Tá fhios againn go léir eé an fáth go bhfuilimíd anso iniu agus an cheist mhór atá againn le socrú. Níl mo chuid Gaedhilge chó maith agus ba mhaith liom í bheith. Is fearr is féidir liom mo smaointe do nochtadh as Beurla, agus dá bhrí sin is dóich liom gurbh fhearra dhom labhairt as Beurla ar fad. Some of the members do not know Irish, I think, and consequently what I shall say will be in English. The question we have to decide is one which ought to be decided on its merits, and it would be very unfortunate if extraneous matters such as what I might call an accidental division of opinion of the Cabinet, or the causes which gave rise to it, should cut across these considerations. I think, therefore, it would be wise to give a short narrative of the circumstances under which the plenipotentiaries were appointed, and to explain the terms of reference, if I might call them so, or directions given to them, and to explain them in so far as I can do so, consistent with public interest. If anybody wants a mere detailed explanation, or wants to probe into the difference of opinion more deeply, we can do so at a private session. We can easily resolve ourselves into a private session and go fully into the matter. Really there is nothing extraordinary in the division of opinion, for this reason, that when the plenipotentiaries would report, it was obvious the Cabinet would have to take a policy. Either the whole Cabinet would have to go over if the possibility of division was to be eliminated, the whole Cabinet should take responsibility for the negotiations, which was a thing that would not be desirable for other reasons. Even if they did there might be divisions. You could scarcely eliminate differences of opinion. It was necessary then either that the plenipotentiaries should be a whole Cabinet or that there should be other persons than members of the Cabinet. What we did was, we selected three members of the Cabinet with two others and it was obvious if these plenipotentiaries were to be in a position to do the work given to them they should have full powers of negotiation. At the two meetings of the Dáil at which they were appointed I made it quite clear that my own point of view, and the point of view of the Cabinet as a whole at least I took responsibility for saying it was the view of the Cabinet was that the plenipotentiaries should have full plenary powers to negotiate, with the understanding, however, that when they reported, the Cabinet would decide its policy, and whatever arrangement they arrived at, it would have to be submitted to the Dáil for ratification. The question of committing the country completely without ratification by the Dáil was of course out of the question. This assembly would not have sent any five men to negotiate a treaty which would bind the nation without some chance of a larger body of representatives of the nation having an opportunity of criticizing and reviewing it, and, I would say under the circumstances, of the nation itself reviewing it. Now, that was quite a commonsense understanding. They had to have the plenary powers in order to be able to do their work. If there was a definite difference of opinion, it was the plenipotentiaries had the responsibility of making up their own minds and deciding on it. We had ourselves the right of refusing to agree with them, if we thought that was right. It was also obvious that the Cabinet and the plenipotentiaries should keep in the closest possible touch. We did that. We were in agreement up to a certain point. A definite question had then to be decided and we did not agree. I do not know if the Chairman of the Delegation or the plenipotentiaries would have any objection it would not in any way interfere with public interests if the Cabinet instructions were given. Is there any objection? I do not think there is.
DEBATE ON TREATY
Here is the actual text of the instructions which I wrote with my own hand at the Cabinet meeting on the 7th October:
"(1) The Plenipotentiaries have full powers as defined in their credentials.
(2) It is understood before decisions are finally reached on the main question, that a despatch notifying the intention to make these decisions will be sent to members of the Cabinet in Dublin, and that a reply will be awaited by the Plenipotentiaries before final decision is made.
(3) It is also understood that the complete text of the draft treaty about to be signed will be similarly submitted to Dublin, and reply awaited."
Now I want you to pay particular attention to that particular paragraph. The instructions proceed:
"(4) In case of a break, the text of the final proposals from our side will be similarly submitted.
(5) It is understood the Cabinet in Dublin will be kept regularly informed of the progress of the negotiations."
