MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 12adh Meán Fhómhair, 1935.
Thursday, 12th September, 1935.
The Select Committee sat at 11 a.m.
Deputy P. McGilligan, B. L., further examined.
1515. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Last night when we finished we were talking about that letter written by Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn and the effect of it.
Witness.—Might I intervene at this moment? We were talking really about the last paragraph of it, I think. The terms of that last paragraph are :—
“The reason we said in our agreement”—
and then there is a quotation:
“‘the 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.”
I do not know where that phrase “licence for their company is to be obtained from the Minister” comes from. It is put in quotation marks as if it is an excerpt from something. It is not, so far as I can see, in the agreement for a sub-lease. As a matter of accuracy, I wanted to find out where it occurs because they quote it as if it occurs somewhere, but I do not know where it does occur.
1516. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Neither do we, but for your convenience and the convenience of the Committee, we will try to find out.
Witness.—They go on to say—and from my angle these are the highly important words:—
“because we felt this speculative class of venture should rather be subscribed for abroad than by our own people.”
I think that is the phrase you were questioning me about. I wanted to get it clear.
1517. We will later have the signatories to this letter in the witness box and they will be asked to explain how it is that this particular phrase is in inverted commas and where it comes from. They are the best evidence in that matter as far as I know. It seems to me that the whole purport of this is a warning to the Minister?—Certainly, to warn him that this is, in the minds of the concessionaires, a bad proposition.
1518. No, I will not quite say that. You are entitled to put that view if you like, but it is to warn the Minister that there are surrounding the flotation of this company, out of which and only out of which they are likely to get any reward, certain considerations which call for his very careful examination and, if you like—I will go quite as far as you—for some action on his part that would warn a national of his danger in subscribing to it?—This is the way I read that, and again I want to quote. The prase is: “We felt this speculative class of venture should rather be subscribed for abroad than by our own people.” That is the red light in that sentence.
1519. It is common ground that it is a warning. The only question is the question of a difference possibly as to the intention of the warning?—That phrase: “We felt this speculative class of venture should rather be subscribed for abroad than by our own people” is a red light. To whom? To the Minister, because they say distinctly: “We said in our agreement ‘ the licence for their company is to be obtained from the Minister,’” and they said: “Watch now.” Why do they say: “Watch now” to a Minister in this State?
“If any Irish national put money into this company which we warn you is bad and lost his money, there is going to be a bad political row in this country and you will suffer.”
1520. Let me just imagine for a moment that you could conceive a person of a different mentality, that is to say, the mentality of people who do not simply want Irish nationals to be involved in what you now say they say is a dud company?—If they do not want Irish nationals involved, let us ask ourselves why do they not.
1521. According to you, because they say it is a highly speculative venture?—Certainly.
1522. It is agreed that they desire that Irish nationals shall not be let down in relation to this company, and the only question then is what the purpose of that warning is. The only suggestion that comes into your mind, apparently, is that the only thing they were concerned with was the political reaction of that. That is the only thing in your mind?—The political reaction on the Minister and the safe-guarding of themselves.
1523. Their only reason for keeping these people out of what you describe as a dud company is the selfish and low reason of avoiding a political reaction and its consequences? You do not conceive the possibility that they were trying to keep Irish nationals out of what you describe as a dud company because they did not want Irish nationals involved?—I do not see a great deal of difference in it.
1524. There is all the difference in the world in it?—I do not see a great deal of difference in it from the angle of judging the goodness or badness of the company.
1525. That is not the question I am concerned with?—It is distinctly the question operating with me the whole time— that when the Minister gets a warning of this sort, he just simply let it alone and did not bother about it. You asked me a lot of questions yesterday about how this was to be done and how the company was to be floated. If the Minister acted in the way in which you read his intention to act in this phrase, the company would have failed, but the Minister has not even the curiosity to write back and ask the questions which you thought fit to ask me yesterday. He sits on that. He does not say to them. “This is somewhat of a shock; what do you mean by this and what is your concern?” That letter remains there.
1526. But at the moment only there is the attempt to float that company. There is no attempt even to create money which is supposed to be the inducement?— This is, I think, preparing the possibility of retreat for the concessionaires.
1527. There are two possible ways of looking at this, and what I am suggesting to you now is that you are taking always the view that somebody is dishonest in the matter. But there is an explanation which might be a quite honest explanation, a very honourable explanation?—I do not deny that there might be a lot of explanations read into this after this Inquiry had started, but what is the plain tenor of that to anyone getting it. To me it is that “there is a great chance about gold, of people being exploited instead of resources being worked. There is a special danger of that in regard to Risberget. We ask you to see this. Do not let the Irish investing public be fooled, but get it pushed over to the foreigner?”
1528. They say, do not get the Irish national into it?—They do not even say that.
1529. But that is the purpose of it?— They say that it should rather be subscribed from abroad rather than by our own people.
1530. What they are out to do is to warn through the Minister Irish nationals not to engage in what they regard as a highly speculative enterprise?—They were in this dilemma, I think, that they had probably begun to realise that this whole business was somewhat nasty at this time. I think that any two public men realising that there was the prospect of it being revealed some time that they had, as I said before, trafficked in property that did not belong to them and into which they have put no great moneys of their own: realising that it might be revealed in this obnoxious way that money had been called for from the public and had been invested in a concern found to be worth nothing, with all that before them, they were in this dilemma that they had to protect themselves and at the same time they wanted to give themselves the chance of still doing well on this company and they took this middle line of, to use an American phrase, “passing the buck,” and they passed it to the Minister.
1531. And in doing so, the only effective way in which the Minister could accept the buck would be by doing something that would destroy what you have described as those substantial but very problematical values which were coming to them?—Why is that the only result, Suppose the Minister had got the Risberget Company plus Mr. Heiser and said “you collect this money abroad”?
1532. This is a company to be floated?—But the man who is going to float it?
1533. This is a company to be floated?—Risberget entered into an agreement and undertakes to form a company with a capital of not less than £80,000. They summon Mr. Heiser and they say “get that money elsewhere than in Ireland.” There is no demand, not even a suggestion from the Minister to make a public statement.
1534. There was the suggestion to take whatever means were necessary to see that Irish nationals did not subscribe to that?—I do not see that.
1535. That is the suggestion that I put to you, and the way that I read this is that the whole of this letter is intended to be a frank disclosure of the exact position with a warning running through it that there are speculative possibilities in this gold mining deal probably greater even that the gold production. There is a warning that no Irish national unwarned goes into it. I am putting that to you now as an interpretation, and I ask you whether you accept it?—I do not think that if I read that letter in the Minister’s office daily for a month that I would arrive at that conclusion.
1536. Your mental attitude towards this whole thing is such that you cannot read that letter in that way?—I do not accept that at all. It is not that my mental attitude is such that I cannot accept it. I think that the first shock of this whole business should have immediately started the Minister into action to write back and say: “What do you mean by asking me to help you to put over an unsound concern on foreigners and am I not to care about the reputation of the company at all?”
1537. Personally, it would never enter into my head that that was the meaning of it, and I do not see why the Minister should have written back in that particular form. What I suggest to you the Minister’s reaction would be is this: “Is anything operative being done which would involve an Irish national in subscribing to this?” The answer from the Department would be “no,” and, therefore, he takes no action?—Not simply that. I think that the Minister is simply imprudent if he takes as his guiding rule in the running of departmental affairs that he need not do anything while the preliminaries are going on, that he need never do anything until his formal consent is asked.
1538. Until something operative is done?—There is the revelation about the preliminaries and the agreement for the lease entered into, not merely that they were in touch with these people. They say, here is a mining engineer who has made us an offer, and with certain modifications we accept it and send you a copy of it.
1539. What I suggest to you is that this is a frank open statement of the position in order to safeguard from any possible risk, in connection with the flotation of a company which would be profitable to themselves, Irish nationals, and you do not accept that?—You go part of the way with me. I think their attitude comes to this, if we have to choose between getting this money and a terrible political scandal—
1540. I would like to suggest that this is your definition?—When they bring in the words: “The licence must be obtained from the Minister,” surely the reaction, if the company failed, would be terrible.
1541. Why is it that the one consideration in your mind is to assume political consideration?—If you take out the word politics then I say Government scandal. I think their attitude of mind would be this, that if we have to choose between a Government scandal and getting so much money, we would like you to see where you are going. The Government scandals would arise over Irish nationals’ money being involved, but if it was only going to come from the foreigner, well we will take their money.
1542. You are trying to get their attitude of mind and I think, to some extent, you are constructive in that. Say that their attitude of mind was, if we have to choose between getting our money and not getting it, and the getting of it involves Irish nationals being exploited, is that a reasonable attitude of mind?—They did not say, if this means Irish capital being involved, find a way out. They say, we want you to take responsibility with regard to Irish capital.
1543. Every operative interpretation of the letter is in your view that they are getting 48,000 five shilling shares?— Not at all. If that letter contained the phrase, we want you to make it clear to the public that this is a highly speculative concern, that is all right. But they say —and I do not think I am parodying it too much in putting this construction upon it—“Get this floated abroad for us; do not get it floated at home.”
1544. I suggest that the Minister has nothing whatever to do with the getting of this flotation?—I am sure he would have. He could impose whatever conditions he liked when it came to his turn to sanction or not to sanction the sub-lease.
1545. I mean that the operative portion must come from the people who agreed to form the company. You are not prepared to accept the interpretation I have offered?—I do not think it is a necessary interpretation, and I do not think it is the first interpretation will occur. Many interpretations emerge before you get to the one you suggest.
1546. In your further statement you used such an expression as this: “These people ran up debts,” the general suggestion being that they were not investing any money themselves, and that any money they did invest was in obligations which they had not discharged?—I put it this way. I would not like to put it into a statement like that. I do not think they paid the £5 dead rent in suitable time.
1547. They did so in fact?—Not for a considerable time, and not until after, I understand, the Chief State Solicitor had written. I know in regard to the only boring in the area under their auspices amounting to a small sum over £13, when the first bill was presented in July it was paid in February. There were two firms of solicitors engaged. I know in regard to young Norman their proposal first was as an associate with shares value £250 He applied for £60, but was beaten down to £40, and eventually closed at £25, which it took a solicitor’s letter to collect.
1548. You know that of your own knowledge, and it is not something you were told?—I have apologised, as I cannot get the letter I had in my hand from Messrs. M. J. O’Connor and Co., solicitors, Wexford, who were acting for Norman. They conducted negotiations for young Norman with Messrs. Comyn and Briscoe. The phrase used was that they had agreed to pay him £25. There were three considerations, assigning away of rights, handing over all correspondence they had with him about this matter, and handing back of the draft proposal. That was the one about £250 worth of shares. I had that letter in my hand. The £25 was less solicitor’s costs. I believe there is a copy of that letter in the solicitor’s office. I have not at all lost hope of getting that letter. The only difficulty I am in is that I had it attached to the copy assignment, and I put it away so carefully that I cannot find it. It is in my house.
1549. This was the agreement that made certain other considerations, such as giving up certain rights to prospect?— Yes; you asked about debts. The only thing was the way Norman was to be treated, 15/- weekly, plus board.
1550. That is a statement made to you by Norman?—Yes.
1551. And only in that sense you know of it?—I know what form it took, because I had the papers in my hand. The Boring Company will be giving evidence and young Norman is bound to be called to give evidence on other issues.
1552. In all probability there will be other evidence I know nothing about. There will be evidence otherwise. I simply put it to you that these are statements which were made to you. For instance, in the official file are you aware that there are three things in which it is said these gentlemen did owe money? One is by the State Solicitor where they proved they did not owe the money—I read these excerpts which were put into my hands hurriedly.
1553. In so far as we have on the file from the State Solicitor an official statement that, to his knowledge, he has not been paid money which a year before he had been paid by these gentlemen, I put it to you, that it is mere hearsay with regard to the other debts, and that that is insufficient to enable you to swear that you know these debts are owing?—You must not make me swear it. That is an absurd position.
1554. You used the phrase “know”. It is the tale told you?—And documentary evidence, part of it. No tale was told me about the boring. I had the file.
1555. That debt is paid?—I made a statement that I think is a correct one in general, that most of the people known to me who had received money from these two had got their money after solicitors’ letters had been written. They got it, of course. I do not know if I should make a distinction there. I have constantly talked of the necessity there of just taking it together. I should like to say that, in the various documents and statements made to me, of the two, the man who has engaged in running up the debt was Deputy Briscoe and the man who paid all this was Senator Comyn.
1556. Well, that also is a matter that we will have an opportunity of enquiring into later. Well, now, Mr. McGilligan, I put it to you that, from the evidence in your possession, the story that has been sworn to is as follows: That two reputable public men put forward the best obtainable proposition to competent civil servants who, entirely independent of the Minister, dealt, in normal procedure, with that proposition, believing same to be a good bargain for the State. I put it to you that that is the evidence that, up to the present, has been sworn to?—And I criticise every phrase of it.
1557. I put it to you that that is what has been sworn to?—You mean that is your view of what has been sworn to.
1558. It has been sworn to that two public men put forward what was, in the opinion of Mr. Ferguson, the best obtainable proposition. Is not that the position? —Mr. Ferguson gave…
1559. Swore, did he not?—He swore more than that.
1560. But he did swear that?
Chairman.—I think, Deputy, that you are asking the witness to accept a proposition which, in the circumstances, he is hardly likely to accept, and I think that the ultimate deciding of whether that was sworn to or not is a matter for the Committee to decide, and not the witness.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I want the witness to tell us whether or not be contravenes that sworn testament.
Chairman.—Yes, but I think you are getting into the realm of asking him to form a conclusion similar to your own as to what was sworn to, and I think you are not likely to get agreement on that.
1561. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Well, Mr. McGilligan, do you accept that Mr. Ferguson swore that the best obtainable proposition, or let us say, the best available proposition, in relation to this matter was put forward by these gentlemen?—Which of the two am I to take? Am I to take “available” or “obtainable?”
1562. “Available.” Do you accept that?—Then I am to take “available” and not “obtainable.” Mr. Ferguson, as far as I recollect, said that it was a proposition that was available: that there was none other. It was a case of anything being better than nothing. He was then asked to detail what were the advantages of it, and he made what, to my mind, was a ludicrous statement about the amount of employment to be given. It then emerged that the employment amounted to four able-bodied men in theory, and it then emerged into a question as to whether they were employed or not. Mr. Ferguson’s statement I accept, with these provisos.
1563. That proposition was put to a competent civil servant?—And he judged it from the point of view of the employment to be given. That was the only angle. It was the special angle from which he viewed it.
1564. Mr. Ferguson swore that the consideration of this was taken absolutely independent of any consultation with, or influence by, the Minister. Is not that correct?—He swore that.
1565. He swore that it was dealt with in an absolutely normal manner?—Well, in regard to that, I am then in this position, that I have got to generalise what happened: That the normal procedure is that the Civil Service sends out a document asking questions apparently of some importance, in regard to financial resources and technical capacity. They get what are, prima facie, unsatisfactory answers. They do not investigate those answers. They enter into a lease. They say themselves that they do not consult the Minister about it. They impose three conditions in the lease, and every one of the three conditions is broken within three months of the lease being signed, and they do not take any action. I say that, if Mr. Ferguson takes that as his standard and says that it is normal. I have got to accept his view of what is normal in the Department, but I think that that is a highly improper proceeding.
1566. Yes, but he did swear that, in relation to this matter, the procedure was entirely normal?—Well, I cannot believe that it is normal. I think that Mr. Ferguson is honest in his belief, but I cannot agree with him that it is normal.
