MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 24adh Iúl, 1935.
Wednesday, 24th July, 1935.
The Select Committee sat at 5.45 p.m.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson further examined.
464. Chairman.—In the application made by Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe for a prospecting lease, one of the queries addressed to the applicants is to state the amount of financial resources available to enable prospecting and development work to be carried out. In this particular case the prospecting lessees said they were prepared to spend £200 in prospecting within the next twelve months. When the prospecting lease was granted, did you take any steps to ascertain whether, in fact, the lessees had that sum of money for prospecting purposes and if they had complied, in fact, with what is implied in their reply to that query?—On your first question as to whether they had the money, we did not take any steps which would not be taken in the ordinary way. We did not make an examination as to whether they, in fact, had in their banking account £200. We took it, as I said yesterday, that if they had the money to spend and did not spend it, it would be a breach of the lease, and we assumed that these people in making this offer were giving an undertaking that they had that money to spend. On the second point, in the ordinary course, we would be receiving from them a six-monthly report and we would and are, in the ordinary course, proceeding to investigate as to whether the money was actually spent. That is done in the Department as a matter of official routine.
465. In your consideration of those problems arising out of the application, would it be an important consideration that there were other applicants for mining leases in that area?—It would, certainly. We would then have to consider the comparative resources of the applicants and the comparative amounts which they were prepared to spend. The question of one being preferable to the other would then, of course, arise.
466. Without making any allegation that there was any laxity in the Department, do I take it that the attitude of the Department was that it was better to get some money spent than to get no money spent?—That is a fair way of putting it.
467. In this particular case, were you in fact, satisfied that the applicants had the requisite resources, financial and technical?—When you say that. I presume you do not say that we have made estimates of their financial and technical resources. That would be impossible. They said as a beginning that they were prepared to spend up to £200 and that they would employ up to four men. That was, in our opinion, something—better than nothing, as you put it a moment ago. If events showed them that more could be spent, we would have a chance of having a larger amount spent at a later date.
468. When this application was made to your Department by the two, was the policy decision to grant a lease taken by highly placed civil servants, or was the Minister consulted in the matter before a decision was reached?—The Minister was not consulted. It was taken as an ordinary matter of office routine by an officer of the rank proper to take such a decision. In this case it was myself. Afterwards, in the case of the lease itself, it was the head of the Department.
469. The initiation arose, therefore, from a decision taken by yourself or by another person in authority?—That is so.
470. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I put it to you that between you and the Minister there was another official? Was he consulted in the matter?—Not when I issued that letter.
471. Chairman.—Could it be said with any truth that the Minister influenced you to regard favourably the application of Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn?— Neither directly nor indirectly. The suggestion is absurd.
472. So that all the preliminary work in connection with the making of this lease had nothing whatever to do with the Minister?—Absolutely nothing.
473. In granting this lease, I take it that you, at some period of the discussions, obtained the views of the geological expert in the Department, Mr. Lyburn?— Yes.
474. Could you say yourself, in any general way, what Mr. Lyburn thought of the deposits?—It might not be possible to regard the consultation with Mr. Lyburn as strictly taking his views. I do say that I did not expect Mr. Lyburn to be in a position to say whether it was a very valuable mine or whether it would pay. I have an exceedingly high opinion of his competence as a geologist—his knowledge of that area is second to none —but I would not expect him to answer that question, and I would not put that question to him. The possibility of some gold being got from prospecting in Wicklow was always there, but whether, in fact, a profit could be made from working it, was not a question he could be expected to answer and could not.
475. In any consideration of the amount of royalty to be fixed was there advertence to the fact that minerals could be mined on a profitable basis there?—I am not quite clear. Yes, I presume that was one of the matters coming into the decision, that the particular royalty was on the whole a fair and proper one in the public interest.
476. Having regard to the extent of the deposits and the ease with which they could be got or the difficulties?—Having regard to all those matters.
477. Do you think that 4 per cent. was a fair and proper figure whether they were difficult to get or easy to get?—It is very difficult to separate the elements considered in determining what would be a fair royalty. I did define yesterday that this royalty was arrived at after consulting everybody, including Mr. Lyburn and all who had knowledge. We did consider that this was a proper amount whether the mines proved to be paying or otherwise.
478. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Are there precedents for that figure?—I believe there are.
479. Chairman.—Are you familiar in any way with the royalties charged in other countries?—I think it would be better to put that to some of my colleagues. I think there was some advertence to that matter at the time this was discussed, but I should not like to trust my memory on it.
480. Do you think a higher royalty could be got?—I think it was a perfectly fair royalty.
481. There was no discussion on the point with the prospective lessees; you fixed it because you believed it to be fair? —I cannot answer about the discussions, but we arrived at the conclusion that it was a fair figure.
482. Yesterday you said you regarded the royalty as a very good bargain in the public interest. On what factors do you base that view?—On the fact that if there was no working done there was nothing gained by the State at all, and that if it were worked and something produced we got employment for four persons and the possibility of the employment of many more, and particularly so as there was no competing offer at that time. If there were competing offers the question of whether more could be got or not would arise. In this case, it did not arise.
483. You saw a letter on the file addressed to Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn from Mr. Heiser dated March 12th, 1935—File 195/119?—Yes.
484. Reference has been made in the public controversy about this matter to the proposal which was submitted to the lessees by Mr. Heiser that the lessees were to undertake to do certain things in return for certain considerations. You will observe that in paragraph (1) Mr. Heiser, addressing Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn, said:
“You are, subject to the consent in writing of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, being first had and obtained, to grant to Risberget, Limited, of 39a Maddox Street, Hanover Square, London, or its nominee, a sub-lease or licence to work the mineral deposits demised by the above-mentioned lease for a term of 97 years,”
on certain terms which are then set out. Was any proposal submitted to the Minister to obtain his consent in writing to this sub-lease or licence?—I will have to refresh my memory about that now, Mr. Chairman. I understand that there was no written application to that effect.
485. Was there any oral application?— Not that I am aware of, Mr. Chairman.
486. Deputy Fitzgerald.—What does this mean—does it mean an application of Heiser to the Company, or to Messrs. Comyn and Briscoe, or does it mean an application to a civil servant?
Chairman.—I am inquiring whether Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn made any application to get the consent referred to in paragraph (1) of the letter referred to.
Witness.—It is referred to in a minute on the same file dated April 25th, the last paragraph on page 1 of the minute at the right-hand side. There is no application made clearly, but on conversation with an officer of the Department reference was made. No official application in definite terms was made.
487. Chairman.—What action did you take on the request contained in that letter? You will observe that it is said in your letter of the 29th April, 1935, that the letter and agreement are receiving attention?—Yes ; the letter before that, of April 25th, is a statement from Messrs. Comyn and Briscoe referring to this, but no definite application to us on which we would take action. It is a matter of moving towards, on the part of the parties, a definite application to us which we did not get.
488. Chairman.—Did not the letter of April 29th simply indicate that the contents of the letter of April 25th and the agreement were receiving attention?— Quite.
489. What kind of attention?—That might be any kind of attention. It might be a decision after consideration to take no action if it is decided that this did not confirm the application.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—If you turn to the last paragraph of the letter of May 2nd you will see what I take to mean that they have applied and propose to go into it.
490. Chairman.—The indication that this agreement and letter were receiving attention is dated April 29th. Can you say what has been done since then in connection with this letter and agreement? Has any decision, in fact, been taken? Has any decision been conveyed to the lessees?—No.
491. It that so?—I am just confirming it from the minutes, Mr. Chairman.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—If you just look at the letter signed by Mr. Ferguson himself on May 24th, 1935, you will see there Mr. Ferguson himself writing saying that application is being made.
Chairman.—That is not the question I am asking.
Witness.—The decision generally was that these sub-leases require our approval in accordance with the terms of the Act. We didn’t acknowledge that a definite application for this sub lease was receiving attention—the matter was receiving attention. There was no question of approval of sub-leases, there could not be until we had the terms before us. My letter of May 24th reminds me of that, no action could be taken until we had the terms.
492. Chairman—You did not regard the last paragraph of the letter of May 2nd from Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, as being an application?—We did not so regard it. It was not.
493. Deputy Fitzgerald.—What about the entry on this file, dated April 29th?
Chairman.—That is not the question I am asking.
Deputy Geoghegan.—May I draw your attention, Mr. Chairman, to this minute of April 29th, signed J. M. C., in which the point of view was put forward by Senator Comyn that no consent was necessary—at least, that is, I read it that way.
494. Chairman.—In the letter addressed to the Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce, from Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, and dated April 25th, the second last paragraph would appear to suggest that the lessees regarded this area as having deposits of a kind that were merchantable?—Yes.
495. Did you regard that in conjunction with the nil return?—I would say that one would expect a nil return. Sufficient time must elapse, there might be nil returns for the first, second, third or sixth months. Six months might be a reasonable time to allow to elapse before going back and saying that the covenants of the lease had not been observed.
496. Did the Department advert to the facts set out in the second paragraph when the nil return was received?—I can hardly answer that question in that form.
497. The point I want to clear up is that a nil return was received over a period during which the lessees indicated that in certain townlands they had made a thorough investigation of the mineral deposits, and found very big deposits?— The nil return refers to production. This refers to something they discovered and was, therefore, not production at all. They might have discovered it and looked at it—they haven’t produced anything.
498. Are you satisfied that all they did was just to look at it?—I don’t know what they did. I am trying to explain that the return refers to production and this refers to an opinion that they believed this was so.
499. During this period there were some persons working there?—I presume there were.
500. Had you any suspicion that they might have mined some gold in that period?—Well, that is a difficult question to answer. I do not spend my time having suspicions about things. There was a lease given and there were certain covenants in the lease and I had to see that they were observed. If they failed to do that after a reasonable period it was my duty to get an explanation. That is exactly what was done in fact—I allowed a reasonable time to pass.
501. Deputy Fitzgerald.—If the witness looks at the file he will see that it is not an expression of opinion. It is stated as a fact after a thorough investigation they discovered that there are deposits there?— I regard that as an opinion very definitely.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—It is not stated as an opinion.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance—If I stated that Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald is wrong would that be a statement or an opinion?
Deputy Fitzgerald.—It would not be a statement on an opinion; it would be a statement on a fact, and as a matter of fact it would be an erroneous opinion.
502. Chairman.—We cannot have this. (To Witness): In your evidence yesterday you stated that one of the applicants for the lease had spent a lot of money on mining exploration?—Some money.
503. “A lot of money” is what I wrote you down as saying. Are you personally aware of that fact?—I am not personally aware of the amount of money spent, but I do know that he and others associated with him have for many years kept a considerable number of men employed on working certain deposits, and I presume that meant a lot of money.
504. You stated that one of the applicants for the lease had a bias towards mining exploration?—It was not a surprising thing this gentleman having an interest in mining.
505. Was he a financially successful miner?—I am not going to express an opinion on that.
506. It did not seem surprising to you that he had made application for a gold mining lease having regard to his previous activities?—I do not think I had any particular feelings about it at all. I took it as a matter of office business. I may have had feelings at the time, but I don’t know what they were. It would not be normal otherwise. He had in fact displayed considerable interest in much more remote things than gold, namely, phosphates in Clare, so if he told me there were diamonds in Dublin I would be less surprised than if anyone else told me.
507. When you received this application you knew that Messrs. Comyn and Briscoe were fairly prominent politicians?—Why ask that question? I do not think it is fair to suggest that that affected me in any way.
508. I have not suggested that. Listen to the question. I suggest to you that as a highly placed civil servant you could hardly escape knowing that they were two prominent politicians?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—It is a perfectly fair question.
509. Chairman.—I am not suggesting anything. When you received this application you knew they were fairly prominent politicians?—I do not think it is quite fair to suggest that that affected me.
510. You knew these men were members of the Oireachtas?—Of course.
511. Had that fact any influence on the application?—No. I have said so before and I repeat it very definitely now. The fact that they were politicians and members of the Oireachtas did not affect me in any way—not in the slightest degree.