That was all done with the exception of paragraph three. It is obvious that a treaty which would be a lasting agreement between two nations, and which may govern the relations of nations for centuries, is a document which, even when you have agreed upon the fundamental principles, should be most carefully examined. My idea was when the plenipotentiaries had arrived at an agreement on the treaty, and had a rough copy of a document which they were prepared to sign, that document, in its full text, would be submitted, because in the case of a treaty, even verbal, the exact form of words is of tremendous importance. I have only to say with respect to paragraph three that the final text was not submitted. When the previous draft, which considerably differed from the final text, was submitted, that I said I could not sign, and I do not think the other members of the Cabinet, whose views on a vital question we had to determine for ourselves earlier, would sign. With the knowledge that we could not accept that, the plenipotentiaries, acting in accordance with their rights, signed the treaty, and as far as the relations between the Cabinet and the plenipotentiaries are concerned, the only point is that paragraph three was not carried out to the letter. This was most important, and I feel myself, had it been done, we might have got complete agreement between the Cabinet and the plenipotentiaries. I say that in order that everyone may realise that this is a case of a difference of opinion between two bodies, which in a case like this could naturally and did naturally arise, and therefore I am anxious that it should not in any way interfere with the discussion on the treaty which the plenipotentiaries have brought to us. We are to treat it on its merits. Just as you probably will hold different opinions on the merits of it, so we in the Cabinet hold different opinions on it. The main question at issue as far back as the third week in October was decided by us, and, those who were in favour of the decision on the side I am taking were certainly a majority of the Cabinet, though the whole Cabinet was not present at the meeting. I am ready to answer any questions about the conduct of the negotiations that may be in the public interest, and if there are any questions, or any matter which you wish to probe further that is not in the public interest, I would be glad to answer it in a private session so that you may understand it thoroughly.
Chúm anso rún ar an gclár ón Dr. de Faoite. Ba mhaith liom fhios a bheith agam an bhfuil sé chun an rún san do chur os cóir na Dála iniu. What is to be done in regard to Dr. White's motion that the session be held in private? I want to know is Dr. White going to move the resolution in connection with the notice of motion on the agenda to-day.
I wish to say as regards any suggestion that the plenipotentiaries exceeded their instructions, that I, as Chairman of the Delegation, immediately controvert it.
It will settle nothing if one says one thing and another says the other. What I said, and I think it will be made evident by an examination, if anybody wishes to appoint three or four independently to look into the matter, it will be made evident that paragraph three of the instructions was not exceeded; but paragraph three was not carried out. The Treaty was signed in the small hours of the morning after the text after certain alterations had been made, and we never saw the alterations. Had I seen it, I would have used any influence I had to try to secure unanimity in the matter, and then if we could not secure unanimity, we knew where we were. The chance was lost by the fact that after certain alterations had been made, instead of sending the final draft to us, and taking time over it, so that matters could be fully considered, it was rushed unfortunately. That is all I have got to say about it.
The original terms that were served on each member of the delegation have not been read out. The thing has already taken an unfair aspect and I am against a private session. I have no particular feeling about it. I suggest that a vital matter for the representatives of the nation, and the nation itself, is that the final document which was agreed on by a united Cabinet, should be put side by side with the final document which the Delegation of Plenipotentiaries did not sign as a treaty, but did sign on the understanding that each signatory would recommend it to the Dáil for acceptance.
I formally propose that this meeting of the Dáil, and, if the Dáil approve of it, subsequent meetings also, be held in private. Of course this does not preclude having a session of the Dáil, so approved, public. I do move this resolution as an humble member of the Dáil, because I for one respectfully submit to all concerned that certain points if I might say so, certain obstructions require to be cleared away before this all-important, this terrible question, is decided one way or the other. My chief reasons for suggesting to the Dáil a private meeting at first are these. These points must, I respectfully suggest, be cleared up, and secondly, in a private meeting I think it will be generally conceded that members of any assembly where such an important question arises, will talk more freely and will ask questions with greater facility. I will not weary the Dáil further, but will formally move that this meeting of the Dáil and, if the Dáil so approves, other meetings, be held in private.
I beg to second Dr. White's motion.
I move that this session and other sessions be held in public. I am thoroughly dissatisfied with the information we are getting here from time to time. During the last five or six months during the truce my constituents at home could tell me that letters have been received from members of the staff that the whole question was settled up two months ago. And yet we are going around the country without knowing a thing about it. What I want to say is to repeat what I have been saying to my constituents for the last five or six years. What I am now about to do and say I am quite prepared to do publicly. I move that this and all other sessions be public.
