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12 December, 1922

Address by Governor General to Dáil Éireann
Members of Seanad Éireann invited to attend

Thainig Dáil Eireann le chéile ar 3.15 p.m.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE (Mr. Michael Hayes): An toil le lucht na Dála go mbeidh baill an tSeanaid i láthair chun éisteacht le horáid an tSeanascail? Is it the will of the Members of Dáil Éireann that the Members of the Seanad should be present in this Chamber to hear the Governor-General's speech?


AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Members of the Seanad are welcome to the Chamber of the Dáil.

Members of the Seanad then took their Seats on the Benches amongst the Members of the Dáil.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Táim tar éis a iarraidh ar an Árd-ghiolla an Seanascal do thabhairt isteach. I have asked the Usher to introduce the Governor-General.

His Excellency, the Governor-General, Timothy Michael Healy, was then introduced and took his place beside an Ceann Comhairle, all the Members of the Seanad and Dáil rising in their places.

The GOVERNOR-GENERAL (Mr. Timothy Michael Healy): Before reading my speech I have the honour to acquaint both Houses that I have received a message from the King, which it may be thought will certainly engraft itself upon Irish Parliamentary history. It is as follows.-


"With the final Enactment of the Constitution the self-governing Dominion of the Irish Free State comes into being.

The Constitution is itself founded on the Treaty that was framed a year ago between the Representatives of Great Britain and of Ireland.

It is my earnest hope that by the faithful observance on all sides of the Pact so concluded the peace and prosperity of Ireland may be secured. It is in the spirit of that Settlement that I have chosen you to be the first Representative of the Crown in the Irish Free State.

With all my heart I pray that the blessing of God may rest upon you and upon the Ministers of the Irish Free State in the difficult task committed to your charge."

To that telegram my reply will be duly published.

ORÁID ÓN SEANASCAL. (Address by Governor-General.)

The GOVERNOR-GENERAL: Members of the Oireachtas, to-day, in the name and with the authority of the people of Saorstát Éireann, you enter into the fullness of your partnership in liberty with the Nations co-operating in co-equal membership of a great Commonwealth of free peoples. I meet you on this momentous day with sentiments of the deepest emotion, charged by His Majesty to associate myself as His Representative with the task which, after many years of hard-pressed claim, becomes yours, alone and unquestioned, by the effect of the Treaty made just a year ago between Great Britain and Ireland and subsequently ratified, the task of governing this State, of making the laws under which you are to live and of administering those laws for the happiness and well-being of all your fellow-citizens.

You have adopted a Constitution for this State and in framing that Constitution, while you have in careful observance of your Treaty obligations conformed to those modes of Constitutional expression and form which are common to your partner Nations and characteristic features of their Association in the British Commonwealth of Nations, you have had no other fetter on the exercise of a single-minded and whole-hearted determination to create for your country such machinery of government as seemed to you most calculated to serve her best interests most efficiently. You have just devised a Constitution under which the most patriotic yearnings for the re-creation of the national life and identity of our country in language and thought, in literature and art, for her progress along secure lines of social and economic development, for her assurance in prosperity, happiness and contentment are offered the utmost free play. You have been encouraged in your work by the support of your fellow-countrymen and women, who have testified in no uncertain manner their approval of and confidence in your efforts for the Nation.

Unhappily, a small number who have not yet bowed to the will of the majority, have engaged in hostile operations against you and have spread ruin broadcast in an attempt to impose their will upon the majority by means of terror and destruction. While failing utterly in their attempt to upset the Treaty so solemnly arrived at and to involve our country in renewed strife with Great Britain, these unhappy people have succeeded in striking deadly blows both at the economic prosperity and the political unity of Ireland, and thousands of persons have suffered individual hardships through their actions. The problem of unemployment-so pressing in many countries to-day-was certain to have been of smaller dimension in Ireland than in almost any other country, but has been enhanced to an incalculable extent by the fury of destruction and attempted disorganisation which is the manner of war now being waged upon the people. It must be your first and most urgent care to bring this disorder to a speedy end so that you may be free to devote your best efforts to the solution of the social and economic problems it has created or aggravated. In the meantime, my Ministers are giving their best attention to the working out of schemes for dealing with the problem, which they hope to have ready to submit to your active consideration so soon as the circumstances will allow of their being put into operation.

The Parliament of that portion of the Province of Ulster called Northern Ireland, taking advantage of Article 12 of the Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, has seen fit to present an address to His Majesty, by the effect of which the powers of your Parliament and Government have ceased to extend to Northern Ireland. Accordingly it becomes the duty now of my Government to take such steps as may be necessary for constituting the Commission which is to determine in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions, the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland.

Legislation will be required in order to give full effect to the Constitution passed and adopted by your Constituent Assembly, and Bills will be submitted to you for that purpose. Among the first and most urgent of such Bills is one with the object of providing for the exercise of the franchise as enacted by the Constitution and a comprehensive Electoral Bill will be submitted to you at an early date.

