Deputy Johnson proposes to raise a question on the adjournment in regard to the announcement in the evening newspaper respecting the execution of four men this morning found in possession of revolvers. I got the notice rather late, but I communicated with the Minister for Defence immediately. The question can now be raised on the Order of the Day for the adjournment.
I had a newspaper placed in my hands about half-an-hour ago and it contains something that will shock everyone who reads it, namely, that this morning four men have been executed, presumably under the authorisation that the Dáil gave to the Military Courts some time ago. The offence, as recorded in the announcement, was the possession without proper authority of a revolver in one case, and indeed I think it is the same in each case. I say it is with something of a shock that one reads such an announcement, and I am raising the question now in the hope that we shall have some more satisfactory explanation as to why four men should have forfeited their lives, or have their lives taken by the military authorities, for the offence of having a revolver. We know the circumstances of the country; we know what is the trouble in the country, and we know all the arguments that were adduced when we were asked to give authority for the setting up of these Military Courts. We were told—we need not have been told, because we were aware, sad to say—of the many cases of depredation, destruction and murder, and one of the offences that was set out in the orders was "looting, arson, destruction, seizure, unlawful possession or removal of, or damage to any public or private property" and the third was "having possession without proper authority of any bomb or article in the nature of a bomb, or any dynamite, gelignite, or other explosive substance, or any revolver, rifle, gun or other firearm or lethal weapon, or any ammunition for such firearm." The clause went on to speak of the offence of taking part in or aiding or abetting any attack upon, or using force against, the National Forces, but the third of these offences is that of having possession of any revolver without authority. Now it is two months ago, or nearly so, since these orders were passed, and the first information we get of the trial and sentence of any person under these orders and Military Courts is that of the four men who have been sentenced and executed, and after their execution we are informed of the fact that four men have been executed for the unlawful possession—that is, possession without authority—of revolvers. That is the bald way this announcement is given to the people, and unless there is some very much fuller explanation and justification for the execution of four men contained in that bald announcement I prophesy a deep revulsion of feeling against the Army and against the Government. I cannot believe that that announcement states facts which would justify the execution of these men. The possession of a revolver does not justify the execution of a man, lawfully or unlawfully, and no one, I believe, despite the decision of the Dáil, and no one in this Dáil, in his heart of hearts, believes that the possession of a revolver warrants the execution of the man or the woman who possessed it. I think we have the right to ask whether the promise that was given that, in the trial of these men they would be represented by any legal aid was carried out, and whether they were offered the opportunity to have legal assistance, and whether they were entitled or allowed to call, and whether they did call, any witnesses. I think the country will demand that more information in regard to the circumstances of the trial, the nature of the offence, and the circumstances surrounding the offence, should be dealt with and made known. It is lamentable, I think, that the announcement of the trial and execution of these men should go out in that bald form as if we were recording the arrival of a visitor from some other country in the Official Gazette. It is not fair to the country; it is not fair to the expectations of the people, and it is not fair to this Dáil that a mere bald statement of that character should be made that four men have been tried and found guilty and executed for the possession of a revolver in this way. Some fuller explanation of the circumstances, I say, are needed if the authorities responsible are to be able to justify their action to the public of this country.
