I move: "That the Dáil do adjourn until 3 o'clock to-morrow."
ADJOURNMENT OF THE DáIL. - BALLYCONNELL RAID.
I second the motion.
I am very reluctant at all times to prolong discussion here unnecessarily, but this morning's Press relates an incident in my constituency of a serious and, I think, most appalling nature, and I think that I would be neglecting my duty as representative of that constituency, if I did not take the first opportunity that presented itself in this Assembly to concentrate, in so far as it is possible, the attention of the Dáil and public opinion upon that incident. We have been accustomed for some time past to strange and startling events. We have gradually become habituated to occurrences that a few years ago we considered foreign to the temperament of this country, and foreign to conceptions (f how to resolve our political differences. Many things have occurred that have surprised and pained us, but I do not think anything has occurred since anarchy challenged authority in this country so appalling as that which is related in to-day's Press. Appalling, I think, is no term of exaggeration by which to refer to this event. I do not know how far the daily Press has stated the exact truth of this occurence. I should be very glad indeed to read that it was wholly untrue, or that it had been largely exaggerated, but it stated that yesterday morning about 8 a.m. a gang of 80 armed men swept down upon a little town in County Cavan and proceeded to engage in one of those exploits which horrify not only this country, but humanity, or at least the civilised world when it becomes aware of them—one of those exploits which was rather a common occurrence during the Black and Tan regime in Ireland, before the Treaty of peace between Ireland and Great Britain put an end to their regime of terrorism. "Two civilians were shot dead and one injured in such a way that his life may be jeopardised; houses and business premises were fired and destroyed, and a wild panic followed amongst the inhabitants, as the murderers proceeded with their work. Women and children ran hither and thither seeking refuge from the flying bullets and bomb splinters." Now the reason I have raised this question is mainly to give the Government an opportunity of stating if these particulars, as related in the columns of the Press, are actual facts or are wild exaggerations. I do not know if there is any element in this country prepared to stand over such hideous proceedings as these.
We have drifted a long, long way in Ireland from that standard of judgment which was supposed to be in existence when a prominent personage in this country stated there was a Constitutional way of resolving our differences; let us not depart from it. I want to know—I would be glad to know, but no one in this Dáil can inform me—if the personage who gave utterance to that sentiment believes that what happened at Ballyconnell is a constitutional way of resolving our differences. But this episode—at least the particulars as set forth—if true —are a startling revelation upon the vital need of standing by the authority that means—is determined—to bring back the nation from these frightful excesses to the constitutional ways of settling differences of opinion. I have said nothing in this Dáil, I think, up to the present, that could be construed as harsh criticism of the Government. I do not intend to say anything now. Their task has been one which no man need envy. It has been a task that would have taxed to a supreme degree the calibre, qualities and the resources of any set of men, for they have had not only to take over the machinery of Government, but also to utilise it in a certain sense through improvised methods, and that, too, at a time when not merely their authority, but the whole principle of representative Government was challenged by men, or by persons, who regarded the ballot box as a very, very inferior apparatus to that of the bomb or the bullet. Therefore, I say, they have had a task of supreme difficulty, and no word of mine shall add to their difficulty. But I do think that it requires some explanation—some information—as to why the town—not a very large town, in the sense, say, of a large metropolis like Dublin, or of a city like Cork, but a town of considerable importance in the values of county towns, a very considerable centre of county life —as to why eighty marauders could sweep down, take human life, bomb and fire certain buildings and create general panic and consternation amongst the people. I have no wish, by asking these questions, to say or do anything that would create embarrassment of a Government that is already beset with embarrassments that would try the heart and the brain of any set of men. But I do say that incidents like these make us realise this, that if turbulence is to be quelled, that if these elements that are prepared to destroy human life, property and civilisation, are to be combatted, then the Government must call to their aid, and must have at their disposal, all the resources that this nation can provide, and the one thing that will stand out as a moral from this incident is this, that if the resources already at the disposal of the Government are not adequate to meet the dangers with which the people are confronted then the people will not stand to be shot down like dogs by gangs of marauders, but will have to take ways and means of providing for their own protection from the assaults of these assassins. This incident, I say, is an appalling one. I hope it is not an indication that this is the next stage of the campaign to intimidate this nation from asserting its rights. At least, I think it would be well if we here in this Assembly regarded it as such, and if the Goverment regarded it as such, and took steps to meet such an attack upon life from the ranks of the nation, and made these assassins, and all that they stand for, realise that this nation has endured too much to be beaten now, and that the people who stood up before the resources of a great Empire are not going to quail or cower before the blows of a gang of assassins. I have raised this question, first, because I consider it my duty to the people I represent that their wrongs should be voiced here, and that they should realise that the Parliament of the nation is taking cognisance of the injury that has been inflicted upon them; and, secondly, because I want to ask the Government to inform us whether or not this report is the result of the diseased imaginings of some fantastic journalist, or whether it is a statement of the actual facts of a very tragic episode, and, if so, what is the reason why such things can be done with impunity. I am sorry that the occasion should have come about to raise this question; but this having happened, I do think that it is due to this Assembly, and due to the people who have suffered this appalling atrocity, that the Government responsible for the welfare of the Irish nation should let us know what they have to say about it.
Does any other Deputy wish to speak?
I would rather that anybody else who has anything to say would speak first. I am taken at a disadvantage in not getting notice of a question of this sort. I only heard of it coming into the Dáil.
It would not be very easy to give notice, because it only appeared in to-day's Press. I asked after questions were finished to-day if it would be advisable to raise this matter for the purpose of obtaining information. There were other Ministers here, and the Ceann Comhairle said it would be better to raise the matter on the adjournment. I took it that the President would be informed by his colleagues that the matter would be raised. I certainly have no wish to take the Minister at a disadvantage or to do anything that would be discourteous.
