MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 30adh Abrán, 1942.
Thursday, 30th April, 1942.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY DILLON in the Chair.
Mr. Maher (Oifig an Ard-Reachtaire Cunntas agus Ciste), Mr. O. J. Redmond, Mr. C. S. Almond, and Mr. F. J. Feeney (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.
VOTE 61—POSTS AND TELEGRAPHS.
Mr. P. S. O’Hegarty called and examined.
Subhead C—Rent, Office Fittings, etc.
“55. The charge to this subhead includes a sum of £500 being the ground rent of the site to which reference was made in paragraph 74 of my report on the accounts for the year 1938-39. I am informed that plans for a new Branch Post Office and a new Trunk Telephone Exchange to be erected on the site are in course of preparation. The estimated cost of the buildings is £53,100 but it is considered that a sum of £1,000 will cover the work which it may be possible to undertake in the financial year 1942-43. The local authority had agreed to an extension of the period for rebuilding up to May, 1941, and a further extension has been sought.
The total expenditure to the 31st March, 1941, in respect of the acquisition and occupation of the site was £6,956 11s. 11d.”
73. Chairman.—Is there anything you wish to add to that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—This matter was discussed very fully by the Committee in 1940, when considering the accounts for 1938-39, and it was also referred to in the Committee’s Report on these accounts. The purpose of the present paragraph is to bring the position up to date, but I am not yet aware whether sanction for the further extension has been granted.
Mr. O’Hegarty.—We have an extension for two years, from the year beginning 1942.
74. Chairman.—Will this Trunk Telephone Exchange affect the rural trunks, or will it merely affect the trunk service in or around Dublin?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—They will all come into it. It will affect everything.
75. Chairman.—Have you received complaints recently as to the delay in connection with trunk calls in rural Ireland?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—Not more than usual, I think.
76. Chairman.—Well, my experience may be exceptional, but I have experienced delays on trunk calls, between Ballaghaderreen and Dublin, up to an hour and a quarter, within the last month. Surely, that is very extraordinary?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—Well, it depends, but I shall look into the matter.
Chairman.—I hope you understand that I am not taking this occasion to complain. I am merely inquiring as to whether there is not something amiss with the trunks system.
77. Deputy McMenamin.—Would these delays be due to the fact that the Army, during this emergency period, are using the telephone trunks service unnecessarily during ordinary business hours?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—Of course, the Post Office cannot tell the Army what they should do or not do. Naturally, they make a very considerable use of the trunks, but the calls on the service are very heavy both from the public and Defence services.
78. Chairman.—Is there no way of increasing the trunks?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—The only way is by increasing the circuits and we do that wherever we can, but there is a certain difficulty about supplies.
79. Chairman.—So the only limit at present is the question of supplies?
80. Chairman.—If you had supplies, you would give better service?
81. Deputy Benson.—To my mind, the position indicated in the note is most unsatisfactory. Of course, I know that the war situation has an effect on this matter, but this has been going on for years, and practically no provision seems to have been made. Last year, Mr. O’Hegarty was asked if plans had been prepared and the answer was “no.” The matter has been discussed for a number of years, and if construction had been proceeded with earlier there would have been a very considerable saving to public funds, as against the position now where nothing much can be done and where, even when things can be done, the cost to the citizens will be much greater than formerly. Are the plans ready now?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—Yes, the plans are prepared, and the Board of Works are handling them at the present moment.
82. Deputy Benson.—Is there any prospect of building being undertaken at the moment?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—Not at the moment, I think, because tenders have to be sought and received. The plans had to be recast to provide for re-inforced concrete instead of steel, as steel cannot be got.
83. Deputy Benson.—But it is proposed to go ahead with the building and not wait till the war is over?
84. Deputy Hughes.—What material is going to be used for re-inforcing, to replace the steel?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—All I know is that it is to be re-inforced concrete instead of steel, but that is a matter for the Board of Works.
85. Chairman.—So far as you know, at any rate, the building will go ahead?
Subhead E 2—Conveyance of Mails by Road.
“56. In a number of cases ex-gratia increases on contract rates were granted temporarily to mail car contractors to meet increased working expenses arising out of the abnormal conditions prevailing. The aggregate annual amount of the increases so granted in the year ended 31st March, 1941, was £5,323 15s. 3d.”
86. Chairman.—Have you anything to add, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—These ex-gratia payments are granted by the Post Office under powers delegated to it. We have examined a number of cases in detail and are satisfied that the increases are fair and reasonable. The increases are about 11 per cent of the total charge under the subhead.
87. Chairman.—Is it intended to develop horse traffic for the transfer of mails where the existing motor traffic is going out of commission?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—Yes. We have that under examination for some time and, at the present moment, we are changing over to horse traffic in many cases.
88. Chairman.—You are aware that it is becoming extremely difficult to get horse cars suitable for that purpose?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—Yes, but we have succeeded in a number of cases in getting suitable horse cars.
89. Chairman.—Is it intended to make contracts with local contractors who use their own horses?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—Yes, that is what we are doing.
90. Deputy McMenamin.—Assuming that that becomes effective, will these contractors be free to carry passengers as well as mails?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—I do not think so.