512. If they had been ordinary citizens they would have been dealt with in the same way?—Precisely.
513. Deputy Geoghegan—Mr. Ferguson, you have been asked questions (1), relating to the application for consent by the Minister to the licence granted to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe; and (2), and to the steps, if any, taken in the Department pursuant to the application. I want to ask you this. Mr. Whitton, I think, dealt with the legal aspect of this?—Yes.
514. Without pursuing the matter in detail, are you aware that the view was put forward that the licence of April 27th, 1935, was to be construed together with its covering letter?—Yes.
515. And the true view of the two together might be that the covering letter purported to show that the licensees would be only taking minerals as agent for the lessors?—I remember that that view was put forward.
516. Of course you are only expressing an opinion on that?—Yes, but I do remember that was the view put forward at the time.
517. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—The first mention we have on the file of the 4 per cent, royalty is the suggestion coming from Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe that they were willing to pay a 4 per cent. royalty. Had you any conversation with them at all about the suggestion of the payment of 4 per cent. royalty?—I would have to refresh my memory on that point; it was 2½ per cent.
518. Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald.— Could the witness give me the reference to the document dealing with the 2½ per cent?—It is the last document on file 195/22.
519. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Yesterday, Mr. Ferguson, it was put to you, in very strong and definite fashion, that it was objectionable, doubtful, wrong, and edging on the possibilities of corruption and an invasion of sound public policy that members of the Oireachtas should enter into any contract of any kind with the State. It was also put to you that it was very doubtful law as to whether they could in fact so enter. And, it was also put to you that whether it was doubtful law or not, it was a bad practice. Do you recollect that?—Yes.
520. You, as Assistant Secretary of that Department, have been actively engaged in the work of that Department apart from the question of licences and so on. Are you aware if it has ever been suggested to your Department that it was objectionable, doubtful, wrong, bad practice, and open to possibilities of corruption for your Department to enter into contracts with a member of the Oireachtas?— No.
521. Have you any records in your Department expressing the view that it is edging on the possibilities of corruption for the State to enter into a contract with a member of the Oireachtas?—No.
522. Has that view ever been conveyed to you from other Departments?—I would prefer not to speak of other Departments, but, so far as I know, no.
523. Would you be surprised to know that such a practice which is declared to be against the public interest, bad practice and doubtful law was, in fact, in operation in the Free State from the time it was set up to the present day?—No.
524. You would not be surprised?—No.
525. It was further suggested to you that it is in general principle reprehensible that the State should enter into contracts with members of the Oireachtas, and that it is specially reprehensible for the State to enter into contracts with members of the Oireachtas who are on its own side in politics. Would you be surprised to know from your departmental knowledge that from the time of the setting up of the Free State until the present day that contracts have been entered into by the State with men who are members of the Oireachtas, and with members of the Oireachtas who were on their own side in politics?—I would not be surprised to know such a thing occurred.
526. Have you any knowledge that in 1921 a contract to the amount of about £2,000; in 1923, over £4,000; in 1924, £600 and £7,000; in 1925, £15,000; in 1926. £18,000, £2,700, £3,500, £5,100, and £1,500; in 1927, £5,800 and £43,600; in 1928, £9,700; in 1929, £5,600 and £10,000; in 1928, £1,000 and £200; in 1930, £6,000; in 1931, £4,600 and 2,800; and in 1931, £501 were entered into with a member of the Oireachtas who was a regular supporter of that particular Government? Would you be surprised to hear that?— No.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I am surprised that the witness would not be surprised to hear that the Free State entered into a contract with a member of the Oireachtas in 1921.
527. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—We will agree to the little error. (To Witness) : Would you be surprised and shocked to hear that those contracts had been entered into with a member of the Oireachtas?—No.
528. Would it be a shock to you to know that contracts of a different kind-time and material contracts—between 1924 and 1927 amounting approximately to £150,000, and from 1928 to 1933 contracts amounting to approximately £250,000 were entered into by the Government with that same member of the Government. Would that surprise and shock you?—No.
529. And in view of the fact that the total of these contracts with that particular member of the Oireachtas amounted approximately to £500,000, do you think that if your Department had any doubt that thing was wrong that such knowledge would be kept from you over all that period?—I am certain it would not.
530. And if, for example, a member of the Government that did not hold the same politics as that particular member continued to enter into these contracts would you regard it as reprehensible?—No.
531. If the contracts committee passed such contracts and sent them to the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Finance also passed them, have you any knowledge that your Department would see anything wrong or reprehensible in the matter?—Certainly not.
In relation to these contracts, Mr. Chairman, I wish to say I am perfectly satisfied they were entered into in a proper manner, and I am not suggesting there was anything wrong in it. I am simply putting it to the witness in relation to the statement that it was doubtful law and reprehensible to enter into any contracts such as that with Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe. I put it to him to show that there is a precedent of this kind extending over a very long period, and having regard to that precedent I asked the witness whether he felt there was anything wrong in the State entering into a contract with Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn.
Witness.—It never occurred to me that there was.
532. Deputy Costello.—Arising out of the questions which have been put to you, I want to ask you if you know, of your own knowledge, of any of the contracts that have been referred to; I mean, in general?—No.
533. Do you know the particular member that is referred to?—No.
534. Do you know of the particular law that was referred to in the British House of Commons in reference to contracts made with the Crown or with Government Departments by members?—In a very general way.
535. Do you know that the particular law did not apply to a case where a member of the House of Commons was a shareholder in a company that was contracting with the Government?—In a general way, perhaps.
536. But you would accept that from me?—Yes.
537. You are not in a position to say whether the particular member was a shareholder or a member of a limited liability company?—No.
538. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Although your answer is in the negative, you know the general arrangements about contracts?— Yes.
539. You know that the ordinary custom is that they are advertised for competition?—It depends on the size of the contract. There are rules and regulations governing these matters.
540. But they are generally advertised? —I know many of them are.
541. Consequently, there is not any strict analogy between the case—I do not know the case referred to, but my own experience is that usually these things are advertised, tenders come in, and the contract is given to the lowest tender?— I do not think of it in terms of a contract.
542. I think there is not an exact analogy between the two and, therefore, I do not wish to pursue it.
I think you may have misunderstood the Chairman. He spoke of the letter relating to “valuable auriferous deposits.” You stated your policy was not to press that matter for one or two months. You seemed to have overlooked that your return was a six-monthly return, and that it was sent on on the same day as this statement about auriferous deposits?—I thought I understood it. You see it would be possible to have a “nil” production return and yet the parties might have discovered very good evidence of the deposits.
543. Although not unduly suspicious, personally I would think that a person seeing valuable auriferous deposits lying about would show extraordinary powers of inhibition by leaving them there?— In a Government office, I may say that one gets very sceptical about statements made by many people; consequently, one does not, as the Chairman put it, advert to them—one goes on and attends to them.
544. Of course, suspicion might attend a “nil” return?—Suspicion, perhaps, if one paid too much attention to mere statements.
545. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Would the mere statement that there were auriferous deposits there induce you to invest money?—It would not affect me, personally or officially.
546. Deputy Traynor.—Enterprises of this kind would not be advertised?—No; there are definite working arrangements that they are not advertised; it is not the practice like the cases of contracts.
547. Could you give us an idea of the first date upon which the Minister became acquainted of the fact that Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe were interested in the matter?—I think that would be shown in the documents.
548. There is a date given in the documents; I am wondering if that is the first time?—I think the date is the 21st February, 1935.
549. You also stated that there were no competing parties; were there, in fact, no competing parties?—None to my knowledge.
550. Deputy Coburn.—Coming back to this letter, the word “thorough” appears here; a fair amount of time would naturally elapse before people make use of the word “thorough”; could you give us an idea of how long would want to elapse before you would apply that to an investigation?—I cannot say.
551. It goes on to state that in these townlands a very big deposit of auriferous gravel has been found. Taking those words, it is natural to assume that the period would be fairly extensive—it might be three or four or five or six months, yet the return given to your Department says “Nil”?—I was making a distinction between a production return and evidence of the existence of deposits. Production is one thing and examination of the evidence, whatever it is, is a separate thing altogether.
552. Did you take any steps to find out whether there was production or not?— We took steps at the proper time—as soon as it was necessary to do so and not earlier.
553. What time was that?—At the end of the six months. We got that on 12th June and, in the ordinary course, we would take steps to see if the covenants of the lease were being observed. The proceedings were then interrupted.
554. Were there no monthly returns?— I think that in this matter of the returns we are the proper judges. As I have said, the proceedings were interrupted at 12th June.
555. It is stated here in a letter of the 25th of April:—
“When we got a lease from the Minister for the three townlands at the junction of the Lyre and Goldmine rivers and along their banks, we made a thorough investigation of their mineral deposits and as a result we discovered that there is in these three townlands a very big deposit of auriferous gravel”?
Witness.—I do not see why that should affect our conduct.
556. Deputy Fitzgerald.—What was the date of the lease?
Chairman.—November 1st, 1934.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—But June 12th was rather more than seven months after that?
Witness.—As I have said, it is an important feature in the practical working of any business, that a reasonable interval has to be allowed. The suggestion seems to be that something was done that should not be done. There was a proper time in our view and that time we would have taken in any case, and the fact that that statement was made had no bearing on the course of our conduct.
557. Deputy Costello.—Arising out of the statement that you have made, why did you not put that into the lease; why was there a specific covenant put into the lease requiring monthly returns if that was to be the Departmental practice?— We followed what we considered was the best way of following this particular affair. I can say no more than that in answering the Deputy’s question.
Chairman.—There are no further questions; I think we are finished with you, Mr. Ferguson.
Witness.—I am obliged to you.
Chairman.—You really mean that?
Witness.—I do, Mr. Chairman. It is a statement of fact; not an opinion.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—An erroneous opinion!
Mr. William Maguire (Principal Clerk, Department of Industry and Commerce), sworn and examined.
558. Chairman.—What is your rank in the Department?—Principal Officer.
559. How long have you been in that capacity?—Since January, 1931.
560. Are you familiar with the Mines and Minerals Act of that year?—In a general way, yes.
561. Have you been dealing with applications for leases and take-notes under that Act?—Yes.
562. You are familiar with all the applications which have been received for leases and take-notes?—In a general way, yes.
563. You are familiar in particular with the application made by Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe?—Yes.
564. Were there any unusual features about that application—I mean, that occurred to you?—No; I cannot say there was anything very unusual about it except possibly the large area.
565. You were not surprised when an application was made by Senator Comyn, for instance?—Oh, no. In reference to that, may I say that one ceases to be surprised by official matters coming to one in the Civil Service; one just deals with them as they come to one.
566. Did the fact that Senator Comyn was engaged in previous mining activities seem to offer, at all events, an explanation in this particular instance?—Yes; so far as an explanation was necessary.
567. Was the application dealt with in any unusual way to facilitate the applicants?—No.
568. Dealt with in a straight way—just as an ordinary application would be dealt with?—Yes.
569. And so far as you are concerned, the fact that these two persons were members of the Oireachtas did not influence the granting of the lease in any way?—No.
570. No request was made to treat it expeditiously or to examine it sympathetically on that account?—No, sir.
571. Are you familiar with the royalties charged for mining leases in other countries?—No.
572. Some other officer of the Department would, of course, be so familiar?— We would rely on our technical officer to advise us and, in deciding the matter, he would take into consideration the royalties charged in other countries where conditions were the same or practically so.
573. So that your technical officer would have knowledge of what conditions were elsewhere?—I would assume that.
574. Deputy Fitzgerald.—You say you were not affected by the fact that they were members of the Oireachtas?—No.
575. You were not influenced for or against for that reason?—Precisely.
576. Consequently, your action was in relation to their position independently of their membership of the Oireachtas?— I am afraid I do not quite follow that question.
577. I will put it in another way—I notice that in the case of the other man, Heiser, you wanted information about his financial resoures, his technical equipment and staff and his references were written to regarding him—the fact that that was not done in regard to the other two applicants was not owing to their being members of the Oireachtas?—No.
578. It was in relation to their being general merchants, or what?—To one’s knowledge and also to the fact that Heiser was a stranger and we knew nothing whatever about him.
579. You differentiate between a man you knew nothing about and those two applicants?—Yes.
580. You knew something about Deputy Briscoe otherwise than as a member of the Oireachtas?—No, but he is a well-known public man.