1567. He also swore that no action of any kind in relation to this matter was influenced in any way by the fact that these gentlemen were members of a political party. He did swear that?—I do not remember him swearing that. I think it is pretty well contained in the other statement but I do not think he swore to that particular phrase.
1568. He also swore that he had made, to the best of his knowledge, the best bargain for the State that could be made under the circumstances?—He may believe that, but it is shocking bad judgment.
1569. But the fact remains that he did swear to all of that. That is all I am concerned with at the moment. He did swear to that?—He swore to more than that.
1570. Now, Mr. McGilligan, what you are asking the Committee to believe is that two Fáil politicians, as such, trusting to their political affiliations, put forward a proposition that was indefensible in itself to civil servants, actually influenced by the Minister to grant Departmental favour of laxity and speed to political supporters of the Government, who, on that ground, handed over State rights for obviously inadequate consideration to those political associates of the Government. I put it to you that that is what you are asking the Committee to believe? —All I can say is that it is a pity that you were not allowed to frame the terms of reference for this Committee. I said before that if it were the established practice in pleading a case that a defendant should be allowed to frame the statement of the case against himself, most defendants would succeed. Why put allegations in my mouth when I have said things there which contain my allegation and embody the whole force of them? Why give me a recital with a whole lot of carefully prepared turns of phrase, none of which are mine? Will you oblige me by giving me any of these phrases which you can put in inverted commas?
1571. Well, then, I shall ask you to give me the inversion of these phrases in the light of the evidence which you have given. Will you do that?—Do you want me to formulate the charge again for the nth time?
1572. Yes; what is it that you actually do allege?—I allege that this whole thing is simply chock full of politics. I say that that is specially and clearly evidenced by the fact that when the Minister found that these two people had got this concession, had made the agreement out of which they were to get considerable benefit from property that did not belong to themselves and into which they put relatively no money or no effort, he took no steps to warn them that this should not be proceeded with and should not be allowed to go on. That, more particularly, when he got information from them to say that the whole concern was, in the promoters’ view, so bad that no Irish capital ought to be allowed to go into it, he still kept silent and just casually let it go by. I say, and I have always said, that that was the special point that made this whole matter obnoxious.
1573. Deputy Moore.—You allege nothing positive against the Minister? It is a purely negative allegation?—I allege positively that a prudent man would, on the reading of that letter when the warning was given, realise that there were doubtful points in this and would not have allowed it to go on
1574. Your allegation is purely a negative one?—It is a sin of omission, but it is none the less a sin. I also say that when the circumstances of the matter are looked into, when you consider the salient facts, that two people had made an application in which they joined a third, that third being put forward as the technical man, that the technical man later drops out—it appears he is bought out for £25—that the questions that were answered that would show substance for that are very unsatisfactory, that the capital it is proposed to involve in this is absurdly small in comparison with the work proposed, that nevertheless they gave a lease, that, as I say, they broke every term and tradition of the lease and that no action was taken against them—that set of facts away from any personnel would raise doubts and would raise one question —why was not some action taken against these two people? When you then come to this, that the two people concerned are two members of the same political Party, the Government Party, I say the natural conclusion—I go to the point of saying the inevitable conclusion—is that there were politics at the back of the whole thing.
1575. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—The inevitable conclusion, working back from that?— I think the whole thing is cumulative as you go along.
1576. What I suggest to you is that the essential matter that you regard as of importance is this letter, that working back from that you say that the only possible explanation of this thing was a conspiracy between civil servants to give to political associates of the Government, because they were political associates of the Government, State property for an inadequate consideration?—That is very fine language, but it is not mine.
1577. It seems to me the only thing you can say. You have already told us there was this atmosphere?—Why go out of your way to make me accept your phrases when I use perfectly good phrases of my own?
1578. I am trying to understand your phrases.—You will not understand them by putting paraphrases of your own on them, I am afraid.
1579. As far as I understood you yesterday, you told us quite clearly that there had been produced, in the minds of civil servants of the Department of Industry and Commerce, such an atmosphere by the Minister, that as a result of it certain concessions were given for political purposes?—Again, I think what I said was this. You used the phrase there—“atmosphere created.” The phrase I used was that there was radiated, out from the Minister, a certain influence, and that the civil servants, as human beings, were sensitive to that point of view, that it affected civil servants to this extent, that they would make less searching inquiries in regard to members of the Oireachtas, and, in particular, members of the Oireachtas of that particular Party, than in regard to anybody else. I do not think I went any further than that
1580. My recollection was that you extended it definitely to the four, that not merely did the Minster corruptly radiate——?—I never used the word “corruptly.” Why put in these words when I did not use them?
1581. All right. I ask you to give some other meaning than corrupt to the suggestion that the Minister radiated such an influence to civil servants, that as a result of it they did give concessions to those people politically associated with him which they would not give to other people. I want you to give me some other phrase than “corrupt”—If it is corruption for a man’s attitude towards certain people to be understood, I am sure I have been guilty of corruption for many years, but I never knew it.
1582. May I take it that you did radiate certain influences from your Department, that in relation to State property your civil servants should give to political associates of yours concessions which you would not give to others?—No, because I had a guard against it. I had my guard in this way as far as I could manage it— it was not always very successful—that anything public men were dealing with I had an account sent to me. It was a very brief thing, but it was a signal to me of what was happening. Men frequently met me about things and about suggestions that were made and I knew nothing about them. If that sort of thing, that a man’s attitude towards a certain thing is understood and accepted by civil servants and acted upon, is regarded as corruption, nobody in the Department would be free from the taint of corruption. I think everybody’s attitude is known in certain things.
1583. In other words, you could radiate corruption?—I never regarded it as corruption.
1584. You radiated something which, as you have not given us another phrase, must be called corruption?—I have not used the word “Corruption” at all.
1585. What you said was that the Minister for Industry and Commerce radiated to the servants of his Department, and they were receivers and acceptors of that radiation, to the extent that they did, in fact, give to political associates of the Government concessions in relation to public property which they would not give to other people. Is that or is that not corruption?—I am reminded of an old sketch I saw in the papers long ago, of where an unfortunate man was in the witness-box and counsel asked him:
“Did you or did you not on the day in question or any other day say to this person or any other person that the words imputed to him and denied by you were or were not false. Answer yes or no.”
The witness asked, “Yes or no, what?” What are you asking?
1586. Is it or is it not corruption for a Minister to radiate such an influence to his civil servants that they will, in relation to public property, give to his political associates consideration which they will not give to other people?—That is not corruption. Let me give you an example. In my time, in my Department I had a special feeling for ex-National Army men in regard to the getting of employment. I sent out chits to the Department with regard to those people being preferred, but before I sent out any chits I am quite certain that there had emanated from me to the Department the impression that if there were men who were equal as far as, say, the number of dependants and general inability to get work were concerned, the ex-National Army men should get preference. It is clearly a case of the Department sensing my attitude towards people and taking their stand on it. Of course, I sent out chits and made it a public statement. There were at least three debates in which I held fast to that point of view and insisted on it, but before I gave any specific order I feel certain that I had let my attitude be known. Until I wrote that note about it I do not think I had ever actually said that to the head of the employment section, but he had sensed my attitude. Do not think that civil servants live down in a sort of hermetically sealed compartment and do not know what the mentality of the Minister is. Of course, they do.
1587. I accept your statement and I think that would not include corruption. What you mean then is that where conditions were broadly equal the turn of the trick would go to the ex-Army men. That is your view?—Possibly about that —something more than that.
1588. Then what you are doing is comparing petty larceny and murder?—I do not say that what I did with regard to ex-National Army men could, for the purposes of odious comparison, be talked of as petty larceny.
1589. It is something less than petty larceny?—It is what I would call charity.
1590. Very well; then you are comparing charity and murder; in other words, two things which are not comparable. If, in relation to your Department, you or anybody else had radiated such an influence to public servants that they did give to your political associates such preference in relation to public property that you would be entitled to describe it as a scandal and a Teapot Dome scandal, would you have described it as corruption?—The phrase “Teapot Dome scandal” is not applied to the granting of the lease; it is applied to the whole concern. I have always said and insisted that the chief point of objection to this was what happened after the lease was granted.
1591. Ex-post facto?—Not ex-post facto. but still pending. I hope it is dead now, but it would be still pending if I had not broached this in the Dáil.
1592. But we are still actually in the same position. You are accusing the Minister of radiating to civil servants— who accepted from him that radiation— such an atmosphere that in relation to public property they do things for his political associates which you regard as scandalous?—I do not think the civil servant is concerned with this.
1593. The civil servant was concerned, and according to his oath solely concerned, with this transaction up to the point of the granting of the lease?—I cannot make any distinction between the civil servant and the Minister in that. I do not expect that the Minister would for a moment stand for what you say; I think the Minister would be a very abject person if he tried to put the civil servant in for this, instead of taking responsibility himself.
1594. Would he be as abject a person as the person who said that he had radiated such an influence to his civil servants that they would engage in practices, for the benefit of the associates of the Minister, which were scandalous?— Again, I have to ask you to repeat the question.
1595. You put it that the Minister has created in his Department such an atmosphere in relation to his political associates as has allowed this particular lease to go through?—I said—I suppose I shall have to say it a dozen times before it is taken —that the effect of the Minister’s attitude, as understood and sensed by the Department, was that less exacting inquiries would be made with regard to political associates than with regard to other people.
1596. And in this particular case those less exacting inquiries were so unexacting that a scandal was created in relation to the giving of Government property to those political associates?—Remember, my attitude is that the whole affair was scandalous, but particularly the trafficking in State property for the benefit of members of the Oireachtas themselves. The civil servants had nothing to do with that.
1597. In other words, as far as everything that went before is concerned it was a bagatelle compared with this?—I do not say it is a bagatelle.
1598. But relatively?—Yes; relatively it is very small. Remember again that the Minister said on the second occasion on which this was before the Dáil that my remarks as made at first contained criticism only of the lessees. The way in which, as far as I was concerned, the junction was made between the Minister and the scandal which I think was connected with the lease was that when he got a knowledge of what I alleged to be the scandalous part, namely, the trafficking, he did not stop it.
1599. But you do not regard it as a scandal that he should have radiated such an influence to his civil servants?—That there would be less exacting inquiries made with regard to members of the Oireachtas than with regard to other people—I do not.
1600. And less exacting inquiries to the extent to which those inquiries fell short of what you think they should be?—They did not fall short at all according to the civil servants; they fell short in my view in this way: I admit the analogy again. If Commandant Cronin had come along and put up the proposal that Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe put up there certainly would have been further inquiry as to his technical capacity.
1601. But in the one case, the first statement I put to you was the statement all of which bad been sworn to here, and the rest of it is purely and simply your gloss?—Is that the statement which I was not allowed to answer? I did not think that statement was being put to me. I thought it was ruled out.
1602. The fact remains that you are now relying principally upon this letter and the non-action of the Minister?—Do not say “now,” say “always.”
1603. We will leave it at that for the moment. I just want to get to the terms of reference. There were three terms of reference and you objected at the very beginning that they were not your allegations. I think you were quite entitled to raise that point as a preliminary, and I am glad you did. I listened with very great care to your own explanation in relation to those allegations. The first of them was that they were made to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe because they were political associates of the Minister. I listened very carefully to what you had to say in relation to any correction you wished to make, and, frankly, I have not been able to detect any substantial difference between the two?—“Were made” is the phrase. My attitude is that the political association had not so much to do with the granting of the lease as with the rest of it—the failure to take action.
1604. You do not allege they were made or given?—In regard to that I simply say that when one looks at the whole matter, if it was merely the granting of a lease I would not say a word about it; if nothing else happened and if there had been no trafficking, and it they kept their covenants, I do not know even if I would object then if they got it without any careful examination such as would be imposed on other people.
1605. Can I take it now that you do not make the allegation that these were made to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe because they were political associates?—I object to being asked a variety of questions that I say I have never raised myself. The terms of reference, which I suggested, were founded in the main on what happened afterwards. In the course of the debate I said that from what I had learned before the third occasion, that when actually I found what they say about Wicklow, about the previous dealings of these men in mining resources which were negligible, and the money they were prepared to put into this development—that when you consider that and look at the covenants of the lease being broken, and then get to find out the way they were treated, that to my mind politics clouds the whole thing. If I were asked to say that the deciding factor in the granting of the lease to them was just that they were political associates of the Minister I would not say it.
1606. That is exactly what I want. I am not concerned with whether or not these are an accurate paraphrase of what you said previously, but they are the terms of reference offered to us which we have to decide. I am now asking you in vacuo do you make the allegation now that this lease was made to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe because they were political associates of the Minister?—I am not concerned with that allegation.
1607. Do you make it?—Let me explain. I say they got it; they are political associates. I say, when one looks into the whole circumstances and examines them, it is very hard to see anything in the whole matter except politics. There is less politics in it at the beginning; there is more in it as the thing gets worse.
1608. In other words, you will not say it and you will not unsay it?—I will not because it is not an allegation I made. The Minister tried to force it upon me and I accepted it with certain reservations.
1609. I put it to you in vacuo, apart from whether you made it or not, whether in your opinion that term of reference is in itself true, that this lease was made to these people because they were political associates?—I do not know. I did not make it. I did not say anything about it. I did not know enough at the time to say that. I say there has emerged since what would lead me nearly to believe that politics were associated even with the granting of it. My difficulty is that I made a statement which covered the whole of the incidents and which is taken and broken up into stages and my words are applied to each particular stage. You cannot disembowel things like that and get a phrase covering the whole thing applied to each part.
1610. You are a witness and we, as a Committee, are only concerned with the terms of reference wherever they came from. I am asking you as a witness now whether, from your knowledge obtained previously to this Committee, you say that this lease was made because they were political associates of the Minister? —I stated in the Dáil that it was given to them; that they are in fact political associates; and when the whole thing was gone through I would ask people to deduce that political associations played its part even in the granting.
1611. I want to be fair to you. I think it is difficult when people’s words are paraphrased, but I have not been able to get from you in evidence anything which makes me see any substantial difference between what you have stated here and what was offered to us as our first terms of reference?—In other words, you think I have here stated that the lease was made because they were political associates.
1612. That is what I think?—Very well.
The second one is “under conditions of secrecy.” Do you now say that lease was made under conditions of secrecy?— I have a certain difficulty about that. There is not the lightest doubt about it that conditions of secrecy obtained with regard to that.
1613. When you say you have not the slightest doubt you are speaking for more than yourself. Do you say that you yourself believe they were made under conditions of secrecy?—I say that the lease purported to be granted under Section 11 (2) of the Act. That Section 11 (2) is the only section which does not draw with it almost immediate publicity. Therefore, I say it is beyond any question that the lease was granted in such a way that publicity was not drawn down upon it. That is mere machinery. The question I think that is really there is, was secrecy sought; was secrecy pondered over and got? With regard to that, my answer is that I do not know what deliberations went on about it. I say that I think from the angle of the public that prudence should have dictated when public men were getting a concession of this sort, a grant of State property handed over to them, that there should have been publicity, there should not have been secrecy. That was not impossible. It was necessary if a day had been added to the two years; it was clearly open to the Minister even if the lease was a two years one. I think that prudence demanded and I think that the proper carrying on of the institution of the Dáil demands that in any case in which a member of the Oireachtas is getting a benefit out of activities of Government that that should be revealed. In a special case, if a man is, say, given it over property of his own and wants to develop it, he certainly is getting it because he has property of his own and is going to waste some of his own resources and we have a certain tie on him; but when he is given something which never before belonged to him, then there is special reason for publicity.
1614. Yesterday in evidence you spoke of Deputies obtaining benefits by stealth. It is a phrase of that kind which makes me put to you the word here?—That obtaining benefits by stealth had reference to the sub-lease.