I think nobody in this Dáil has the slightest reason to fear publicity. There is this to be feared, that we here with this enormous responsibility cast upon us may be slightly over-awed in the first place by the presence of people who have not got the responsibility that we have. Number two, I feel that we are all young men and young women in this very important departure in our national affairs, and it is quite possible that with the best intentions in the world that we will say things which will bear a construction that we do not intend. For that reason more than for any other reason, not because I personally fear publicity, but to secure in the first place a full and free discussion and in the second place to secure that afterwards we will not be misunderstood, I support very strongly Dr. White's motion.
I propose as an amendment that whatever explanations may be required as to the genesis of the present document, and the present situation, be conducted in private session but that the motion for the ratification of the Treaty be brought forward and discussed, and all matters in connection with it dealt with at the public session.
I second that. It is obviously the reasonable way of dealing with it. This question of finding out how differences of opinion arose is the only question that cannot be probed except in private, whereas the big question is a matter for the whole nation obviously and it should be held in public. The reason for introducing the explanation at the start on my part is that I want to try to get rid of any misunderstanding that might be caused by a division of the Cabinet. There are rumours of various sorts going about and statements being made, such as, for instance, the statement made by one of the members of the delegation just now, which are not really a fact. That can be decided only in a private session satisfactorily. I am very glad to support the motion of the Member for Clontarf.
I am sorry that I find I have to differ from the President in this matter. It is quite obvious one of the factors which must determine the position of the Dáil is whether the Dáil is in honour or otherwise bound to ratify the treaty proposed to them. You cannot, no matter how you try to do it, disassociate the question from the question of whether plenipotentiaries have exceeded the powers or instructions given to them. There are some of us to-day who may be called upon later to justify the positions they are taking before the country. Every factor that determines the position ought to be made plain to the public and we ought to be able to say to ourselves, and to say it without fear of contradiction and there are the public facts to prove it that we were not bound to ratify the treaty which the delegates proposed to us. For that reason there ought to be no private session of the Dáil except upon one subject that which relates to our military, financial or other resources. Remember the Treaty is not yet ratified. Anything like that which would give information to the enemy or would be helpful to them in the subversion of Irish liberties should be private; but all other matters any matter in which every person in this island is fully interested ought to be decided openly and in public.
I agree with Mr. McEntee. There are one or two little points that ought to be decided in private session. I wish this session of the Dáil could be held on the Curragh, so that every man, woman and child in Ireland could hear us. We are entitled to tell the public what the difference is, and what difference has been. We have a responsibility to the public that elected us without question.
I must say I am in entire agreement with Mr. McEntee. There is nothing which I am entitled to hear at this meeting which every member of the Irish nation has not an equal right to hear.
I agree with the Member for Monaghan. There are matters that should be dealt with in private, but apart from these, I am anxious that these proceedings should be conducted before the representatives of the world's Press in the manner in which the Irish Parliament should be conducted. The country has been kept in the dark and the people are saying so. The liberty and interests of Ireland are the concern of every man and woman and boy and girl, and they should be as conversant with it as any of us. Let us have all the public discussion we can. The Member for Dublin says he would like to have this meeting at the Curragh, but we could not be heard there (laughter). It would be just like the remark of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, which we could not hear down here. Let us have a public session; let us thresh this thing out. We have nothing to fear, any of us. I believe we are all here in the interests of Ireland.
I am not in favour of a private session in so far as anything that the Dáil has a right to know, and in so far as anything that the Irish people, who are our masters, have a right to know. There may be differences of opinion between some of us differences as to past and future action that members of the Dáil would be ultimately concerned in before they would make up their minds whether or not there would be a private session or whether or not the terms should be ratified. I must again protest against what I call an unfair action, and I do not call it unfair except from this point of view. If one document had to be read the original document, which was a prior document, should have been read first. I must ask the liberty of reading the original document which was served on each member of the delegation of plenipotentiaries.
Is that the one with the original credentials?
Was that ever presented? It was given in order to get the British Government to recognise the Irish Republic. Was that document giving the credentials of the accredited representatives from the Irish Government to the British Government presented to, or accepted by, the British delegates? Was that taken by the British delegates or accepted by them?
We had no instructions to present it.