Anything that will shock the country into realisation of what a grave thing it is to take human life is justified at the moment. The news of men executed in Dublin this morning, no doubt will shock people and people will regret it, but it has shocked us and we regret that we have had to face the responsibility of dealing with the situation that calls for measures as plain and as drastic as those measures. The men who were executed this morning in Dublin, were found on the streets of Dublin at night, carrying loaded revolvers, and waiting to take the lives of other men, and that is the simple case that we have to put before the country for taking the action in accordance with the recommendations that were made here. It was because those men were found under such circumstances, with such intent, that it was necessary to execute them here this morning. It is the old story: "Fuiligeann fuil, fuil den ghorta ach ní fhuiligeann fuil, fuil á dhorta." Blood will suffer blood to die in hunger, but blood will not suffer blood to be spilled. We have got to the stage here in Ireland when we will suffer blood to be spilled, if it is spilled hotly and we find now that we are shocked because blood has to be spilled in cold blood. We are faced with eradicating from the country the state of affairs in which hundreds of men go around day by day and night by night, to take the lives of other men. We have people in the country proclaiming that their aim and their object, the immediate aim and object before them, is to unite the people of Ireland, and the way they do it is they put arms into the hands of young men and middle-aged men and they send them out to take the lives of other Irishmen, and there are people in the country who, with the proclaimed aim of bringing the English back, take the very same line of action. There are people who take it to themselves and to their immediate neighbours and comrades to settle the difficulty of land acquisition, if not land purchase, in Ireland, and their policy is, as disclosed in their orders to subordinate officers, "Give him a bullet," and we are faced with dealing with a proposition like that. We have lost during the last three or four or five years, comrades that were very dear to us, citizens of our country, and we have lost them in circumstances in which perhaps some of them and some of us did not feel that they stood upon as sure and safe a ground, morally and politically, as we to-day feel we stand on. Throw your minds back to November, 1920, or December, 1920, or any of those months in which we were losing the Kevin Barrys, the Traolac MacSwineys, and the Dick Mackees, and see what was the kernel of strength that our country then had when facing the struggle she was then facing and to maintain a struggle and to hold together the small machinery which was pitting itself against England then? And ask yourself, had people who shouldered that responsibility then more justification for losing their Kevin Barrys and their Traolac MacSwineys in an effort to save and release their country from bondage, than we have now for endeavouring to save our country from the dangers that can very easily envelop it from outside and inside. People have to be shocked and people have to take stern measures, and we are absolutely convinced as a Government that unless we take and deal in the strongest possible way with those people who traverse our streets at night, shooting down our people, and going around our country day by day, wrecking our railways, robbing our people, taking their lives, destroying the whole fabric of industry and society in this country—unless we take very stern measures, we will not throw back the tide of lawlessness and the tide of lust and loot that some mad political leaders have stirred up in their train in this country. The situation in which these actions were taken is known to every person here and is thoroughly realised by every person in the country, and anybody who goes around with a loaded revolver in his pocket on the street seeking to take the lives of other men must be made face the fact that by doing so he forfeits his own life.
I would like to draw the attention of the Dáil to the fact that Deputy Johnson, in raising this matter, dealt particularly with the bald announcement that had been made that these men were executed for having possession of a revolver. No particulars of any kind were given in addition to that fact. We think if the facts are as the Minister for Defence has stated—and, of course, we fully accept that statement— that, in justice to everyone they should have been published at the same time as was the announcement of the act to the public. Deputies will remember—I think I am correct in saying that the first execution of the war opened in 1919 or 1920, was of a certain Irishman in Cork prison for the possession of firearms; and whatever feeling there may be that persons taken in open warfare—"people who draw the sword shall perish by the sword"—there was certainly an immense shock at that time that the mere possession of arms should have warranted the death penalty, and that was the feeling we had when Deputy Johnson raised this matter. We think, in justice to everybody, that a statement such as the Minister for Defence has made, should have been made when this awful announcement was given to the public.
In the few remarks I desire to make, I wish to say I do not agree with the statement made by the Minister for Defence, because when he says these men were caught on the street with a revolver that does not prove them guilty, or prove that they pulled a trigger and killed any of his men. Before they were sentenced I think they ought to have got a public trial, and I would like to know whether these men were allowed to get legal aid, and to call in any solicitor. The first news we have about it is what is published in the public press this afternoon, and, surely, the Government that the Irish people have been waiting for the last seven and a half centuries ought not to act as harshly as if there was a continuation of the war with the British. I suppose the next Act that will be brought in will be to provide that if an unfortunate individual is found with a bullet in his pocket he will be executed, even if he never had a revolver. (A Deputy.—Oh!) You can say "oh," if you like, but these are the real facts, and, as a man returned by the people to this Dáil, I say if you have a charge against a man, you must either prove him guilty or give him a chance of showing he is innocent before you have a right to sentence him. Now, for example, take this particular case here: "Peter Cassidy, tried by Military Court held on the 9th November, 1922, charged with being in possession of a revolver without proper authority on the 27th October, 1922, was found guilty on the charge and sentenced to death. The finding of the sentence of the Court was confirmed and the sentence duly carried out this morning at seven o'clock." Now, is that sufficient explanation to offer this Dáil? We have not been told anything whatever about these charges, and we do not know, or the Minister has not stated, whether those men charged were allowed to get legal aid, or were witnesses called to prove their innocence. And I think that this Dáil expects a more solid statement from the Minister for Defence than the one he has already uttered, and I challenge the Minister to give a straightforward answer here—as to whether these defendants were allowed the aid of a solicitor in order to prove their innocence.
