Deputy Johnson has put calmly and rationally one aspect of this question. I wish I could feel that I could put nearly as well the contrary case. This Bill has been nicknamed. The official title has been ignored and it has become known as the Flogging Bill. I think that people would have been wiser to have adhered to the original title, because it is certainly in that spirit of protecting the clean decent people of this country that the Bill was conceived, and it was above and beyond all for the public safety that it was framed. Within the last year Ministers, Deputies, Senators and representative people have had to be guarded, and to be specially guarded. None of them, I take it, liked that, but it was considered necessary. I ask Deputies to remember that the ordinary man and woman in this country have no guard, if the law and the sanctions of the law are not a sufficient protection for them. Time was in this country when a man could leave his door on the latch during the day or the night. That day has passed, and within recent months, within the last eight or ten months, all sense of appreciation of the sanctity of the home, all restraints of human respect, restraints of respect for the moral law, restraints of respect for the law of man, have gone whistling down the wind, because the worst instincts of man have been summoned up, deliberately summoned up in this country, because that criminality which is latent in man everywhere, which is part of his baser nature, has been called up here. The poet Virgil makes one of his characters say "If Heaven denies me, then I'll call on hell." That seems to be very much the stand taken up a year ago by certain people here who professed to be standing for the higher political ideals, who professed to be themselves high-souled patriotic men with no thought of self, ready to sacrifice themselves and all they hold dear on the altar of their country's good. But they said "If heaven fails me I will call on hell; if I fail to get a response from the people of this country to the intrinsic nobility of my cause, then I will turn deliberately and call forth in this country the worst instincts of man; I will play deliberately to their basest passions, and I will tell them the country is theirs for the taking; I will ask them to go out with a gun to rob their neighbours; I will offer them land for nothing; I will tell them they will never have to pay any debts, rent, rates or taxes, and that the millennium is coming for the man with the gun." It was a pleasant call, and it tickled many ears, and met with a surprisingly general response. Men who had never felt themselves called upon to face the British administration, who had never felt themselves called upon to make any particular sacrifice to achieve the object of getting the British out of Ireland, when the British were got out of Ireland turned on the first native administration here with a ferocity and wantonness that was surprising, and the country has had its year of hell in consequence, the hell of what, for want of a better name, we call civil war. It was not civil war, because there was only the irreducible minimum of fighting. For the most part, when the troops came within range, it was easy talk to the men who professed to die rather than to go into the British Empire and all that kind of talk. They conducted a very wanton campaign against the unarmed citizens of the country, and against the economic life of the country. They wrecked and burned and robbed from end to end of Ireland in the name of Irish freedom, and in the name of a political ideal. Irish freedom! Two things stood out, and these were these two offences that have been singled out in this Bill, the crime of arson and the crime of robbery, the robbery of the unarmed man by the man with the gun. The cry was "What is yours is mine, because I have a gun and you have not; your savings, the fruits of your thrift or enterprise, must be handed over to me by virtue of my gun."
Arson is an offence at which the human mind stands appalled, and in men's minds, back to the earliest days, the home and all it stood for, the household goods, have been cherished things, things ranking amongst the most sacred in life. I feel that if the seeds that have been sown in the last year are to perish and die that we must take steps to strip the thin little rag of idealism from these two crimes, the thin little vestige or scrap of that that they may have, because people professing idealism urged their followers to resort to such methods. Deputy Johnson says that this penalty is degrading. It may be necessary to show how degrading these two offences are to attach this penalty, this humiliating penalty. It may be necessary to mark our horror of these two offences and to mark the strength of our convictions that either they or the nation must perish, to attach very signal and very severe penalties to them. I think it is so necessary. I think that the ordinary penalty of imprisonment has its edge blunted for the people who resort to these two crimes, and if I believed that by any other means than the means proposed in this Bill these offences could be checked and stamped out I would not have inserted this penalty of flogging. But I do not believe that you will adequately grapple with and stamp out these offences by imprisonment. This has been called a reversal of progress. Deputy Johnson used another word which I marked. He called it a reversal of Christianisation.
Now, in all reverence let me say that the Lord Himself in righteous anger scoured with a whip of cords the people whom He found desecrating the holy places. The people who have been violating Irish homes in the name of Irish liberty, who have been robbing Irish citizens by virtue of their guns, will not stand checked by the normal sanctions of the law and they will not stand in fear of imprisonment. I say that believing it to be absolutely true, and I say that if any member of the Executive Council believed that imprisonment would be a sufficient deterrent we would not resort to any other method. The situation in the country is known to every Deputy and scarcely needs to be stressed. You have this combination: that you have summoned up here the worst instincts of man, and you have together with that the lethal weapons secreted from one end of Ireland to the other. These two factors will fuse and will produce both of these crimes. The criminal instinct will find the lethal weapon, and people will try to live by their guns in the future as they have lived for the last year. They have got out of the way of work, and out of the wholesome mentality that work develops and preserves in man, and have got into the way of living by crime. Men go on from year to year, very often living humdrum, routine and moderately respectable kind of lives. Some day the bond snaps. There are many bonds, moral bonds, and bonds that could not exactly be described as belonging to the supernatural sphere, bonds of human respect and also the bond of ordinary decency, the kind of decency that a pagan might have. These bonds, I say, go and the man stands a predatory savage prepared to prey on his fellow-man for his living.
