Is mian liom rud eigin do rá sula dtabharhaidh an t-Uachtarán tora ar na ceisteanna atá curtha air. Before the pilot of the Bill replies, I desire to say something on the main principles of the draft Constitution. In the course of what I have to say it may be necessary for me to go over some of the ground, but I hope not very much, covered by Deputy Gavan Duffy. Deputy Gavan Duffy, if he at certain points in his speech overstated the Constitutional case, I think, in other points, he rather understated it. But there are some definite questions raised by him and by Deputy de Roiste and others which I want to put again definitely, clearly and deliberately to the Ministry, in order that before we go any further we may know exactly where we stand, where the Ministry stands, and that we may know exactly where the whole country stands as regards Great Britain and this draft Constitution. Before I come to that I just want to make some reference to something the President said a few minutes ago. I am rather sorry the President spoke before some of us had the opportunity of doing so, as I should like him, as President of the Ministry, speaking in the name of the whole Ministry, to answer questions I am going to put to him. As to a small reference to a certain clause in Deputy Johnson's amendment yesterday, I just want to remind him and other Deputies, the reference to the position as regards the sovereignty and exercise of control, and so forth, over land and the wealth-producing sources and processes in Ireland, that was taken out, directly taken out, of the democratic programme of the First Dáil. There, at its adoption, it was subscribed to in as solemn a manner as it was possible for anyone to subscribe, by, amongst others, the Minister for Education, even the Postmaster-General, the Minister for Defence, the Deputy-Speaker of this Dáil, and several others, even the Minister for Home Affairs. That, I think, should dispose of that. One of the questions I want to ask the Ministry is this: How long is the Dáil, whether this Dáil or another Dáil, going to be implementing the Treaty of December 6th? How long is this Dáil or another Dáil going to be implementing that Treaty? Because we are told one of the main reasons why we must have these still unnamed and objectionable clauses in the draft Constitution is that the passing of that Constitution is necessary for implementing the Treaty. If that is so, then we shall know pretty well where we are. But it seems to me, even from some things in the Bill now before us, that the implementing of the Treaty is not going to be done by the adoption of this draft Constitution. We all want the Treaty implemented and completed, however much we may dislike it or dislike certain provisions in it. There is no shadow of doubt that anyone who has come into this Dáil has taken the Treaty for what it is worth, intending to use it and make the most of it for what it is worth, and some of us have an opinion that it is worth more than some people on the other side would like it to be worth. We want its provisions finished with as soon as ever we can; we do not want it to be going on like a thing referred to in a song that used to be popular some years ago, "The constitutional movement must go on, must go on." We do not want "the implementing of the Treaty movement must go on, must go on." Now, the preamble is in principle the whole Constitution. There are one or two things we want to be clear about, and to have a clear and explicit answer to. The President has referred to that part of the Preamble which makes reference to what may be repugnant to the Scheduled Treaty — but I think I had better quote the actual words. They are:—
"And if any provision of this Constitution or any amendment thereof or of any law made thereunder is in any respect repugnant to any of the provisions of the Scheduled Treaty it shall, to the extent only of such repugnancy be absolutely void and inoperative and the Parliament and the Executive Council of the Irish Free State shall respectively pass such further legislation and do all such other things as may be necessary to implement the Scheduled Treaty."
If I understood the President aright I got the impression that there may be an Irish interpretation of this question of repugnancy, and there may be an English interpretation, and these would correspond the one to the Irish view and the other to the original view of the Treaty. The President I think suggested that there was an Irish interpretation of this word "repugnancy." I want the Ministry to tell us who is to be the judge of this repugnancy, or alleged repugnancy, who is to adjudge that certain provisions of the Constitution that may be amended or certain future acts of legislative enacment are repugnant to the Scheduled Treaty? If we get an answer from the Ministry upon that we shall know to some extent where we are, because it seems to me if there is going to be any allegation of repugnancy that we shall then have not an Imperial or Constitutional Conference or an International code to decide on the meaning of repugnancy, but the Ministry will come down to the Dáil again and say it is necessary for them, or a number of them, to go over to London and to come to another agreed interpretation of the Treaty of December 6th last, and of this draft Constitution. Incidentally I notice that there is a great likelihood that much further legislation will be necessary in this Dáil or a future Dáil in order to implement the Constitution, and that if we do this job now that will not finish the implementing, but as Deputy Sears talked of handing down the Treaty, so in the case of this question of implementing the Treaty we will also have to hand down the movement for implementing. I note this is a Bill to enact the Constitution for Saorstát hEireann for implementing the Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland signed in London, and I want to know if the sole purpose of this draft Constitution is merely for implementing the Treaty. And by the way the first clause of the Constitution says that the Irish Free State of Saorstát hEireann has co-equal liberty with the Community of Nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the