I am glad to have heard the last few sentences of the speech of the Minister for Home Affairs. He invited the Dáil to make proposals, which, while not running counter to the Treaty, would strengthen the position of this country and the Dáil. But I think before entering upon that particular subject I would like to deal shortly with the general question as raised by the Minister in moving the motion And I would first like to express my regret that he did not indicate which were the sacrosanct clauses of the Treaty. Which are the clauses which may not be violated? And I hope before the adjournment this evening we shall be told precisely the numbers of the clauses which must be passed exactly as they stand. Of course, I am reminded that there is no compulsion of the Dáil to pass these clauses as they stand; that we are perfectly free to pass them as they stand, or to alter them as we wish; and all the Ministry say is that they will not be responsible for advising the Dáil any further after they are passed, or they will not be responsible for the conduct of public affairs if they are altered. We are told, of course, that that is freedom. We are free to alter these; and that there is no compulsion. It is very like the freedom of the old slaves in America, whom we used to read about; when they tried to escape, the bloodhounds were put on their track; or the freedom of the workman who is told he is perfectly free to take his job or leave it, when he knows that the refusal of the job means hunger for himself and his family. That is the kind of freedom presumably that is implied when the Minister for Home Affairs talks of freedom. But we would like to know quite seriously, and definitely, what will be the consequences of the alteration of these clauses which are said to be inviolable? We have a right to know what penalties or what threats have been held out to the Ministry or to the country unless this particular Constitution or these particular clauses in this particular draft Constitution are not passed in the form in which they are presented. It is essential that we should have from the Ministry what is in their minds as the consequence of a change in these particular clauses. The freedom that we are told is given to this Dáil to alter the Treaty, or, at least, to alter the Constitution is not freedom in any real sense. We are bound, judging by the attitude of Ministers, we are bound by a compact to pass this Constitution in so far as these particular unnamed clauses are referred to, in the form in which they have been approved of by the British Government. Now, when a Committee, which was referred to by the President yesterday as having been appointed to draft a Constitution, reported to the Ministry they presumably had in their minds certain terms of reference, these terms of reference being, that the draft which they would produce would be in consonance with the Treaty. Unless the Ministry was very negligent, the men who composed that Committee were responsible men, legal men, constitutional experts, at least trained and used to the practice and theories of Constitution building; and they produced a draft Constitution which the Minister for Local Government told us yesterday was not in accord with the Treaty, but violated that Treaty. So that we are asked here to take the opinion of the Minister for Local Government as against the opinion and judgment of a body of men who were chosen by that Ministry to draft a Constitution in accordance with the Treaty, but which draft had to be altered because one of the Ministers or others of the Ministers thought it did not accord with the Treaty. Evidently they were supported in their opinion, confirmed in their opinion, by the judgment of the gentlemen on the other side of the water, to whom they referred it before they brought it to the people of this country. I think we are right in demanding, and ought to insist on every possible occasion, that what that Constitution Committee considered as being within the terms of the Treaty should be presented to this chamber. I came across a reference in a paper published in 1918 which is typical in view of the news of the day. I could not help but think how appropriate it was to the situation as presented to us by the Minister for Home Affairs—the general position that faces us. In October, 1918, the Grand Vizier of Turkey announced the grant to the Arab Villayets of a system of self-government corresponding to their national aspirations, on condition that between them and the Caliphate, as well as the Sultan, relationship is retained. That is what has been offered to Ireland. That is what has been conferred upon Ireland by the Treaty. It is being minimised somewhat, as I judge, by the proposed Constitution. That was freedom for these Turkish Provinces—freedom within the Turkish Empire—but in response to that announcement, a fortnight later, a joint declaration was made by the British and the French Governments in which they stated "The end that France and Great Britain have in view is the complete and definite freeing of the peoples so long oppressed by the Turks, and the establishment of national Governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and free choice of the indigenous populations. In order to give effect to these intentions France and Great Britain have agreed to encourage and assist the establishment of indigenous Governments and administrations in Syria and Mesopotamia. Far from wishing to impose any particular institutions on the populations of these regions, their only care is to assure by their support and efficacious assistance the normal workings of the Governments and administrations which they shall have given themselves." I maintain, Mr. Speaker, that our business here in discussing this Bill is to give to this country institutions, governments and administrations according to our own ideas, and that we should, in framing a Constitution, frame that Constitution in the way that we consider, with the fullest information at our disposal, satisfies, to the closest, our aspirations, subject to such limitations as we shall impose upon ourselves. That is not being done. We are not allowed to do it because the Ministry say—they imply, they don't say—that they have been compelled to agree to certain limitations in the form of this Constitution.
