I dislike very much being a person who has to go back to a little history, particularly as I feel so grateful for those indications of the various assurances that we have got from what we call different groups in the Dáil that they are definitely going to see that the Treaty is secured, and that on that particular point this Parliament, as fully representing all people, is simply one great group. There are one or two points that I have to go back to. I hope that I can go back to them without prejudice and without being any great drawback to the fact that we have to get forward quickly, realising without any great delay that we are in a dangerous situation. The point has been raised that a very considerable amount of responsibility lies on the people who split the Army, and Just in connection with that particular point it perhaps is worth saying what the policy of the Government with regard to the Army was after the passing of the Treaty, and after the setting up of a Ministry committed to seeing that Treaty through. Differences arose in the Army. Hot-headed men wanted to pull this way and that way and the other way, and the great solidarity that was in the Army up to that particular point was imperilled. This is the attitude that as Minister for Defence at the time I put forward to them, and I think that it certainly represented the attitude that the whole Government adopted towards the Army, although they might consider as I express the policy now that it was finessing a little too much with honour. The position was that the English were clearing out of this country. They were evacuating their barracks. We had an opportunity of coming from those camps in the country, and little corners in the hills where during the period of truce we trained for any danger which may again, come over the country. We had a chance of leaving those places and coming into proper military barracks, strengthening ourselves within the greater and more ordered association we could have got in these barracks, arming ourselves in the way in which we were in a position to arm ourselves, and finding ourselves, if we got any particular length of time in these places, very much better militarily equipped and very much better militarily orgianized than we were at any time, even at any time after the period of truce training which we made such full use of. The Army was appealed to not to raise questions on which we could split in this particular atmosphere; to wait until there is something definite to decide for or against; to wait until the Constitution is definitely produced, as it will be in 3 or 4 months, then when you see the actual fact of the Constitution, then you have something before you, something on which you can say "We will not have this," or "Under all circumstances we will have this." Keeping that policy before you you will arrive at a particular position with a strength that will be a very great strength, and with heads that will be clearer. If there is any head or number of heads clear enough, and a number of hearts strong enough to say there are the elements of dishonour in that Constitution and we will not have them, then you will have with you as much military strength as you have in this war, and if there is a voice strong enough to speak they will have a weapon, if they speak straight and strong and clear. It may be said that that is finessing with honour, but I was perfectly satisfied that the situation was not, a military situation alone. I was perfectly satisfied that given months to face the circumstances and face the position—I was satisfied that those who had led the Army would not be blind or mad enough to say, no matter what better military position they were in, "We will not have this Constitution, which can and should be got out of that Treaty, and we will put the people to war," and I felt absolutely justified that the putting of that policy before the Army was correct, and if men split the Army it was men who took a different attitude. If men could toke a more reasonable attitude, well then, let us hear what that attitude could have been. The point then is raised that we entered into those conversations taken place between what became two different sets of the Army, and naturally it was wanted to he known what transpired at these meetings. The President in a statement read a document which it is worth reading again in this connection. It was the final note, let us say, on which these negotiations broke down. The following memorandum was handed to the Minister of Defence on Thursday, the 15th June, by Mr. Rory O'Connor and Mr. Ernest O Maillie:—
RESOLUTION PASSED AT EXECUTIVE MEETING HELD 14TH JUNE, 1922.
That we instruct the Officers deputed to meet the Beggar's Bush Officers to inform them that:
For the purpose of maintaining the Irish Republic, the Executive has decided that:
(a) Negotiations on Army unification with Beggar's Bush must cease.
(b) We take whatever action may be necessary to maintain the Republic against British aggression.
(c) No offensive will be taken by our troops against the Beggar's Bush forces.
Now the question arose as to what was the general position on the day on which that Notice was served after the final breaking off of negotiations by the Four Courts people. Generally, the position with regard to the Army and the results and endeavours to bring about unification therein, were that five members agreed out of seven (this Army Council consiste of seven members). The Army were in favour of the unification indicated in the following memorandum. Now I will read the memorandum first before I will comment on it. There were first general points of agreement, and with regard to these general points of agreement let me say that the document which formed the basis of them and became this memorandum with very little changes, was a document prepared by Commandant Sean Moylan. And it was so very difficult to get something in writing from the other side, that, personally, I gripped very much on to it. We went over it word for word and made a few changes, and in order to have something of agreement we agreed on these as general points of agreement:—
1. All ranks and positions to be as on 1st December, 1921, except where objection is held to any appointment on the grounds of:
(b) The Officer being so unacceptable to his Command that he cannot reasonably be expected to make a success of it.