I am asking a question.
May I ask that I be allowed to speak without interruption?
I must protest.
The House has a right to decide the motion that is before it. The Irish people are our masters and we are the masters of our Cabinet.
Order; we must have order.
I only ask that I be allowed to speak without interruption. I am not going to interrupt any speaker and that is a small right to ask. The original credentials were presented and they read:
"In virtue of the authority vested in me by Dáil Eireann, I hereby appoint Arthur Griffith, T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs, Chairman; Michael Collins, T.D., Minister for Finance; Robert C. Barton, T.D., Minister for Economic Affairs; Edmund J. Duggan, T.D.; and George Gavan Duffy, T.D. as envoys plenipotentiaries from the elected Government of the Republic of Ireland to negotiate and conclude on behalf of Ireland, with the representatives of his Britannic Majesty George V. a treaty or treaties of settlement, association and accommodation between Ireland and the community of nations, known as the British Commonwealth. In witness hereof I hereunder subscribe my name as President.
Signed EAMON DE VALERA"
and that was sealed with the official seal of Dáil Éireann and dated the 7th day of October, 1921. Then there were five identical credentials. Now I do not object to the second document being read, but the prior document should have been read first and we have agreed, those of us who differ those of us who take one stand to make no statement which would in any way prejudge the issue until this meeting of DAIL EIREANN. Publicly and privately we did not prejudge the issue; we even refrained from speaking to members of the Dáil. I have not said a hard word about anybody. I know I have been called a traitor.
(Cries of "no, no").
If I am a traitor, let the Irish people decide it or not, and if there are men who act towards me as a traitor I am prepared to meet them anywhere, any time, now as in the past. For that reason I do not want the issue prejudged. I am in favour of a public session here now. I understand that members of the Dáil may differ as to the advantage to be gained on one side or the other by a private session. If there is anything, any matter of detail, if, for instance, the differences between plenipotentiaries, and the differences as they arose from time to time, should be discussed first in private, I am of opinion that having discussed it in private, I think we ought then to be able to make it public. I am willing to go so far as that; that is only detail. But on the essentials I am for publicity now and all along. May I just put one point right? It is important that it should be stated because it rather puts us at a disadvantage. I agree with what the President said that the honour of Ireland was not involved in accepting this document. Ireland is fully free to accept or reject. Many a parliament of a country has refused to accept decisions of plenipotentiaries even if these decisions might be considered legally and morally more binding than the present decisions. I can only make plain again that the document is agreed to by the signatories and recommended to the Dáil for acceptance. If the Dáil do not accept it, I as one of the signatories will be relieved of all responsibility for myself, but I am bound to recommend it over my signature and of course we are bound to take action whatever action was implied by our signing the document. The Dáil is perfectly free to accept or reject, we are only bound to recommend it to the Dáil for acceptance. The Articles of Agreement are put forward on our recommendation. That ought to be quite clear here, and ought to be equally clear to the public of this country, and the other country, the representatives of which have their signatures on the document also.
The main point is settled. By the admission of the delegates themselves, and it is the only thing we are concerned with here, we did not send them, and it would be ridiculous to think that we could send five men to complete a treaty without the right of ratification by this assembly. That is the only thing that matters. Therefore it is agreed that this Treaty is simply an agreement and that it is not binding until the Dáil ratifies it. That is what we are concerned with. Now as to the differences that have arisen. I did not read out that first document because I was informed that it had not been accepted, in other words it had not been presented. It was given to safeguard the plenipotentiaries going over in case they should be asked by one Government from another: "Where is your authority to negotiate a Treaty with us?" I am very glad to know that the Prime Minister has accepted that document from the Irish Republic. Now we all can go back to meetings of the Dáil. At these meetings I made our position perfectly clear, that the plenipotentiaries were to have the fullest freedom possible. It would be ridiculous to send them over if we were all the time to interfere with them from Dublin. There was an understanding that certain things would be done so that we in Dublin would be in a position to help in so far as we could help to come to an agreement or explain disagreements. The most important paragraph in these instructions, and its importance will at once appeal to every reasonable person, was paragraph 3, which laid down that a complete draft of the Treaty should be submitted to Dublin and a reply awaited. That is a document every line of which was going to govern the relations of two countries for perhaps centuries, and it was important that that document should not be hurriedly signed and that there should be a certain delay. In fact one of the reasons I did not want to be a member of the delegation was that the delegation should be provided against hasty action. I do not mean to say that if we had signed finally the document it would have mattered. There would have probably been a division. I would not have referred to it at all but all sorts of misunderstandings have been created in the minds of the people about it. I want to get rid of that as a disturbing factor in your minds when making out the merits, or not, of the agreement; we hold one view, the delegates another.