581. Your Department has had certain dealings with him?—I believe so, in another connection; I personally had nothing to do with that.
582. In relation to your knowledge, were you very much surprised that there was difficulty about getting £7 10s. 0d. paid and this difficulty in getting a return made?—I do not like the word “surprised,” but it did seem a little bit strange that the costs of the lease and the dead rent were not paid punctually.
583. That ran completely counter to your knowledge of him?—Well, one would have expected to be paid promptly, but one does not lose one’s opinion of a man because a payment is delayed for a month.
584. But you did differentiate between one you knew something about and a stranger—therefore there was some knowledge, apparently, in your possession?— Yes; but you are making the point that we made investigations about Heiser. The point is that we knew nothing whatever about Heiser.
585. And the inference is that you knew something whatever about the others?—Yes.
586. So that you were surprised or shocked, or perhaps had you feelings hurt when you did not get payment punctually?—It did not shock me.
587. But it must have had some emotional reaction in you?—As an official, I have no emotional reaction. I have already said that I was somewhat surprised.
588. Did you deal with this “Nil” return?—Yes; I have seen it—which return are you referring to?
589. The monthly return which answered “Nil” to everything?—I am not trying to pick you up. It was not stated to be for any particular month.
590. Surely you took action to find out? —Certainly.
591. Did you find out?—I have not been able to find out what month it referred to.
592. Why; can you not get replies to your letters?—We have not got an answer to the question yet.
593. And the question was posed when? —On 20th June, I think.
594. It does not matter; you put the question a month or so ago?—20th June is correct.
595. Here is a case in which two men apply for a lease; they agree to certain terms and you did not pursue any inquiries although it was stated in the Dáil that the thing was examined most carefully as to the reality of the £200 and the technical staff. That is not a question; it is a fact?—Yes.
596. That was the first application of this kind that was granted?—There were two of them running fairly concurrently—I am not sure which was first in point of time.
597. But you say that what was done was in accordance with the general practice—it was not correct to say that when there had been none?—Not if there were none, but there had been cases of leases apart from gold.
598. Correct me if I am misunderstanding the position—when the application was made to you, the assertion was made that the parties had about £200 and had technical staff, that one of the applicants was himself technically efficient —he afterwards withdrew—certain agreements were entered into. In order to get your money paid you ‘had to go to certain lengths and you cannot say here that there has been a return made even yet?—There has been one.
599. For when?—For the six months ended some day in June.
600. That also gives a “Nil” return? —For production, yes; not for expenditure.
601. I am not trying to criticise the Department, but in view of that experience would you not think that it would be well to make it a general rule of the Department when such an application is made that you should actually reassure yourself of the reality of the financial support and technical equipment? We can all make mistakes once—I am not saying that you made a mistake, but it seems to me that it was a completely unsatisfactory arrangement?—I do not accept that.
602. Would you be prepared constantly to have to be writing threatening legal proceedings to get the ordinary details of an agreement fulfilled?—No; I think I should get tired of that before long.
603. And you would probably make up your mind that in future you would inquire into the reality of the financial resources? —No; it would be possible under this particular lease to take action against the lessees.
604. What I was suggesting was that after entering into a lease with somebody from whom you cannot get paid even small sums except as a result of threatening legal proceedings, where you cannot get a return made when they covenanted to make a return, when you cannot get even a monthly report, after you had a certain amount of experience, you would say “this is not good enough; we must take steps in future to see that will not happen”?— I take it that your question means that if that were the general situation with regard to a number of cases. If that were the regular experience as a result of action we had been taking, I would agree with your suggestion.
605. There is the old saying “once bitten twice shy”?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—“Every dog is entitled to one bite.”
Deputy Fitzgerald.—Quite, but that one bite has already been taken.
Witness.—I beg your pardon.
606. Deputy Fitzgerald.—I was just answering the Parliamentary Secretary. The position it seems to me as an outsider is that they assured you of the possession of certain financial resources and undertook to do certain things and that the contract was not kept except as a result of threatened financial proceedings. Does not that seem to indicate that the best course of your Department in relation to similar applications would be to make sure before you enter into a contract that might be binding for 99 years? Before entering into such a contract should you not reassure yourself of the financial stability, the technical equipment and resources of the applicants?—These people might easily have had plenty of money but be slow to pay it out.
607. Perhaps, but if there were any means of judging whether a man was a slow or quick payer you would apply the means test?—I am afraid I do not get the Deputy’s point.
608. It seems to me that there is something wrong in the Department’s practice that this lease was given, and to get the ordinary conditions fulfilled you have to take elaborate steps. If there was some means of reassuring yourselves on that point would you agree with me that it would be desirable?—I think the Deputy’s premises are going beyond what we have done. There was difficulty in getting one particular payment; I do not know if there will be difficulty in getting another.
609. There were two payments?—Payment for the costs and the dead rent would, I think, be regarded as one payment.
610. Was it not rather an ominous prospect for 99 years?—Perhaps or perhaps not.
611. But ordinarily——
Deputy Traynor.—Did the Deputy never get a final demand for rates?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Or income tax?
Deputy Costello.—The Deputy pays no income tax.
612. Deputy Fitzgerald.—In spite of your experience you think it is quite all right to make no inquiries as to the financial resources or technical equipment of applicants?—I think the Deputy is going a little bit farther than we have gone. I stated that we have made no inquiries in a particular case but——
Chairman.—I think, Deputy, that you are travelling a bit far away from the terms of reference, if you are asking the witness to say what his policy in respect of future leases is. That seems to me to be a technical question.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I think, Mr. Chairman, that we are dealing with three things now—first, the reference we have; secondly, the essential value and wise drafting of the law and thirdly, the administration of the Department of Industry and Commerce. I suggest that we have our terms of reference.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I support that objection of Deputy Flinn. I think I rather indicated it yesterday that the terms of reference have to do with an allegation that the Minister for Industry and Commerce made a grant to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe through either favouritism or corruption—there would only be a very thin distinction between them—and that the grant was made under conditions of secrecy—that also implies corruption— and at a time when he was aware that another party was proposing. These are the general inquiries we have to make. and our investigations must be related to the words of the reference—
“(a) made to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe because they were political associates of the Minister,
(b) made under conditions of secrecy, and
(c) made at a time that the Minister was aware that another party or other parties were proposing to seek a demise of the same rights, on terms more advantageous to the State and that the action of the Minister in making such demise was improper.”
We are not entitled, I submit, to proceed to inquire into the general method of carrying on routine work in the Department.
Chairman.—I think that while (a), (b) and (c) have specific significance they are so set out that they represent what we are to investigate bearing in mind the other portions. I can find nowhere in the terms of reference anything which suggests we should be limited in the course of our inquiry into “all the facts and circumstances connected with and surrounding the application for and the grant of the said lease.” I have no right to assume that another portion of the terms of reference is in any way subordinate to the allegations which are set out as having been made by Deputy McGilligan. I think the Deputy did travel a little bit far away from them, but as soon as it became clear to me that he was putting hypothetical questions to the witness I intervened. I think the last portion of the terms of reference does, in fact, entitle a member of the Committee to ask fairly wide questions so long as the main purposes of our inquiry are kept in view.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I bow to your ruling, sir, but it seemed to me that the dominant feature of our terms of reference is the allegation made by Deputy McGilligan. Undoubtedly, there are general words attached but they are, I submit, merely ancillary.
Chairman.—It might be more convenient to all of us if we were limited to (a), (b) and (c) but unfortunately, we must deal with other things.
613. Deputy Costello.—Could you tell me if any regulations have been prescribed by the Minister under Section 16 of the Mines ad Minerals Act, 1931?—Yes; they have.
614. Have they been promulgated in any way?—I believe they are published as Statutory Rules and Orders.
615. Have you a copy?—I believe I have —that is the one about returns, is it?
616. Yes; you knew, of course, that in framing the covenants that have to be inserted in any mining lease or licence, the public interest is the dominant motive to be considered?—Yes; in accordance with the provisions of the Act—not necessarily dominant, I shall not go all that length with you.
617. I do not want to press you very hard on the point. Section 11 (4) provides that a lease granted under the Act is to contain “such covenants, conditions and agreements (other than for the renewal of the lease) as the Minister shall consider proper or desirable in the public interest . . .”
Witness.—“. . . or otherwise . . .”
Deputy Costello.—Yes, “or otherwise.”
Witness.—It is in the section and you are better fitted to interpret and adjudge its relative importance than I am.
618. Deputy Costello.—The person who is to consider the nature of the covenants to be entered into is the Minister, according to the section?—Yes.
619. And throughout the Act, the person who performs the duties is the Minister?—Yes; under the Act.
620. He has statutory duties to perform?—Yes.
621. Did the Minister ever see this lease that was granted to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe at any stage—while in draft or before it was executed?—No.
622. Who, then, put the seal of the Minister on the lease?—The Secretary of the Department.
623. Without drawing the Minister’s attention to it?—I believe the Minister did not see the lease, but the Secretary put on the seal—I cannot say definitely.
Chairman.—Better leave that question to the Secretary.
Witness.—It is quite possible that he may have brought the lease to the Minister before attaching the seal and that it would not appear on the file.
624. Deputy Costello.—Did it never occur to you in dealing with these matters that the Minister’s statutory powers could not be delegated to officials of his Department, that he was bound to exercise these duties personally?—I do not think that is a question for me.
625. Did you ever advert to that aspect of the case?—No.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Are you suggesting that it is contrary to the law?
Deputy Costello.—I am referring to the Minister’s statutory duties. He cannot delegate them.
Chairman.—The witness cannot answer that question.
626. Deputy Costello.—I am asking Mr. Maguire whether he did not advert to it?—I was dealing with the ordinary Departmental machinery.
627. I understand there were only two production returns from the licensees, one in reference to some particular month, and the other a six-monthly return?— There was a return forwarded by them for six months, and another forwarded by them for an unnamed period, it may have been intended to cover a number of months.
628. The first one was for a month, the return not specifying what month it had reference to?—It did not state what period it covered; it may have been intended to cover more than a month.
629. I have not got it clear yet. There were two returns?—Yes.
630. One purported to be for six months?—Yes.
631. The other was the return which you do not know what period it covered? —The document came in without a heading, and it may have been meant to cover a period of a month or up to the date it was sent to us.
632. Was it dated?—To the best of my recollection it was undated.
633. What induced your Department to put in the option of a further lease at the end of the period?—It would be difficult to get people to spend any substantial sum of money on prospecting work of this kind without getting some kind of assurance that the benefit of that investigation would be theirs in the ultimate rather than be given to someone else at the end of two years.
634. Surely that could be gone into at the end of the two years period?—I think that would not be fair.
635. Does not the Statute merely enable the Minister to put it into operation. It does not impose on him the obligation to do so?—Let me look at the section. Yes, you are quite right.
636. I am stating that in this case, no investigations having been made as to their financial ability or technical capacity, it would have been more proper to have waited until the expiration of the two years when the whole matter could have been reconsidered rather than put in the option as it appears in the lease at the moment?—Might I refer you to a clause in the lease which has a bearing on that point. It is in the stencilled copy on the sixth page. It begins: “and the lessor hereby agrees”.
637. Deputy Costello.—That imposes on the Minister the obligation of granting a reversionary lease for 97 years if he is satisfied with the technical and other resources for the development of the mineral resources?—I believe that is so.
638. Looking at the public interest in connection with State minerals, would it not have been more proper to have considered whether or not at the end of the two years’ period the State would be in a better position to get a better bargain than they might with a mere prospecting lease?—I refer you back to my first proposition, prospectors would not spend time and money if they had not some reasonable expectation that the benefits would be secured to them. To make a distinction in one case by departing from the general rule would be invidious, to say the least of it.
639. In this case the lessees were not proposing to expend what you would call very substantial sums of money in prospecting?—Very substantial is a relative term, really.
640. Two hundred pounds is not a very substantial sum of money to spend on the development of a mine stated to be worth £17,000,000?—Again that is a matter of opinion, but there is no definite evidence that I am aware of that the property is of that value or any value.
