There is a motion in my name on the Agenda, but it is rather late in the day to start a discussion on that particular matter, and we are, so to speak, absolutely in your hands. It is a choice between my motion and a couple of articles of the Constitution, or taking Dr. McCartan's peace motion. And as between those three we leave it entirely to the Assembly to say.
MOTION—MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS.
AN LEAS CEANN COMHAIRLE:
I understand that Dr. McCartan's motion will not come on until 7 o'clock, and you have threequarters of an hour then.
I take it this is a sovereign Assembly, and we can take anything we like.
So long as it does not disagree with you.
We could go ahead with this motion about the Constitution, or about Civil Administration, or any other thing.
I do not know what was the idea of pressing forward a discussion for Civil Administration in particular. I gathered that it was expected that it would be rather a general discussion on matters affecting civil life, and that a day was promised. I took it that in the minds of the Ministers as well as the Members a longer time than threequarters of an hour would be necessary.
That was our intention too.
I take it that then the discussion on the matter of Civil Administration is deferred to another day.
Yes, in view of the fact that we meet five days this week, and that the general understanding was that we should adjourn at 7 instead of 8.30, as in the Standing Orders. We would be willing to take up this resolution now, if it meets with the approval of the Dáil.
Very well. I will move it now. Perhaps a discussion like this to advocate a Truce is unpopular in the Dáil, but I would like the Members to think over it very seriously and not to reject it lightly. I know that some men have been anxious for peace, and I submit that the Government have been anxious for peace all along and wanted to avoid war. I think it was the general knowledge that the Government wanted to avoid civil war which was responsible for Civil War, paradoxical as that may seem. I think I am right in saying that they still want peace, and Parliament and we all want peace. There are two ways of securing peace. You can have peace by extermination, or by negotiation. It is easier by negotiation than by war, because it will not take so much time. I know it will be said "it is useless to negotiate with these men." It will be said "we have negotiated before and failed"; but I am an optimist and I would say try, try again. Examine the situation and consider the individuals on the opposite side. Take, for instance, Tom Hales. He was one of the five officers who signed the agreement for the Truce. Liam Lynch left Dublin intending not to take any part in the fight at all.
He did not.
Well, I do not know these men. I only met Hales once. The men who have been in negotiation with them know more about their character than I do. I am only looking at it in a detached kind of way. I am inclined to think that he did not believe very strongly in civil war when he left Dublin, and further that he does not believe very strongly in civil war, even now. I quite frankly admit that it may be of no use trying to negotiate peace, but it may be worth a trial. I do not think a truce could affect the military situation, and here I am willing to bow to the Commander-in-Chief. The Army is in possession of all the territory—as far as an Army can be—of Ireland, and a truce for two weeks, at least, I think cannot increase the strength or the military position of the Irregulars. I do not think the Government can very well be affected in any way, and the only hope is that it may bring peace, and I hope it will bring peace. Possibly it may not. It is worth a trial, and it is better at all events than putting into force the resolutions that have just been adopted. It is very easy to execute men, perhaps, and I am inclined to think—but I do not know as I have not been talking to the Commander-in-Chief for a long time—but I am inclined to think that he does not intend to execute men at the present time. It would be the last thing he would like to do. I am convinced of that. But if this thing goes on, the force of circumstances will compel him to enforce the decree you have just adopted. To avoid all that I think a truce and getting the men who are in arms against the Government together and getting a peace spirit created would tend to bring about this. Some may consider it a humiliation for the Government to arrange terms of a peace with these men.
No, not terms of peace.