I understand that it is a practice—the Minister for Home Affairs will confirm me in this—in Criminal Courts especially, in cases where prisoners are being tried for serious crime, on evidence that is mainly circumstantial, to look for motives, to suggest a motive that would fit the crime, and I have been for some considerable time looking around for a theory, a motive, which would account for many of the proceedings that we have been unfortunately familiar with, and for which the Government is responsible, during these last few months. I have hit upon a theory which can be disproved by the Ministers if it is incorrect. The Ministry came to this conclusion. I suggest they were going to present to the Dáil a certain set of proposals which would enhance the freedom of this country and the freedom of the citizens of this country; which would safeguard that freedom for the future; but they reckoned that after so many generations of oppression the people of Ireland were not ready to understand and to receive the freedom which they desired to grant to this people. They looked up the Articles of the Constitution which they had devised. They came to Article 6 and 7, in which the liberty of the person and his dwelling is inviolable —"No person shall be deprived of his liberty except in accordance with law." They said the Irish people are unused to that liberty. We must provide an object-lesson in the need for it, and they set about to provide object-lessons, so that when the opportunity arose in the discussion of this Constitution, the people would approve of it with acclamation, knowing what they had gone through. They come to Article 69, and they see that, in their mind at any rate, the people should be safeguarded against such tyrannies, which may possibly be imposed upon them. They have submitted, as something they desired to see enacted, this: "The jurisdiction of Courts-martial shall not be extended to or exercised over the civil population, save in time of war, and for acts committed in time of war, and in accordance with the regulations to be prescribed by law. Such jurisdiction shall not be exercised in any area in which the civil courts are open or capable of being held." It is necessary to prove the need for such a provision in the Constitution, and therefore they proceed to imprison, to try by military courts, and generally to show how necessary such a clause in the Constitution is. Similarly with regard to the right to free expression of opinion, the right to assemble peaceably and without arms. All that is admitted, of course, but now they are dispersed by military force. Hence the people will welcome such a clause in the Constitution, having experienced the reverse under the regime of the present Ministry. We are guaranteed, under the new Constitution, that any Dáil that may be elected must meet within one month of the date of election. Hence, to prove the need for that they only allow us to meet three months after the date of the election. I almost anticipate that we shall have a new clause provided, guaranteeing a certain minimum of humanitarian treatment for prisoners.
Now, Mr. Chairman, may I come to the amendment which I have the honour to propose. It is that we shall insert, as a preamble to the first schedule, the following:—
"We, the representatives of the Irish people, duly elected to express and formulate the will of the people, Hereby Declare:
"That the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, is indefeasible; that the Nation's Sovereignty extends not only to all the men and women of the nation, but to all its material possessions: the nation's soil, and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the nation.
"That all the lawful powers of Government within Ireland, and all authority—legislative, executive and judicial—are derived from the people of Ireland.
"That every Treaty or Agreement entered into between the Parliament and Government of Ireland, and any other person or persons or Government, shall be read subject to the foregoing, and that any Treaty or Agreement heretofore entered into between the Parliament and Government of Ireland and Great Britain is to be read with the understanding that if ever it shall seem right to the Irish people to annul such Treaty or Agreement, such annulment is lawful on due notice being given to the several parties to that Treaty or Agreement."