91. Chairman.—Can we not go back, in fact, to the old system of carrying both mails and passengers on these cars?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—No, not passengers— at least, I do not think so.
92. Chairman.—Was it not the fact that in the old days they could carry passengers also?
93. Deputy Hughes.—Is it not still the custom in some places?
94. Chairman.—You see, it may add to the difficulties in getting the mails carried in certain rural areas if the mail carrier has not the right to supplement his earnings by carrying passengers for reward, just as certain rural sub-postmasters undertake Post Office business on the understanding that they will be allowed to conduct their private business also?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—I am not quite clear about it, but I understand that, at present, they can carry two passengers, and that will continue.
95. Chairman.—And they are allowed to carry them for reward?
96. Deputy Hughes.—What is the purpose of limiting them to two? Could there not be accommodation for more?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—No, not as a general rule, if they carry mails as well as passengers.
97. Chairman.—Perhaps you would look into that matter, generally, in order to ensure that no difficulty will confront you in providing transport for the area?*
Subhead E 4—Packet Services, British and Foreign.
“57. In my last report I referred to the contributions payable towards the cost of the conveyance of mails by sea between this country and Great Britain. The normal contribution was £25,500 per annum of which £25,000 related to the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead service and £500 to the Rosslare-Fishguard service. The negotiations which followed on the curtailment of services have now been concluded and agreement has been reached under which the contribution in respect of the Rosslare-Fishguard route was reduced provisionally to £100 per annum with effect from the 1st October, 1940, and the contribution in respect of the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead route was reduced provisionally to £20,000 per annum with effect from the 1st January, 1941. The charge to the subhead represents the contributions payable in respect of these services for the year ended 31st December, 1940.”
98. Chairman.—Have you anything further to add, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—The new basis of payment is provisional, but the Department of Finance have sanctioned it for as long as it may be necessary, and from the audit point of view that is satisfactory.
99. Chairman.—Do you wish to make any comment on that paragraph, Mr. O’Hegarty?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—No. I think it is complete as it stands.
Losses by Default, etc.
“58. The losses borne on the Vote for the year ended 31st March, 1941, amounted to £1,057 2s. 11d., of which £1,045 18s. 5d. was charged to Subhead H 2 and £11 4s. 6d. to Subhead O 6. Classified schedules of these losses are set out at pages 216 and 219. At pages 218 and 219 particulars are given of 19 cases in which cash shortages or misappropriations amounting to £451 16s. 8d. were discovered; the sums in question were made good and no charge to public funds was necessary.”
100. Chairman.—That is a purely informative paragraph?
“59. A scheme for the establishment of cable and wireless communication services between certain islands off the western and south-western coasts and the mainland was approved. It was considered that the revenue likely to be derived from the introduction of these services would be negligible, and the scheme was regarded as being in the nature of a State subsidy for the purpose of providing communications in cases of emergency. The capital cost of the scheme, including indirect charges, was estimated at £4,950, and annual charges at £1,385.
It appeared that the Hospitals Commission was interested in the provision of these facilities and might be willing to contribute towards the cost of the scheme, and I am informed that the matter is now being taken up with the Commission.”
101. Chairman.—How did the Hospitals Commission come to be interested in this matter of telegraph construction?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—I have a note here to say that they were anxious that communication with the Blasket Islands should be established, and wrote for the provision of wireless on the Island. We had already a departmental scheme in hands there and we carried it through. Then we thought that we would ask the Hospitals Commission to make a contribution to the cost, but they replied that they would not make any contribution.
102. The prospect of the Hospitals Commission making a contribution did not influence your judgment in determining to undertake the scheme?—No, the scheme was in hands before that.
“60. A test examination of the store accounts was carried out with generally satisfactory results.
In my last report I stated that tenders received subsequent to the 1st September, 1939, were generally in terms which involved departures from the usual principles of firm prices and specified deliveries. Similar conditions existed in the circumstances prevailing during the year under review and quotations were, as a rule, subject to prices ruling at the date of delivery. Abnormal demands by other Government Departments during the year resulted in considerable increases in the stores dealt with; the value of stores supplied to other Government Departments in the year ended 31st March, 1941, being £1,291,611 as compared with £205,736 for the year ended 31st March, 1939, and the total value of all contracts placed by the Controller of Stores during the same periods was, respectively, £2,881,090 and £502,825. These increases were mainly due to requirements of the Department of Defence.”
103. Chairman.—Anything to add, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—In those cases where it is necessary to depart from normal procedure in placing contracts, the Audit Office is satisfied that the best possible arrangements were made in the circumstances. In all such cases, where the cost of the contract exceeded £1,000 the prior approval of the Government Contract Committee was obtained and all contracts between £100 and £1,000 were listed.
104. Chairman.—Am I correct in assuming that the practice is now stabilised and will be continued so long as this abnormal state of affairs continues?
Mr. Maher.—In so far as the Department of Posts and Telegraphs finds it necessary, I should say, “Yes.”
105. Chairman.—Is it your intention, Mr. O’Hegarty, to continue that practice of consulting the Government Contracts Committee before dealing with contracts over £1,000?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—It is.