One should consider the end in view when the State and the Government, acting in the name of the people, take such action as was taken at seven o'clock this morning. One should consider whether punishment is vindictive in its object or deterrent in its object. That particular punishment was not vindictive. Somehow capital punishment would be strikingly futile if it were merely vindictive in its object. It would defeat its own end to a very large extent, but that punishment was deterrent. It was taken because it was necessary to take action of that kind if this Nation is to live, and it was taken in the hope of deterring those who are killing the Nation. The Nation's life is worth the lives of many individuals. And if this were merely an average case it may perhaps have been because it was better at first to take the average case, to take the cases which had nothing particular, no particular facts about them to distinguish them from the cases of thousands all over the country who are leading the Nation to death. If you took as your first case some man who was outstandingly active or outstandingly wicked in his activities the unfortunate dupes through the country might say, "Oh, he was killed because he was a leader," or "He was killed because he was an Englishman," or "He was killed because he combined with others to commit rape." It was better in my opinion, wiser in my opinion, more calculated to achieve the object, to achieve the deterrent object, to take simply the plain or ordinary case of the men who go out with arms to kill their fellow-countrymen, refusing to recognise the ordinary basic principle upon which civilised Government rests everywhere, refusing to recognise the sovereignty of the majority will of this Nation. And let no man think that we took action of this kind impetuously; and let no man think that we took action of this kind vindictively or in hot blood. The contrary stands proved. Since last December we entreated, coaxed and compromised, and went beyond the safety line in compromising in the hope of adverting this disaster of civil strife. And all the time the words on the lips of those who stood against us were "Is your Treaty worth civil war"? There is something greater than the Treaty at stake here. The life of the Irish Nation as a Nation, the life of the Irish Nation as a democratic organism, is at stake. The whole question as to whether it is to be a Nation in the future governed by constitutional principles, or whether it is to be a mob dictated to by an armed minority was at stake. There is a point beyond which we could not coax or compromise. The point came at which it became necessary to strike to save the life of the Nation. And only then we struck. Only when it was clear that there could be no peace; only when it was clear that when the political leader had gained his political advantage his military associates were free to dishonour him by denying the price. Then we struck. And even after striking we tried simply to wear these men out, we tried to show them the futility, the wantonness, and the waywardness of the whole thing, and we tried to conduct this fight with a minimum expenditure of human life on both sides. And what has happened? Mr. de Valera who started, as I said yesterday, with the words, "There is a constitutional method of settling our differences, in God's name let us not depart from it." Mr. de Valera has been busy tying more kettles to his tail. The President he is! The head of a Council of State, and of a Government! "The principles he stands for are by their very nature irreducible and incapable of compromise." Well, this Nation must live. We have been elected to this Dáil as the Government of it. We have a tremendous responsibility. If we fail to live up to these responsibilities and to act up to these responsibilities, the children of Ireland in the future would raise their hands and curse us. There was just one alternative to the policy we are now carrying out—and one alternative to the kind of act that took place this morning at seven o'clock, and that is to abdicate; and to say to the British signatories to that Treaty "we are not able to carry it out," and to let this country go down in dishonour and futility. Five Plenipotentiaries signed the Treaty last December, they brought it home, the Dáil passed it, the people accepted it. We are the Provisional Transitional Government set up pending the formal coming into existence of Saorstát Eireann. We speak the authentic voice of the people of Ireland. And if we are not able to make that voice effective, if we are not able to honour the bond of the five signatories of last December, then this Nation fails in a great test and goes down in dishonour and futility. Now the life of this Nation and the honour of this Nation is worth the lives of many individuals. And we, in grave consultation and in grave Council, have decided that if it is necessary to take the lives of many individuals then the lives of many individuals will be taken.
HereMr. MILROY rose to speak.
There is a rule which prevents us going beyond the half-hour limit with this discussion. But the matter is particularly grave, and if the Dáil desires they can waive that.