I am very glad to hear the President say so, and it is a good sign. If there are any Deputies who would think it a humiliation—it was a humiliation for England, for instance, to agree to a truce with us some years ago. They spoke of us as murderers, and we spoke of these men as looters, and I forget the rest of it—not very pleasant terms anyway. We do not mind these terms, however. They are our countrymen, whether good or bad. They are what the civilisation of this country has made them. They are our countrymen, and it is no humiliation if we can bring peace to the country. It is the only way you can separate the criminals from the men who are actuated by high motives. It will not affect the military situation, I submit, and I submit also it is no humiliation. England had to do it, and it was not any humiliation for her. The Americans, as has been said here before, during the American Civil War did not want to recognise the Southern States as enemies or belligerents, but finally they had to do it, and they were all good friends afterwards. If we could settle this trouble in an amicable way and be good friends afterwards, so much the better. There has been bitterness enough in the country as a result of this, and the marvel is that it has not been worse. If it can be stopped now, I think it would prevent it becoming much worse than it is at the present time. Now peace, everyone will agree, is the urgent thing. The Minister for Defence referred to the situation in the South yesterday, I think it was, in his speech, and he said the railway lines were torn up, and that that interfered with the economic business of the country. The quickest way to bring about peace is by negotiations. When the Truce comes into operation, reconstruction begins immediately, and the probability is that once the order to cease fire is given, there may never be another shot fired by Irishmen against Irishmen. In dealing with Irishmen, you can always deal with them better by reasoning than by bullying. We saw the English here, the Aberdeens and the Birrells, who gave us plenty of palaver. They were successful, more or less, and it was the types that came here and shouted about swords and prisons and the rest of it that were failures. I think if we talked to these men who are in opposition on patriotic lines, it would be best. The best of them, the backbone of them, the men who count are just as patriotic as any men in this Dáil. I still maintain you can deal with these men's patriotism and reason. If you had the opportunity to come together and discuss the situation, the possibilities of peace would be greater. I ask the Dáil seriously to consider giving this a trial. It may not result in peace, but I think it is worth a trial. I do not see that it can interfere with the military situation in any way. I would like to hear the Commander-in-Chief's views. He may not have much faith in the proposal, as I know he has had much negotiation with these men, and may not have much belief in further negotiations, but it is better than forcing the resolution.
I rise to support the suggestion of Deputy Dr. McCartan because of what I have seen. I represent a constituency which has suffered much, and as late as last week I happened to visit an area in which I found things that would touch any Irishman's heart. I do not wish to speak much on this suggestion, but I want to ask the Dáil to take into consideration that we are not now fighting the common enemy, and it is harder on us at present to realise the position of the country. The Second Dáil disagreed on a political matter, which we all agree was a matter of life or death to the country, and that was the Treaty. We cannot say why men who are now leaders of the Anti-Treaty party disagreed on that, but we know that the men in the country at the present moment do not know how the Dáil is working. We have a Propaganda Department at the head of affairs, which is giving out certain information and is, as a matter of fact, trying to blind us every day of the week. That is all the people know. I certainly believe the men who are fighting are sincere and believe they are doing the best for the country. A truce at the present moment will not show weakness on behalf of this Government, but will show that the strongest man is always the most generous. The Government has stated on several occasions that it would not close the door against peace, and I hope they will not. If the Government opposes the suggestion for peace, this proposal will be defeated. I hope and trust when we realise it is Irishmen we are fighting, and now when it is proposed to pass a particular document that will take away liberties from us and that we know must pass in some form or other, I think I am expressing the feelings of the men on the opposite side in saying that they do not want it to come into operation. Every man knows his hardest duty is shooting a man in cold blood. If there is any possible chance of getting away from that terrible act, we will try to do so. For that reason I would ask the Government to accept the suggestion, and I urge it on the Members of this Dáil who know the situation. These people are going to be reasonable, and the Government, if it fails in its efforts for peace will have the full support of this Dáil and the country in carrying out their programme. The peace efforts made on a previous occasion were made by the second Dáil, which represented only one political party, that split into two. At the present moment we have a Dáil representing every interest in Ireland, and I certainly say this Dáil will have a better voice in making peace; and I hope it will never be said again that the peace negotiations were secret, but that they were open negotiations by this Dáil. If the negotiations fail we will know who will be the cause of the failure.