106. Chairman.—The next portion of paragraph 60 reads:—
“In view of the urgent necessity for obtaining certain supplies contracts were allocated, in many cases, without competition, on the basis of securing early deliveries. Investigations of costings were carried out on behalf of the Department in cases in which the prices quoted appeared to warrant such action and in some cases reductions in quoted prices were secured as a result of these investigations.”
Mr. Maher.—The reductions amounted to about £9,000 which was roughly 5 per cent. of the total contracts placed. Under this arrangement, investigations were carried out, in one or two cases by the Department of Supplies, and in other cases by technical officers in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.
107. Chairman.—I take it that it is open to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs to refer any bargain they may make in these cases to the Price Control Division of the Department of Supplies?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—It is.
108. Chairman.—Paragraph 60 goes on to say:—
“Applications for increases on contract prices were received in a number of cases in respect of contracts placed on tenders submitted prior to 1st September, 1939, and ex-gratia payments were made, with the sanction of the Minister for Finance, to recoup contractors for additional costs attributable to the new conditions. Sanction was also received for payment on an ex-gratia basis of increases on contract prices in certain cases in which tenders submitted after 1st September, 1939, did not contain price variation clauses. Particulars of the payments made are noted in the relevant appropriation accounts.”
Mr. Maher.—The Committee will find on pages 212, 213 and 243 notes indicating the amounts paid on an ex-gratia basis during the year. The books and accounts of the contractors were inspected by officers of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, who were satisfied that the increases were justifiable.
109. Chairman.—And that corresponds with your information, Mr. O’Hegarty?
Chairman.—Paragraph 60 continues:—
“Owing to pressure of work and shortage of staff in the Stores Branch of the Department only a limited number of items of postal and engineering stores was checked during the year and the stocktaking adjustments noted in the account relate to these items. I am informed that a large proportion of these stocks is being specially examined in the financial year 1941-42.”
110. That relates, I take it, to a matter which we discussed last year—the stocktaking?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—Yes. Following the discussion which took place last year we arranged to restore the full check which is now in operation.
111. That is very gratifying. Paragraph 60 goes on to say:—
“I referred in previous reports to deficiencies in the stocks of internal mail bags. Further similar deficiences were disclosed in the year under review and I understand that a scheme for the more effective control of these stores has been under consideration. I have inquired whether it has been found possible to bring this scheme into operation and, if so, whether any results from its working have been ascertained.”
Mr. Maher.—The Accounting Officer recently informed us that various changes were brought into force in November last, and that he hopes the census, which was taken in March, will reveal a decided improvement. We have not been informed what the result of the census has been?
Mr. O’Hegarty.—The full figures are not available yet, but the provisional figures show that there has been a very definite improvement.
112. Chairman.—You think that the matter of the mail bags is being got under control?—Yes, we think it is.
113. The final portion of paragraph 60 reads:—
“In addition to the engineering stores shown in appendix II as valued at £186,577 on the 31st March, 1941, engineering stores to the value of £1,039 were held on behalf of other Government Departments. Stores other than engineering stores held at that date were valued at £211,087, included in this amount being a sum of £103,207 in respect of stores held for other Government Departments.”
I take it that is merely an informative paragraph for the purposes of the record?
Mr. Maher.—That is so.
114. I think I may say, Mr. O’Hegarty, on behalf of the Committee, that the Committee naturally sympathise with your very great difficulties in this matter of stores and supplies during the times in which we are living, and that in passing over these paragraphs with little or no comment we are bearing your very peculiar difficulties in mind.
Mr. O’Hegarty.—Thank you.
“61. A test examination of the postal, telegraphic and telephone services was carried out with satisfactory results.
Sums due for telephone services amounting in all to £310 2s. 1d. were written off during the year as irrecoverable.”
Post Office Savings Bank Accounts.
“62. The accounts of the Post Office Savings Bank for the year ended 31st December, 1940, were submitted to a test examination with satisfactory results. Cash received from depositors in the year totalled £3,267,614 11s. 3d., and this sum includes an amount of £41,400 being moneys paid into the special account opened in the books of the Bank of Ireland, in accordance with the terms of paragraph 3 of the Trustee Savings Banks Regulations, 1940 (Statutory Rules and Orders No. 336 of 1940), and deemed to have been deposited in the Post Office Savings Bank under paragraph 4 of these regulations.”
115. Chairman.—Do the deposits show a tendency to increase?
116. Do you recollect what the deposits were in the previous year? The Committee would like to have it for the purposes of comparison?—In 1939 they were £2,917,530; in 1940, £3,226,215; and in 1941, they were approximately £3,646,000.
117. I understand that the latter part of the paragraph refers to the arrangement where, under the Trustee Savings Banks, you no longer place your money with the National Debt Commissioners, but with the Bank of Ireland?—Yes.
Post Office Factory.
“63. A test examination was applied to the accounts of the Post Office factory with satisfactory results.
The expenditure on manufacturing jobs, including work in progress on 31st March, 1941, amounted to £21,814; expenditure on repair works (other than repairs to mechanical transport) amounted to £15,309, and expenditure on mechanical transport repairs amounted to £2,519.”
118. If there is no other question on these notes, we can take the subheads. On Subhead E 13—Packet Services at home —what exactly are these?—They are services across lakes and harbours.
