MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT. - PEACE MOVE.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

Members of the Ministry feel that they require an interlude for departmental work, which is apt to accumulate when the Dáil is in session. I propose to move the adjournment of the Dáil until next Tuesday week at 3 o'clock.

I beg to second the motion.

To my mind the announcement in the papers this morning was the most important that has been made at least since the Dáil assembled. It is important because it shows that a considerable section of the persons in arms against the people and the Government of the people, are convinced that the continuance of armed force is the surest method of strangling the legitimate national aspirations in this generation and in future generations. It is very important to see a man of such considerable standing in the Irregular ranks as Liam Deasy, and men like those in the jail at Limerick, realising facts and coming to the conclusion that no greater disservice could be done to national aspirations in Ireland than a continuance of this unnatural struggle. Then there is the attitude of the Government. The proclamation of the Commander-in-Chief satisfies us, though we do not need to be satisfied, and it satisfies the people of this country, that there is no animus whatsoever in the minds of the ruling authority in this country. If the people who are against the Government are prepared to accept constitutional Government and are prepared to accept the views of the majority of the people, everybody will be prepared to open arms to receive them. I think that is the general feeling in Ireland. I am aware it is the feeling of the Government; it is our feeling here, and I am sure it is the feeling of everybody outside. The moment the men now in arms are prepared to accept the constitutional platform there will be no question of what they did and no question of old sores and spleens. Everybody will be prepared to open arms to receive them without any qualification. I and the people I represent realise that only one Government can function in this country. There cannot be two authorities; there cannot be two heads of State. The great instrument that makes for disorder in the country at present is the possession of arms. We realise, and the country must realise, as Liam Deasy has realised, that the arms must be put in the possession of the constitutional authority and held by that authority. We have never doubted for a moment the courage and convictions of the men in the ranks of the Irregulars. We never doubted their courage and I think we also have given proof of our courage. We were satisfied to let our brains be blown out and our property be destroyed and our blood shed although many of us were unarmed, sooner than submit to anything we thought was wrong or was against the interests of the nation. It has been said that the Irish people were as sheep to be driven. Well, the sheep have not been driven far, and they will take a good deal of driving yet. They will stand a whole lot of driving yet. To my mind, as a matter of fact, the only element in the community that has been driven is that of the Irregulars. Many of them want to get out of the position they are in, but they are held under threats of violence and death. To my mind they are really the sheep in the nation that are being driven. I know there are any amount of them who would leave the ranks of the Irregulars in the morning were it not for this threat of death that is held over them. The announcement that was in this morning's papers both from Liam Deasy and the men in Limerick Jail indicates that there are some men in Ireland at least disposed to think in terms of the nation, and not in terms of the individual or in terms of individual vanity.

I have heard in this Dáil, and outside it, a whole lot said against the Government and attacks on the Government. The Government here is only a collection of a few people, a collection of a few men sent in here by the people of Ireland. Therefore, when the Government is attacked, and when constitutional authority is attacked, it is the people up and down the country, the plain people, who are attacked. In the same way, when the Cabinet, composed of nine or ten men, is attacked, it is the majority of the nation which sent these men here that is attacked, and when the Constitutional Government of the country is attacked, it is the people who are attacked in the same manner as at Ballyconnell and elsewhere. We want Peace; we all want Peace, and we do not want the struggle to continue a moment longer than is necessary for the safety of the nation, and to assert the supremacy of constitutional authority. I am sure the Commander-in-Chief has a more important statement to make than that contained in the plain terms of the announcement he made this morning. I will say no more but I will be glad to hear what the Commander-in-Chief has to say.

I am more than pleased that Deputy Gorey has put down this motion on the adjournment. I am quite confident that Ireland, not as a section, but as a whole, requires peace. When I found that Deputy Gorey brought this motion forward on the adjournment——

ACTING CHAIRMAN

I would like to remind the Deputy that there is no Motion before the Dáil. It is a discussion.

