I now move Article 17 of the Bill, which reads:—"The Oath to be taken by Members of Parliament/Oireachtas shall be in the following form:—
`I,.................. do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established, and that I will be faithful to H.M. King George V., his heirs and successors by law in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to the membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.'
"Such Oath shall be taken and subscribed by every member of the Parliament/Oireachtas before taking his seat therein before the Representative of the Crown or some person authorised by him."
Article 2 of the Treaty signed on the 6th December last reads as follows:—"Subject to the provisions hereinafter set out the position of the Irish Free State in relation to the Imperial Parliament and Government and otherwise shall be that of the Dominion of Canada, and the law, practice and constitutional usage governing the relationship of the Crown or the representative of the Crown and of the Imperial Parliament to the Dominion of Canada shall govern their relationship to the Irish Free State." Now, sir, I submit that if we had not in that Treaty another Article prescribing the exact form of oath to be taken, if we had not Article 4 in the Treaty relieving somewhat from the rigidity of Article 2 on the question of the relationship of the Crown and so on the oath that would of necessity be taken by Members of the Irish Free State Parliament would read: "I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty George V., His heirs, successors according to law, so help me God." We have not that oath; we have an oath which gives the first allegiance of the Irish citizens to the Constitution of their own State, and which subsequently promises faithfulness to King George V., his heirs and successors. It has been suggested here, and suggested in the Press, that this is an entirely optional matter. We do not think it is. We do not for a moment hold that that position is tenable in common sense, in common public honesty. We do not think that in the mind of any signatory, British or Irish, there was the idea that this oath that gave so much trouble and tension at the late stages of the negotiations would be anything else but an oath to be taken by all Members of Parliament, and to be taken as a condition precedent to their taking their seats and acting and voting in the Parliament. This Treaty has been accepted. It was accepted by the late Dáil; it is unquestionably accepted by the people, and that being so all its reasonable and honourable implications are accepted. We have been told that it is a contract. It is a contract, and when any difficulty or doubt arises about contracts, judges set themselves to find out so far as they can, after perhaps a lapse of time, what was in the mind of the parties to the contract, what did the contract aim at? And, facing this thing in a reasonable way, ask yourselves was there an idea in the mind of any signatory, British or Irish, that they were discussing an oath other than that to be taken by every Member of the Parliament of Saorstát Eireann. Only, if you are sure of the contrary, are you entitled to say that this particular Article should not stand in full as it stands in this Draft Constitution? There was trouble over this oath. There were other forms of oaths drafted and rejected. There was contention over it. Men came back here with other forms of oaths, which were rejected; and finally, in the last stages, when the fate of the settlement, and perhaps the fate of the whole country, was on the knife edge, trembling in the balance, this particular form was hammered out. Now, as reasonable and honest men, we must ask ourselves whether we could take the stand before the world that all this trouble, this strain and tension, was about a form of oath which Members of the Parliament of Saorstát Eireann need only take if they had a particular stomach for it. We of the Government, who are standing over this Constitution, do not feel that that is a stand we could take with any regard to our reputation as sensible men, with any regard to the dignity and honour of the country. People in every land would take up the Treaty, and reading Article 4 of the Treaty, would, I submit, beyond all question give a verdict, and a very harsh verdict, against the men who took that stand and against the country which produced the men who took that stand. With regard to this Article, as with regard to other Articles in the Constitution, it is not a particularly pleasing task to stand over it, and it is not a pleasant task to submit it here to an Irish Assembly. We would much like if the necessity for so submitting to it did not exist; but, facing the fact that the necessity exists, and facing the fact that as we believe any tampering with this Article and other Articles in the Constitution means the throwing away of the harvest of five years' grim struggle, we stand for these Articles, and we are not prepared to throw away that harvest and let it rot in the fields. We ask Deputies here and people outside to simply face the thing in a hard-headed way, and, weighing the pros and cons of it, to see whether we would be wise or patriotic men to steer the country along the course of rejection. I therefore move the adoption of this Article.