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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 8 Jun 1922

Vol. S2 No. 15


The next item is—Tuairisg an gCoiste Speisialta ar Fhine Ghaedheal (Report of Special Committee on Fhine Ghaedheal). It is suggested that this report should be postponed for a month or six weeks. It is possible some contentious matters may arise and the money could not be made available. I suggest, with the approval of the Minister, that that matter should be left over for some time.

I do not think that is fair at all. This vote for £5,000 is a loan for the organisation of the Fhine Ghaedheal. A committee was set up by Dáil Éireann to report. They report here before you. When I proposed it, formally, I was not aware that it was not in order for a private member to propose that. At that time the matter was postponed, because of the necessity of getting a report on the congress in Paris. That report was here and I think it justified the position I took up in asking for that vote. By the Standing Orders I am ruled out. I cannot propose it. But I protest against the Ministry withholding money for such a purpose, particularly as it was definitely a loan and there was no question as to whether it would come back. It was to enable the organisation to get on its feet, and it meant that it was a saving of expenditure. I am not quite sure of the exact sum. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will tell us how much it cost the Dáil to promote the last congress. If you do not give a loan you will allow the money to go waste, and I wish to protest absolutely against this.

I see no objection whatever to the motion being taken now. The question of the money is different. I think it would meet the case if the report were read now and the proposal I would make is that the question of finances be dealt with by the next Dáil which would be in a much better position to deal with it. The question of finance is slightly different. Therefore, I propose to hand in the report which has been handed to me by the Committee.

I suggest, before bringing forward this report, that the Dáil would put a Deputy Ceann Comhairle in the Chair. The members of the Dáil are aware that I have been more or less in a controversial way associated with this matter.

I do not think it is a bit contentious.

There is one correction, at all events, that I want to make.

I think it is much better in the long run to postpone it. Will you take a show of hands on postponing it?

I am interested in two sides of it. I am interested in the report itself, if there is to be a discussion on it, and I am immediately interested in what gave rise to it; that is that the sum of £5,000 be available.


It was with a view of settling that that I moved that it be postponed.

Ní doigh liom gur cheart an rud sin i dtaobh an airgead a thabhairt isteach in aon chor. I want to know whether there is any rule that any member outside the Cabinet cannot move a matter of this kind. I do not think there is any such rule.

Yes, there is —Rule 14b.

Yes. That rule says: "Money resolutions may only be moved by a member of the Ministry."

Was not that rule broken at the meeting where Deputy Walsh asked for the money?

On the previous occasion I moved the vote and Mr. de Valera seconded it.

I do not think I was in the Chair then. But one breach of the rule is no reason why there should be other breaches.

This association has been a while in existence and it is wanting the money and we should know as well now as in a month's time whether the money should be granted. After what has happened during the last week I think we should agree to it.

I agree with that. I did not agree with what happened in Paris. It was an unfortunate thing that Mr. de Valera's Party rather tried to utilise this movement.

There is no motion before us at all at present.

Well I have a right to urge that this money be voted.

There is no motion before us.

You should have raised that point earlier, when the previous speaker introduced it, not now.

I submit that a motion is not necessary. You have it here on the agenda and unless we are in agreement with it it should be deferred. You have a report here.

Every one of these reports has been formally moved and seconded.

After being read.

Yes, if it is necessary to read it; that is the universal procedure.

Well, I would like to move the adoption of the report. I suppose I can speak now. I do not agree with the method pursued in Paris, with a view to capturing the organisation, because at that time feeling did prevail. It helped to destroy the movement for cementing the Irish race. At the same time there were many things that we would like to repeat. If I had an opportunity of speaking in Paris I would have made it clear that I resented a political organisation on the other side which happened to take the view of the matter in a narrow sense. An open big view should have been taken rather than a narrow political view and I still feel and I still believe and those who think like me politically have come to the fixed conclusion that their side is not properly represented, and I see no reason why Mr. de Valera and Mr. Collins should not arrive at some conclusion which would bring about an equality, or a satisfactory government for this movement. It is very necessary for our race. Nobody would deny that and nobody wants to be partial or political. And I think we should have common sense enough now when we have pacts and agreements to come to a simple agreement on a matter of this kind. You are going to get nothing by shelving it or keeping it a political organisation for one Party. You can get a lot of money by a movement of the whole people.