I regret that I did not hear until two or three moments ago, when coming into the Dáil, that this matter was going to be raised. I have no information on the matter at all. I understand one of the Ministers has gone to get in touch with the Minister for Defence. That is what he told me when leaving the Dáil. I much regret not having information of the fact that the matter was going to be raised. I have only got to say that some recent reports that have been circulated and that have appeared in the Press have been, I think, more than exaggerations. I am not in a position to say anything at all about this matter, but if the Deputy will agree I would undertake to get whatever information is available for the Dáil here to-morrow at 3 o'clock and we could take it up after questions if the Dáil agrees. I have been taken by surprise, and I regret I had not heard of this question.
A Chinn Chomhairle, I think Deputy Milroy has done a service in raising this question. The occurence is, as he said, an appalling one—appalling for the people who have suffered, but without minimising that in any way it is perhaps more appalling for the country as a whole and surely calls for a statement from the Minister for Defence in explanation of this particular incident, following upon so many other incidents of a very disquieting character. Several occasions have arisen when Ministers were invited openly or by suggestion to make a statement in regard to the Army, the position of the defence forces of the country, and their relation to the function of defence. The last two or three weeks have shown the country that there are very many defects somewhere, and this is surely the crowning defect. I think the President would be well advised if he would prevail upon the Minister for Defence to make a full and frank statement to the Dáil and to the country on the question, militarily and politically, because as he suggested the other day there was a political side to this question.
There should be a full and frank statement made to-morrow to the Dáil and to the country of the position and reasons why it should be possible for an attack to be made by 80 men upon a small town in Co. Cavan following upon attacks by smaller numbers but over very large areas indeed and in so many different forms. As I said I think Deputy Milroy has deserved well of the Dáil in raising this matter in the way he has done, and as he stated in the early stages of these proceedings he desired to give an opportunity to the Ministers to make an explanation that I think should be availed of to-morrow, and it should not be an explanation merely of the Ballyconnell calamity but of the whole military position with which the country is faced.
The Minister for Defence I gather has not at the moment authentic information which he could usefully disclose to the Dáil with reference to this particular incident. No doubt he will make a statement to-morrow bearing on that matter. But I want to combat the view that it was a natural thing to expect that a body of Irishmen would descend upon this little town and proceed to murder their fellow-citizens. It was not a natural thing. It is perhaps the most unnatural thing that has happened since this unnatural strife began. And many unnatural things have happened, but in the absence of reliable authentic information beyond what was disclosed in the Press one can only surmise that this was the act of Mr. Frank Aiken and his band— that mad dog who has been rushing in and out across the Border for many months—not that he is quite a mad dog when he is on the Six County side of the Border line. Because Mr. Frank Aiken in the Six Counties is a very good boy indeed. Mr. Frank Aiken presumably is a Republican. He would like to be called so. I have no doubt that it is in the name of the Republic that he murders his unarmed fellow-citizens. I do not know whether he is a Republican for 32 or 26 Counties, but what I do know is that he is very glad of the benevolent protection of the Border and of this Government in the North East which presumably he does not recognise. We can all sympathise with the relatives of the men who have been murdered, and we can sympathise with the townspeople as a whole. We can sympathise too with the many others throughout the country who have suffered at the hands of those people who are endeavouring to loose anarchy in the country, with the mothers of the babes that were wantonly burned, with the widow of the I.R.A. officer (killed in Easter week) who was burned out some time ago in Mountjoy Square. Her husband was killed in Easter week and she was burned out in Mountjoy Square by those ruffians who never, nine-tenths of them, never handled a gun until the British evacuated the country. That lady contracted a cold on the night she was burned out of her little flat and she has been ordered out of the country by her physician. These are the things that have to be faced. There are individual tragedies and there is the national tragedy. Anarchy was loosed in this country—wantonly loosed, callously loosed, deliberately loosed—and the men that loosed this saw it coming and knew it was coming, and had ample opportunity to measure the guilt of him who would press the button to set it loose. But the button was pressed, and hundreds of young men through the country, young fellows in their teens, are being made the dupes of one man's vanity. He calls them out in the name of the Republic. Some of us know the irony of that. Some of us know that he taught us the necessity for compromise, and taught us the immorality, so to speak, of persisting when there was no hope of success, and of keeping the country under the harrow of British oppression simply for a formula. There is only one way to deal with anarchy, and that is the way of force. If there was another way, you can take it that this Government and the Army Council which serves it would take the other way. But there is no other way. We will take that way of force, and we will take it very thoroughly indeed; but we expect from the people in whose name and on whose behalf it will be taken, understanding and support—understanding that you have here a problem of men who have long since ceased to think, of men who are not open to reason, who do not argue or think by the standards along which you and I and rational men think, but who reply to you with cliches, "The people have no right to do wrong." Consequently men are murdered in Ballyconnell, women are burned out in Mountjoy Square, and babies are burned elsewhere. Now, we are living in a world of facts, and there are times when it takes more courage to face facts than to face machine guns. But facts are stubborn things and have to be faced, and men were big enough to face them on the 6th December, 1921, and other men were small enough to stab them when they came home, having done their best for the Irish nation. We, at any rate, are looking this situation in the eye. It may be that some people even now will review the situation, and will ask themselves what it is all about. Some people may do that. Some people almost certainly will not. Those who will not pause and think now can expect nothing from the hands of those who have a mandate to safeguard the lives and property and the interests of the people of Ireland—of the people of Ireland living to-day and of the people who will be born into Ireland in the future—they can expect nothing at their hands but the treatment that one would mete out to so many wild beasts if they were loosed within your territory.