As I explained on the First Reading of this Bill, its introduction was deemed necessary because of the fact that, in some counties at any rate, many decrees of the courts were in the hands of the Sub-Sheriffs, and were, under present circumstances and with the resources at present available for Sub-Sheriffs, incapable of execution. It is a bad thing for a country, and a bad thing for the trade of a country, when credit collapses or is seriously impaired, and credit is a sensitive thing. To-day it crosses the seas, and cargoes are sent from the ends of the earth merely on a promise to pay, and to-morrow some adverse circumstances smash credit even within the confines of the country itself. If there is no commercial security, no credit within a country, then it is safe to say that there will be no international credit, no credit with other countries. Now, the position is not quite as serious as that here, but it is as well that the people on whom the responsibility rests should take adequate steps to prevent any such collapse of commercial security in the country. One paper, commenting upon the introduction of this Bill, said that they would have preferred some statement as to how we propose to deal with a certain type of outrage, and that there was little to be said for the safeguarding of commercial security if there was no commerce. Well, of course, that was a very wise comment, and at first view very sound, but assuredly one of the factors that would make more speedily for the disappearance of commerce would be the serious impairment of credit within the country itself. Moreover, nothing will make so speedily for the intensification of the already intense and acute unemployment in the country. At the risk of emphasising the obvious, let me trace the force of the thing. The shopkeeper, feeling that he has not at his disposal the means of recovery, closes down on credit. I think we may safely assume that when credit is stopped there will be less purchasing. There are people within the country whose incomes come into them periodically; if they have not the facilities of credit, in the interval between the receipt of instalments of salary, then their purchasing power is reduced. That being so, the orders back to the factory from the retail trader will be considerably diminished, and if the output of the factory is seriously diminished you can take it that that will react in turn on the worker and that unemployment will, in that way, spread. Now, the chief thing that occasioned this Bill was the failure of the bailiff as a factor in our civilisation. The bailiff, no doubt, was a person enjoying, or not enjoying, a certain amount of odium in this country, largely for reasons dating back some 15 or 20 years, perhaps more. He was a most useful public functionary, as is proved by the situation that arises when he ceases to function. Since the transition period, and because of the troubles attending that transition, the bailiff has not been functioning. Decrees were given by the Courts; judges heard cases, and said "let such and such a thing be done," having heard the evidence of both parties to the dispute, and "such and such a thing" was not done, and that is the situation we have to face. Why it was not done is not quite so easy a matter to say; it was difficult to get men to perform that particular public duty, because of the disturbances in the country and the intimidation that prevailed in many counties. The pound system was another bit of Governmental machinery, or of legal machinery, which has collapsed. There was an incident, I think in Ballinasloe some time ago, when certain live stock, horses I think, were seized on foot of some decree or set of decrees, and they were taken and put securely behind a 7ft. stone wall and an iron gate. That evening the iron gate was smashed down and the horses released amidst general jubilation. I do not think there should have been general jubilation. I think the people who rejoiced scarcely understood the serious consequences if there was to be a collapse of security and credit in the country, a collapse of law, for in any country which has its own Parliament law is simply a set of rules by which the people agree to govern themselves through their representatives. There are laws in existence in this country now which were not initiated and not originally passed by this Parliament, but they have the sanction and acquiescence of this Parliament, and they have been adopted by this Parliament, and to the extent to which they have been adopted, they become the laws of this Parliament, and so the poor people who rejoiced in Ballinasloe scarcely realised that they were rejoicing at something which, if it extended, meant the breakdown of civilisation and the return to primitive conditions where every man's hand was against every other man, and simply the law of the stone axe prevails. The pound then needs strengthening, or better still, needs abolition, and the local auction is something which is not calculated to prove useful or beneficial while present conditions last. We propose, therefore, to abolish both the pound and the local auction. Men cannot receive value, whether it be across the counter in a house called a shop or in any other way, and withhold payment, payment which is due by the law of man and by a higher law. That is the principle upon which this Bill is based, and any provisions in this Bill are inserted merely with a view to ensuring that payment will be made in all cases where it is legally and morally due, and perhaps, going a little further, to ensure that people will realise that on the whole it is going to be a less costly business for themselves to pay in the first instance, and that the small loop-holes which existed in the past by which astute fireside lawyers were able to evade their liabilities will perhaps be closed now. We will go in detail in the Committee Stage into this Bill. I take it that at this Second Reading we will confine ourselves to the general principles. The Bill in the first section imposes on me functions which I never expected to exercise, certain functions up till recently exercised by the Lord Lieutenant under some section of an Act of 1920. It authorises Sub-Sheriffs to employ men in whatever number and at whatever remuneration is deemed necessary, subject to approval. It gives power to the Sub-Sheriffs to sell at any time. There will not necessarily be a period of grace, wherein a man who has withheld payment, possibly for a year, or possibly for two years, will have an opportunity of changing his mind. The three days' notice which was generally given in the past was not a right of the debtor; it was a provision inserted in favour of the creditor, in point of fact, and was intended to secure full publicity for the auction with a view to securing a better price. It very often had not just that result, but it is now abolished, and the Sub-Sheriff, on seizure, may sell at any time. Further, he may sell at any place. He is not confined to his own particular bailiwick, for the sale of that which he seized. He is not even confined to the area of jurisdiction of Saorstát. Section 5 states:—"Every person who after the passing of this Act shall in good faith purchase at a sale held by or under the authority of an Under-Sheriff any goods, animals or other chattels taken in execution by such Under-Sheriff shall acquire a good title valid against all persons to the goods, animals and chattels so purchased notwithstanding any invalidity or irregularity in or about the seizure or sale of such goods, animals or chattels, and whether he knows or ought or could have known or is affected with any kind of notice that the sale is a sale by or under the authority of an Under-Sheriff or not."
