Tá leasrún agam chun cur leis an rún sin. I beg to move, as an amendment, that the following words be added to the resolution as it reads on the Agenda Paper:—"And such limitations as are imposed upon this Dáil by the duty of giving effect with the least possible delay to the said Treaty, in compliance with the will of the people." Now, my reason for moving that amendment I hope I shall be able to make perfectly clear.
Under Article 12 of the Standing Orders adopted yesterday for this week by the Dáil, all motions and amendments for any day shall be handed to the Clerk in writing at 11 o'clock the previous day.
On a point of order, might I suggest that yesterday you said anything on the Orders of the Day for that particular day would not come under the provisions of the Standing Orders; they would not suffer or be deemed to have any infirmity in consequence of the passing of these Standing Orders; or, in other words, that whatever was on the Agenda or Orders would go through without having been subjected to the analysis of the Standing Orders.
This is out of order unless it could be taken by the general assent of the Dáil.
I will ask it to be taken. If it be not taken, I will invite the Dáil to vote against the motion. I do not wish to do that. The motion as it stands is, to my mind, so imperfect that it needs amendment.
Perhaps I might suggest that you supply a copy of your amendment to the mover of the motion, and if we get the consent of the mover, we could proceed on these particular lines.
I accept that. I agree to add to my motion: "And such limitations as are imposed upon this Dáil by the duty of giving effect with the least possible delay to the said Treaty in compliance with the will of the people."
Do I understand the mover consents to all this being discussed?
I consent to its being discussed.
What is your ruling, sir?
The amendment can be discussed now.
Now, the reason I move this amendment is this: The resolution, which is a declaratory resolution, can be read in two senses. The resolution acknowledges no limitation upon its power. That may mean it acknowledges in theory no limitation upon its power — acknowledges no technical limitation upon its power. Or it may be understood in quite a different sense — that is, acknowledges no practical limitation upon its power. If it were meant in the first of these two senses — that this Dáil acknowledges no theoretical limitation upon its power — it seems to me the gravest possible objection would arise against any such declaration. At all events, I have never heard in the history of institutions of this kind — never heard before — of any such Assembly declaring limitations upon its own powers.
Now if this were to be regarded as a declaration upon what we would call the Constitutional doctrine under-lying this Assembly, it would be open to that most grave objection that in the second part of the resolution beginning with the word "except," we would be putting a chain upon ourselves, declaring — what I think no Assembly of this kind ever in history has done — a limitation of its own powers. Consequently, I take it that if we are making any declaration of this kind at all, it is practical limitations we are concerned with and not theoretical limitations. With regard to the theory of these things, the less we go into them the better. These fundamental constitutional doctrines for the most part are material for confusing the public mind, and we are apt to become confused between two totally different things; that is to say, the method in which a Constitution of this kind originated, the facts from which it originated, and the source of its powers. Now the source of its origin and the source of its powers are not necessarily the same thing, and in this case I have always held, and I am going to hold still, that they are two totally different things. This Assembly, as Deputy Johnson very properly says, has a dual origin. He used a very happy simile when he said that on one side it originated from a signature, and on another from a counter-signature. That is a matter of historical origin to-day, and it really concerns us as little now, being a matter of historical origin, whether it happened this year or one thousand years ago. The question that concerns us is not a question of historical origin at all, but a question of the source of our powers. Now the source of our powers is this, and this alone, that the Irish electorate held an election, and by their intention gave that election effect, and the source of our powers is the action and intention of the Irish electorate. That being so, it is perfectly clear to me that we could not — and that is why I said that if my amendment were not accepted, I should have to ask the Dáil to reject this resolution — accept a resolution declaring the limitations of our own powers. So that the limitations that are mentioned in this resolution, I put it to my friend Deputy Johnson, must properly be understood to mean practical limitations under the circumstances of the case.
I had the Six Counties in mind.