The Dáil agreed to waive the rule and continue the debate.
No one in this Dáil, I think, is one iota less shocked or appalled at the tragic events of to-day than the Deputy who opened this discussion. On this side of the Dáil I think we have been appalled much longer than Deputy Johnson, at least we have given utterance to the deep horror that we have felt at the slaughter day after day of the men who are trying to maintain the status of this country as a free nation. Deputy Johnson says that it was a shock to the country and to him, and it will be to the country to read of these executions.
For the reasons which were given.
Yes. I share his feeling in that respect, but let me call attention of the Deputy and the Dáil to one instance that indicates in some slight way the situation and conditions which necessitate such stern measures. It was only within the last few days that a night watchman going to his duty, probably a member of one of these organisations which Deputy Johnson represents, was held up by armed men, taken down one of the back streets of the city, robbed of the few shillings he possessed, and then told to clear off, and a bullet put through his back. There was no question raised in this Dáil that any Deputy was appalled at that. The life of that poor watchman going to his work was surely as sacred as the life of any of the men who were executed this morning.
Will the Deputy tells us whether any person in this Dáil was responsible for the taking of that life whom we can bring to book for that?
If the Deputy would allow me I will say this, I am not alleging that any Deputy was responsible for that, but I say it is the conditions existing in the country that allow such things to happen, and that make it necessary for the Government of this country to take measures to bring to an end this rule of the gun which has been bringing a condition of terror and destruction upon the country. Now, let us understand what we are confronted with. We are faced with a definite, deliberate and avowed attempt to overturn the Government set up by the Irish people, and the means to achieve that have been the utter destruction of the economic life of the country, the breaking of the morale of the people, the midnight assassinations, the ambushing of the National troops, and after the ambushes have taken place and brave men have fallen at the hands of the ambushers, the ambushers have put up their hands and been taken away in safety to some place convenient. Is that the road to freedom that we are to pursue, and is Ireland to be forced along that path, day after day, month after month, and are the Government to sit still, and do nothing to try and prevent those who are trying to drive Ireland down this path of National destruction? I say it was necessary that the time should come when stern action should be taken, and, perhaps after all, as the Minister for Defence has stated, it was better that the beginning of that new phase of things should have been brought upon the country in a manner which would bring home to the minds of every man and woman in Ireland the great tragedy we are facing, the stern necessity and the stern means necessary to avert that tragedy. For remember, while we sit here day after day talking, the whole fabric of the Nation's life is being shaken, and men have fallen to their death at the hands of men who are up in arms against the country, but there is no word of protest. Not a word of protest. Take the case the other day when Lieutenant Leonard was shot by some one of these marauders; there was no one in the Dáil to raise their voices and say this was an appalling state of things.
What are you talking about?
I raised my voice before against the conditions that enabled these things to happen.
So did we.
I wish that the protest of the Deputies opposite had been a little more articulate and a little more emphatic. We are faced with the fact that if we are going to defend the interests of this country, its rights, its liberties, and its very existence, we have got to take measures adequate for that purpose. We are not here as a debating society. We are here with the responsible task of safeguarding the nation. Are we doing that by allowing the men who form the National Army to be assassinated with impunity, and if when they are assassinated with impunity, instead of denouncing these assassinations or ambushes—call them what you like—we speak about the noble ideals with which those who strike them down are animated? It is time that we faced the fact that what we are up against is not a movement of idealists, or at least if they are idealists, who have become deranged idealists, and have degenerated into anarchists. And whatever compromise or accommodation Ireland may make within any sane movement, Ireland and this Dáil and the National Government can have no accommodation and no compromise with anarchy. I challenge any man in this Dáil to get up and say that this Government ought to make terms with anarchy, to try to conduct the Government and life of this nation with a body of men who, whether they admit they are anarchists or not, are at least adopting the strategy and methods of anarchists. Mr. De Valera the other day stated that if he had not his way he and those with him would go down to utter defeat and extermination. If Mr. De Valera is adamant in that, well what is the National Government to do? Is it to accept that challenge? It means that these are his terms and that if he does not go down in the manner he prescribes that those he confronts and whose authority he contests, you, the Government of Ireland, must go down into utter extermination and defeat. Is that the prospect? It is to avert that, I take it, that the Government have taken the terrible and grave step they have taken. I regret the time should have ever