I should like to second the adoption of this report, because I want to say a word on it before it becomes contentious. First we handed to the committee that went into it an enormous mass of evidence. They gave a great deal of time to it. The report that they have presented is one with which, so far as it goes and so far as it is unanimous the Government need not quarrel at all. The difference is very small. Most members here are completely out of touch with the business. With your permission I will read the report for you.


"Report by Committee appointed as result of motion by Eamon de Valera for a vote of £5,000 as loan to Fhine Ghaedheal.

"Present.—Dr. P.M. Cartan, S. Dwyer, C. Collins, R. Barton.

"Terms of Reference.—That pending the consideration of the motion by Mr. de Valera for £5,000 for Fhine Gaedheal a committee of two from each side examine the reports under an agreed Chairman, so that a report be presented to the next meeting of this House.

"The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of Dublin kindly consented to act as agreed Chairman.

"Report.—The World Congress of the Irish Race met in Paris on Jan. 20th, and concluded on January 27th, 1922.

"It set up a permanent organisation known as the Fhine Ghaedhail with the following objects:—

"1. To assist the people of Ireland to attain to the full their National ideals, political, cultural, and economic, and to secure for Ireland her rightful place among the free nations of the earth.

"To foster among people of the Irish Race throughout the world knowledge of the Irish language, literature, history and general culture.

"3. To promote the Commerce, Trade and Industries of Ireland.

"The congress was not as fully representative of the Irish Race throughout world as had been intended.

"Of the sixty American Delegates only six attended and no delegate attended from the Self Determination League of Canada. Their abstention was due to the new situation in Ireland. We consider that had the Congress been fully representative of the Irish Race it could have produced a constitution with more laudable objects.

"Examination of Reports.—We have examined the reports submitted to us by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and have called for others wherever we deemed the same to be useful to our examination.

"We find that:

"1. There was an expression of partisan views on each side and that such expression was inevitable in the circumstances prevailing.

"2. That the entire congress was unanimous in the resolutions passed concerning the foundation, aims, objects, programme, powers, and membership of the Council of the Fhine Ghaedhail.

"3. In some of the reports Mr. de Valera is charged with breach of faith in supporting the election of Mr. R. O'Brennan as Secretary of the Fhine Ghaedhail.

"The committee agree that Mr. de Valera did support the election of Mr. O'Brennan and see no breach of faith in the act.

"(4) The credentials committee alone were responsible for the admission of delegates to the congress. This committee was equally representative of both parties.

"(5) Dr. M'Cartan, Messrs. Collins and Barton consider that temporary accommodation by way of a loan should be made to the organisation. Mr. Dwyer dissents.

"(We are not informed what are the views of the Lord Mayor).

"(Signed) Laurence O'Neill, Conchubhair O Coileáin, Riobard Bartun, Padraic Mac Artain, Seumus O Duibhir."

continuing said: The committee have not reported upon a matter which would have been of much importance, that is the defects charged against the present organisation, the suggestion that it was not worthy of confidence, and I think it would be necessary to refer the matter back to the committee for a further report. As things have turned out, we are now on the eve of a coalition Ministry and in these circumstances I do not think there should be any difficulty in adjusting this matter. The reason I ask the Dáil to take a serious view of it and not to treat it lightly was expressed by Mr. de Valera when he first opened this matter and showed the importance of it. I am quoting from the Independent of 3rd March, 1922, when he said:

"When that became a contentious question between representatives from Ireland he repeated that that was Party gone mad."

Now I concur in what Mr. de Valera said in saying it is of great importance to us and to the proper development of the influence of the Irish race abroad that this organisation should be developed to the full, and that it ought to get the support of the Government. But it would be obvious to everyone that if it is to get the Government's support the Government must be satisfied that it is being properly conducted and any charges made that it is carrying out other objects must be sufficiently disproved to satisfy the Government that it is justified in supporting it. In the particular circumstances with the Coalition Government coming into power the matter could be very simply arranged. The Government could advance this money, and it should also of course know, before the money is voted by some kind of an estimate what the money is for.

