Interesting piece on the various pension schemes by Diarmuid Ferriter in the Examiner. One of those whose experience he recounts is Tom Barry, who eventually had to have his application resolved, conveniently enough (for de Valera), by de Valera himself. The whole pension process being a form of auction politics in using pensions to reward or win over supporters and opponents. Here’s a selection from Ferriter’s piece on how Barry had to take on the Military Service Pensions Board over its decision that:
…his activities during the revolutionary period did not merit the award of the most senior rank and grade for the purposes of payment of a pension (pensions were graded A to E depending on rank and length of service).
In December 1938, Barry wrote to the assessment board to submit his form, which claimed IRA service from July 1919 to the end of September 1923: “I would like to point out that I have not included what I would term the lesser fights, shootings or actions. I have only dealt with the major activities… I claim that I was continuously engaged without a break for the period mentioned. In justice to myself and the officers and men I commanded, I claim Rank A.
“Apart from the post of Liaison officer for the martial law area to which post I was appointed on the day preceding the Truce, by virtue of my rank as deputy divisional O/C [Officer Commanding] prior to that date, I had under my absolute control all the fighting organisation of active service units in Cork, Kerry, Waterford and West Limerick. My post was NOT vice O/C but Deputy O/C. The late General [Liam] Lynch handed me over all the Active Service Units about three weeks after his own appointment. My rank and activities also during the Civil War period entitles me to rank A.”
Days later, he wrote another letter to the board, suggesting “it is possible that the Board would be facilitated by a more detailed statement in deciding the issue of my rank” and also to make the point that, at the outset of the Civil War, “the ranks on 1 July 1922 were indeed very vague for any of the GHQ [General Head Quarter] officers”.
During his sworn statement before the military service pension’s advisory committee, Barry was asked was there a difference between deputy divisional commander and vice divisional O/C.
He replied: “Certainly there was a difference… Deputy Divisional O/C is one which ranks co-jointly with the OC, whereas the Vice O/C is only a staff officer.” In reply to the question about a later period — “You claim your rank at that period was Rank A?” — his reply was adamant: “Certainly. I would accept no other rank.”
Grave disappointment was to follow for Barry. In January 1940, he received his military service pension award of Rank B, which “I reject… on the grounds of both length of service and of rank”. He was livid that the board had disallowed him full-time active service on certain key dates, including the periods October 1919 to July 1921 and July to September 1923. “It is sufficient to state that my award was humiliating to a degree,” he said.