arrived when this should have come to pass. Since this controversy opened I have no recollection that I have ever said one word that would conduce to such an appalling eventuality. I have tried to adhere in any controversy that has taken place to those methods suggested by Mr. De Valera when he said, "There is a constitutional way of resolving our difficulties. Let us not depart from it." If this tragedy of to-day, if this grave incident that has occurred—no graver tragedy I think has occurred for a long time—I think in the sense that it has brought men who perhaps did not realise it before to an understanding of the brink of the tragedy upon which Ireland has been hovering, if this brings home to the minds of those who failed to realise that, that the National Government is determined that the Irish nation shall not go down in utter defeat and extermination, that it shall stand firm, and that it shall survive, as it survived the Black-and-Tan terror and the other terrors projected from England, so shall it survive the terror of the Irregular. If it brings home to those who are carrying on that later terror the realisation that their efforts are futile and makes him understand that if they argue out differences with the National Government and the Irish people they must argue them out in a constitutional way, then perhaps this may be the last of these sad and tragic events. Upon their heads will rest the responsibility whether it is or it is not the last. If they desist, if they drop their arms and recognise the right of the Irish people to rule according to the will of the Irish people, then I believe that this tragedy of this morning may be the last, and that, sad though it is, it may be the milestone that marks the return of the Irish Nation as a whole back to the road of sanity and real National freedom. I hope that this will be the last occasion that such a discussion will arise in this Dáil, but I think that the Government ought to understand that the National Legislature, that the National Parliament of Ireland, stands with them and behind them to a man in all the legitimate steps that they think it necessary to take to save the Irish Nation from destruction, and the Irish people from the terrorism and the anarchy that has not only been hovering over but which has been torturing the life of the Nation for the last few months.
I wish first to correct the impression which some Deputies may be labouring under, judging from the remarks of Deputy Lyons. The men who met their deaths this morning had a full opportunity of employing legal aid and calling witnesses in their defence. Every person who will be tried under the Resolutions passed by the Dáil will have a full opportunity for conducting his defence, and I can safely say that no person will be executed except the person who deserves to meet his doom. We are now coming to a time when it is necessary to open a new chapter. From January until June we tried to avoid any fighting whatever. From June until now we have been practically demonstrating that we can prevent the people who are opposed to the majority will from holding any section of the country that we can beat them out of; in a word, showing them the futility of their attempt to prevent the majority will from prevailing. That has been shown clearly enough, but now it is necessary to take all the measures that may be necessary to bring the state of affairs which exist in the country at the present time to the speediest possible close. We will not prevent bloodshed by shirking stern measures now. So much terrorism has arisen in the country that there is no such thing in reality as a Republican movement. There is a definite movement of anarchy. People who are doing their deeds and committing their crimes in the name and under the clock of Republicanism are for the most part criminals; people who are out to grab property that is not theirs; people who are out to enforce their will upon the majority, heedless of the rights of their neighbours; people who cannot settle down to ordered life, and who desire to maintain the sort of conditions in which they have power, and in which they can go about exercising authority throughout the country; people who have debts to pay and hope to avoid paying their debts. In the condition of disorder existing we have actually what is a conspiracy of anarchy throughout the country. That conspiracy of anarchy can only be put down as such conspiracies are put down in other countries, by taking the measures that are necessary, however stern they may be, to put it down. The members of the Government take,—I as a member of the Government take,—the fullest responsibility for putting these men to death. I take for myself,—as others will take for themselves,—as complete responsibility as if I had passed the sentence, and as if I had carried it myself into execution. I am convinced that it was a just sentence and that it was a just measure. It is no palliation of the crime of these men in the state of the country that they had not already succeeded in shooting somebody. We should and we must pass the stage when we are going to be guided in our conduct of affairs by any kind of sloppy sentiment. If a man has a revolver for an illegal purpose, when men are using them every day for illegal purposes; if a man carries a revolver in the street, when men every day are making attacks on the National Forces, then that man must know that he does it at his own risk, and if he is taken carrying a revolver with the intention of committing a crime, with the intention of committing murder, and he only has a revolver with the intention of committing murder, then that man must get the murderer's doom. It is time that all of us here should prepare to face the facts, and I think it should no longer be necessary that all