Dáil Éireann - Volume 4 - 04 July, 1923
THE ADJOURNMENT. - OCCUPATION OF BUILDINGS BY MILITARY.
Mr. JOHNSON Mr. JOHNSON
Mr. JOHNSON: During the question time to-day a question was put by Deputy Corish respecting the proposed acquisition of an hospital by the military authorities. That question led to a series of supplementaries and answers which suggested to me that an important matter was being raised and an issue which required some consideration. I knew nothing of the matter until I heard the questions, but it appears from the discussion that the military authorities in Wexford county have come to the conclusion that they require to occupy a certain public building, which is an hospital, and they announce their intention to occupy it, and having come to the conclusion that they require the hospital nothing more is to be said. It seems to me that it is important that we should understand what is the view of the Ministry on such a matter. Many things are allowable to the military authorities; many things are excusable, many things are justifiable in time of military stress or war, but many of these things which are at such a time justifiable are not allowable or justifiable in time of peace. It seemed to me from the discussion that took place by question and answer that this was an occasion when something more than the mere will of the military authorities should have effect. If the military authorities say they require this hospital, and the Local Government Department, or the Local County Homes Committee say that this hospital is required for civic purposes for the use of the county for the sick persons there, then there should be some other course adopted to decide which authority should have possession of this hospital.
I thought it necessary to raise this matter on the adjournment for the purpose of elucidating the mind of the Ministry, and more particularly to find out whether there is any real necessity in this single instance for the military to override the wishes of the County authority. Surely, it cannot be said that it is stress of war that makes it necessary for the Ministry of Defence to take possession of this hospital. It is a military convenience I have no doubt or they would not seek to concentrate their forces in that particular place, but a military convenience is not sufficient, I submit, in time of peace to give authority  to the Ministry of Defence to evict patients from a public hospital. If that authority should not prevail in time of peace in the case of this hospital in question, then we would understand that it would not prevail in any similar case in any other part of the country. I think the way the matter was raised and the answers that were given justify and warrant us raising the matter in this way, and will allow perhaps of a clearer exposition of the position of the Ministry and the desires of the County Board of Health to be stated, better than the cross examination that was taking place during question time.
Mr. CORISH Mr. CORISH
Mr. CORISH: This is looked upon as a very serious matter in Gorey district and in fact in the whole County Wexford. The matter has been explained to me in this way. “More than three months ago, the Military authorities at Gorey notified the Matron of the Auxiliary Hospital that they were about to take over the Convent quarters attached to the old Union. The Matron immediately wrote me and I went there and saw two officers— Commandants O'Brien and McCrea.
After a long discussion it was finally agreed that if the Military were to take the Convent a new Hospital should be provided for the District, and two vacant residences in the vicinity—St. Wallard's, about half a mile from the town, and a place which belonged to people named Cooney, near the Railway Station—were mentioned as being suitable if converted. The matter rested there for some time. In the meantime the Sisters, moved by a sentimental attachment for their Convent, had sent representations to General Mulcahy, and they were led to understand by him that the Convent would not be interfered with. I never received an official intimation to this effect. On last Monday, the 25th instant, the Matron received written notice that the Convent and District Hospital were to be taken over. She told the Military Authorities to inform me. She attempted to 'phone me herself but could not get through. I learned accidentally of the matter and went to Gorey on Thursday. In the meantime the Matron had again been in consultation with General Mulcahy who had told her that she was not to be disturbed. On my arrival at Gorey there was a further letter from the Military stating definitely that the District Hospital  would be taken over on the 28th July. I tried to see somebody in authority but failed. I told the Matron that I had not received any official intimation of the Military intentions and that she was not to take notice of communications addressed to her.”
This is a very serious matter and certainly one would think that a matter of this kind ought to be settled in Dublin, that is, that the Minister for Defence should get into touch with the Minister for Local Government before doing anything of this kind. This hospital was conferred upon Gorey because of strong representations made when amalgamation was about to be brought into force in the county. Any of us who were engaged in formulating the scheme received numbers of representations from the Gorey district with a view to having an hospital there. They were given a hospital which I think accommodates 22 patients and it is a very serious matter for the Military to go in and turn out those people on the street. I do not know how many patients are there at the moment but there is certainly accommodation for 22 and I think that the Secretary of the County Board of Health should be acquainted before such a drastic order as that was served on the Matron, especially a Matron who belongs to a religious Order and who cannot move around as an ordinary person can. I am very glad that General Mulcahy took a note of the representations made to him and countermanded the order, but I would ask him to say that such a thing as that would not be allowed to occur again, where officers walk into an institution like that and create what amounted almost to a panic.