641. You know that it is claimed to be worth that?—It is claimed, but that is not evidence that it is so.
642. You know that the prospectors expected to get minerals worth that amount; that they expected to get profits by sub-letting the lease?—They have got no profits; they have made an arrangement which may result in a profit or may not.
643. I will accept that; at all events they thought they were in a position to get 2¼ per cent. royalty and a considerable amount of shares in a proposed company. What I am suggesting to you is that the State itself ought to be in a position to get what the lessees expected to get?— That may be or it may not be; I think it is largely a matter of opinion, and while it may be true in a particular case, I am not prepared to accept it as true as a general proposition.
644. Did you envisage at any time the possibility of your Department requiring to have the lands which were the subject of this agreement reported upon and investigated by experts of the Department? —No.
645. Is not that the practice in England in reference to mining lands of this kind? —I do not know, but I question that very much.
646. That is my reading of this paragraph in the memorandum from the Commissioners of Woods and Forests?—That is not my reading of the paragraph.
Deputy Geoghegan.—The memorandum says that that is what is done when there are several applicants; not one applicant —look at paragraph 3.
Deputy Costello.—That may be so.
647. Deputy Geoghegan.—Is not that important?
Witness.—It is important in this case.
648. Deputy Costello.—I do not accept the view personally that because only one person comes forward, no steps should be taken on behalf of the public to see that the State mineral rights are not properly investigated with a view to seeing that the public interests are properly safeguarded.
Witness.—If the minerals are as valuable as the prospectors think in any particular case the public interest is guarded by the royalty. If there are no minerals there is no public interest to be looked after.
650. Deputy Costello.—You do not accept my view that the public interest would be better looked after if before any prospecting lease is granted, some investigation of the property should be made by the State to see whether the deposits were or were not valuable?—I do not see the value of that examination.
651. There is no use pressing that so. Before the Mines and Minerals Act, was it the Quit Rent Office that dealt with these matters?—Before the Free State came into existence?
652. Yes; since the Free State came into existence was the Quit Rent Office’s function taken over by your Department? —I believe it was, but the transfer of functions was not ready until the Mines and Minerals Act was passed in 1931.
653. When you were making the leases to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, did you make any enquiries in the Quit Rent Offic to see if there were any other claimants?—We had already done that.
654. Were there other claims lodged?— I think that there were some.
655. Was there in existence any lease from the Crown in reference to these lands?—There was no lease in existence in regard to this land.
656. Was there any document showing what purported to be a lease of these lands to any other person?—Not that I am aware of—oh, I am sorry, a number had already put in applications to the Quit Rent Office and the Quit Rent Office were unable to deal with them owing to the legal position. The Mines and Minerals Act was not in operation when these applications were put in.
657. The documents you are referring to are not the ones I am referring to. Have you ever heard that there was in existence a Crown grant or lease in relation to the particular lands covered in the lease to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe?—There was one lease.
658. To whom?—I have not got the document. I saw the document but I cannot say what the rent was. I think it was for £50 or £60 but I cannot say definitely.
659. If such a document is in existence can you get it?—I presume so.
670. I would like to see the document if it could be got; would it be available in the Quit Rent Office?—I suppose it should be.
671. Could you make enquiries in the Quit Rent Office?—Certainly.
672. If, as you say, the amount given for that lease was £60 per year, would you not consider that the amount charged for the lease to Senator Comyn was too low?—My recollection is that the lands in question for which the £60 were paid covered a considerably larger area than this particular one, so that on the basis of the amount charged on the extent of the area, the charge in this case may be quite reasonable.
673. When did your Department learn of the sub-lease to the Risberget Company?—I think it first came to the knowledge of Mr. Clarke in my Department in April, 1935, if I do not make a mistake.
674. You actually got a copy of it?— Mr. Clarke said a copy should be submitted to the Department, and it was.
675. Did the Department give any consideration to the terms of that document? —No, for the reason that it was not covered by any formal request to the Minister for the giving of his licence.
676. How did it come into the Department?—I have already said it was mentioned to Mr. Clarke by either Senator Comyn or Deputy Briscoe or both of them and, having regard to the nature of the document, he said that it would be better to send it to the Department for investigation.
677. At the time, whoever mentioned it did not say anything about the Minister’s consent being obtained either verbally or otherwise?—I cannot say “yes” or “no” to that question offhand. I am not clear if they did say it.
The Select Committee adjourned until 8.15 p.m.
The Select Committee resumed at 8.45 p.m.
678. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.— When did you first know that Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe were applicants for this lease?—I cannot fix the date definitely, but it was a few days before the application was made.
679. Some little time?—A few days.
680. Could you give us an idea how many days?—I could not.
681. You got a letter from the solicitors for Mr. Heiser on March 6th, 1933; had you seen Deputy Briscoe or Senator Comyn prior to the receipt of this letter? —I am endeavouring to recollect. I cannot give a definite answer to that question, but to the best of my belief it was subsequent, because it was very near the date of the application that I saw Senator Comyn and Mr. Norman.
682. They came in before the application was lodged; they asked for forms?—Yes.
683. Some days, at any rate, before the application was lodged?—Yes.
684. At the time you had a letter from Leader, Plunkett and Leader, which is not a definite refusal as I read it, for the Risberget Company, stating:“. . . . And in the circumstances we are not in a position to proceed with the matter,” you did not tell these Risberget people or Mr. Heiser that another application had been made?—Might I refers you to the letter to which that letter of March 2nd is a reply.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I think it would be a good idea to read it.
“I am to state that not having received any further communication from you on behalf of the Syndicate since your letter of the 25th May, 1932 . . . .”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—What was the interval?— From May 25th, 1932, to March 2nd, 1933, about ten months.
Witness (continuing).— “. . . he has decided to deem the application to have been dropped . . .”
685. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.— Better read the whole letter.
Witness.—The letter was dated March 2nd, 1933, and was addressed to Messrs. Leader, Plunkett and Leader, and stated:
“I am directed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to refer to previous correspondence terminating with this Department’s letter of 2nd June, 1932, relative to the proposed application for mining rights in respect of royal metals by Risberget Iron Ore Property Syndicate, Ltd. I am to state that not having received any further communication from you on behalf of the Syndicate since your letter of the 25th May, 1932, he has decided to deem the application to have been dropped. I am to add that should an application be received from the Syndicate at a later date it will be accorded the fullest possible consideration.”
686. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney. — Within, roughly, three weeks of that you get the application of Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn?—Yes.
687. Mr. Ferguson stated, in answer to Mr. Geoghegan yesterday, that he had not heard of any gold being mined in Wicklow. I take it that you have heard of gold being mined in Wicklow?—Yes.
688. You are aware of the fact that in the neighbourhood gold had actually been mined?—I cannot say where it was actually mined. I should think it was looked for in that district.
689. These three townlands, Clonwilliam, Ballintemple and Coolgarrow, are on the slope of Croghankinshella or Mount Croghan?—I believe that is so.
690. I suppose you knew that gold had been found in that vicinity?—I knew that gold had been found in County Wicklow, but I cannot say definitely whether it was worked commercially.
691. Had you looked up anything about gold or the finding of gold in Wicklow?— No.
692. Is it not very easy to discover the history of mining in Wicklow?
Deputy Geoghegan.—Will you suggest a source in which you will find it easily.
693. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.— Let us take Kane’s “Industrial Resources of Ireland”; did you look at that work? —I have already said I did not look up the history.
694. Did you look at the more recent book: “Ireland, Industrial and Agricultural”?—I have already said that I made no investigations.
695. Had you heard at any time that the pre-Union Irish Government had searched for gold in Wicklow?—No.
696. You had not heard that in two years they had got 945 ounces for £3,675? —I knew they had worked gold in Wicklow. I may say that I draw a distinction between “searching” and “working.”
697. Here is a phrase: “. . . the cost of the workings and of various trials made in search of the original deposit of the gold exceeded the return and the workings having been interrupted, were not again resumed by the Government.” According to Kane’s estimate, £10,000 worth had been taken by the country people before the Government took possession of the works?
Chairman.—Permit me to say that this is not very relevant to the terms of reference.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—That is an estimate by someone who cannot be called here to give evidence. I am very familiar with Kane’s “Industrial Resources of Ireland.”
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I am not taking up these matters because Deputy Flinn is familiar with them or not. I am asking this witness for all the facts. I submit that State property is being dealt with by this lease and I want to know if this gentleman took the ordinary precautions of going to the most natural place to discover something of the history of gold-mining in Wicklow.
Chairman.—You are asking questions relating to the 18th century and to a book published at that time; I would prefer if they were addressed to the subject matter of this inquiry.
698. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—You say that prior to granting this lease you took no steps to investigate what the likely value of the deposits would be?— No; I may say that in so far as the book you quoted from proved that gold was taken, the value of the deposits diminished.
699. What do you mean?—If £10,000 worth of gold was taken, it cannot be there now.
700. But £10,000 is a great deal short of £17,000,000?—You are taking £17,000,000 as an established fact. £10,000 is not an established fact either.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—That is the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow.
701. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—You made no investigation as to the value of the Government property in Wicklow before making the lease?—No; I have already said that.
702. In making this lease, you took into consideration your general knowledge of these gentlemen—your general knowledge of their financial position and resources? —Yes.
703. Do you think that in making a lease of what may turn out to be valuable property, a general report is quite sufficient and that you need not have made “hot” inquiries?—I consider that if I get a royalty arrangement the public interest is safeguarded.
704. I take it that the royalty depends on the amount of gold got?—“Raised, gotten and made merchantable” is the phrase in the lease, I think.
705. We need not go into the phrases?
Witness.—I want to be precise about it.
706. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—We will take the words “made merchantable”—would the amount made merchantable depend on the skill, technical knowledge and resources of the applicant?—Yes; among other factors.
707. Therefore, the financial resources and the technical skill of the applicant would have a considerable amount to do in determining the amount of cash that the State would receive as royalty?—Not necessarily; the gold may not be there.
708. Assuming there is gold there. Of course, if there is no gold there the most excellent person in the world could not find it?—Quite.
709. Assuming there is gold there, and you had an open mind as to whether there was gold or not?—Yes.
710. Had you that open mind in the interests of the State? Did you not consider that the resources that could be brought to hear and the technical skill of the persons were things to be taken into consideration?—Yes.
711. But in this particular case, you did not consider as to whether or not the sum of £200 would be ample, or as to whether or not, these gentlemen knew anything about gold mining?—I considered if they were prepared to spend £200—and one of them at least had a certain tradition of prospecting—it was quite permissible to give a prospecting lease, more especially as technical skill could always be purchased.
712. And technical skill had not been purchased at the time you made the lease?—No; it had not been.
713. And the names of the technical persons had not been submitted to you? —No.
714. As far as you knew the total sum available was £200?—I think the lease goes a bit further than that.
715. Their offer is to spend £200?— The contract that was made is the lease.
716. And the lease is silent as to the amount they are to expend, but that lease is made in respect of a statement made by them that they were going to spend a maximum of £200. It was also made in respect of a royalty of 2½ per cent.?—Which was not altogether accepted.
717. Can you point me out anything in the lease suggesting to spend more than £200?—The obligation to keep four men employed would result in more than that.
718. I certainly agree with you. We will come back to that in a moment. If they are not expected to pay more than £200 do you think that expert technical knowledge can be bought out of that £200 and money left over for working?— Might I suggest that £200 was mentioned at an early stage of negotiations which ultimately crystallised in a lease.
719. Then, may I take it that you assume these gentlemen had more than £200 available and were going to put more than £200 into the working of the lands?—We were entitled to assume that they probably had more than £200. As to putting more than £200 into the land, that was a matter for the operation of the lease which they signed.
720. So, therefore, the money which they put down was regarded by you as being of no importance?—They put down no money.
721. At any rate, in requesting a prospecting lease they suggested that they would spend or be in a position to spend £200. Did you ever say to them at any time “are you in a position to spend more than £200?”?—No, ‘nor did I ask them if they were in a position to spend £200.
722. So now you gave this lease which you have admitted to me. The amount of money to be spent and the technical skill——
Witness.—On a point of clarifying the position. I did not give the lease.