(c) Re-organisation proposals.
(d) Bad record.
Special cases and appeals to be gone into by the Director of Organisation and recommendations submitted to the Staff.
2. Ex-soldiers of other armies to be employed ordinarily only in the training or advisory capacity; only those whose record and character stand scrutiny to be so employed (this rule not to apply to men who fought with us).
3. Re-organisation Staff to be appointed under L.L. as D.C.S. to re-organise the Army, with instructions that all inefficient officers be dispensed with.
4. Divisions shall be recruited and controlled locally.
5. APPOINTMENTS. Promotions shall he based on War record, personal character and ability, and individual records be compiled forthwith under a scheme to be outlined by G.H.Q. Staff.
6. No man to be victimised because of honest political views.
7. The Army ideal to be looked for shall be the training militarily of the youth of Ireland. All men of military age to have an opportunity to be trained as soldiers. The standing Army to be as small as possible.
8. The training syllabus shall be drafted as much with a view to giving men a Gaelic outlook as to making them efficient soldiers. A mercenary Army must be avoided.
9. Members of the Army shall not ordinarily be concerned with the maintenance of law and order, except in so far as all good citizens should be.
10. The Committee engaged in finding a settlement basis must take cognisance of the fact that an extremely bitter feeling obtains between both sides in many areas, and that it may be found impossible to get either side to work under the Command of Officers from the other side. This may be got over by drafting in Officers native to the area who are at present serving in other districts.
11. In some. of the much-disturbed districts, there seems to be no Volunteer organisation. An effort should be made at once to get a number of men from these districts into barracks for a severe course of training. Those elements which make disorder might, if properly handled, develop into first-class Volunteers.
These, as I say, were the general points on agreement, and they indicated something of what was in the minds of both sides. The next are general Army proposals submitted by us to the Four Courts people. They are:—
1. With regard to the Army, a periodical Convention to elect an Army Council of say, 7.
2. Both the Minister for Defence who shall be appointed in the ordinary way by the Government, and the Chief of Staff, who shall be appointed by the Minister for Defence, shall require the approval by a majority vote of the Army Council.
3. Each member of the Army Council to full-time senior military appointments. attached to G.H.Q. Staff or to be O/C's of a Division.
4. After a certain period when our Military Schools of Instruction have been properly set up, no person to be eligible for election to a membership of the Army Council without possession of certain defined military and general educational qualifications.
5. All appointments to commissioned ranks shall be recommended by the Chief of Staff and confirmed by the Minister for Defence.
6. Divisional areas to be enlarged and number of Divisions reduced. Both troops in barracks and ordinary Volunteer units to come under the Divisional Command, with the exception of the Curragh Training Establishment, or any of its adjuncts.
And immediate proposals with regard to the control of the Army were to create an Army Council, an agreed Army Council, to be composed of R. J. Mulcahy, E. O'Duffy, G.O'Sullivan, F. O'Donoghue, Liam Lynch, Sean Moylan, Liam Mellowes, and Rory O'Connor. That was the temporary Army Council. The Chief Executive Officers of the G.H.Q. Staff were:
Chief of Staff D.C.S (in charge of organisation)
E. O'Duffy. Liam Lynch,
D.C.S. (in charge of Training).
Director of Intelligence.
A Convention to be held when the Director of Organisation has satisfied the Staff that the re-organisation of the Army is fairly satisfactorily complete, that is, that a fairly stable condition has been restored in the Army.