Treaty itself refers to Ireland and says it shall be styled and known as "The Irish Free State." I think it will be true, even if Belfast contracts out, that Ireland and not the twenty-six counties — you see I am taking as liberal interpretation of the Treaty as the Ministry — that the whole thirty-two counties of Ireland, and not the twenty-six counties, is what is meant. I put it that what is in the mind of some of the Ministry and in the mind of some of the supporters of the Ministry, both inside and outside this Dáil, is that they regard Ireland as the twenty-six counties. They have got the twenty-six counties as much on the brain as they have got the question of the implementing of the Treaty. I listened with a good deal of attention to the speeches of some of the Ministers, and, while not analysing them in detail, I think I detected a certain confusion in their way of present ing the case. I do not mean that one Minister was delegated to put one aspect, and another to put another aspect, but it seems to me there is not one clear common conception of this Constitution or the draft Constitution and the principle behind and the causes and reason for bringing it before the Dáil in the minds of the Ministry as a whole, or in the minds of the Executive as a whole, and certainly not amongst some of their strongest and ablest supporters. I find, for instance, and I do not want to harp back upon it, but it is necessary for certain persons to show that there is confusion amongst the Ministers themselves and their supporters. The Minister for Local Government said the other day that the Draft taken over to London in his opinion will not decide the terms of the Treaty. Deputy Figgis, who we all know had a great deal to do with the original Draft, tells us it does not go outside the four walls of the Treaty. Now, what is the position? Does it, or does it not? We have the Minister for Home Affairs saying that the Constitution should not be passed without very great stress owing to the condition of the times. I think that is an argument for not having the Constitution passed through this Dáil at the moment at all, because notoriously the internal conditions of the country, not to speak of the relations with England, are such that they do not give a constituent assembly a decent chance of drafting a Constitution in the way it ought to be drafted. On the other hand, the Minister for Home Affairs said on another occasion that this draft Constitution must be read in the light of the Treaty, and the Treaty must be read in the light of the conditions that prevailed at the time it was signed, and that in drawing up the Treaty you must stress the conditions prevailing at the time, and that these conditions should find some expression in the Treaty, but you must not do that in trying to draft the Constitution, and you must not do it too much. Deputy Blythe said there was no doubt we were implementing the Treaty and enacting the Constitution. So say the President and other Ministers. But, as I pointed out at the time, the attempt to implement the Treaty now is not going to finish the job. It is only doing patchwork, and the supporters of the Ministry are asked to vote, maybe not with Deputy Dan McCarthy's steam roller behind them, but certainly with a good deal of pressure behind them; and they are simply patching up a job that may require some doing again, and may require some doing years ahead, unless I am reading the preamble altogether, wrongly. Deputy Blythe stated yesterday, in answer to Deputy Johnson's amendment, that there was no Constitution now; that the law, practice, and constitutional usage of Canada — with stress, I think, on the law —would prevail in Ireland at the moment; and I think Deputy Gavan Duffy has demolished the law end of that case. It is the fact, and Deputy Darrel Figgis confirms it in an excellent little book, so far as it goes, which I am glad to see the Minister perusing, that the law in Canada is not only dead, is not only a dead letter, but that it does not square with constitutional usage and practice that has grown up within a good many years past, and that the thing which has been got in the Treaty should be in the Constitution as the living matter and the growing, developing matter of the constitutional rights of the Dominion of Canada, and not the dead weight of the actual letter of that country, which, if it has not become obsolete, it has become obsolescent. Now, I claim while that is safeguarded in the Treaty, it is not safeguarded in the Constitution. As a matter of fact, I do not know whether this is a Constitution at all or not. My understanding of a Constitution is when people confer their fundamental law or Constitution upon themselves. If I understand what the Ministry is getting at aright it is somebody else and not the people of Ireland, not even the representatives of the Dáil who are conferring this draft Constitution upon the people of Ireland. Now, if it was the Irish people who were doing that Sovereign Act it would be a Constitution, but if the vital clauses of this document here are merely a contract between the delegates from Ireland and the delegates in England then it is not a Constitution. It may be a Treaty, or as the Ministry tell us, an agreed interpretation of the Treaty, and not a Constitution at all. And they come down here to us and ask us to agree to that agreed interpretation. They want to take out of your hands your right to discard that. They tell you that you can change every comma, and every syllable, but if you do so, as Deputy Milroy says, you must take the consequences. I want to know what, in the opinion of the Ministry, are the consequences which would flow from the rejection of any of these clauses. Not only that, but I want the Ministry to tell us straightly and frankly what are the clauses referred to in this connection. They have all told us that the Bill can be divided into 3 divisions. A number of clauses were agreed to with some reluctance in London; they are vital to the Bill. There are a number of others which concern obligations of honour with the Southern Unionists, but I might say there are also, obligations of honour with