General MULCAHY General MULCAHY
General MULCAHY: This is simply flogging a dead horse. The answer I gave to Deputy Corish's question to-day was quite explicit, namely, that in October last the troops occupied a part of the workhouse in Gorey; that four of the nuns at that time occupied portion of it as a hospital; that they were advised at the time that ultimately the whole of the buildings would be required for military purposes but that they were allowed to remain for a time. Without going through the usual and prescribed procedure of drawing the attention of General Headquarters to the changed circumstances in Gorey, the local officer  recently informed the nuns that they would be required to surrender the portion of the building that they occupied, by a certain date in this month. That was fully stated, and the position between the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Local Government in the matter is that the Ministry of Local Government are prepared to agree to the removal of the district hospital from Gorey and the complete handing over of the building there to the Military Authorities. Actual arrangements along these lines have been under discussion with the Ministry of Local Government and the matter is simply brought to this particular head by the premature action of a local officer. The military situation and the housing of the army under proper conditions, conditions that will enable us to put a thorough grip of discipline on the troops, is a matter of very serious necessity at the present moment. There is a concentration of troops. Men are being withdrawn from small posts and brought into larger centres, and Gorey as a Battalion Headquarters is having troops drawn in from outside places and concentrated in it. It is not so much a military convenience as a military necessity, that we should have the building fully under our control at Gorey. It must be perfectly obvious that having nuns in an hospital, portion of which is a military establishment, is an undesirable thing and that it is more a military necessity than a military convenience to put an end to a situation like that. It is not a question of the military having come to the conclusion that they require to occupy certain public buildings. It is the position that the military occupy that public building, that they have bowed to the convenience of others, while they were able to bow to that convenience for a time. It is not in a highhanded manner, or strong military action, that it is proposed now to ask for the surrender of the other portion of the Workhouse at Gorey. The matter is being properly arranged and will be properly arranged, and any representations that the County Committee of Wexford have made to the Minister for Local Government in the matter, I take it the Ministry have already considered, and will be prepared to consider any others. As pointed out, the number of patients in Gorey at present is 4 and, as far as I  understand, the Local Government authorities are considering the removal of these patients to, I think, the Wexford County Home.
Mr. CORISH Mr. CORISH
Mr. CORISH: Are we to understand, or could I find out from the Minister for Local Government, will the alternative accommodation be provided in the town of Gorey, because, if not, it is contrary to the spirit of the amalgamation in Wexford, for if the patients are to be transferred from Gorey Hospital that is doing away with the auxiliary hospital which was promised to the people of Gorey. This is a very serious matter.
MINISTER for LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Mr. Blythe) Ernest Blythe
MINISTER for LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Mr. Blythe): Deputy Johnson did not give notice that he would raise this particular question, so that I have not the material by me.
Mr. CORISH Mr. CORISH
Mr. CORISH: But if the Minister for Defence makes a statement that such a thing is being done, then the Minister for Local Government should know more about it than the Minister for Defence.
Mr. BLYTHE Mr. BLYTHE
Mr. BLYTHE: I can only answer a question when I receive due notice of it.
ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. FitzGibbon) ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. FitzGibbon)
ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. FitzGibbon): I do not think that it does arise on the statement of Deputy Johnson. Deputy Johnson said the point is while one can appreciate the need of the Military Authorities having over-riding powers over any other authority in time of war, that is an authority they should exercise only when military necessity compels them to do so. It does not seem to me that the provision of alternative accommodation arises on this question.
Mr. CORISH Mr. CORISH
Mr. CORISH: The reason I raised that is, that General Mulcahy made a definite statement that the patients were to be transferred to Wexford County Hospital, and I think the Minister for Local Government should know something about it.
Mr. BLYTHE Mr. BLYTHE
Mr. BLYTHE: As I explained to the Deputy, I cannot possibly keep in my head all these things and if he wants to ask me a question he must give notice.
Mr. CORISH Mr. CORISH
Mr. CORISH: I am not insisting on an answer. I am only asking do you know anything about it?
ACTING CHAIRMAN ACTING CHAIRMAN
 ACTING CHAIRMAN: I think if that question of the provision of alternative accommodation is raised it would come better on a future motion for the adjournment. It does not arise out of the statement of the Minister for Defence  to-day as to whether or not alternative accommodation should be provided. I do not say it should not be raised, but it seems to me that it cannot be raised now.
The Dáil adjourned at 8.35 p.m.
Dáil Éireann 4 THE ADJOURNMENT. OCCUPATION OF BUILDINGS BY MILITARY.