MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
De Céadaoin, 11adh Meán Fhómhair, 1935.
Wednesday, 11th September, 1935.
The Select Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY NORTON in the chair.
1151. Chairman.—A point has arisen regarding which it is necessary to obtain some information from the Ceann Comhairle. That will necessitate delaying the Committee for a few minutes until such time as we can get in touch with the Ceann Comhairle. The point concerns the right of persons other than the Ceann Comhairle or Cathaoirleach of the Seanad to administer an oath to witnesses in accordance with the provisions of the Oireachtas Witnesses Oaths Act, 1924.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—If, in fact, no one has that right, does it mean that all the proceedings up to the present are irregular?
Chairman.—It may be held that the setting up of the Committee, the approval of the terms of reference and the powers conferred on the Committee generally by the terms of reference in fact confer that authority on this Committee.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Perhaps we had better not raise that question until we actually know what the position is.
Sitting suspended. On resumption,
1152. Chairman.—The point at issue was as to who has power to administer the Oath to Oireachtas witnesses under the Oireachtas Witnesses Oaths Act, 1924. It would appear from the reading of the Act that the oath could only be administered by the Ceann Comhairle or the Chairman of the Seanad. or by such other person or persons as may be appointed for that purpose by either of them. All the oaths so far administered, with the exception of the one administered to Deputy McGilligan on the last day, were administered by Mr. Christie, who, I understand from the Ceann Comhairle, has general authority in the matter of the administration of such oaths before Private Bill Committees, etc. Mr. O’Toole has been in touch with the Ceann Comhairle, and to clear up any doubts which may possibly exist in the matter, he has now secured authority from the Ceann Comhairle to administer oaths for the purpose of the proceedings of this Committee. It might, therefore, be better, in order to regularise the procedure, if a fresh oath were administered to Deputy McGilligan in pursuance of that authority obtained this morning.
Deputy P. McGilligan, B. L., sworn and examined.
1153. Chairman.—Before proceeding to any detailed examination of Deputy McGilligan it might perhaps be more convenient if the Deputy would indicate whether he desires to make a preliminary statement.
Deputy McGilligan.—I do, but might I refer to the other point which I raised with the Secretary? Reading through the papers which the Committee was good enough to let me have on the last day I noticed that a member of the Committee raised the point that unless this were a duly constituted Committee a witness may find himself in a certain predicament. It was apparently regarded by members of the Committee that the Committee was not duly constituted. There was then a reference made back to the Dáil for further powers. I should like just to have an assurance from you that the Committee; in your opinion, is duly constituted, so that the position of a witness will be made clear.
Chairman.—So far as I recollect, the point was made by Deputy Geoghegan. I think it arose only in connection with the fixing of a quorum.
Deputy McGilligan.—I am not sure about that.
Chairman.—We have obtained the necessary authority from the Dáil in regard to the fixing of a quorum, and I think that will put the Committee in order in accordance with the terms of Standing Orders. Personally, I have no doubt that the Committee is properly constituted.
Deputy McGilligan.—That statement will, of course, bind the Committee as a whole.
Chairman.—I do not think the Committee has any doubts as to its authority.
1154. Deputy McGilligan.—With regard to a statement, I am in some difficulty as to where exactly to begin. By way of preliminary I just want to make two points very briefly. The first is that this Committee is meeting to deal with terms of reference which are framed on alleged allegations made by me. They are not my allegations. If this practice were to be followed elsewhere, and the defendant in a case were to have the privilege of making out a statement of claim against himself, no doubt many more defendants would be successful. This seems to be the peculiar situation in which the Committee finds itself—that it is set up to discuss allegations, such allegations having been specifically denied. I did make a series of charges, and I want to refer to those. The second point is that I notice from the official reports which have been supplied to me that there has been in certain cases a reliance upon British or Westminster practice. Again, I want to say that I must protest against the situation in which it is sought to put me in relation to this Committee. As a public man, I gave ventilation to certain things which seemed to me to be worth ventilating in the House. The practice in such matters was that where a member did that as a member of the House he was put on the Committee, the most famous case being the Marconi scandal, probably the biggest case ventilated in the House of Commons in the present generation. The two people who made the charges were made members of the Committee.
1155. Deputy Moore.—On a point of order, surely we are not here to censure the Dáil?
Deputy McGilligan.—I want to make my position clear.
1156. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I think every possible opportunity should be given to the witness in this respect.
Deputy McGilligan.—I am here to give evidence, and I want to preface that evidence which I am going to give by stating that I should not need to give evidence at all. I should be here as a member of the Committee to direct the witnesses to be called and ask them questions. I made a statement in the Dáil on the 14th June. I followed that up with a statement in answer in the course of the debate on the 19th June, and I again intervened in the debate on the 25th June. As far as I was concerned the first allegation that I made was a plain matter of fact, which the Minister for Industry and Commerce afterwards referred to in this way: “. . . . there was no charge under it except whatever charge can be levelled against the lessees arising out of these words:—
“ ‘Why did the three Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party and the Vice-Chairman of the Seanad get that concession merely to hawk it around London?’ ”
I want to stress that. I understand that the terms of reference and statements before the Committee include references to the lease being given with the knowledge that it was going to be hawked or for the purpose of having it hawked. My first statement was introduced into a particular context, and that was that this country having got into a particular scheme of things in which business generally was being run by licences and concessions it was better to have publicity about the licences and concessionaires, and that until that was accomplished the people could not be sure that the State was getting the best out of things. Entirely in that context I introduced the matter of this lease:—
“Is it not,” I said, “a relevant matter to urge in the Finance Bill that they should be taken over by the Government, and that their finance should be brought in for the benefit of the community instead of being left open to some concessionaire of whom we know nothing? I have one example of a concession that was given to several people in the country, who have no industrial history in the matter, and what did they do? They jumped across to London and sold it.”
That is a fact. They got the concession. I applied the word afterwards that they were hawking it around London. I understand that the gentleman who was sent to London on behalf of the concessionaries did not go in the first place to the man with whom he made contact eventually. He went to somebody else and he was referred by that somebody else to this Heiser group. I stated in the course of a series of interruptions what the terms the concessionaires got amounted to. The general phraseology in which I encompassed that was this: “This lease was made to certain Deputies of his own Party”—that is the Minister’s Party—” and to one Senator of his own Party, and they sell it in England to a group of concessionaries, on the terms that that group will pay the Minister a one-twenty-fifth royalty; that they will pay this group two and a quarter per cent, extra and give them 48,000 5/- shares in a £80,000 company.” All these are facts since sworn to in this Committee. “Why did three Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party and the Vice-Chairman of the Seanad get that concession merely to hawk it around London?” That is the phrase that the Minister afterwards took up on the 19th of June when, as reported in column 615 of the Official Debates he stated: “Deputies who have read the Official Debates will notice there is no charge under it except whatever charge can be levied against the lessees…” I want to stress that I did make that charge, made it specifically against the lessees and in the context of a speech which stated that if this country is going to be run by way of concessions or monopolies it should be done publicly; that although I dislike Civil Service bureaucracy, I would rather have Civil Servants with their names stated and salaries set out for the work they are doing than to have these concessions given to people simply to sell them without adding anything beyond the value of what they receive. That is the first statement I made. I am not going into every paragraph or every phrase, but that is the gist of what I said on the 14th of June and it was paraphrased by the Minister for Industry and Commerce on the 19th of June as containing a charge against the lessees. On the 19th June I gave some further information. I then said “I think the whole thing amounted to a scandal.” I think so now. I was challenged on reading various items and told that various things were all lies. I was then reading from the lease. The lease had been before the Committee and has been published in the Press. I do not know what the specific point of lying alleged against me was, but I want to repeat that there was this mining lease. That is the correct term for it. I think it is not described as a prospecting lease or take note. This lease was given to Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn. The other two Fianna Fáil Deputies came in later—when exactly I do not know-but they did come in. It gave them the exclusive rights of mining in named townlands in County Wicklow covering 982 acres in extent. It contained certain conditions. There was to be a dead rent of £5; there was to be a royalty of one-twenty-fifth and there were obligations is to the keeping of people employed.
The consideration for the giving away of three townlands and the exclusive right of mining in three townlands, was to be the keeping of four able-bodied men constantly employed. There was a further clause which I presume is the matter that is carried by the phrase in the Act of giving an option, but the option was phrased in this peculiar way: not that if they pleased after a particular date the lessees could take up the same property for 97 years further, but that they could demand it and must get it for the 97 years if they could satisfy the Minister that they had financial and technical resources to carry out the work. It is not that they were given the right to ask or that they could take it up. The situation was that they were given, for two years, that right to demand, which demand the Minister must accede to on the single condition of his being satisfied as to the resources. There was a condition that they could not sell, I think, or sub-lease or sub-let—that the Minister’s approval first had to be obtained. That lease was signed by the lessees and had the official seal of two Departments upon it. Two Ministers were recited as parties to it—the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance. That was given on 1st November, 1934, and by somewhere about mid-March, I think the 12th of March, 1935, an agreement to assign all the rights of the lessees had been made, so far as it had been possible to make it by the lessees. Now I should like to stress that this was not any property belonging to Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn that they were engaged in trafficking. It was my property, the property of the members of this Committee, and the property of the country. It was not their property. It was not any property that had come to them by descent or purchase in any way. They had got it for nothing. The terms were not very onerous—they were to keep four men constantly employed and to pay £5, I think, per annum, for the two-years period, and pay 4 per cent on anything they got. They had arranged to sell that— the three townlands. They had arranged, so far as they could, that they would hand over whatever rights they got under the obligations for the further six townlands. Thirdly, they had arranged to do all in their power to get and to assign to this Risberget Company everything else carried by the obligation made in their names or either of their names. That is all they threw into the bargain—a property belonging to you and to me, for which they had paid nothing really. What were they to get? They were to pass on that burden of 4 per cent, to Risberget, Limited. In addition to that, these two were to draw 2¼ per cent. on anything that came out of the grounds of our property, and they were to get 48,000 5/-shares in a company. The company was to be floated with a capital of £80,000. I said those simple facts constituted a scandal, and there was only one excuse for that happening, and that was that possibly the people in control did not know. But they did know. The day after I made my first statement, Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn issued a statement to the newspapers. It appeared in the newspapers on the 15th of June and stated at the end of it: “Copies of all communications from us in relation to this project were supplied to the Minister for Industry and Commerce.” It is possible that “this project” only referred to the last portion of that letter, that is to say, the scheme of Mr. Harrison for floating a company with a capital of £250,000. But even if that were so, anybody investigating that particular scheme will be brought on to the other, and there is every definite notice that the whole thing was in the possession of the Minister months before; according to this statement it would have been a month before, at the minimum the month before I spoke in the House.
All copies of all communications relating to this project referring to the whole scheme of course were seen more or less about the time when we hear of the concessionaires and they should be in the hands of these people about March. Notwithstanding that the Minister had knowledge of the fact that these two people were about to sell this very valuable concession for this, no steps were taken. I was questioned, when I talked of 48,000 5/- shares, as to their value, and I equalled that to £12,000. I calculated upon what I knew about the public attitude to gold shares and that, on 14th June, a 20/- share would be worth 20/. I believed that if a company were floated under a scheme put up by the concessionaires the shares would be at par or above par. 48,000 5/- shares were well worth £12,000 to the promoters. It might not be worth anything, so far as the acquisition of gold out of this part of the country went, but as a company matter, it was a magnificent project. With all that information in his possession, the only answer I have seen that the Minister for Industry and Commerce has made as to his consent is that he was not formally asked to give his consent, and apparently there was no obligation upon him, as a prudent man, to say to them: “Weigh carefully your steps because eventually I may have to crush them.”
The main charge I made on the second day was still in reference to this lease and to the sub-lease, and to the part the lessees had played in getting this thing trafficked in and in a valuable way for themselves. But I got to know by that time that the Minister was fully cognisant of all this. I want to point out here that I make no distinction between the Minister and his Department. Under the Ministers and Secretaries Act the Minister is bound, if he disapproves, to say so.
The Minister knew about that and had taken no steps to call the lease in, or to void it under the powers given to him. He did not even state that, automatically, the lease would become void because the terms of it had not been obeyed. As provided in default of payment or non-payment, the lease was to become null and void. I added distinctly this charge: that the Minister had failed in his duty in regard to State control of property, and in not seeing that such property was properly controlled, by allowing this to go on. The whole purpose of the Mines and Minerals Act is derived from Article 11 of the Constitution. State property is to be controlled in certain ways. I certainly feel as a public representative that it is not controlling State property in the public interest to allow two people —I do not care who they are—in silence to get control of State property without giving any evidence that they could work it, and seeing that there emerged, in a very short period, evidence of having trafficked that concession to an outside group of persons in exchange for 48,000 5/- shares in the company to be set up and 2¼ per cent. on the obligation they had taken on, and to take over from them the obligation that these two gentlemen had taken on in regard to this not very onerous task of employing four able-bodied minors to work the concession. I said that four ordinary people, or two ordinary people, had got this concession. To my mind this whole thing is aggravated by the fact that the two people who have got the concession and who have trafficked in it are members of the Oireachtas. It becomes especially and peculiarly aggravated by the fact that, apart from being members of the Oireachtas, they belong to the Party that is the Government that is in power. There is a public note that I want to strike there. I think that Deputies and Senators have, and ought to have, the right of access, in preference to any member of the public, to Departments of the Government and Ministers and Secretaries and, indeed, everybody, in connection with matters that relate to their constituencies peculiarly, or to the country generally; but that should be when these Deputies and Senators, these members of the Oireachtas, are acting in a representative capacity. When members of the Oireachtas endeavour to get things, not in a representative capacity, but for themselves, then the only safeguard is publicity, and the most widespread publicity, and there was no publicity given to this until I gave it. If we are going to have the situation developing here that members of the Dáil or the Seanad are not, in the public mind, to be regarded as doing anything wrong or dishonourable in getting benefit for themselves, then that ought to be stated frankly and openly and we will know where we are. But when men are elected apparently to do good for their constituents and when by stealth they endeavour to do good for themselves, then the only way in which that can be prevented is by publishing, in the most explicit way, the details of any transaction in which any member of the Oireachtas is getting certain benefit for himself, whether or not he also gets benefit for the country. The gravamen of my charge on the second day was very much the same as that of the first day. I do not think that even the Minister would say that after the second day there was no charge except the charge that could be levelled against the lessees, as he did on the first day, because I distinctly brought him in. I do not know what his knowledge of these gentlemen was before they started off getting this lease, but it seemed to me that he displayed an extreme lack of prudence when he did not make inquiries. I thought it verged into something more than imprudence when, knowing what they proposed doing, he let their letters come into his office, let the mining unit be established in furtherance of the proposal for a sub-lease, and never sent a note of warning to any one of them that this was a thing which later would meet with his condemnation. I have seen since that even one of the concessionaires put on the file his view which, when paraphrased, was that the thing was so “dud” that no national in this country should be allowed to subscribe to it. When they proposed that the nation should be turned into a nation of share-pushers, pushing them across on some other country, they did not get even a warning note from the Minister. I am not pretending to go into every detail of this. I merely want to make an explanatory statement and the rest can be developed by way of query and answer afterwards.
