[DAIL RESUMES.] - AMNESTY (BRITISH MILITARY) BILL—FOURTH AND FIFTH STAGES.

I do not know what is the view of the Dáil with regard to this Bill. If the Dáil were willing we would proceed with it. If there is any objection to any Clause I would not now go on, but if the Dáil is willing I would suggest that we would proceed with it If there is an objection from any Deputy we will not go on with this now.

The Dáil agreed to proceed with the Bill.

I move now that the Amnesty (British Military) Bill be received for final consideration by the Dáil.

I second that.

Taking this Bill now as it comes out of Committee and reported to this Dáil I suggest that it might be desirable if the President could say something with regard to one outstanding case. There is a kind of feeling in this country, that may be altogether uncharitable or altogether wrong, and it is that once this Bill has been disposed of, so is Dowling. I would like to feel as we are passing this Bill through that we might know exactly what is the position as regards one outstanding prisoner, Dowling, and three other prisoners in Scotland, and to press for their release, with the passing into law of this Bill. I do not know exactly what the position is, or whether it has changed since the matter came before us last; but any one outstanding case of that kind is bound to create a certain amount of disquietude and sense of injustice that is not desired on either side, and it would be a good opportunity to celebrate the enactment of a Bill of this kind by having an announcement that all Irishmen who were in any way connected with any kind of political or semi-political offences in the past shall be released. I need not mention to members of this Dáil who will be familiar with the case of Dowling that it is one of special moment, because he did play his part by holding his tongue, when, had he spoken the full knowledge at his disposal, he might have made things very uncomfortable at the time. His is a special case. The Connaught Rangers have been let out. His case is no worse or better than theirs; it is on all fours with theirs. They have been released, and I sincerely hope the President will be able to announce that the case of Dowling has also been favourably considered; that he is to be released, as well as the other three prisoners who are now in Scotland. It has been suggested that I may have, by not mentioning the particular Dowling, led to confusion with the Dowling who shot Max Green. I am not referring to that man; I am referring to the man who landed at Clare in 1918.

There was quite a number of prisoners whose cases were the subject of many representations by the late General Collins, by the late President, by Mr. O'Higgins, and, during the term of office of the Provisional Government after the deaths of the President and General Collins, by myself. I think that no effort was spared to bring before British Ministers or the British Government, both the late British Government and the present one, the views that were held in this country regarding the release of these prisoners, how strongly their release was demanded and expected, how much that act would go towards effecting more cordial relations between the two countries, and how much stronger evidence it would afford of the determination of the British Government and the Government of Saorstát Eireann to efface the bitter memories of the long conflict that had taken place between the two countries. Now, to some extent, I am at a disadvantage with regard to many of the prisoners. There were others who were in touch with us, and who were working with us during the period of conflict, who had intimate knowledge of each and every one of those cases. That knowledge, as far as I am concerned, is not intimate. Their cases, as far as that is concerned, have not suffered to any extent by reason of that lack of intimacy. I think the Dáil must appreciate the different position that the Government of Saorstát Eireann is in now. That is to say, it is a coequal member of the community of Nations, and I expect that the relations between the Saorstát and the British Government must be conducted on certain lines with regard to those prisoners. The Dáil may rest assured that the Government has done everything that was reasonably possible, before and since the establishment of the Saorstát, to effect the release of those particular prisoners, and of Dowling. They are not matters that one can really discuss with any great freedom, because it will be appreciated that there is a certain dignity a Government must maintain, and we have been accustomed for so long to making representations about this or that or any other matter that we may easily lose sight of the fact that we are now an independent Nation, and that the course of representations with regard to these matters has to some extent altered. The alteration of these circumstances has not prejudicially affected this prisoner Dowling or any other prisoner. I expect that sooner or later no one will have any reason to complain, but I am not in a position just now to give any greater grounds of hope than that, and the fact that the Government thoroughly appreciate the necessity for the release of this man, who has certainly suffered more, I think, than any other prisoner has suffered, but about whose intimacy with the particular period of time in which he was arrested I had no actual knowledge.

Question put: "That the Dáil agree with the Committee in its report."
Agreed.

With the leave of the Dáil, I move that the last stage of the Bill be now passed. It is certainly, I think, a matter upon which the Dáil may be congratulated that it has passed this Bill with a good grace, and I thank the members of the Dáil individually for their consideration with regard to this matter, having regard to the fact that there are just one or two little remembrances, if I might say so, of the recent conflict which might prejudice an Act of this sort. I accordingly move that the Bill be now passed.

I beg to second that.

Question put: "That the Bill be now passed."
Agreed.