The position of the heads of any Department is intimately connected with the general status and interests of the Department and of its Minister, and consequently with those of the State itself. Status and recognition must be considered no less than material conditions; and this is especially true of the External Affairs Department, which requires its principle officers to use their leisure time at home and on holidays for the purpose of improving their knowledge of languages, and for keeping in touch with developments in constitutional and international law in relation both to the Dominions and to non-Commonwealth States. Concentration and whole-hearted zeal of this character are almost impossible when the absence of position and prospects is aggravated by inadequate remuneration. No other officers in the Service have the same moral obligations to incur personal expense in virtue of their office. The functions of the Department of External Affairs are no less important than those of the other great departments of State. In some respects they are even more important. There is no reason, therefore, why the higher officials of this Department should not be treated on a footing of equality with officers holding posts of equal responsibility in the other Executive Ministers' Departments.
The present position is unsatisfactory to an extreme degree. The Head of the Department has no official status. He is carefully informed of that fact - almost taunted with it - by the Department of Finance at the beginning of a large proportion of their letters addressed to this Department. His inferior position does not help his relations with other Departments, with Foreign Representatives nor with our own staffs outside Ireland. Without the remuneration and fixed status proportionate to his responsibilities it is impossible for him to maintain the usual relations outside office hours with Foreign Representatives or their staffs in Dublin, or while on duty abroad with officers exercising functions corresponding to his own.
The second officer, Mr. Seán Murphy, is in a completely analogous position. From a salary of £1,000 as Representative in Paris, he was scaled down to £500 without increment at Headquarters because 'he could not have a salary equal to - or better than - the Head of the Department' whose salary was £600 without increment (since made incremental). Mr. Murphy is the only member of the higher staff at home or abroad who has had no addition or increment of any sort for over three years. He is responsible for running the Department when the Minister and Secretary are absent.
These two Officers have the usual Foreign Affairs qualifications of a professional legal education, residence abroad, a good knowledge of at least one Continental language, together with the more necessary requirement of responsible experience in the Department since its foundation.
The third Officer, Mr. Lester, who is on a special salary of £600, is proving to be a very useful addition to the Department. When the opportunity offers he should be sent for a few months to Geneva in order to acquire a knowledge of the working of the League system and to make a good start in French.
The fourth Officer who has to deal directly with External Affairs is Miss Austin.2 She has been with us for nearly five years. She has a knowledge of five continental languages and is learning Irish. Her experience in the Department enables her to keep us supplied with reference to international - especially League - documents, reviews, newspapers, British and foreign, which constitute the main section of our documentation. Almost more than in any other section of the Department experience and the right type of political-constitutional mentality are necessary in this post. The Ministry of Finance, however, inform us that she must be dismissed because she is temporary. And in reply to a letter conveying the Minister's views that Miss Austin's knowledge of language and experience were indispensable in the special circumstances of the Department, they informed us that 'while a knowledge of language may be necessary' there were clerical officers from whom a selection could be made and that arrangements were being made to secure a suitably qualified clerical officer to replace Miss Austin.
The Department is not engaged in a policy of extension - it is merely trying to hold together a nucleus without which there will be no Department. Even the bones of its body are still incomplete. Its efficient working still depends on a very small number of officers and it cannot be sacrificed to meet a technical general rule, the original purpose of which was surely to secure efficiency, not to destroy it. If Miss Austin is dismissed the Heads of the Department will have to waste a good part of their time each day in hunting for material which is now handed to them. A new Officer, even possessing the language and outlook qualifications, would take at least two years to become moderately useful in the post.