the indignation that is expressed about any killing, or about any measure that is drastic and severe, should be expressed only when that measure is taken by the Government for the defence of the common people of the country, for the defence of the great majority, and that no word should ever be said, or that only the mildest expression of disapproval should come, when actions as severe as killings that have no justification are done by people on the other side. The whole point of the matter was put very clearly by the Minister for Home Affairs regarding the object of this stern measure that was taken to-day, and that will I am afraid have to be taken again, because at this stage I do not think that the execution of four would suffice. If there had not been a desire to avoid bloodshed, perhaps less bloodshed would have been necessary, but I, for one, do not regret that every effort was made up to June to avoid it. I do not regret that from June till now every possible effort was made to restrict the loss of life, but I do believe that it is quite possible that that reluctance to take life may make it necessary to take more life now than what would have been the case. But the one way to avoid unnecessary bloodshed is for all the people concerned to let it be known that they are determined not to shrink from whatever bloodshed may be necessary for the achieving of the object in view. This Nation is now suffering from the effects of a deadly cancer. We must use the knife to cut it out, and it would have been better for us never to have begun asserting the will of the majority of the Irish people if we were not prepared to go through with it, and to see that the fruits of our struggle, both against the alien enemy and against the domestic enemy, are garnered.
May I be allowed the privilege of saying one word or two?
I think so, under the special circumstances.
The circumstances are special, and I want to make my position clear. The object which I had has been achieved. We know now what we would not have known from the announcement in the evening papers, that the men executed were taken in arms in the streets, with loaded arms, and obviously with the intention of attacking someone, presumably preparing an ambush. I will assume that that is the case, although the evidence is not very clear. I have the uttermost detestation of the street ambushes above everything that is happening in this country, and I have not the slightest sympathy, nor do I want to utter one word which would seem to condone in any way whatever, the action of any man, or woman, who is engaged in the organisation of ambushes in the city streets. The protest, or, at least, the question that I raised was because of the uninformative announcement, and I think the reputation of the Government will have been saved by the statement that that query has educed. Recent statements that have appeared, recent developments, conclusively prove to me that there is not going to be any life for this nation unless by the taking of stringent measures. I think we are driven to recognise that life will have to be taken, but I want, at all times, the Government which is going to be responsible, with the rest of us, for the taking of life in defence of the nation, to keep themselves right, in view of the people of the nation, and in view of posterity. Four executions have taken place, and we might well have thought, from the announcement, that these had been of men who had possession of revolvers in their homes. It is not right that the chance even of such an interpretation of the action of the military authorities in this matter could have been made by any reader. It is necessary that full information should be given when any action of this kind is taken. I believe that stringent measures must be taken. You have been challenged to take these stringent measures. The country and the majority Government of the country have been defied to take these stringent measures, and men and women, high ideals as they may have—and we know that idealists are in all ages and in all countries willing to go to their death—but in the words of the leader, "as a principle of order," it is necessary to take up that challenge, and to make it impossible for the destructive element to assume dominance. That is my position, and I go further and I will say that the people who are challenging a conflict on the physical plane cannot command sympathy when, having been reversed on that physical plane, they fall back on the moral plane. That is not heroism, it is cowardice. I applaud and I will applaud the people who are prepared to fight this Government, or any Government, on the basis of non-co-operation and civil disobedience and all the rest. I wish this fight had been conducted on that plane since the beginning, but I am not going to express any sympathy, or have any sympathy, for people who challenge on the physical plane, and then fell back on the moral plane in the hope that they will, by that higher weapon, defeat the lower which they originally took in hands. I am glad that we have had the explanation that the men executed this morning—and I take it that the proof was absolute—were executed because they were preparing an ambush, but I say that if there will be any more announcements of executions let them be explanatory, so that they will justify to the public mind the action of the Government.
I beg to move the adjournment of the Dáil.
Lest silence on my part might be taken as indicating my being a party to the executions, let me say that I am not satisfied with what has been put forward by the Minister for Defence or by any of the speakers who have spoken to-night. Looking at the clapping of hands which took place when the announcement of the executions was made here, it struck me very forcibly and all the more so——.