It was necessary in the past that an Under-Sheriff selling goods give due notice of the sale and say it was an Under-Sheriff's sale, for this reason that he could pass no better title than he himself had. Section 5 of this Bill does away with that. There may be many reasons why it would be impossible to give to all buyers, or prospective buyers, full notice that the particular live stock, or the particular chattels, in course of sale were live stock or chattels that had been seized by an Under-Sheriff, in the execution of a debt—cattle brought to a cattle market here, elsewhere, and so on. Whether the Sub-Sheriff's own particular title be good or bad, the sale will pass a legal title. That is the intention of Section 5 of this Bill. Section 6 provides that interruption of Under-Sheriff's custody will not prejudice a sale; that is it will not be necessary for either the Sub-Sheriff or a direct agent of the Sub-Sheriff to be in permanent or constant effective custody of the seized articles or live stock. That might be impossible. If it were a question of sending them by train somewhere, or sending them by boat somewhere, obviously the Sub-Sheriff, or his immediate agent. could not remain in constant custody of the seized articles. Section 7 provides that no action shall lie against an Under-Sheriff for entering or breaking premises. By Section 8 the Under-Sheriff shall not be liable for seizing or selling in excess, provided that there be no evidence of fraud, malice or gross negligence. Section 9 empowers that a certain scale of fees may be drawn up to be paid to the Under-Sheriff or his officers. There are certain other provisions in the Bill to meet some difficulties arising out of the present situation, such as giving power to hold the Quarter Sessions elsewhere than the statutory place. Obviously if a town is in a particularly bad military area it may necessitate the holding of the Sessions elsewhere. Then there are provisions for dealing with the service of Civil Bills and Jurors summonses. It is provided that they may be deemed good if reasonable care has been taken to ensure service. The main provisions of the Bill, of course, are the provisions dealing with this question of the execution of decrees. On the First Reading I said, and I say again, that all necessary resources at the disposal of the Government would be used to uphold the writs of its courts, the writs of the peoples' courts, administering law sanctioned by the people's Parliament. It would be a bad thing for the people— the humblest people, the people who least realise it—if that were not to happen. A distinct military unit will be assigned to each county for the purpose of assisting and co-operating in matters that in more normal times would be almost a purely civil administration. Adequate and even impressive protection will be given to the agents of Sub-Sheriffs in the execution of decrees. Matters further that in more normal and settled times and with more stable Government would be purely Police matters such as the potheen traffic and other matters of that kind will be dealt with either wholly or partly by this military unit assigned to each county. That particular traffic is degrading the people. A particularly loathsome murder occurred in the West lately, obviously the act of a man crazed with potheen. It is simply universally admitted that the consumption of it reacts on future generations. It may not be overstating the position to say that quite a big proportion of lunacy in the country is due to the consumption of potheen. We will make war on that particular traffic as the enemy of our people—as a factor making for the degradation of our people—and in dealing with the suppression of it we will not stand on technicalities. The people may take it generally that there is a determination to grapple with static outlawry in the country—with the man who, under cover of disturbances which in their origin, at any rate, were political, is reaping illegal profits and is in effective possession and enjoyment of property, whether land or chattels, he is not legally or morally entitled to—people who have plundered land and are either using it themselves, or are subletting it. It may be said that that is going somewhat off this Bill, but I speak in this strain because this Bill is merely a manifestation of the particular determination the Executive Council has come to to grapple with the passive irregular as well as with the active irregular. It is no reply to say—"we would sooner have heard of your proposals for dealing with such and such a difficulty, and such and such a type of outrage." There are difficulties and outrages in the country which only the military arm can deal with, and the military arm is being braced to deal with them. There are other difficulties which the civil machinery must deal with, and in dealing with them by the civil machinery all necessary protection will be asked for from the military arm. No man is going to evade his legal or moral liabilities because he has a little gun or a big stick, and can terrify the civil officer. The writ of this Dáil may be running with a limp in certain counties at the moment. We intend it shall not be running with a limp in three or four weeks time, and against all the matters that signify a breakdown of the idea of law, or that are symptoms of the possibility of a breakdown of the idea of law in the minds of the people, we will take the strongest action, just as in the military sphere. We have to face the fact that certain people must now be classed with the wolf or the mad dog, and dealt with accordingly—the men who are hacking the face of their motherland, with no constructive programme, with nothing but a negative destructive programme their greatest hope being simply to reduce their own country to a state of anarchy and chaos. According to our lights we will act up to our responsibilities, and in acting up to them as we see them we ask the support and co-operation of every member of this Dáil regardless of parties. We ask them to face this situation as a whole, to visualise what the consequences would be to those to whom they have responsibilities if that programme, or any of its side issues, were to prevail; or if any manifestations of the mentality which prompts it were to prevail in this country. I have pointed out that the disappearance of credit reacts firstly and most strongly on the weakest, and that the people who in a light-hearted way rejoiced at the little victory over a piece of legal machinery did not realise that that was so. And yet it is so. It is a profound truth to say that when commercial enterprise or commercial security in this country disappears the first to be hit is not the person whom someone would call a bloated capitalist, and others an enterprising business man, but the poor man who is paid off from his factory because the orders from the shop are not as great as they were a month or two months ago. We will discuss the provisions of this Bill in detail. There has been no provision set down or written in with any other intention than simply to ensure, by leaving no loophole, that it will not be necessary to take this drastic action in very many cases and that people reading the Bill and realising that they are face to face with an administration that means business, will simply do now what they should have done long since but for the natural wickedness of human nature which prevailed for the moment, and that they will act up to their legal and moral liabilities.