That is another practical limitation from my point of view. Consequently, I thought it better to state the whole of the practical limitations. Now, I quite agree, and it follows, I think, from what I have said already, that this Assembly is perfectly free to enter on any course of legislation which it proposes to itself, so far as theory is concerned. So far as practice is concerned, its first business is to create the public order in this country that we all desire, using the words "public order" in their widest sense. Its first and principal business is to clear its decks, to get the machinery into working order, and it is clear to all of us that to confuse the course of action which is necessary towards that end, by entering on other courses of legislation, would not, in the first instance, be beneficial to that clearing and that ordering process which is so necessary, nor would it be beneficial or fair at all to the other course of legislation which could be brought in at the same time. There, again, is a practical matter, and I think there is a substantial agreement among us about that as a practical matter, and I do not wish to be absolutely exclusive about it, or to recommend an exclusive course. But as a practical matter the limitation is imposed upon us, and it is imposed upon us not by the choice of the Ministry. It is imposed upon us not by the choice of the Members of the Dáil here on the spot, but in the words which I have brought into this amendment. It is imposed upon us by the will of the people who desire that we should, in the first instance, give effect, so far as is necessary, to the Treaty, and, in the second instance, I am quite certain I am stating properly the public voice — the voice of the Constituencies at the back of each Member here — when I say that in addition to that, in addition to what has been called implementing the Treaty — I do not like the word "implement," but you all know what it means—whatever concurrent legislation is necessary for the good of the country in the meantime should also be indicated here, and whatever administrative processes for legislation are necessary, they also should come under review here. Of course the responsibility for them falls on the Ministry. These things could come in review here, and, as I have said to you on the first occasion on which I addressed you, in this administrative course the Ministry should claim the complete and united support of the Members of the Dáil. Now, sir, I hope I have made it clear why an amendment to this resolution is necessary, because the limitations which are mentioned in the resolution if they be regarded as theoretical and not as practical limitations, should be cast out of it altogether; and if they be regarded as practical limitations and not theoretical, then the Resolution clearly requires the Amendment that I have put forward. And from the point of view in which I have put forward the Amendment, and the intention with which I have put it forward, it is in no way hostile to the intention of the originator of the Resolution. I suggest, Sir, that the mover and the seconder of the Resolution ought to accept my Amendment.
I beg to second the Amendment, and in doing so I may mention that what Deputy MacNeill has said in support of the Amendment is all that can be said about it. I believe the mover and the seconder of the original motion should, and will, accept it in the spirit in which it is put, because I do not think this Dáil could accept the motion as it was put originally; therefore I beg to second the Amendment.
I listened with a good deal of interest to the speech of the Minister for Education in moving this Amendment; but I thought that had he been logical, he would have moved the deletion of all words after "Ireland" in the third line, because that is what the speech amounted to, But I was more conservative, and wanted to recognise the bond that the country had entered into, limiting the powers of this Parliament, in the same way as the powers of the next Parliament will be limited. Evidently the mover would not wish such limitation, even as I have indicated. But, assuming that the Ministry as a whole hold the same view of the powers of the Parliament that the mover of the Amendment holds, with that understanding I am quite prepared to accept this Amendment.
I hope there is no misunderstanding about the precise terms of the amendment, because if it be intended, or if it be understood, that the amendment restores what I believe was contemplated by Deputy Johnson, I should like to disabuse his mind of any misapprehension he may have. The position is this: Our representatives made a bargain with the representatives of another nation. Neither party to the bargain, I believe, cordially supported or endorsed particular articles in the Agreement. There are articles in the Agreement which were not very cordially received by those who represented us. There are articles in the Agreement which were not very cordially subscribed to by the representatives of the British Government on their side. Both sides agreed to, and undertook to carry out, the whole of the Agreement, irrespective of particular objections they may have to particular Articles in the Agreement. It will be noticed that there is a sort of vacuum resulting from the acceptance of the Treaty, as far as the British Government is concerned, and that vacuum was remedied or regularised as far as they were concerned by the Free State Agreement Act — by agreement on both sides, to which our representatives were a party — one of the conditions of the Agreement being that this Dáil, during the period preceding the passing of the Constitution, was a Provisional Institution, and was limited, as far as the terms of the Agreement were concerned, to certain acts or to certain business. It was within the power of this Dáil at a given moment to break up that agreement and to revert to the position that existed on the 5th December last. We certainly do not for a single moment limit the authority of this Dáil to do that. It would be, in my opinion, very largely a breach of honour and a breach of covenants and a breach of agreement, and so on; but it is within your power to do it. We have never, I think, tabled anything against that. It can be done; but subject to the agreements we entered into, the limitations, as we understand them, are there.
