Who qualified?

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The legislation under which the pensions were granted consisted of the Army Pensions Acts (1923–1980), which related to the wounded and to dependent family members of those killed on active service between 1 April 1916 and 30 September 1924. Applications for pensions under these acts were subject to investigation. But by far the more significant were the Military Service Acts (1924–1964), which explicitly dealt with ‘active service’. Applications for a pension under these acts required that the name of the relevant commanding officer be submitted as part of the application, along with the details of three officers who could verify the claim. The original deadline for applications was 1 March 1925, though this was extended, and the period for active service was 23 April 1916 to 11 July 1922; service in the National Army extended this from 1 July 1922 to 1 October 1923. Applicants were examined under oath by a Board of Assessors who would adjudicate on the veracity of the claim and the status and rank of the applicant (many of those involved in the assessment process, such as Gearóid O’Sullivan and Seamus Robinson, were veterans themselves). The original 1924 act was augmented by its successor in 1934, which extended active service to include Cumann na mBan and members of the anti-Treaty IRA in the Civil War. There were 82,000 applications under the 1924 and 1934 acts; only 15,700 were successful and, as Diarmaid Ferriter has written, the lack of a pension could be a very serious issue against the impoverished backdrop of the early years of independence. The 1934 act was the more significant in crucial ways, owing to its thoroughness: applications were often accompanied by copious testimony and documentation (the 1934 act alone generated 126,000 files relating to applications). Indeed, to assist in the process of verification, in the 1930s detailed membership lists of the relevant organisations were compiled, along with ‘Brigade Activity Reports’: de facto histories of IRA units, amounting to 25,000 pages in total. It did not end there. The 1949 Military Service Act produced another 9,500 files, as it facilitated appeals against previous decisions as well as new applications. And if that were not enough material to keep scholars and the general public happy, there are also files relating to many of the 68,896 service medals issued to veterans up to 31 January 1988.


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