Now I would not recommend to any new Government setting up as a new State to organise its Army on these lines, but considering the circumstances in which we were and considering what we were faced with and to get agreement with men who wanted to set up a dictatorship, we allowed ourselves to be dragged from what would be the line of organisation of an Army properly subject to Government to lines that would not commend themselves to us if we were not forced by pressure that wa.s brought to bear on us. Now on the general agreement five out of the seven—five of the seven on the Army Council agreed to that. The Army Council as I have indicated had agreed at once. One of the eight, F. O'Donoghue, hadn't acted as a member of the Army Council up to this time, and his name being added to the five it would mean that six out of eight would have agreed to these proposals. They came before the Executive meeting that was held on the 14th June and were turned down for this reason—that the remaining two members of this Council and I take it some following in the Executive and in the Convention decided that the man who would be placed in charge in complete Executive control of the Army from the Military point of view would be a man who had a very short time before recommended the idea of a dictatorship. And that it should be introduced gradually and that he was out for the suppression of the press at once and for the stopping of elections and that that could be done before anything about it would leak out ; and the man also who time after time had assured us in very close and intimate conversation that he would not allow the Treaty to be worked. Now whatever affection we might have for this man due to our long association with him and due to our appreciation of his very sterling character, as people with responsibility placed on us before the people and as people in the eyes of the English people with whom we had made a pact as a Government we could not possibly have turned round in the condition that existed and put as Chief head of the Army a man who had publicly taken up that stand and we could not recommend it to the Government and in accepting or going as far as those documents show we were going to go, the Government at the time with very many misgivings on their part simply gave in to myself and the late Commander-in-Chief as knowing more perhaps about the people we were dealing with and as having more influence with them than the average person might have. As a matter of fact we were dealing with little bits of mercury that slipped to this side and that side whenever we came to anything like grips with them. Following immediately on the result of that breakdown I addressed a letter in answer to a letter in which I stated that on the matter of the general proposals—" We have gone into this matter as far as it is possible to go. The extent to which we have gone has been dictated by the wish to realise that those to whom we are making proposals do not fall short of those we represent either in ability or patriotism, and these proposals have been inspired by a hope that we would be met in a spirit not less generous than our own: our proposals go beyond what I personally would consider we were entitled to go to in the absence of such a spirit and considering the very great national responsibility that rests upon us. Responsibility for dealing further with the situation must now be left to the Coalition Government which is being formed." Before the new Government was being formed and before Parliament met on the following Saturday the Government took action against the people in the Four Courts and they took action against them because a coup was meditated and because as far as it was possible for human people to foresee, we foresaw that if we didn't take the move we did, that this Parliament would never meet. It has been stated that the Executive people planned an attack against the English. Well this is the document in the handwriting of one of the members of the Executive, and it reads: "that this Executive Council of the I.R.A. hereby decide that as in our opinion the only means of maintaining the Republic is by giving the English seventy-two hours notice to evacuate the country, in view of this fact we hereby decide that the G.H.Q. of the Army Council be directed to carry out the suggestions contained in the sub-committee's report."
This report is headed "Report of the Executive Sub-Committee." and reads: "In accordance with the decision of the Executive requesting a report on the general situation as affected by the impending war with the English forces in the country, we wish to place the following statistics and suggestions before the Executive under the following headings." And then follow detailed accounts of the comparative strength of the British and Irish forces. And then we find in this document under the heading of "Activities in the twenty-six Counties.""The destruction of all barracks occupied by our troops, the attacking of present port positions held by English troops. The striking at English forces should be made whenever possible in areas where pro-Treaty troops occupy so that they may be brought into collision with English troops. The clearing out of the English Government Officials (Dublin Castle, etc.); the immediate resumption of hostilities in England, especially against English General Staff and members of the Cabinet; reprisals in England for shelling."
And then it says about activities in the six county area, "Boycott, destruction of warehouses, activities against Orange Lodges; as much activity against the English as possible, but we do not suggest sending any reinforcements from Southern Ireland inasmuch as the strength of our forces will not allow it."