1615. The whole thing?—Not with the granting of it.
1616. If you use the word “secrecy” do you include in it anything of the nature of stealth?—I would not, no. I say it is imprudent. I am assuming the word “stealth” to mean something sought out, pondered deliberately on, done for the purpose of obtaining secrecy. I do not think there was anything like that.
1617. You do not think that at any time there was any evidence of that?—I never said there was. I have nothing before me which would make me say it.
1618. To make you say that there was secrecy in any sense in which it would include stealth or anything like that?—In which that included deliberation as to whether this would be done secretly or not. I do say that when the matter came for consideration that clearly and distinctly any man feeling his ordinary responsibilities would have said that he would give notice about that somewhere.
1619. In fact, you did not include any prejudice in the word secrecy to any extent in which you used it?—I did this way, I think, in not imposing publicity on such a transaction.
1620. Again, I am finding no fault. It seems to me you are now undoubtedly modifying, and very broadly, the word “secrecy”?—Not as I use it.
1621. You are still living in an atmosphere of stealth?—I am living in an atmosphere of imprudence.
1622. Then why the word “secrecy”? —I use the word “secrecy” as the opposite to publicity.
1623. Again, my difficulty is this: that on your explanation I have to say to myself that there is no substantial difference, between what you are now saying and the terms of reference (b) ?—Do you think there is no difference in saying that men went out of their way to hide themselves and that they did not take care to publish themselves. I think there is considerable difference.
1624. I certainly would not define as secrecy not going out of the way to publish?—You would not call a thing secret in as much as it is planned to be kept silent?
1625. You simply mean you accept “secrecy” in the sense of non-publicity? —In the sense of non-disclosure.
1626. That raises another question?
Witness.—In the case of non-disclosure I think disclosure should be made.
1627. All right, we will not quarrel with that. All I am saying is that I am now of the opinion that there is no difference. We cannot quarrel with the statement in the preamble here: that you made and are making a statement that this lease was made under conditions of secrecy?—If you put it that way and call it that, I am entitled to put it in another form. My allegation is that culpable non-disclosure——
1628. And that instead there was culpable non-disclosure?
Chairman.—If the Deputy puts a question he must give the witness an opportunity of replying.
Witness.—The Deputy cannot expect me to accept him as interpreter, though he may be a master of English. I have not used the word “culpable” non-disclosure. I have used the word “imprudence.” There is a lot of difference between “imprudence” and “culpability” though there may be culpable non-disclosure?
1629. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—We have, I think, your definition so that when the Committee comes to deal with the allegation they will know. The third point is: “made at a time that the Minister was aware that another party or other parties were proposing to seek a demise of the same rights, on terms more advantageous to the State”?—I think I never said that.
1630. I was going to ask you that. Did you at any time say that?—The phrase there is “made at a time.” That particular phrase never occurred to me to use. I did not know what was happening or what was before the Department at the time. I had no reference to show that. I should say it is clear now that at that time there were no other concessionaries. What I did say was this: That there were people on record as offering before; that they did not get the concession and that from November to April, that is, within some four or five months of the two members of the Oireachtas getting the concession, the moving spirit that was present before emerged again and made to these people a more advantageous offer than the State had got before and there was no reason to believe that he would not make that offer to the State.
1631. We are anxious to be quite clear on the matter. Do you accept the statement with the exception of the words “at the time.” “At the time when the Minister was aware that another party or other parties were proposing to seek a demise of the same rights on terms more advantageous to the State”?—Do you mean “at the time” that the Minister was aware that another party ——
1632. I simply want to know?—“Made at the time that the Minister was aware that another party or parties were proposing,” etc. The words “at the time” there govern the whole thing. I would say this. It was made to those two people when there was open to the Minister, whether he knew it or not, the knowledge that there were other people who proposed to take the same area. I do not know whether I could read in “at terms more advantageous.” Their terms were 1/25th and four men to be engaged on the work.
1633. I want to know to what extent the terms of reference represent anything you did say?—That is a very small matter to my mind. The only way it comes in is the argument that I was told that the reason those people were not more zealous or enthusiastic was because they were financially embarrassed. I see the reaction upon that. The Minister mentioned it and, therefore, it had some bearing; yet when they emerged afterwards they were notified to him as people who were carrying out the flotation of a company for £80,000.
1634. We are getting now to other matters. Your objection is that you say you never used the words “at a time”? —I will answer in my own way.
1635. Divergence of thought, I think, will hardly help?—I think the Chairman will decide that. You stopped me short when I was stating something.
1636. I want to keep two things separate. First of all, what do you agree you stated in regard to this matter?— As a matter of allegation.
1637. What you alleged at any time? Did you say anything that is covered by the three terms of reference here?—In substance? The nearest I came to them was that it very soon emerged that more advantageous terms could be got from those people.
1638. And specifically you say you did not at any time say that the Minister was aware of that condition?—I do not believe I said it. I remember asking in the Dáil on a half a dozen occasions for somebody to direct me to a quotation that brought me near that and I never got anybody to do it. I have searched the records since and I find myself reported as having said what I have gone over, that it soon emerged that Deputy Briscoe got more advantageous terms from these people.
1639. The terms of reference there do not represent anything which, in your recollection, you ever said?—Not as they stand.
1640. Do they represent anything which you intended, by what you said, to convey?—Not in that form; but there is the other point that I have stated twice and I need not go over it again.
1641. No evidence has been produced yet to the Committee that you have, in fact, said anything of that kind. That is why I wanted to get your declaration. Your declaration stands at the moment without any evidence to the contrary. So far as (a) and (b) are concerned, I can see no possibility of the Committee avoiding dealing with those as being substantially a correct paraphrase of what you intended to say; but so far as (c) is concerned, it is still in the air in so far as any testimony in its favour is concerned, and there is direct testimony to the contrary from yourself?— I take it that is not put to me as a question, because, if so, I could raise a whole lot of queries on it.
1642. No; it is not intended as a question. I think that is all I have to ask you at the moment.
Witness.—As regards the terms of reference, I do not think it is fair to stop at the terms of reference without my being allowed to draw attention to the fact that I did propose to set down as terms of reference certain things which were the gravamen of the charges so far as I was concerned. I would like to have them on record. These are both quotations from my speeches in the Dáil:—
“That under conditions of secrecy a valuable piece of State property was parted with to members of the Oireachtas belonging to the Minister’s Party, and that those members of his Party, known to him, are going to get £12,000 and 2¼ per cent. in return for the giving by them to an outside company of State property…. That the Minister knows of it; that he knows it is intended to be done; and that he will not tell these people that he will not allow it.”
“Does the Minister consider it a proper thing that men should be allowed to traffic in property that is not their own, the value of which they have not enhanced to any degree by their activities, and that they should be enabled, if the transaction works out rightly, to get their 2¼ per cent. over and above the money they have to pay, as long as the stream of gold lasts, and that they shall get shares worth £12,000 in a company, with whatever these shares will yield to the shareholders after this 6¼ per cent. has been paid?
“I suggest that those simple facts indicate a scandal.”
The suggestion that there is a scandal applies to the second paragraph.
1643. I desire to ask you one or two more questions. When you say trafficking in property, does that mean trafficking in the lease or the concession?—In property which was not their own.
1644. The property you referred to when you were talking about trafficking is the lease?—It is the leasehold, I would say.
1645. It is the lease or the concession —whatever phrase you like—and it is not referring to the land?—It carries the land with it.
1646. But it means the lease given to them by the State, or the sub-lease?— I do not know what you are at. If you mean that they were trafficking in the document or in the substantial property, the exclusive right to mine on the 982 acres in Wicklow, my phrase there included both, but more especially the valuable property.
1647. The valuable property which existed in virtue of their possession of that document?—Yes. I do not see how you can separate the document from the leasehold.
1648. That was their property?—It conveyed the exclusive right to mine; that is property.
1649. You said “which was not their property’?—Property which is not their own. Possibly I would change that if I had to say it again. I mean that they trafficked in something which was not previously their own.
1650. Obviously it is their own at the moment?—It is by virtue of the State concession for two years.
1651. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—So far as I can gather from your evidence, what you object to here is that a member of the Dáil and a member of the Seanad have received a concession which within a short time they are able to sell at very advantageous terms to themselves?—Yes, and that they proposed to sell it.
1652. That they have had an offer for sale on very advantageous terms to themselves?—Yes.
1653. I take it from what you read to us within the last few minutes that you think, on the questions that have been put by the Dáil to us to determine, the real truth of this matter cannot be ascertained?—Not on these specific points, but the real truth may be had on more general lines later, or on the circumstances surrounding them. The terms of reference directed the attention of the Committee in special terms away from the real points.
1654. You are a member of the Irish Bar?—Yes.
1655. And you have read this lease which has been made to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe?—Yes.
1656. If that lease had been made for two years and a day, which would have given publicity, is there any clause in it which would have to be deleted or any clause which would have to be added to it, in your opinion?—I do not see anything which would have to be taken out. Section 11 (2) of the Mines and Minerals Act talks about a prospecting lease and adds the phrase “two years.” By a sort of implication it would appear as if a prospecting lease must be one for a period less than two years, but I am not sure about that. This lease is not expressed in terms of prospecting. The only thing that ties it to prospecting is that it is limited to two years and in the section that period is indicated.
1657. The view of the officials of the Department who have been called here is that a prospecting lease is a full working lease. Even taking that interpretation, you think it should have been made for two years and a day?—I do not see any reason why it could not.
1658. On the question as to who should make the lease, in your view and in the light of the practice of the Department in your time, when a statute gives a right to a Minister or imposes a duty on a Minister to do certain acts, can the Minister delegate that duty himself?—I was warned by the highest legal authority I had in my service when I was Minister that it could not be done. I remember that that particular opinion was given to me and I am positive it was reduced to writing and I am fairly certain I sent it around the Departments. I remember it adverted to the fact that tremendous difficulties would be created if it were rigidly adhered to. I discussed it with the Secretary of the Department and I have no doubt we did our best to find ways in which we would not hamper the smooth working of the Department because of this opinion. But there was such an opinion given to me.
1659. Now this property, we have it, was considered, at any rate, by some people like Messrs. Heiser and Company to be a very valuable property. Would this strike you as being a case in which essentially the Minister should use his own judgment?—I should have been very angry in my time if I found that a concession of this type, even if there was nobody else offering to take it, was handed out without my being advised of it and minutes on it put up to me.
1660. You are advised, you tell us, that it would be illegal?—I was advised it would be illegal.
1661. Would it strike you as being thought more necessary that the law should be strictly complied with when the concessionaires are public men engaged in public life?—I cannot understand how anyone with any sense of political responsibility could have any other view. What I am saying now is somewhat of a divergence, but I cannot see how Deputies or Senators should be put in a better position or a position more advantageous to themselves than other people should be put in. When a man is elected to the Dáil and becomes Minister or Parliamentary Secretary there is a tradition or obligation that he should resign his touch with outside work, and it would be considered the gravest scandal if he were found to be benefiting in his outward work from his work as Minister or through his being attached to the Executive Council. That is on what I call the higher level. It is a well-known fact in regard to county councils that there have been cases of abuse—what the Chief Baron would call grave public mischief attaching to a member of a county council deriving any benefit whatever out of his position in a local authority. We have the case where a man who was making a few small pounds because he owned some animal licensed for breeding purposes was fined or disqualified from acting in a public capacity for seven years. I cannot see or find how a member of the Dáil should be in the position of getting benefits because of his membership.
1662. We have it already that there is a statute in England preventing it?— Unquestionably; but, apart from the law, it is an imprudence, and, from the point of view of the guardianship of the community, from the point of view of public mischief, I think there should be hereafter a regulation, a legally binding obligation, that members of the Oireachtas should not derive any benefit from it. I think there might be exceptions made; the only possible way of keeping the guardianship would be to have publicity with regard to these things. May I say also on this—and I feel quite strongly on the matter—there are quite a number of Deputies who are directors of companies and some members of this Committee are directors of companies. It is quite right that they should be directors of companies and it would be a completely bad thing if there was anything that would prevent us getting good men, the best possible men, into the Dáil, as might happen if men who are directors of companies were prevented for becoming members. But I think when a man becomes a director of companies, particularly if these were companies in some way peculiarly associated with public activities, it would undoubtedly cause a bit of a sensation to discover later that these Deputies secretly had got themselves— perhaps I should not use that phrase— that these men had been offered directorships and had accepted them and that the matter had been kept secret; the only way to protect the community is by having publicity.
1663. Now we have it here that there was no investigation as to the financial position of either of these gentlemen, the two concessionaires, and that there was no investigation as to whether they had any technical advice. As a matter of fact, it appears that they had no technical advice. Now, would that strike you as being irregular?—The nearest analogy I can get to that was ruled out, but I may refer to it later. I have a mental picture of files coming up to me with six or seven minutes which show such far-going investigation that the parties concerned complained, because of the delays, that there were all sorts of sinister influences working against them.
1664. In other words, you think that the investigations should be carried out irrespective of the people concerned?—I think I might add this. that a man’s position in the world should be looked into—that the general reputation of the man on that point should be looked into. In this case, these people said, “We are going to put £200 into this.” If the Department were going to tie themselves up to them for two years and if they were going to bind themselves after to extend that to 97 years, I think the £200 is the red light which should have put the officials on to a most thorough investigation.
1665. Chairman.—You mentioned that the position of the persons in the world should be taken into consideration and the kind of investigation made would, presumably, be the kind associated with their position?—If they had been limited even to that. I gather the phrase £200 was used at one time as the maximum. Later it became £200 simpliciter. Again, it is hard to make use of a general phrase without possibly working some disadvantage and doing some wrong. I want to say now that Senator Comyn had made very frequent applications— certainly there had been approaches to my Department in my time from him and in no approach or application that he made at any time did I find that there was the slightest thing irregular or untoward. The only impression created in my mind was that Senator Comyn’s approaches to the Department previously did not indicate that he was very ready himself to expend a great deal of his own capital in development, but he was very keen on development and very interested in it and he sought Government aid. By that I do not mean money, but trying to get Government aid in the way of experts sent down to analyse certain substances he had on lands belonging to him. I do not say that he stopped short of asking for Government aid, but if I say it, I say that he was quite entitled to do so and anything he did was done in the most regular way. That might have been taken into consideration if Senator Comyn were, as he then was, in the best company possible, namely, his own.
1666. Do you complain that the amount of £200 was inadequate, or that there was no adequate investigation made as to whether that sum was available?—I would pass it myself on that being put up to me—that there was £200 available. That did not matter a whole lot, because if it was not available, the thing, to use a motoring expression, would conk out pretty soon. Whether the £200 was sufficient, whether the proposal that there was a maximum of £200 going to be invested in this, was an attractive proposal for the State, even in the absence of anybody else at that moment, tied up with a two years’ exclusive right to mining in three townlands in Wicklow— I would have called for investigation of that.
1667. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—On the matter of employment, would it appear to you a little contradictory that four workmen were to be kept constantly employed for two years and the only sum of money available for that would be £200?—The £200, even though it was limited by the word “maximum,” with the addition of the man in the trio who was represented as a prospector, and as an expert and technician is one situation, but that man disappearing and the £200 still standing to pay the wages of four men to be constantly employed and to hire and engage a geologist, engineers and so on, is laughable.
1668. Do you think that all that should have put the persons dealing with this lease on very careful inquiry?—I think so.
1669. And we have it that no inquiries were made. You mention that Senator Comyn had made application to your Department for various concessions?—So far as my recollection goes, I think it was mainly in regard to getting somebody from the Geological Department sent down and analysis done for him. I think we lent our aid on every possible occasion. We were bound to do it and everything he did was quite regular, of course. I think he also had another proposition at one time, and again, I think it was under the Trade Loans Act.
