Dáil Éireann - Volume 10 - 18 February, 1925
DEFENCE FORCES (TEMPORARY PROVISIONS) BILL, 1925.
Mr. HUGHES Mr. HUGHES
 Mr. HUGHES: I beg to move the Second Reading of the Defence Forces Temporary Provisions Bill, 1925, and in doing so I think it will be unnecessary for me to say very much, because there are very few provisions in the Bill which have not been included in the two Bills previously passed, carrying on the Defence Forces Act, 1923. The only changes that are proposed are some very slight amendments. There is, for instance, an amendment dealing with the wearing of military decorations, and there is an amendment which increases the amount to be paid by a recruit who wants to get out of the Army within three months from £10 to £25. There are a few disciplinary changes which are found to be necessary. If the principal Act goes through before the 31st March, 1926, the operation of these amendments will cease. So far as the present Bill is concerned, it is on all fours with the measures previously passed on two occasions by the Dáil, and if any question arises in regard to it I shall be happy to answer them.
Mr. JOHNSON Mr. JOHNSON
Mr. JOHNSON: I would like to take the opportunity which the Second Reading affords to raise a question which I raised rather obliquely a week or two ago. It is with regard to the powers which the Minister has exercised, or which the officers of the Headquarters Staff of the Army have exercised, or attempted to exercise, in regard to the uniform worn for dress purposes. I have had it represented to me that an attempt has been made to impose on officers of all ranks that they are bound under pain of displeasure, if not anything worse, to appear only at mess or festive occasions in a particular dress uniform. The attempt to impose this obligation on officers has aroused a considerable amount of dissatisfaction and discontent which was abated only by an assurance that attempts were being made, and would likely be successful, so that the Ministry would pay for them. A particular design of uniform was provided, and I understand that the cost of the  uniform which the young officers were expected to wear was round about £25 or £27 per rig. It seems to me, if within the provisions of this Bill it is to be the Minister's prerogative to order that officers shall wear certain uniforms of a particular lavish and fancy kind—reminiscent of the old days of armies being officered by scions of the aristocracy, young bloods with money to throw about—and that these uniforms be paid for by the officers themselves, we would have a right to consider our position in regard to the Bill. I would like to know whether the Headquarters Staff have any special authority, or whether the Minister's influence has been brought to bear on Headquarters Staff, not to impose the wearing of this uniform, otherwise the public might be led to imagine that officers of the Army are to follow this bad tradition of the past. It is known, and the Minister might explain it, that certain officers in the Army, and, perhaps, in other forces, have, as a matter of fact, appeared in particularly fancy costumes designed, no doubt, to attract the other sex, as such costumes are usually designed to do, and no doubt if they had been allowed their way in this matter we should have them walking the streets in a year or two in their undress uniform of an equally lavish kind. I think it would be well that the Minister should assure the Dáil of what his policy in this matter is—whether it is intended that this dressed-up-doll idea of an army is to prevail in the country and why it should be looked upon as obligatory that officers on festive occasions, or at least officers who never have occasion to ride horses, are supposed to wear spurs, and whether in any proposal of the kind, even of a less lavish and extravagant character than that of which I have spoken, there is any intention to confine any uniform of that sort to materials procurable, if not made, in this country. I think the Minister will probably have heard the prices at which these uniforms have been quoted. I understand that they have been beaten down to something in the neighbourhood of £22 or £23 per uniform, but if the officers concerned are inclined to be a  little more lavish than their neighbours they may sport a little more and go up to £30. I may get into trouble with the tailoring trade by referring to this, but I think in the general interest it is well that we should discourage the proposition, whether from the Minister or from Headquarters Staff, that the Army of Saorstát Eireann should be of a character which requires that on dress occasions a rather lavish and fancy uniform procurable only at an expense of about £22 should be required. I hope the Minister will let it be known that he does not approve, if he does not approve, of this proposal, and that it will not come before us in any other form, whether as an expense out of Army finances or whether it comes before the Dáil as a complaint from junior officers that they have been obliged by moral pressure from superior officers to purchase such uniforms.