There was a query about the accuracy of my statement on the agreement for a sub-lease. Having read through it since I met the Committee last, I see no reason to withdraw one word of what I said about the details of that sub-lease. Copies of the sub-lease I had were perfectly accurate and the details have since been sworn to before the Committee and they bear out, as far as the details are concerned, everything I said— that is, as far as the details are concerned. There were certain deductions that I made and they are entirely my own. On the third day we met about this the matter nominally under consideration was the terms of reference. I got further information in the meantime. I had a very shameful and sordid story revealed to me in which I found Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn were not merely exploiting this country’s resources in the matter of some material in the way of gold that may or may not be found, but they had in the most scandalous fashion exploited a young national of this country. I knew, and the Committee has learned since, that the original application for the lease was made in the names of Deputy Briscoe, Senator Comyn and a gentleman called Norman. That Norman is Mr. Grattan H. G. Norman and he is the man who applied for the lease and signed away his rights. He is one and the same person. I see there have been mistakes in the type-scripts and some confusion in regard to the name, but there is a Grattan H. George Norman. At the time the concession was applied for he was under age; he was a minor in that sense of the word. When the lease was finally granted it was in the names only of Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn. The story of how young Norman was euchred out of that particular application is extremely interesting. It is also, I think, a matter of extreme regret that there could have happened what did happen. In addition to this Grattan H. George Norman there is a Mr. H. F. Norman, his father. Mr. H. F. Norman was the unfortunate means of bringing his son Grattan into conjunction with Deputy Briscoe. He did it because early in 1932 he was looking for some grant from a part of the Estimate of the Industry and Commerce Vote which had to do with development, mining or other development. Mr. Norman, Senior, had earlier, in the beginning of 1932, opened up again some of the old lead and silver mines at Glendalough and he was told he could get a Government grant. He had a great many meetings with Deputy Briscoe in his attempt to get this grant and in November of the year 1932 he was finally and definitely refused by the Department. He had many meetings with the Deputy and other Deputies. He was always trying to get contact with what he called somebody responsible. I do not mean that in any slighting way, but he wanted to get at the heads and he was being fobbed off. But on one occasion he had his nearest approach to a member of the Executive Council when he met in a group the Attorney-General. When the Attorney-General was leaving the group he made a remark which was quite clearly a jocose remark. It was addressed to Deputy Briscoe and it was to the effect “I suppose you are in on the ground floor in this.” It was certainly very full of foreboding as far as the Normans were concerned, even so early.
Deputy Geoghegan.—By whom was the remark made?—By the Attorney-General. I say it was quite a jocose remark. It was jocosely made then, but it was unfortunately full of meaning, as developed afterwards. But there was apparently a lot of playacting going on about Mr. Norman’s grant for his development at Glendalough —between him and Deputy Briscoe and others. Deputy Briscoe and some of these visited Glendalough frequently and called Mr. Norman’s son into consultation.
1157. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Just to refresh the memory—was it to Deputy Briscoe the remark was addressed: “In on the ground floor”?—Yes, and it was addressed to Deputy Briscoe by the Attorney-General.
1158. Deputy Geoghegan.—In the presence of Mr. H. F. Norman?—Yes, in the presence of Mr. Norman, senior. As I have said, there was a lot of playacting going on as regards Mr. H. F. Norman’s attempt to get a grant for the development at Glendalough, and he was drifting hither and thither, and meeting all sorts of people and he was getting everything except a response to his application for the grant. He got that response finally in the autumn of the year, and the response was a refusal to have anything to do with him. All he wanted was a small grant to help him to carry on a mill which he had opened on the site of one of the old shafts or borings of the lead or silver mines. I think he was exploiting by some new process the refuse of the minerals on the site. But there was a prospect of employment there and Mr. Norman, senior, put some of his own money into the enterprise. He was hoping for a supplementary grant, but he did not get it. There was some contact between Mr. Grattan Norman and Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn. And on the 15th June, Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn made use of a statement. I am taking a phrase here and there, but I suppose the whole statement will have to be put in. Here is what they start out with: “We have been prospecting for minerals in the County of Wicklow for more than four years, and have spent considerable sums of money.” One should not be disposed to parse too fully a statement like that issued by them to the Press, but we have the very definite statement from them that: “We have been prospecting for minerals in the County of Wicklow for more than four years, and have spent considerable sums of money.” “We,” of course, are the signatories to that letter, Senator Comyn and Robert Briscoe. Then they go on: “In the course of our prospecting we came upon ground which appeared to us to be the bed of an ancient lake, filled in with sand and gravel. We caused the sand and gravel to be panned and analysed, with the result that we found we had come upon an auriferous deposit in a place which had never been worked. We thereupon applied for a ‘ take note ’ or prospecting lease, as was open to any citizen of Saorstát Eireann, and were granted the usual two-year ‘take note,’ or prospecting lease...”
Take that statement in connection with the only real prospector in this whole business, young Norman. That 15th June statement means that they have been working for minerals since 1931 and have spent considerable sums of money; that they came upon an auriferous deposit in a place which had never been worked. We have there a statement issued to the Press, with a tag at the end of it, that the public should be made aware of all the facts. What are the facts? As far as I can make out, all the money that Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn spent down there was mainly other people’s money. They ran up debts. There are certain people down in that area who claim that they have not yet been paid. They got boring done by one firm at a cost of £13 8s. 0d. and it took from July until February in the following year to collect that money. It was only collected eventually through the medium of a solicitor. What did they do with young Norman? If anybody wants to get a good picture of what piecework payments ought not to be, they will take this as an example. Young Norman was to be working on this with a man named, I think, Pat Keogh, and they were to be paid on the basis of the minerals they took out of the ground. Earlier in the course of the business young Norman was paid 15/-a week plus his board. Norman and the man named Keogh were put to work on ground that did not belong to Deputy Briscoe or Senator Comyn. They were apparently trespassers. When Norman, senior, asked what provision was to be made for accidents or what provision was to be made in the way of accident insurance, they had the effrontery to tell him that their position as public men was the best provision he could have. The only work done in the County of Wicklow in the way of prospecting up to that was done by this young lad of under 21 years who was paid at one period 15/- a week plus his board. He was then put to work with another man—I am nearly sure his name was Pat Keogh—an unskilled labourer, and they were put to work with the promise that they would be paid on the basis of whatever gold they took up. Eventually this was changed, and it was decided that they would get some payment each week. In that agreement it was carefully laid down that the sale of the gold was to be transacted by Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn and the payment for the two together was to be £2 10s. 0d. a week. They got this money for one week. They did not get it the second week, and they spent the third week writing for the second week’s money. On the fourth week they got £2 10s. 0d. for the second week. That was the last payment of £2 10s. they got. The payments then became less week by week and eventually they ceased. Young Norman became tired of the business. In the meantime application for the nine townlands was put in. The whole working out of the details was left to Mr. Norman. That arrangement was described as work done by technical men, work done by an unskilled labourer and a young lad under 21 years of age.
Eventually about the mid part of the year 1933, young Norman left the whole thing and went back to his father’s business. He was taken out of that to go down to Woodenbridge area. Then we have the statement of Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn in the letter, part of which I have already read:—“We sank a shaft to determine the auriferous gravel, and made surveys so as to determine the total quantity available.” That was the sinking of the shaft by young Norman and Pat Keogh, who were up to their necks in water without any proper mining equipment or propping in the shaft. That was for £2 10s. 0d. a week for one week, no payment for the second week or the third week and £2 10s. 0d. the fourth week. And all that is described in their letter as “We sank a shaft to determine the depth of the auriferous gravel.” There came a time when young Norman was tired of it and he thought he would apply to his partners for his share. There had been a document prepared between him and Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe referring to partnership. The value of his share was put down at £250. That was the value of the share of each of the partners, and it made a total of £750 for the three. Early in the year 1934 this boy had come of age. He is now an adult. In 1934 he decided on applying for some money in consideration of his resigning part of his rights because he was getting no money in wages. He had nothing to go on with. He was living down there. He had left his father’s business, had no means of sustenance and he wanted something.
1159. Deputy Geoghegan.—In the interests of public time, I would like to get an indication from you, Sir, under which head of the terms of reference is all this matter Deputy McGilligan is now dealing with relevant. Deputy McGilligan is concerning himself now with obligations and rights as between Mr. Norman and Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn, as I understand it, long before the grant of this lease. Can we deal with that?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Surely we are to investigate every single thing in connection with this lease? These are facts which the Department, if there was proper investigation, should have gone into. Secondly, we have again and again been told that Deputy McGilligan has made charges here and Deputy McGilligan should be given every opportunity of showing every fact.
Chairman.—The terms of reference in pose on this Committee an obligation publicly to investigate and report to the Dáil on all the facts and circumstances connected with and concerning the application for the grant of the said lease. I do not think Deputy McGilligan has travelled very much, if at all, outside the obligation which appears to be imposed on us in that respect.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Very well. I am afraid I was putting a period of time on the application for and the grant of the lease somewhat different from that. Undoubtedly, any fact or circumstance connected with the application for the lease and connected with the granting of the lease should be shown, but a fact of circumstance connected with something which the Minister has not to do with at all and which has nothing to do with the lease—something between the people themselves, between Mr. Norman and Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn— would seem to me to be very wide of the mark.
Chairman.—It would look as if Deputy McGilligan were endeavouring to show at this stage that there was some value to the lessees in eliminating the person to whom Deputy McGilligan is referring and I think it is not wholly irrelevant to the consideration of the matter by us.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Very well.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I think that in any matter of doubt liberality should be given to the witness He has taken the point that the terms of reference do include allegations which are said to be made by him which he says he did not make, and, for that reason, I think that liberty should be given to him in respect of everything within any reason that would enable him to make perfectly clear what he did allege.
Chairman.—The Deputy may proceed.
1160. Deputy McGilligan.—The point I was trying to bring this matter to is that there is a supposed allegation of mine that this lease was made to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe because they were political associates of the Minister. In fact, I never said that. I said that it was made to these two and that they were political associates of the Minister and, on the last day, 27th June, I said that I would invite the public to make the deduction that it was because they were political associates of the Minister, because there was no other reason to explain the granting of the lease. These facts which I am reciting now are facts which, to my mind, show that there is no other reason; that these two in respect of this whole project were men of straw so far as the money they were inclined to put up is concerned—I am not talking about their actual ownings—and men of no experience so far as actual prospecting was concerned. The prospector had disappeared, or had not disappeared, but had been snuffed out. This young man, as I said, being very much up against it at the moment decided to try to trade a portion of his share. In the draft agreement then in his hands, an amount of £250 had been associated with his share as the value of it and he offered to sell a quarter of that for £60, his idea being that if he did that, as stated to me, he could go and work where he thought there was gold to be found and not be wasting his time in these places to which the Deputy and the Senator were directing him, where he thought it was useless to do any work.
In return, round about January, he got a particular statement from Deputy Briscoe that they were going to drop the whole thing and asking what would he take on that consideration to get out. His view being that if they dropped the whole thing, he then had his own local knowledge of County Wicklow to exploit and some money, he said he would take £40. That was for what he regarded as a sort of arrears of wages, etc., due to him. As a counter to that, they said £25. They had previously put a value of £250 in the draft proposed agreement on it. They offered him £25, and after a lot of trouble he accepted that, and then he waited for the agreement. In the end, he got payment when he put the matter in the hands of a firm of solicitors. He got his £25 for three things. He had to make an assignment of any and all rights that might come to him under any Government grant arising out of any application made or to be made in his name. The terms of that particular document, I think, are before the Committee. But the solicitor’s letter included these two further items: He had to hand over every item of correspondence he had had with these two, Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn, about the whole business, and he had to hand back to them the draft proposed agreement. That letter is a letter from Messrs. J. M. O’Connor and Co., solicitors, of a date round about 23rd to 27th April, 1934. I had the original, but I have mislaid it for the moment. I hope to be able to put my hands on it before the Committee retire, but I am quite certain that there is a copy in the solicitor’s office. The young man did hand over. He signed this assignment of his rights; he handed over all the correspondence, and he gave back the draft proposed lease in which this £250 value was associated with his share, in return for getting £25, less, of course, the cost of collecting it. That was all being done, remember, at a time when the Department was, just at this period, April, 1934, writing to Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn telling them that a lease was about to be granted to the two of them and the return from them was that they had to complete the formal withdrawal of Mr. Norman from the whole proceedings. They got their lease eventually with Norman out of it, and in the assignment presented to the Department from the man who was represented as the only prospector, as the only man of practical experience of the trio, it is shown that he is bought out for £25; in other words, that this trio of concession hunters had decided that £25 was the proper price to pay for one-third of the whole business. The lease is then signed to Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn. I had heard of that story before I was in the Dáil on 25th June, and more than that. I had not available at that moment the records since supplied to the Committee, but I had these items represented to me as facts in June of this year: that, in fact, since Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn got that lease, they had not employed the four able-bodied men. They had some—I think they had a man working here and there—but to say four able-bodied men, I was told, was a complete fabrication. They had certainly got up no minerals, and yet, under the terms of the lease, they were to have had these four immediately on the job; they were to be kept continually working, and any failure to keep constantly at work was to operate as a voiding of the lease. In these circumstances, when I was invited by the Minister to say if I believed that Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe got this concession because they were political associates of the Minister, I said yes. What other explanation is there?
On the facts, then, it is revealed that three people applied for a lease, and they point to one of the three as being a technical man. When the lease is about to be granted, it is discovered that the technical man is gone, and the Department grant the lease apparently without any examination. Later on, when months go past, there are certain people to be employed, and there are certain returns to be made under the lease. There certainly was nothing got up that anyone in Wicklow knows of that could warrant any return being made, and yet that is allowed to go on and, finally, these two reveal themselves as working by representations and being shot over to London, and then when they are shot over to London they enter into an agreement to sub-let at considerable, if problematical, advantage to themselves. In those circumstances, I felt that I could agree with the Minister in saying that there was only one explanation which fits the whole granting of this lease, and that was politics. Now there are other details that, of course, operate in my mind to bring me to that conclusion. There is the amazing letter that was written to the papers by Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn which is undoubtedly full of half-truths, and which certainly cannot be described, as it purports to describe itself, as a revelation of all the facts to the public. There is then the item of which, of course, I knew something on the day on which I spoke:—
“Last March, Mr. M. E. Heiser, representing himself as a mining engineer, with command of substantial capital and having a recommendation, amongst others, from the Office of the Australian High Commissioner, agreed with us, on behalf of this company, whose shareholders both in the Free State and abroad are substantial and prominent people…
Incidentally, the Minister had a different view, but that was the view of both the Deputy and the Senator at this stage—
“… whose shareholders both in the Free State and abroad are substantial and prominent people, to form a mining company, with a capital of not less than £80,000 for the purpose of working the deposit.”
I queried that matter in the Dáil on the second and third day, and it was very definitely stated to me that this was the Heiser proposal: in other words, there is representation made through the Dáil that Deputy Briscoe was the recipient of an offer but had nothing to do with the inducing of it. I suggest that you should call for the original, which is in the offices of Messrs. McGrath, Solicitors, Kildare Street, because I understand that the first offer was by no means a very full and valuable consideration to Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn, but that they haggled a bit and raised it and that eventually it emerged in the form in which it now is. In the Dáil it was stated—certainly phrases were thrown out that would lead anyone reading the phrases to believe, that Heiser simply jumped across here to this country and that before the Deputy and the Senator knew it they were landed with this agreement. A further item in this statement is, a statement that is about to be canvassed, I believe, in a legal way, that by representation it was
“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.”