That is the kind of problem we have to face here in this insula sanctorum et doctorum. I do not say for a moment that such problems would not arise to the same extent, or to a greater extent, in other countries. They could. I never believed in the theory of the double dose of original sin for Irishmen. I think that probably in other countries similarly situated, much the same might have happened as has happened here. I would be even prepared to concede that much worse things might have happened than have happened here. But we are dealing with a situation that has developed here, and I tell Deputies, solemnly speaking with a more intimate knowledge than most Deputies could have, speaking with a knowledge of police reports from the various counties and statistics in my mind which I do not propose to state to the Dáil, for the obvious reason that they would be distorted and used by political enemies to the discredit of the country, but speaking with these things well in my mind, I say that if these two offences are to be stamped our sufficiently quickly you must have resort to very special and very stringent methods, and the credit of the country demands that they be stamped out in the shortest possible space of time. When I say the credit of the country, I say it in a twofold sense. The financial credit of the country demands that these crimes be ended at once, and the good name and prestige of the country demand that they be ended. I can almost hear Deputy Johnson making a mental comment that the country's prestige will not be improved by resort to the penalties mentioned here in Sub-section (4), and that whatever we gained by checking or diminishing those crimes, we will lose by the fact that we resorted to those penalties. I know that that is his outlook. I have appreciated it from the start in connection with this Bill—that he thinks and he feels that we are wrong, and he believes that he is right. I do not think, however, that it will be held to the discredit of this Government either here or elsewhere that it placed the protection of the decencies of life, the preservation of the decencies of life, and the protection of the plain decent citizens of the country beyond and above the sensibilities of the robber and the man who resorted to arson. It is the duty of a Government to govern. It is the duty of a Government to protect, to give the utmost possible protection to, citizens. The citizens of this country have a right not to be robbed, not to have their houses and property burned, and they have a right to demand from their Executive that ample measures be taken to check those offences. They must not be left at the mercy of the criminal who has lost all sense of right and wrong because he was taught crime as a means of forwarding a political ideal, because crime was introduced to him wrapt round with the trappings of idealism. The responsibility for that lies on the people who resorted to it, but we must deal with the consequences. We must make it very clear to everyone here that the man who robs and the man who burns is not a hero, but a most cowardly coward, that he is not an idealist yielding to an amiable eccentricity, but that he is the lowest form of criminal. On the Second Reading of this Bill a metaphor was used which I did not like. I did not think that it was a good metaphor, but it was said that every sore back in the country would be a monument of our inability to govern. If the sore backs are to be monuments let us inquire closely what they will be monuments of. I differ from the Deputy. I think they will be thought to be monuments to the fact that we appreciate the necessity of ending these two crimes in the shortest possible space of time, monuments to our determination to end them even at the cost of the finer feelings of the robber and the burner, even, mayhap, at the sacrifice of some finer feelings of our own. You see we have had to outrage in the execution of our responsibility certain of our feelings. Deputies know that.
They know we have had to arrest and imprison and even execute people who were our friends and who were our comrades, and Deputies do know, even though at times they talk as if they did not, that that was not a pleasant task for us. Deputies do know that that was undertaken and carried through by us only because we were supported by the feeling that these things were necessary in the proper discharge of our stewardship to the people of Ireland. Deputies get worked up occasionally and they get up and talk as if they believed that members of the Executive Council, or members of the Army Council were blood-thirsty ruffians or flinty-hearted persons devoid of all human feelings. I know that they do not believe that. I know that in calmer moments it has been necessary for us, or we, at least, have considered it necessary to sink and control the natural promptings of our hearts because we consider that those conflict with the due discharge of our responsibilities. It is so in this Bill and so in fact throughout the Bill, and so in truth with regard to this Section. No one likes to have to resort to the penalty of flogging, and, going a step further, no one likes to have it known elsewhere that it was necessary to have to resort to that penalty in this country in order to check certain crimes. We would much sooner it was not necessary, but we do consider it necessary and we do consider it is our duty to tell the Dáil that we believe that the combination of hidden arms and a rather general tendency to crime and to give free play to the lowest instincts will create here these two offences on a scale which the normal sanction of the law would not be sufficient to check. We come here and say that there has been a retrogression from the standards to which civilisation and society had attained and to meet that retrogression you must take a step back also in your penalty and go back to those penalties of corporal punishment which every man would be glad to have laid aside if certain circumstances permitted that they could be laid aside. But it is surely my duty, and it is surely our duty, if we considered that those penalties, and those penalties only, will check these offences, to come here and say that in an open, responsible, straight-forward spirit. Deputies must choose deliberately. I say if you rely on the sanction of mere imprisonment to deal with these two offences you will not stamp them out as quickly as they ought to be if this country is to live and flourish and go forward in peace, progress and reconstruction. Deputies must choose whether they prefer to respect the finer feelings of the criminal and to have robbery and arson rife in this country from end to end, or whether they will figuratively grit their teeth and go through with this thing for six months in the hope that at the end of six months they will have shown adequately that neither of these two crimes is heroic, that they are in fact ignominious offences demanding an ignominious penalty.