I remember the Deputy for Waterford was very eloquent upon that subject the last time. Our information is very inadequate indeed. The next assembly of this congress will not be held until 1925, and I think if at the next meeting, after the elections, if a motion were brought up with an estimate showing how much was wanted in the immediate future, and with the proposal associating the Government in some way with the organisation, there should be no difficulty at all in the association getting such support as it may need. But in the circumstances I suggest this to the other side, that it would be better to defer the actual matter of a money vote. I, for one, am anxious that we should do all we can to remove the stigma under which this association lies amongst certain of our countrymen overseas, at the present moment, because it will do no good unless you satisfy the overseas delegates that the association has the support of both the principal Parties in this country, irrespective of Party. You are up against this fact that, rightly or wrongly, and as charges and counter-charges have been made publicly, rightly or wrongly, a certain number of delegates repressenting Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand and the Argentine have gone away with an unfavourable impression of this association and have reported unfavourably to their people at home. If this association is to get a chance those people should be reassured, and until we have composed our differences at home and stood by the association by the joining hands of both Parties so that the association would seem to be supported by the Government they will not be reassured. I think it will be agreed if you leave that to a Coalition Government you would give the necessary assurances to Irishmen overseas.

Just a few words. I am against altogether the idea that underlies this suggestion. I am against any Government representation on the governing body of that association. It is autonomous, it is not run by the Government of this country, and it would be bad if it were. It was made up of representatives of the race from all parts of the world. Because of the circumstances it was not as full a meeting as we thought to have. But I am directly against any representation of the Government on that, because it would lose its principal value, because it would be said that the Government of Ireland was dictating to the citizens of other countries, and I am against that. Now it was said that charges were not made publicly. They were made publicly. They were made by rumour and in the Press, and every one of these charges was false. I defy the committee to bring forward any bit of definite evidence to substantiate these charges. The Committee's report is that there was a definite expression of partisan views on both sides. I daresay it was impossible for any representatives for Ireland at that time to speak anything except what was in their minds, and if it had a reflex of that sort it was natural. That was the suggestion, that there was a definite effort made by one side here to capture that association. The Minister for Foreign Affairs wrote me a statement and he says he agrees with it. To prove that it was not partisan, my attitude was that we were to direct the parties, that we were not to get success by the balance of parties, but by ignoring parties. Those who objected to this were looking at the members of the Committee in a partisan manner, instead of looking on them as they have been elected for reasons quite other than party reasons. I say that those who have been responsible for spreading these charges ought to have brought forward evidence. The best evidence of my personal attitude is the full transcript of the proceedings. Practically every thing I said is in these minutes, and I stayed at the meetings the whole time; I had no time for lobbying. I do not think that this association ought to get direct Government support. The Government in giving an opportunity for the Congress to meet and giving an opportunity which I had wished for in getting the loan of the executive work of the organisation to start has done what the Government ought to do, and I think that the Government, Coalition or any other Government, ought to retire from the business the moment that is done. If it is valuable at all it will be valuable because of its work as an autonomous self-supporting organisation. Just as the proposed Tailteann Games will be able to support themselves, so just this association will be able to support itself. In asking for it I simply wanted to see that the money spent by the Dáil in bringing about this Congress will not be wasted by failure to complete the work that has been done. I would feel as much justified in voting against or in opposing an extra £5,000 that was asked for here in order to bring to completion the work of the Tailteann Games Committee as I would be in opposing the £5,000 loan to this, and it is the same attitude I would take up towards both. I do hope that the Ministry will consider this matter, and will not keep the association waiting, that it will give definite "yes" or "no" and then let the association depend upon its own efforts. We prefer to know definitely if this vote is given now than to postpone it for another month.