119. On Subhead E 5—Conveyance of Mails by Air—will air mails from America come direct to Foynes if and when Clippers fly between the two countries?—We think so.
120. At present they come through Lisbon?—Yes.
121. Do you happen to know, or are you free to say, when it is expected the American Clippers will be flying direct to Foynes?—We cannot say exactly. The matter is under consideration on both sides.
122. And may materialise this year?— Yes.
123. Chairman.—As to Subhead G 3, are our stamps manufactured in Great Britain?—The blocks for the stamps are, but the stamps are actually printed in the Castle.
124. We print our stamps here?—Yes.
125. What does Subhead L 1—Maintenance by Railway Companies, etc.—refer to?—That is the cost of repairs to the cross-Channel telegraph cables. If anything goes wrong and a cable has to be repaired we have to pay half the cost of it.
126. What have railway companies got to do with cable repairing?—That is a general term. It is “Railway Companies, etc.”
Chairman.—Then the “etc.” is the important part.
VOTE 62—WIRELESS BROADCASTING.
Mr. P. S. O’Hegarty further examined.
127. Chairman.—In regard to Subhead B, does the B.B.C. charge a very large sum if you want to relay one of their exceptional programmes like a symphony concert or something of that kind?—No, they do not charge a great deal, but of course we have to pay for the time on the cable to bring it across.
128. You remember the occasion when Toscanini conducted the nine symphonies in London. That would seem to me an occasion when we might very well have taken them over here and we did not. Did the broadcasting people consider that at all or is it the matter of expense that prohibits it?—I do not think it is a matter of expense particularly. There is a strong feeling in this country in favour of giving as much to our own people as possible.
129. Even those who feel most strongly in that regard might be persuaded to make an exception in respect of Toscanini?—Yes, it is quite possible.
130. No more than that I suppose. Do you not think that the cost of programmes might include provision for broadcasts of that kind?—Anything of that sort which we want to do can be carried through in the ordinary way. If it is anything out of the ordinary we get the authority of the Department of Finance for it. There is no barrier to any relay of that sort, either explicit or implicit.
131. As to Subhead F, I suppose the failure to expend the appropriation for renewals, etc., is largely due to the impossibility of getting supplies?—Yes.
VOTE 45—OFFICE OF THE MINISTER FOR EDUCATION.
Mr. Seosamh O’Neill called and examined.
132. Deputy Breathnach.—As to Subhead C—Preparation of Irish Vocabularies—there was no work undertaken?
Chairman.—If you look at note C, you will see a reference to it.
Mr. O’Neill.—The reason is that we had more or less exhausted the subjects for which there was a demand at the time.
133. Deputy Breathnach.—There was no meeting of the Advisory Committee?— None, for the reason given.
Chairman.—If there is any branch of the vocabulary in which Deputy Breathnach is particularly interested and desires to have investigated, this subhead will be set in motion again.
VOTE 46—PRIMARY EDUCATION.
Mr. Seosamh O’Neill further examined.
Subhead A 3—Preparatory Colleges, etc.
“33. The average boarding cost per head for the school year 1940-41 ranged from 9s. 6d. to 12s. 4d. per week, showing an increase in each college as compared with the previous year.
Accounts have been furnished showing the receipts and expenditure in connection with the farms and gardens during the school year ended 31st July, 1941. One account related to a newlyerected college and covered the period from 23rd April, 1940, when the work of preparing and planting the garden was begun, to the 31st July, 1941. In another case the period of accounts extended only to the 13th January, 1941, at which date the college was transferred to other premises. In four of the six accounts the receipts are shown to have exceeded the expenditure.
The average fee paid by the students for the school year 1940-41, was £8 1s. 11d.”
134. Chairman.—Have you any further comments to make, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—That is an annual paragraph for information. The first college referred to is Coláiste Iosagáin, and the second is Coláiste Moibhi. The accounts in these cases were for part of the year only.
Subhead C 1—National Schools.
“34. I observed a case in which a school was closed for repairs from 18th November, 1938, to 31st March, 1940. With the authority of the Department of Finance, payment of salary was continued to the principal and assistant teacher throughout the entire period, though neither teacher was called upon to render any services. The sums so paid amounted to £734 2s. 9d. In accordance with normal procedure the contract for the repairs was arranged and its execution supervised by the Commissioners of Public Works. Tenders for the work were received on 20th September, 1938, and the contract was placed on 5th April, 1939. The repairs were not completed by the due date, 8th September, 1939, and on 22nd January, 1940, the contract was rescinded. The balance of the work was carried out by another contractor.”
135. Chairman.—To what school does that refer?
Mr. Maher.—Clonkeenkerrill, County Galway.
136. Chairman.—Can you give any information as to that, Mr. O’Neill?
Mr. O’Neill.—It is really more a Board of Works case than ours, because the chief delay arose in the section dealt with by the Board of Works. In the beginning there was a great deal of haggling over the grant. That occurred in our section of the case, because the manager wanted us to contribute more than we were willing to. We were haggling for about four months. After that, as I have said, it was a question of the Board of Works having difficulties in carrying out the reconstruction. We kept on asking the Board of Works to expedite the business. I can give you a time-table if you wish.
