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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 20 Aug 1919

Vol. F No. 13


"Every person and every one of those bodies undermentioned must swear allegiance to the Irish Republic and to the Dáil:
1. The Deputies.
2. The Irish Volunteers.
3. The Officers and Clerks to the Dáil.
4. Any other body or individual who in the opinion of the Dáil should take the same Oath."
He pointed out that it was no new proceeding for a Government to require that the Elected Representatives, the Defence Forces, and the Officers and Clerks of Parliament, should subscribe to an Oath of Allegiance to the State. He suggested the following form of Oath, which was an adaptation of the Oath subscribed to by Congressmen, Senators and other persons who aspired to become American Citizens. The American form of the oath as adopted to suit their requirements would read:—
"I, A.B., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I do not and shall not yield a voluntary support to any pretended Government, authority or power within Ireland hostile and inimical thereto, and I do further swear (or affirm) that to the best of my knowledge and ability I will support and defend the Irish Republic and the Government of the Irish Republic, which is Dáil Eireann, against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, so help me, God."
An Oath of Allegiance was administered to every existing Government in the world. An affirmation might be made by anyone who had scruples about taking an Oath. The object aimed at was to unify the whole body in this country. The present Constitution governing the Irish Volunteers prevented them from being subject to any other body but their own Executive. At the next Convention they proposed to ask them as a standing army to swear allegiance to the Dáil, and it was but fair and just that all Members of the Dáil, and all officials of the Dáil, should likewise subscribe to an Oath of Allegiance.
T. MACSUIBHNE (Cork, Mid) seconded the motion.
Alderman T. KELLY (St. Stephen's Green) asked if there was any necessity for this Oath? What had occurred in the past six or seven months to make it necessary now? Was it that any of their members wished to go to the London Parliament and perform there? He believed that a man who would not keep his word would not keep his oath. It had been said that one object of it was to get the Irish Volunteers to become subject to the Dáil. In his opinion the two bodies should remain separate. He reminded them of the fate of the Volunteers of 1782. A time might come when a military demonstration might be necessary. It was a species of coercion to force this issue.
Dr. CUSACK (Galway, East) pointed out that every civilised Government required an Oath of Allegiance from members of any foreign country desiring to become citizens, and it was recognised on all sides as a perfectly just procedure. He thought the Minister would be justified in carrying it further than he proposed, and requiring every individual to subscribe to it. If they had all their people banded together they would be absolutely unbeatable. Such an Oath would mean that every one of them was pledged to maintain the Republic.
Mr. J. MACBRIDE (Mayo, West) was opposed to the Oath. If a man conscientiously took this Oath he could not serve on a local body, and Ald. Kelly and Mr. Cosgrave should leave the Dublin Corporation. In fact he could not vote for a representative of any kind under English law.
Mr. W. SEARS (Mayo, South) thought that there was an obligation on every member to be loyal to the Republic. Even the Quakers in America took the Oath of Allegiance. As to the Volunteers, he regarded it as a very unfortunate thing if the Dáil had no control over them.
LIAM DE ROISTE (Cork City) pointed out that the question was raised at the first Session of the Dáil and that members were required to sign a pledge, which he considered quite sufficient.
LIAM T. MACCOSGAIR (Kilkenny, North) had conscientious scruples about taking an oath unless it was absolutely necessary. He considered that any military organisation in this country should be under the control of the Dáil. If it were considered necessary that the Volunteers take an Oath of Allegiance that was a matter for them. He would subscribe to such an Oath if adequate reasons were put forward.
Mr. D. KENT (Cork, East) pointed out that it was not a question of a suspicion of the trustworthiness of members that was at stake. They required to band all Republicans together, and he believed that the Irish Volunteers should be under the control of the Dáil.
The ACTING-PRESIDENT stated that he was astonished at finding that the Members had not taken an Oath of Allegiance at their first meeting. Every person elected there should pledge his or her allegiance to the standing Government of Ireland. If they were not a regular Government then they were shams and impostors. The Army and the Government of a country could not be under separate authority. While there might be a question as to the form of the Oath there could be none as to the necessity for taking the Oath. They should realise that they were the Government of the country. This Oath would regularise the situation. If they were a regularly constituted Government there could be no question about the taking of an Oath of Allegiance. The taking of the Oath did not preclude one from serving on the Local Boards and doing his best to forward the interests of the country in such a capacity. He was absolutely in favour of the motion.
COUNT PLUNKETT (Roscommon, N.) said that they were asked to perform a constitutional act in taking this Oath.
SEAN ETCHINGHAM (Wicklow, East) was of opinion that the Oath should be extended to every individual who supported the Republican Government in Ireland.
Mr. J. O'MAHONY (Fermanagh, Sth.) inquired of the Minister for Defence if he would get the next Irish Volunteer Convention to acknowledge that the Dáil is the Government of the country and have the Constitution of the Irish Volunteers amended to conform to that?
The MINISTER FOR DEFENCE replied that he regarded the Irish Volunteers as a standing Army, and that as such they should be subject to the Government. There had been no argument advanced against the Oath. The ordinary man thought more of his obligations under an Oath than where only his word was given. No doubt, a man who would break his word would break his Oath, but that was not the question. The important thing was that the Irish Volunteers under their present Constitution owed allegiance to their own Executive. Since the Dáil had come into existence there had been no Volunteer Convention, but one would be held as soon as possible. It was necessary to have this matter adjusted. He did not think it necessary that persons outside those mentioned should be required to take the Oath.
LIAM DE ROISTE (Cork City) moved, as an amendment:
"That this Oath be not applied to members of the Dáil who have already pledged themselves not to recognise the British Government in this country by the Declaration signed at the first meeting of the Dáil in January last."
The amendment was not seconded.
On a division on the original motion, 30 voted for and 5 voted against. The motion was accordingly declared carried, and the suggested form of the Oath was adopted.