MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 29ú Samhain, 1945.
Thursday, 29th November, 1945.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY COSGRAVE in the chair.
Mr. J. Maher (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste), and Mr. L. M. Fitzgerald (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.
VOTE 65—EXTERNAL AFFAIRS.
Mr. J. P. Walshe called and examined.
842. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor General has the following note to the Vote:—
“A Legation abroad was destroyed by fire in November, 1943, and the vouchers relating to payments made in the period 1st October, 1943, to 22nd November, 1943, were lost. Duplicates of a number of the missing vouchers have been furnished to me, but in some cases this has not yet proved possible, owing, I am informed, to difficulties of communication, and unvouched expenditure amounting to £42 4s. 3d. has been included in the appropriation account. The Department of Finance has authorised the write-off of the value of official property destroyed in the fire. The loss of furniture, which had cost £4,151, has been noted in the account of Vote No. 10, Public Works and Buildings, and other losses involved, amounting to £119 approximately, will fall to be noted in the 1944-45 accounts of the Departments concerned.
Due to delays in transmission, the account of one Legation for March, 1944, was not received in time for inclusion in the account under review.”
Is there anything you have to add, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—As regards the unvouched expenditure, a number of duplicate vouchers have been forwarded since the date of the Report, and for the balance I have been supplied with the certificates of the responsible officers that the expenditure was duly incurred. In the circumstances I see no objection to the admission of the charges against the Vote.
843. Chairman.—Has any compensation been paid in respect of this?
Mr. Walshe.—No, and I think it is extremely unlikely that we shall get compensation.
844. Deputy M. E. Dockrell.—Who would it be paid by? I expect this is the Berlin Legation?—Yes. Compensation would only be payable if there had been a prior agreement or convention between the countries concerned. We had no such convention with the German Government. This whole matter of bombing from the air is so very new that international law has not yet had time to adapt itself to its implications.
845. So that it would be difficult to say whether that money could be collected from the German Government or from the Allied Government?—I think both would be equally difficult.
846. Chairman.—If there is no other question, we can turn to the subheads. On Subhead B.5.—Repatriation and Maintenance of Destitute Irish Persons Abroad—have you had many applications, or were these the only cases in which you have had applications. You spent only £51?—That is the provision that was originally made in the subhead for the repatriation of a number of persons, including 60 workers, from Germany. The great majority of these either got work locally on their own, entirely independent of intervention on our part, or they were themselves in a position to bear the cost of their return to this country. It was usually very difficult, in the case of those who wanted to get away, to get exit visas in those bad days, but when it came to the question of the payment of their passage, we were always able to help if necessary.
847. Deputy M. E. Dockrell.—I suppose it was possible in a number of cases for our State to get reimbursed for payments made to people abroad?—That is so. In the great majority of cases we were able to get the money expended by us from the relatives.
848. Deputy Sheldon.—Where do the recoveries come from—recovery of expenditure on telephones, recovery of expenditure on rent allowance, recovery of travelling expenses?—In the circum stances prevailing during the war years we had a considerable amount of cabling on behalf of other Government Departments, commercial concerns and private individuals. The cost was included in the telegraph and telephone accounts received from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. These accounts were paid out of the subhead. When recovery was effected before the appropriation account of the year of payment, the receipts were credited to the extra Exchequer receipts instead of to the subhead which bore the original charge. There is a good deal of recovery.
849. What about the recoveries under other heads—rent allowance, certain expenditure on travelling expenses, certain expenditure on advertisements? The amounts are small, but I should like to know how they arise?—In the case of advertisements the recovery was in an estate case, of an amount expended on advertising for the next-of-kin.
850. How did the recovery of expenditure on rent allowances charged in prior years arise?—That recovery was in relation to the Secretary of the Vichy Legation, and it was due to a misunderstanding on his part which has been rectified.
851. Deputy P. Cogan.—In connection with the distribution of certain pamphlets, are those pamphlets distributed to the Governments of other countries?—No, hardly ever to Governments. It depends. The Governments of other countries may ask us for publications of the Government here, but propagandist or publicity documents would usually be sent to individuals or organisations, institutions like universities, and so on.
852. Do I understand that it is not the custom to send a copy of these pamphlets to members of Dáil Eireann or to leave a copy on the Table of the House?—I do not quite understand the drift of your question.
853. Chairman.—The Deputy wants to know whether copies of the particular pamphlets that are sent abroad are laid on the Table of the House here?—Not because of that, Mr. Chairman. I do not think there is a direct relationship.
854. Deputy P. Cogan.—I may not be in order in asking this question, but would not you think it would be desirable?—I do not think I have any right to have any thought on the matter.
855. Chairman.—Who decides what literature is distributed? I presume if someone abroad asks for a particular booklet or pamphlet you try to facilitate them but, other than that, who decides what literature is distributed?—It is decided in the Department, in consultation with the Minister.
856. Deputy M. E. Dockrell.—Would it not be desirable that the members of the House should be acquainted?
Chairman.—I am afraid that is not for the witness.
Deputy Sheldon.—I understood that all Government publications were laid on the Table.
Deputy Lydon.—These would not be all Government publications.
857. Chairman.—One of them, of course, is well known—the Constitution of Ireland. Is the Irish Review and Annual an official publication?—I do not think so. In fact I never saw that particular review. It is certainly not official.
858. Deputy P. Cogan.—I would imagine that when the Department undertakes to distribute these officially they become, by reason of that, Government publications? —I could not agree with that view.
859. Deputy Sheldon.—It is really more a matter for the House than for this Committee?—I should say so. It is an entirely political question or a question of the administration of the Department, which also would be political.
VOTE 66—LEAGUE OF NATIONS.
Mr. J. P. Walshe further examined.
860. Chairman.—Are we still contributing towards the expenses of the League of Nations?—Yes, we are still contributing our subscription, a year in arrears. For instance, we are paying at the end of December this year the contribution for 1944.
861. Deputy Sheldon.—That gives us a year to know what is happening.
Witness.—That is the Deputy’s interpretation.
862. Deputy Sheldon.—I see that in the constitution of the new organisation there is some provision for taking over the property and assets of the old organisation. In that case, where we have contributed, and so many people have not contributed, could you say if we would have a case——
Chairman.—That is a question of policy.
Witness.—Or pure hypothesis.
Chairman.—I am afraid we will have to reserve it for the House.
The witness withdrew.