I do not know whether it is a matter that is officially and publicly known here, but it is a fact that one of the people mentioned in the statement has said that that particular statement about there being a gold deposit to the value of £17,000,000 could only be made by a highly inefficient or completely irresponsible person, and that he was neither. The Department published a statement in which they stated that they knew what I thought was being denied in the Dáil on the first day that I spoke:
“The lessees in this case have made arrangements for the exploration of the mineral resources of the property covered by the lease and have applied for the consent of the Minister to a sub-letting in accordance with the terms of the lease.”
And there is this concrete statement:
“This application is at present under consideration.”
When I queried that in the Dáil I was told that the statement was incorrect, the Minister being responsible for it or, at any rate, for the inaccuracy that had come in. However, it was made. I only refer to this because particular numbers have been queried. A report in the Independent on the 15th June carries the information that, speaking at a public meeting on the previous night, the Minister for Industry and Commerce said that
“Three members of the Fianna Fáil Party applied for a lease of a particular area in Co. Wicklow.”
He walked into some mistake, because I thought the application was made, as far as the members of the Fianna Fáil Party were concerned, only by Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn, but that other Deputies, members of the Fianna Fáil Party, had become associated with the present group. When I was speaking I included three Deputies, members of the Fianna Fáil Party and Senator Comyn. Now I thought it right to ventilate this matter. I think if there is any appreciation in the Dáil of just what might grow up from a procedure of this type there should be a welcoming of what was said, possibly not of the manner in which it was said, and that there should be an immediate application by somebody to the question: how is this type of thing going to be prevented? There is an easy way of preventing it. Any lease under the Mines and Minerals Act given for more than two years has to be laid on the Table of the House. I have pondered for a long time as to what is the difference between a prospecting lease and another lease. Apparently, the only difference is that if you give a lease for less than two years you can call it a prospecting lease, and that if you give it for more than two years you cannot so call it. As to whether there is a substantial difference in that, I do not think there is any. Certainly in the application here there was none. I then had imputed to me allegations, first with regard to the granting of this concession to two people because they were political associates of the Minister. That is in the whole atmosphere of the thing. I made no such charge the first day. I did not make it the second day. On the third day I said I could see no other reason why the lease was given, except that there was politics in the whole of it, and I said that I would ask the public to draw that conclusion. It was a fair deduction. In fact, it was the only deduction. Originally, what I said was that this lease was granted, and that it was granted to two people who were political associates of the Government Party.
That is a fact, as sworn to here by a great many people, and is in evidence in a great many of the documents. I said it was made under conditions of secrecy. I did say that. I think any prudent person who found an application before him for a piece of State property, in the names of two members of the Oireachtas, even though they were not members of his own political Party, would have decided that there should be some official publicity of the grant or accession to such application. When he found two members of the Oireachtas, both members of his own Party, and both clearly and distinctly connected with it, he would have taken the most definite precautions. He could have taken a day extra, and it would not have in any way interfered with the arrangements about the lease. The third allegation I never made. It is carefully phrased to allow an answer to be returned on a small point about which I knew nothing, and could have said nothing, to what I said at the time, that the Minister was aware that another party was proposing to seek the same property on terms which would be more advantageous to the State. I were concerned, only by Deputy Briscoe at the time this was granted. I knew, just as it was sworn in evidence, that the group now supposed to be behind Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn were originally in the field as applicants themselves, and they emerged again later as the really substantial people upon whom Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn proposed to lean. Whether they were there at the time I do not know. I did not say they were there. That is what I expressed before, the framing of part of this is in such terms that the defendant gets an easy way out. It is interesting to note what happened. The Minister said that these people were in early, but got embarrassed in their finances. I am not tending to quote but there was some phrase used about their finances. All I can say on that is that they were temporarily involved in financial difficulties, and if temporarily involved in financial difficulties, that particular position does not appear to have weighed heavily in the mind of the Minister who himself revealed for the first time that these people, who were temporarily embarrassed, proposed to float a company with a capital of £80,000 and to give Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn 48,000 five shilling shares in it. I do not know whether at the time the lease was made it emerged that these people were still in the field. It certainly emerged very soon after that Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn got a concession, and they would not have much looking to get into touch with them, although, I believe, the person sent to London did not go to this particular group in the first instance. There was a sort of rebound.
The situation as I see it now, going back on the whole thing, presents itself to me much as it did then, if anything could better buttress a lot of what I said. I did not know when speaking that Deputy Briscoe in a letter had put himself carefully on the file, as a record for the Minister’s information, that this thing was highly speculative, so highly speculative that no national ought to be allowed to subscribe to it. I think the Department was somewhat on the horns of the dilemma in all this. If the Minister, through his officials, had any belief in the value of gold to be derived in County Wicklow, then I think he did not make a good bargain on behalf of the State; he did not see that the proper people, with the proper financial resources, were behind those they were getting in to develop it. If you agree with what the Minister for Finance said in the Dáil as to what would have been his view in 1933, that it was a wild-cat scheme, then certainly the Minister for Industry and Commerce took no precautions at all to safeguard the public against the worst form of company flotation. I do not think anyone here, who knows the world we are living in, will query that if a prospectus was issued to float a company, by anyone looking for £80,000, that that would not be subscribed in half an hour. I would like to find out if there was in fact an actual prospectus for the issue drafted, and the terms of it; and how the money to be got from the public was to be distributed; and what hold there was that half would be from nationals in this country, and that they were not going to be landed, as in the ordinary type of gold mine, which has been exploited in other parts of the world. I believe there is a gold mine in South Africa, the Clover Field mine, for which £1,000,000 was collected, and in thirteen years not one ounce of gold has been got out of it. While the people who promoted the company made money, the people who subscribed lost. I would like to know if any member of the Committee feels that it was a statement that had no basis whatever to say that this lease was given because these were political associates of the Minister. I would like any person to consider this: supposing there was an application for a lease made by people, say A, B and C. A and B have no knowledge of gold mining but C has. A and B propose to put in £200 to prospect, and eventually, before the lease is granted, A and B arrive and say “C, on whom we relied for his technical knowledge of mining, is gone. We have paid him off for £25 and we are going to hire a mining geologist, still keeping to the £200 of expenditure.” If a lease was granted to these two, with the condition that there was to be £5 paid by way of rent, that four able-bodied men were to be kept working, that there was to be monthly returns on all matters, and if a solicitor’s letter had to be sent to collect the £5 rent, and if the annual return of the work done was eighteen days over some lengthy period, and that for the 80 working days no minerals of a valuable type had been got out, when all that is going on, if the Minister cognisant of it, A writes to say: “There is one thing you should remember, we are going to float this as a company; we have got in well, we are going to get 48,000 5/- shares in an £80,000 company.” Remember, no national of this country will be allowed to subscribe to a thing so highly speculative
I ask if, in all those circumstances, the concessionaire was. say, somebody like Commandant Cronin or Colonel Ryan, would it have been tolerated? And, if it would not have been tolerated, what else is there in this except politics? Those, Sir, are mainly the reasons that made me make the statement I did make in the House, and I have no reason, at this moment, to withdraw any of the definite allegations that I made.
1161. Chairman.—Do I understand from what the Deputy has said that he makes an allegation that the lease was granted to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe because of either political association or political friendship with the Minister?—I think that, whether at the time it was made there was a sort of supervening thought that these were political associates, what has happened since would not have been tolerated except they were political associates.
1162. I want to get the first point clear, Deputy. Do I take it that, the lease having been granted, the Deputy now says that only political association with the Minister could justify the granting of it?—No—could justify the continuance of it under the conditions that emerged to the Minister’s knowledge.
1163. And am I to take it that, in respect of (b) of the terms of reference, the Deputy does aver that the lease was made under conditions of secrecy?—I say that it was made for a two-year period and that was the only period that allows secrecy for the two years. To put it in another way, I think that a prudent man, recognising that the concessionaires were members of the Oireachtas and particularly recognising them as members of the Oireachtas associated with his own political Party, would have given publicity to the granting of the lease.
1164. Chairman.—Does any Deputy desire to ask the witness any question?
Deputy Geoghegan.—I should like to ask a question, but I suppose that Deputy Coburn has the first right as his name is before mine alphabetically.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I do not think there is any question of alphabetical order, Sir.
Chairman.—No, we have not been following it, at any rate.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I should like to ask a question, but I do not want to cut in first if there are members of the Committee who obviously have precedence of me.
Chairman.—I think you may ask the question, Deputy.
1165. Deputy Geoghegan.—Mr. McGilligan, this Mines and Minerals Act of 1931 is an Act which was introduced by you as a Bill, I think?—Yes.
1166. And Section 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act, 1931, provides in its first sub-section:—
“If in the opinion of the Minister it is in the public interest that any State mines and minerals or any exclusive State mining right should be granted by way of lease to any person, the Minister may, under and in accordance with this Part of this Act, demise such State mines and minerals or exclusive State mining right to such person by way of lease for such term not exceeding ninety-nine years as the Minister shall think proper.”
Of course, the Minister referred to there is the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Now, I suppose it is perfectly clear, from any facts or circumstances within your knowledge, that no such lease has been made as that for 99 years referred to in that sub-section?—I am not so sure as to that. A two-year lease can be granted as an option.
1167. I regard your views on this as of immense importance, seeing that the structure of the statute, to some extent, may be attributed to you. The first sub-section of Section 11 says “for such term not exceeding ninety-nine years.” Does it not?—Yes, and the alternative is that you grant for two years with an option of the enlargement to ninety-seven.
1168. Not in sub-section (1)?—I cannot see what sub-section or what section a lease would come under which is for two years, not with an option but with a right; in other words, two years with an obligation on the Minister to grant for the further 97. I think that may well be a lease under that particular section.
1169. I see. You say that it may?— Yes.
1170. And that is your interpretation of sub-section (1)?—It is not my interpretation, but I would say that it is a possibility.
1171. Now, you are giving evidence on a certain basis. You are charging, as I understand, fraud, gross irregularity, scandal, and so on?—I do not think I have used the term “fraud.” I say that it is scandalous and verges from being imprudent into something worse than that. I did not say fraud.
1172. Surely, Mr. McGilligan, did you not, on the last day you appeared in that witness stand—I have not the transcript of your words before me, and you can correct me if I am wrong—did you not, on that occasion, compare this to the Teapot Dome scandal and say that this was worse?—I do not think I did.
1173. What did you say about the Teapot Dome scandal?—I could not say.
1174. You do not remember what you yourself said here—I think it was last Wednesday? What did you say?—What I think I said was that other countries had their Teapot Dome scandals, and that we had this. I think that is the context of what I said.
1175. The Teapot Dome scandal is a popular name for an imputation of gross fraud and criminality?—That I do not know.
1176. You do not? Well, what is this scandal?—It was a scandal associated with the granting of valuable concessions to people, arising out of politics.
1177. In connection with the Teapot Dome scandal was not a Minister, a member of the Cabinet, alleged to have committed a criminal offence?—Alleged, yes.
1178. Was not the President of the United States—President Harding— alleged to have purchased the nominations of the Republican Cabinet in consideration of the granting of the Navy Oil possessions?—Yes.
1179. Were they not allegations of the deepest and grossest fraud?—Allegations, yes.
1180. If you compare the transaction here by the Minister for Industry and Commerce with the Teapot Dome scandal, are you not alleging fraud and criminality? —No, I am not—not by any means.
1181. Does it not resemble it?—There are features of resemblance, but I want to point out that the word “corruption” has had one particular meaning in this country, and that is corruption in regard to money matters. I wish it to be understood that I do not use the word “corruption” in that sense. I do not say that any Minister or member made money out of it, but I do say that there was a chance wrongfully given to a member of this House of making money.
1182. You have called this the Irish Teapot Dome scandal?—I have not. You are trying to read into my allegation things that I did not say and I will not be pressed into saying them.
1183. The introduction of the Teapot Dome scandal was by yourself?—It was.
1184. Do you know that the Teapot Dome scandal contained hard matters of money?—Are you speaking of allegations or proved facts?
1185. Allegations?—I would prefer allegations.
1186. Is it not you have made the allegations?—I did not say the allegations in the Teapot Dome scandal were the same as in this.
1187. Is not the Teapot Dome scandal merely a popular way of referring to a mass of allegations?—No. It referred as far as I remember to a scandal, a matter arising out of politics and favouritism connected with politics.
1188. What was it except allegations? —I cannot say but there was evidence taken. 1189. What was the evidence?—I really cannot say.
1190. Do you not think that is a very serious thing to launch forth to the public through the medium of your evidence here, reported, as you knew it would be reported in the Press, the suggestion that this has features of the Teapot Dome scandal?—If I said that it would be scandalous but I did not say it.
1191. You do not want to suggest that there is a resemblance?—I say this is a scandal and that this has a resemblance in that it arises from political favouritism.
1192. And the introduction of the Teapot Dome scandal was an unhappy reference?—I do not think it was unhappy.
1193. In the Teapot Dome scandal it was alleged that Mrs. Harding found a parcel of Liberty bonds running into hundreds of thousands of dollars and nobody knew where they came from?—I do not suggest that there was any Mrs. finding any bonds in this case.
1194. I am suggesting to you, Mr. McGilligan, that you were indiscreet perhaps?—I suggest that if you were trying to use that phrase to get a close analogy where I did not intend it, I have given my statement of what is the scandal and I am not going to have something else made of it by the use of a formula.
1195. I really want to know what you did mean. The Teapot Dome scandal, as I understand it, consisted of this: that the Attorney-General of the United States, the President of the United States, President Harding, and a Minister, for cash, for the equivalent of cash—bonds, conceded navy reserve oil lands to their political associates?—There was no selling of naval reserve lands by the President, the Attorney-General or the Minister here. You obviously cannot run that analogy to these details.
1196. You do not want to draw any analogy between this gold-mining concession and the Teapot Dome scandal?—I do to this extent, that it is a scandal arising out of what I think is favouritism —favouritism based only on political attachment.
1197. It does not arise out of sub-section (1) of Section 11 of this Statute? —What does not arise?
1198. This take-note or lease?—I am not so sure of it.
1199. You are not so sure. Do you assert that it does?—I think it can be construed as under it.
1200. As a witness here giving evidence do you assert it does?—I assert what I said before, that it may.
1201. Do you assert that it is a lease under sub-section (1) of Section 11?—I cannot say it is not and I cannot say it is.
1201a. Section 11 (2) states:—
“A demise of any State mines or minerals or exclusive State mining right made under this section may be made by way of take-note or prospecting lease for such term not exceeding two years as the Minister shall think proper and such lease may contain an option to the lessee therein to take a reversionary lease of such State mines and minerals or exclusive State mining right for such term as will together with the term created by such take-note or prospecting lease not exceed ninety-nine years as the Minister shall think proper.”
Is it not obviously under that?—If the obligation of the Minister to grant a further lease is regarded as an option it seems to me to be a very peculiar way of phrasing the option—to reserve the right.
1202. “Contain an option to the lessee.” Is not that precisely complied with in this lease?—I have not the thing before me.