723. A lease was given. Did you recommend the giving of the lease?—Yes.
724. You have admitted to me a few moments ago that the amount of royalty would depend on the technical skill, or might at any rate depend on the technical skill of the persons prospecting and the amount of money they put into the prospecting?—I prefer to put it that the amount of royalty depended on the amount of gold got and made merchantable.
725. And the amount made merchantable depended, to some extent at any rate, upon the skill and energy brought to bear?—Yes.
726. You then made this lease in which there is no provision at all about any technical skill being brought to bear and even in the preliminary negotiations on foot of which the lease was made, technical advisers are left to the future?— One does not start off with the assumption that the lessees of a prospecting lease will certainly throw their money down the drain; one assumes that they will spend their money with some sense of realities and get the necessary skill where skill is required.
727. But you were looking at it from the public interest?—Yes, certainly.
728. And looking at it from the public interest, would not you agree with me that gentlemen without resources or who at any rate said they would only spend £200 and who had no technical knowledge of gold mining—supposing they go into the area and fail would not that lessen the value of that particular area? —Your question is suppositious. I suggest that my answer to it would not be valuable.
729. I shall look at the value of it afterwards?—You speak of gentlemen with no technical skill. I suggest that is not necessarily relevant to the present case.
730. Why?—Because it has not been established that these gentlemen have no technical skill. If you wish to assume that they have not, I can answer the question to the best of my knowledge.
731. Had you any reason to think that they had technical skill in gold mining?— Certainly—not gold mining but in general mineral prospecting.
732. I am not asking you about general mineral prospecting. In gold mining, which is a special thing, had either of them, to your knowledge, any expert knowledge?—Not that I am aware of, but if one has prospecting knowledge and skill one can prospect for gold. One’s prospecting knowledge is not necessarily limited to one particular mineral.
733. I can go out prospecting for gold. I am not likely to find any because I have got no knowledge. You made, anyhow, this lease and this has been described as a prospecting lease. A prospecting lease, I take it, is a lease to look for gold, to search for gold, prospect for gold. It is not then a lease to make merchantable gold found; it is simply to ascertain where gold is in a particular place. Is not that a prospecting lease? —I do not think a prospecting lease would necessarily exclude the making merchantable of gold found in the process of prospecting.
734. Will you tell me how what you call a prospecting lease differs from a non-prospecting lease?
Deputy Geoghegan.—The witness did not prepare this lease. That is a legal job. It is hardly fair.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—The instructions came from the Department and the draftsman carried them out. The letter from the Department to the draftsman says what the lease is to convey.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney knows well that it is the duty of a competent lawyer, if he is instructed to prepare an instrument of a particular type, to prepare it in the proper way.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—And this lawyer got instructions to prepare a lease which would contain certain clauses. He put those clauses in and nothing else, except what is contained in the instructions sent to him. It is not quite fair to the draftsman to suggest otherwise.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Where do you find all that?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I find it in the letter from the Department.
Deputy Geoghegan.—What letter?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Mr. Ferguson’s letter.
Deputy Geoghegan.—What is the particular letter?
735. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—The letter of 22nd November, 1933. And, as a matter of fact, that was signed by yourself, Mr. Maguire. It asks that the Chief State Solicitor shall prepare a two years’ prospecting lease. Then it gives certain clauses that it is to contain—a rent of £5; a royalty of one-twentyfifth part or share of all metals and minerals raised or gotten. These instructions were sent to the draftsman?—Including the outstanding instruction which was to prepare a two years’ prospecting lease.
736. Will you show me in draft (e) the word “prospecting”?—That is a matter for the draftsman.
737. So the draftsman evidently was of the same opinion that the ordinary layman would be. He left out the word “prospecting” because these clauses are absolutely inconsistent with prospecting?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I want to ask a question. Is the Deputy making a suggestion that the draftsman deliberately ignored his instructions?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—No. I am saying the draftsman carried out his instructions.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Ignored his instructions, according to the Deputy.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Will the Deputy mention any standard book of precedents of leases which contains any instrument of this sort. The word “prospecting” is a descriptive word.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I would like if Deputy Geoghegan knows of any single precedent in any book of any prospecting lease containing clauses to work on. Do you not think that I might be allowed to go on with my examination?
Chairman.—I think you may, if you become more relevant, but I really suggest to you that a good deal of the ground you are covering now has already been covered in the examination of Mr. Ferguson.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Mr. Chairman, I desire to ask a question of you. The suggestion is that a letter was sent to the draftsman telling him to draw up a prospecting lease. It is now said he drew a lease which was not a prospecting lease. Is that the suggestion?
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I shall tell you what the statement is—there is no suggestion. The Department asked the draftsman to prepare a lease to contain certain covenants and the draftsman faithfully carried out his instruction. The draftsman cannot do inconsistent things.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—The instruction was a prospecting lease. I am wanting to know whether or not Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney is now suggesting that the draftsman did not carry out his instruction. I am speaking to the Chairman with every possible respect to the Deputy. Is the suggestion that the draftsman did deliberately and of set purpose ignore the instructions he received and draft a lease outside the terms of his instruction? Is that the suggestion?
Chairman.—If Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney said that, he seems now to have withdrawn that allegation.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I cannot withdraw what I did not say, and I did not say it. What I did say, and said repeatedly, was that the draftsman faithfully carried out his instruction.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I submit again, sir, that Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney quoted a letter in which the draftsman had instructions to draw a prospecting lease. Evidently, that is agreed. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney now says that he did not draw a prospecting lease.
Deputy Moore.—And that he, in fact, attended to one part of the letter and ignored another part of it.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I want to make it as clear as anything I can say that there is no suggestion in anything I say. My clear, definite, and emphatic statement is that the Chief State Solicitor received instructions to draw a lease containing certain covenants and that he drew a lease containing these covenants. It is quite true that the word “prospecting” occurs earlier, but it would be impossible for him to draw a lease containing those covenants which would be a prospecting lease.
Deputy Geoghegan.—The Chief State Solicitor never said so.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I am constantly being interrupted. The Chief State Solicitor drew this.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I am not concerned with the Deputy’s interruptions but I am concerned with his statements: (1) that the State Solicitor was instructed to draw a prospecting lease — and I am dealing now not with the suggestion but with the definite statement of the Deputy—(2), that he did not in fact draw a prospecting lease. Is that statement—that he did not in fact draw a prospecting lease—withdrawn?
Chairman.—If that statement was made by Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney in the first instance, I think that, by subsequent clarifications he has made, his meaning is now clear, and the latest meaning of his words does not appear to me to bear the construction that his earlier words did.
738. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Now, Mr. Maguire, you instructed the Chief State Solicitor that there was to be a clause by which royalties were to be paid. Is not that so?
739. And you instructed him that there was to be a dead rent?—I instructed him in accordance with the terms of the letter of the 22nd November.
740. Yes, that is quite sufficient. Now that is a lease for the working of a placer mine?—That is a lease prepared by the Chief State Solicitor in accordance, I must presume, with the instructions to the Chief State Solicitor, which was for a prospecting lease.
741. Is not that a lease for a mine?— I am afraid that I cannot interpret a lease.
742. Well, will you interpret your letter? Did you instruct the State Solicitor in your letter, to prepare a lease which would give these lessees the right to work for minerals, to take minerals, to make them merchantable, and to pay a royalty?—Yes. In that connection, may I refer the Deputy to a document issued by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests which reads as follows:—
“‘Take Notes’ for a year, as well as leases for a term of years, will, in accordance with the recent practice, contain clauses for working, which must be complied with.”
743. Those are not called prospecting leases?—They are called “Take Notes,” and they are alternative terms with prospecting leases under the Act of 1931
Do not take me as agreeing with that.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—May I call your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney says that he is not to be taken as agreeing that “take note” and “prospecting lease” are not to be regarded as alternative terms?
Chairman.—I think it is not very material.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Except that it wastes time.
Chairman.—It certainly seems to me that Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney is travelling along a rather queer road.
744. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—I want your explanation, Mr. Maguire. These gentlemen were entitled, in fact, to work, take, and make merchantable minerals. Were they not?
745. And do you think that when they are taking, and making merchantable, minerals, their resources and skill is a matter that ought or ought not to be inquired into?—I do not admit that they have not been inquired into.
746. What inquiries have been made? —The result of the accumulated knowledge in the Department was brought to bear in deciding whether this lease should be granted or not. That constitutes an inquiry, to some extent at least.
747. Very well. Now, you received certain returns from these two gentlemen?—Yes.
748. Now, prior to March of 1933, these gentlemen had not approached the Department at all, so far as you know? —To the best of my recollection, no.
749. And, prior to the granting of this lease, they had no authority from the Department to prospect for gold?—They had no formal authority and, of course, we could not give them any other authority, but, according to my recollection, we understood that they were making some examination.
750. Could you tell me when they began their examination or what sort of note they got from the Department?—They got no note from the Department, because we could not give it to them.
751. So, if they were prospecting, they were prospecting, as one might say, illegally?—I suggest that I should not be asked to answer that question.
752. Well, now, you received a return at any rate that they had got no gold out of this mine. That is your return, is it not?—I got a nil return in regard to production.
753. It was in the form of the rules— the statutory form?—I am afraid that we are talking at cross purposes. To which return is the Deputy referring?
754. I am referring to the six months’ return. Take No. 14. What was the reply?—Nil.
755. That is, gold or silver in ounces or fractional parts, and so on?—Yes.
756. So that, on that return, all gold got would have to be returned to you?— Yes.
757. Now, if you were searching for gold in sand it is only by washing the sand or by some other process of extracting the gold that you would be able to compare what percentage of gold is in the sand?—I know nothing about searching for gold. I could not answer that question.
758. You do not know anything at all about that?—You ask me a question which demands a certain amount of technical skill and expert knowledge to answer, which technical skill and expert knowledge I have not got, and I suggest that I should not be asked that question.
759. Well, if you cannot answer it, I suppose you cannot?
Witness.—It is just a matter of natural inability to answer it, and not a matter for surprise.
760. Well, one thing can surprise one person and another thing does not surprise one. At any rate, however, so far as you are concerned, they might manage to find gold or they might know that there was gold in a deposit without actually discovering it?—All I can say to that is that it seems hard to credit.
761. And, accordingly, it is very hard to credit that they had not found some gold before they were able to pronounce that it was a rich deposit, because the return you got said that there was not an ounce of gold?
Deputy Geoghegan.—The letter is quite consistent with that.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—The letter is to the effect that they have found a rich deposit.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Of auriferous gravel—not that they extracted gold from it.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—Yes, but that is the point. They had got no gold.
Deputy Geoghegan.—The Deputy must remember that science has progressed a little beyond the old ways.
Witness.—Section 6 of the return, about which Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney is questioning me, speaks of small quantities for analysis and weight and nature of material.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—And four able-bodied miners have been working there for six months. I do not ask the witness anything more.
762. Deputy Geoghegan.—I want to ask the witness a few questions, with your permission, Mr. Chairman. Questions have been put to you, Mr. Maguire, tending to elicit an admission that enquiries had not been made as to mining practice. Did your Department, I think through you, obtain from the Commissioners of Woods* and Forests in Ireland a memorandum in use under the British Government up to the time of the change of Government here in 1921?
Witness.—We had a copy of that. I cannot remember whether I got it or some other officer got it, but we had a copy of it.
763. You had it in your Department?— Yes.
764. And you have been good enough to circulate a copy of it which is contained on one of the files here. I take it, Mr. Maguire, that you would agree that the Commissioners of Woods and Forests under the British Government would have reasonable opportunities for ascertaining mining practice, not merely in Ireland and Great Britain, but in certain other countries such as South Africa and Canada?—I would agree.
765. Yes, that is pretty obvious. Now, just taking that memorandum, it appears from it—I am not asking you now as to the law of the matter—that gold and silver were treated as mines royal under the British regime?—Yes.
766. Does the memorandum, which you have obtained, show that the British had two lines of approach to the consideration of the terms on which they would make a mining lease in respect of gold and silver: the first being where there was a single applicant and the other where there was a rival applicant? If you look at paragraph No. 1 and paragraph No. 3, I think you will find that you will be able to agree with that?—I think that that is the general tenor.