The less we have about these reports the better and I think it is better to stop the debate as quickly as possible because it is not going to make for progress. I agree with Mr. de Valera that the Government should not be represented upon the governing body of the association, because that makes the Government responsible for every act of that organisation. The Government should not be responsible; the organisation should be free to act as it likes, independent of the Government. I do not care about one side or the other. Between the two it is only a sham difference that exists. When we are up against the common enemy we are united. The men in that organisation worked as much for the interests of Ireland as any other men. If there is a crisis to-morrow we will be all together. The sooner England realises that the better.

I support the Deputy about that. Some of the reports are very long. We reached an agreement on four clauses and we reached 75 per cent. agreement on the fifth. The Lord Mayor who consented to act as Chairman and gave us a great deal of assistance, acted in an independent and impartial capacity; and I might remind the Dáil at the time we reached the agreement, that agreements were not as popular as to-day, and I would ask the Dáil to support the first agreement we reached.

As representative of the 25 per cent.—the dissenting minority—I want to say that I am absolutely at one with every single line in the report and with Mr. de Valera's stand on the question of Government control. That is precisely the reason why I dissented on the matter of the grant. I want to say that exactly Mr. de Valera's attitude is my attitude and I believe the same thing is due to the Tailteann Games. I took up the same attitude on the Tailteann Games.

There is one point on which it is absolutely essential that I should make a brief statement. I will ask the Dáil to put somebody else in the Chair while I am making it.


I move that Liam de Roiste takes the Chair.

Mr. Liam de Roiste then took the Chair.

There is one point that I wish to have definitely cleared up. I was unable to be present when this matter was discussed last in the Dáil. Consequently, I can only rely on the reports of the proceedings. It was reported that one Deputy said that I, as a member of the Committee, or Council, which was elected in Paris, opposed the appointment as Secretary, of Mr. Robert O'Brennan. Well now, I wish to say as plainly as words can say it that that is not so. I did not oppose the election of Mr. Robert O'Brennan. I proposed that under the circumstances another co-Secretary should be joined with Mr. O'Brennan; that was my proposal, not that Mr. O'Brennan should not be appointed Secretary. And that proposal was rejected. Now, I am not going to go into reasons "for" or "against". I am not going to add anything at all to the controversial aspect. What I say now will not be contradicted by any person who knows the facts. With regard to the procedure in Paris, Mr. de Valera has stated his views about them. He thinks one way about those proceedings. I think another way. Beyond that I do not wish to go. I do not wish to say anything to influence the members of the Dáil in one way or another with regard to the merits of the proposal. I simply wish to put the members of the Dáil in possession of the facts, because the third finding of the Committee seemed in some way or another to be based on a mistaken view of what took place.


O tá tú críochnuithe anois tóg an chathoir arís.

Better finish it up now.

As we are discussing this Report, there is one matter I would wish to draw attention to. It says:

"Of the sixty American delegates, only six attended, and no delegate attended from the Self Determination League of Canada."

I was there and I saw a lady who was paid by this Dáil get up and speak as the representative of Canada, and I saw her also vote and I noticed also a number of other people who voted and who had no claim to be representative. I say that this matter relating to the Credentials Committee is an important matter, and I hope we will have an opportunity of discussing that side of it before it comes to voting any money.

That was one of the things that was very definitely investigated, that whole question of credentials and the right to vote. The lady who spoke—I do not know whether she spoke or voted as a representative of Canada—was the lady who organised the Self Determination League in Canada; she was elected as representative of one of the provinces, and having done the work there undertook to help in organising a similar League in Australia. She was one of the Secretaries of the Organisation.

The delegates to the conference were admitted by the Credentials Committee, representative of both sides of this House. Therefore, we assume that their opinions were unanimous. Whether justified or not in voting we cannot say, but the Credentials Committee is what we have to go on.

This statement in the report says that there was no delegate from Canada. I saw a delegate at that Congress speak as a representative of the people of Canada.

The lady did represent Canada indirectly. Whether she was appointed as such I cannot say. I do not know if she voted. However, from the start there was a Credentials Committee appointed; nobody got in unless they were passed by that Credentials Committee, and on that Credentials Committee there were not merely representatives of Australia and of the other countries but also representatives from both sides of this Dáil.