1203. Have you had it before you?—I have, indeed.
1204. This is the typescript that has been handed round. Has not that instrument been entered into in strict accordance with sub-section (2) of Section 11 of the Act of 1931 for which you, yourself, are responsible?—I am on the point as to whether this phrase is an option:—
“And the lessor hereby agrees with the lessees that if the said search be successful and any metals or minerals the right of taking which is hereby demised shall be discovered on or under the said lands, the lessor will if required by the lessees at any time prior to the determination of this demise and on being satisfied that the lessees possess the financial and technical resources necessary for the full development of the undertaking grant and execute unto the lessees a lease to be prepared by the Chief State Solicitor at the cost of the lessees of the exclusive right of taking all metals and minerals, the exclusive right of taking whereof is hereby demised on or under the said lands for the term of ninety-seven years.”
1204a. Is not that an option?—I think it is more than an option.
1205. In your Bill, if I might use the phrase, what you provided for was “an option to the lessee therein”?—Yes, and an obligation on the lessor therein.
1206. Are you seriously suggesting that if the statute authorises the grant to a lessee of an option to take a reversionary lease for a further period, that the person who gets that option cannot enforce the lease?—Certainly, but I say that the phrase in the terms “that the lessor agrees that the lessor will if required by the lessees grant and execute” is something more than an option.
1207. What more is it?—It is a lease containing a proviso for a renewal apparently by the lessor.
1208. Is it not an option then?—It is at least an option but it is a great deal more.
1209. If you or anyone else should purchase an option to take this, that or the other, have you not an enforceable right? —I have.
1210. Will you suggest what words more apposite or apt could be used than the words used in that document?—The phrase that under the full terms of that the lessee would have the right to call for a renewal for a term not exceeding——
1211. Do you suggest that there is any distinction or difference between that and the phrase in the document?—I do. I think there is an attempt to drag this lease out of that sub-section and into the other.
1212. What do you suggest is the difference or distinction between the phrase you have just used yourself and the form of words in that document?—There is a difference in the phrasing.
1213. A difference of words, perhaps, but so far as the substance is concerned what is the difference?—The difference is here in this lease in so many words, that the lessor will execute the lease for 97 years.
1214. Your form of lease contains the same thing in perhaps an elliptical way —that the lessee may insist upon it?— May I put this another way. A grant for 99 years, with a provision that it may be thrown in at the end of two or that it be carried forward at the option of the lessee, would, to my mind, be a lease for 99 years. There is very little difference between that and what is here.
1215. Does not that instrument there give him the right, on fulfilling certain statutory conditions, to call for something else? That does not continue. There is no new life given to that document. Does he not call for something new and different?—Who?
1216. The lessee. If he exercises his right, is he not calling for something new and different?—He is calling for a continuation of this. Every phrase of it is carried forward in the same terms.
1217. But he is getting a new lease?— He is getting a new lease. Similarly, if he got it for 99 years, with an option to throw in at a certain period, or a right to continue at his sole determination at the end of some period, I think that can be regarded as a broken lease too.
1218. I think you have stated that since Wednesday last you have had an opportunity of reading the files which have been circulated?—I did not read the files at all. I have read whatever excerpts from the files are here. That is what I referred to when I spoke of reading the files. I did ask for one file this morning.
1219. I follow. Having read the print containing the evidence given by the different officials from the Department of Industry and Commerce, are you not satisfied now that every requirement under sub-section (2) of Section 11 of the statute has been complied with?—No.
1220. What requirement has not been complied with?—The Minister, apparently, did not seal this. I gather from the Official Reports here that the Minister never saw this.
1221. Do you say that the Minister has to affix the seal?—I say that under the Ministers and Secretaries Act the Minister cannot delegate certain statutory duties to anybody else. There is a ruling on that from the late Attorney-General. The point arose in this way—I think it arose in my Department actually—that some comparable statute in English was being looked at, and it was discovered that there was a phrase of quite common use in the English legislation. The phrase was this, that whatever right or obligation is conferred or imposed upon a Minister under this may be by that Minister conferred on, say, his Secretary, or sometimes it says that it is, in fact, conferred on the Secretary. Attention was drawn to the fact that our Acts did not contain that. The matter was brought up before the Attorney-General, and he gave an opinion. It was, definitely, that there was no right under the Ministers and Secretaries Act to delegate statutory duties.
1222. But am I right in thinking—this is something which you or I can easily verify afterwards—that the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, directly confers statutory powers upon the Secretary of a Department?—Yes.
1223. So no question of delegation arises so long as he acts within the powers so vested?—But it does. For instance—I am speaking of the legal opinion given by the then legal officer of the Government— so long as a statutory duty is conferred on the Minister nobody else can carry that out. I was amazed to find officials of the Department of Industry and Commerce having doubt on that because, unless my memory fails me entirely, I circulated a minute to that effect to the Department in my time.
1224. Your attack might, perhaps, have been more wisely directed against the four officials who gave evidence?—No, because under the Ministers and Secretaries Act the Minister takes responsibility, and I am not going to attack civil servants.
1225. Do I understand you now to say that those officials must have been sinning against the light shed by a memorandum or minute circulated by yourself?—I do not say what they were doing. The Minister takes responsibility for that, and as far as the public knows he has not said that any of those people did wrong. I agree with this view until he says the opposite.
1226. Chairman.—Would the Deputy say what is the substance of the minute or memorandum which he caused to be circulated?—It referred to the fact that the statute imposed statutory duties on me—I was circulating that as Minister for Industry and Commerce—and pointed out that under the opinion given by the Attorney-General such authority could not be delegated, and that consequently where there was any duty, even the signature to a document, imposed upon me by statute, that document must be brought to me for my signature.
1227. Was there any catalogue of such statutory functions to be exercised by you?—No. Because I circulated that in the belief that the people in charge of the different sections would know the Acts. My memory does not often play me false in these things and I remember that particular controversy. I remember the Secretary to my Department, Mr. Campbell, as he then was, calling attention to the difference between our statutes from the British statutes. We felt in a bit of a dilemna because there was a feeling in my Department that, if every duty imposed upon the Minister by statute had in fact to be brought specifically before him, there was going to be a certain holding up of the transaction of business, but still, the law was there.
1228. Deputy Geoghegan.—Might I fairly ask you if you would, after the luncheon interval, refer to the section of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, which would lead you to think there was an irregularity here?—I did not pass any judgment on this myself. This was the judgment of the law officer. I took it as a correct statement of the law and simply circulated the minute.
1229. You know now, from having read the print of the evidence given here by Mr. Ferguson, Mr. Maguire, and two other gentleman whose names have escaped me at the moment, that this transaction passed through a great number of stages?—I was impressed by the fact that it had gone on so rapidly despite the fact that the Minister said it had been so carefully considered. It was lodged on some date towards the end of March—23rd of March, I think—and about the middle of June it had been so carefully considered that the Department had issued a counter-offer to Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn stating that as they made application for the three townlands it would go through.
1230. That impressed you?—It impressed me as being remarkable speed to be described afterwards as careful consideration.
1231. What are you suggesting? Are you suggesting that there was anything sinister in the rapid action?—No. I discovered what I think is the explanation of it in later evidence given here. At first, some of the witnesses seemed to tie themselves to saying that if there was anything in the way of what I might call personal approach there would be a note in the file. Later, one of the witnesses said that he probably had met some of those two people and discussed it without there being a note.
1232. I take it that by the two people you mean Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe?—Yes.
1233. Do you accept the statements— the reiterated statements, I think—made by those officials that there was no approach to them, directly or indirectly. by the Minister?—I do not know anything about that. If they said so, I am not going to contradict it.
1234. You have no reason to doubt it? —I have no reason whatever. I think there is an impression created in the Department, without there being any clear order to that effect, that, generally speaking, Deputies and Senators were to have easy access. I know there is such a definite atmosphere with regard to the approach of Deputies and Senators on ordinary business, and I think it is a proper atmosphere.
1235. Proper?—Yes, proper. A Deputy undoubtedly ought to have access to Government Departments in matters connected with, say, his constituents, or the area he represents, or the good of the country generally, but not for his own private benefit.
1236. What we are concerned with here is rather improprieties than proprieties. You say this celerity in regard to this application has impressed you. Are you insinuating in any way that there was the slightest impropriety on the part of any of the officials?—I know there is some evidence in which one witness said that, put in the light of things now, he thought probably things were not done that might have been done.
1237. How?—In inquiring, say, more exactly into the technical resources of Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn and their colleagues at that time.
1238. If that is imputed as dereliction to anybody, do you suggest, after having read the evidence, that that was at the instance of the Minister?—I do not say the witnesses have changed in their approach. I am accepting that.
1239. You have accepted it with a tag, that there was an atmosphere?—Created by the Minister, undoubtedly.
1240. Are you suggesting or hinting that the present Minister for Industry or Commerce (Mr. Lemass) winked in some way to these officials; that he created an atmosphere for a Senator who belonged to the Fianna Fáil Party and a Deputy who belonged to the Fianna Fáil Party?—You have used these two phrases as if they were synonymous. I do not accept them as such—“winked at” or “in some way suggested.” I think it is likely the Minister created in the mind of his officials the impression that they could be less exacting in their demands upon members of the Oireachtas than upon anybody else.
1241. In regard to this lease, are you suggesting that in some way or other than in the use of words the Minister suggested to the officials who gave evidence here, or to any of them, that Senator Comyn or Deputy Briscoe should be in any way accommodated in regard to this lease?—I do not know how it happened, but I do know that that they got treatment nobody applying for a concession in my time would have got. They got treatment that I think is only to be explained by the fact that they were in politics.
1242. Then there must have been a nod or a wink in regard to this transaction on the part of the Minister for Industry and Commerce towards Mr. Ferguson or Mr. Maguire?—There might have been a belief in the mind of the officials that action of this sort taken in regard to members of the Oireachtas would not be censured. Let me get concrete in this.
1243. Excuse me a minute. You ascribe this transaction then to a state of mind in these officials who have given evidence here that if they did something to benefit Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe the Minister would like it very much?—I think that these officials might have easily put themselves in the hypothetical position in which I ask the Committee to put themselves as to what they were doing in regard to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, that if they were doing the same thing with regard to Commandant Cronin they would have felt there would be a different attitude on the part of the Minister to themselves.
1244. That, of course, would be coercion on the minds of these officials?—I do not think so at all.
1245. Influence on their minds?—Do you mean to say that it requires influence or conniving or winking for a man’s mentality to be observed and estimated by his officials and for them to draw conclusions as to what he will pass and what he will hold up? You are not so devoid of humanity as to think that that requires nods or winks.
1246. Then in this occult way the Minister for Industry and Commerce conveyed to Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Maguire that political associates of his own were to get undue advantages?—Were not to have the same investigation into the details of their application as others.
1247. Is not that an undue advantage? —If you limit undue advantage to that, I will accept your phrase that they are to get undue advantages; but I do not want that phrase expanded into a Teapot Dome.
1248. Was it not yourself who introduced the Teapot Dome?—Not in the extensive and expansive way of your allegations.
1249. Then you are making the charge that the Minister conveyed to these officials that undue preference or advantage was to be given to Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn?—What do you mean by conveyed? Do you mean that he talked to them?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—The witness should be allowed to answer.
Deputy Geoghegan.—If you were listening you would have heard the witness asking a question.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I was listening and I know the witness is endeavouring to answer and is not being let.
Deputy Geoghegan.—The witness was asking a question and I did not object to it.
Witness.—I asked and answered a question. If you mean conveyed by minute, no; if you mean conveyed by words, no; if you mean that they gathered an impression, yes. It is the easiest thing in the world to gather.
1250. Then the Minister for Industry is blameless?—No, they gathered it correctly.
1251. It is he disseminated that thought in his Department?—It is radiating from him.
1252. Is not that getting very close to corruption?—It is getting close to what I have charged—political favouritism.
1253. Then the Minister for Industry and Commerce has got his Department into such a condition that he has radiated in some way the thought to these high officials that they are to give undue preference and accommodation to members of the Fianna Fáil Party?— That they know they will not have any criticism cast upon them for being lenient in their examination of Fianna Fáil proposals, undoubtedly. There is no other explanation.
1254. Chairman.—You may have seen in the course of the proceedings of the Committee set out in the Official Report that in reply to a question addressed to him, Mr. Ferguson, I think, indicated that he treated the applicants for the take-note or prospecting lease in the same way as he would have treated other applicants. That statement was made, I think, positively by Mr. Ferguson.
Witness.—Something like that was said.
1255. Do you accept that?—I am sure he thinks that is so, but I question it to this extent. I put my concrete examples, that if this application had been made by Commandant Cronin there would have been different reactions to it.
1256. Apart from the other potential applicant you mention, it was definitely stated by Mr. Ferguson that he accorded to these applicants the same treatment as he would have accorded to any others. Do you accept that, or do you say that, notwithstanding his statement to that effect, you have the idea that there was an atmosphere?—I think there was.
1257. Which Mr. Ferguson could not measure or, in fact, did not believe he was implicated with?—Of course, there was. I have no doubt whatever that that particular atmosphere rose up in the Department and grew with the change of Government, Might I say another thing? I would like to take Mr. Ferguson’s statement as to what happened in relation to Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn as a measure of the treatment that would be meted out to everybody, otherwise I would be criticising the laxity of the Departmental procedure.
1258. Would it be possible for a person in Mr. Ferguson’s position—I think he is Assistant Secretary in the Department of Industry and Commerce—not to be conscious of that atmosphere?—If he was not the man I know him to be he might be lacking in sensibility to that particular atmosphere, but any quick-witted man would see it.
1259. You think he was conscious of the atmosphere that seemed favourable to the applicants in this case?—To my mind, yes.
1260. Did that influence him?—I think that was the reason why the application was issued so very quickly, and that there was no investigation of the resources of those people, and of the technical knowledge and qualifications they possessed. I see the phrase “Tom, Dick and Harry” was used and has been objected to. I can think of some moderately well-known business man making his appearance, and asking for a lease, and stating that he would put up a couple of hundred pounds. I do not believe he would get it until there had been some examination. It would be investigated how far this would lead him. I take the case of other concessions asked for in my time. There were no applications under the Mines and Minerals Act then. That Act was only passed at the end of my time in office. There was a State Lands Act, but that was under the Department of Finance. I only dealt with applications under the Trade Loans Act. Supposing there was an application for, say, a small sum of £1,000, although we were only to bear a secondary liability, I believe that would come up to me—every one of these came up to me—and I believe there would be Minutes by at least five Civil Servants to tell me what they thought of the proposal, going into such details as would arise in connection with the particular kind of business, that it would take so many months to erect the building and to get the plan, and that they would have to buy their raw material, and so on. There would also be the question of the terms of dealing with wholesalers, whether the periods were to be three, four or six months, and whether the sum advanced for working capital was sufficient. Someone else would find out whether the prospect was a business one from the point of view of the State. I do not think that any liability involving a sum of £1,000 would come to me without Minutes from four or five Civil Servants, heads of Sections in the Department. All these were washed out in this particular case.
1261. Is that so?—I can find out no other particulars. I am relying upon the comments made. The transaction was described by the Minister as being discussed over a considerable length of time, and as having been very carefully examined. But the application came in on the 3rd March and the Department indicated its point of view as to giving the concession by some date in June—the dates are somewhat mixed up, I think.
1262. If the Secretary to the Department, or the Assistant Secretary, were to say that they treated this application in the same way as other applications: that there was no influence by any one, no oral expression of pressure put up either by the Minister or in any other way, that these applicants should be treated in any special way, what deduction would you ask this Committee to make?—That is all very hypothetical. I have intimate experience of all the officials that gave evidence except Mr. Clarke. I cannot recollect having any personal experience of dealings with that gentleman. I know these men, of course, are entirely free from suspicion. They are men of very great ability, but what I say is that unconsciously they were swayed. I say that if State property is to be dealt with under this procedure, then that procedure should be changed.
