moved "That in the public interest, and pursuant to the declared policy of the Government of upholding the authority of the Dáil, it is the opinion of the Dáil that a measure should be introduced immediately to legalise and control with suitable safeguards such Executive action as may be necessary during the present civil war for curtailing the liberty of the subject;
"That a definite status ought to be accorded to all military and political prisoners taken during the present civil war, with a definite code of rules governing their respective rights and duties, and with definite means of redress for any well-founded complaints by prisoners."
I think the Dáil is to be congratulated on the dignity and good temper with which this matter has been discussed up to now, and with a view to continuing that happy state of affairs I desire to say at once that in raising this somewhat delicate subject I have no intention of saying what would give offence to those who disagree with me, and I ask the Dáil to give me their sympathy, and where they cannot give me their sympathy at least their toleration in the task of championing or appearing to champion the under dog, particularly if you think that the under dog is mad. My concern is far less with the under dog than with his matter, the Irish people, and it is because I am concerned for the dignity of the Irish people that I have thought it necessary to raise this Motion now. I ask the Government to believe that I am not moving in this matter out of any cantankerous desire to cause them difficulty, and I ask the Dáil to believe that I have not been approached by anybody on the anti-Treaty side to bring this matter forward. I mention these matters with some hope of disarming criticism that might otherwise be made. I am bringing this matter forward with a full realisation, a fuller realisation perhaps than many members, of the difficulties of the Government, and particularly of the Minister for Home Affairs, who has the hardest post after that of the Minister for Defence. I am bringing it forward in friendly spirit and not as hostile criticism, because I hope to induce the Government to meet me in the matter in the same spirit as I move this motion, in the spirit in which the other day the Minister for Defence gave that noble speech that we listened to. The matter in question concerns two quite distinct classes of people. You have first the man of war —the fighting man, properly so called, taken in arms and imprisoned. You have secondly the political suspect. I am not particularly concerned with the first class. I suppose nobody will deny that the fighting men taken in arms against the State must be imprisoned. I suppose they themselves would hardly deny it, but at the same time I regret it is done in the wrong way, and that the matter has not hitherto been legalised. I am, however, concerned, deeply concerned, With the case of the political suspect. I want the Dáil to realise the position we have to-day in that matter. The Government, in the exercise of its discretion, have arrested numbers of people, I know not how many, numbers at all events without charge, without any intention of trial, and with the intention of keeping them in prison indefinitely. Now, that may or may not be necessary. I plead guilty to a very strong aversion to the system of internment, but I am prepared to admit that there may be crises in the life of the State when remedies of that kind are necessary, and I daresay the Government can satisfy the Dáil that this is one. But what I do know is this, that these arrests have been made without any Law, without any Decree, without any judgment to sanction them or authorise them, and without any authority whatever from this Dáil. I suppose it is a truism and needs no argument that there is no more dangerous power that you can put into the hands of the Executive than arbitrary power over the liberty of the citizen. That power is dangerous enough when exercised, as it was exercised in England the other day, and during the last few years in this country under Law or under pretence of Law, under rules and regulations with safeguards. It is dangerous enough when these safeguards are of the best, but what is to be said and how could it be defended when it is exercised without any attempt whatever at legal justification, legal control, or legal restraint? I am not asking the Government to do anything difficult. I am asking them to do something that will strengthen, instead of weakening their position, strengthen it immeasurably. It will be obvious, I suppose, to everyone of us that if it be the fact that you have a considerable number of prisoners politically opposed to the Government interned on suspicion of having helped the armed forces that are opposed to the State, it will be sufficiently obvious that if there are a number of these people—human nature being what it is—there must be some of them improperly imprisoned, and there are certainly many of them sincerely believed by their friends, and believed by at least a section of public opinion, to be improperly interned. And therefore one serious result of this interning without lawful authority is that you are giving food for propaganda against the Government where you need not give it, making friends into enemies, and making the task of the Government ultimately more difficult. I do not think that is a wise procedure, I do not think it is a just procedure. Let me give you two or three cases of persons who have been subjected to this process, and I think I shall include in the instances I mention the names of two people whom it would probably be very easy for the Government to make capital against in this Dáil, in view of the records of these people, and in including them I do so because it is not a matter of persons, but a matter of principles. The other day we had Dr. Bastable, who came over from Glasgow. He is a medical practitioner there, and came on holidays to Dublin. I have not the honour of the gentleman's acquaintance, but I am told that after being in Dublin for two or three days he finds himself suddenly whisked off to jail without any reason given whatsoever. It may be that there are the best of reasons. They are not known to the people and not known to his friends. I am informed that this gentleman has had no active part in the insurrection directly or indirectly. It may be, but I do not know, that his relatives were mixed up with the Irregular forces, but I trust, A Chinn Comhairle, that we have not yet got to the stage that you imprison a gentleman because you do not like the politics of his relatives. He, at all events, claims he is improperly imprisoned, and, if I understand the answer given to the House by the Minister for Home Affairs, he is not allowed to see his solicitor with a view to making preparation for a Habeas Corpus application. That is one instance. The Government there, I say, may have a perfect answer, but, the public and his people do not know, and therefore the Government put themselves in the wrong; and, in any case, this is the necessary result of arresting people arbitrarily without having any proper code of law or rules under which to act. There was another case—Mr. de Blacam. He was arrested the other day. He is well known to be hostile to the Government on the question of the Treaty. He may be against the Government in the civil war. He is a person who does not possess strong health, and on him imprisonment, I am told, is most dangerous. The effect of the arrest of that gentleman—and, if my information is correct, he has taken no part in the military activities against the Government—the effect of it is to create further propaganda against the Government and against those who are supporting the Government, quite unnecessarily, simply because this thing is done in this illegal way and no explanation given, whereas there may be cause for the Government's action, and they may have a good answer. Take the case of Mr. Justice Crowley. Judge Crowley was appointed a Judge by Dáil Eireann. I am told that Judge Crowley is a cantankerous person and a difficult person. I am further told that he has emitted some most objectionable Decrees against the Government in spite of the Government's attempt to suppress his Court. I do not know why that gentleman was arrested the other day, why the Government arrested and interned one of its own Judges without charge or trial. What happened was this: Mr. Crowley was, I think, fifteen months in prison up to the truce with England, and it is common knowledge of all who know anything about him that his health suffered very severely in consequence. It is, therefore, known that Mr. Crowley is a man to whom imprisonment is dangerous. I am told Mr. Crowley in prison addressed a letter to me seeking my interest in the subject. In that letter he started what I have given just now to the Dáil and proceeded to say that if he were not released, he would go on hunger strike. That letter has not been permitted to reach me. That letter, if my information is correct, was simply suppressed, but, however, it had the desired effect. In the face of that threat of Judge Crowley the Ministry paused and considered and said: “How shall we look in the eyes of public opinion if one of our own Judges die of hunger strike in prison, where we have put him illegally?” Then they let him out. I may say I am not mentioning that to make capital against the Government, but I am mentioning it in order that the Government may realise what a mistake it is to put themselves in such a humiliating position. If he went on hunger strike when legally and properly put in prison in order to make capital against the, Government, then the Government could stand by what they were doing. Now I will give a final cage. Some of you have heard of Mr. Deputy Sean T. O'Kelly. He is a gentleman who, I am told, is against the Treaty. He is a gentleman who—if I am correctly informed—was engaged upon some publicity work in connection with the activities of the Irregular Forces in O'Connell Street, and the newspapers have told us that he was on the point of leaving for the United States of America in order to show up the iniquities of the Government, when he was arrested and clapped into gaol.