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Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 11 Mar 1921

Vol. F No. 20


The PRESIDENT, in opening a discussion on the formal acceptance of a state of war with England, said he felt in America and since he came home that the Dáil was hardly acting fairly by the army in not publicly taking full responsibility for all its acts. He mentioned this view to the Minister of Defence, and his criticism was that to accept war now in any more formal way than they had done, could be misrepresented as an admission that they were not carrying it on in a regular manner heretofore. They could get over that difficulty by stating in the preamble the circumstances of the situation. He discussed the arguments for and against formal acceptance and said it was a very serious decision to take, and he would like the meeting to consider it carefully. If the acceptance were agreed to they could instruct their Consuls abroad to look for belligerent rights. His opinion was they should agree to the acceptance of a state of war. It meant every member would take an equal responsibility.
The DIRECTOR OF FISHERIES said it should have been done six months ago.
J.N. DOLAN (Leitrim) speaking in favour of the Declaration, said it was up to the Dáil to put the matter beyond yea or nay. It should have been done long ago. He advised caution in the wording to show that this was not a new declaration.
L. MELLOWES (Galway, East and Meath, North) thought it was a question of accepting rather than declaring war.
The ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE was of opinion that nothing had been lost because a declaration of this kind was not made before now. The army got a chance to show it could fight and could keep fighting in its own way. They knew now they could make this declaration and not have to withdraw it at short notice.
J. MACENTEE (Monaghan, South) was in favour of making the Declaration but pointed out that it would have the effect of ranging all elements in England against them. If the Coalition Government collapsed, the situation here might improve as matters stood at present.
The MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS said he thought the Dáil should accept the army as being the Army of the Republic which came under their control in January, 1919. It was a legacy from the men who fought in 1916, and the development of it and the way it conducted itself ever since they gave it assistance, was a credit to them. The least the Dáil might do for it was to accept responsibility for all its acts.
P. BEASLEY (Kerry, East) said the question was mainly the form which the Declaration should take. He moved:—
"That the Dáil approves of the President's being empowered to draw up a statement on the lines indicated verbally by him, and that this be done at whatever time was considered most opportune."
J.N. DOLAN (Leitrim) seconded, and the motion was unanimously adopted.