There is a motion before the House, and the motion distinctly provides that the ratification should be moved in public, and therefore it seems to me that members who desire to speak will get ample opportunities for stating their views in public. I think that every member of this House should state his or her views for or against the ratification of this treaty in the most public manner possible. The motion before the House provides for that that a public session shall be held on the motion for ratification. In regard to other matters our resources, military, financial or otherwise questions relating to matters of this kind should surely be dealt with in private. I think, therefore, you should begin with a private session, on the understanding as clearly defined by the motion, that when the question of ratification comes up it should be discussed in public.
I suggest that Dr. White's motion and the motion of the Member for Clontarf Division might be reconciled in this form that the Dáil go temporarily into private session.
I am quite agreeable to that suggestion.
Táim-se Da choinnibh sin. Do réir a bhfuil ráite ag sna daoine atá i bhfabhar an tsocruithe níl éinní acu le ceilt. I object to a private session.
On a point of order there is one important matter I would like to clear up. The President has stated on the authority of the Minister for Finance that the original document read by the Minister for Finance was presented to and accepted by the British Premier. Now I would like anyone here to have impressed on him the importance of that statement and of that position. I would like to put that question for a final and authoritative answer as to the document referred to having been presented to the Prime Minister and accepted by the Prime Minister as the original credentials of our delegation.
I do not wish to create a wrong impression. I did not say accepted, I said presented.
It is very important on the question being bound. We are dealing with other people who have signed the Treaty. If these people were led to understand that the signing of that Treaty ended the matter, then we have nothing here to do. If any document was presented to them that would give them the impression, and if they accepted that document and wished to interpret into the word "conclude" that ratification was not necessary, that would be in despite of the fact that we here in appointing plenipotentiaries In two sessions made it clear ratification was necessary.
We must dispose of the motion.
Clear up the point.
This is a most important mutter. In the original credentials, in order to give them the fullest powers, they were empowered using the technical term to negotiate and conclude a Treaty. Evidently the Minister for Finance wishes to lay stress on the word "conclude."
What is the point then of raising the original credentials, if the word "conclude" did not mean that when you had signed it was ended. I want to know whether the delegation of the British Government accepted these credentials as the basis.
There is a motion before the House that we go into private session.
It is most important that we should know where we are in this matter. The honour of this nation, which is dear to us, is at stake; I say It was never intended that the plenipotentiaries that the five people sent from this nation should have power to bind this nation by their signatures irrevocably. There is no sense making a point of my original credentials unless it means "conclude." The whole bearing of that would have to be considered from a very technical point of view. It is a technical term. Lest there should be any misunderstanding about it I want to know whether the British Government accepted the credentials as the basis on which they accepted you as plenipotentiaries to negotiate a treaty or not.
I do not think the question arises. The delegates had Full powers to conclude a Treaty, and that treaty has to be submitted to the Dáil as it has to be submitted to the British Legislature. The Delegates had power to conclude a Treaty. They had plenary powers and it is for us now to accept or reject what they have agreed to. The argument about the word "conclude" does not arise.
I think that the question of the right of the Dáil to ratify or reject the agreement has never been questioned.
It was suggested that I was hiding something from the House.
The House is really discussing Motion No. 2.
There will be no wrong impression at all events in the minds of members who have to vote. These credentials were carried from President de Valera. We were instructed if the British Delegates asked for credentials to present them.
They were not presented.
I believe Mr. Lloyd George saw the document. They were not presented or accepted. The point President de Valera wants to know about is as to whether we considered that we had full power to make a treaty to bind the nation without the Dáil being consulted. Now the British Ministers did not sign the Treaty to bind their nation. They had to go to their Parliament and we to ours for ratification.
