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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 29 Jun 1920

Vol. F No. 15


The ACTING-PRESIDENT in his statement said that it was over seven months ago since the last Session of the Dail was held. During that time, as they were aware, the strongest offensive hitherto attempted against them had been undertaken. They all knew that the enemy had been beaten back. The present meeting was the best attended of any held yet. The number of living members of Dail was 68 of whom 51 were at present available; 46 of these were in attendance. Seven members were in the United States, 2 in France, and 2 in Jail. There were 2 absent through illness, 4 absent through inability to attend and 5 absent who were available.
During the period under review in addition to the defence of the country against the attacks of the enemy, they were faced with the necessity of reaffirming the verdict of the General Election of 1918. This re-affirmation was made at the Municipal Elections in January last and again at the County and District Council elections in the present month.
The result of these elections had very much strengthened the hands of the Representatives of the Republic in America and had made clear the case of Ireland throughout the world. It was a repudiation of England's propaganda on the Continent and in America to the effect that the vote of 1918 did not represent the people's will, and it was an endorsement of all their activities since the Dail came into being. In America the work accomplished by the President had been extraordinary. He had welded the Irish Race into a United Force. He had raised the Irish question there to the position of an International issue. Were it not for Mr. de Valera's work in the United States of America there was little doubt that with some amendments, the Peace Treaty, including article 10, would have been carried. The adoption of article 10 would have been disastrous to Ireland. As Mr. Boland's interview pointed out yesterday, the reservation written into the Peace Treaty made it quite clear that the League of Nations could only be adopted with Ireland as a consenting party, and the writing in of that reservation had made the Irish question an International question which could not be settled without the assent of America. The propaganda carried on against Ireland on the Continent and in America during the last seven months had been very virulent. The Propaganda Department had done wonderful work in counteracting this campaign, and at present there was scarcely a nation on the earth in which the Irish case was not understood.
The difficulties which had to be encountered by the Ministry were very great. He supposed that no Ministry ever existed that did so much work under similar difficulties. Every possible obstacle was placed in their way to prevent them from carrying on the work. Perhaps their greatest achievement was the establishment mainly through the work of Mr. Barton, of the Land Bank. The establishment of that Bank enabled them to settle the land crisis that arose in the West of Ireland.
The next biggest thing was the establishment of the Land Arbitration Courts. The establishment of these Courts prevented the land question being used to divert the energies of the people from the National issue.
There was also the Industrial Commission which had a considerable amount of valuable work to its credit. On the whole, taking the seven months past, the amount of constructive work achieved had been very remarkable.
The Minister for Finance had accomplished one of the most extraordinary feats in the country's history in connection with the bond issue. He had issued a loan of £250,000 and it was now over-subscribed to the extent of £40,000 in spite of the most determined opposition of England.
During the early part of the present year, they had a story in London that this movement was going to be crushed out of existence by March. This was the story in official circles. They had got assurances from Dublin Castle that they would succeed in destroying the Republican Movement by March. They were wrong. The gentlemen who gave that assurance were now down and out. A change in the methods of the enemy at the present time might portend some change of feeling but he was inclined to think it was only an attempt to achieve by conciliation what they failed to do by force. That day the Democratic Convention met in San Francisco. Mr. de Valera was there to secure the insertion of an Irish plank in the Party Platform. Mr. de Valera has refused to accept any expression of sympathy as a substitute for the Recognition Plank.
This time the President was in San Francisco determined to have the plank for Recognition of the Irish Republic part of the Democratic Platform or in the alternative to have nothing at all. Neither party would be allowed to ride away with a motion of sympathy. Of course the President's strength in America was just the strength of themselves here at home. It they were weak here he would be weak there, and correspondingly if they were strong here he would be strong there. They must keep this Movement as strong as they could make it.
During the period that had passed since last session and before they had an opportunity of meeting the Dail, they appointed certain substitute Ministers and it would now be for the Dail to confirm them.
Originally provision was made in the Constitution for nine Ministers, only eight of whom were appointed. One Ministry was left open because Mr. de Valera desired that Mr. Stack should join the Ministry when he came out of jail. "I therefore ask," continued the ACTING-PRESIDENT, "that the Dail confirm Mr. Stack as a Minister. While I am acting as Acting-President, he will act as Home Secretary."
The Minister for Local Government having been arrested, Mr. O'Higgins was chosen Substitute Minister in his absence. The Director of Agriculture, Mr. Barton, having been also arrested, Mr. Art O'Connor was appointed to his place and as a Director of Fisheries was required they chose Mr. Etchingham as Director.
In regard to the Ministry of Irish it was decided at the last session to establish this Ministry, and the gentleman appointed to that post was their Speaker. Now it was for the Dail to agree to these appointments and ratify them.
They would thus have one more than the nine Ministers provided for in the Constitution, but this one happened to be the Speaker.
The ACTING-PRESIDENT then submitted the following resolutions tabled in his name:—
1. That the decision of the Ministry authorising the President to expend at his discretion such sum not exceeding $500,000 as he may require in connection with the Election Campaign for the Presidency of the United States of America be and is hereby ratified.
2. That the President be empowered to expend a sum not exceeding $1,000,000 to obtain the recognition of the Irish Republic by the Government of the United States.
3. That the sum of $1,000,000 be voted to the Department of Defence.
4. That the President be authorised to appoint Consuls and Diplomatic Agents to the following countries:—Russia, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, and that he also be empowered to appoint one Director in each of the following cities in the United States, namely:—Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco and Boston, to organise and direct Irish opinion at these centres. That the names of a number of persons suitable for these posts be supplied to the President by the Ministry and that the agents be selected by the President from amongst the persons so nominated.
5. That the Ministry be empowered to appoint an Ambassador to Washington, in the United States of America.
6. That the Ministry be authorised to despatch a Diplomatic Mission to the Government of the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic with a view to establishing diplomatic relations with that Government.
The vote provided for in resolution No. 3 was a recommendation from the President himself.
With regard to No. 4, the President's suggestion in connection with this was that the Dáil should select a number of names and forward them to him. He would then make the appointments from amongst those selected. The Ministry would be glad to receive suggestions from the Teachtai of suitable persons for this work.
With reference to No. 6, what the President wanted was to be empowered to despatch such a mission when he thinks it advisable.