That statement should not be made—that when the executions were announced there was a clapping of hands. That is not so.
After the speech of the Minister for Defence the clapping of hands took place.
That is a lie, and we will not have it.
At my instance the Dáil waived a particular rule to allow this matter to be fully debated. It is a very grave matter which deserves the fullest debate; but a Deputy has made a statement which concerns the whole Dáil, and that statement was that when the executions were announced in the Dáil there was applause. That statement is not true and the Deputy must withdraw it.
I certainly will submit that I saw men at the time the announcement was made clap their hands.
There was no announcement made in the Dáil, and when there was no announcement it could not possibly have been applauded. The Deputy must withdraw that specific statement. It is not true, and it must be withdrawn.
I will explain if you will allow me.
The Deputy cannot explain. He has made a specific statement that when the executions were announced the announcement was applauded.
If you allow me——
That is the exact statement. That statement is untrue and the Deputy must withdraw it. When he has done so he can go on, but he must withdraw that statement first, because the statement is not true.
Repeat the statement.
The statement was that when the executions were announced in the Dáil the announcement was applauded.
That is not exactly the way I said it.
That is the exact sense of the statement. It is not true and it is because of that that I do not wish it to go forth.
Will you give me an opportunity to explain?
This is an important matter, a vital matter. The statement must be withdrawn immediately. I will allow the statement to be withdrawn in the first instance— the statement that when the executions were announced in the Dáil the announcement was applauded. I will allow the Deputy to repudiate it, but it must be withdrawn or repudiated immediately.
You will accept no explanation?
I will accept a withdrawal and then the Deputy can continue his speech. That is the fairest possible ruling.
I think, if you will allow me to intervene for a moment, the Deputy was evidently labouring under excitement when he made the statement. The statement made is a reflection upon every member of the Dáil. It is a serious statement and it is one that could not be allowed by this Dáil to pass unnoticed, and I am sure the Deputy had scarcely got that in his mind. He could scarcely mean to put such an insult upon the Dáil. I would certainly ask the Deputy, in view of the gravity of the situation to regularise the proceedings by withdrawing the statement.
If I am allowed, I will make my position plain and then the Dáil——
The Deputy must act in accordance with ordinary procedure. I was in the Chair from the beginning of this discussion and I would despise myself all my life if I had remained in this Chair and listened to this Dáil applauding such an announcement. I will not allow the Deputy to make that statement because it is completely untrue. The statement must be withdrawn first. I would advise the Deputy, in justice to himself, that he should withdraw it and continue his speech. The particular statement he has made must not be allowed to pass.
If I am allowed to put matters so as to show what I meant to convey——
The Deputy has made a statement which must be withdrawn. I am bearing with him very patiently, and there are other things which could be done. He must withdraw first, and then he may continue his speech.
I must say the statement made by the Deputy is an allegation against me and my colleagues and every other member of the Dáil.
And against me.
Yes, and against yourself, A Chinn Chomhairle, and it is obviously not true. We all know it is not true. If the hearing, or the seeing, or the imagination of the Deputy is at fault, he has no alternative but to withdraw before anything further happens.
In justice to himself and in order that he may be allowed to speak and make his position clear, he should withdraw.
If the particular statement that exception has been taken to is withdrawn you will give me liberty to explain?
There ought to be no compromise. It must be either withdrawn or not withdrawn.
When I was speaking I did not allude to this side of the Dáil at all.
Is the statement withdrawn?
The Deputy withdraws the statement.
With a view to an explanation——.
The Deputy has withdraws his statement.
I have been knocked a little off what I had intended saying. After the announcement, or the plea of justification made for those executions, or rather after the delivery of the address of the Minister for Defence, when that address was applauded it brought me back to the allegations which were made against the Irish Party in Westminster when they were supposed to have applauded the executions of the men of 1916, and which they denied. I may say, to start with, that when the address of the Minister for Defence was delivered there was no clapping of hands from this side, nor from some on the other side, but in order to proceed with my subject I would say that when such a matter of grave importance as that carried out this morning—such a tragedy, to my mind at any rate—had been decided upon, this Dáil should have been in possession of the facts and should have been acquainted that such a sentence had been promulgated. I was under the impression that prior to any of these sentences being carried out, at least for a few days, such sentence would be laid on the Table of the Dáil. I may not be correct, but at any rate if things were to be done in the right way that should be done. So far as I see things these executions which unfortunately have taken place appear to me, at any rate, to be the writing on the wall, and if the members of this Dáil think they will be able to put down those who hold Republican views in Ireland by executions of this sort you will have to execute every Republican in Ireland and you will still have the Republican spirit alive. I am one who holds Republican views, and I am neither afraid nor ashamed to say it. My views are the establishment of a Co-operative Commonwealth.