The construction and establishment under the Constitution of a Judicial System specially adapted to the requirements of this country is a matter of immediate necessity. A committee of persons of expert knowledge on this subject is being set up immediately to examine this problem, and as soon as possible after the report of the Committee has been received and considered a Bill for the establishment of an Irish Judiciary will be submitted to you.

With the object of promoting economy and increasing efficiency a Bill will be submitted to you, providing for the setting up of Ministries under the Constitution and matters incidental thereto.

It is of urgent importance that an organisation for the maintenance of Civil Police should be established, with all proper training and equipment, and that it should be, in numbers and efficiency, ready to take over the guardianship of the public peace and security in the normal times which we earnestly pray may soon take the place of the present dislocation of social order. Already in districts where the National Army has completed its task against disorder the Government has despatched members of a force which it has raised and trained under the name of the "Civic Guard," and which it is gratifying to know has been received with every indication of popular pleasure wherever it has appeared.

A Bill will be laid before you to provide for organisation and maintenance  on a permanent footing of the Civic Guard and for the regularising of the position of those who have been already enrolled and sent forth to discharge these important duties to the public.

A Bill relating to your National Defence Force in time of peace will be shortly offered for your consideration.

The wanton havoc which has been inflicted on the country during the year and a half since the Truce with the British Forces carries with it the heavy responsibility of meeting the Bill for compensating those upon whom individually the suffering and loss have been inflicted.

A measure will be submitted to you for the purpose of improving the legal procedure in relation to such claims and of extending the jurisdiction of the courts in relation thereto, and of relieving local authorities from part of the burden, and also of making other amendments which have been found necessary in the Criminal and Malicious Injuries Acts. You will also be asked to pass a measure giving legal sanction to the work of the Compensation Commission set up to deal with pre-Truce damage.

The subject of the completion of land purchase in Ireland is engaging the earnest attention of my Ministry, and it is hoped that it will be possible at an early date to submit to you a Bill providing for the completion of this problem of urgent national importance.

A Bill will be submitted to you for the purpose of giving statutory sanction to certain improvements effected in the administration of Local Government and of Poor Law.

A Bill will be submitted to you, securing, by legal sanction, the amnesty and indemnity proclaimed by the late General Michael Collins in favour of the members of the British Forces engaged in the military operations prior to the Treaty.

The existing disorder prevents even the enforcement of decrees judicially made by various authorities and many suiters have thereby been prejudiced. To remove doubt and correct this mischief effective legislation has become necessary.

Bills will also be presented to you dealing with other matters consequential on the severance of government and our new Constitutional Status. These will include a Bill for the establishment of a Patent Office, and dealing with the law as to the Registration of Patents, Trade Marks and Designs, a Bill adapting the existing law of Copyrights; and a Bill or Bills providing for necessary consequential adaptations of other existing laws.

Members of Dáil Éireann, the Estimates of the sums required for the service of the Irish Free State for the year ending on the 31st March, 1923, will be laid before you in due course and in accordance with the provisions of Article 37 of your Constitution, and will require your most earnest consideration.

Provision for members of the National Army who have become disabled and for the Dependants of those who have laid down their lives in defence of the people's rights, is a national obligation, and with the object of suitably meeting that obligation a measure will be submitted to you at an early date.

Members of the Oireachtas, it is my prayer that the labours upon which you are now entering may be blessed and bear great fruit for our country.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Rachaidh lucht an tSeanaid go dtí n-a seomra féin. The members of the Seanad will now be conducted to their Chamber.


Mr. GEORGE NICHOLLS: A Chinn Chomhairle, it is with feelings of joy mixed with sorrow that I rise to propose the following resolution:-

"That the Dáil returns thanks to the Governor-General for his speech and approves of the legislative programme of the Government as outlined therein."