137. Chairman.—Is there any staple basis for grants or does every school which comes up for repairs become the subject of a bargain between the Department and the manager as to what proportion of the cost will be defrayed by a grant from the Department?—No. There is a regular scale. We give two-thirds and the manager gives one-third. That is the normal thing that applies in general practice. Where you have a necessitous parish, however, in a congested district in the West particularly, where a manager may have nine or ten schools and a very low rateable valuation, then he asks that we should give more and that he should have to raise less. Sometimes he asks that he should not be required to give anything at all. It is there the haggling comes in. In this case the manager wanted only to give one-sixth. In justice to the tax-payer we did not think that we could give him five-sixths and so we haggled for a few months and finally came to a bargain.
138. Deputy McMenamin.—What about the children who lost one-and-a-quarter years education?—We could not help that. We tried to arrange that they would go to other schools.
Deputy O’Rourke.—Most of them go to other schools.
Mr. O’Neill.—The manager could have arranged to give the teachers accommodation in neighbouring schools, but he was not willing to do so. In this particular case the majority of the children did go to other schools.
139. Chairman.—In this particular case most of the children did, in fact, go to another school?
Mr. O’Neill.—I would not say most of them; a considerable number did.
140. Deputy McMenamin.—What percentage of them?
141. Chairman.—I do not think Mr. O’Neill would have the information as to the exact percentage that went to other schools. That would not be reported to you?
Mr. O’Neill.—No, but we know that it was about 50 per cent.
142. Deputy McMenamin.—Why not? With children leaving school at the age of 14, would it not be a vital thing if they lost a year and a quarter?
143. Chairman.—Do you take any precautions, Mr. O’Neill, where the school is a long time closed, to ensure that the compulsory section of the Act is enforced in respect of the children?
Mr. O’Neill.—Where it is a very long time closed, we might, of course, start a ’bus service in cases where the children cannot get to other schools. In this particular case, from 2nd January, 1938, we got the Gárdaí to apply the School Attendance Act where the pupils were within statutory distance of other schools. Also we urged the Board of Works to finish the business. We pushed them month after month. I do not say that they were to blame; we cannot tell, but we kept pushing them very strongly. If we had known that the school would have been closed for so long, we might have arranged a ’bus service, but that is a slow and difficult business. We have to go to the Department of Finance to get special sanction.
144. Deputy Hughes.—Do you not try to fix responsibility where undue delay occurs?
Mr. O’Neill.—On the Board of Works?
145. Deputy Hughes.—On somebody responsible?
Mr. O’Neill.—That is a matter for the Government.
146. Deputy O’Rourke.—What could you do about it?
Mr. O’Neill.—We were doing our best, but the Board of Works had its difficulties about tenders, contracts, and so on. I think the Board of Works, if they were here, could make a fairly good case.
147. Chairman.—We shall arrange to have this matter mentioned on the Board of Works Vote, so that we can ask Mr. Connolly for particulars as to why the contract was so long outstanding?
148. Deputy Hughes.—If the contractor is responsible——
Deputy O’Rourke.—It was a new contractor that finished it.
149. Deputy Benson.—On the other point about the attendance of the children at some school, even if the contract had been completed on the due date the school would have been closed for a period of ten months.
150. Deputy McMenamin.—Were any steps taken to have those children continue an extra year at school, by inducement or otherwise by the Department?
Mr. O’Neill.—Those cases are so rare that we have no legislation to enable us to deal with them. What usually happens is that, in those congested areas where you have trouble, the schools are rather close to one another and the children attend other schools.
Mr. Almond.—I have some information in regard to the matter. Twenty of the pupils attended other schools while this particular school was closed. The average attendance prior to closing was about 40.
151. Chairman.—And in regard to about 20 of the children we have no information?
Mr. Almond.—We may assume that they did not attend other schools. They were outside the statutory distance.
Deputy O’Rourke.—They probably benefitted by the rest.
Deputy McMenamin.—That is rather a compliment to the system of education.
152. Deputy Benson.—There is another point in regard to this matter, and that is the fact that a principal and assistant teacher were paid their salaries for the whole of this period for doing nothing at all. Was it not possible to employ them in any way?
153. Chairman.—Was the matter examined in any way to see if alternative employment could have been provided for this principal and assistant who were in receipt of whole-time salaries?
Mr. O’Neill.—There would be no alternative employment available. In normal cases, there is a panel of teachers awaiting employment. If there is any employment available, it is the manager who employs the teachers, but he has no power to compel a teacher to serve in a different school.
154. Deputy Hughes.—Do you ever attempt to get alternative accommodation?—Yes.
155. Chairman.—I should like to dispose of Deputy Benson’s point first. Have you anything to add, Mr. Maher, in respect of this question of finding alternative employment for those teachers?
Mr. Maher.—It is not really a matter on which the Audit Office would be able to offer any information, but we understand from the papers that the teachers’ agreement is with the manager, and that anything outside the terms of the agreement, which is usually confined to a particular school, would be unenforceable. Also the schools in which the teachers were required to teach were outside the parish and diocese, so there were legal and administrative difficulties which were apparently insurmountable. The manager in another case considered that the distance which the teachers would be required to cover each day to and from alternative schools would entail hardship.