These particular documents were not in our hands when we took the decision we did. But that general information was in our hands and with that information in our hands and a raid for a large number of motor cars being made in a firm here in Dublin, the Government decided that the Four Courts were to be preceded against, and that decision was practically taken, if not formerly taken— it was taken before General O'Connell was arrested on the same night. Those of us who were responsible for the position, we simply feel that we were justified in it, and that we could not have run the risk which, allowing the people in the Four Courts to move against the British, would have run us into. Now that is past history, and whatever be the details here and there on one side or another, that history developed has placed this particular Parliament in a particular situation. The question has been put to the Executive as to what the Government's intentions are with regard to the war, and we have been asked is there any way in which a word may be uttered from the Ministerial Benches that would give some kind of hope to the country that nothing less than grinding into the dust is going to satisfy the powers that be. Now, there are certain essentials for peace in this country, and the first in my mind is that some body of people representing the people be allowed to work the Treaty, and the next that they be allowed to work it with the best Constitution that they can get under it. The third, that the sword must not be again thrown into the situation by anybody with a view to imposing thereby a demand to mould any particular Clause in the Constitution into any particular form against the expressed word of this Parliament. The fourth, that opposition to the Government working the Constitution framed in accordance with the Treaty must be confined to Constitutional lines. The fifth, that the Army must be the people's Army and responsible absolutely to the National Government. The sixth, that the Government shall control by its regulations all the arms held in the country. Now there are details of to-day and to-morrow that you might have difficulties about, but if you get accepted generally throughout the country, and if you have no body of people to challenge in arms any one of these six points, then you can have peace in the country and you can settle all other details in time at any rate. Now my information is that certain points of these are not unchallenged in the country by force of arms, and I have gone as deeply and as closely into the matter as it has been possible to go and here is the attitude that I find. There is opposition to these fundamental principles by three classes who are for the moment all in one hole. They are composed of people who may be classed as politicians; people who may be classed as honest soldiers, and people who may be classed as criminals. Honest soldiers have been misled. And honest soldiers are waiting for a word from the politicians that they are travelling the wrong road and the politicians are in this particular frame of mind: "We signed a pact with those who support the Treaty, and we signed it in order to avoid a terrible state of things. We were led into the signing of that pact by the light of reason and in signing it we bowed our head in the light of reason." But men of faith arose and men of faith took action, and they dropped their hands to their sides and they said to themselves through pure lack of moral courage, "After all perhaps it is better to be led by faith than by reason." Now, that is the attitude of the politicians of to-day to whom the soldiers look, and with that attitude of the politicians and with the soldiers soldiers, and with the criminals criminals, everyone of these six points which I mentioned as the fundamentals for peace in this country are challenged by force of arms. That, I say, is my interpretation of the situation, and if there is any group in this Dáil or any single person in this Dáil who says that that interpretation is, perhaps, wrong, well then they have to go to the people who can authoritatively state that that attitude is otherwise, and if they do go there and if they do bring a statement that the attitude is otherwise. well then, there is nobody who will welcome that statement more than I, or more than the Government here shall welcome it. And failing a statement to that effect, the work that is before the Government is to vindicate this authority and to stand absolutely by its authority in establishing those principles, because if we weaken in any one of these to-day, well then all the safety for the country, all the stability for the country is gone.
These points are absolutely necessary to any long-established Government, and much more is it necessary that we will have them absolutely secured to us here while we carve out the foundations of this new State of ours. I do not want at this moment to go into details of how the armed force that is opposed to us on these principles is to be met. But it is to be met vigorously, and it is to be met in a formal and legal manner, as legal as possible, but it has to be met, and whatever squeamishness we may have about taking life, we can't be squeamish with people who jeopardise the life of every single person in this country. If we can get rid of that armed force without taking life, if we can capture those people and put them into jails, we shall endeavour by every means in our power to do it, but we can't have any soft feeling in our hearts when we have to oppose that force—a force that threatens the whole life, the whole safety of our Nation.
As I say, feeling the temper of this Dáil, and being grateful for it, I dislike very much to have to go over the past, and I prefer to look forward to the future because I am perfectly satisfied that this Dáil will go forward immediately, and constructively, to the future. The point has been raised as to who is responsible at the moment, and who will be responsible in the immediate future, for keeping order in this country. Now, over the greater portion of this country at the present moment the army must be responsible for keeping order, because there is no other force there, and no other organisation there, to do it. And there is no use in challenging the army and saying that because the army is called upon to deal with law and order in any particular area, and because it does its work there in the only way in which an army can do it—there is no use in saying that is militarism, and that this is the army butting in. Any Deputy of the first Dail at any rate, and perhaps the second Dáil, will remember there were no people in this Assembly who more insisted upon the fact that the Civil Administration must take its proper place in the country, than were those who were prominent Army Officers or had authority for the administration of the army on their shoulders. And we had a very rough passage there. And if there were weaknesses in the Government that brought about a division at the time when the Treaty came, some of these weaknesses were attributable to the fact that some people responsible for the civil side were not in sympathy with the people responsible for the army side, because the army side did not feel that the civil side was working as vigorously or as constructively as it should, and that the army was weakened and the army was exposed