As regards the statement issued in the Press to-day, that Liam Deasy had proffered his services to try and bring peace to the country, I wonder what do the Deputies in the Dáil think of those men not in prison, who had not been captured, and who had not signed any forms, but who acted the part of patriots by coming forward in a spirit of true patriotism, and throwing in their lot with the majority of the Irish people? That occured in portion of my own constituency, and that is what we really require. We want majority rule; we want peace in Ireland, and, above all things, we want to convince a great number of the leaders who are out at the present time, but who were not out when they were wanted to fight against the old enemy. Nothing like that, however, could be said against the men of South Westmeath, who threw in their lot with this Government. These men were out when they were required. I am more than pleased to get this opportunity of voicing my opinions on this matter, that we should try, if possible, in our own small way, to bring peace to the country. At the present time you have 1,000 men out to every 100 who were out when the common enemy of this country was to be fought, and at a time when a call was made to the manhood of the country. Passing from that, there is one little proposition I would like to make, and it is that this Government of the Dáil would give a little in order to gain much. This fight may continue for years; the longer it continues the greater will be the destruction done to the country, and the more lives will be lost. We may issue drastic proclamations, or at least the Government responsible to the Dáil may issue proclamations, but I would strongly advise the Minister for Defence and the Government to use every means in their power to have a truce in the country. When the truce was called in 1921, between England and Ireland, a good many Deputies here were then out fighting against the foreign enemy. They did not surrender their arms at that time in order to make peace; they did not surrender their arms to England. You had a truce, you had peace, and you gained freedom. I would ask the Minister for Defence, and the Government responsible to the Irish people, selected by them as the majority Government, not to put forward this measure demanding that all arms be handed in. I would respectfully suggest to the Dáil that peace can be obtained in Ireland on one and only one basis, and that is, to send out a challenge or an invitation—whichever you choose—to the leaders of the Irregulars, both in and out of prison, asking them to agree to a truce. Let each person hold his arms until the coming General Election, and no person should be interfered with going to the poll, and let the majority rule. In that way you will have peace. I do not stand here as a supporter of the Irregulars or the Free State Government, but as one who does not care for either, and is merely an independent labour man, and a person only desirous to see peace in our country, so that we all may live and work for the industrial welfare of our nation.

I feel that I have not anything more important to say to the Dáil than the statements that appeared in this morning's newspapers. The statements as they appear there carry their message to both the members of this Dáil and the people at large and those who are in arms against the Government of the country, and it would be more useful that the statements and their implications would be taken by each individual here, by each individual in the country, and by each individual Irregular, and appreciated by them, rather than that they should be treated toex-parte appreciation by the Government here or any member of the Government. There are certain facts in the case that, perhaps, it is due as a matter of form should be stated here to the Dáil. Liam Deasy was captured by our troops at Ballincurry, Cahir, on the 18th January. He was subsequently charged with “having in his possession, without proper authority, a long parabellum revolver and twenty-one rounds of ammunition,” and found guilty and sentenced to death. Ordinarily the sentence would have been carried out on the morning of Saturday, 27th January. At 10 p.m. on Friday night, 26th January, a message was received from Major-General Prout as follows:—“Deasy requests a stay of execution till you see him. He says it is for the future of Ireland.” An exchange of written messages during the night resulted in the receipt, at 9.10 a.m., from Major-General Prout, of a message, stating:—“‘I accept and I will aid in immediate and unconditional surrender of all arms and men as required by General Mulcahy.—(Sd), Liam Deasy.’ True copy of document held by me. Execution stayed in consequence.” Deasy was, therefore, removed from Clonmel to Dublin on 29th January, and as a result of conversations with some of our officers, signed and issued a statement published in this morning's papers, and addressed on the 29th or 30th to the members of Mr. De Valera's so-called Executive and Army Council.