1670. Senator Comyn possibly may be— I should like to have this clear in your evidence—a little bit of an optimist in these mining matters, if I may say so without offending, but in all your dealings with him, you found him perfectly straight and upright?—Undoubtedly. I had brought to my notice—and this shows his attitude towards these things in a sense—a copy of a Who’s Who in which I notice that the Senator put down as his recreation this sort of thing—mineral exploration and development.
1671. As one of his recreations?—I think it is put under the heading of “Recreations” where most people put down “Digging turf with a golf club.”
1672. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—One of the things they are really interested in.
1673. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—On this question of the subject matter, this was to be a gold mining concession in Wicklow. You have been asked, and it has already been quoted to you, in examination by Deputy Geoghegan, that a memorandum had been issued some years ago by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests when they were dealing with mining in this county. I suppose you have not seen that memorandum?—It has been referred to here and I said I do not remember that it ever came before me in my time, but phrases that occur through this certainly strike me as familiar, and what possibly happened, I think, was that somebody had that incorporated in a minute to me when I was considering the Mines and Minerals Bill.
1674. I am going to refer you to only one, and I should like your view on this. It is paragraph (d):
“When application is made for a take-note, or lease of mines royal on private lands, the applicant will be required, if need be, to give an undertaking to pay the expenses to be incurred by the Department in obtaining the reports by experts which may be deemed necessary.”
Would you consider it a wise provision adopted by Woods and Forests, that when they were going to make a lease of lands they would get a report of experts at the expense of the applicants?—It would be very desirable to have that power. I think that so long as the Department had a geologist or a sort of mining engineer, as his description is, in the Department, and they were not occupied with general survey work in the country, those people should be occupied at it, but it is a very wise hold to have.
1675. It was said that the expense would be gigantic. That was Deputy Geoghegan’s phrase, and also, in addition to that, it was said that Mr. Lyburn, if he were sent down, would have to be paid his out of pocket expenses—his travelling and subsistence allowance while out of Dublin. Would you consider that that would be a reasonable provision for the State in respect of persons who are making application?—Undoubtedly, and it would be a very valuable way of testing the strength of their applications.
1676. Their bona fides?—Yes.
1677. And when the Department has a geologist of Mr. Lyburn’s experience, would you not consider it advisable that he should be sent down to investigate the land, to see what mining skill was required by the applicants and what capital would be required to explore that land?—There are certain inquiries he should be put on, and I think it would be an essential thing that he should be put on those.
1678. It was rather vaguely stated here in cross-examination of you by Mr. Geoghegan that Mr. Lyburn had been consulted in this matter, and he referred to a minute. I would ask you for your attention while I read this minute to you. It is T.I.M. 195——
1679. Chairman.—Before you read that may I suggest that you ascertain whether that letter is on the confidential file?
1680. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—It is, but there is nothing confidential in the letter. When I was given the confidential files, I said I would use them for the purpose of examining witnesses, if I considered it necessary. There is nothing confidential in this. I do it on my own responsibility and I read it to correct an absolutely false impression.
Chairman.—Perhaps you could get the same effect if you were to hand the witness the document, if you think it essential, without reading it.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I consider it essential in regard to the false impression as to Mr. Lyburn’s examination. If you would like to read the document first——
Chairman.—I have read the document.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Surely there is nothing on God’s earth in this document that cannot be made public?
Chairman.—I am not desirous of hampering you in any way in putting any questions you desire to the witness, but it was generally understood at the outset that documents which were put in the category of confidential documents would not be quoted publicly.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—This document has been referred to by a witness. A false impression has got abroad as to the fact that Mr. Lyburn was examined as a geologist. This document shows that Mr. Lyburn—and this is his only minute —was not examined as a geologist.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Might I submit that we might get out of the difficulty in another way. There is no hard and fast rule which decides which documents were confidential. They were put forward in confidential categories by the representatives of Industry and Commerce, and so on. It is quite possible that, having regard to the nature of that document, it would be possible to withdraw it from the confidential file.
Chairman.—That cannot be done at the moment; but Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney is quite skilled, I am sure, in getting information in a way other than by quoting from this document.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—This document speaks for itself.
Chairman.—Is it not possible for the Deputy to hand the document to the witness? If the Deputy then thinks it necessary, I will permit him to ask a question on the document without reading it.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—You said, Mr. Chairman, that you had read the document. There is absolutely nothing confidential in it.
Chairman.—If the Deputy asks me to accept that, then obviously I can have similar submissions made to me and I will be asked to pass judgment on what is confidential and what is not, and I want to avoid being put in that position.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Members of the Committee made it clear that documents, which were considered to be necessary, would be used in the examination of witnesses. The responsibility for the correctness of his attitude in doing that would be taken by the individual member of the Committee on his reputation as a public man.
Chairman.—Obviously, there must be some general understanding, some general order, about this, and I do not think that I can permit a member to break a generally accepted agreement. I again suggest to the Deputy that if he so desires he might hand the document to the witness, and then ask questions on it without disclosing the contents.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I do not see how I could do that. I think a false impression has got about that Mr. Lyburn was examined as a geologist. That, I think, was stated in the course of examination yesterday by Deputy Geoghegan. He referred to this minute: that Mr. Lyburn had been consulted as a geologist. But this minute shows absolutely clearly that he was not consulted as a geologist. It shows Mr. Lyburn’s ignorance of even the very ground which is in question. He was asked simply about royalties.
Chairman.—Perhaps the Deputy would leave the matter over until the luncheon adjournment, and in the meantime we may be able to get over the difficulty.
Deputy Traynor.—Has not Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney now made the point that he wanted to make?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I wish to have it in Mr. Lyburn’s own words.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I think the Chairman’s suggestion to leave this over until after lunch should be accepted. We are prepared to go to any extent which will help to bring out the truth in this matter. We are very anxious to see that every facility is given, having regard to the fact that, I suppose, we must still recognise that we do get certain confidential documents.
Chairman.—I am anxious to allow Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney to put his question, subject to this that we should not break the general understanding arrived at.
1681. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I never came to a general understanding with anyone that certain documents on these files were not to be used. If that were so, what is the sense of having a file? I will pass from it for the present. At any rate, would you, Mr. McGilligan, be of the opinion that Mr. Lyburn’s knowledge as a geologist and his knowledge of that district should have been used by the Department?
1682. Do you think it would have been reasonable for Mr. Lyburn to have been sent down there to investigate?—Yes, unless he could say that he had already examined the district thoroughly.
1683. Now, a rather strange proposition was put to you yesterday: that it was no part of a Minister’s duty to turn down any suggestion put to him by his permanent officials. Do you consider that a Minister is to be the head of his Department or is to be a mere rubber stamp recording what the permanent officials tell him?—A book was published in England recently on the “Growth of Democracy,” but I never heard of the cream of democracy until I heard Deputy Geoghegan yesterday. He seemed to be astonished that I actually, on occasion, arrogated to myself the power to disobey my civil servants. I think I did it frequently, and I do not think that they were at all astounded. I could not see myself carrying out my duties unless I was to act on my own. Naturally, of course, I would take their advice into consideration, recognising that they were competent men and were actuated by the desire to give the best possible advice.
1684. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Did you ever receive an order from one of your civil servants?—If I did receive anything that could be phrased as an order then a counter order would have gone out.
1685. The witness used the phrase “disobeyed my civil servants.” Will he say if he meant to use the word disobey? —Yes, in the context in which Deputy Geoghegan used it yesterday.
1686. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I dare say that if you differed with a permanent official of high standing, whose ability you recognised, that you sent for him, consulted with him and talked the matter over with him?—Often, yes.
1687. If you differed from him you did not hand your mind over in shackles to him?—Where there was a serious point of difference I always protected myself by putting something on the minute that the civil servant put up. In the case of the Shannon contracts, and the work in connection with the scheme when we were pressed for time, the procedure that was followed was to hold conferences frequently. In everything else a minute was put up to me, and if there was a serious point of difference I simply minuted back. I very often carried on my work by having the secretary in with me and the secretary’s minute would be a record of the point of view that I had expressed. Conferences were very frequently held. They were part of the ordinary day to day operations.
1688. Now, if the present Minister for Industry and Commerce had differed in this matter from his permanent officials, if he had thought that there ought to be publication, that this ought to be made public, would you consider it an impertinence on his part to make it public or would you consider it his duty to do so?—His duty, undoubtedly.
1689. So far I have dealt shortly with matters in connection with the granting of this lease. I gather from your evidence that you consider what passed subsequent to the granting of the lease more grave than the granting of the lease?—Undoubtedly, it is recognised. With the cognisance of this trafficking, with the knowledge that members of the Oireachtas were gaining, and particularly when it was clearly put up to the Minister that they were to gain from a very suspicious concern, I think that is all scandalous.
1690. Does it strike you that the matter required very careful investigation indeed, as to how it comes that two gentlemen could get a concession from the Department, and within five months’ afterwards sell for a very considerable sum of money?—Even supposing there was none of these coloured matters that I hold in the transaction, if I found that I parted with Government property, and that within a short period some one else was able to get a middleman to get better terms than I got, I would have felt very shaky about the whole business, and would certainly hate to have it raised.
1691. Is it your view that the Minister should do everything that lies in his power to prevent individuals coming in and getting State concessions, not for the purpose of working the State concessions they held, but to sell them to others to make a profit for themselves? —I think vigilance and enterprise demand reward, and that capital demands reward in certain circumstances, but where there was an entire absence —I should say almost an entire absence— of that, involving money on the part of these two people, no great vigilance and no skill or anything that could accurately be described as enterprise; the absence of all things that ordinarily get reward, at any rate, there is the possibility of this company with its dividends and its royalties, then something is wrong.
1692. Take the phrase that was used by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the same volume of Parliamentary Debates:—
“We have got to be careful in these matters, because it is not unknown for people to put forward proposals in the hope that they will get a tariff imposed, not with any serious intention of developing the industry in question, but in the hope that they will be in a position to strike a deal with whatever larger and more experienced company comes in to undertake manufacture.”
That is a principle which the Minister has laid down in imposing tariffs?—That is a good stand.
1693. An excellent stand, if I may be allowed to express an opinion? Do you think it would be very desirable in this case that the Minister, and those acting for him, should have put the same principle into operation, and not made a lease with people who had no serious intention of developing the industry. “Industry” is the word used, but I think I would substitute the words: “rights in question in the hope that they will be in a position to strike a deal with whatever larger and more experienced company comes in to undertake it.” Is that the thing that should be looked to?—I think any member of a Government must have his mind covered by that kind of fear. I do not say this in any demeaning spirit to this country, because exploiters generally come from outside. The members of the Executive Council of this country, and particularly the members of the Executive Council at the time that this country was starting on its own, had their full of suspicions and fears along these lines at the very start, in 1920. I was able to get the backwash of this in the files when I was private secretary to the late Minister for Justice. From 1920 to 1925 this country seemed to be the happy hunting-ground of speculators and chancers and, as far as I can make out, there is a recrudescence of these people in the last few years. It is bound to happen where Government is interfering to a very large extent in the control of business. That ought to be ever the fear in the mind of any member of the Executive Council, particularly a man dealing with industry.
1694. Then your view is that the Minister having control, having the right to terminate a lease owing to non-performance of conditions by the lessees, should have terminated it when he discovered it was being exploited in the fashion he condemned?—I think he need not possibly advance to that point. I can only take this from my angle. If I had got the information conveyed in the letter of the 25th April I think I would have sent for these people at once. I do not think I would write letters, but would ask them: “What does the last sentence mean? Are you trying to get me to help you people to ‘ put-over ’a bad proposition on the foreigner?” After I had that cleared up, even in the way Deputy Flinn tried to interpret it, I would ask them: “What do you intend to do about this matter? Are you going to do any work, or are you going to exploit it? Are you simply going to get outside help to skim the cream? If that revealed the intention of these people, not to put any of their own moneys or to put any energy or time into this I would certainly say: “It is about time this is finished. I cannot hold up the whole thing for two years. You are really not serious, except serious in the matter of trying to find out what it is worth to you.” My mind is coloured in this way, that this was good business dealing by these two for which they required some supplemental aid. This is State property and they are in a sense trustees, and trustees are always regarded as having a great deal more suspicion attached to their activities than to men dealing with their own property.
1695. At the time you spoke in the Dáil, and now from the inquiries you have made, are you satisfied that no real work had been done by the concessionaires within four or five months?—Between the granting of the lease and the getting of the sub-lease I could not find any trace of it. The only work I could find trace of at all was done by the man who was ousted, young Norman. He was a man who apparently dreamt of developing the mine; his mind was full of the subject. He was keenly interested in the gold mine and he put his back into it. He did manual labour. He was working there with a pick and spade. On the other hand, the only thing the others did was to come on the scene occasionally and have some kind of second-hand garden party to view what was going on.
1696. Taking this letter, which has been gone through at such great length, that I will not go through it again, the last paragraph conveys to your mind that it is no harm if we robbed the Philistines, but do not let us rob our own people?—I really cannot see that I am prejudiced in taking that view. It is a peculiar line of policy, apparently, to adopt. Apparently we are adopting it at the start of Government activities. There is the analogy that all the diseased cattle are to be slaughtered in Roscrea, and there is the promise from the Minister that none of the products will be loaded on the people of this country. It is not going to be put into the sea. I do not know who is going to be poisoned.
1697. Chairman.—It does not seem to me that anyone at this Inquiry will be poisoned?—The phrase “we feel that this speculative class of venture should be subscribed abroad rather than by our own people,” I cannot believe that that conveys to the ordinary mind any meaning other than that this is a dud concern— off-load it on the foreigner.
1698. I am not questioning your right, but the analogy with the other period in this country does not seem to apply?—It was only a colourful analogy.
1699. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—May I submit, Sir, that the words are “subscribed abroad” and not “off-loaded”? There are a good many colourful expressions.
Witness.—I think that it is the colour that would naturally be around this in the minds of anybody reading it.
1700. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—It was suggested to you, Mr. McGilligan, that nothing operative had been done— these are the words— and that the Minister should not act until something operative had been done. Do you think that the Minister should have waited until a company had been formed before he refused to give or expressed his opinion that he would give a sub-lease—that the money should have been subscribed first and that the Minister should then have intervened?—If it had gone to that point the damage would have been done. Apart from that, however, I think it was the Minister’s duty, on receipt of that letter —even if that phrase only by suspicion conveyed that meaning—to say to these people: “You will not be allowed.” Even to put it at its lowest, I think it was his duty to say: “I could not stand over in public your getting this consideration for property that only became yours because I gave it to you.” In connection with that, I remember news being brought to me on one occasion that somebody down around the Balbriggan or Skerries district was going around saying that he was getting a trade loan and trying to get people involved in some little undertaking down there. I was seriously perturbed by the rumour and finally was able to get hold of some people who had been told that this particular individual was making these statements. I took the opportunity, on a Friday in the Dáil, of asking leave of the Chair to make a statement and, having been given permission, made a statement to the effect that that man was getting no concession. It appeared that he had put in an application and that it was receiving consideration but that, so far, it had not received favourable consideration. At any rate, its favourable consideration was going to be prejudiced by my statement, and I certainly squashed that attempt.
1701. You have been asked as to whether there was any real value in what Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe were getting. I take it that if a company is floated and if people are willing to subscribe £80,000, less £12,000—that is, £68,000—if people are willing to put £68,000 in cash into a company, the remaining £12,000 shares would be of considerable value and negotiable at once?—I think so, and, in the state of the markets with regard to gold at the moment and for a good bit prior to this, I think it meant that these shares could have been sold at once.
