§ 12. Major O'NEILL
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many Coast Watchers were employed in Ireland during the War; whether their wages were considerably below the minimum wage for agricultural labourers; what it would cost to give them gratuities similar to those of soldiers and sailors; and. in view of the very valuable services which they have rendered to the country, will he arrange for the granting of such gratuities to them?
§ Mr. LONG
The number of Coast Watchers employed in Ireland during the War was approximately 500 on the average. I am not aware that their wages were considerably below the minimum wage for agricultural labourers; on the contrary, they were settled with regard to 1785 the average agricultural wages payable in the same district. The cost of giving them gratuities similar to those of soldiers and sailors would be about £6,000. My hon. Friend will, however, realise that it would be impossible to make an exception in their favour without also considering Coast Watchers in England and Scotland—
§ Major O'NEILL
Is it not the fact that the final wage of these men was 25s. 6d., and that that was accorded in March last, many months after the Armistice, when their duties were practically over. Does not that prove that they were underpaid during the greater part of the War, and could the right hon. Gentleman not consider granting these men, at any rate, such bonus as will give them adequate reward for their services?
§ Mr. LONG
I cannot answer the question as to the precise amount—I have no information with me. But all the considerations suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend have been taken into account. I would remind the House that it is impossible to deal with each case separately. There are an enormous number of men and women who have rendered invaluable services during the War, and it is almost inevitable that there should be a distinction between what is called actual war service and service at home.