Major BRYAN COOPER Major BRYAN COOPER
Major BRYAN COOPER: I want to congratulate the Minister. This Bill gives an opportunity of raising the whole question of administration and conduct of the Army, yet Deputy Johnson can find nothing better to talk about than dressmaking.
Mr. JOHNSON Mr. JOHNSON
Mr. JOHNSON: There are two or three stages more.
Major BRYAN COOPER Major BRYAN COOPER
Major BRYAN COOPER: The Second Reading is the stage on which principles are discussed, yet Deputy Johnson has nothing better to talk about than uniforms. There are just two or three points with regard to that that should be remembered. The first is that this uniform is not worn on parade. It is worn at dances for which the tickets cost a considerable amount of money, something like 30/- and, considering the menu provided at supper, I think it is worth it. No officer is under compulsion to go to dances. At these dances the rule is laid down that only persons in evening dress are to be admitted. Deputy Johnson says the pressure is put on young officers to make them wear that uniform. If that is so, I agree that there should be no such pressure. If officers voluntarily desire to provide themselves with evening  dress to show that they are officers and not civilians I cannot see how they are culpable. The Minister will have to be careful, as I know from experience, to see that the thing is voluntary and that no officer is reported to him for not complying with the wishes of his superiors by refusing to provide such uniform. With regard to Irish manufacture, if my opinion is correct, two Irish manufacturers of tweed were asked to quote for the material for this uniform and they stated that they did not want to do so. It was only when the most suitable Irish manufacturers failed to quote that the material had to be got elsewhere. My information about this matter is obtained from the tailoring trade. There are more important things to discuss than dress on a Bill of this kind, and we are entitled to discuss the whole administration, conduct and control of the Army. Personally, I regret that the matter has come before us at this moment, as there are other important matters on the paper, and I do not want to take up the time of the Dáil unnecessarily. There is, however, one matter which seems to be a question of urgency, and that is as to the number of guards which the soldiers of the Army are employed on. It is common knowledge to anybody who goes about Dublin that there are too many guards and that the men have too much guard duty to do. There is nothing so sapping or demoralising to a soldier than to have continually for two hours to walk up and down carrying a heavy rifle, and nothing is more inclined to make him become a sort of Prussianised machine than the continual performance of this duty. If the Minister will send an experienced officer round to see what guards are necessary he will find that he can reduce them by 50 per cent. If my information is correct, every soldier in the Army has to do one day on and one day off guard duty. In other armies it is considered criminal to put a man on guard more than one day in three, and if an officer did so he would be censured if he did not apply for re-inforcements. Here, around Leinster House, there are at least three unnecessary sentries. We require a guard of armed men. With a small guard at Government  Buildings, with one sentry post here, and also with the presence of military policemen at the gates, the Oireachtas would be well protected. You will never get a fighting spirit in an army by employing men too much on guard duty. This is a matter of great importance, and I urge the Minister to look into it with as little delay as may be.
Mr. ESMONDE Mr. ESMONDE
Mr. ESMONDE: I would like to endorse the remarks made by Deputy Johnson with regard to this matter of military dress. I think the Minister should take steps to prevent any kind of ostracism of officers who are not in a financial position to pay for the rather extravagant kind of uniform that has been referred to. The Minister may not be aware of the fact, but, as far as I know, there is no army in the whole world, except the British Army, which has such a thing as a mess uniform. Continental armies have full dress uniform for ceremonial purposes, but they have not a mess uniform which would be used solely for dances and other social functions. That is a peculiarity of the British army, and I do not see why it should be introduced into this country. Certainly it is not suitable for the officers we have got at present, and it is calculated to produce amongst them a social distinction; there would be those who could afford to pay £20 or £30 for uniforms, and those who could not afford to do so.