Mr. O’Neill.—We asked the Attorney-General whether we had any power to make them teach in other schools and he said we had not.
156. Chairman.—I take it that that disposes of Deputy Benson’s point.
157. Deputy Hughes.—Do you ever try to get temporary alternative accommodation?
Mr. O’Neill.—Oh, yes. That is the usual thing. We do that regularly.
158. Deputy Hughes.—And you succeed occasionally?
Mr. O’Neill.—That is the ordinary arrangement.
159. Deputy Hughes.—I presume no alternative accommodation could be found?
Mr. O’Neill.—Not in this particular case. Of course, it is the manager who gets it, because again the manager is the person who is in charge of the school.
Model School Fees.
“35. As stated in the account, the collection of model school fees ceased on 31st December, 1940. The balance of fees on hands at that date, £758 8s. 11d., has since been paid into the Exchequer and provision has been made for the payment of non-pensionable annual allowances from the Vote to such teachers as were eligible to participate in the distribution of fees under the regulations formerly in force.
160. Chairman.—Have you any further comment to make on that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—Particulars will be found on page 152 of the accounts, which set out the position in full.
161. Chairman.—Have you wound up the model schools, Mr. O’Neill?
Mr. O’Neill.—Oh, no; they are running still. It is the payment of fees that has ceased. But certain teachers, who had the right to get fees before we stopped the payment of them, still have this right. They are a dwindling number, of course. There are no fees payable now in model schools.
162. Deputy Breathnach.—It is not worth paying what they pay now.
163. Chairman.—Was the system heretofore that if you went to an ordinary school you got free education, but, if you elected to go to a model school, you paid some fee?
Mr. O’Neill.—That was the old system.
164. Chairman.—When was that system brought to an end?
Mr. O’Neill.—In 1928. When we examined the arrangement we thought that it was not compatible with our system.
165. Chairman.—And, when you brought it to an end, you related the end to a future date and said: “On 31st December, 1940, that system will end”?
Mr. O’Neill.—We said: “From now on, model school teachers will not get fees, but teachers who have been getting them up to this particular point are entitled to them.” They entered on those conditions, and we have got to go on paying until those teachers are gone.
166. Chairman.—Is the procedure now, as from 31st December, 1940, that the Exchequer simply pays them ex-gratia without any corresponding receipt?
Mr. O’Neill.—There actually is a fund, but the grants are not paid out of it. They are paid out of voted monies.
167. Chairman.—I gathered that there was a fund accumulated from fees, and that out of this fund was paid the teachers’ premiums?
168. Chairman.—And that then it was determined, as from 31st December, 1940, that those premiums would be paid from the Exchequer, and that any balance in the fund would be merged in the general revenue?
Mr. O’Neill.—That is so.
The Father O’Halloran Memorial Fund.
“36. By direction of the Minister for Finance an account in respect of the moneys transferred to the Minister for Education under the will of the late Father O’Halloran has been appended to the Appropriation Account for Primary Education. The origin and purpose of this fund are explained in the heading to the account. The capital was invested in 4½ per cent. Third National Loan in January, 1941, and no dividend became payable until after the close of the financial year.”
169. Chairman.—On page 156 particulars of this fund are set out. How is an examination under a scheme of that kind conducted?
Mr. O’Neill.—By the local inspector.
170. Chairman.—Does he get the papers set by the Department?
Mr. O’Neill.—He may set a written paper himself. It is quite a small thing.
171. Deputy O’Rourke.—Was it not a pity he did not leave the fund to the St. Vincent De Paul Society?
Chairman.—I suppose it is scarcely the function of this Committee to dwell on the testamentary activities of the late Father O’Halloran. Mr. O’Neill is certainly not responsible for that.
172. Deputy Benson.—On the Vote itself, what is the explanation of Subhead A A?
Mr. O’Neill.—Grants that had been paid to training colleges on behalf of civil servants who did not serve as national teachers had to be refunded by them. That is, the cost of training is refunded by civil servants and others if they do not serve a certain number of years. We have been acting as agents for the Department of Finance in getting this training expenditure returned in the case of half a dozen civil servants. Then they discovered that we had no legal grip on them, because in the form of contract they had signed originally, although there was a clause about refund, there was no clause about penalties. We went to the Attorney-General and he said that they were not legally bound to make a refund. We had actually made the deductions, and so had to pay back a certain amount in refund. We have, of course, dealt with the difficulty now, because the present contracts provide for penalties in the case of civil servants and others. Anybody who becomes a civil servant in future will have to repay the cost of training, as we have full power now to deduct it from their salaries.
173. Deputy Hughes.—How far does that go back? How is it you made no provision for it?
174. Chairman.—The point Deputy Hughes makes is that there was no grant under Subhead A A. The expenditure all represents an excess.
Mr. O’Neill.—That was paid, I think, out of savings on other subheads.
Chairman.—I think as a matter of fact this is one of the special subheads of which we were furnished with a list. A special subhead was opened during the currency of the previous financial year on which a virement was exercised, and on which we have a note from the Comptroller and Auditor-General which I communicated to the Committee on the first day of our sitting this year.* This is the first year in which this subhead appears in the Appropriation Account.
175. Deputy Benson.—And, I take it, the only year. The thing is closed now?
Mr. O’Neill.—No; there is one more case.