1702. So, if this company is successfully formed, as these two gentlemen and the other people who are dealing with them seem to think it can be formed, its formation, in your judgment, would mean that Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe will have property which they can sell forthwith for at least £12,000 or possibly more?—I think they have a very valuable property and if it were got under other circumstances I would not mind taking a share of it.
That is all I wish to ask the witness.
1703. Deputy Moore.—There is one question I should like to ask. With regard to the meeting held here in the Dáil with Mr. Harrison, did somebody report to you the nature of the conversation?—No; it was a most casual sort of statement that was made to me and there was certainly no attempt to represent to me that the person was present at the meeting nor even that he had seen any of the group.
1704. Well, in your first statement when you first appeared here, you suggested that you knew what went on at that meeting. You are reported in the Irish Times as having said that you could mention an undesirable way of getting information and that was to go to some member of the Committee. The quotation in the Irish Times says:—
“He understood that a Mr. Harrison, who had been mentioned in a letter from Mr. Briscoe, T.D., and Senator Comyn, had been in this country and had been in touch with certain members of the Committee and certain witnesses”?
—Are you tying that last part with my phrase as to the fact that I could get information? If that is the impression that might be conveyed, I would like now definitely to disassociate this from it. The question was being discussed as to whether I could get information via files, and I said that there was another way of getting information, and I said that it might be an undesirable way of getting information to approach members of the Committee. Then, in that connection, I mentioned the other matter. The approach to witnesses was the undoubted thing that was sticking out in my mind. It appears now to be quite inaccurate that that might take place.
1705. But you understand that it could give the public the impression that those who met Mr. Harrison are really intriguing against the success of this Committee?—If there is anybody who has that suspicion in his mind and that I meant it that way, whether I said it or not, I withdraw it. I certainly did not mean anything like that.
1706. Deputy Dowdall.—With regard to this third term of reference, I think you have pretty well made it clear, Mr. McGilligan, that at that time there was no other application in from anybody for a lease? You are asking me do I agree to that?
1707. Yes. Do you agree to that?—As far as I can read it in this sense, it was known in the Department that what I may call the Heiser group had been applicants; they had written letters and got back answers. They had deemed that application to have been withdrawn. Those are the circumstances revealed by the script I have read here.
1708. Well, as a matter of fact, there was a letter from the Department on the 2nd March, 1933, to Leader Plunkett and Leader, advising Leader Plunkett and Leader, on behalf of their clients, that the Department considered the application was withdrawn as they had not heard from them—this was in March—from the June, I think, of 1932, or about ten months before. Leader Plunkett and Leader, write on the 6th March, 1933, stating that they are not then in a position, owing to the absence of Mr. Heiser, I suppose it is. in the States, to go on with the project or proceed with the matter. I take it. therefore, that at the time the leases were granted there was no other application in? —I did not get the dates.
1709. The letter was written to them on the 2nd March, 1933, and the reply was dated the 6th March. That was at the time that they got the lease?—You say that on the 1st November, 1934, there was no other application in?
1710. Yes. Is that so?—Well, I cannot answer that. I do not know. I do not know that there was another application iu, but I did raise a point in the Dáil on that matter of letters. The Minister said, in reply to me, that a letter had been sent to the representatives, and I said something about there being a member of the group living within a stone’s throw of Government Buildings, and the Minister said that a letter went to that person on the same day as to these other people. Well, I do not know about that. I have not seen any evidence brought forward on that point. The Minister intimated to me that everybody concerned had been advised, that the letter could be taken as an intimation to everybody because it was to their legal representatives, but the Minister went on to say that a letter had been sent to this individual, living within a stone’s throw, meaning Mr. Summer-field.
1711. In reply to one of Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney’s questions you stated that if you found that anyone getting a concession from you on the lines of this gold mining concession had got better terms than you got, then you would be disappointed. Is not the object of all business to make a profit on what you get?—Certainly, but how do we justify this? That you gave it to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe to get development, not to do business. I think if Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn came to me and said. “We will get this put across other people. We will require in the ordinary business way —quite a sound thing—a little extra thing for getting other people involved. We are not going to do this ourselves, because we have not the financial backing or the technical capacity. We will get other people concerned,” the matter would then be perfectly clear to me and to the people as a business proposition, but it is not clear. I do not think that Deputies should be allowed to do business with property which is not theirs.
1712. Your objection is to Deputies getting this concession?—I have a special objection to Deputies getting it. Supposing you were not a member of the Dáil and, being a man with many industrial enterprises, you had been approached by somebody who was interested in gold mining in Wicklow, not being a member of the Dáil, and that you had got this concession and that instead of developing it you had simply gone across the water and had trafficked it and had placed yourself in possession of 48,000 shares and 2¼ per cent. on the capital involved, I would have said that you had done a good bit of business for yourself but I should not like to be the Minister who would have to stand over and justify letting you do it at the expense of the country.
1713. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—If the development of this enterprise would require capitalisation to the order of anything like £80,000, is it not obvious that there had to be some trafficking—if you like to use the phrase— or there had to be some negotiation for some financial instrument to do the work apart from these two Deputies?—If capital was required, and it is put across as being £80,000, it would have to be raised some way. Again, I remember the first time I spoke of it was in regard to finance and I said, contrasting this development with other Government activity, that although I disliked industry-running by civil servants, such as the sugar beet proposal, the manner of running the sugar beet industry was a far better model than handing it over to certain people and letting them get the middleman’s profit. The first time I raised it was by way of an objection to this method of having middlemen’s profits in the handling of State property. I think it is only since then that these men turned out to be members of the Oireachtas.
1714. While there might have been a better way of doing it, it is agreed that there would have to have been some bigger financial instrument involved in it than the two Deputies concerned or two other ordinary people?—Once you admit that, you are in the region of considering (a) what is the prospect of success in development, because this leads you up against this: the investing of money and the prospectus that is going to be issued to the unfortunate people who are going to be fleeced if the company, successful in its flotation, is unsuccessful in its working.
1715. It was necessary that people representing, perhaps, a personal capitalisation of £1,000 should come into this to bring it to the position of a proposition which could be made practicable. It is obvious that some further arrangement, some financial arrangement inside or outside the country, was essential to carry it any further?—Certainly; but there is the item of the 48,000 shares to be explained.
The Committee adjourned at 1.40 p.m. until 3 p.m.
Deputy McGilligan further examined.
1716. Chairman.—Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney has a question to ask as to documents in a confidential file. It contains a report from Mr. Lyburn concerning a matter which was referred to him. The general understanding was that those documents in the confidential file should be treated as confidential; and while some members of the Committee expressed dissent from being debarred absolutely from using documents of that kind for the purposes of cross-examination, I think there was, nevertheless, a fairly general acceptance that they would be treated as confidential. However, I have a distinct recollection of Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney expressing the view that he might find it necessary to use such documents. I do not, however, desire to create any precedent in the way of permitting a member to put questions on confidential documents. I should much prefer if the Deputy could possibly see his way to hand to the witness any documents from which he desires to cross-examine him, and then ask his questions arising on that matter. I think if he does that he can probably get the same effect. If the Deputy does not desire to adopt that method, which I think might reasonably commend itself to him, he can, on his own responsibility, refer to the document, since the point has been made one of somewhat major importance by the questions which were put to the witness yesterday by Deputy Geoghegan.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Of course, my point of view is that if a document is referred to that document should be read. This document was referred to by one of the witnesses, and if a false impression has been gathered from that document I think the document ought to be read. The impression which anybody would get was that Mr. Lyburn had been fully consulted. It would suit my purpose perfectly if Mr. Lyburn were called.
Chairman.—He is here and may be put in the witness chair. I take it then you do not want to ask the question of Deputy McGilligan?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Very well.
1717. Chairman.—Deputy McGilligan, I just want to ask you two questions. When giving evidence yesterday on this question of atmosphere radiated from the Minister, you mentioned that unconsciously the officials were swayed by the atmosphere. Is that a correct representation of your viewpoint in the matter?— I do not know whether I said unconsciously or subconsciously, but they have very much the same meaning. That would be my attitude. I think the officials would, in any event—good or bad—get a certain colour in their views from the head of their Department.
1718. Do you think it would be possible for an official, especially a person like the secretary or assistant secretary of a Department, not to be capable of observing the atmosphere?— I think the more capable a man is the more conscious he would be of it.
1719. Of the existence of the atmosphere?—Of the existence of it. I think he would react in a different way, that his sense of responsibility would grow as he was getting higher.
1720. In deciding the matter you think he could not possibly avoid knowing that a certain atmosphere surrounded a particular subject?—To put it in another way, you want me to advance from the point of saying that in their subconsciousness they knew and to make me say that they were conscious of it. It would all depend. This might be made clear through talks with a private secretary. The impression will get round from a man to his private secretary and it might get to the point of being put clearly before the consciousness of civil servants. It might have been consciousness or subconsciousness. It is all a refinement.
1721. Would this be a very fair way to put it, that the officials of the Depertment knew the Minister wanted to facilitate the lessees in this case and that they, feeling that atmosphere, abroad took steps to do what they thought the Minister would approve of ?—I do not think it would be anything so concrete as that. I think it would mean that they would feel “We need not put a member of the Oireachtas through his paces as much as we would put another man.” It might come to the point of thinking, “We might not put a member of the Oireachtas belonging to a particular Party through his paces as much as another man.”
1722. Do you think that kind of atmosphere existed in connection with this matter?—You are back again at the granting of the lease. In regard to the granting of the lease, I would not have made that statement without having all this now before me. But having what has been revealed, what was previously revealed to me, and what I have read since, I am up against this difficulty: why were the officials, if I might use the word, so lax in their investigation—the investigation that property should have followed the answers to their questionaire? And I think that the reason for it was: these are two members of the Oireachtas and they are a particular two.
1723. Is not that coming very close to saying that in considering this matter, because of the personnel of the applicants, the officials took a short-cut in the matter of granting this lease?—I would be very happy if I thought they were taking no short-cut, if I thought it was the normal procedure. I rather think the situation was that they departed from the procedure necessitated in regard to normal applicants outside the Oireachtas and outside a Party, and that what did happen, in a way I think is lax in this matter, happened because there was this feeling with regard to—I do not say the two individuals specially in this matter, but the political class, may I put it, to which they belong.
1724. Are you disposed to think that in this case the officials took a short-cut, or are you disposed to accept the viewpoint which has been submitted that the normal procedure was adopted?—With reluctance I will accept the view that the normal procedure was adopted because that then puts what happened in this case as the standard of the investigation and supervision made with regard to these things, and I do not think the country would be happy if they thought that was the situation. I do think that they did short-cut.
1725. And that short-cut was taken because of the fact that these were two members of the Oireachtas and two members of the Oireachtas with a particular political label to them?—I think so. Let me put it in my own way. I would say that they relaxed because of the political association—not because the civil servants were swayed by the political association, but because they felt their Minister would be.
1726. Is not that coming close to suggesting that the Civil Servants knowing what the Minister wished done, disregarded their own normal precautions in the matter and acted in conformity with the desire which they believed the Minister intangibly expressed?—I do not want to say anything so positive as expressed or even intangibly expressed or the phrase put here yesterday of “occult conveyance.” I say they got it and I think they relaxed to the point I have spoken of—less searching inquiries.
1727. That would be a very serious thing from the point of view of the Civil Service and its general integrity if the Minister having decided to embark upon a matter which might be conceived by a large section of the public to be a wrong course, by the mere radiation of this atmosphere coerced in some intangible way officials in his Department to acquiesce in that?—If it goes the length of coercion to act against their better judgment, to act definitely against a judgment for the better that they have formed, then I agree it is very bad and does mean a break down of integrity: but where it simply means that they do not operate as critical a judgment as they otherwise might, nothing positively wrong having been revealed to them, then I think it is a different matter. I think it will happen.
1728. Would you think that in this case they were wanting in exercising that judgment?—Take, for instance, a document relating to a concession for mining for a couple of years in a certain area and questions asked such as, “What are your technical capacity and financial resources?”—Let me take the last statement coming back:—£200, and we will hire, or whatever the phrase is, mining engineers or geologists. I cannot conceive it possible in an ordinary case that Civil Servants would have stopped there without asking any more questions.
1729. Except there was some king of atmosphere?—Except they believed “these two men are members of the Oireachtas and we will treat them somewhat differently; we will not ask the questions we would put to the man in the street.” You will always remember my attitude towards the mining lease is entirely different from that point onwards.
1730. In the course of evidence yesterday you stated you believe that it would not have been so easy for the lessees to have secured a lease except they were associates of the Minister. I think you said that looking at the matter in retrospect? —Yes. I am sure I said something like that; probably that was not the exact phrase.
1731. Is not that very close to suggesting that, since it has been sworn that the Minister had nothing whatever to do with the mining lease, in the first instance, or even with the sealing of the lease, that highly-placed officials in the Civil Service disregarded precautions which they might reasonably be expected to take and simply did what they believed the Minister would wish them to do. namely, to grant concessions to political associates?—Let me take the phrase you used. “Less easy” was the phrase you quoted.
1732. You said they would not have got it so easily?—Very good. I think that really that is the farthest I will let myself be pushed in this matter, if I might put it that way. What I know of the Civil Service makes it an impossibility for me to say, until I have the clearest evidence to the contrary, that they are corrupt, as the word is known. I have had nine years’ experience of them and I never even had the slightest hint of it. I also know that civil servants had tremendous courage in the sense that they put up their own point of view over and over again whether they thought the point of view was acceptable or not. They tried to deal with things in the most impartial and objective way. In this case what I do say is—and remember I always come back to this on account of what has happened since—I think that the lease was more easily granted to these particular two people than it would have been to outsiders.
1733. That seems to link up the officials with facilitating the grant of this lease without taking proper precautions?—I do myself think that proper precautions were not taken. I have no hesitation about that. But when you come to ask me whether I link up officials facilitating the grant I think that, as far as saying that there were no proper precautions taken, the files show that precautions were not taken that should be taken. But I do not think that that proves good in a case like this. If two men say they have £200 and that they have a young man engaged as a technician, I do not think they should be given a concession upon these facts alone. I think that the precautions that were taken were not what I would consider proper.
1734. That is one aspect of the matter. But when you say that these precautions were not taken because these people were political associates of the Minister, it is another matter?—There comes in the query not legitimate, having regard to everything that happened afterwards, as when I say that these men got a concession, after covenants had been broken and after demands for the £5 had been unavailing, and then this letter here and all that it drew in response, I say then that that coloured my attitude to the first thing, and I say that the whole thing shocks me.
1735. Do you say that was based on a desire on the part of the officials who dealt with the matter to facilitate the Minister, or that portion of it was due to the fact that these officials thought this a very highly speculative business and did not take these full precautions? —It would be a mixture of both things, but I have not given that any thought. I would imagine that the Civil Service atmosphere is one of security, balanced by responsibility, and that they would be less inclined to look lightly on a speculative business. I would think that a thing which was going to be speculative would warrant much more critical examination.
1736. On the other hand, you have this: that making up their minds that the matter was highly speculative they might say: “Well, let it go as a speculation, and if it comes to no good they will suffer, and let them have their way”?—I do not know what would be in the minds of the men in the Civil Service; there is that element but there is the other side as well.
1737. Is it not a very serious thing to suggest that the lessees, or applicants as they were then, were facilitated to the extent that they got that lease with great facility or without normal difficulties in the matter of these mining rights, because they were associates of the Minister?— Taking that in the abstract, I would be inclined to express horror that such a thing should happen, but knowing what humanity is I am not entirely surprised at it.