I rise to support the motion of the previous speaker. In doing so, I believe the time is ripe. I believe that in this matter there is every possible chance of a settlement being adjusted, whereby every political belief in the country will come to this Dáil and do its best so that the Government of the country can be carried out in accordance with the full wishes of the Irish people. I do not think that this is the time to say very much, but I believe that deep down in the heart of every Irishman and Irishwoman, fighting against one another at present, there is a longing for an honourable peace. Whatever has happened in the past, we should be prepared to cast aside and all should try, each in his way, to co-operate for the better government of the country. I heartily support the remarks of Deputy McCartan and Deputy Phelan. I had intended to bring forward such a proposal as this. Looking at the matter calmly and dispassionately, I do believe that there is a deepening feeling throughout Ireland for peace, and that the time for it is now ripe. I believe that if by this Dáil there were appointed a certain number of members representative of the Government benches, the Farmers, the Workers, and the Independents here, that the result would be a truce followed by a peace, which all of us would be thankful for, and that will place our land in the proud position of—"First flower of the earth and first gem of the sea."
I may say I did not intend to interpose in this discussion, but I wish to say that there is nobody in this Dáil would wish to see peace as much as I would. I desire to see peace as well as the bulk of the Dáil or any of the gentlemen who spoke from the Labour Benches. At the same time if peace is to come, it should come in a generous, straightforward manner and not as a result of a truce for any length of time. The Government has stated over and over again that they are anxious for peace. These men can have peace to-morrow if they want it, but the conditions which they must fulfil are that they must lay down their arms and submit to this Parliament. It is not very much indeed to ask any Irishman that he should submit to the authority of the elected representatives of the people of Ireland. It is not our fault if the men who are bearing arms at the present time are not here to put their views before us. It is their duty to be here, having accepted that duty and I believe under these circumstances that they are not sincere in asking for a general peace. Now if that peace is to come soon, and I hope it will come soon, and that the resolution we have passed here will not ever have to be put into effect, for none of us wish that the blood of any Irishman should be shed as the result of this resolution, if these men who are out to destroy the economic life of the country cannot see what they are doing and pay no heed to the views of the public through the Representatives of this Dáil, lay down their arms, they will be treated as friends and as if they never took arms against this country or Parliament. Therefore I think the resolution proposed by Deputy McCartan is not the class of resolution which should come from this Dáil. But if he puts forward a resolution which states these men should lay down their arms and come here to a free and unfettered Parliament I think this Dáil would accept it.
I think the Peace offensive is not a very strong one, and I think that the real weakness in this Peace offensive is that no terms are given from those who are anxious to get Peace for the other side. There is nobody in this Dáil, I believe, empowered to speak and say that for the other side they are in a position to give terms. I do not think that there is any person qualified to speak for those who are in arms against the National Forces at the present moment. I think that will be admitted. If, for instance, this Dáil were willing to send out a Peace Delegation, to whom are they to send it to? Who are the responsible parties on the other side with whom they are to treat, and what are the terms on which you are going to treat? The Dáil is perfectly entitled, and I will not stand in the way, nor will the Government stand in the way of any attempts towards making peace, but we are not entitled to make peace now in the same way as we were entitled to make it previous to the elections. The Deputy who represents the same constituency as I do may not know what I said to the people or may not have heard it. I said if I were elected again to this Dáil, and had any responsibility in the Government, that I was going to implement the Treaty, to do away with the dual Government, have but one army, suppress disorder, and have but one authority throughout the land. The policy on which the Government is engaged is tending towards that end. If it is possible to effect a Peace we are willing to-day to do it, but I am not authorised to go one step further than I have when I laid down that there must be obedience to the Parliament, and that order must be restored. If you can succeed in restoring order I am willing, as far as I am concerned, to give any other person that chance. Personally I am satisfied you can only have peace on these terms. Now as regards the truce we have had a truce. We had these peaceable conditions for six months. Dr. McCartan