1263. Deputy Geoghegan.—You know Mr. Lyburn and Mr. Leydon?—Yes, I know both of them. One is Secretary to the Department, and the other is the geologist.
1264. You saw that this was referred to Mr. Lyburn and that he made a report on it?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—There is no evidence that Mr. Lyburn made a report; there is no file with his statement.
Witness.—I saw the statement on Mr. Ferguson’s file that it must be referred to Mr. Lyburn.
1265. Deputy Geoghegan.—With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I shall revert to this evidence afterwards, because I think it is only fair to Mr. McGilligan that I should refer him to what is in my mind?
Witness.—Mr. Lyburn was brought in in some phrase just as the law adviser to the Department was brought in.
Deputy Geoghegan.—My recollection is, despite what Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney thinks, that Mr. Lyburn’s minute was on the file.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—If it is there we can find it.
Chairman.—It is now almost half-past one and I think it is desirable that the Committee should adjourn for lunch, and resume again after lunch. As the restaurant in the Dáil is not open it will possibly necessitate a longer adjournment than would otherwise be needed.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Some people may have to go home.
Chairman.—We can resume at 3 o’clock and then sit until—when?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Until five o’clock.
Deputy Good.—I suggest we should adjourn at 5 o’clock.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Or seven o’clock?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I think in an ordinary investigation a witness should not be asked to give evidence for seven hours running?
Deputy Geoghegan.—Could we not talk that over later?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I think we should adjourn at five o’clock and meet again to-morrow at 11 o’clock. That is a reasonable day’s work.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Some of us are anxious to get at the end of this.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Most of us are.
The Committee adjourned at 1.30 p.m. until 3 p.m.
1266. Deputy Geoghegan.—Just before the adjournment one of the matters that was being referred to was evidence relating to Mr. Lyburn’s part in this matter. Of course, Mr. Lyburn was not examined as a witness and I would like to refer Mr. McGilligan to a few references that are in this print. Will Mr. McGilligan kindly take the print of the 18th July? These references are not exhaustive. I have just got some of them. At question 296. Deputy Costello is examining Mr. Ferguson. This is the evidence of Mr. R. C. Ferguson given on July 23rd, 1935:—
“Deputy Costello.—You referred to a gentleman called Mr. Lyburn?—Yes.
He is a geological expert?—Yes.
He is a person who would know something about this gold or alleged gold in Wicklow?—Yes.
Why was it that your Department did not think it proper to get even his services—he being in the service and being an expert—to go down and examine this area before a State right was alienated in the way in which it was proposed to be done?—We had his services and made full use of them.
That does not appear in any place on these files?—I can assure you of that.”
Deputy Costello is wrong. Perhaps you will refer to file T.I.M. 195/22, where there is an entry dated 8/4/33. I draw attention to that so that any member who wishes to consult that file may see it. I will continue what is in the print.
“Am I correct in saying that in no place on the files have we got any indication that you availed of Mr. Lyburn’s services?—I can assure you definitely that we did.
I know what Mr. Leydon is interested in at the moment. There is the reference, of course, that you made to the Land Commission?—I am quite definite about that.
What were these scervices? Can you tell me generally how you availed of Mr. Lyburn’s services?—Mr. Lyburn may have been consulted verbally.
“May have been.” That is like the answer of a Kerry witness. Was he, in fact, consulted?—He was, in fact, consulted.”
Deputy Costello was obviously not aware of the minute of 1933 or he would not make that observation.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—That was not in the confidential file.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Deputy Costello had the file available to him but apparently he did not read the minute that you are apparently reading now for the first time.
1267. Deputy Geoghegan.—Then, Sir, you, Mr. Chairman, rather cleared the matter up on the 24th July, if I may say so. In the questions put by you to Mr. Ferguson that was cleared up. Just to get the sequence of the matter I will read question 471 (on 24th July):
“Chairman.—Could it be said with any truth that the Minister influenced you to regard favourably the application of Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn?— Neither directly nor indirectly. The suggestion is absurd.
472. So that all the preliminary work in connection with the making of this lease had nothing whatever to do with the Minister?—Absolutely nothing.
473. In granting this lease, I take it that you, at some period of the discussions, obtained the views of the geological expert in the Department, Mr. Lyburn?—Yes.
474. Could you say yourself, in any general way, what Mr. Lyburn thought of the deposits?—It might not be possible to regard the consultation with Mr. Lyburn as strictly taking his views. I do say that I did not expect Mr. Lyburn to be in a position to say whether it was a very valuable mine or whether it would pay. I have an exceedingly high opinion of his competence as a geologist—his knowledge of that area is second to none—but I would not expect him to answer that question, and I would not put that question to him. The possibility of some gold being got from prospecting in Wicklow was always there, but whether in fact a profit could be made from working it was not a question he could be expected to answer, and could not.
475. In any consideration of the amount of royalty to be fixed was there advertence to the fact that minerals could be mined on a profitable basis there?—I am not quite clear. Yes, I presume that was one of the matters coming into the decision. that the particular royalty was on the whole a fair and proper one in the public interest.
476. Having regard to the extent of the deposits and the ease with which they could be got, or the difficulties?— Having regard to all those matters.
477. Do you think that 4 per cent. was a fair and proper figure whether they were difficult to get or easy to get?—It is very difficult to separate the elements considered in determining what would be a fair royalty. I did define yesterday that this royalty was arrived at after consulting everybody, including Mr. Lyburn and all who had knowledge. We did consider that this was a proper amount whether the mines proved to be paying or otherwise.”
As I say, these references to Mr. Lyburn are not exhaustive. I have only taken a hurried glance through them. Now, Mr. McGilligan, assuming that that evidence of Mr. Ferguson’s is borne out by the entry made on the file, assuming all that, does it, in your opinion, reveal a fair inquiry into and investigation of the facts and circumstances that should be inquired into before granting a prospecting lease?—I cannot imagine Mr. Lyburn being asked nothing about the technical capacity of these two applicants.
1268. But in so far as Mr. Lyburn occupies the position of economic adviser?—He is a geologist. He would be able to tell what evidence there was of gold ever having been found there from the scientific publications, and I think his comments as regards gold in small quantities would be got from any files.
1269. He is a geologist in the Department and he is the person that Mr. Ferguson naturally resorted to on that aspect of the problem?—On the aspect of whether there is gold there?
1270. On the geological aspect?—If it were a question of asking him whether it was a mining proposition, I am sure he would be the correct approach.
1271. You were Minister for six or seven years and Mr. Lyburn was there during your time?—I think he was in the Geological Survey, but we would have consulted him whether in the Geological Survey or not.
1272. Is there any other geologist to consult?—There is.
1273. Who else would you have consulted if you were still Minister?—There is a man named, I think, Lavery.
1274. Would you consult a man whose name you cannot even remember?—I do remember it. His name is Lavery. I would have sent this out to the end of the Department concerned and I would expect to see the signature of Lavery on the file.
1275. So that on that end of it things were done in 1933 in the same way as they would have been done by you in 1931?—I do not say so.
1276. Come to the financial end?—I am only trying to follow your question. It might be possible after consultation with Mr. Lavery and hearing his technical views. That is the way in which Mr. Ferguson himself expressed it.
1277. I would be glad, Mr. Chairman, if you would get from Mr. O’Toole such references on that file as would key these matters up. I want it to appear on the transcript. I do not want to read that memorandum. It is a confidential file. At the same time, I want the references to go down clearly on the transcript and the matter will be keyed up.
Witness.—In the minutes of evidence of July 23rd in question 306, on page 31, you will get that reference you want, I think.
1278. Yes, thanks. I think that is what we want. It is unlikely that there is any other minute on that file of the same date. It is referred to by Mr. Ferguson himself in his answer to question 306. Now, Mr. McGilligan, do you not think in view of that that you should withdraw what you said about “fobbing off”?—No; it may be possible to record the conversation with Mr. Lyburn without strictly taking his views. He goes on in reply to question 474 to give his views of Mr. Lyburn:—“I did not expect Mr. Lyburn to be in a position to say whether it was a valuable mine or whether it would pay.” And then he talks about Mr. Lyburn’s competence as a geologist. He says there is a possibility of some gold being there, but whether in fact a profit could be made from working it was not a question he could be expected to answer and could not.
1279. Is not that commonsense—that is not “fobbing off”?—The first part is.
1280. Surely when you piloted that statute of 1931 through the Oireachtas here you did not contemplate that every application that might be made by any prospector would be examined in detail as to what its profits and earnings and so on would be?—I would expect this examination to be done, that before I would tie myself up to giving a man a two years’ concession, with the right to demand an extension to 99 years, I would find out whether he was competent, technically and financially, to do the job.
1281. I will bring you on to the financial side. Leave that out for the moment. Leave the person out of it for the moment and address yourself to the proposition that is put forward. Somebody puts in an application to be given a concesion —let me call it so, that being the statutory word—in any of the 26 Counties to mine gold or anything else. You never contemplated in this statute that each of the applications would be examined to find out the probable net income that could be got out of them?— I think that before the Minister for Finance made up his mind to call for a certain royalty, he would at any rate have some slight examination made as to the possibilities of success.
1282. Must not an Act like this be administered on general rules, on scales and on general regulations?—I cannot imagine any general rule being laid down saying that a series of questions was to be put to applicants and the answers to be disregarded. That is what happened here.
1283. Do you concede that the expense to the State would be gigantic if every application was to be examined in the way that, say, a purchaser of the concession would examine it?—I do not know what the duties of a civil servant attached to that Department are if he is not to examine into an application such as that. I cannot see any great expense arising out of it. They are there for that purpose and they are paid their salaries for that purpose.
1284. Even if hundreds or thousands of applications came in, your idea of the administration of the Act is that each of them would be examined in the same way in which an individual purchaser of it would have it examined?—I do not know all the details you are getting into about an individual purchaser, but if hundreds or thousands of applications came in under the Mines and Minerals Act, there would be a definite increase in the staff of the Department, but hundreds of thousands of applications are fantastic.
1285. It would be thousands?—You are not talking in relation to any possibility or probability.
1286. I suggest to you that, if you consider for a moment applications for quarrying marble, mining gold and so on, if each of them were to be examined in the way in which a purchaser of a mining proposition examines it before he pays his money to the seller, the cost of it to the State would make it wholly unremunerative to the State?—If there were to be hundreds of thousands of applications, but that is fantastic.
1287. Have you any recollection of any knowledge you may have had of how statutes of this sort are operated in other countries?—I have my own experience of how the Trade Loans Guarantee Act was operated in this country.
1288. The Trade Loans Guarantee Act is quite a different matter. Does it not hand out money?—It does not. It is a matter of assuming a secondary liability for the payment of money if certain people who put themselves in the primary position fail. There is no handing out of money.
1289. Does that not involve the giving out of money to the lender if the borrower fails to pay it?—Yes.
1290. And you think that is helpful when we are considering speculative propositions like the chance of getting a particular mineral?—I do. I think the chance of having to pay £1,000 when a borrower has failed to pay is, in the scale of things, less a responsible act than handing over nine townlands of a county or eventually 2,000 acres of it.
1291. Was that your line of approach prior to bringing in this Bill? Did you ascertain at that time the methods which the Office of Woods and Forests have?— I believe there is a memorandum about it.
1292. In your Department?—I think so.
1293. Obtained at your instance?—No.
1294. When I say obtained at your instance, I mean while you were Minister? —I think the position was that we were in touch with the Department of Agriculture with regard to these minerals which were reserved in a lease in the old days, and I think that from that Department I got rather casually sent across a memorandum by somebody called Redmond—a textbook on mines and minerals, and in addition and subsidiary to that a rather short memorandum.
1295. An official memorandum from Woods and Forests?—Do you mean the English Department?
1296. The Commissioners of Woods and Forests here in Dublin?—I do not believe I ever saw a thing from the Office of Woods and Forests. Reading these minutes and putting things together, I think that what was served up to me was some paraphrase of that. There is a document referred to here which I do not remember having seen.
1297. Reading the print of Mr. Ferguson’s and Mr. Maguire’s evidence, you see what the structure of it was. There were certain percentages in the scales for mines and minerals that belong to the State, and for mines and minerals in which the State merely had an interest. Is that not the only way in which you can administer these things?—That we are to take a procedure which has no relation whatever to the new ground that was apply that slap-dash—I do not think so.
1298. You think it is a slap-dash method?—No; I think it is a slap-dash thing to apply a series of regulations which did not envisage the prospects of development which there were under the Mines and Minerals Act.
1299. These regulations were imported into your Department by yourself?— Through the Act?
1300. No; before the Act at all. Were you not, in anticipation of the Act, in contact with a number of persons looking for mining concessions?—I never got to the point of discussing a royalty with anybody.
1301. Because the Act was not passed until 22nd December, 1931?—Yes.
1302. But, prior to the passing of the Act, you had numerous applications from prospective miners?—There might have been 30 or 40, I suppose. I do not suppose that there were more than half a dozen serious or regarded as serious.
1303. And with a view to applying your mind to them and applying your mind to the preparation of this statute, you ascertained how mines and minerals were administered in this country formerly under the previous regime and in other countries?—No; it never arose in that way. The point at issue was what minerals were gripped by Article 11 of the Constitution and what were outside it. That is really the matter which caused considerable perturbation in drafting the Act. So far as administration was concerned, the only thing I sanctioned was the issue of a statement to people stating that if they liked to put in applications —we could not deal with them because we had no legislation, but in anticipation of legislation—we would register them in order of priority and then we warned them that when they came to be dealt with prior registration would be looked to but would not govern. The things that would govern would be stability, the finances of the people and, I think, their technical capacity. That is all contained in a letter referred to here. It was a very sound procedure.
1304. Your statute was passed on 22nd December, 1931. I presume that you had considered, prior to that, the methods adopted, as I say, in this country formerly under the previous régime and in other countries, in respect of the granting of leases?—You mean on such matters as royalties?
1305. Yes?—I personally did not.
1306. Perhaps that was for the reason that the Minister cannot possibly handle all the details in his Department?—I think it was not for that reason.
1307. I suppose you would not be offended by the suggestion that there were men in that Department, permanent officials, better qualified to grapple with these details than either you or the present Minister?—Undoubtedly, but in considering these matters I would have always in mind the sobering thought of a Minister that, no matter who is competent, he is responsible.
1308. Perhaps you would like me now to bring you back to the Trade Loans Guarantee Act. In granting these trade loans, used you grant them or was it the permanent officials who enquired into them and made minutes and recommendations?—What I might call the investigation work was done by the officials. Sometimes, even before the investigation had reached what they thought to be a fit stage to enable me to see it, it would come up to me, but, in the main, an amount of investigation was done and many minutes written before the matter came to me. It certainly was my practice that when they were going through I passed my own amateurish and, perhaps, incompetent views on them before they went to any great stage.
1309. Did you do that in the case of each application for a loan?—If there was any other procedure adopted it was contrary to my own well-known practice.