1738. Not even in this case?—Oh, I am. We have the fact of the covenant being broken, the suggestion that it was so highly speculative for this country and for everybody. I am sure the difficulties civil servants find themselves in in this and in other things is that part of their duty is to run things according to departmental policy. People are elected, a Government is formed, and they have a policy. Civil servants have to swerve from time to time. The Government that is in has one policy. Another Government comes in with a distinct and controlled policy, and civil servants are bound to help both. It is very difficult for civil servants to distinguish what is policy and what is something incidental to policy, which may issue after a time in something quite undesirable.
1739. But whatever colour was given to your view of the matter in the light of what happened subsequent to the granting of the lease, you could not understand how they got it so easily except that they were associates of the Minister—all this matter was prior to the granting of the lease?— If there was nothing except the granting of the lease! Suppose the lease was granted to these two and that Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn proceeded to work it and engaged a man, and that they got up some gold, and got a profit from that, or that it did not collapse, I do not think I could complain. But if I found afterwards that Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn got that lease, and that no investigation was made as to their resources, that the covenants were broken and that the demand for £5 had to be enforced by the Free State solicitor, that returns were not made, and that finally this agreement warranted a highly speculative business only to be floated abroad, I could not forget all that. When speaking to the Dáil—it was not so clear to me then as it is now—I did keep myself almost definitely confined to an attack upon the lessees, and secondly, I joined up with the Minister because of his failure to act when certain matters were made known.
1740. It was not that under pressure they were granted the lease, but it is very hard to separate one item from another?— I am definitely of opinion that the whole matter is coloured by politics. It took that turn and politics more and more crept in, which I consider was a bad turn. I can understand why you want me to be more definite in regard to the terms of reference before you. I start where I think somebody ought to put down his foot. Possibly I am forming another judgment when dealing with this matter, and so on progressed step by step.
1741. Deputy Dowdall.—In the beginning, when the lease was granted to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, there were no other applicants?—I do not know.
1742. I am taking it for granted that there were no other applicants and in view of that fact, does it seem unreasonable that the lease should be granted to those two, even though the terms that were obligatory were not subsequently carried out? When there was no one else applying for it, it was only reasonable that they should get it and it was not given to them merely because they were members of the Oireachtas or of the Government Party?—My answer is that the fact that there was no other applicant, if that be the fact, would undoubtedly operate on the minds of the people examining this so as to make them relax. If there was another application there would be a comparison and a consideration arising from it. Let us assume there was nobody else either then or at any other time. What came for consideration was this: that the Government, through the Minister, were going to exclude everybody else except two people from applying for an extensive State property for two years and that there was the possibility, if not the probability, of those two getting an extension so as to make it the full term of 99 years. I think the fact that you were going to give people an exclusive right to mine in a portion of the land of this country entailed this care, that you would see whether they were capable of doing it. The Department clearly thought that was the proper way to approach the matter because they had the very questions: “What is your capacity? What are your financial resources?” They also asked for references. Those questions must mean something. I think the answers given in this case, instead of being considered satisfactory, should have directed the minds of the people engaged in the matter to further care and caution.
1743. In the first place, a prospecting lease was given for two years. As a matter of fact, it was not really of very great moment for those inquiries to be made until it came to the question of the granting of a lease for a longer period?— I am afraid you cannot consider the two years alone. There were two years with what is called an option. There is a great deal more than an option, I think.
1744. There were certain conditions and if they were not capable of being fulfilled a lease for a longer period might not be given. I will come now to the question of the civil servants and their relaxation in the matter. It is within your knowledge that during the last two or three years there has been a flood of legislation imposing a terrific strain on all civil servants, but especially in the Department of Industry and Commerce?—If it is anything comparable to the strain put on a Deputy trying to follow the legislation, it must be fierce.
1745. We are dealing with a very small matter. So far as the Department is concerned, it is a question of £5 a year for two years. The officials of the Department have got a tremendous amount of more important and immediate work to attend to. It is reasonable to suppose that the officials would go easy on the unimportant matters and deal with matters more pressing. I think that is reasonable?— There is something in that, but then I understand from the slip Mr. Ferguson made that his mentality operated in this matter almost entirely from the point of view of employment—and in this instance it was the employment of four people.
1746. That was only during the prospecting period?—But in the highest period it would be eight. My remark to that is that it is ludicrous to put that forward as the main objective.
1747. It may be, but I want to get clear that so far as the officials are concerned it would not be unreasonable to expect that they would give more attention to the more pressing matters by reason of the extra legislation going on and the various orders with regard to tariffs and quotas. I suggest that they could not really give this matter the time and there is some excuse for the officials in the matter of relaxation, they have had so many other things to attend to?—If that was a very material point one would have to examine what is the extra personnel in that Department of the Civil Service. There has been a very big growth in numbers. If you want me to agree that the civil servant’s life is not a happy one, you have my assurance there.
1748. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Perhaps I might divide the period which was represented in this matter into three. Let us first take the time before the sub-lease and next let us take the time when they were supposed to be operating under it and the negotiations for financing it?—May I interrupt? Is this all relating to the sub-lease?
1749. Yes. Let us take it there was a period before that when these gentlemen approached the Minister for Industry and Commerce to get that sub-lease, and that sub-lease was given them on certain terms —£5, four men and certain returns?—You are now dealing with the lease.
1750. Let us first take the time up to that period of granting the lease which included the £5, the four men, the returns, the technical resources and the financial resources. After that, there was the period in which they might be carrying on within the terms of the lease; in other words, paying up promptly, employing four men, making returns and so on. Then there is the third period in which we find them negotiating for financial assistance to carry out the main project. I gathered from you that in your opinion, due to the political complexion of these gentlemen, the actual terms of the lease, the £5, the four men and the financial resources, were terms whose gentleness and laxity were due to the fact that these men had a certain political complexion?—I think they were easily treated, more easily treated than others would have been even in that period.
1751. The second period was the period in which they were more easily treated by the civil servants, because no one else had anything to do with it up to then?—The terms of the lease I am not bothering about. It is not a question of the one twenty-fifth. It is a question of those people getting it on their own showing of no technical capacity, and insufficient finance.
1752. The more strongly you make that the better for the moment from the particular point I am putting to you. The laxity in the actual nature of the terms drawn up for that lease was influenced by the fact that civil servants were influenced by the political complexion of the two gentlemen concerned. The second case is the case where those same civil servants are asked to enforce the payment of the £5, to enforce the employment of the four men and to enforce the proper production of returns, and so on. Your point is that that was not reported by the civil servants to the Minister?—I think from the start there was something wrong. It is hardly credible to me that the Minister would not know in some way or another. I find it impossible to believe that.
1753. You say that it should be the business of the civil servant to communicate the information and that there was a grave defect in not bringing to the Minister’s mind the failure to carry out in a reasonable way the terms of the covenant they entered into?—Perhaps I will put it this way—if you want to take it that the Minister would be completely oblivious of all this—I think there was a bit of a boost of all this in December, 1933.
1754. Yes, but I think the boost had relation to the non-payment of the £5 and the non-employment of the four men?—That would have been after the 1st November, 1934.
1755. You dealt with that?—The Minister must have known in relation to these two men. If I do not believe that, then I take it that the Minister does not believe the Irish press.
1756. You have answered that question completely in the fact that you state in connection with the pre-lease that the civil servant was influenced by the predilection of these men to enter into a more onerous covenant than he otherwise would?—I would prefer to put it another way.
1757. What you prefer and I prefer have nothing to do with the defect?— Except it is more relevant to the defect.
1758. At the moment we are dealing with one element in the formula in the second case where there was neglect and laxity on the part of the civil servants in not enforcing the actual covenant entered into ?—Not reporting it.
1759. Not enforcing it?—Not reporting it would be the first step.
1760. Very well. That is what you regard as more serious even than the nature of the covenant in the lease?— Yes.
1761. And that laxity was also due to the fact that the civil servants were alone concerned with its nature?—I questioned that.
1762. I am only taking it according to the evidence?—Then in that case you are making me answer a question in which I deny the premise.
1763. The civil servants were influenced in their laxity by the fact that these two gentlemen were members of a political party?—They were likewise influenced in their attitude that subconsciously political influence was brought upon them.
1764. And it was acting upon them and increasing from the point of view of the defects?—The defects were clearly increasing.
1765. And from the point of view that both the defects in the lease and the defects in the nature of the lease were due to the fact that the civil servants took into account the political complexity of these two people?—That must have been part of it.
1766. The first stage was where there were negotiations in the financial part of it leading up to this laxity. In that particular case that letter was sent to the Secretary of the Minister for Industry and Commerce in Lord Edward Street, and it was, I think, submitted to the Minister and your suggestion is that the whole responsibility from that moment was upon the Minister himself?—Whatever plea may be made that he did not know officially what was going on, I feel that on receipt of that letter and from his first glance at it he would say “bring me the papers.” The first minute when he saw that letter he would ask to have the papers brought him and there would be revealed to him the irregularities with regard to the breach of the covenant, the non-payment of the money and so on. From that moment he was seized with all the information which would make him act. I say he should have known all about it beforehand if he were doing his job.
1767. And whatever action he should have taken or did not take, as a result of that letter, the responsibility of action in relation to it is put up to him definitely and personally from the moment of the receipt of that letter?—I think, as far as I understand the evidence, he had knowledge of everything from the month of February. It may have been the month of April, but I read it as the month of February.
1768. His officer had discharged his whole responsibility in handing that letter to the Minister?—At any rate, at the latest date, the 25th April; from that date the Minister had the responsibility for everything that was past as well as what was to come.
1769. There was then a definite responsibility on the civil servant as dealing with the lease from the time of the beginning of the negotiations for the lease up to that time?—You mean on the day they made that letter known to the Minister?
1770. For the defects which they allowed to continue because these people were people of a certain political complexion? —Part of the laxity I ascribe to politics.
1771. But they discharged their responsibilities in sending that letter to the Minister?—I do not think so—if you mean placing that letter before the Minister without any comment on it, they did not do so. I think the civil servant, getting that letter, would and might have been expected to draw attention to the last paragraph.
1772. And any defect which is shown in not so doing, or any other action they delayed to take in relation to it you attribute to the fact that the civil servants were influenced by the political aspect?— If they felt that by drawing the Minister’s attention to this they were able to wash their hands out of it, I do not agree with them. The letter threatened legal proceedings, and I think the Minister had a right to expect from the civil servants their comments upon the letter. They might at that time have got to the way of viewing this as a shaky matter which they were sorry for having entered into. That letter speaks for itself.
1773. The most favourable view was that they discharged their responsibility by putting that letter up to the Minister, and they washed their hands out of it from that point?—I think I would have expected more from the civil servants in my time. If they told me that a company floated abroad had been put up, I think that some other notes of interrogation should be made.
1774. Deputy Coburn.—I suppose you read the evidence of Mr. Ferguson?— Yes, but I cannot say I have parsed it out.
1775. And that of Mr. McElligott? They seemed to give the impression to members of the Committee, and to myself in particular, that they carried out all the preliminaries in connection with the issuing of this lease and that the Minister had absolutely no knowledge of what was taking place. Do you, as an ex-Minister of Industry and Commerce agree with that?—I do not think anybody could describe that as the procedure in my time, but I may say this as a possible explanation of some of the things that have been said: I notice that Mr. McElligott, who naturally was speaking on behalf of the Minister for Finance, said with regard to similar leases that this one had been dealt with the same as leases in the present Minister’s predecessor’s time. I want to make this comment on that: the only leases dealt with by Finance, on their own responsibility, are leases under the State Lands Act, and, of course, under the State Lands Act there might easily be a less rigid procedure because every lease made must go on the Table of the House. In fact, a lease is not operative under the State Lands Act until it does go on the Table of the House and until either 21 days, I think, elapse or an affirmative resolution is moved, so that the Minister for Finance might easily have said with regard to the State Lands Act, particularly at a time when he was pressed: “I will sign that,” or “Put it to me in whatever way you want for my signature, but in the end it will have to be viewed in public.” That was a responsibility on him and it would have made him feel more secure. The fear of the guardianship of publicity is a great thing and it was there under the State Lands Act. But having regard to the fact that there were no leasing concessions in my time—the Act was not there and I had no responsibility under the State Lands Act—I do not regard it as a correct statement to say that the procedure followed in this was normal.
1776. You would agree with me, I suppose, that the ordinary man in the street, that is, Mr. John Citizen, the ordinary man down in Connemara or Kerry, who is interested in this, would be rather alarmed if he thought that such a state of things obtained in any of the Departments?—It is hard to say that. I remember it used to be a source of complaint made against me by political opponents that I was too much under the thumb of civil servants. Mr. Geoghegan here yesterday seemed to think that I was not sufficiently so, but I think the ordinary man in the street who knows anything about these matters would feel alarmed if he thought that the people who have political responsibility under a representative system in the country, were not consulted about such things as the handing over of State properties, no matter how valueless they were.
1777. Do you believe that they were not consulted?—Now you are on a different point. Men here in a responsible way swear that they did this entirely on their own, and I am going to accept that.
1778. You were asked questions yesterday by Mr. Geoghegan which meant to convey that this lease was sealed and everything in connection with it done by the officials concerned, and, that being so, that the Minister had absolutely no responsibility. Would you agree with that view? —I could not accept that from my knowledge of procedure. I think the Minister is fixed with responsibility for statutory duties, and he cannot get rid of it in this way. I was advised to the coutrary. I was advised that it could not be done. I made certain efforts, because I knew what the reactions of that on the departmental working would be, to get the rigidity somewhat softened down, but I do not think I succeeded. I am not very clear as to what happened, but I know that the advice came along, and that it was the subject of discussion between the Secretary of the Department at the time and myself.
1779. From the questions put forward by Mr. Geoghegan yesterday, it would seem that if any blame were to be apportioned that blame was to rest absolutely and entirely on the shoulders of the officials. Might I ask you again, as an ex-Minister, would you think you would be doing an honourable thing if you were, like Pontius Pilate, to wash your hands clear of the whole thing and place all the blame and responsibility on the officials?—I do not think anybody would ever do it. I cannot conceive the thing being done. The only way it could be done is that, I think, the Minister might, on an odd occasion, find that his civil servants might fail him, but I think the Minister, not from any sense of vindictiveness, or wounded pride, has to guard his responsibility by making it clear to the public that the civil servants suffered for it, and I have not heard of anybody being repudiated or reprimanded for what happened. It is regarded as absolutely correct procedure.
1780. Normal procedure?—It has been stated over and over again to be normal —by members of the Committee, I should say.
1781. You will agree with me that the impression Mr. Geoghegan meant to convey by his questions yesterday is that the Minister had not hand, act or part in connection with the granting of this lease and that he knew nothing about it?—Deputy Geoghegan put questions to me that went much further than that. He seemed to indicate that civil servants have the right to order a Minister off the field while they continue to play themselves.
1782. I was just coming to that. Do you agree with that view?—I never put myself on the touch-line under those circumstances. I do not pride myself as being abnormal in that respect. I think I would have been regarded as a weakling if I had suffered that to take place, but I do not think that any civil servant would arrogate to himself the power asserted here yesterday.
1783. Would you agree that while the Minister may consult his officials on matters affecting the public interest and on matters of policy, he still has the right, if he so chooses, to exercise his own judgment, even if that judgment is contrary to and antagonistic to the views expressed by his officials?—Not merely has he the right but it is his duty. It is what he is there for.