the whole body of the Irish people, and with the whole body of the representatives of the Irish people as well as with the Southern Unionists. They told us that in the 3rd Section were clauses which do not involve any point of honour, or contract, and they graciously tell you you are permitted to change them if you like. Now, we claim if this is a Constitution that we have the right and we are determined to exercise that right, to change any clause we desire to change. I want to say frankly and straightly on behalf of my friends and myself if you put up any clause to us and say that that clause must be swallowed by this Dáil at the pistol point of England we are not going to have it, even if it was initiated or made by us on these benches. Because it seems to us the whole principle we are fighting out here is the principle whether we have to take what is given us or whether we have the right of freedom to reject what is forced and imposed upon us. Let the Ministry tell us Clause by Clause what are the clauses that are vital—these clauses which make up the agreed interpretation of the Treaty. We want that, and we shall insist that they tell us, in their opinion, what are the consequences that are going to flow from the rejecting of any of these clauses. Is it war, is it ruin, is it destruction, is it the throwing back for a generation of the entire National Movement for Irish liberty? But do not let them come down meanly and lowly insmuating "if you don't do certain things certain consequences will follow." It is not within their right to mislead this Dáil and mislead the country. If they have the moral courage let them tell us what those consequences are. We ask them to do it this evening, and when we know what the consequences are and when we know the agreement between the two parties as to the agreed interpretation, then we shall know how to act accordingly and know what to do on this Second Reading. I would like to ask, with some other Deputies, why we are not told all about this contract. To the ordinary man in Ireland who knows nothing at all about drafts of Constitutions, it would seem a proper way, if the Constitution was necessary to implement the Treaty, to set up a drafting Committee to produce a scheme outline or draft Constitution. But the first duty of the Ministry responsible for presenting that draft Constitution to the representatives of the people was to submit it to the representatives of the people and the whole body of the people. That was not done. The Colonial Secretary says it was submitted to him and to the British Cabinet, but it was not submitted to the Irish people or to the Deputies of the Irish people. It was printed in the newspapers on the first morning of the election; that was the first moment it was published officially, and with the whole responsibility of the Ministry behind it, before the representatives who shall have to live under it saw it. They are told they must swallow certain clauses of it, and if they do not there will be terrible consequences, which are still unnamed and undescribed. Now, I think it is true, and I think Deputy Figgis, and other Deputies, are correct when they believe that if it had not been for certain events that befel Ireland within the last four or five months, a much better, a stronger, and a more democratic draft Constitution — one more in keeping with the whole history and national traditions and aspirations of this people—could have been got; could even, perhaps, have been made acceptable to England, but for these events. We are as conscious of that as of anything, but that does not seem to be the opinion of the whole Ministry. It is the opinion, apparently, of some of the Ministers, but the pilot of the Bill the other day said that, in his opinion, all that could have been got at any time was a more pleasantly-worded draft Constitution, and not a draft Constitution with any better substance. His words, I think, were: "Not better in any point of substance." The President turns round and tells us this draft Constitution is as good, as democratically equal, to the best — to all of the best — points in any of the Dominion Constitutions. I do not think it is. I think there are several tests that might be applied to it. I think the proper place to apply these tests to it is, perhaps, in Committee, when we can deal with it clause by clause. One clause has been mentioned already, and, I think, it is vital to the whole essence of the draft Constitution; that is the reference back, the appeal to the British Privy Council. I do not want to stress that because it has been stressed by others; but as it seems to me, the King may be a symbol, the crown may be a symbol, and there are a whole lot of dead weight symbols in the so-called British Commonwealth of Nations. But the British Privy Council is no symbol; it is a hard fact. The President, in an astounding speech, made fun of the Colonies, of the British Dominions, of their statesmen, of their constitutional authorities, of everything else like that, and of the Constitutional Conference. That may be all very well. It may be all very well that we here in Ireland are sufficient unto ourselves. But are you, Deputies of the people of Ireland, going to bind yourselves down hard and fast by such a clause as this clause on the Privy Council? It is a notorious fact that the law in Canada is, I think, exactly, or practically, the same as in England on appeal to the King and Council. As regards the Australian Constitution, unlike the Ministry here, I think the delegates who went back to the Australian Constitutional Convention laid all their cards on the table, told everything that happened between them and the British at Westminster, and did not keep back one single argument or one single threat or anything else. They put all the papers on the table, discussed them thoroughly, and let everybody who had the responsibility of doing the act, get the full facts of the case. These Australian delegates, in their Constitutional Conference, went something further even than the law was in Canada. And when the South African Act was passed, the law carried the thing much further. But the law is not the thing that matters. Does