767. Is that the general structure of it? —Yes.
768. Where there was only one, did the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, for the management of gold and silver in Ireland under the British, provide that the royalty on gold and silver is 1/25th in land where the Crown owns all the minerals?—Yes, that was their practice.
769. And one-fiftieth in land where private owners have all the minerals except gold and silver?—Yes.
770. I do not know if you are aware of the decision of the Supreme Court in Ireland in the Mount Charles case, as to the position of granite under the Mines and Minerals Act?—I know a little about it.
771. You know, at all events, that it is suggested, if not decided, that granite, for instance, is not a property of the State? Assuming that the State does not own all the minerals in this particular area, and assuming that there is any mineral which it does not own, it is obvious that you have charged a good deal more—double— what the British would have charged? —Yes.
772. The British charged what you are charging now, namely, one-twenty-fifth or 4 per cent., where all the mines and minerals were vested in the Crown?—Yes.
773. Where gold and silver only were vested in the British Government or Crown and the other minerals were vested in private owners, does the memorandum show that the British would have charged one-fiftieth only?—Yes.
774. You have already indicated that you, of course, do not take any responsibility for the draftsmanship of that lease or for the extent to which it may, or may not, fit in with approved precedents of prospecting leases?—That is so.
775. But, as a matter of common sense, would you agree that a prospector, if he is a successful prospector, searching for gold, will find certain quantities of gold?—Yes; I believe I suggested that that was almost a necessary result of successful prospecting.
776. So far as has been suggested up to the moment, gold in this area in Wicklow has been treated as alluvial gold?—Yes.
777. But, of course, if nuggets of gold were to be found within the area, the leaseholder would get the gold in the nuggets or mass as well as the alluvial?— Yes.
778. If you were to make a prospecting lease and omitted a stipulation that you were to get the royalty on the gold taken by the prospector, and if the prospector were to find a large nugget of gold and could keep it without giving you your percentage, would you not look very foolish?—Yes, and I would not be looking after the public interest.
779. And, therefore, apart altogether from the law books or the books of precedents, it is common sense that in the interests of the State, you should ensure that if a prospector obtains a quantity of gold that is merchantable, you will get 1/25th of the gross value of it?—Yes.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—You think that is more valuable than getting the whole gold?
Chairman.—That seems to be a very redundant question.
Deputy Geoghegan.—We will concede Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney’s point.
780. (To witness).—You concede that it would be much better to get the 100 per cent.?—Yes.
781. It would be rather idiotic on the part of a prospector to go to the trouble of taking out a prospecting lease and risking his capital, be it large or small, his labour, his time and his reputation and give you 100 per cent.?——
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—And pay expenses?
Witness.—It would be unlikely that he would agree to it.
782. Deputy Geoghegan.—If you were to approach mining development with that mentality, or anything approaching that mentality, would not mining development be hung up in this State for a further period of ten years?—It would.
783. I want to ask you this, Mr. Maguire. It has been put to you here— it has been suggested to you, indeed— that adequate precautions were not taken by you and those associated with you in the Department to see that the prospectors had adequate financial resources. Have you any machinery in your Department for measuring the precise extent of the resources a prospector should have for prospecting for alluvial gold in three townlands?—I would not consider that we have effective machinery for doing that precisely, and to do it in any other way than precisely would lead us nowhere.
784. It would lead, of course, to your having a vast department?—Yes.
785. Would you need a vast department?—Yes.
786. If you were to have rule of thumb estimates for every district in Ireland in respect of which anybody cared to ask for a concession?—Yes.
787. And do you think that, even though it emanates from the British, the standard system which the Commissioners of Woods and Forests after centuries of experience had evolved, is a reasonable system, that is to say, that where you have only one applicant to have a standard royalty of 1/25th or 1/50th, as the case may be?—I do.
788. You have, I think, already substantially expressed agreement with Mr. Ferguson that, as regards a prospector, what you need to be satisfied on is that he is really interested and that he has some reasonable resources which he can put into the pursuit of his object?—Yes, that is my view.
789. You do not regard yourself as a judge in trying a case would in deciding whether you would give a prospecting lease or not?—No.
790. Suppose you have knowledge of a prospector who comes to you—let us take the illustration given by Deputy Seamus Moore yesterday of a merchant of repute in the City of Dublin. Would you not regard your own knowledge as of greater advantage to you than any evidence you could get from enquiry agents or otherwise?—I would regard it as quite good enough for my purpose, and it would probably be a good deal better than the information one gets from agents.
791. At all events, it would save you the circumlocution of inquiring from agents about a person whom you know?— Certainly.
792. Your take note or prospecting lease ensures, by the clause to which you directed the attention of the Committee, that before the expiration of the two years, if a prospector seeks a further 97 years’ lease, the Minister can make the fullest enquiry into the technical skill and financial resources available before he gives the long lease?—Yes.
793. And as a man with considerable experience of business in the Department of Industry and Commerce, is not that quite adequate protection?—In my opinion, it is adequate.
794. And, of course, you have a stranglehold on the prospector, because, if he is successful, he has found evidences of gold, and before you give him a further 97 years’ lease, you are the judges of whether he has enough financial resources at his command and enough technical skill available?—Yes.
795. You have been asked about this matter of the arrangement with these people, Risberget and Heiser, or whoever they are. I suppose, like Mr. Ferguson, you would not consider yourself competent to express an opinion as to the precise legal nature of the arrangement entered into between Senator Comyn and Mr. Briscoe, of the one part, and Risberget, of the other part, as to whether that is an under-letting or a licence or a mere agency document? As to the precise legal effect of it, do you offer any opinion?— I do not. You mean, of course, the long document?
796. The document that was accompanied by the covering letter?—Yes. There was a short one which spoke of putting a working unit on the ground.
797. I am speaking of the document you submitted to Mr. Whitton, your own legal adviser?—We submitted all the documents, but I do not offer any legal opinion on the document, no matter which one you referred to.
798. The whole lot is the best way of putting it. You, or some other officer in your Department, submitted all the documents relating to this arrangement to your legal adviser?—They were all before the legal adviser, but the immediate question for his consideration was whether a proposal to allow a mining unit to be erected on the land covered by this lease was or was not one which required the Minister’s sanction. The large document, dated 12th March, 1935, which I will refer to as an agreement for a sub-lease, has not been formally considered.
799. That remains to be considered?— Yes.
800. Whatever the nature of this instrument may have been, would you agree that if this enterprise was proved by experts to be likely to be a very great success, it is probable that it would be necessery to assign or underlet it in order to get adequate capital to work it?—Yes, and that would be in the normal course of exploitation.
801. You have anticipated the next question I was about to ask. In so far as you have any knowledge from reading or from reports or otherwise, of the practice in other countries, generally speaking, is not the successful striking of gold or silver by a prospector followed by the formation of a partnership, a syndicate or public company, with considerable capital to work the proposition which has been proved by the prospector?—That is so.
802. So that, in the ordinary course, you would not contemplate under-letting or assigning with dismay?—No, certainly not.
803. But having regard to the policy of the present Government, you would think it right to do as you have done in your lease; that is, to take precautions about the assignment and the person to whom it is to be assigned?—Yes.
804. And, of course, it might well be that it would be desirable that there should be an assignment for the purpose of enabling people to invest money in the enterprise, assuming that it was a proved commercial success?—Yes, certainly.
805. It has been put to you, in effect, that Senator Comyn and Mr. Briscoe are not themselves mining engineers or anything of that nature. Of course, that suggestion does not remind you of anything new? You know perfectly well that Senator Comyn is a barrister and landowner in County Clare?—Yes.
806. And you know that Mr. Briscoe is a business man, and not a mining engineer?—Yes.
807. But do you also know, from such general information which you have, relating to the prospecting of gold, that gold is generally struck in virgin ground by amateurs?—Very often that is so.
808. And that, as a matter of fact, the trained mining engineer, as a rule, attends to his profession instead of going off to prospect for gold?—Yes. It is generally the man with the grub-stake or something of the kind who makes the actual prospecting.
809. I think you used the word “amateur” merely in contrast with the professional mining engineer. Usually he is a man of imagination and enterprise, but is not a mining engineer. As Deputy Dowdall reminds me, he is a man of imagination and a bit of an optimist?—I think the latter quality is essential.
810. If an optimist finds gold, has he much trouble in getting mining engineers or skilled people?—No.
Deputy Costello.—Has he much trouble in keeping the gold when he gets it?——
Deputy Geoghegan.—I suppose the keeping of the gold is the most difficult of all operations; the nailing of the shilling to the counter. I am deliberately not putting to the witness questions that I put to Mr. Ferguson.
811. Deputy Costello.—When did you hear Mr. Norman was dropping out? I think you held up the whole transaction with a view to making some inquiries?— I do not think so. We wrote to the Chief State Solicitor not to go on with the lease. That was merely to prevent completion of the document. As soon as we got the release I think we issued instructions immediately afterwards to the Chief State Solicitor to go on with the preparation of the lease on the new basis, sending with that letter a copy of the release. That is the letter on the file T.I.M., 195/22 of June 26th, 1934.
812. You instructed the Chief State Solicitor not to proceed pending further instructions?—That letter is the further instructions.
813. Did you get the remaining applicants, Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, to make a fresh application?—Yes.
814. I notice in response to a query about the scientific staff that was at their disposal that they stated they were making arrangements for the services of a geologist and mining experts. Were any such names ever given?—No.
815. Did you ever inquire?—That matter with other questions was being considered at the time this inquiry was opened.
816. Deputy Geoghegan asked you a question to the effect that normally when gold is found by a prospector a public company is floated. Would you consider that your Department had any function to fulfil in connection with the flotation of such a company?—It had a function to perform with regard to the assignment of the sub-lease covered by this lease to any such company.
817. In performing that function, would you have regard to the nature of the company, the personnel of the promoters, and matters of that kind?—I never had a case of that kind, and I could not say what we would do.
818. Would you think, when considering whether or not the Minister ought to give consent to such assignment, you should take some steps to protect the public who were being asked for subscriptions?—That is largely a hypothetical question.
819. Would it not arise in this case if it went the normal course?—I do not know. It might or might not. It depends on circumstances.
820. Were you aware that a company was about to be promoted?—I was aware, as a result of that document submitted by Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe and the agreement with Heiser, that something of the kind was contemplated.
821. And they proposed that no capital for that company should be raised in the Irish Free State?—I do not recollect the precise terms.
822. Deputy Costello.—I think you will find it on the file. Perhaps Mr. Clarke was dealing with it. There is a letter from Deputy Briscoe in connection with the matter.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Yes. It has never been sanctioned.
Witness.—Is that the letter of 25th April?
Deputy Coburn.—Yes, the last paragraph.
Deputy Costello.—It 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.”?—Yes.
823. Did that raise any doubts in your mind as to the nature of the company or anything of that kind?—No. I have not considered that proposal at all. It was not formally considered in the Department at any stage.
824. I take it that the general purport of your evidence is that no consideration has been given to the question whether or not the Minister’s sanction ought to be given to the proposed assignment or sub-lease?—Yes.
825. Do you remember a statement issued to the newspapers some time after this matter was first raised in the Dáil? —I do.
826. That was sent from your Department?—It was.
827. In it there was a statement about the Minister’s consent to the assignment being under consideration?—Yes. That is so.
828. Subsequently the Minister stated in the Dáil that the statement was incorrect? —Yes.
829. Was it incorrect?—It was.
830. Can you explain how it came to be made?—I was not a party to the issue of that particular document, but I suggest the explanation is that whoever prepared that document had it in mind that we had received this proposal; that it was in our Department and, therefore, presumably, was being considered when, in point of fact, it was not submitted with any formal request for consideration and, hence no reply was given—nor will we consider it until there is a formal request.
831. I quite appreciate your evidence. When you say “a formal request,” was there an informal request?—No. The matter was mentioned in the course of conversation with an officer of the Department, and I think he said that this matter should be brought to the Department’s notice. A document signed by Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe was submitted. A copy was retained in our Department but no action was taken. There was no request for the Minister’s consent to the sub-lease, and it was not necessary to consider it until such request was made.
832. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—There has been a suggestion that there has been some difficulty on the part of some one in getting money out of these lessees. Is it your experience that the richest men are always the best pays?—I am afraid I have not much experience of the richest men.
833. If I were to suggest that every man in this room who had not received a red notice for his income tax should hold up his hand, do you expect the majority would hold up their hands?—It would not surprise me.
Deputy Costello.—Try it and let us see.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Would I be in order in proceeding?
Chairman.—No, not at this Committee.
834. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—As far as I can understand, the generous suggestion has been made that the State should have so drawn the original prospecting lease, or whatever the preliminary document was, that it would get all the advantages out of it, and those that the further knowledge that future development of the mine would enable them to get. Do you think that was possible in your Department?— Without being a prophet, it is quite impossible.
835. Are you a civil servant or a prophet?—A civil servant.
836. And it was in that capacity you acted?—Certainly.
837. Assuming you were a prophet, do you think it is reasonable that from an undertaking of this kind, the State should get all the benefit and the prospectors should simply take the risks? Would you regard it as a reasonable proposition on which you would be likely to get development of the mineral resources of this country?—No, certainly not.
838. Deputy Moore.—You would be delighted to get such a proposition in the public interest?—I would, but I would suspect it.
839. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—You have been asked as a layman to interpret a lease. Have you heard the statement that a layman who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client?—Yes.
840. Do you agree with that?—I think it is generally sound.
841. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—You have also been accused of ignorance. There are various types of ignorance, as you are probably aware. One type is nescience, pure lack of knowledge; the second type is privative ignorance; that is, ignorance of the things which under all the circumstances you ought to know.
Chairman.—Might I suggest that we ought not to have a dissertation on the various types of ignorance now?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—The third one is invincible ignorance, which is represented here. When you say you were ignorant of certain things in relation to mining, are you pleading guilty to privative ignorance of the things you ought to know?—No.
842. Are you pleading guilty to invincible ignorance, refusal to know?— No.
843. Are you pleading guilty to nescience, that is, lack of knowledge of things which under the circumstances you could not be expected to know?—Yes.
844. You heard yourself, and in relation to other witnesses, various things put in the dock. You had Mr. Ferguson protesting that he was in the dock, and accused of incompetence in the carrying out of the possibly ideal administration processes of the Department, and accused of prejudice in the sense that he was a party to the accusation represented by the Terms of Reference. You had the Act in the dock on the ground of its unwisdom. You had the State Solicitor in the dock for ignoring considerations, and for incompetence in carrying them out, for lack of frankness in not disclosing to his client the consequences of the consideration given. You have, yourself, been in the dock for ignorance of the technique of metallurgical isolation and analyses, and you have the Minister in the dock for using the Ministers and Secretaries Act in delegating his function to his officials. You are aware of all this?—Yes.
845. To your knowledge has Mr. Ferguson properly been in the dock for incompetence or prejudice?—It is a little difficult to ask me to express an opinion about a senior officer, but, to the best of my knowledge and belief, he was not.
846. I hope the seniority of an officer will not interfere with frankness, having regard to the fact that you are on oath?— If I must answer the question, he certainly is not.
847. The Act is in the dock. That is a matter in which one would be entitled to attack the Oireachtas, and I do not propose to put that to you. To your knowledge was the State Solicitor properly in the dock for ignoring his instructions and for incompetence in drafting a lease, and for lack of frankness in not directing his clients?—Most certainly if he did not draw attention that the lease he was preparing was ‘not in accordance with instructions. I am afraid the other part of the question is outside my ambit.
848. In your opinion the solicitor in drawing the lease carried out the instructions given to him and drew a prospecting lease?—That is my information for what it is worth.
849. You do not think that you yourself are properly in the dock for ignorance of the technical processes of metallurgical isolation and analyses?—No, Sir.
850. You do not think that any portion of your job?—No.
851. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Do you think the Minister is properly in the dock for using the Ministers and Secretaries Act for the purpose of delegating to his officials duties which they carried out?
Chairman.—It is not necessary for you to answer that question.
Deputy Costello.—Particularly as there is no such provision in the Ministers and Secretaries Act.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—That is an obiter dictum from somebody who is not yet a judge.
852. One of the attacks made on the lessees is that, assuming that a company is formed which has not been formed, and that the company raises £80,000 which it has not raised, and is in a position to give £12,000 worth of 5/- shares fully paid with money which they have not yet obtained, the lessees still have more than they agreed to pay you for the concession which they received. Do you think it would be reasonable for the lessees to sell to this prospecting company their right for anything less than they paid for it? Would you regard that as a reasonable proposition?—Yes.
853. You would?—Perhaps I do not understand the question correctly.
854. We will get it perfectly clear. They have agreed to pay the State a certain amount for this concession?—Yes.
855. Do you think, as a reasonable man, they would sell that concession to someone else for less than they had agreed to pay you?—Not unless they were anxious for some particular reason to get out of it as a bad bargain.
856. Therefore, it raises no doubts in your mind in relation to these lessees that it is alleged that, having gone to the trouble of prospecting and all the rest, and having ascertained that they have what, in their opinion, is a valuable property, they have not sold it for less than they will have to continue to pay for it. That does not raise any doubts in your mind?—I am afraid I have not followed your question. I am sure it is my fault.
857. It raises no doubts in your mind that they sell at a profit?—No.
858. Now, I want to come on to the only “nigger in the wood pile” which has been discovered. That is the second Norman. So far as I understand, the position is that the real or original Norman was made a partner with Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn in this matter?—He was made a party to the first application.
859. If the suggestion now made—there is no evidence to this effect at the moment—is true, that it was another Norman and not that Norman who signed the release, is the position that a man who had no claim has released a claim which he had not got. Assume that the second Norman is not the right Norman? —That seems to be the position.
860. Does it not also seem that the original Norman has not released his claim, so far as you know?—Assuming he has any claim at all.
861. Assuming he had any claim at all, he has not released that claim?—No.
862. The lease which was actually made was made with the two remaining original partners?—Yes.
863. It was made by the Minister with them, and that is all that concerns him? —Yes.
864. It does not matter the tossing of a coin to the Minister whether this “nigger in the wood pile” exists or not? —So far as there is a legal question involved in that query, I cannot answer it. There may be a legal question involved in it, as I see it.
865. You do not want to express an opinion on the legal question. If the original Norman only exists in this transaction in so far as he may have a residual claim, unreleased, against the original partners, that does not concern you in any way, so far as you know?—The legal question may arise there again. I prefer not to answer that question.
866. As Deputy Geoghegan says, it is a fact that the Minister never entered into any engagement with either of the Normans?—I am not going to dispute that with a lawyer of Mr. Geoghegan’s standing.
867. I am prepared as a layman to accept the excellent advice of my learned friend. I want to bring you, Mr. Maguire, to the actual terms of reference of this Committee: “That the demise of the State Mining Rights in respect of certain lands in County Wicklow, made on the 1st November, 1934, by way of take note or prospecting lease to Senator Michael Comyn, K.C., and Deputy R. Briscoe by the Minister for industry and Commerce was (a) made to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe because they were political associates of the Minister . . . .” Have you any knowledge which would enable you to say that that is true?—No.
868. In your opinion, is it or is it not true?—In my opinion, it is not true.
869. Is there any evidence in the possession of your Department which would even lead you to believe there was any possibility of a suggestion that that was true? —So far as I know, the papers in this matter, no, and I claim to know the papers of my Department on the subject.
870. The second portion of the terms of reference is that the demise was “made under conditions of secrecy.” Have you any knowledge which would enable you to believe that that is true?—No.
871. Have you knowledge which would enable you to say it was not true—that it was not made under conditions of secrecy? —There was no secret about it.
872. The terms of reference go on: “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.” Have you knowledge that this was made at a time when the Minister was aware that other persons were proposing to seek a demise of the same rights on terms more advantageous to the State or upon any terms, Was there any other party, so far as you know, concerned at the time at which the Minister made this lease?—The answer is “No,” subject to one slight explanation which I think I should make. That is: that a certain individual who had had a year’s lease which had been renewed from time to time by the Quit Rent Office had a lease which covered this particular area and others. He paid a certain dead rent for that which, I think, is £60. I cannot say what the royalty was. It was definitely for a much larger area than the three townlands covered by this lease. I cannot say definitely whether the consideration in that yearly lease was greater or less than that in Senator Comyn’s and Deputy Briscoe’s lease, having regard to the different areas.
873. Had the Minister any knowledge of the existence of that claim?—Personally, I should say that the Minister had no knowledge whatever of it.
874. Chairman.—Were any of his rights then current?—No. The year’s lease lapsed in 1921 or 1922 and the gentleman concerned had written a letter to the Quit Rent Office the precise character of which I am not aware of but he regarded it as saying that he wanted this lease when it was possible to get it. There is no legal priority in a matter of that kind. The gentleman was aware of the passing of the Mines and Minerals Act and took no steps with the proper Department to pursue the matter from 1924 to 1935.
875. Deputy Dowdall.—What date in 1935?—Less than a month ago. He came to me about the matter.
876. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—The terms of reference go on: “that the action of the Minister in making such demise was improper.” Is that true?—You are asking me to express an opinion about the Minister.
Chairman.—The witness should not be asked to express an opinion about his Minister.
877. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Is there any fact within your knowledge which would lead you to believe the action of the Minister was improper?—No.
Chairman.—The witness is not obliged to answer that. You are asking him to express an opinion on the action of his own Minister.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—He is on his oath and, with every respect, we are only asking him as to facts within his knowledge. I think the correction by Deputy Geoghegan was perfectly correct.
Chairman.—I rule it is not
879. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—The terms of reference go on: “further publicly to investigate and to report to the Dáil on all facts and circumstances connected with and surrounding the application and the grant of the said lease and all the facts and circumstances connected with and surrounding the agreement made by the lessees for the assignment of their rights and obligations under the said lease.” Is there any fact within your knowledge which enables you to say that anything that was done in relation to this whole transaction by the Minister was abnormal, irregular or discreditable?
Chairman.—Portions of that question need not be answered.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Then the witness will answer that portion of the question which he considers he should answer?—I could not decide that. The Chairman has ruled that some portions of that question are not to be answered.
Chairman.—That you are not under an obligation to answer them.
880. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Are you aware of any action by your Department in relation to that lease which was improper?—No.
881. Deputy Dowdall.—It has been suggested to-day that either you or your Department was remiss in not sending down, in the public interest, some qualified man to investigate the value of the townlands demised. The dead rent was £5 per annum. What would it cost to send a qualified man from the Department down to make such an investigation as would give the Department some idea of the value of the land or minerals on the land. I know you can only give an estimate?—That is a rather tall order.
882. The cost would be considerably more than £5?—Considerably more.
883. Therefore, it would not be reasonable to expect the Department to take that step in the public interest when it would take considerably more than the dead rent in the two years’ lease?—And more than likely it would not yield any effective results.
884. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I come to a letter of yours of January 10, 1935?—Would you give me the file number?
The number is T.I.M. 195/22. It says:—
“I am to add that in the case of the mining lease in respect of certain lands in County Clare made to Senator Comyn, the costs, £7 17s. 6d., were paid by the Senator to this Department.”
This was in answer to a letter from the State Solicitor alleging that he had not received this money. We have your statement saying that these moneys
“were paid by the Senator to this Department and a draft for the amount in question was sent to you with this Department’s minute of 22nd December, 1933.”
Now, the date of this letter is January, 1935, and your Department alleges that you sent this money in December, 1933. Was any acknowledgment received of that letter or any explanation of it?—I have no recollection of an acknowledgment.
885. Would it be within your competence to make an inquiry as to why the lapse existed. Would it be within your competence to inquire into that lapse as between the two Departments?—I am afraid I do not see the lapse.
886. There is an allegation that Senator Comyn did not pay the £7 17s. 6d. That allegation is made by the State Solicitor on 10th January, 1935. I am referring to the file before me?—That is a letter from me to the Chief State Solicitor.