spoke, and I think Members opposite know the effect of that false Treaty Truce. Within six months, gentlemen on these benches know that after having the armed truce with those who are now fighting against us that Truce was broken and we were warned that that Truce would not operate as from a particular date. There is, in my opinion, I hope I am wrong, one course open if you are to have an eventual peace, and that is to show you are determined to make a good peace when it is made, and that peace can only be laid on the fundamental provisions of our Constitution, that respect must be paid to the majority of the people's will. Any peace not based on this proposal would be fatal, and might only encourage others in the Community to arm themselves for the purpose of holding up Government. If there are Members of this Dáil who think that it is possible to make terms of peace, and to restore order, let them in God's name start about it at once. But there is no use, in my opinion at any rate, in bringing forward these proposals here unless there is something behind them, and that the people who speak about it here are authorised to bring it forward on their behalf and unless there is a conception that these people are wrong. We have heard of the statements of some of them to the effect that they thought they were beaten, but there is added to that statement, "My God, if we won what would happen." Supposing they had success and wiped out the National Army, where are they then? Have they got the support of the people behind them, or would they get the support of the people if there were a General Election? We know they would not, and while the Government is most anxious and do not want to humiliate those against them, and while we appreciate that there are many brave men amongst them who fought well during the late war whom we would be glad to welcome back as citizens of the country, we cannot deny that there are others amongst them who are unworthy. If they show and acknowledge that they are on the wrong track and retrace their steps, we will not stand in their way. Real peace is the intention of the Government policy in this matter.
I would like to say how greatly I appreciate the speech that the President has just made. I think I can say I agree with every word of it. I believe, in the circumstances that face us, no one who has any regard to realities, and any regard to what is conceived to be democratic, but must say that peace can only be arrived at through a recognition that the position created by the Treaty must be accepted, that the Treaty position must be allowed to be worked. It does not mean that every individual at present in revolt against the Treaty must formally accept it, but that he must relinquish his claim to resist it in arms. That we subscribe to absolutely. I had no notice, except a few minutes before coming into the Dáil to-day, that such a resolution was to be proposed. I think it might be very valuable that the Dáil could express itself freely in this way on this subject, and let it be understood by those in arms against the elected Government of the country, that there is now an opportunity to abide by the decision of the country, whether formally taken or not. It must be admitted that there was much informality about it. But there is no one who has any regard for realities, but will admit frankly that the country takes the Treaty and says the Treaty must be worked. There have been decisions taken to-day which I think should be allowed to remain in abeyance for a period to allow of an opportunity for the hopes of the Dáil to come into effect. I do not know what is intended exactly by a Truce, I do not know how it is going to be made. I think the President's position was a sound one, that so far as we know there is no one to whom an appeal could be made who could speak for the Republican Forces. But having passed this resolution to-day, having made this gesture, if notice were given that it would only come into operation in fourteen days, and that in the meantime there was, say, a Committee appointed from various sections of the Dáil who would be empowered to, at least, enter into—I do not want to use the term negotiation —relationship—with whoever claims to speak on behalf of the opposition forces— the Irregulars—that, in itself, might lead to the possibility of a formal abdication of their position. I hope that Members from various sections in the Dáil will express themselves on this matter, and that if anything arises out of this motion, we shall all be sincerely thankful for the occasion having been provided.
A Chinn Chomhairle, in one sense this Government is in a most unfortunate position. It is in the unfortunate position of having absolutely nothing to give away. The things that we are fighting for are so sacred, so fundamental, that we cannot surrender, or compromise, on one jot or tittle of them. That, as I have said, is an unfortunate position. It would be better if we had something to bargain, but we have not. Not to take arms against the Parliament elected by the Irish people or the Government for the time being responsible thereto, not to interfere unlawfully with the person or property of one's fellow citizens, are these things that it is the right of a Government to compromise on?