176. Chairman.—And I take it that, in the current volume of Estimates there is a subhead for this purpose?
177. Deputy Hughes.—If you had information in regard to that case, you would have made provision?—Oh, clearly.
Deputy Breathnach.—They knew of it quite well, but they were hoping the man would never discover he had a claim.
Chairman.—They also hoped that Dáil Eireann would not have adverted to the fact that the man had a claim.
178. Deputy Brady.—With regard to Subhead C 5—Free Grants of School Requisites—I notice that the Teachers’ Congress and several other bodies are passing resolutions about getting the school meals extended?—That is a matter for the Department of Local Government and Public Health; it does not concern our Department.
179. Deputy Breathnach.—As regards Subhead C 10—Grants towards the cost of Free School Books for Necessitous Children—that was not availed of to the full extent apparently by the teachers?— It lies with the teachers and the managers. The teacher makes a return of the necessitous children and the manager sends it in. We did not get returns to the extent we expected. Take a county like Clare where we expected there would be quite a considerable number of necessitous children. The fact is that in that county we got only 25 per cent. of the expected demand. It is very hard to understand that, unless it is that the teachers did not make returns or the managers did not send them in.
180. Deputy O’Rourke.—I understand the teachers are supposed to keep the books in the schools overnight? Is that the practice? I do not think you will ever make the scheme a success as long as the books are kept in the schools overnight? —That is not the practice. The pupil gets the books and is allowed to keep them all the time until the end of the session.
181. Thanks be to God there are no pupils in my area who need this type of assistance, but I heard that it is the practice that the books are kept in the school overnight?—The teacher has no right to keep them there overnight. The pupil has a right to have the books, even during vacation, until the end of the school year.
Chairman.—Have you heard any suggestions such as Deputy O’Rourke has made, Deputy Breathnach?
Deputy Breathnach.—No. I am aware that the children take the books home.
Chairman.—And it is clear that the pupils are to use the books in the ordinary way subject to the conditions that at the end of the school period they hand them back?
Deputy Breathnach.—On the 30th June they are handed back.
VOTE 47—SECONDARY EDUCATION.
Mr. Seosamh O Neill called.
VOTE 48—TECHNICAL INSTRUCTION.
Mr. Seosamh O Neill further examined.
182. Deputy Breathnach.—As regards Subhead D 3—Grants for Professional Courses in Science—apparently there were no courses given. What was the reason for that?
183. Chairman.—The grant of £600 to the Dental Hospital was not paid, according to the Explanatory Note attached. How is the grant made up?—It is a grant of 3d. an hour. As a matter of fact that has been transferred to the Department of Finance Vote. It should never have been in our Vote at all.
184. What was it for?—It was for dentistry and medicine supposed to be vocational matters. The old Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction made certain provision for classes in the Dental Hospital and Trinity College as vocational classes, and they paid 3d. an hour. That continued until we raised the matter with the Department of Finance and they took it over on their own Vote, on the ground that as it was a grant to classes of University type it should come under the Universities’ Vote.
185. Deputy Breathnach.—Is it intended to continue that course?—We do not know that, because we have nothing more to do with it.
186. Chairman.—Can you give us any further information on this matter, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—I understand one of the reasons why it was not paid was that the Dental Hospital is a participant in the Sweepstakes funds and as such is ineligible to receive grants. In the year under review they made no claim and hence it was not paid.
187. Chairman.—What did they teach? —Dentistry.
188. How does that come under the Vote for technical instruction?—Frankly, I do not understand how it could. We took it over from the old Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction. We discussed the matter with the Department of Finance and it was finally agreed that, if there were to be any arrangements of this sort they should be made by the Department which dealt with other State grants to these institutions; in other words it was decided that the Department of Finance should deal with the matter. Possibly the officials of that Department will be able to explain what was done. We are clear of the Vote because it does not now come under our Department.
Mr. Almond.—These grants are a legacy of the former regime. They were originally Treasury grants. I gather they were retained during the last war on account of the number of students who participated in that war. I do not know how the arrangement was evolved, but we found the grants a burden on our funds. They were continued for some time and we took up the question of their discontinuance and the whole matter was referred to the Minister for Finance. He decided to continue the grants for Trinity College and the Royal College of Surgeons. These now appear on Vote 26, Universities and Colleges. The grant to the Dental Hospital was left for further consideration, but no case for its continuance has been made by the Dental Hospital up to the present. It is most unlikely that the grant will be revived.
189. Chairman.—Can you tell me, Mr. O’Neill, if any resident in the City of Dublin can attend a course in the Bolton Street technical schools without the payment of a fee?—I do not think so. I never heard of that.
190. Do they have to pay the fee?— They all have to pay fees but there is a provision for a refund if the pupil is necessitous and attends well and does his work satisfactorily. If the Committee feel that the pupil should not be asked to pay because the parents are too poor, there is the practice of a refund.
VOTE 49—SCIENCE AND ART.
Mr. Seosamh O Neill further examined.
191. Chairman.—I feel that Deputy Breathnach will want to know how the county histories are proceeding. That subject comes under Subhead B 3—Production of Irish County Histories. What progress is being made with the production of these histories?—The editor has actually handed over the histories of eight of the counties and we have published four. There are two in proof.