As sufficient time has elapsed to enable those to whom he addressed himself to take any action they desired in the matter, the Government decided to make the matter public for the benefit of all concerned, and to issue the offer of Amnesty which has this morning been issued, so that no excuse should be left to anybody for the continuation of the present destruction, and so that no leader or group of leaders could act as a kink in the hose that would prevent the rank and file getting the benefit of knowing what the position was, from the point of view of men like Deasy and others, and getting a chance of accepting the conditions which the Government have put upon their being allowed to return to their homes. I think it is due to state for everybody's satisfaction, and in view of the implication that has been contained in, say, Deasy's letter this morning, and that may lead people to think that he was not dealt with generously, that he signed the statement that I have read out. He was satisfied, temporarily, at any rate, to live the lie that you could rid the country of what he calls the common foe, or any outside person interfering with the affairs of this country, and that you could build up this country by the use of the bomb and the torch and the petrol can. He was prepared to live that lie in the hope that in the turn of events they would be able to get away from the situation which they got themselves into, but like the responsible man that he is, he was not prepared to endorse that lie with his death, and to die leaving on the people who had been led by him into the actions that they were led the impression that he believed so much in the fact that you could do these things, that he was satisfied to lay down his life for them. He made that statement, and made it as a responsible man, and when interviewed it was our opinion that the most effective way in which he could show his acceptance and aid in the immediate and unconditional surrender of arms and men was by the submission to Mr. De Valera and his associates of the statement that we put before them. That has been shown as being somewhat ungenerous on our part, and I want to state that in addition to sending to those people the statement that we considered it most effective should be sent to them, he was allowed to address any confidential communication that he thought fit to each one of the persons to whom he sent that letter. A confidential communication accompanied each one of those letters, and Deasy has been in communication by means of a messenger selected by himself, and asked for by himself, with those people whom he addressed. He has been in communication by letter since, and all the communications that have gone on between him and those to whom he addressed himself in this matter have been confidential. I consider that is, to say the least of it, not ungenerous on our part (hear, hear)—and not tightening the reins or the screw on any person in the position of being a prisoner in our hands. It is in keeping with the Government's generous offer of terms to those people who are still in arms, and who do in actual fact realise the thing which Deasy realises. The wisdom of the Government in demanding that before people who have taken up the attitude that has been taken up against the lives and the property and the representatives of this country could return peaceably to their homes they must hand up their arms has been challeneged as unreasonable. I, personally, at any rate, am willing to accept as our first principle—when we come down to sifting out our first principles from the nebulæ of common-sense we usually work with—to accept the principle that Deputy Johnson suggested yesterday as our first principle, that there should be no other than one Executive Authority in the country trying to carry out the functions of government. That is good enough for me to put first, but that principle is being challenged and is being challenged in the destruction of life and property in our country here, and it is only possible to challenge that principle because of the weapons that are in the hands of men in this country who are capable of doing the things they have done. And when we say now that, in order to get back and to reform themselves and reform their attitude in a normal way to the Government in this country, they must give up their arms, that is a reasonable thing to ask. When we get a situation in which you have it established and accepted that there is only one Executive Authority in this country, then you can afford to get your philosophers working on the question as to whether or not it is not an intrinsic right in man to keep and carry arms, no matter who says otherwise. When you do come to that time, you will probably have another batch of philosophers examining the question as to what you mean by saying you have one Executive Authority trying to carry on the government of the country if anyone can come along and get arms and shoot anybody he likes because he is in disagreement with him. We are not asking those men to surrender their arms because we deny their right as citizens here of this country to carry arms. We are asking them to give up their arms in special circumstances; and when we do come as a Government to the stage that it is the right of any man to be prepared to carry arms, and to be practised in them, for his own personal defence and for the defence of his country, I hope that the philosophers will appreciate that there is something to be said for that. But we are asking a surrender of arms in special circumstances here, and I think that should be recognised, and I think that Deputy Lyons is much more practical in his actual work than he is in what he recommends to us here. He has gone to men in his own constituency, and he has helped to get them to see where their work was leading, and he has got them to say—"There are our arms," and they have handed over their arms to the representative of the people in their area, and he has handed them over to the military, and they have gone back home to their work. Where is the degradation, and where is the surrender of principle in that? Some of us feel very tied at any rate to the rank and file of these people who are fighting against us, or rather those people whom we are trying to prevent fighting against us. We know how they were misled into their present situation, and we know that if they are to be saved from a certain type of damnation they have to make a clean breast of it, and admit that they have gone the wrong road in the present instance. If they did turn around and say in the morning—"We are convinced that even if we have malicious enemies outside, we cannot prevail against them, by the burning of their property or by taking people's lives"—if they would turn round and say that in the morning, and make a clean breast of it, and say, that whatever our limitations here, the people's representatives are the representatives of the people and we put our arms back into their hands, the enthusiasm that it would arouse in the people of this country—that men were big enough to turn around and admit that—would do very much to place some of those people back in the affections of the people in the way that their efforts during the past three or four years earned for them. The rank and file, whom it has been truly said have been forced into this in many instances, and in many instances have been led into it, would be, as it were rejuvenated in their national enthusiasm if they felt that their leaders were men who could turn around and face a situation and say: "These are the facts and we will face the facts like men," an acceptance of the present position like men by those who are now simply destroying the country or lending their name or their influence to the destruction of the country; the turning around of these men at the present moment and the accepting of what the situation is would be almost such an unexpected relief for the people that the sores that have been opened up during the last eight or ten months could be closed in a month.

The Dáil adjourned at 6.45 p.m. till Tuesday, February 20th.