes. There is a good deal of reference to files in the course of the evidence we have had.
1146. Witness.—Are these files open to me?
Chairman.—If the Deputy makes a request to examine any part of the files that request will be acceded to if he needs it, but there are some files in this case which are confidential and these could be consulted in the office in the presence of some official.
Witness.—In the evidence with which I am in touch these have not been referred to.
1147. Deputy Geoghegan.—On that point, in the interests of procedure as I conceive it, I would submit to you that, if Deputy McGilligan’s charges were made as on a particular date as to the facts of which he had knowledge, any information gained by him after that particular date.—
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I would point out, Sir, that we are not inquiring into anything done by Deputy McGilligan. What we are inquiring into are the circumstances surrounding the granting of this lease.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—We are inquiring into the terms of reference.
Deputy Geoghegan.—At all events, according to the procedure, as far as I can see, the only evidence that affects Deputy McGilligan’s charges is the evidence in his possession at the time he made these charges. It is the duty of each member of the Committee to go through the documents and we cannot delegate that duty to a witness. If I may say so, it is no business of his at all.
Chairman.—The relevance of the evidence which the Deputy proposes to give can be decided when he proposes to give it in evidence or when he is asked a question.
Deputy Geoghegan.—But I understood that the suggestion was that Deputy McGilligan should be supplied with a copy of the files.
Chairman.—No. I asked Deputy McGilligan if he would indicate exactly what information he wanted from the file and I said that any information which he could reasonably require, and which I saw that the Committee could not reasonably withhold from him, would be supplied. But we have no evidence that the Deputy proposes to ask for any particular information on the files.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—If it is to be decided in general that every witness who is going to be called before us is entitled as a matter of right to a copy of the evidence at all the proceedings and to full access to the files, then we know where we are. But I cannot see how this general principle can be laid down.
Chairman.—Obviously, there will be a difference in the relative importance of the evidence of different witnesses.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—The question as to whether, or not, a witness is entitled to information from this Committee as to what is on the files, is what is now being raised. That is the principle that I see raised just now.
Chairman.—I do not think there is any principle involved in the matter. If a witness, for the purpose of giving his evidence, requires any information which might reasonably be supplied to him, I am prepared to hear that application for access to that particular information and it is for us then to judge of the reasonableness of the request made by the witness.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—What I want to point out is that a general request on the part of a witness for access to the files—
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I think your ruling is that you will decide as to the reasonableness of the request when the application is made.
Chairman.—I stated in relation to the request made by the witness as to whether the files were available in relation to the evidence tendered, that any particular portion of that evidence contained in the files that the Committee considered should be reasonably supplied to the witness, would then be considered and decided on. Obviously some evidence tendered before the Committee will be of more importance to the deliberations of the Committee than other evidence. I do not admit that each witness is entitled to a copy of the files as a matter of right.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—If every witness wanted to hold us up until he had gone through the whole files—
Chairman.—I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary should fear that.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—There is that fear, if one witness claims as a condition precedent to giving evidence here that he is to obtain access to what X, Y and Z said or what document written by them is on the file —if that is conceded—
Chairman.—I do not think it is conceded.
—1148. Witness.—There is another way in which I could gather information and that is by going from one member of the Committee to another. There is one matter to which I would wish to refer now and that is in connection with the matter of Mr. Harrison which was before the Committee yesterday. Mr. Harrison has been in this country and has been in touch with witnesses—
Chairman.—I do not know anything about that. At all events at this stage Mr. Harrison is not giving evidence. I am prepared to receive a motion on this matter in the absence of an agreement to adjourn until Wednesday next.
1149. Deputy Moore.—I propose that we meet to-morrow at 3 o’clock.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I am very anxious that this Committee should not be reduced to the condition that some people are trying to reduce it to of a half a dozen or ten weasels shut up together in a bag. I will give way and agree to meeting on Wednesday next.
Deputy Moore.—The motion is that the Committee adjourn now and sit at 3 o’clock to-morrow.
Deputy Dowdall.—I second that
Deputy Geoghegan.—I propose, as an amendment that we adjourn now and sit on Wednesday next at 11 o’clock.
Deputy Good.—I second that.
On a show of hands Deputy Geoghegan’s amendment was carried by seven to one.
1150. Witness.—Before you adjourn, I would wish to say that there was a reference yesterday to a letter received from Professor Holman. That does not appear to contain anything to show whether Professor Holman’s dealings with Deputy Briscoe are to be regarded as somewhat privileged. I proposed, in my evidence, to say a few words about Professor Holman and the letter he sent demanding an apology form ten newspapers—
Witness.—If that is to form part of the material on which I am to refresh my memory—
Deputy Geoghegan.—I think, in fairness, the proceedings should be kept to the terms of reference.
Witness.—Very well. I need not trouble the Committee about that.
The Committee adjourned at 3.10 p.m. until 11 o’clock on Wednesday, 11th September, 1935.