1310. Do you say that under the Trade Loans Acts that when you were Minister you dealt with each individual application for a loan at some of its stages?—With those that were going forward to completion and some possibly that had been recommended, but those that were rejected I never took up. I made a promise to the Dáil to that effect. I took this extra responsibility on myself by way of security. I did not bind myself to accept everything that the Advisory Committee passed. I gave a definite guarantee to the Dáil on questions very definitely and precisely put to me by Deputies that I would not, on my own, resurrect any applications that had been turned down by the Committee, so that if any application went through the preliminary stages and was afterwards turned down by the Advisory Committee I never saw it again, except there was a call for it on complaints made by people about the way they had been treated.
1311. Take the converse case. Take the case of an application for a trade loan when you were Minister and that the Advisory Committee investigated it, passed it and recommended it, that the permanent officials in your Department, whose duty it was to look into the application, did look into it and approve of it and recommend it, did you turn any such applications down?—I do not know that I turned them down, but I think I sent some back for further particulars.
1312. Even though the Advisory Committee and all your permanent officials approved of them and recommended them?—I did.
1313. Even though your permanent officials put up minutes to you that the borrower had satisfied the various statutory conditions entitling him to a loan?
Chairman.—I do not see the relevancy of these questions in relation to our terms of reference.
1314. Deputy Geoghegan.—This matter of the Trade Loan Acts was brought in by analogy by the witness, and at the time I suggested to the witness that it was not relevant. What I am putting to the witness now is, I suggest, relevant in this way, that it is no part of the Minister’s duty, after his permanent officials have certified that the statutory conditions have been fulfilled in an individual case, to turn down an application.
Chairman.—I think you are stating the position more correctly when, in the first instance, you suggested to the witness that the analogy was not relevant, but in the method that you are adopting now I am afraid you are setting out to prove that it was relevant.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I objected to it when the witness introduced it, but he was allowed to repeat it. The witness frequently stated that he wanted to get back to the analogy of the Trade Loans, but I am prepared to drop it at once.
Chairman.—I do not mind allowing the Deputy to proceed, provided he does not pursue it too far.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I am prepared to pass from it now.
1315. Witness.—May I just make one comment? The Deputy referred to statutory conditions which would entitle civil servants to rule in such a way that when I was Minister I could not break in on that rule. I do not know of any such thing, and if there had been such a thing then I would have made the matter the occasion of a report to the Executive Council, that is if I found I was in the position that I had to accept a civil servant’s ruling and then take responsibility before the public for what was being done.
1316. Deputy Geoghegan.—Not “had to accept”.
Witness.—The whole matter is entirely hypothetical because it does not arise under the Trade Loans Acts. There is no such thing as statutory conditions being fulfilled. It is a matter of discretion just as in this case the question of public interest is a matter of discretion.
1317. Deputy Geoghegan.—Were you afraid of creating the atmosphere that you say Mr. Lemass has created?—I had a peculiar view about Deputies coming to the Department. I thought they were entitled to get every access to the Department, but the position got so bad at one time that the officials complained to me that their work was being held up. I issued instructions then and I made a statement on the matter in the House on the Estimate. I said that in future I was not going to allow Deputies to stroll into the offices to get information, but that I wanted an application made. My orders were that on any occasion a Deputy visited the offices I wanted a statement made briefly saying what it was.
1318. You got into direct touch with the political wire. If a Deputy came to the Department and got into touch with him, Mr. Ferguson could not have sworn in your time that a matter like this would have been dealt with by him in all its details? —Mr. Ferguson could not get electrocuted in any political wire. I had to get the shock.
1319. Our terms of reference asks us:
“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.”
Do I understand you to say now that you did not make that charge?—I say that I did not make it. I said on the first and second time that I spoke I had no information that would enable me to make that charge. I said that this concession was given to those members who, in fact, were political associates. I say on full consideration of the whole thing that I regard the granting of the lease as the minor part of the scandal. I do not see any other explanation to fit the facts except political association.
1320. Whatever you may have said before, do I understand you to say that with the information now before you, you make that charge?—There is no other reason that emerges from the evidence given, from the files or anything else that would get those people that lease.
1321. Then you do make it?—I say that I am going to ask people to deduce that. The deduction is that it was political favouritism.
1322. By the Minister personally?— How can you ask me to say that? I say they got it because they were political associates and that they would not have got it so easily had they not been.
1323. I find this in the official Dáil Reports for the 18th June, 1935. I am quoting from col. 550:—
“Mr. Lemass.—That the Government deliberately gave its political friends a property of considerable value.
Mr. McGilligan.—So they did.”
Do you still stick to that, notwithstanding the evidence of Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Maguire that the Minister had nothing to do with it?—Read a little bit further on.
1324. One thing at a time?—But this is all joined together.
1325. Do you want to water it down? Do you stand by that now or do you not? —I stand by it with the addition that I made afterwards, that “Two members of that Party have got a concession of 900 acfres in County Wicklow.”
1326. With great respect to you, what you have just quoted follows an intervention by the Ceann Comhairle with regard to a different matter?—With regard to the same matter.
1327. Do you stand by that or do you not?—I say that two members of the Party have, in fact, got a concession for over 900 acres in the county Wicklow and that it was given because—I see no other reason—they were political associates.
1328. I put it to you for the third and the last time: do you adhere to the statement you made in column 550 of the Official Debates for the 18th June, 1935:—
“Mr. Lemass.—That the Government deliberately gave its political friends a property of considerable value.
Mr. McGilligan.—So they did.”
Do you still stand by that?—They gave the property undoubtedly.
1329. Deliberately?—I think they did.
1330. How are you able to reconcile that with the evidence of Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Maguire which you have read? —That, added to what I afterwards said, is the correct representation of the facts.
1331. If you turn to column 624 of the Parliamentary Debates, June 19th, 1935, you will find this:
“I move to refer back the Vote, mainly because of the scandal that is associated with the granting of this concession. We have heard of ‘Teapot Dome’ scandals elsewhere. Now we have our own. The Minister said that he did not know whether I made a charge at all or not. He changed that by saying that this was a charge against himself and his Department, the conjunction being effective by innuendoes.”
Do you still make that charge?—What charge?
1332. You have it before you. Do you still stand over that sentence?:
“I move to refer back the Vote, mainly because of the scandal that is associated with the granting of this concession. We have heard of ‘Teapot Dome’ scandals elsewhere. Now we have our own.”
Do you stand by that?—I would repeat that statement again.
1333. It is not what you would do. With all the solemnity of an oath-bound witness, do you now repeat it?—Feeling oath-bound, I now say that Vote should have been referred back “because of the scandal that is associated with the granting of the concession. We have heard of ‘Teapot Dome’ scandals elsewhere. Now we have our own.”
1334. To whom do you impute the scandal? Is it to the Minister personally or to his officials?—To the Minister.
1335. And you are able to reconcile that with the evidence of Mr. Ferguson, Mr. Maguire, Mr. Clarke and other witnesses, that the Minister was not consulted with regard to it, and had no personal contact with it?—That is my preface to the whole thing. You are harping entirely on the granting.
1336. I am giving your words?—But you are putting in an interpretation.
1337. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.— Surely the witness should be allowed to explain.
Witness.—Remember, I was asked by the Minister to please put my allegation or charge precisely, and I said, as I have always said—and this is the greatest part of the scandal—that it was after the lease was granted he found out what these people proposed to do; that when he knew what was intended he did not tell these people he would not allow it. That is the big scandal.
1338. Deputy Geoghegan.—Did not tell them what?—That he would not allow a sub-lease to be granted. He did not tell them he would not allow a public company to be floated for what these people themselves represented as a dud proposal.
1339. Has he sanctioned the flotation of a public company?—The excuse is that he has not been formally asked.
1340. Has he sanctioned it?—I never said he had. I said he could tell these people that he would refuse to allow it. I think he should have done that the moment he heard what was done. That is the charge I tried to get put in. That is the charge I asked to have put in for this Committee to consider. That is the charge I put in in my amendment to the reference to this Committee. It was entirely with regard to that.
1341. Is the charge against the Minister now that he did not deliver a lecture to these people? You are not suggesting that the Minister did anything improper?—I say definitely, once it was revealed to the Minister that public property was being trafficked in this scandalous way, he should say: “Very good, you are going on the wrong line and I will not allow that.”
1342. What was the line?—Allowing a mining unit to prospect in that area to be transferred to people having no connection with it.
1343. By what document?—By a document which was before him for sanction. I believe that after he admitted sanction was not required.
1344. Is it required?—That is a legal point. He has legal advice, and I understand that it is not.
1345. If not, what could the Minister do?—He could have voided the lease.
1346. Under what condition?—Under four.
1347. Give one?—If the money was not paid forthwith. Surely there had to be a solicitor’s letter ordered, but not sent out, for the payment of the £5 rent?
1348. Who ordered the solicitor’s letter to be sent out?—The Department.
1349. That is a queer sort of political favouritism, to get a solicitor’s letter sent to friends?—But not sent out. To have it on the file is one thing, but to push it into the hands of men is another. There is across it, I understand, the words: “Not to issue if the money is paid.” Why was it got in, apparently after there were two or three applications?
1350. Is this a new charge, that there is a faked document on the file?—No. There was another way of getting in the money, and I presume there was personal approach to these people, that it would be a scandal if this absurd sum of £5 for the townlands in County Wicklow was not paid.
1351. What is the £5 for?—The dead rent.
1352. Up to what date?—I am gathering this from the files, that it was to be paid on execution by the parties.
1353. I gather from the files that this was not on your mind at that time?—I think no one expected that these two people getting this valuable concession, would get instead a solicitor’s letter.
1354. You are quite sure that they had to be written to by the solicitor for the rent?—I read from the paper that it had not been paid. It was due about November and was received about February or March. Letters were being issued and appeals for it made by the Chief State Solicitor’s Department.
1355. By some one in the Chief State Solicitor’s Department?—Yes.
1356. You are satisfied on that?—Yes.
1357. No possibility of error at all?— Unless the error is in the Department.
1358. Probably some more evidence will be heard about that. Any lease granted pursuant to this option—in the document of the 1st November, 1934 —would have to be laid on the Tables of the two Houses, and the lease granted for the remainder of the 99 years?—Any lease for more than two years.
1359. No such lease has been granted yet?—I gather not.
1360. And if there were any of those omissions or delinquencies that trouble you so much, they can all be raised in the Dáil?—After the event.
1361. Before it became effective?—Oh no.
1362. Would not the Dáil have an annulling power?—Possibly.
1363. Is there any doubt?—Well, supposing £80,000 had been scooped in from the public, what could the Dáil do about it? It would be the question of the getting in of public money.
1364. And you think in regard to these people, whom you describe as company promoters from London, that if they got in subscriptions, that would influence the Dáil in regard to its action?—Whether it would influence the Dáil or not, it was done. The money was collected.
1365. Well, of course, your difficulty about that is, first of all, that it has not been done?—It was only proposed to be done.
1366. No sanction was given for it?— No. I gather that there was no formal application.
1367. So that your fears or, let us say, your apprehensions are greater——
Witness.—You do not give me time to answer your questions.
Chairman.—I suggest, Deputy, that you should give the witness more time to reply to a question.
1368. Deputy Geoghegan.—I think, Sir, that the witness, apparently, has answered to his own satisfaction.
Witness.—I do not generally speak merely for the satisfaction of other people.
1369. Deputy Geoghegan.—Perhaps you would like to be relieved of the necessity for answering?—If you bring me back to the point, perhaps I shall be able to answer.
1370. What is it that you want to say? You complain that I have stopped you from saying what you want to say?—And you have achieved your object in putting me off what I wanted to say.
1371. I have?—Yes.
1372. Very well, I shall take care not to do so—great care. Well, in this same page 624, on the 19th of June, 1935, you say:—
“There is a great abscess and a great deal of matter to be let out of this particular thing. If the Minister wants me to formulate charges I shall do so immediately. I say that the Minister did handle State property in this way: that he gave what the concessionaires believe to be a valuable State property—worth, as they say, £17,000.000—that he gave that definitely, clearly and admittedly to two political friends of his, and that he gave it under conditions of secrecy.”
Do you adhere to that statement, that the Minister gave this lease of the 1st November, 1934, under conditions of secrecy?—It is acknowledged.
1373. What?—It is acknowledged.
1374. It is acknowledged?—That it was given.
1375. By whom?—By the lease itself.
1376. Did not every official in the Department know it?—Oh, now, do you think that is the secrecy I was talking of? Who is to know when any piece of State property is being given away? Is it not the public, the owners of it?
1377. But do you not provide by sub-section (2) of Section 11 that a document of this sort is put in a different category?—Yes, but it can be done, and I say that a prudent man would see that that was done.
1378. Can you refer me to any authority that would justify or authorise the laying of that on the Table of the House, for instance?—I suggest that the method by which a prudent man could have acted would have been to make it two years and a day.
1379. Is not that what your sub-section says he is not to do-that it is not to exceed two years? Do you not tie him down?—I do not.
1380. Did not the Legislature tie him down under the statute passed during your régime in 1931, that if the lease does not exceed two years it is not to be published?—Two years and a day would mean there would have to be publication.
1381. Your point is that he gave the wrong sort of lease?—I say that a prudent man would have seen that, when members of the Oireachtas were going to be given concessions, the public should know.
1382. You put nothing like that in your Act?—I expected prudence on the part of the people administering the Act.
1383. You would not have given any Senator or any Deputy a lease under sub-section (2) of Section 11?—No, or, assuming that I did, I would have made a statement about it. There are other ways of making it known.
1384. You would? Well, if that is so, surely you would put a provision of that sort in your Act?—One does not try to think out every hypothetical case and endeavour to cover it in the terms of an Act.
1385. So you are not content with the Department of Industry and Commerce having carried on according to law; you must import something else into it?—I would expect prudence, undoubtedly.
1386. Prudence?—Yes, undoubtedly.
1387. You do not say they were acting illegally?—I admit that what was done was legal, but it was imprudent.
1388. I see. Was it imprudent for Mr. Ferguson not to put a minute on the file suggesting publication of this?—It is not the duty of an official to do so. It would rather be an impertinence for an official to suggest it to the Minister.
1389. It would be an impertinence?— Yes.
1390. Or would it be an impertinence to make a verbal suggestion?—That is another thing altogether. Being in association with the Minister he might be in a position to make such a suggestion, but he has not the same knowledge or the political responsibility that a politician has.
1391. If he did not advert to it, with his experience, he was rather remiss?— A secretary or civil servant lives in a different world, from the point of view of responsibility, from a public man.
1392. And you would not attribute the consciousness of that sort of prudence and decency to him?—Again, you are trying to attribute terms such as decency and prudence as if they were synonymous. They are not synonymous.
1393. Well, then, let us say “or”— prudent or decent?—I think that Mr. Ferguson is a decent man and a prudent man. I am sure of it. But I think there is a difference between him and the Minister. He has not the same responsibility as the Minister.
1394. And you do not think there was any duty on his part to call the Minister’s attention to the desirability or undesirability of doing something before it was done?—He is not a politician.
1395. Well, then you say on page 625:—
“I suggest that this is an important matter that we should discuss here openly and freely: the handing over of certain State property, which the concessionaires believed to have great value, to two members of the same political group as that to which the Government belong, and the handing of it over under conditions of secrecy. I suggest a far more scandalous matter is that when the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who had handed over that lease, discovered that these people were likely to make a big sum of money on it, that he did not act under the power given him in the lease and void the whole thing.”