because it had to do work that should properly be done by the Civil Administration. And not only that, but that the Civil Administration was weakening itself in the country, and prejudicing itself in the eyes of the enemy, because these people who were carrying out civil administration could not show that their hands were free from military activities. We stand for the supremacy of the civil power of the Government, and when we speak of indiscipline in the army, and cases of it crop up, I ask for some sympathetic realisation of what the position of the army is at the present moment. We have men carrying out very difficult military operations, up to their eyes in all these difficulties that arise around them, because of lack of civil administration at the present time. They have no great experience in the management of military affairs, or in the management of civil affairs, and no great sense of the tactful touch that is required, or that is only gained by experience in an authority dealing with the people. And if any young men in the army brush up against individuals here and there in a rough or in an untactful way, well it is a very great credit to the army as a whole, and to the young men of this country who form it, that there is not a greater volume of complaint along that line. We realise the danger of indiscipline in the army. We realise the danger of awkwardness in dealing with public matters on the part of army officers, and the most necessary thing and the biggest factor that will help us in getting rid of all that is to let us see arise in the country some sign of civil administration. Let us see our courts re-arise there again. Let us see our police there and then the army will very soon find its own place. The point has been raised to the Government, as to whether they do not consider that the National position is that the people only accept this Treaty because they must do it, and that they accept it as something short of their ultimate demand. I accept this Treaty as giving us a position short of what I would wish our national position to be; but I accept it as against this state of things we are emerging from. I accept it as giving us a position from which we may work forward to the highest pinnacle of our national dignity and our national honour without that nation-killing irritation between nations that we have suffered from up to the present, and that we have had very sad examples of in Europe. Work! As I say, I would prefer to be dealing with the work of construction. I do not sympathise with the spirit that at this moment puts forward the amendment that has been put to the original resolution. The state of military affairs that exists at the present moment and the split in the army has retarded dealing with the question of unemployment. Now coming to the time when this Treaty was signed and when, if it had been generally accepted, or accepted without any clash of arms in the country, the question of demobilising the men who had been withdrawn from their work over the country for military reasons, the question of the return to their homes of men who, while not on active military work were driven from their homes by military operations—these questions were engaging the attention of the heads of the army, and they thought that they might turn round when their military work was done, and give some small contribution in construction to the country in that spirit of service and co-operation that distinguished them in the army, and that spirit of service and co-operation that Deputy Johnson spoke of on Saturday. We tried to be little schemic in the thoughts or on the lines in which we were working. We proposed to put up one or two things to the Government and I just mention it here now so that if possible I may give some little scrap of constructive thought or constructive idea to those people who want now to face constructive work. I do not like to sit down without giving some small idea. Unemployment is in itself a danger to the country of itself, and it has a very bad effect on the. general development of a proper social organisation. We were going to suggest that from a number of men that would be acting not as a military people but as organised civil workers—the men who had been volunteer officers— that we would offer our services to the Government and put a few suggestions before them. We wanted to point out that you must have some kind of a dam in the country into which you can draft your unemployment in order to deal with the unemployment problem itself, and its effects on the country. There were certain public improvements which were economic improvements, that is, that money expended on them would return to the country in one way or another, and that headings to matter, as they were economic improvements, should be prepared; that the country should be put into zones, and the country treated from the unemployment point of view in zones. There were three particular matters that we thought we might offer our services on in the beginning; these were better roads, drainage and buildings. Now we require better roads in certain parts of this country; we require roads radiating from a certain number of ports in the country, and we require a certain number of trunk roads. We are convinced if roads of a proper type were set up in these districts in which they are wanted the money spent on road-making would be saved to the country in say two or three years, even if the saving only came about in the doing away of the very, very big motor repairs or motor repair bills that fall on traders in this country. Motor transport will be developing in many areas as against railway transport, and if some of the unemployed at the present moment were put working on these trunk roads and radial roads we would be dealing with the unemployment now, and we would be strengthening and enriching the country for the future. As an experiment in draining a small area, we proposed to take some river such as the Abhainn-beg which enters the Blackwater near Fermoy. It had reference to the working of a scheme that the Department of Agriculture had before it a number of years ago and had its engineers on. We proposed to offer ourselves as a gang of drainage workers to drain that particular area, and let the Government and the people profit by that little bit of drainage, and profit by the lesson that we could have taught them. And then housing arises, and we feel that better wages and greater leisure on the part of the workers with bad housing may give rise to as serious a situation of social unrest as bad hours or bad wages. We felt that the housing, tackled in a systematic and big way would be another economic improvement, and that the spending of money on it would not be wasted money. And you need not be careful of the amount of money you would put into it. You do not find in a country two or three or four men thinking in one particular direction, without having groups scattered all over the country thinking practically the same thing, and we hope that those schemes that we bad in mind for utilising the loose-end soldiers of the Anglo-Irish war—we hoped and we do hope that they will make themselves reappear very soon when either the Government has put down this armed challenging of its authority, or somebody has gone and found that what I say about its authority being challenged is not true.