Have they been published?
Yes, all these things are published. Now, that is only the extent to which, we understand, any limitations are imposed upon this Provisional Parliament, and they pass away as soon as we have performed our part of the contract. Now, the other parties to the contract have removed their control of all the services in this country except control upon services that were agreed — that is, the Inland Revenue and the Customs. This I believe will be removed by the 1st April next, in the same way and in good faith believing we were going to complete our part of the bargain. They, on their part, are entitled to tear up the Agreement if they should wish; but, if they did, it would be a breach of honour, and it would violate a very honourable understanding between two countries. So far as that is concerned, we are limited by honour. Now, as I understand the powers of this Provisional Parliament, we have power to administer and to do such acts and things, in so far as we are bound by that Agreement, up to the 6th December, or some earlier date, when both parties have ratified the instrument and passed the Constitution. That is the only limitation that I understand. In ordinary cases of administration we have the full authority; in an ordinary case of legislation we have agreed to a suspension of our rights until the Constitution has been passed.
Has that Agreement been published?
It is in the Free State Agreement Act.
Well, it is implied in the terms of it, and it is an honourable understanding.
Mr. Johnson did not take the trouble to read Clause 2 of this Free State Act carefully, because there is a distinction drawn between the Parliament and the Houses of Parliament.
Have you power to set up a military force?
If you have that, you have other powers too.
It will be noticed in the perusal of all these agreements and undertakings, as I disclosed yesterday, that there are two Houses of Parliament which we have agreed to set up, and this is but one House.
The speech that the President has just made, I think, cannot but create a very painful impression indeed. It can't do anything but create as painful an impression as the speech of the Minister for Local Government yesterday evening. This is either the Dáil or it is nothing. If you like, by this countersigned signature of the British Government, it is the Provisional Parliament. We all agreed that it is a Provisional Parliament. We all agreed that its term of office will expire by a certain time; and that because it is temporary in time, and because it is Provisional in time, that it is a Provisional Parliament. But the President has just told us that there are certain things implied in the Irish Free State Agreement Act. Now, it may be that we are blinder than the Ministers, but we can see no implication in the Free State Act that would prevent this Parliament from doing certain things which we believe the country wants it to do, and for which as a matter of fact so far as it is in our power we at least have got direct mandates to do. Deputy Eoin MacNeill has given us a dissertation on the distinction between theoretical and practical limitations. We are agreed on practical limitations, and in fact I think the mover of the original Resolution when he referred to Clause I in the Treaty, was referring the Dáil back to the practical limitation, but if the President and the other Ministers and the private Deputies supporting the Ministers — if their mentality is revealed, and their ideas are revealed in some of the things that are being said, then they are bringing up a question of theoretical limitations. The President says that this Parliament has the power to raise and control an army. I presume he would say that the only reason why that has been agreed to by both sides is that the Army is necessary for the purpose of implementing the Treaty. I think that would really be his argument. But we think that the Dáil should claim and re-assert the authority, the right, and the duty of this Parliament — Provisional or whatever you like to call it — to do something besides controlling an Army. The President says that everything has been published. I am not going to charge those who are gone, or those who are here, with anything dishonourable, or with holding anything back. I am willing enough to give them all the credit in the world. But, as I said before, unless we are as blind as bats there is nothing in the Treaty or in the Free State Agreement Act limiting the authority and the power of this Dáil. I think it was the President who said that this Dáil is, only one House of a Parliament, but we cannot have the other House until this Parliament goes out of office, as, I think, it is the intention of the Ministry that it should go out of office.
Oh, no! Parliament continues.