887. I am simply raising the question that on 10th January, 1935, except for this that you had informed him, the Chief State Solicitor is apparently unaware of the fact that he had received, two years before—in 1933— this sum of £7 17s. 6d. Is there any explanation of that?—On the 21st December, 1934, the Chief State Solicitor, in a letter, says:—
“I do not appear to have received payment of the costs in connection with the lease to Senator Comyn of the quarries in County Clare, which, I think, you are collecting.”
We merely told him politely in the paragraph of the letter which you have quoted that the costs were paid and a draft for the amount sent to his Department.
888. Has he since acknowledged the receipt of that sum of £7 17s. 6d. which is in controversy between the two Departments?—He has not acknowledged the receipt of the last letter, but I am sure if he had not received it we would have heard from him.
889. Chairman.—Has he disputed the receipt of it?—No. If he had not got it, I am sure we would have had a reply from him to the second paragraph of my letter of the 10th January.
890. Deputy Fitzgerald.—You say in relation to these lands, or some part of them, that somebody about the year 1921 had a lease of them for mining purposes? —Yes.
891. I also understood you to say that he surrendered the lands sometime about 1921 or 1922?—I did not say that he surrendered them. The lease was merely for a period, and it expired. To be precise, the lease was for a year to start off with, and was renewed in subsequent years.
892. What were those years?—I forget at the moment. I may be able to identify it in this way, that when the lease came to be renewed on the next occasion——
893. I think that at about that time there was a change in the law. That was about the time, I think, that the State was set up?—The Free State had been established, but there was some legal difficulty about renewing the lease, and it was not renewed.
894. At any rate this man had this lease and was continuing it from year to year. The lease was discontinued, not because he had lost interest as far as you know, but because there was a legal difficulty about renewing it due to a change in the law. Apparently, the reason for not renewing the lease was just that the law had been changed over his head. He had spent money on the place, but then found that the law had been changed over his head. There was a doubt as to whether he could get a renewal of the lease and then, perforce, he had to cease having a lease?—He could not have got a lease then, but there was no reason why he should lose interest in it.
895. But he had to lose interest in it temporarily?—He could have kept his interest very much alive all the time.
896. Chairman.—In what way?—By making regular inquiries and by watching out for the passing of legislation that might enable him to establish his claim, if he had any legal claim.
897. Do you know if he did make any inquiries?—I think he wrote a letter about October, 1924, but he did not take any steps after that although aware of the passing of the Mines and Minerals Act in 1931.
898. Do you know did he call to your office or to the Quit Rent Office at any time to make inquiries?—He did not call to my Department.
899. Do you know did he call to the Quit Rent Office?—I cannot answer that question of my own knowledge, but the impression on my mind at a recent interview was that he did not.
900. Deputy Fitzgerald.—He held this lease for some years. He paid a sum of money for that lease. The lease ended not through any lack of interest on his part but because there was a change in the law?—The lease was only a yearly lease and he had no right to a renewal at its expiration.
901. There was no reason to expect that he would not have continued it if the law had not changed?—I have no reason to know whether he would keep it or not.
902. I understood you to say when the lease terminated that he asked in some form to have his interest in the place remembered when the law was changed again, so as to make the granting of a lease possible?—He did that in 1924, but I suggest it was unreasonable for him not to take any other steps up to 1935.
903. He asked to have his interest in the thing remembered when the law was changed. His interest in the lease was terminated, not through any will of his, but solely for the reason that the law made it impossible?—That was the position in 1924, but I have no reason for knowing the state of the man’s mind subsequent to that time.
904. The lease terminated and his interest continued certainly for three years. I understood you to say that in 1924 his interest was still alive?—Because he endeavoured to secure a renewal of the lease, but when he did not get it I do not know what effect that had on his mind.
905. He then asked to have the fact that he applied and that he was refused owing to the state of the law borne in mind in the Department?—As a matter of fact, I do not know what he asked.
906. Chairman.—Is there any correspondence in the Department?—Not in my Department.
907. Is there any correspondence in the Quit Rent Office?—I expect there is a letter from him in the Quit Rent Office. He may have called at the Quit Rent Office, but I do not know.
908. Would a memorandum be made of a call of that kind?—I do not know. I never served in the Quit Rent Office, and I would not like to speak for it.
909. Deputy Fitzgerald.—What I have in mind is this: that he had an interest in it, and that that interest had to cease because the State could not renew the lease owing to a change in the law. He asked to have his interest remembered. In 1931 the law was changed which permitted the granting of such a lease. When I was running a Department and people came to me asking about something I would say to them that the law did not cover what they were asking at the moment, but that it was likely legislation would be introduced to deal with the matter in which they were concerned. My usual remark to them was that when the law was changed I would notify them. Possibly, I am misinterpreting what you said, but it seems to me that here was a man who was known to have an interest which was only terminated through the state of the law. The law, meanwhile, was changed, and as far as I know he was not formally notified as to whether he wished to renew the lease that had been terminated through the state of the law. At a later stage these two gentlemen came for a lease of these lands. If the Department had overlooked the matter up to that time, it is reasonable to think that when somebody else had applied to the Department they should have written to that man asking him if he was still interested in land on which he had spent certain sums of money and from which he had withdrawn owing to a change in the law. You say now that there may be certain documents in the Quit Rent Office. You do not know whether there are or not, but it seems to me that before you granted a lease of these lands to other people that, in ordinary fairness and decency to that man, you might have notified him or in any case you might have ascertained from the Quit Rent Office whether he still showed any interest in it. In ordinary courtesy, I think he should have been notified before the State alienated the lands for other purposes?— I will explain what happened to the best of my knowledge. We knew that there were applications of this kind from certain people. I think I am correct in saying that all, except this particular man, had been in correspondence with our Department. When clearing the situation for making a lease to another party, some what to the south of the lease held in the Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe case, we asked all the people of whom we had knowledge whether they were pursuing their applications or not. These were letters of the type to Heiser and Messrs. Leader, Plunkett & Leader as to whether we might take it that the applications had been dropped. I cannot establish definitely that a similar letter went to this man. My belief at the time, and until I saw him and he denied the receipt of it, was that everyone had been circularised on the subject in the same way. As I have said, I cannot trace in our Department the actual issue of a letter to this particular man. Certainly there was no desire to avoid doing it, and as you have put it, “in decency it should have been done.” If I had been asked whether everyone who had letters in to the Quit Rent Office which had been reported to us had been asked whether they were pursuing the matter or not, I would have said definitely, yes. But when I came to examine this case I was not able to establish affirmatively that a letter to him was issued.
910. When the application for this lease came in did you know that the Quit Rent Office had dealt with this thing at a previous stage?—In dealing with the other applications we had, as we thought, cleared every application anterior to that particular one.
911. But it is possible that you had not cleared this one?—In this case I cannot trace the issue of a letter to this particular man.
912. Am I to understand from you now that it is possible that you did not clear that one?—In that particular case, yes.
913. Therefore, there seems to have been at least the possibility of some little hiatus. There were two Departments dealing at different periods with this. The position was that this property was alienated under a lease to other people, and what one may call ordinary courtesy and decency was not shown in notifying this man that such an application was in?—All I can say is that I issued personally an instruction in this form: Will you have the matter of determining how far the other applications noted on a certain map are alive, looked into?
914. To whom was that issued?—To one of my staff. The intention of that was to write a letter of the kind which we had to other applicants of whom we were aware.
915. You are not in a position to say that was actually done?—I cannot in one case.
916. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—With reference to these three townlands, Clonwilliam and the other two, how many letters did you, in fact, send out?—I would prefer not to say how many letters. Correspondence took place with two parties in addition to the Heiser people.
917. With reference to these three townlands?—I will not say that it was necessarily with reference to these three.
918. Did you communicate with anybody with reference to these three townlands, except Heiser?—Yes, one.
919. We can get the counterpart of these leases from the Quit Rent Office?— I cannot speak for the Quit Rent Office.
920. You will make your best efforts to get them?—I do not want to say I will; perhaps I cannot get them.
921. You may not be able, but you will make your best attempt?—Certainly. You will have officers from that Department to deal with.
922. Deputy Fitzgerald.— Actually, there was the Comyn-Briscoe indicated interest, the Heiser interest, another one to whom you say a letter was sent, and this one which had been abortive up to 1931. That would make four?—They were all dead; so far as they had leases they were quite dead. The Heiser application and one other one were alive in the sense of correspondence with my Department. This particular one had no correspondence with my Department at all.
923. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—There was a letter sent to some person other than Heiser. What file is that in?—I do not think it is in any of those files.
924. I suppose we can have a copy of it? —I think so. I am informed by the Secretary of my Department that they were issued before this application came in— issued in connection with another application altogether.
925. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—They are entitled to have that letter if they want it?—If the Committee want it, we are not making any objection. I am informed that the letter was in similar terms to one written in March, 1933, addressed to Messrs. Leader, Plunkett and Leader.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—They are entitled to it in they can get it.
Mr. J. M. Clarke (Higher Executive Officer, Department of Industry and Commerce) sworn and examined.
926. Deputy Costello.—Were you present when complaints were made by parties with reference to statements alleged to have been made by Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe that nobody could get leases under the Mines and Minerals Act except through them, and, if so, on how many occasions were such complaints made?—I was present at one interview at which that statement was made. You will find it on file 195/120, a confidential file.
927. Chairman.—Give us the date?— The 2nd May, 1935.
928. Deputy Geoghegan.—Is not this the same gentleman who was negotiating with Comyn and Briscoe?—He is one of the persons present at that interview.
929. With Comyn and Briscoe? Is he not one of the people trying to get a licence from them?—Exactly.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—So far as having the evidence of these people is concerned, the arrangement was that we were to have officials to begin with, then people associated with the Oireachtas and thereafter people from outside.
Deputy Geoghegan.—If there is any value to be attached to this complaint surely this gentleman, who seems to be a disgruntled negotiator, with Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, should come here.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Deputy Fitzgerald is not objecting to him coming here.
930. Deputy Costello.—Was there any other complaint but that, the one referred to there?—Not that I have knowledge of.
931. I do not wish to mention names, but there were others present at the interview?—There were several people at that interview.
932. Deputy Geoghegan.—Who were the persons?—In the record you will find Smyth, Heiser, Summerfield and Dunne.
933. Who is Smyth—has he a Christian name? Is he the same gentleman from whom there is a letter on one of the files?—Yes.
934. What is his Christian name?— E. J. Smyth, a former member of the Department.
935. Up to what date was he a member of the Department?—About six months ago, I think—quite recently.
936. Who is this Mr. Heiser? Is he the same gentleman who has entered into this arrangement with Comyn and Briscoe? —Precisely.
937. Who is Mr. Summerfield?—He is a motor man here in Dublin.
938. Is he in the group that was represented by Mr. Manus Nunan as Secretary?— Mr. Manus Nunan, I understand, is playing a double role. He is a Secretary of one group which is negotiating for leases on their own, and he is also Secretary for Mr. Heiser, who is negotiating with Senator Comyn.
939. Are Smyth, Heiser, Summerfield and Dunne in a group?—Smyth, Heiser, Summerfield, Dunne and Nunan are in a group.
940. And they are the people who have made this complaint?—They are the people who have made this complaint.
941. Who is Dunne — what is his Christian name?—Mr. Dunne was the expert from Risberget who reported so favourably on the deposits.
942. Heiser’s right-hand man?—Mr. Heiser’s right-hand man.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—Has the Deputy read the correspondence?
Deputy Geoghegan.—Are you all not amused at this thing?
Deputy Costello.—We are not amused, Mr. Geoghegan. We find no cause for amusement in it.
Deputy Geoghegan.—It is the most grotesque thing imaginable. Is not Heiser the man you have sponsored?
Deputy Costello.—That is a most improper statement to make.
Chairman.—Mr. Clarke has answered the one question it was decided would be put to him.
943. Deputy Geoghegan.—What is Dunne’s present address—could he be found by a registered letter?—I suppose so. He is somewhere in London.
944. Where is Heiser?—Possibly in America by now.
Chairman.—He was stated to have been in the Oireachtas restaurant last week.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I really thought Heiser and Comyn were rivals until now.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—They were negotiating together about the sub-lease.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Then there are no rival applicants apparently.
The Committee adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 5.30 p.m. on Thursday, 25th July.
* See Appendix IV.