1784. When you made these charges in the Dáil, the Minister answered them by setting up this Committee of Inquiry. The view I got was that the Minister did not know very much in connection with this lease and that, in order to get at the truth, he proposed setting up this Committee. What would be your position as an ex-Minister if during your term of office, an Opposition Deputy got up and made certain charges that leases were granted to two members of your Party at that particular time and that you had absolutely no knowledge of the fact that such leases were granted? I think you would agree with me that you would find your position very difficult and you would look very foolish in the national Assembly if such a thing could happen without your knowledge?—If I found myself placed in a position in relation to a concession in which I was without knowledge that the concession had been made and of the important facts surrounding it, I certainly would feel that I had been caught out in a rather bad way. When I introduced the matter first, the Minister for Finance definitely did say that it was not his duty to answer it and that he had not the materials for the answer. A week-end intervened before the matter was raised again. I raised the matter first on Friday and it was further raised on the following Tuesday or Wednesday and all the facts could have been discovered by that time. Something has got to be regarded as normal now—it may be due to stress of business—that would not have been so regarded in my time, but I cannot imagine myself granting a concession, in relation to property or money, or anything of the kind, without knowing enough to be able to answer on the spot and certainly having details within my reach almost immediately.
1785. In order that you would be in a position to answer there and then in the Dáil when you were challenged?—Yes.
1785a. Deputy Geoghegan put some fantastic, if not silly, questions to you yesterday. He said that if every applications in connection with leases was to be examined by you or by officials that the expenditure would be enormous owing to the fact, as he himself stated, that there would be somewhere approaching two or three hundred thousand applications to be dealt with. I think that you used the word fantastic in answer to that question?—I think it is fantastic to think of two or three hundred thousand applications, and with all deference to the member of the Committee who used it, I think it was a fantastic suggestion.
1786. I suggest that it is utterly impossible to think of anything approaching two or three hundred thousand application of a similar nature?—Except under these circumstances, that supposing the idea got abroad that gold was to be picked up in all the streams in Wicklow. In such circumstances you might be flooded with applications, but then I think the applications would be so fantastic that they would not require much trouble to turn them down.
1787. Deputy Geoghegan should know that this small country is not rich in mineral wealth. There are not many mining areas in it, and those that we have are pretty well known. I imagine that the number of such applications coming in would be very few. At any rate, they would not be so numerous that it would be impossible to have them properly investigated by the officials of the Department?—I think it would be quite within the competence of the staff that was there in my time to examine all the applications that one might expect to come forward, and their examination would not entail much expenditure even if it were only the type of examination that Deputy Geoghegan spoke of.
1788. We had the evidence of Mr. Ferguson, who was very emphatic in stating that the normal procedure in regard to the granting of this lease had been adhered to. He gave as one of his reasons, on the question of the personnel of the applicants, that the fact of their being members of the Oireachtas was more or less a sufficient guarantee that the thing was all right, but I think he added that, “after all we do not go into details too deeply,” and that if these people were willing to spend money and to lose it, well, that was their own funeral. I think be stated at the end that their great objective was the provision of employment?—I read into his words, and I think he did say, that in all this his mind was concentrated on the employment to be given: that there was money going to be spent. Of course it is a good thing to spend money and to create employment, but if the balancing factor for the giving away of an exclusive right to 982 acres of land is the employment of four men who, in fact, were not employed, then I think the balance has not been properly struck, to say the least of it.
1789. In regard to the question of the propriety, or otherwise, of two members of the Oireachtas making an application for a lease of State property, regardless altogether as to whether they belonged to the Fianna Fáil Party or to what used to be the Cumann na nGaedheal Party or the Labour Party, is it your opinion that it is highly injudicious for members of the Oireachtas to be trafficking in State property or to become owners of State property?—I think it will be ruinous to the Dáil as an institution if the feeling grows that people are using their position in the Dáil not for their constituents’ or the country’s advantage, but for their own. I make an exception to that. I think a man in a particular line of business ought not to be prohibited from continuing in that business because he enters the Dáil. We were faced with all this at the time of the Shannon business, and to my mind the only safeguard is the greatest possible publicity. If men are going to be allowed to continue to make money in a way that is done secretly or which draws down suspicion, then the answer to that is to keep everything clear and above board by publication, and publication can be easily given.
1790. When I put the question to you I had not in mind at all the position of members of the Oireachtas who are directors of private companies. All honour to them to be directors of private companies or to be engaged in anything that will give employment. But I think it is the prevailing opinion amongst the plain people of this country that a man occupying a public position, whether it be as a member of the Oireachtas or of a county council or an urban council, should not place himself in the position of even having the suspicion cast upon him that he is gaining anything as a result of membership of any of these public bodies?—If a suspicion is there, I myself think it is a very healthy thing to have that suspicion there. In order to have an institution run properly we might have three stages. The first stage is that in which it was quite clear that a man would not be allowed to make money out of his representative position. That is the first and the best stage. The third, which I will take as a second preference, is that where people were allowed and it was known that people were elected to the Dáil with the Knowledge that they could gain something because they occupied a representative position. The third, and the worst in the angle of preference, would be where it was supposed they do not do it but, in fact, they may.
1791. You were questioned very closely regarding the manner in which the officials carried out their duties in connection with this affair. You were questioned very closely indeed on the question of political affiliations. It was sought by Deputy Geoghegan and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance to try to establish the fact that you were making a direct charge against the officials inasmuch as, that owing to the fact that Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe were members of the Fianna Fáil Party that they were not as exacting as they might have been in dealing with their application. The question I want to put to you is that officials can do things in the normal way, but still, knowing certain things and, as you stated, being men of the world and being human, they would not think it would be their duty to go out of their way to make certain specific inquiries which they would make in other cases. In other words, the mere fact of being members of this political Party, without saying so, and without the officials doing it directly, more or less would have the effect that investigations would not be so exacting as they would be if they were dealing with applications from other parties. That would be only natural. When you made these charges, bearing in mind the whole thing from the beginning, you had certain information, and the files have proved that that information was correct. With those files before the officials, especially the file with the letter of the 25th of April, 1935, I put it to you that if you were Minister you would certainly consider the officials were remiss in their duty if they did not bring these facts to your notice. In other words, if they did not bring to your immediate notice the letter of the 25th of April?—If a letter of that type, with the danger signal definitely flagged in the last paragraph, came into the hands of officials, and was not brought before me, eventually when it did come before me I certainly would have felt that there was irregularity and laxity in not bringing it before me.
1792. As an ex-Minister do you believe that the Minister had not read that letter?—What letter?
1793. The 25th April?—I am told he has read it. The file says that the matter did come before the Minister. I may be wrong in my reading, but I think evidence given here was that the Minister had cognisance of this somewhere about the early Spring, I think in mid-February.
1794. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I think I can be helpful to Deputy Coburn. It is admitted. It is a fact. as far as we know, that the Minister did get these particular letters.
1795. Deputy Coburn.—The subject matter of all the files?—I think once he got that letter he was bound to get all the previous papers. That letter would not come to him in the normal course without all the previous papers being attached, and if it did, his first note would be to get the evidence before him.
1796. You said that all the previous letters in connection with the lease would be sent with the letter?—I do not know. I imagine that what happened is that the whole file, and possibly, if there were any subsidiary adjacent files dealing with it, that they would be put in front of him.
1797. I take it that the Minister was conversant with all the facts leading up to the granting of the lease and subsequent to that?—When the Minister spoke in the Dáil.
1798. Therefore the impression which Deputy Geoghegan tried to convey yesterday is not quite correct. He said that the Minister knew absolutely nothing; that it was the officials carried out all the work, and did everything in connection with this, even to affixing the seal. It now transpires on the admission of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance that the Minister not only saw the letter but knew the contents. It is only natural to assume that, knowing the, contents of that letter, he would know the contents of the previous letters? —The lease is 1st November, 1934, and the sub-lease from some date in March or April, 1935. At what time he got to know of these things officially I do not know. I have taken it for granted that the latest date normally would be when the letter of the 25th of April was put before him.
1799. Is it your opinion that the Minister was unaware until April 25th, 1935, of anything that transpired in connection with the granting of the lease?—I cannot believe it. I know that in December, 1933, two newspapers carried it— and I say it without offence—with the usual newspaper boost and sensation. There was a statement to the effect that negotiations were going on, and that Deputy Briscoe was interested. I think his photograph appeared. I think there was a statement purporting to come from him in the Irish Press that there was an attempt to interest a foreign syndicate, but that it had broken down. That was apparently the first attempt to hawk the matter.
1800. Coming to the contents of the letter of April 25th, I presume you have read that letter?—I read it here.
1801. I do not propose to read the whole of it, but I will read one or two paragraphs dealing with some tests that had taken place, as to whether gold was to be found in these areas or not:—
“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.”
I take it that it was in the mind of the lessees that companies would be formed and that the money would be got from the public?—Apparently.
1802. I presume when they say the public they meant the Irish public, in pursuance of the policy that as much of the capital as possible invested in industries here should be held by Irish nationals. That is their spear-point?— That is part of the policy but there was a definite swerve from that. I think in anyone acquainted with the viewpoint involving capital invested in an industry which was held by those attached to the Government, that would naturally create the impression that Irish money would be put in.
1803. That passage clearly shows that, at least, in the mind of the lessees, they were assured that gold could be got in these areas?—Not merely that, but that the gold had a promise.
1804. And as a result public companies would be formed and the capital of them would be subscribed by Irish nationals. That is definite. Now we come to the second last paragraph in the letter:—
“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.”
In order to protect the people they made the provision that the sanction of the Minister should be obtained. A very wise safeguard. The last paragraph says:—
“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.”
There seems to be a sort of suspicion there that the thing was not going to turn out as rosy as the preceding paragraph in another part of the letter seemed to suggest, and it stated that 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 for the formation of companies. I presume the Minister read this letter?—I presume so.
1805. And having read that letter, and I presume knowing the meaning of the work “speculative,” if you were Minister, what action would you take on having read that letter?—Well, it can be alleged that what I am saying now is coloured by the attitude I have adopted previously, but I cannot believe that I would have taken any other action than immediately sending for these two people and, until I got an explanation that satisfied me, I would have persisted in the view that that was a scandalous suggestion to make to me. I believe that my opening words would have been in the nature of asking why they attempted to put such a proposal before me, and I certainly would have told them to tell their sub-lessees that my hand would never be put to that agreement.
1806. Well, now, I put it to you that, if the ordinary man, say, down in Connemara, who is possessed of ordinary intelligence, read that letter, especially the concluding paragraph in it, he would at once become very suspicious of the whole project and, I presume, would have very little to do with the project, especially as regards taking shares?—I think that is a mild way of expressing what he would have felt.
1807. Well, I do not want to express my own personal views, but is not that your impression?—I cannot imagine that paragraph creating anything but perturbation and disturbance in the minds of anybody who read it.
1808. Would I be right in suggesting —again I refer to the ordinary man in the street—that, whilst it would be right to safeguard the money of the Irish people, it would be utterly wrong to take the same safeguards in regard to money owned by Englishmen; in other words, “we will safeguard our own people at the expense of the Englishman; we can get some Englishmen to subscribe this capital that will be necessary for carrying on this work in order to safeguard the interests of our own nationals.” Do you think that that would be an honourable thing to do?— No. Our international reputation would be in the gutter if action was taken as outlined there. It would certainly be in the gutter.
1809. You would feel, I presume, as a Minister responsible for the good name of the country and the honour of the nation, that it would be your duty to take immediate steps to warn not alone the Irish public but also the English public against having anything to do with it?—I would stop the people who made that suggestion from having anything to do with the collection of money or flotation of companies in this country.
1810. Now, Mr. McGilligan, Deputy Dowdall put some questions to you today and let me say at once that they strike me as being questions that would be prompted by honesty of purpose. However, I think that they were rather questions that would be in direct conflict with the views put forward by Deputy Geoghegan and Deputy Flinn yesterday. One or two of the questions put by Deputy Dowdall would seem to suggest that, owing to pressure of work consequential upon the weight of legislation that has been recently passed as a result of which a great deal of extra work has been imposed upon the shoulders of the permanent officials and especially the officials of the Department of Industry. and Commerce, that it would be only human to expect that they could not give the time necessary for the examination of matters such as we are considering now. Would you agree?—I agree that there is a very big burden recently put on the Civil Service and that it is possible that work is not done with the same attention to detail as it might if, so to speak, Civil Service business was not so brisk. On the other hand, the Minister has stated in the Dáil that this application was very carefully considered, and delayed over for a long time. I had the quotation here the other day. I have not got it at the moment but that is the gist of it.
1811. Would not the questions put by Deputy Dowdall—and I am sure he put them in all good faith—be in direct conflict with the questions put by Deputy Geoghegan and Deputy Flinn yesterday, in which they sought to establish that the officials concerned examined every detail in connection with the granting of this lease very carefully?—Yes. I think that anything that Deputy Geoghegan or Deputy Flinn put to me was based on officials’ own evidence and that they had not all accepted the view that this matter had been scamped or hurried in any way.
1812. They did not put forward the plea of pressure of work?—No. That was not mentioned and I would not expect a civil servant to make that excuse even if it were present to his mind. In this connection, I should like to take this opportunity to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the civil servants are pressed.
1813. Deputy Dowdall.—There are one or two more questions I should like to put to you, Mr. McGilligan. I am very sorry for troubling you, but I should like to ask one or two more questions.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I do not want to interrupt Deputy Dowdall, but do you not think, Sir, that after Deputy Dowdall has finished we should not have any more questions? I mean, if everybody starts now asking questions it will take a long time.
Chairman.—Yes, I think that all the members have had a very fair innings.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I do not want to interrupt Deputy Dowdall, but I think we should finish with his questions.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I understand that Deputy Geoghegan wants to ask a question in connection with a matter he mentioned before on which a decision was delayed.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Well, that would be addressed to you, Sir. I do not propose to ask Deputy McGilligan anything further.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I am only thinking of the time of the Committee.
1814. Deputy Dowdall.—Now, Mr. McGilligan, this lease did not become a matter of major public importance until such time as it was shown that it was a valuable or possibly valuable asset* and that there was likely to be a company of £80,000 floated. Is not that correct? —I think you are right in saying that, possibly, it did not assume importance until that point.
1815. There is another thing I should like to ask you.. It arose under some questions of Deputy Coburn. Now, I asked Mr. McElligott here to give a rough estimate of how many officials he had got in his Department, and he said 120. As a supplementary question to that I then asked was it humanly possible for the Minister to be cognisant of even many major matters that went through his Department, and he said: “Absolutely no.” I believe that was, approximately, his answer. In view of that, and the fact that the lease did not become very important until it was shown to have some possible value, I take it —at least it is my view, whether you will agree with me or not—that the matter of the lease being originally granted was a matter that the Minister would scarcely be able even to handle himself?—I would not class it at the beginning in the category of major business. It was a statutory duty. I think statutory duties should be brought, and were brought in my time, to the notice of the Minister. It might, for instance, be put to the Minister and he might, on a cursory glance, on a final minute, have realised just what was on and said: “It is all right,” and initialled it, but the initialling and the bringing to him for his initials are the important points. It is a statutory duty.
1816. Deputy Geoghegan.—The matter that Deputy Flinn alluded to will be within your recollection. Yesterday I requested you to direct Deputy McGilligan to state the name of the person from whom he heard that I was in conference or in touch—I do not care what expression is used—with this Mr. Harrison, of Messrs. Harrison, Sugden and Company, Solicitors, whose name has been mentioned and letters from whom have been circulated here on the file. I ask you in the first instance to direct Deputy McGilligan to inform the Committee of the name of the person who told him. That possibly may necessitate a further inquiry as to who was the author of the slander.
1817. Chairman.—I think the question which you put to Deputy McGilligan was a question which you were fully entitled to put to the witness, but the question of my power to require a witness to answer a question and the power of the Committee to take action in the event of the Committee witness declining to answer, is a matter upon which I am not clear, either as to my own powers or the powers of the Committee at the moment. I have already had some consultations on the matter and I am pursuing these consultations with a view to ascertaining what is the precise power of the Chairman of a Committee such as this and what are the precise powers of a Committee such as this. I think the matter can be raised at a later stage and the witness can again be summoned.