There is nothing in this lease that I can see that would enable the Minister to void it, because the lessees negotiated with company, promoters, or call them what you like?—No, but there are other things he could have fastened on to, such as that no returns were made, the men apparently not being employed, and the rent not paid. These were three good reasons.
1396. Do not you think that you are misrepresenting the Minister gravely to the public when you say:
“I suggest a far more scandalous matter is that when the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who handed over that lease, discovered that these people were likely to make a big sum of money on it, that he did not act under the power given him in the lease and void the whole thing”?
Does not that clearly represent to the public that, by reason of these negotiations with this group of people—Heiser, or whoever it was—he had power to void it? Is not that the fair meaning of it?—It could be taken as its meaning, but I do not think it is the fair meaning.
1397. Is it not the only meaning?—No. I suggest that a person should look at the lease and see what power the Minister had, and it would then be seen that he could void it under the other three reasons I mentioned—no returns made, men not being employed, and the rent not paid.
1398. A member of the public reading the speech has not the lease before him to refer back to?—I referred him to it and gave the reasons.
1399. But is not that sentence a gross misrepresentation—Taken from its context. it might be said to be a misrepresentation, but not in its context.
1400. Well, take it in connection with anything else—either the next paragraph or the preceding paragraph—is it not false? I do not say intentionally false, but is it not false? Is it false to say that the Minister has power to void the lease?—I think not.
1401. Is it not false to suggest that when he discovered that these people, Comyn and Briscoe, were making an arrangement with other persons that he should have exercised his power and voided the lease? Is it not a false suggestion that by reason of having entered into this lease, he had the power to void the lease?—He had power simply to say: “I will not do it,” and it was all over.
1402. To void the lease?—The sub-lease.
1403. Where is the sub-lease?—The sub-lease that has been referred to.
1404. Will you give me the date of this document you are referring to?—I think it is the 15th March, 1935, some date in March.
1405. But the Minister has not given any sanction to that?—He could have said: “I have inquired into it and I will never sanction that.”
1406. If instead of saying that, in fact he has not sanctioned it, what are you complaining of?—That he has not said: “I will refuse to sanction it.” I have said that about five times in the Dáil. I did refer in the Dáil to the reasons for voiding the lease later on. I was asked what they were and I said: “I will refer to some of them.”
1407. If you say so, Mr. McGilligan, let it pass; but I might remind you that neither next nor near the sentence or the column to which I refer. is there anything that would set it right?—Turn to page 634.
1408. The Minister said: “I have no power to void except on application”; and Mr. McGilligan replied: “One of the obligations was that work should be started in three months on a particular scale and continued afterwards. Is there not ground for voiding it?” Eight pages further on you explain that?—I did explain it there and further.
1409. You consider that a fair way of representing it?—I do indeed. I think the page taken by itself will stand any amount of criticism.
1410. I am putting the witness a few questions on the letter to which he has referred, that is the letter of the 25th April, 1935?—That is the letter I made application this morning to be allowed to see in the full.
Deputy Geoghegan.—It is on file T.I.M. 195/119.
Chairman.—Is the Deputy going to quote the letter?
Deputy Geoghegan.—It is on one of the quotable files. It is the letter of the 25th April which is referred to on page 63. You dealt with it at considerable length in your opening statement?—I dealt with a phrase of it. I did ask later to see that letter but I have not seen it yet.
Chairman.—Are you going to quote that letter?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I suggest it should be handed to the witness.
Chairman.—I take it you want a copy of this letter put into the hands of the Deputy?
1411. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Would you like to have the letter in your hands?—I was going to look into it this morning to see if there was any other tit-bit as well as this bit in it.
1412. Deputy Geoghegan.—You can take it in your hand and look through it. It bears date you will observe the 25th April, 1935. That is very nearly a year after the granting of the lease. Do you observe that?—The lease was granted in November. It is a good deal less than a year.
1413. I should have said half a year?— It is less than half a year, five months.
1414. Five months afterwards. Five months or five days afterwards, it is obvious that that could not have any bearing on the granting of the lease?— Quite clear except by reaction.
1415. Well, for this reaction, this working backwards of five months, we shall read it. It is addressed to the Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and states:
“Dear Sir,—With reference to the application for mining lease or take note in respect of various townlands in the County of Wicklow in the watershed of Avoca, Aughrim, Ow, Mcreddin and Goldmine rivers, we beg to state as follows:—
“When we got a lease from the Minister for the three townlands at the junction of the Lyre and Goldmine rivers and along their banks we made a thorough investigation of their mineral deposits and as a result we discovered that there is in these three townlands a very big deposit of auriferous gravel.”
Do you quarrel or have you any observation to make on that paragraph?— That these two men made a thorough investigation of the mining deposits and discovered a very big deposit of auriferous gravel?
1416. So far as the Minister is concerned, if you keep before your mind the Minister, there is no observation to make?—Nothing except that he accepts it.
1417. He accepts it! How does he accept it?—Very good, he gets it.
1418. How can he prevent himself getting it? How on earth could the Minister prevent himself receiving it?— By not objecting to receive it. He did not even take care to find out how it was discovered.
Deputy Geoghegan.—The letter goes on:
“Some time ago a mining engineer— a Mr. Heiser who was represented to us as a gentleman of great experience —made us an offer on behalf of a Company called Risberget and after certain modifications in the offer we accepted it and we now beg to send you copy of the said Agreement comprised in said offer and acceptance.
“This Agreement provides that Risberget should form a Company with the minimum capital of £80,000 for the working of these deposits.”
1419. Am I right in thinking that when you were in office this Risberget Company was negotiating or corresponding with you?—I do not recognise it under that name. Mr. Heiser was.
1420. So that this is nothing new. Mr. Heiser is one of your own men, so to speak?—He is not one of my own men. I had no touch with Mr. Heiser. He is presumably the man whom the present Minister referred to as having got temporarily embarrassed in his finances.
1421. He was corresponding with you anyhow—with you through your office?— He was corresponding with the Department with regard to the matter of registering priority.
1422. While you were Minister?—Yes, and the order I gave was that it was not priority alone that should be taken into consideration.
1423. At any rate, he is not a Lemass discovery; he is a McGilligan discovery?— He is not. He is undiscovered.
1424. He has been maturing since away back in 1930 or 1931?—But apparently he was uncorked in the meantime, and went bad according to the present Minister.
1425. Apparently he went very bad and would not proceed with the negotiations opened with you?—That is not the badness I am referring to. The Minister said he was temporarily embarrassed in his finances. He now reappears as the founder of an £80,000 company. I wonder what the reactions of that were.
1426. You blame Mr. Lemass for this?— For what?
1427. What is the suggestion you are making now?—I blame him for not saying in answer to that letter what he said in the Dáil:—
“This man apparently got temporarily embarrassed in his finances; how do I know that he is on a pedestal again?”
Deputy Geoghegan.—The letter continues:—
“Mr. Heiser brought the agreement to London and returned last week with a mining engineer named Mr. Dunne, who was represented to us by Mr. Heiser as a gentleman who had been sent over at a fee of 1,000 guineas to examine the deposits.
“On Friday last Mr. Heiser, Mr. Dunne and Mr. Noonan went down to the leasehold and panned some gravel; we arrived later in the day and in an interview between Mr. Heiser, Mr. Noonan, Mr. Breen, Mr. Seán Hayes and ourselves, Mr. Heiser requested us to alter the agreement by making it appear that he was acting not for Risberget, but for some other combination which he named the Crusade Prospectors, and he said that he had not intended to sign as Managing Director of Risberget. We refused to allow any alteration of the agreement.”
1428. Is that the Crusade Prospectors that you were referring to?—I am just wondering.
1429. Just look at it now. An old friend?—I never met that old friend.
1430. Apparently Mr. Heiser was in the Crusade Prospectors in 1930. You see there that Mr. Heiser, who was in the Crusade Prospectors in 1930, wanted to alter his signature as a signature according to this on behalf of the Crusade Prospectors instead of the signature, as it appeared to be, on behalf of Risberget Limited.
1431. Who are those Crusade Prospectors?—I see it stated here in the Dáil that they were the Right Honourable Harry Samuels, Sir H. Brittain, Sir Basil Clarke, Sir Basil MacFarlane and others. That is all I know.
1432. You appear to have been in touch with this Mr. Norman and got some information from him?—It was Mr. Norman, Senior I was in touch with.
1433. From whom else besides Mr. Norman did you get information?—That is a matter on which I should like to state a point of view.
1434. First of all, at the moment anyhow, you are not answering the question? —I am not answering the question; I am going to say this, that I believe a public man has the right to use his information and is obliged to see that those means are not abused. If people give me information in evidence I am bound to examine it and verify it, but I am also bound, or, at least, I have the right as a public man, to hold those sources of information open to me. I am ready to make this promise—which is far beyond what was done at the time of Hailsham and Mulcahy, which has been referred to—that if I find anybody misled me I will expose him and give his name, but so far the only thing I received from any person (I am not giving the name) was three documents. Everything found in those documents is my own. They are here in evidence and have been proved to be correct when compared with the documents I speak of. Any information I got, therefore, has been proved to be correct. Any deduction made from those documents is a deduction of my own, and I am responsible for it. I am not in the habit of throwing out information in the Dáil without verifying the source and seeing that the documents are correct. I took steps to see that they were.
1435. As a verification of the source, would you tell the Committee who that person is?—I will not.
1436. You will not? You will be the judge of his trustworthiness?—The only thing I got from that man was the three documents put in my hands. I have compared those and know that they are exact copies. I find myself in a peculiar situation; being the person who raised this matter in the Dáil I was sort of forbidden the right to sit in this Committee. I was introduced to those documents by a man who is a member of the Committee, though I am not allowed to sit on it.
1437. Not merely now but when you were here on Wednesday, as I understood you, you made suggestions that some member or members of this Committee are in some way connected with this matter. On the last day you were here you stated that Mr. Harrison, the solicitor who is acting for one of those groups, was actually in touch with a member or members of the Committee. Did you say that?—Yes. I was informed that Mr. Harrison came over here; that he arrived by air; that he was driven to this House by Deputy Briscoe; that he had a consultation which lasted until very early in the morning, at which were present certainly Deputy Briscoe and two or three members of this Committee.
1438. Have you any objection to naming the members of the Committee?—I heard you were there.
1439. It may or may not surprise you that you hear me assure the Committee I have never seen Mr. Harrison, never spoken to Mr. Harrison, never had anything to do with Mr. Harrison, and never saw or heard of him in my life?—I would accept that immediately.
1440. That is rather a surprise. Who are the other members of the Committee? —There were named to me at least three of you who are sitting here. You are one of them.
1441. Who are the others?—I think Deputy Moore was mentioned.
1442. Who is the other?—That I cannot say.
1443. Do you mean by “cannot say” that you cannot remember?—I did not pay much attention to the particular information that was given to me.
1444. When you say “I cannot say” it is not that you are unwilling to say, but that you are unable to recall?—Exactly. It is not that I would have any hesitation in stating the name if I knew it.
1445. Of course, you realise that that is a very serious thing. Do you agree that that is a rather serious matter?—I am not so sure, seeing the way in which the Committee is constituted, whether I would regard it as serious or not. The way in which it is constituted makes it clear, I think, that there are sides to it. It is not a jury. It is in the position of a sort of counsel for a particular individual. I may say that when I read the account of what happened here in my absence, while I was on holidays, it looked as if there were going to be an application for a direction because I was not here. That is what is done by counsel for a man. Seeing the position of the Committee, the way in which it went through the Dáil and the precedents that were broken, I do not think I should be surprised to find that there were people in touch with the Committee. I think it is inevitable that there would be people in touch with members of the Committee from time to time, but that even a man should visit and sit in a room with two or three members of the Committee would not surprise me.
Deputy Traynor.—Might I deny, on my own behalf anyhow, as emphatically as Deputy Geoghegan, that I was present. I want to make that clear.
1446. Chairman.—Might I ask if this interview was supposed to have taken place since the setting up of the Committee or prior to the setting up of the Committee?
Witness.—It would be easy to determine that because the advent of this gentleman to Ireland was published in the papers; his method of coming I do not think was, but that he was here was published. It is in my mind that it was after the establishment of the Committee, but whether after the nomination of the personnel of the Committee I cannot say. I think it was.
1447. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—That was what was in your mind when you made that statement?—Yes.
1448. Deputy Geoghegan.—I now ask you for the name of the person who stated that I saw or was in touch with him in any way?—Nobody stated that precisely. The statement made to me was that Mr. Harrison came along here, was piloted through this House by Deputy Briscoe, that he was brought into a certain part of this building and that there emerged from that——
1449. Emerged from where?—From the curved gallery in this building—it is a place where there are a number of Minister’s rooms; you may not have heard of it—that there emerged from that, round about the same hour, this gentleman Harrison, the Deputy whom I have referred to, and a couple of members of the Committee. It might have been the completest coincidence that about 1 o’clock in the morning they all came out together.
1450. It is not a matter of coincidence. You have made a very definite statement I want to know the person who suggested that, directly or indirectly, by speaking, directly or otherwise, that I was in touch with Mr. Harrison or Mr. Harrison with me. I want the name of that person?—I do not propose to give the name of the person who repeated that.
1451. Deputy Geoghegan.—I press for the name of the person. I think it affects the dignity of the Committee and, through the Committee, I conceive it affects the dignity of the House. I ask you, Sir, to direct the witness to answer it. There are other Deputies who have been named, but I confine myself to myself. The other Deputies are able to deal with themselves.
1452. Deputy Moore.—I should like to have the verbatim copy of the remarks of Deputy McGilligan when he started to give evidence the other day because I think there was no such qualifying phrase as “according to my information.” I think he was quite definite that members of the Committee had been in touch with Mr. Harrison. There was no doubt at all about it.
Witness.—I think I prefaced that remark with “I understand”.
Deputy Geoghegan.—It is really a thing which shakes the confidence of the public.
1453. Deputy Moore.—I have here now the report of the evidence. The number of the statement is 1148. Deputy McGilligan speaking said:
“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—”
At that stage, Deputy McGilligan was interrupted by the Chairman who said: “I do not know anything about that.” There is no qualifying phrase there— “Mr. Harrison has been in this country and has been in touch with witnesses.”
1454. Deputy Geoghegan.—“With witnesses”—that is a different matter. Speaking from recollection, I certainly thought that you did state or, by your words, suggested clearly that he was in touch with members of the Committee.
Witness.—If that is all that is in that, that is an incomplete report of what I said.
1455. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I think Deputy McGilligan has accepted that he did make that statement.
Witness.—If the shorthand notetaker will look up his notes I think it will be found that is not merely an incomplete but an inaccurate statement. I did not say “I could gather information by going from one member of the Committee to another.” What I did say was that I could get information by going to a member of the Committee, and I think I added the phrase: “It would probably be thought undesirable.” I remember saying that.
1456. Deputy Geoghegan.—I agree with your recollection in that. You stated that you could get the files by going to a member of the Committee, or the evidence, if it were denied to you.
Witness.—I then went on to say that I wanted to draw attention in that connection to what had been reported to me about Mr. Harrison, that he had been here. I did say that about witnesses, undoubtedly. The sentence is broken off here in the report and probably the break means that the reporter did not catch what I said. I certainly stated here that I was informed—I do believe I put that phrase in front of it—that Mr. Harrison had been in touch at the same time with members of the Committee and witnesses.