the Minister tell us that the present constitutional practice, the present constitutional usage, the present constitutional rights, as they apply between the British Dominions and the Privy Council, will apply in Ireland in spite of the laying down of the law in Article 65, I think it is? Do they tell us that they shall not apply? Now, I know that, as a bit of a propagandist myself, it is possible to take out of this draft document certain very fine-sounding clauses, and to go outside this Dáil and read these to the people, and say, "There you have got everything you want." But you cannot take this document, or any document of considerable length, by one clause or two clauses. You cannot take the preamble of Articles 1 and 2 without taking in certain other essential clauses and articles in the draft Constitution, because the thing that is given here in the beginning is taken away, is modified, and corrected by other clauses and by other articles in the Constitution. We want an answer to that question, and we want the pilot of the Bill, or the President, to repeat definitely, in so many words, one of the things said by the Minister for Local Government yesterday — one of the only crumbs of comfort that have fallen from the lips of any Minister — and that was that it is, and always will be, the right of this people to annul any Treaty, past or future, including the Treaty of the 6th December. Now, I may be a bit confused, but if it is in our power to annul the Treaty of the 6th December, and if, as Deputy Magennis and, I think, the Ministry believe, that the Constitution should be dependent upon the Treaty, and not, as we believe, the Treaty dependent on the Constitution—if, in fact, the Treaty is a superior document, a superior instrument to the Constitution, what becomes of the whole fabric of the Constitution when we exercise our right to annul the Treaty? We want a definite answer whether or not, in the opinion of the whole Ministry — taking the case of Ireland as against England — whether the whole Ministry agrees with that statement of Deputy Blythe yesterday. We have a particular reason for asking that, because the other day we found here, on a certain matter raised, that one Minister was a little bit at variance with the rest of the Ministry. And I think the same occurred on other days on other things. Now, we want to know whether Deputy Blythe was giving that statement of his as a constitutional fact in the opinion of the whole Ministry, or whether he was merely giving his own personal opinion, the same as he was when he thought that the draft that went over to London went outside the four walls of the Treaty. We have been putting these direct questions to the Ministry because we want answers to them. The Ministry does not usually answer. We want an answer on this, because, in our opinion as well as in theirs, it is the most serious business before this Dáil for some weeks, at all events, to come. If this is a Constitution that the Irish people are conferring upon themselves, then we are engaged in the performance of the most solemn, the most sovereign, act any people could perform. If, on the other hand, this document which we are asked to adopt is not a Constitution—if it is merely an agreed interpretation of another document—then, if there is agreement on that, we have no more right now, no more authority at the moment, to change these clauses than we would have to go back on the Treaty, which everybody here at all events agrees should go forward. I do not know but it would look in a way, by the manner in which this document is made up, that we were now entitled to go back on the Treaty, because it is scheduled to this Bill. We put this direct question to the Ministry—we want to know whether, if we exercise our undoubted rights, that that is going to mean war? If it does we may have to say just as we said about the Treaty, and we never have run away from what we said about the Treaty—we may have to say that this document before us is not to our liking, that it is a document which is put to us, to this Dáil, under duress, without putting any bones on the word "duress"; that in our opinion, and particularly through the weakness that has come upon the country with the civil war that is raging, that this country is not at the moment able to stand up and fight for its rights—to secure the exercise of all its rights. If that is the position, tell us it is the position, and then we shall know what we shall know. We shall know where we stand, the country will know where it stands, everybody will know where they stand. We shall have a plain, straight issue. The Treaty was not to our liking. Many of the clauses in the Treaty were not to our liking, but we recognised the situation and the conditions governing the Treaty, and to us the Treaty was accepted under duress and under nothing else but duress. We do not want— and I want to make myself clear in this —that for the state of affairs that was produced then—to blame merely one individual or party or section of the movement. We blame the whole movement, the whole of this Second Dáil from the ex-President down to the merest private member, because he in the Cabinet and all of you could go and consult one little section, one little caste in Ireland, as to what should be done. But there was nobody to go and consult the ordinary common people of Ireland who have had to do the suffering since the 6th December last. Now you are doing the same thing, you have been doing the same thing with this document that you put before us now, this draft Constitution. It may be that it is not the mere words in the Constitution that we object to, may be it is not to the mere clauses in the Constitution that we object. We object to the whole manner and method of the presentation of this document, in the drawing up of an Agreement arrived at on this document. We want these questions answered, and we put it straight to the Ministry and to the spokesmen of the Ministry, we ask them for once, for once in the history of the Irish people, that we should have plain and straight and honest answers to these, even though these answers should break the hearts of every Deputy in this Dáil.