Under the Treaty and under the Free State Agreement Act, so far as we Deputies here are concerned, there is not a single word about two Houses. There is no necessity at all to have a second House in order to do the things that we want this Dáil to declare that it has the power, the right, and the authority to do. I do not think any Deputy or any Minister will be honestly able to convince by any argument, other than the argument of an overwhelming majority, and the argument of a majority machine, that this House has not the right to do the things that we claim it has the right to do. Supposing you get the Constitution, supposing you are rushing it madly through this Dáil — let us stop calling it House. It is quite obvious that when Members refer to it as a House they are thinking of some other House. Let us call it by its proper title of Dáil — it is obvious when you have it rushed through you are not going to attempt to legislate at all. That is a serious thing for the country. It has been hinted at by Ministers, and, in articles, by minor propagandists and major propagandists, including Deputies, that the sole purpose and sole function of this Dáil or Provisional Government is to pass the Constitution and the corresponding legislation that is necessary. We claim that that is not a fact, and we know, because we were the only people who went before the electors and asked for no particular mandate on anything but on one thing. We put a certain programme before them, and we gave them our impression — it may be a wrong impression. If it were I hope the Ministers will be able to point to the chapter and verse proving it was a wrong impression — that this Dáil was to have legislative as well as constituent powers. We went down and tested the feeling of the country, and we know that the majority of electors in most of the constituencies for which we were returned wanted legislation. They wanted certain things done. You bang the door in their faces and say these things cannot be done. When you get your Constitution through, what is going to happen in the way of legislation? Between the time you pass your Constitution and the time you set up the Oireachtas for the two Houses under the Constitution, are you going to legislate, or are you not going to legislate. Once it goes out to the ordinary people of this country that this Dáil is not going to legislate there will be a reckoning to be paid when that General Election to which the Minister for Local Government refers comes along.
Mr. Speaker, I thought I was back in the second Dáil, where we used to argue about technicalities and canvass each other daily as to our powers. This is a storm in a teacup mostly. No one denies that this is a Sovereign Parliament. It is completely Sovereign. There is nothing whatever to stop it passing the Constitution, provided it is willing to take the consequences. But while the Treaty is the policy of this Dáil, we must implement the Treaty. That seems to me to be the commonsense attitude, and it does not take away from the sovereignty of this Dáil, good, bad, or indifferent. I think that ought to be perfectly clear. We may argue for a long time as to whether we have actually the technical right to pass legislation, before the Constitution was passed, but we would be wasting our time. We have about 30 or 40 days in which to pass the Constitution, and if we had all the powers of all the Parliaments that are sitting at the present moment to pass legislation, we have not got the time. Our first duty is to lay the foundations of a State. Consequently our first duty is to pass the Constitution, and we are not going, whether we have powers or not, to allow any other legislation to prevent us from doing that. I think the country is behind us in that attitude. We have two big tasks before us. First of all, we have to re-establish civilised conditions in this country, secondly we have to enact a Constitution and lay the foundations of a State on which something can be built. We need not waste our time here arguing as to whether we have the power to do this, that, or the other thing. Whether we have legal technical powers or not the fact is there. We have to face the task before us. Matters of expediency alone would dictate to us what we should do and what we should not do. We have about 30 working days to pass the Constitution. It will take us all our time — perhaps not all our time — but we certainly are not going to risk it by entering into any other legislative schemes.
In view of the speech we have just heard, would the Minister for Education withdraw his Amendment, so that we could express our sense of the urgency of the question of the draft Constitution, and indicate our desire to get on with that without stopping to debate purely, academic questions?
I think I have a right to reply.
Do I understand the Amendment is not accepted?
I have already intimated that I am prepared to accept the Amendment, as understood by the mover of it. I should say this in reply to Deputy Hogan (the Minister for Agriculture) that it is conceivable that instead of 30 days, 10 days may do all he wants to do, in regard to the Constitution. But I do not want this Dáil to be tied by the declarations or the hints or the suggestions that it has not power to do anything else. We want the work of legislation to go on.
Concurrently or subsequently?
We agree to subsequently, but not concurrently.
We have the power, and it is agreed that we have the power. That is all I want declared.
The Motion was proposed and seconded. An Amendment was proposed and seconded, and the Amendment is now before the Dáil. I understand it has not been accepted by the mover of the Resolution.
We accept it.
But we do not know whether the Ministry accept it.
The Amendment, as I understand it, means that the Resolution be amended by the addition of the suggested words.
The Motion, with the words of the Amendment added, was carried.