Deputy Geoghegan.—With your permission, I shall defer any further observations until an appropriate later stage, it being understood that I am reserving this matter in its entirely.
1818. Deputy Dowdall.—Might I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that if Deputy McGilligan has any repugnance to giving the name of the party from whom he got his information, that Deputy McGilligan would be so good as to question his informant and ask him whether he would allow his name to be mentioned. If that could be done I am sure Deputy McGilligan could seek out whoever gave him the information and ask him to allow him to give his name.
Witness.—If this was a matter that appertained to the subject matter of the inquiry, and I found myself misled upon the point that was under consideration, no matter what pledge I had given this man, I would expose him for having misled me. For instance, in one thing I am relying on this inquiry, the information I received about the three documents in regard to the mining unit, if I found that that man had misled me and if, for instance, I had to put in a wrong document, I do not care what he felt, as to how I had bound myself to him in regard to secrecy, I would not hesitate to tell the Committee the name of that man. Possibly I may accept Deputy Dowdall’s suggestion but if I approach that gentleman I think he could quite legitimately say to me “I passed a casual observation to you; you have made use of it and it is your responsibility.” I think it is my responsibility and it is for me to make amends in regard to any inaccuracy. As I said before, if in a public position a man gives me information that I think is of serious importance so that I found a charge upon it. if it is wrong I am entitled to ask that person into the light but I am not merely a public representative. I have touch socially with people. I am a human being. I like to talk with people, and if every observation they make to me, which I am unfortunate enough to repeat afterwards means that they are going to be brought before the Committee, I will be more or less sent to Coventry. I do not want that to happen. If there has been any mistake made about that it is my responsibility.
1819. Deputy Dowdall.—Still you might possibly get your friend to agree to give his name?—I may possibly. In that case, I have no objection whatever but I am not sure that I should even put the onus of refusing on him. I think it is better for me to take the responsibility and whatever condemnation, censure or public disrepute there may be for having done what I have done, it is my responsibility on the whole. This was a very casual observation passed to me and, as I said in my second statement, even the reason why the man made the junction between certain matters that happened was as stated to me, namely, that they approximated in time, emerging from a certain area, and so on. I think that gentleman could quite easily say to me: “I merely made a statement; I gave you my reasons. You knew the strength and the weakness of these reasons and you decided to say something. Well, it is your look out.” I do think it is, frankly, and perhaps I should not have done it.
1820. Chairman.—I think you said that you wanted to make an observation on another matter?—There is just the matter of the evidence, what has been reported and what I said. I do not want to suggest that I am going to be obliged to read everything I said here and the questions put to me, but I noticed absolute unanimity in the reports I read, about a thing which, if I did say it, was wrong. There may be others and I think this may easily have occurred because the phrases might, on the whole, be the same. When I was speaking of the younger Norman boy, and about a certain arrangement that was made about his wages, I said that at one time the arrangement was that he was to get £2 10s. per week. The phrase reported unanimously in the papers was that he got it for the first week, that he did not get it for the second week and that he spent the third week writing for the £2 10s. If I said “writing” I did not mean writing. I did use the phrase “waiting” for the money. I do not know if he wrote and I had no such statement to make. There may be other errors of a verbal type in the evidence and I suppose all this evidence will go on record. Is there any arrangement made in regard to corrections?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—You will get a copy of the script.
Witness.—Correction is a very dangerous thing to embark upon.
1821. Chairman.—You will be supplied with a copy, and any corrections will be entered provided you do not alter anything in a material way.
Witness.—As far as I am concerned, if the script is given to me to look through it, and if I put alterations or corrections on the side, I shall be satisfied if you will yourself finally settle the form in which they are to appear. I do not want to be brought into this as urging corrections, but there is this verbal error that I noticed. I will give another example, which is of much less importance. I made an analogy yesterday in regard to a South African proposition. I talked of it by the proper name—the Cloverfield Mine. That has been reported as if it were a reference to a mine in a clover field in this country, which is quite an absurd meaning to give the phrase I used. It looks as if somebody down the country got a licence for mining a clover field. The place is called “the Cloverfield Mine.” I expected to see that in inverted commas, but that was not so. I do not care about that, and merely give it as an example.
1822. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—My recollection is that that is exactly what you did say.
Deputy McGilligan.—Oh, no.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—He referred to a mine called “The Cloverfield Mine.”
Witness.—My recollection is that when I was speaking the name escaped my memory for a moment. I hesitated and then said: “It was the Cloverfield Mine.”
1823. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—At any rate, it is clear that the witness will receive a copy of the report, on which he will be asked to make corrections of verbal errors.
Witness.—When I send it back, having corrected what I think are verbal errors, I do not want any conflict. I should much prefer somebody to censor it and say: “That is what you said, for good or ill.”
1824. Chairman.—We will arrange that when your corrected print comes back the Secretary will show it to me. If there are no corrections which amount to substantial alterations, but merely corrections of obvious mistakes, I think the Secretary will be able to pass those in the usual way. I do not want to set myself up as a censor of what a witness said.
Witness.—I am aware of the fact that I speak rather quickly, and that it is not always easy to take down what I say. I have had complaints made to me about that, so I should like to have verbal errors attended to.
Chairman.—I do not think there are any other questions. Thank you, Mr. McGilligan, for your evidence.
The witness withdrew.
Chairman.—Unless Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney wants to hear Mr. Lyburn I will now call Mr. Leydon.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—There are only 18 minutes left before the adjournment. As far as I am concerned I am going to ask Mr. Lyburn only one or two questions.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Perhaps we might notify the Minister that he will not be required until 11 o’clock to-morrow.
Chairman.—The Minister may be so notified.
Mr. Leydon.—There is a meeting of the Executive Council at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I think, even if there is an Executive Council meeting we are entitled to the presence of the Minister.
Mr. Leydon.—The Minister will attend at 11 if the Committee require him.
Chairman.—I rather prefer that Mr. Leydon’s evidence should be taken before the Minister’s in the morning. If we are only starting at 11 o’clock with Mr. Leydon, it will probably be nearly 12 o’clock when we require the Minister.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—There is just one point; I am not prepared to have this Committee held up any more.
Chairman.—There is no question of holding up. We summoned the Minister for 3.30 to-day. Presumably he has waited for us. It is now nearly 4.45, and we have not been able to take him. If we summon him for 11 to-morrow it is possible that we will not be ready for him.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Might we summon him for 11.30?
Chairman.—Yes. although I think the examination of Mr. Leydon will take longer.
Mr. Leydon.—The Minister can get here within three minutes at any time.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I think we are entitled to preference in the matter of the attendance of witnesses.
Chairman.—There has been no question about it. We have had more witnesses than we have been able to deal with.
Mr. E. St. John Lyburn (Economic Geologist, Department of Industry and Commerce) sworn and examined.
1825. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—You are a geologist?—Yes. Might I ask the Chairman a question, please. It would appear to me, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, that you would really want some explanation from me, as one who has gone through the mining mill, to let you know how mining royalties are valued, because in this particular case it comes under a section known to mining men as the third section. If I can try to put you right, in plain mining language, as to the position that we, as mining engineers, occupy in accepting a scheme of valuing property, it may help this inquiry. I have just listened here, and I can see that you want some enlightenment upon how this gold occurs in County Wicklow and how it occurs in other countries. I have experience of County Wicklow gold as well as of South African gold. Therefore I feel that, having this knowledge, as well as knowledge of the valuations of coal, iron and other deposits throughout the country, I might be allowed to tell you how those valuations are arrived at, and to bring you stage by stage until I get to the concrete proposition where I came in and recommended a certain royalty to my superior officers.
Chairman.—It is a very tempting offer, but I want to see to what extent it fits in with what Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney wants to ask you.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Mr. Lyburn is anxious to make a statement and I should hate to stop him.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—And as a matter of fact we are rather anxious to hear it.
Chairman.—He was called for the purpose of answering questions.
1826. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.— Perhaps he might be allowed to make his statement.
Witness.—What I feel is that as none of you here is a miner you might want to hear from a miner how those things are done. I will take in the first place the deposit known as coal, and I will demonstrate to you as well as I can how the valuation of a coal mine is arrived at. When we are valuing coal mines there is an accepted international formula of 1,500 tons, which is the amount of coal per acre of one foot thick. Therefore we know, as mining engineers, that if there are two acres of coal you have 3,000 tons. The royalty on coal is generally 6d. per ton and therefore an acre with a four-foot seam is worth about £150. Then I come to iron, which is a deposit worked somewhat similarly to coal. We know enough to guess more or less the cubic content per acre of iron per foot thick. To give you an example. If that is a coal mine or an iron mine (demonstrating) and we are working that deposit, when going into this area or that area we know what we are going in for, and we can have a direct purchase or the owners can have a direct sale, because we all know what is there. That all comes under the heading of No. 1. The second way of dealing with a royalty is this; if I do not want to buy that property, in working this coal or iron mine, I can pay a royalty per ton. I can give the royalty owner 6d. per ton for coal or 2d. per ton on iron ore. I can get it out through this shaft (indicated) and take it away. That is what we call valuation of the value per ton raised out of that property.
We come now to this specific thing in question. We come down to gold, copper, lead, tin, zinc and other metals of that description which do not exist in those peculiar stratified deposits. A bit may be here and a bit may be there; in other words it is all over the show. We cannot, whether a mine is working or not, estimate the value of these materials. We say: “We do not know what is there, but we will take the precaution, if there is anything there, that we will get our share of it.” That is the position which I am going to dwell upon as regards these royalties which I asked the Government to approve of. I have listened here to evidence about a lease which I am responsible for in the way of royalties and dead rents, and the second thing that faced me here was questions as regards four men and eight men at work. Why do we put in four in the prospecting lease or eight men for a lease proper? I should have said that a prospecting lease is a lease to see what is there. In this country I made that lease two years. In another country it might be only one year. That was because of the country not being a mining country and not having trained mining men in it, plus the difficulty of getting machinery. In this country you have to give any man who risked his money a little bit longer than one year. You must give him two years to carry out the lease properly. Coming down to this question of four men in the prospecting lease, whether for one year or two years, and to the question of eight men for the lease proper, that is not put in with the object of employing four men. It is put in with the object of trying to force the man who takes the lease to do something. No mining man in the world will take an onerous lease which requires that during the prospecting period he will have to employ 50 men, or a lease under which he would have to employ 1,000 men. He could not do it. In this mining business you cannot see what you may be doing 45 or 50 years ahead. We cannot see into the ground. Therefore, we take precautions, just as in connection with the royalty we try to get what we think is going to come out of it, on some basis that we agree and accept. Putting in four men or eight men. as I did in this lease, is only really to make the lessee do something He can employ 60.
As to this Wicklow gold field I can say that I more or less know the field. But if I were selling it I make a mess of it; I might give it too cheap. I cannot estimate what the ore is worth per ton because nobody has done very much work. I do the next best thing to protect my superior officer and the Minister in a lease by asking for a bit of what they are going to get. There is no use showing diagrams of how it is done.
1827. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—You have told us about the fixing of a royalty at 4 per cent. You fixed the royalty at 4 per cent?—Yes.
1828. As a matter of fact, that is also in the Woods and Forests memorandum? —The same as the British terms.
1829. You know this Wicklow gold field?—Yes.
1830. I think you prospected there for some little time yourself but you could not get leave from the land-owners to continue?—You evidently read my papers.
1831. I did you the courtesy of reading your papers because before I joined the Committee I wanted to know something about the subject matter. I think your view is that there may be gold in this neighbourhood if properly searched for?—Yes.
1832. You have read other articles on the subject because you refer to them in your article?—Every paper on it.
1833. You know about the gold mining which was carried on before in Wicklow? —Yes.
1834. By the Carysfort Mining Company?—And the actual spot where they mined.
1835. Two things can be done in Wicklow. One is to locate the parent lode?— Yes.
1836. That, of course, might be done by anybody by chance. You seem to have hit on it?—That I have done.
1837. You found the parent lode?—I claim to have found the mother lode.
1838. Of course, the mother lode is the place from which all the other gold has been won?—The mother lode sheds her children in the valley.
1839. If that is so, it is not this place that we are now talking about, but it is whether the mother lode is such a valuable place?—Not necessarily. Might I amplify that statement and tell you why? The mother lode as I found it is only, I think, about eight inches thick. I only got five minutes to come here, and I should have looked up my papers, but I think my memory is correct. She is about eight inches thick in one particular place and only carrying four pennyweights per ton. Gold is now £7 per ounce; that is 7/- a pennyweight. Four times that is 28/-per ton.
I will accept your word. There are other parts in this particular neighbourhood where this lease to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe had been made that are more or less in the same neighbourhood that has been worked before?—In other words, where the mother lode shedding her children.
1840. It is in the same neighbourhood, say, as the big rush was at the end of the 18th century?—Yes, the townlands they have got. The Gold mine river comes down from where the mother lode is.
1841. Is it your view that there are various other areas which must be worked as a placer mine?—Yes.
1842. Is it your view that a person with no experience of gold mining is as capable of working a placer mine as a person of experience?—My experience is that a man with very little or no experience could go to Wicklow to-morrow and probably do just as well as a man with the highest technical skill, such as I have myself, I think. You must go back to the days in Africa where you had what you call the grub staker. That was a prospector who had nothing, but came in and got a few tins of bully beef, went to the mountains, and came back with his pockets full of gold. So that you could have in the County Wicklow a fellow inexperienced in gold mining who is able to come down and get what probably a qualified prospector could not get.
1843. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—We all know that ordinary country people got gold out of Wicklow, but that the proper working of a gold mine requires substantial skill and knowledge of mining?—This is not a gold mine requiring substantial skill. What they are doing and what we had in view when giving the lease is, they are going out to prospect and to see what is there. I consider they have sufficient resources in £200 plus the status of the men, and that they are only doing preliminary work. Possibly it will cost more, but they have enough at present for the small piece of ground.
1844. Nearly 900 acres?—It is not big for prospecting.
1845. But it is a substantial area?— Yes.
1846. In your view, in order to prove the article, you think £200 is sufficient?— You must know the difference between working a deposit and prospecting for a deposit. What, after all, is a mine? A mine is a thing that dies from the moment it is born. The moment you put a spade into it and take your ore out you are doing away with it. You must have a large amount of capital for metallurgical treatment, but for a small thing such as this you do not require much more than human endurance.
1847. There are four people?—Yes.
1848. In permanent employment?—The object was to put in four men, and so far as I know we only asked it to be done.
Chairman.—I understood the arrangement was that we were to adjourn at 5 o’clock.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—We can continue Mr. Lyburn to-morrow and take the Minister at 11.30.
Chairman.—I would like to hear Mr. Leydon before the Minister.
1849. Deputy Dowdall.—I just want to ask one question. (To witness): You said that there were four pennyweights to the 8-inch seam?—The seam is quartz, that is, white material, and may have disseminated through it small particles, or pin-heads of gold. I claim to have found the mother lode above Wooden Bridge. The water flows over and takes away stuff and deposits it here and there. When I found this stuff over 25 years ago it was about eight inches thick and was to the value of four pennyweights to the ton.
1850. How many pennyweights in an ounce?—Twenty.
Chairman.—Now about to-morrow’s sitting. It will not be possible for me to attend after the lunch adjournment.
Deputy Dowdall.—We can arrange to put somebody else in the Chiar.
The Committee adjourned at 5.5 p.m. until to-morrow (Friday) at 11 a.m.