As one who in previous sessions stood up for the rights of the private members, I think that the motion should be put. I think the members of the Dáil here are masters of the Cabinet as the Irish people are ours. I must ask you as Chairman of this assembly to put the motion.
I made a suggestion to get the motion into satisfactory form. The motion in Dr. White's name is that the session be held in private. That would mean the whole session. The amendment by the Member for Clontarf Division is unnecessarily long, I think. To my mind it would be sufficient if it said that the Dáil was to go temporarily into private session, because when it does go into private session you cannot limit the points the Dáil may discuss. Therefore I suggest that it would meet the case that the Dáil should go temporarily into private session.
I hope the Speaker's suggestion will not be accepted. The amendment of the Member for Clontarf restricts the public session. I have no objection to that as long as the motion for the ratification of the Treaty will be discussed in public.
I have not made any suggestion that would limit public discussion. In fact the only point in my mind is to simplify procedure.
Upon this question of a public session may I suggest that we are all vitally concerned in the matter before us and that we will not be found lined up for or against ratification, and that our attitude will not be for the justification of one particular set of men or another, but having before us the unquestioned patriotism of every man and woman in the Dáil, that the only concern of every individual member of the Dáil or Cabinet is the best interests of the country. I think, and I am not very optimistic in that, that the result will not be a barren discussion one way or another, meaning naturally disaster to the country, but will result in a decision which will be satisfactory from the point of view of all concerned here and to the country as a whole.
We have had the President's statement. Are we going to consider the ratification of the Treaty?
The Member for Wexford has spoken already.
Would I be in order in making a further amendment?
Not until the amendment by the Member for Clontarf is disposed of. It is:
"That any explanations as regards the genesis of the proposed Treaty in the present situation be given and discussed in private session, but that the introduction of the proposed Treaty itself and the discussion thereon take place in public session."
The amendment was put and carried.
I move the further amendment:
"That the session of AN DÁIL be held in public until such time as a matter arises which the Dáil considers should be discussed in private session."
May I respectfully draw your attention to No. 8 of the rules of debate by members, which states that the subject under discussion should be kept to, and another rule is that a member is not allowed to speak more than once.
THE SPEAKER was proceeding to put the amendment to the House, when,
Do you really think that in order? I do not think it is an amendment at all.
Oh, yes, it is a valid amendment?
Is not the last amendment a direct negative to the previous amendment?
I suggest that some people think if we go into private session that we might not come out in public session at all.
We must go into public session on the motion for the ratification of this Treaty.
The difficulty with regard to the amendment is that it does not regulate any time at which the private session should take place.
Whenever anyone thinks that we should go into private session let him say so, and let him tell us the reason why we should do so.
I think so far as this last amendment is concerned it resembles something like a Jack-in-the-Box as regards when we retire into private and come out into public session.
Certainly, it would raise a great difficulty in regard to the order of procedure.
The only thing I think that should be definite is that the question of the ratification of the Treaty should be in public session. If it is definitely decided that the question of the ratification has to be in public session I do not think anyone objects to a private session before that if it is absolutely understood that the ratification of the treaty should be in public.
I take that to be the unanimous desire of the Dáil.
The objection I see to the amendment is that the question of private or public session will cross the tracks of every single question requiring explanation that comes before us.
Therefore do not go into private session.
It is the general wish that the motion for ratification should be discussed in public session. In putting the amendment I do not see how I or anyone in my place can regulate the order of procedure.
THE SPEAKER put the amendment which was defeated and the previous amendment was put as a substantive motion and passed.
I suggest it is only right to the Press and public that we should give definite times and state the limit of the private session so that they may be facilitated.
I propose that we take the private session this afternoon and that we go into public session at 11 o'clock in the morning. This means that we continue the meeting this afternoon, and we meet to-morrow for the sole question of ratification.
I suggest it would save trouble to retire now, if we adjourn until the afternoon session.
I suggest we keep on until 2 o'clock. We probably could dispose of the points of difference in an hour. If not we can meet again at 3.30. I propose we should meet in private session until 2 o'clock and if not finished then we shall resume at 3.30, and that when we meet to-morrow morning at 11 o'clock we shall take the motion on the question of ratification.
This concluded the public sitting.