192. Are the translations proceeding with expedition?—Yes, we are getting the others translated. We publish them in Irish only.
193. Deputy Brady.—They are not published in English at all?—No.
194. Chairman.—They are written in English and translated and then published in Irish. Does the same translator translate them all?—No, because we have to provide for the different dialects. For instance, if we take the history of County Donegal it would not do to publish it in Munster Irish.
195. Are they available at the Government Publications Office?—Yes.
196. Have you information as to whether they are sold largely or not?— Some of them sell fairly well, but I have not the figures. Some counties are more interested in their local history than others.
197. Deputy Brady.—Could we have a list of the counties for which histories have been published?—Roscommon, Monaghan, Carlow, Kerry, Sligo, Cork, Wexford and Donegal have been written. The first four have been published; Sligo and Cork are in proof form at present.
198. Chairman.—Are they popular school text-books?—I could not say that. In the case of histories in primary schools it is rather difficult for the pupils—except in the higher classes—to read books of that type in Irish. The difficulty of reading them even in English would be rather considerable, as they are fairly complicated histories. As far as the pupils are concerned they are mainly intended for secondary schools, but the secondary school population is rather small.
199. Deputy O’Rourke.—Are they not mostly teachers’ reference books?—Yes.
200. Chairman.—What price are they? —3/- each.
Deputy Breathnach.—They are too expensive for school children.
201. Chairman.—If they are too expensive for school children, and incomprehensible to most primary school children, for whom exactly are they published?—For the teachers. The average primary teacher is expected to do most of his history teaching orally, and they are really books of reference for such teachers to draw on. The secondary teacher would be in a different position, as his pupils do much more historical reading.
202. Are they published with a bibliography attached?—I do not think so; there is none in any I have seen.
203. Have you considered the advisability of requiring the editor to insert a bibliography, inasmuch as they are teachers’ reference books?—There has been no such suggestion made to him.
204. Would it be relevant to consider the desirability that a bibliography should be inserted?—Of course. There are works in the National Library with a large reference list available, which the editor uses and of which he could give a list at the end of each history.
205. Deputy Breathnach.—On Subhead B 8—An t-Oireachtas (Grant-in-Aid)— Why was that £500 spent on the Oireachtas?—It is a grant towards its expenses. We give the grant, then the Committee come to us with the estimate of their needs and give the items of their expenditure.
206. Deputy Breathnach.—How does it come in under Science and Art?
207. Chairman.—What is the Oireachtas?
Mr. O’Neill.—It is the annual Gaelic Festival for language, music and plays: the old Gaelic League Festival.
Deputy Breathnach.—I thought it was our own Oireachtas.
Chairman.—It is the Oireachtas of the Gaelic League and this is a grant-in-aid towards their expenses.
Deputy Breathnach.—I approve of that very strongly.
VOTE 56—REFORMATORY AND INDUSTRIAL SCHOOLS.
VOTE 71—DUBLIN INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES.
Mr. Seosamh O’Neill further examined.
208. Chairman.—There is a note as follows:—
“78. The grants paid from the Vote during the year were duly authorised in accordance with section 16 (5) and 25 (1) of the Institute for Advanced Studies Act, 1940. The form of the accounts required to be kept by the Council of the Institute under section 28 of the Act has been approved by the Ministers for Education and Finance, and the accounts for the period ended 31st March, 1941, are at present under examination.”
Mr. Maher.—We have recently completed the audit of the account and it has been forwarded to the Department of Education. Copies will be duly laid before the Oireachtas in accordance with section 28.
209. Chairman.—On Subhead B, have there been any additions to the staff of the college since its foundation?
Mr. O’Neill.—Yes, the senior professors have been appointed and there have been assistant professors in two cases—one for Theoretical Physics and the other for Celtic Studies. There have been part-time assistants also in Celtic Studies.
210. Chairman.—When were the part-time assistants appointed?—Last year.
211. And the full-time assistants?— They were in Celtic Studies and were appointed during the last year.
212. How many assistants and part-time assistants are there now?—We have three part-time assistants in Celtic Studies, two full-time assistants in Celtic Studies, two scholars in science, one scholar in Celtic together with the assistant professor in Celtic and the assistant professor in science, as well as the senior professors.
213. Deputy McMenamin.—How are the part-time assistants selected? Have they a scholarship that would equip them?—They are people who have been doing research in Irish while engaged on work of other types.
214. Deputy McMenamin.—Are they people of such a standard of learning and research in the language as to entitle them to be in an institute of that kind?— Yes. The standards are very high. An Honours degree in Celtic or Theoretical Physics is not sufficient. Candidates would have to give proof of actual research. I know of people who had First Honours degrees from one or other of the universities and who had not done research and the Institute refused to accept them, since they could not show proof of aptitude for research.
Deputy McMenamin.—Of course. People with Honours degrees are plentiful.
Mr. O’Neill.—They must have an aptitude for the work and this is examined carefully beforehand.
Chairman.—We are very much obliged to you and to Mr. O’Neill.
The witness withdrew.
The Committee adjourned to Wednesday, 13th May, 1942.
* Minutes of Evidence, page 5.