Dáil Éireann - Volume 77 - 27 September, 1939

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Sinking of Ships

Mr. McGilligan asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he will state the number of Irish ships, as defined in Emergency Powers (No. 2) Order, 1939, and their tonnage, which have been sunk since the 1st September, 1939, and if he will state in what circumstances the sinking took place, whether any inquiry has been made as to the persons responsible for [221] the sinking, and what action has been taken by the Government to gut an explanation and compensation.

Mr. MacEntee: So far as the Minister is aware no Irish ships as defined in Emergency Powers (No. 2) Order, 1939, have been sunk since the 1st September, 1939. An oil tanker, the s.s. Inverliffey was sunk on 11th instant. The registration of the vessel here was closed on the 8th instant and all formalities in connection with the registration of the vessel at a port in the United Kingdom had been complied with, so far as they could be completed in respect of a vessel at sea, prior to the loss of the vessel. A reply to the other matters raised in the question does not therefore, arise.

General Mulcahy: Will the Minister say if the s.s. Inverliffey when she was sunk was flying the Irish flag and if any representations have been made to the German Government on that matter?

Mr. MacEntee: In regard to that I have no information.

General Mulcahy: Does the Minister mean to say that he does not know whether the Inverliffey was flying the Irish flag when she was sunk?

Mr. MacEntee: No, because all formalities connected with the registration of the vessel here were closed on the 8th September.

Professor O'Sullivan: Did the master of the Inverliffey know at the time of the sinking that the transfer of registration had taken place?

Mr. MacEntee: As to that I do not know. The owners of the Inverliffey certainly did know and naturally the onus rests on the owners to inform the master of the Inverliffey.

Mr. Morrissey: Did the commander of the submarine know?

Mr. MacEntee: The Deputy will have to get into communication with the commander of the submarine on that matter.

[222] Professor O'Sullivan: Does the Minister know that a ship flying the Irish flag was actually sunk by a German submarine?

Mr. MacEntee: I had hotter remind the Deputy of the dates given in my reply.

Mr. Morrissey: What have the dates to do with it?

Mr. MacEntee: The date has a lot to do with it. The transfer was made from our register on the 8th of this month and the ship was sunk at some hour on the 11th of this month. As I have already told the House the ship had passed out of our jurisdiction on the 8th of this month. As to whether that fact had been communicated to the master of the vessel I do not know. The onus to do so rested upon the owners of the Inverliffey.

Professor O'Sullivan: Will the Minister inquire whether when the ship was sunk it was or was not flying the Irish flag? I am not now going into the question of the date of the transfer. What I want to know is whether a German submarine sunk a ship flying the Irish flag. It can hardly be said that it was the duty of the owners to communicate with the submarine and inform them that the transfer had taken place.

Mr. MacEntee: Does the Deputy suggest that it was our duty to communicate with the owners of the submarine?

Professor O'Sullivan: I do not want to treat this as a joke. I have asked the Minister if he will inquire whether, when the ship was sunk, it was flying the Irish flag and I want an answer “yes” or “no.”

Mr. MacEntee: I only want to say that in a matter of this kind I believe in minding our own business.

Mr. Dillon: Oh, oh!

Mr. MacEntee: Our interests in this business ceased the moment the registration was closed here.

[223] General Mulcahy: Does the Minister not consider that it is our business to make every possible inquiry as to whether there is any danger that ships flying the Irish Hag may be sunk and that it is his business to make representations on that matter? In view of the fact that an Irish ship flying the Irish flag was sunk by a submarine, does the Minister not think it proper that in view of future possibilities an inquiry will be made into the matter now? Does the Minister think it possible that Irish vessels flying the Irish flag will be sunk in the future?

Professor O'Sullivan: I want to ask the Taoiseach if he will himself reply to that question?

The Taoiseach: I think inquiries have been set on foot to ascertain the facts in connection with the sinking of the Inverliffey.

Professor O'Sullivan: A lot of questions could have been spared if that answer had been given at the beginning.

Mr. Esmonde: Does the Minister know that the British Ministry of Information categorically stated that the Inverliffey was flying the Irish flag and that the master of the Inverliffey protested to the commander of the submarine that his ship was flying the Irish flag? I want to ask whether any representations have been made to the German Government in view of the information broadcast to the world by the British Ministry of Information?