I hope the Minister will do what he can to obviate what may develop into an unpleasant side to this question. It is not, I suppose, possible to deal with general matters affecting the army on this Bill. I had intended to oppose the Bill because I do resent that we should always be asked to pass temporary measures. It is high time now, the State being in existence for several years, that there should be final and permanent organisation of the army. It is regrettable that we should be asked to pass a Bill postponing for another 12 months the final reorganisation of the army. We recognise, of course, that the Minister has been in office only a few months, and he has not had time to make up his mind definitely as to what can permanently be done in regard to national defence.  In drawing up the final scheme, which I presume is being drawn up, I hope the Minister will keep in mind the Article of the Treaty which states that in a year or two years' time a conference will have to be held with the British Government with regard to Ireland taking over control of matters connected with her external defence. That, in my opinion, is the principal matter to be considered in any Bill affecting the army: the part which the army is to take in regard to national external defence is very important. In drawing up the final scheme I hope the Minister will keep that Treaty Article in mind and that he will not relegate us to the position of a State taking no part in its own protection, but relying on a foreign power to protect it.
Mr. HUGHES Mr. HUGHES
Mr. HUGHES: When the Army Act comes to be considered as an Act for dealing with army matters in a permanent way, it will not be my intention to rely on any foreign power to defend this country, or to ask the aid of any foreign power to do so, because as far as the army is concerned, I think we should be in a position ourselves to defend the country against any aggressors, either foreign or domestic. The question raised by Deputy Johnson about the mess uniform is a matter entirely for the officers concerned. I do not believe the officers asked for, or got, any permission in connection with those uniforms. They did not ask permission from me, and there is no compulsion whatever on any officer to procure one. As far as I am concerned, there will be no compulsion. If some officers wish to appear on certain ceremonial occasions in a dress which they procure at their own expense, I do not think it would be in my province to prescribe what they should appear in.
Mr. JOHNSON Mr. JOHNSON
Mr. JOHNSON: Will the Minister state is it the uniform, and who prescribes it?
Mr. HUGHES Mr. HUGHES
Mr. HUGHES: I think it was a committee of the officers themselves considered the matter. I am not sure. I do not know whether the spurs add anything to the uniform or take anything from it. Any officer who wishes to spend £20 or £25 on a uniform can  do so, but that uniform is not used as part of his army dress. It is not used on parade or for any military purposes. It is used simply for mess purposes, or social functions. As Minister for Defence, I do not think it comes within my scope to intervene. No officer is obliged to spend £20 or £25 on a uniform unless he desires to do so. As regards the matter of the guard raised by Deputy Cooper, the Army Council have been considering how they could relieve the pressure in that respect.
I hold—and I am sure of my ground —that it would not be safe at the moment to take guards away from a number of posts in Dublin and other places. It is the practice that whatever posts can be withdrawn with safety are withdrawn, and that condition of affairs will continue until we get to that stage when we can withdraw all these posts and have the men confined to barracks, where they will not have such heavy duty to perform. These matters are all being attended to, and they will be attended to.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Does the Minister not think it would be more consonant with dignity and discipline if no uniforms were worn on any occasion —or anything worn purporting to be a uniform—except what is in conformity with the regulations prescribed by the Minister for Defence? I understood him to say that this mess dress was not a uniform, and yet it purports to be a uniform. There ought to be some regulation, I suggest, by which the matter could be governed by him.
Mr. HUGHES Mr. HUGHES
Mr. HUGHES: If the Deputy wishes to draw a distinction between mess dress and uniform, he is entitled to do so; but I emphasise that any moneys the Dáil is asked to vote towards the Army will not be expended in purchasing this dress, or any other, but the regular uniform.
Question—“That the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1925, be read a Second Time”—put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 25th February.
Dáil Éireann 10 DEFENCE FORCES (TEMPORARY PROVISIONS) BILL, 1925.