I say it is with feelings mixed with joy and sorrow. Joy, because to-day in the meeting of the Oireachtas the last touches have been put to the work for which the late President Griffith and the late Commander-in-Chief sacrificed their lives. Sorrow, because to-day we have still that mad minority bringing destruction on the country. And hope, I may say, because I believe that that minority will soon either come to or be brought to their senses. I was very pleased with the stress that was laid in the Governor-General's speech on the restoration of order, because undoubtedly until order is restored in this country no progressive work can be done, and recent happenings show that we are dealing now not with idealists, but with fanatics. I think that no thrill of horror, although we have had many thrills of horror, could have been as strong as that which ran through every sane man and woman who read of the dastardly occurrence at Deputy McGarry's house. That shows the necessity, to my mind in any case, for strong measures to restore order in the country. I am also very pleased with the intimation that a Franchise Bill will be brought in, because the one argument that was used against the Treaty in the old Dáil was that every adult, man and woman, had not a vote. Under this Franchise Bill every adult, provided he is of good behaviour, will have a chance of pronouncing on the destinies of his country. Reference to the reform of the judiciary also appeals very much to me. There is no doubt that the old judicial system, i.e., the pre-Dáil Éireann judicial system, was to my mind hopelessly inadequate and incompetent. The judges did the best they could, but they were dealing with an obsolete and effete system. The old Dáil, the second Dáil, established a system of its own. That was purely a war measure, and everybody knows that it was. We know that decrees were given behind which there were no executive powers and they were not worth the paper they were written on. I understand that while a Committee will immediately be constituted to reform the judicial system, that Committee will also see that provision will be made for enquiry into these decrees, and that those that should be validated will be validated and that a general enquiry will be made into them. The portion of the speech dealing with the sanction for Local Government I presume deals with the legislation of the amalgamation of Unions. There is no doubt about it, the second Dáil did marvellous work for economy in the amalgamation of Unions, but there is no doubt now that we have an Oireachtas and a Dáil that that economy that was effected will have to be reviewed and such of it as was proper will have to be legalised by legislation. I would also like to draw attention to the portion of the speech dealing with the Amnesty Proclamation by the late Commander-in-Chief, General Collins. Some dastardly occurrences happened in this country after that Amnesty Proclamation. I think the worst of all happened in my own constituency, Galway, but I must say that if it happened in Galway it is notorious it was not done by any man from Galway. This Amnesty should be absolutely frank and honest, but I think the other side should be just as honest and entire about the Amnesty as we are. I have a particular interest in this matter, being a Connaught representative, in the Connaught Rangers, and I think if we are honest and above-board on our side in the Amnesty the British should be just as honest and above-board on their side. I was very pleased to hear there would be legislation introduced to provide pensions for the wounded National soldiers and for the dependants of those who were killed. I think this Dáil can never realise what we owe to those noble, gallant men who are going around at the risk of their lives every day. No infamy is big enough to try and kill them-mine-traps of the most diabolical kind, unarmed soldiers shot, everything possible that can be done is done against these gallant defenders of their country's liberty, and I think it is about time, when we hear so many protests against anything done in a legal way by the Government--.

CATHAL O'SHANNON: And illegal.

Mr. NICHOLLS: That the rank and file of the Government supporters should speak out their minds and let the Government know that so far as they represent the country it is behind them in their action.

Mr. JAMES DOLAN: I beg to second the motion proposed by Deputy Nicholls, and I may say that I am pleased to know from the speech that has just been delivered to us that there is provision made for legislation governing the many immediate interests of the country. I recognise, too, that the first aim of the Government must be to establish law and order, and in the action they are taking they are assured of the will of the Irish people. They may rest assured the people are behind them. It was also mentioned that we are going to have legislation dealing with the land of Ireland. We know that the land question has been for years a very big question, particularly in the congested districts, and the people will be pleased to know that we are going to tackle the land question and introduce here, in the people's own Parliament, backed up by their own representatives, who are sent here to voice their opinions, a Land Bill doing justice to all. When I think of this one item and of the great good that could be done by immediate action it is sad to imagine that in the Congested Districts of Ireland to-day you have so much Irregularism, Irregularism incited on by the inducement held out from those who are in armed opposition to the Government stating that the Irregulars can have the land for the taking of it. Well, this is the people's Parliament and our answer to such Irregular action is that people will get justice here. Those uneconomic holders and those landless men living in the Congested Districts will be looked to by the representatives they have sent here. I look upon myself particularly as a representative to voice the opinions of the Congested Districts, because I come from one of the Congested Districts of Ireland and I would like at this stage, when we have announced that we intend to introduce a Land Bill, to ask these people in opposition not to be taking Irregular action, but to have their views voiced here by the representatives that they have sent here. This is their own Parliament, and their own Parliament will give them justice. Now I would like to emphasise the fact that we are faced with compensation claims amounting to, perhaps, forty millions. This is a tremendous drain on the country, and if the destruction goes on it may amount to a hundred millions. Think of what this forty millions could do in the Congested Districts to relieve congestion in the extreme West of Ireland. When I think of it it is indeed overwhelmingly sad to imagine that now when we have got control of everything that counts in the machinery of government people are so misguided as to listen to the wild shoutings of those who are chasing the clouds. I am pleased, too, to notice, as the proposer has stated, that steps are to be taken to legalise the Amnesty, and I, too, express the hope that there will be no niggardliness on either side in this Amnesty and that the Connaught Rangers will be sent back to their native country to enjoy the freedom which we have won and for which they, in their own way, struck a blow. All of us are unanimous in our determination to see that the wounded soldiers are not forgotten and I am pleased to notice that legislation on this point is to be introduced, that they will be properly provided for, and that the dependants of these gallant men who have laid down their lives to give us liberty will be properly seen to.

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: The address that we have just heard was quite strange to us, and the Proposer and the Seconder of this motion are more conversant with its contents than the other members of the Dáil would be. Would I be in order in moving that the debate be adjourned until to-morrow in order that we may have an opportunity of reading the Speech and considering the matter?

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: The motion is quite in order if seconded.

Mr. J. MacBRIDE: I beg to second it.

Motion made and question put: "That the debate on the motion be adjourned until 3 o'clock to-morrow."


The Dáil adjourned until 3 o'clock on Wednesday, 13th December 1922.

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12 December, 1922