I support the Minister for Foreign Affairs in saying that, this should be referred to the next meeting of the Dáil. If the proposal that a grant be made now could be carried unanimously we would all be satisfied. But if the vote is taken now it will be a Party vote, because the very ugly spirit which was in evidence in Paris was imported into this meeting to-day when there should be a new spirit. The objection put forward to the postponement is grounded on the view that the grant is wanted at once, or that a vote should be taken at once so as to have it one way or the other.

There is no question of voting money before you now; you are dealing with the report. It is only a question of this report.

Mr. de Valera's objection to the grant is founded on the view that the Government should have no control over the Committee. That view can be put before the Coalition Government, and it is very difficult to call upon this present Government to make a grant when they are not satisfied with the arrangements. I think everything would be gained by postponing it until we have a Coalition Government, when the matter can be approached in the spirit of the Pact; whereas we are discussing it at present in the spirit of Paris, which is a deplorable spirit.

I think that instead of postponing this matter it would be much better to clear it up now, and that the Minister for Finance should do in the case of this grant what he did in the case of the grant suggested by Mr. Walsh. There is no reason whatever why this matter should be carried on any longer. The report is a fair one. There were partisan views expressed, as was only natural, and the hottest discussion in Paris centred round a few simple looking words. They agreed in the report of the Association to assist the people of Ireland to attain to the full their national ideals of political and economic equality. It is absolutely impossible to avoid a partisan discussion over that thing, and I think that those of us who stood for the maintenance of the Republic, and who wanted that to go abroad, were very mild indeed in our demand to have these words inserted so as to safeguard our position, and they could hurt nobody. The words here are: "The congress was not as fully representative of the Irish race throughout the world as had been intended." There were distinct views expressed on both sides, as was natural, and the report is a fair report; and I maintain that the postponement of this matter to the Coalition Government does not tend for peace. It might be settled up here now quite easily and there is no reason why even the money part of it should be postponed for a month. There was an irregularity in proposing that the money should be spent, but there was also an irregularity in proposing that the £5,000 should be granted to the Tailteann Games. It is curious that the irregularity was not noticed when that matter was discussed. At the same time, I think it would tend for peace and be only fair and just if the Ministry would now vote that money for an association which eminently deserves it, and for which they can bring forward no fair reason to refuse it.

Another point is made of what Mr. de Valera has suggested; that is as to the Government having representation on it. But I am astonished at the Minister for Foreign Affairs ever suggesting such a thing; if he took himself seriously he would never dream of making such a suggestion. If he took himself seriously he would not say that the Association should be controlled by the Irish Government, and still have control of foreigners. What foreign Government would tolerate that?

They have often tolerated it.

I know the English do it in the Rotary Clubs, but they are too clever; they do not go there as members of the English Government. If that matter was cleared up and dealt with to-day, and if the Minister for Finance would suggest to the House that this money should be paid, and not carry it on for another month, it would tend to peace; and I suggest to the House that it would be advisable to finish this matter here and now instead of carrying it on to another Government.

I quite agree that we should finish up this matter. On a former occasion we had the assurance of the Minister for Finance that on the Committee reporting on this matter he would finish up the business. If we had to go into it again we would be only stirring up Party feeling which would do neither ourselves nor the country good. If there was ever a time when we wanted a united Irish nation this is the time. We have enemies at home and abroad, and I agree with Dr. McCartan that we should not make this a controversial matter. My contention is that this Fine Gaedheal should be run independent of any Government in this country, and it would be a fatal mistake at the present time if we were to postpone it. I think it would be only causing disappointment. I hope we will do so and throw away all Party spirit, whatever difference of opinion there may be about it, and I hope that as Irishmen we will settle this, and I hope the Minister for Finance will agree.