Deputy Geoghegan.—That appeared in the newspapers—somewhat like that statement now.
Deputy Moore.—For the benefit of the reporters, I had better say that I have no knowledge whatever of Mr. Harrison, that I never laid eyes on him and that I cannot recall having been here at 1 o’clock in the morning for a very long time. I do not think I was at any meeting in a Minister’s room at a late hour at night; in fact, I can swear I was not during the past Session. The statement, therefore, so far as I am concerned, at all events, has no foundation.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I have been in a Minister’s room in Leinster House during the last Session of the Dáil later than midnight. Of course, that is a thing I am perfectly entitled to do; but it adds to the horror of a man’s public work and duties if that is all the foundation there is for it. I ask you, Sir, to direct the witness to state the name of his informant—the person who gave him that information.
Chairman.—I think I will give a ruling on that at a later stage.
1457. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—That was a volunteered statement by you; it was not made in answer to any question by any member of the Committee?
Witness.—It was a statement made by me in order to justify my action, if I thought fit to take it, in going to a member of the Committee for information as to what had happened in case certain files were refused to me.
1458. It was a volunteered statement by you, not a question evoked by examination or anything like that; no one asked you whether any member of the Committee to your knowledge——? —Nobody asked me.
1459. Deputy Geoghegan.—If I might revert to the letter now, which went on:—
“Mr. Heiser thereupon proposed to us that we should join with him in a syndicate for the purpose of acquiring leasehold interest in various mining areas. We refused to consider this proposition. Mr. Heiser then requested us to point out where the deposits of gold were to be found in our leasehold property. We went with him, Mr. Dunne, Mr. Noonan, Mr. Breen, and Mr. Hayes to the junction of the Lyre and Goldmine Rivers and there, at points chosen by Mr. Dunne, pans of gravel were taken and washed. In some of the pans was found five or six pieces of gold. This panning showed clearly that gold can be worked in the particular area at a profit, and we expect the results will be such that mining leases will be applied for in other areas, not so much for the purpose of working the deposits, as for getting money from the public through the formation of companies.”
That, of course, as a statement, is a statement that, assuming that certain townlands of the area in Wicklow provided this profitable ore—that kind of mining—there would be a likelihood of concessions being applied for in adjoining areas?—And more than that.
1460. And that the proof of the particular area would be used for the purposes of wild cat schemes and companies being promoted in other areas?—In that area and other areas.
1461. If we assume that that particular area is proved what would you say?—I would not assume it is proved.
1462. I said “if we assume.” Do not be so anxious to disagree with me when we might be at one. We are at one on this?—No.
1463. We are at one on this if any area you care to name—I am suggesting a townland—and that if a particular townland is proved to contain ore from which gold can be profitably taken it is likely that the general townlands will be exploited?—And more than likely that the particular townland itself would be enhanced greatly in value.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Do you mean by wild cat company promoters?—There is nothing to prevent them working in that area.
1464. Deputy Geoghegan.—I read on:—
“It was indeed suggested to us that working for gold at the junction of the Lyre and Goldmine rivers would make every other area in the district saleable.”
That of course was manifestly true?
“When we refused to be parties to the alteration of our agreement and showed to those mining engineers where gold was to be found in quantity we anticipated that applications would be made for mining leases in the neighbourhood, and our purpose in making this application is to prospect the area with the object of working it, and to deal fairly with Risberget and the Company, which is to put a capital of £80,000 into the working of gold in the district?”
Witness.—That would be a magnificent letter if it had not come from the people who were to gain a lot.
1465. But surely it works the opposite way. They had got their land five months earlier?—How does it work the other way, if Risberget are going to float an £80,000 company of which 48,000 shares are to go to the concessionaires.
1466. You already made it perfectly clear when you said there was no condition in the lease of November, 1934, about the promotion of a company or anything like that. Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn were masters in the situation within that year?—And much good it would do them unless Risberget came along and offered to float a company of £80,000.
1467. That seems to have occurred to them too?—I think so; they put in notice of the sub-lease. It is an ingenious letter; it certainly is not putting any obstacle in the way.
1468. How do you smell badness in that? —Hold your sense of smell until you get to the last paragraph.
1469. I am going to bring in every line.
“Mr. Dunne actually stated to us that the three townlands, together with the other six of our original application, should be of sufficient size to give the working for gold a proper test. We, therefore, while we are applying for other areas, want to make it clear that the favourable consideration of our present application for a lease as distinct from a licence to prospect should depend upon our making a success of the leasehold which we had already obtained.”
1470. That is clear?—To them, yes.
1471. Is it not fair to everybody to see that the right to exercise an option is not jeopardised in other townlands under this option?—That is not there.
1472. What do you say the meaning is? They say:—
“We, therefore, while we are applying for other areas want to make it clear that the favourable consideration of our present application for a lease as distinct from a licence to prospect should depend upon our making a success of the leasehold we have already obtained.”
That is the area within the lease of November, 1934. Is not that the plain meaning? They pointed out that their success depended upon their right to develop that area?—I do not assume that.
1473. Do not assume anything as to the meaning of the document before you. What do you say it means?—That paragraph means that our three townlands with the other six we applied for, and the other places that will give us a test—we have got three townlands—we assume the other will be a success, and the only way of a test coming would be in the flotation of a public company.
1474. That meaning is cribbed?—Not as cribbed as you would put it.
1475. Now I read on:—
“You will notice that in our agreement every operative clause makes provision for the sanction of the Minister to be obtained before any step is taken; our primary object being the protection of the people who might be asked to subscribe in this country and to secure that the deposits will be worked rather than used for the purposes of exploitation. The reason we said in our agreement, ‘a licence for their company is to be obtained from the Minister,’ is because we felt this speculative class of venture should rather be subscribed for abroad than by our own people.”
Witness.—That smells badly.
1476. Deputy Geoghegan.—Now you have got the whole letter?—Yes, and it has a very bad smell.
1477. Which of the charges do you relate that bad smell to? (a), (b) or (c)?*—I made several charges. I said the whole time that, when the Minister found that traffic going on and did not give any hint that he was going to stop it, even after he gets a letter saying that this was so speculative—and that is a nice way of putting it—this was so speculative that no Free State citizen should be allowed to get into it.
1478. That is the way you smell out that letter? You do not think that is a laudable letter?—I do not, indeed. Of course it is laudable from the angle of people who wanted to protect themselves, but not from the angle of people who wanted to have themselves on the file as uttering a word of warning in case a company was afterwards floated.
1479. So that is a pocket document?—I do not understand what you mean by that.
1480. You do not understand “a pocket document?”—I thought pocket meant real.
1481. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Would the Deputy kindly explain to those not learned in the profession what a pocket document means?
1482. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I presume a pocket document is a document you keep in your pocket. Is that so?
Witness.—It is a document you keep in your pocket until the occasion arises.
1483. Deputy Geoghegan.—Exactly. Of course Deputy Flinn or Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney never heard of it?—Of course they have not the same touch of humanity that you and I have.
1484. Deputy Dowdall.—Mr. McGilligan made a statement about hawking the concession over in London. I presume that hawking means selling or endeavouring to sell?—Peddling, yes.
1485. It may be peddling or huckstering, but still anybody who buys or gets anything, it is quite reasonable that they would expect to dispose of it?—That is so.
1486. So that those people, Messrs. Comyn and Briscoe, no matter how they got hold of this concession, so far as the hawking of it around London was concerned, they were perfectly entitled to do that in the ordinary way of business— that was a perfectly legitimate thing to do?—I think it is legitimate for them to do it once they get the lease, but I doubt very much if it was the intention of those who gave them the lease. When you ask people who are applying for a lease what is their technical capacity and their financial resources you are expecting them to carry out the undertaking themselves. I do not think anybody here would tolerate an open application made to the Dáil that two members of the Oireachtas should get a concession and, without risking any money of their own —I assert that is substantially the case— go across and sell it to a foreign group on the basis that they should be comfortably placed on the list of dividend drawers.
1487. Quite so, but still there is nothing wrong about them doing what they can when they find they are not able to carry it out by means of their own—there is nothing wrong in those people endeavouring to get as much as they can for their concession?—There is nothing wrong in the sense that they cannot be brought up on any charge that can be sustained in the Courts, but it is a very undesirable thing. As members of the Dáil we would be open to a great deal of deserved odium if it was thought that we used our positions in the Dáil to get concession of this type and not embark upon the undertaking with our own money and not utilise our own skill but simply clear off to the other side and endeavour to induce an offer. We ought to realise our obligations in the Dáil not to put ourselves in the position of obtaining a concession upon which we are not prepared to expend anything and at the same time seek to gain dividends. It may not be illegal, but it certainly is not desirable.
1488. Deputy Dowdall.—Before we go away from the matter of Deputy Geoghegan’s definite denial of anything in connection with Mr. Harrison, I wish to make as definite a statement on my own behalf. I have no knowledge of Mr. Harrison and I had no meeting of any kind with him. I only heard of him in connection with what Mr. McGilligan stated.
1489. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—The two names you have mentioned of those members of the Committee who were in contact with Mr. Harrison were those of Deputy Moore and Deputy Geoghegan. There was a third name. Was it my name? —I could not say. I paid very little attention to the statement made. The only way it affected my mind was that I felt the Committee in its origin has not been under the best traditions of the House. I do not think it was a terribly serious thing that people should be meeting in that way. It was definitely a sort of two-sided business.
1490. So far as you are not in a position to say it was not my name, you leave it open to the possibility that it was my name?—It may or may not have been.
1491. I desire to make exactly the same statement as was made by Deputy Dowdall and Deputy Geoghegan, that I have no knowledge of and had no contact with of any sort, kind or description—I never have had—with Mr. Harrison. I never heard his name until I heard it in this Committee. I also say that I think it is necessary that there shall be divulged to this Committee, in so far as this involves the name of everybody on the Committee, the name of the informant in this particular case?—I am in the position in regard to that that the President was in in regard to the statement he made in the Dáil.
1492. You stated, Mr. McGilligan, that two Deputies of the Dáil had got it for nothing and you varied that “on terms not very onerous” in relation to this prospecting lease. You are aware from the minutes of previous meetings which you have read that it has been sworn to by witnesses that in this particular case every transaction was as was customary in relation to these cases?—I am not aware that there was any model on which relationship could be based.
1493. It has been sworn to by Mr. Ferguson, among others, that there was nothing done in relation to this particular lease which was in any way exceptional. You are aware of that?—I am and I want to query that. They set out to get a lease of three townlands and they arranged to employ four men. They did not employ four men. They were to make returns. They did not. They were to pay a certain rent. They only did it when they were threatened with a solicitor’s letter. I do not call that normal.
1494. Then the statement made to the contrary by Mr. Ferguson is false?—I suggest it is not my idea of normality.
1495. A question was put with the most precise care to Mr. Ferguson and now you say his statement that there was nothing abnormal, nothing irregular, nothing out of the common in relation to this thing—that that statement made by Mr. Ferguson is false?—I do not say that, but if that is regarded as normality then the Department is in a shocking state. It may be normal, but it is not ordinary.
1496. In other words, when Mr. Ferguson states that in this particular case certain action was taken which was normal he was admitting that his Department was in a shocking state?— I think the deduction to be made from it by any person thinking normally is that it was shocking. I was shocked at finding that while they had agreed to keep four able-bodied men constantly employed at this work for months they did nothing. If that is the normal way of carrying out an agreement then very well.
1497. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—If the statement made by Mr. Ferguson is correct then you say that the Department is in a shocking state?—I refuse to be made say that Mr. Ferguson has told an untruth. You can take any alternative you like.
1498. Now there is a letter which has been read here in relation to the agreement which was entered into between the Messrs. Heiser group and Messrs. Comyn and Briscoe. It is common ground that no flotation of that company has taken place. Is not that so?—It is.
1499. It is common ground that until the flotation is successful no advantage can accrue to Messrs. Briscoe and Comyn from the flotation of that company?— None that I know of.
1500. Your reading of that letter as far as I understood you was that they were warning the Minister that this was a “dud” group and a “dud” proposition?—I paraphrased that last paragraph.
1501. And that in view of the fact that they apparently thought it was a dud proposition and that they so informed the Minister they were warning the Minister that he should take such action in relation to that company when it came to flotation that no national would subscribe? —Yes. They said that no national would subscribe.
1502. Assuming for a moment that the Minister did what you suggest he should do, at what time should he do it?—At the very moment he heard that they had trafficked with such advantages as these in State property and especially when they warned him that that was a concern which should be subscribed to only by foreigners.
1503. But up to the present no money has been put in or subscribed to that company out of which Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe will get a penny piece?—And I hope that through my action in the Dáil none will.
1504. We will soon come to that. What would be the effect on the flotation of that company in England out of which Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn were to get £12,000 if the Minister for Industry and Commerce intimated to the public that it was a dud company and that no national of the Saorstát would subscribe to it?—The company would naturally fail if——
1505. One moment. I am asking you what would be the effect of the Minister doing that and your answer is that the company would fail?—Yes, the result would be a failure, but you must remember that we had an industry recently started in this country and the Minister stated that if diseased food came out of it, it would not be sent to the Irish people. The foreigner only was to get the bad effects.
1506. The normal effect of the announcement by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in relation to the company that was in process of formation was that in his opinion and in the opinion of others whom he had consulted, the company was a dud company and that no Saorstát national should enter into it— the normal effect of that announcement would be to create a failure of the company-would it not?—If it were approached in that way, yes.
1507. And the effect of the letter of Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn was to tell the Minister that some action of that kind should be taken—is not that so? —Having said in the letter that they wanted to deal fairly with the company, who were putting up a capital of £80,000, then they said to the Minister: “You can spike this by telling the Irish people that it is a dud company, and they will not put money into it.”
1508. Your own evidence is that these people did convey to the Minister that it was a dud proposition in spite of the basis of gold?—That it should be subscribed to only from abroad.
1509. They put it up to the Minister that it was undesirable—in ignorance of that fact no Irish national should be allowed to subscribe—is not that so?— They put it up to the Minister when they wanted his guardianship in some way that they would get £80,000, but that they would not get it in Ireland.
1510. But the main feature was that whatever action he took to warn Irish nationals against subscribing to that company, that action would have the effect of damaging the company?—They did not ask him to do that.
1511. They say, “This is a dud company”—I am not using that language myself I am using your words. You say the effect of their letter is that this is a dud company and they are suggesting to him that action of some kind should be taken to see that no Irish nationals should subscribe to it. I want you to tell me any way in which the Minister could do that without still imperilling the flotation of the company out of which Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn are to get 48,000 five shilling shares?—They may collect that £80,000 privately in England. They did not tell the Minister to warn the public. They see a way out and they say this should be subscribed from abroad.
1512. They say to the Minister, “You are to take care that no Saorstát national should subscribe to it”?—I take another meaning out of that.
1513. It is common knowledge in relation to gold in Wicklow that Deputies on both sides of the House have been interested in a proposition of that kind? —The floating of a mining company and getting public to subscribe money?
1514. No; interested in gold mining in Wicklow. The point I am putting to you is this—there seems one effect and one effect only from that letter. The effect of that letter is to damage their own prospects of getting 48,000 five shilling shares—that these shares are to be of no value?—Not at all.
Chairman.—It is now 5 o’clock. The Committee agreed to adjourn at 5 o’clock.
The Committee adjourned until 11 a.m. on Thursday, the 12th of September.