Deputy Gaffney must remember that there is no question as to any kind of Commonwealth under discussion.
I mention it in order to show that I am viewing things as I believe the people of the country will view them.
They will not execute you, in any case.
With regard to what the last speaker has said, I may tell him I went nearer to execution than he did.
The Deputy must not insult anybody in the Dáil, or make statements about what he went through in comparison with what other people went through. This debate is being conducted on a particular line, and the Deputy is making an endeavour to get away altogether from that.
I am not. I want to point out that so far as this Dáil saying it has the authority of the country behind it for these executions is concerned, that is not so. It has not, and time will justify that, as time did justify 1916. The whole of the people of Ireland were supposed to be behind John Redmond and his party in 1916. The few who started the rebellion in Dublin—the insignificant few, as they were contemptuously referred to at the time—were the means of saving the nation from losing its soul, and though at the time, they were condemned for what they did, it came about that the whole country turned. Many persons took an oath to a Republic that they meant with their life to stand by. They fought the Black and Tans and everybody else, and when the time came around they went back of their oaths. If there are men who stand by their oaths, and conscientiously believe they are following the right track, is that the reason why they should be put into gaol and executed, and things made so impossible for them that they cannot live? In the town of Carlow a man, because he held certain views, and because he was supposed to have made a certain remark, was brought by armed Free State troops——
The Deputy must keep to the subject under discussion.
And there was an attempt made to murder that man and throw him into the river.
You must keep to the subject under debate.
On such a subject as this it is hard to keep within the limits. Anything we could possibly say to-day would perhaps have no effect on this Dáil. I was glad to see that the Labour Party voted against the motion for executions. I believe there is not one person in Ireland who wishes these executions to take place. It is all right to say you have the will of the people, but that there are people defying you. Did you not enter into a pact in order to keep out everybody else? I fought against the Pact as an Independent representative, but the Pact was not kept, even by the people who made it. The Pact was shamelessly broken in the constituency that I represent, and it was broken in the University.
The whole thing is, you are following British methods, and you will go down with them.
It is due to me to deny having broken the Pact, having regard to the fact that I belong to the same constituency as the Deputy. I gave my interpretation of it on every platform. I subscribed to the Pact, because it meant stabilisation and normal business restoration, and, if it did not mean those things, as far as I am concerned, I would have nothing to do with it. The Deputy knows I stood for the Treaty, and, what is not usual, I said up and down the constituency that I would fight for it. I think the Deputy got rather excited as to some sort of analogy between what has occurred and Easter Week. There is no such analogy, and the steps we are taking now are by no means pleasurable steps, but we have taken them in the best interests of the country, after giving timely notice and timely warning of the fact that we had reached the end of a phase in the life of this country when people posturing under the banner of a particular ideal would not be allowed any longer to interrupt the life of the country, to menace the peace and order and good government of the country, and it is for that purpose, and that purpose only, we brought in those resolutions, and, unfortunately, we have to act on them to-day. Over two months have passed since the introduction of the resolutions, and every day of that two months has been looked upon as a day of weakness, and we have had to give evidence of the fact that we were in earnest when we introduced these resolutions. We mean to restore order at whatever cost. If there are people opposed to us who say they are going to win or be exterminated—that is their election. We have no desire to exterminate them. If that be their sentence, we are going to say, as far as we are concerned, that they will not have victory without the consent of the people of this country, and if, to-morrow, these people at present engaged in arms against the country, surrender those arms and acknowledge the will of the people, we, I believe, will not enforce any humiliating terms upon them. But, I think every sensible person in this country must admit, if the country is to succeed, there must be ordered government. I move the adjournment of the Dáil until Tuesday week. We shall not be in a position to have business ready before then.
I beg to second the motion.