I seem to have been singularly misunderstood. I proposed that the report be adopted now. There is no question of Government control. The suggestion was that in view of the fact that on this Committee of the Fine Gaedheal there are six people representing one view of politics, and one representing the other—that there should be some persons connected with it who would be persons directly representing the Government. Secondly, that £6,000 of Dáil money has been already spent in this matter, and therefore is must be treated as a national matter, and not as a Party matter. And lastly that when it is asking that £5,000 should be advanced for an Association which does not propose to hold its next convention until 1925, we should have a proper estimate of the money asked for, and that it should be enough to cover the present year. I think it would be more in harmony with the spirit in which I tried to meet this thing if the matter was treated not in the way of putting to the Government an ultimatum but if something were done to have the view that we put forward embodied in the report.

I move that the question be now put, and then we can discuss this matter on a question of finance.

You have in mind the inaccurate statements made by the Press who do not understand what is at issue. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is after making a very inaccurate statement just now—that the members represented one side of politics. There were three members of that Committee who were elected unanimously. I was one, as Chairman; Dr. McNeill, as Vice-Chairman, and Dr. Irwin as Treasurer. These were the only three from Ireland. The others were elected by the representatives of the Associations of several countries. The other members are not in any sense immediately interested in our politics here, and I think it is most unfair, in view of the circumstances, to speak of it as representing one side in politics. The three I have mentioned were chosen unanimously by the whole conference. Dr. McNeill was chosen, I daresay, to represent one side and I represent the other. Then again, about asking for an estimate, we are not asking you to give us a grant. If it were a grant it would be natural to have an estimate. What we are asking you, on the credit of the Association, is to loan us £5,000 to complete the work on which you have already spent £6,000.

I was trying to quote from the statement made by Mr. de Valera. I was not making a complaint, but I am stating a fact. It is true that only one member had the same view as the present majority in Dáil Éireann.

I made the suggestion that it should be postponed for a month, and everything said since has convinced me that that would have been the right and proper thing to do.

It is due to me to say that I am in no way responsible for holding up any money. It is not for me to say whether this money should be given or not. It is for the Dáil to say that. There are two distinct matters. One is this report to which I take only ordinary exception. The other is an estimate for £5,000, and I thought we had arranged in order to avoid contention that this matter should be left over for the moment. I take only ordinary exception to this report. I do not think it is worth while to vote for or against it. I would have something to say if this vote for £5,000 came up, and every member should have a right to express his opinion. I suggest that we should let this report go through, and that the estimate for £5,000 be dealt with in the ordinary way. I would like to give my opinions of the Irish Race Convention and I would like to give them not only to this House but to the people generally.

There is no exception taken to the report being put and passed.

Is there any objection to the adoption of the report of the Committee? ("No.").

I declare the report carried.

Gabhaim pardun agat anois. Ní maith liom a radh gur cuireadh staincín ar aoinne. Surely it is in order, without notice, to move that that £5,000 loan be given. According to the Standing Orders it must be a member of the Ministry who should put such a motion, but the Standing Orders can be suspended by either ten or twenty Deputies assenting. Is not that so?

No; the Orders of the Day, not the Standing Orders.

In order to have it discussed, some motion should be put before the House. I take it, therefore, that it would be necessary that notice of motion be handed in this evening, and it will be dealt with to-morrow.

The proposal was to adjourn this evening.

The question of the loan has been settled by the adoption of the report. Here is the last paragraph in the report: "Dr. McCartan, Messrs. Collins and Barton consider that temporary accommodation by way of a loan should be made to the Organisation. Dr. Dwyer dissents." Now this report has been unanimously adopted by this body.

It was distinctly understood that the £5,000 was not included. It was agreed last night between Harry Boland and myself that such an arrangement had been made.

I did not know that. If I did I would not have pressed the matter.

I distinctly stated that the report be put, quite apart from the loan.

Beidh sé os ár gcómhair amáireach.

You can do that.

When will this question of the loan be brought up next? This looks very much like sharp practice.

I will have to make a personal explanation if this continues. This report originated out of the charges and counter-charges, when this House was in bad temper. Charges were made about my action in Paris. I made an appointment with the Minister for Finance last night and in discussing this affair I thought this report might very well be left aside. My opinion is that this Association is able to finance itself. I would not put the Dáil to the compliment of doing it.

The matter having been disposed of Professor McNeill resumed Chair.