I submit, Mr. Speaker, that that proposition fulfils the condition laid down by the Minister for Home Affairs when he asked for amendments which would strengthen and improve the Constitution, make it better for the Irish people, and yet still be within the terms of the Treaty. The first clause, of course, is well known as an extract from some writings of Padraig Pearse, which were incorporated in the "Democratic Programme" already adopted by Dáil Eireann. One might say that if that particular democratic programme had been implemented, to use the popular word, much that has happened within recent months would not have happened. I don't think there is any objection whatever likely to be raised in this Dáil to that particular clause, and I re-assure the Deputy from Kilkenny it does not mean nationalisation of the land in the sense that he understands it. It is declaring what every Nation asserts when it is sovereign, and it declares that in the view of the Dáil and of the Irish people, the whole of the people of Ireland and the whole of the country is a national unit, whatever we may agree to in the way of holding in suspense powers and authority over particular areas, over particular places or harbours; the right remains which is indefeasible, that at any time that it may seem well to the Irish people they may resume these powers held in suspense, and may withdraw from others the delegated authority which may have been granted by the vote of the Sovereign Assembly. I maintain that Clause 2 of this preamble ought to be placed in this position rather than at a later stage in the Constitution. "That all the lawful powers of Government within Ireland, and all authority—legislative, executive, and judicial—are derived from the people of Ireland." Inasmuch as the Constitution will govern the legislation of the future, the preamble of the Constitution will govern the reading of the Constitution. Therefore, I maintain that such clauses as this ought to be embodied in the preamble. The third paragraph of this preamble deals with the respective places in the minds of the Irish people and of the Dáil of the Constitution and the Treaty. Is the Treaty to be considered superior to the Constitution, or is the Constitution to be considered superior to the Treaty? Is it a Treaty or is it an order from another Power? If it is a Treaty, freely entered into, agreed to by consent, but under duress, as I maintain, then this Dáil has a right to say that, if at any time in the future—it may be one, two or three generations off—it may seem desirable to the Irish people, or opportune for the Irish people, to annul and denounce that Treaty, they may do so. There is to be nothing in any enactment of the Irish Assembly which can deprive that Assembly or its successor of the right to denounce. to annul, or to revoke such Treaty. I believe that that condition ought to apply not only to any treaty or arrangement or agreement or pact or understanding that may be entered into in the future, but it ought also to apply to any agreement, treaty, understanding or pact that has been entered into in the past. I would be inclined to believe that if that were accepted and embodied in the Constitution, the passage of the Constitution would be greatly facilitated, and further and more important perhaps, much more important than the facility with which the Constitution may be passed, would be that it would help to give some kind of hope to people who conscientiously denounce the Treaty, to say that it was not binding for all time necessarily, that it would not bind the Irish people to something which would require a revolution to revoke. I submit that if we were to accept that, it would make the way easy for peace to come again to Ireland, and I challenge any member of the Dáil who was a member of the last Dáil, to say that that does not embody what, in his opinion, is the true position. I maintain that that clause polished and smoothed over and made a little less crude, perhaps, on a later reading, ought to be accepted by the Ministry, and ought to be passed by the Dáil, whether it is accepted by the Ministry or not, as asserting a position which the country really in effect holds, and asserting it in a way which is not pugnacious and does not arouse antipathies and violent passions. We have been made familiar with an extract from a speech of Parnell's "that no man has a right to set the bounds to the march of a Nation," and that later statement made last December by the late President when he used words something to this effect "that this Treaty was no more a final settlement than this was the final generation." I submit that we ought to embody the idea expressed in those quotations, which really embody the mind of the Irish people, in the preamble of any Constitution which we may adopt in this Dáil. I will ask for a fair and reasonable consideration to be given to the proposal, which I am making as an amendment. When I looked at the Standing Orders earlier I read them mistakenly as compelling amendments to be submitted to the Second Reading. I now see the word "may" which I understood in the sense of "shall" and which fact I overlooked. I am pressing this as an amendment; for the insertion of this as a preamble to the Constitution in the Bill as placed in our hands, and I ask for a reasonable consideration. I ask the Ministry to carefully consider before they decline to accept it. I believe it would go far to smooth over difficulties that may arise in this Dáil and the difficulties that have arisen in this country. I ask the Members to consider carefully the value of the proposal and the danger of its rejection.