Assuredly not, and yet we stand bare upon that, and the men who stand against us challenge all that. We are not fighting an offensive war; we are fighting a defensive war, a war for the elementary fundamental rights of the Irish people, and we do not want any Truce. We want peace, and the way to peace is for the people who are fighting the Government's army to stop fighting the Government's army. We must think straight, or go down in confusion. And who is the man who is going to lead them back along the paths to peace? Who is the man who is going to say to them, you must bow to the majority will of your people, of your country? You may have your own political opinions, you may have your own principles, but you cannot stand with your gun in the path of the majority of your fellow citizens and say, "you must not do this and you must not do that." Is it the man who a few months ago preached that the people had no right to do wrong, and that he was the judge, or he and a select body of his advisers? And yet we must have peace. If it is not that man, then who is it? And if there is no such man, we must go along and finish this thing, or go down trying. That is our clear duty as a Government.
I think this Dáil is to be congratulated upon the ideas that have lain behind the words of the various speakers, who have ventured to approach this subject, and upon the words of moderation with which they have expressed their ideas. They have shown their sense of the grave responsibility with which they have faced this occasion. And I think they are to be congratulated on the way they met it. I also realise that I speak with grave responsibility. But I think that anyone who imagines that he has, in the suggestion he ventures to make, any possible hope, should not shrink from making it. We all desire peace, and I think we all realise that the way in which the President expressed his desire for peace—the Government having put their hand to the plough would not draw back, and could not draw back— brought us a very great step upon the road to the goal we desire. I do not want, and I feel sure that none of the Government want, even though these misguided men have done, and are doing, grievous injury to our country, to hunt them down for the sake of revenge, or to drive them to the last resort. We would much rather, if we could, find some common ground upon which we might bring them here to discuss their different views with us in peace and quiet. I venture to make this suggestion, it is not quite the same as Deputy Johnson made, but it is somewhat on the same lines—that the Government should realise that they are placed now for the first time, perhaps, in a strong position, with this Dáil behind them in determination to get peace and that they should offer in the strength of that position, up to a certain date, a political amnesty and express at the same time that if that political amnesty is not taken advantage of by everyone up to a certain date that they are determined to make use to the fullest of the fresh weapons with which this Dáil has provided them. I venture merely to throw out that to the Government for their consideration; perhaps they have considered it, and if so, I may not have spoken in vain.
The discussion has resolved itself rather into one of peace than of a truce for the purpose of getting peace. Deputy McCartan, I think, hardly stood up to his own suggestion that a Truce should be offered or that hostilities should be brought to an end in that way. Anybody at all who is in touch with the realities of the situation must realise that anything in the nature of a truce or any negotiation that involved a truce would be fatal and would at least have the most undesirable results. In asking for these powers that the Government has got to-day for the Army it did not ask for powers to inflict punishment, it asks for powers to take certain steps with a view to achieving results. There was no desire that any of these men should be punished, once hostilities were at an end, once the resistance to the Government was broken finally. It is in that spirit that the Government would meet any proposals for peace. We have no desire to punish these men if they will give obedience to the Government and to the Parliament; they will be met as generously as anybody could suggest they should be met; but the generosity can begin only when the resistance to the Government ceases. Our efforts against them are military efforts, which cannot be slackened until these military efforts have succeeded. If anyone were to come here with any message from them—if Doctor McCartan were to come here with any message from them, the proposal contained in that message would not be dealt with in any harsh or in any unbending spirit, but whatever it might be the Government would have to hold that it was failing in its duty if even with such a message it slackened in the work that it has in hands. It is very doubtful indeed whether there is anybody from the other side who could send any message. The most prominent Military leaders like Lynch and Barry are not honourable men. The political leaders, I think, have not the power to give anything in the way proposed, so that from that angle there does not seem to be much hope. The hope of peace, I think, must come in a recognition on the part of the others, that the Government and the Army acting with them are determined to carry through the military operations to absolute success. But at the same time the Government is prepared to extend complete forgiveness and to meet with the fullest generosity anybody who ceases his resistance and accepts the fact that the Government must rule in this country and that the authority of this Parliament must not be challenged in arms.
There seems to be some idea or some suspicion that I have some message from the Irregulars. I have not. I have not been in touch with any of them. I proposed a truce. As regards the reason given by the President that you have no one to negotiate with, if I wanted to get in touch with any of them I would not know where to go. But you must allow that there must be leaders somewhere or other—some kind of leaders of the men who are in opposition. My real point is that the Government should allow them to come together and discuss the situation because the situation is entirely different now from what it was when the Four Courts were attacked. I believed, and I still believe, though you may think me optimistic, that if they get an opportunity of coming together now peace would be possible, and I think the only way to an immediate peace is a truce. Again I say you are dealing with Irishmen, and although the Minister for Home Affairs said we have nothing to give away, you can give them a ladder to climb down upon. You can give them that, and if you do give it there is hope that they will climb down. Make it as little difficult as possible, make it as easy as possible for them to climb down. The Government are strong enough to do that. If it was possible to proclaim a truce I would advocate it and proclaim it strongly, but my object is that you give them an opportunity to climb down and that is really what I have in view.
I desire to associate myself with the plea made by Deputy McCartan, and I do so for this reason: While I have no authority particularly to speak for any section of those who are in arms against the Dáil, even quite lately certain deputations approached me, when I was in the city of Cork, and said that if the road were made easy for certain sections of the Irregulars, the Irregulars—some of them, at all events; some companies, as I understand—are prepared to recognise the authority of this Assembly. Now, if that is the fact, as I was led to believe, I would join in the plea that was made by Deputy McCartan, that the Ministry here might make the way easy for any sections that are of that mind.
I would like to say one word about a truce. Deputy McCartan has asked the Dáil to give these men a ladder upon which they might come down. There is no man in Ireland to-day prepared to give these men a ladder to come down sooner than I am, if I thought it was going to have the desired effect; but, if you acquiesce in Deputy McCartan's plea, it will simply mean that you will be fooled in the same way as an effort was made to fool me in the West. Instead of your giving them a ladder to come down on by offering a truce, you will be simply preparing an avenue to enable them to strengthen their military position. Do not make any mistake about this. A delegation— I have the documents relating to it— was sent to me with a request to arrange a truce between the two forces in the West. The gentleman who came to propose it was quite possibly honest, but I doubt it. The idea underlying the thing was that I would agree to a three days' truce for the purpose of settling our differences, and that if Sean McKeon of the Western Command, and some other body in command on the other side had a chat, they were going to smooth the thing over, not minding the Dáil or anybody else. But the motive was this: during those three days a ship would enter Sligo port, carrying sufficient stuff which, if carefully handled, would put the Irregulars in a position not only to negotiate terms with me, but perhaps to dictate them. Now, that would be the ladder you would give these men if you negotiate a truce.
Give them a ladder of rifles.
Yes; a ladder of rifles. Now if there is to be peace—I speak as a soldier and with all the responsibility of a soldier who knows what he is talking about—there is only one basis upon which that peace can be established; that is, every soldier in the Nation must be submissive, not to the Government or to any set of men as a Government, but to the majority of the votes of the Irish people. There is great talk about Governments. I recognise one Government only in the sense of Government and that is that whatever the majority of the Irish people want, that will, I am willing to serve with my life. I am willing to do it now as in the past and there is not a soldier under my command who is not willing to do the same, and until everyone accepts that position you can never have peace or never will. So the only thing is, anyone who wants a truce let them say that they are prepared to abide by the will of the majority of the Irish people. I am prepared to abide by that will whether the Government be Labour, Unionist, or Sinn Fein, or whatever you like to call it. Let the Government be composed of merchants, traders, farmers. That includes the whole lot here. Whatever is the particular form of Government the country has a right to elect it. The Irish people have the right to put in who they like. In the Army we have men of all kinds, labourers, farmers, men who are soldiers of fortune and who do not give a damn about anybody; men, perhaps, who ought to be millionaires or something like that, and men, none of whom would agree to any form of Government whatsoever, but they must submit their will to whatever the particular form of Government is, and that is the only position on which you can have peace, and until that is accepted you will not have peace.
I do not expect that the National soldiers would go asleep during the truce and let the others do as they like.
It will be the same as the last truce; it will be all one-sided, and you cannot have that.