I beg to move the adjournment of the Dáil until to-morrow afternoon at 3 o'clock.
THE ADJOURNMENT.—POSITION OF ANTI-TREATY DEPUTIES.
I second the motion.
I beg to raise the matter of which I gave notice earlier, namely that reasonable facilities for meeting be accorded to the Deputies returned at the recent elections in the Sinn Fein interests. I do so for the reason that every sane man recognises the critical position of the country. The agricultural industry is at a standstill, and I am speaking as one who has an intimate knowledge of it. The agricultural industry of this country is in a most critical condition. Never in my time, and I can remember since the eighties, have I known the industry to be in as critical condition as it is to-day. I can say that never before was it faced with a graver or darker outlook than it is faced with at the moment. The nation, and the component parts of the nation, whether as individuals or the nation as a whole, are faced with the question of bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is staring the industry in the face, and it is time that some means should be found so that the elements in the nation could mend themselves and be put upon solid grounds and carry on under normal conditions. At the present time we have very little else besides bitterness, jealousies and recriminations. I have been speaking to men on both sides, and I do not think there is any man with any sense of responsibility but regrets the present position. There are men without responsibility who do not regret the position, because it enables irresponsible men to do things that in normal times could not be done. But every responsible man on both sides that I have met, every man who loves the country, regrets the present position, and wishes he could see a means towards a happy ending of it. We, too, on these benches here, wish that a happy ending would take place, but the position as far as we can see it does not seem to mend itself, or does not seem to give any indication of moving in that direction. At the outset, I ask that our action here be not misconstrued in any way. We do not pretend that we have found a solution of the difficulty, but in all matters affecting the life of the nation we are determined to maintain an independent and constitutional attitude and steadfastly pursue what we believe to be right.
I said a moment ago that we are not so bold as to claim that we have found a solution of the difficulties that beset the life of the nation, but we have sufficient regard for the fair fame and good name of the country and of its future, honestly to endeavour to bridge over the minor difficulties that stand in the way of a final solution of the main question. Men hold different views regarding the release of the prisoners, and to be quite candid the average man in the country has not had an opportunity of making up his mind on the question. Some hold that the prisoners should be released unconditionally; on the other hand there are those who hold that the prisoners should not be released unless the arms and ammunition, the dumps and the other paraphernalia of war, if such a thing exists, should be handed up; and again there are others who hold that sufficient assurances are contained in the recent utterances of Mr. de Valera in regard to constitutional action in the future which should result in bringing about the immediate release of the prisoners unconditionally. Now, all this to my mind, and to the minds of the people I am connected with here, indicates a great diversity of opinion, but the main difficulty arises from the fact that the people are not really aware of what is the real policy of the Sinn Féin party, and I say that as one coming from the country. My opinion is that the average man in the country is not aware of what the policy of these people is. They are not aware whether these people are going to pursue the attainment of their objects by constitutional means, or whether they arrogate to themselves the right to resort again to unconstitutional weapons. As the matter stands, one can understand the difficulty as there is no authoritative definition of what their policy is likely to be. Some Sinn Féin Deputies are in prison, some are on the run and a few who are free must find it impossible to take counsel with their brother Deputies. Taking into consideration all the circumstances, we consider it is essential, in the interests of the nation, that the Sinn Féin Deputies should be accorded reasonable facilities to meet, and it is for that reason I have raised this matter on the adjournment. We, on these benches, have been approached, as perhaps most Deputies in the Dáil have been approached, as to what our attitude is to be on certain matters, as to our attitude with regard to the release of the prisoners and with regard to other questions. We are not in a position, and neither is the average man in the country in a position, to make up our minds until these other people get an opportunity of meeting, and of giving a clear answer to certain specific questions. We want to know whether the militant method is going to be left aside, and the constitutional method adopted or not. It is time that the country had a clear answer on that issue, and it is time that these 44 men had an opportunity of meeting and saying whether the constitutional method is going to be their method, or whether they reserve to themselves the right of going into the unconstitutional field again. That is why I have raised this matter to give them an opportunity to declare what their policy is going to be.
I am afraid that the knowledge of the last speaker who raised this matter about Sinn Fein is very inadequate. He speaks of allowing the Sinn Fein Deputies who are in prison to be released and of giving them an opportunity to meet. So far as I know most of the Sinn Fein Deputies are at large and are here present to-day. I believe an old device used by certain pirates when they approached a victim ship was to hoist a friendly flag and when they came near the ship down came the friendly flag and up went the Skull and Cross-bones. These gentlemen and ladies for whom Deputy Gorey has so much solicitude have reversed the process and hoisted the Skull and Cross-bones until they could do it no longer, and now they hoist the friendly flag of Sinn Fein. I deny that they are the Sinn Fein Party. I deny that they have any right to speak in the name of Sinn Fein. We are here acting in that principle to establish the right of the Irish nation to decide its own fate. We attempt to prevent that from external or internal aggression. Deputy Gorey says that the average man has not had time to make up his mind.
I do not think I said anything of the sort.
Well, I made one mistake. The average man had not an opportunity of making up his mind. I am glad of the correction; I like to be corrected in my quotations. Who is the average man? Is Deputy Gorey an average man?
When I am sober I hope so.
Well, I hope that gentleman is in that average state at the present moment. But at any rate, whether he is or is not an average man, he seems to have been incapable of making up his mind as to what Irregularism has meant up to the present. We have had over twelve months of very clear demonstration of what those 44 elected representatives of the people stand for and what they mean. Is there any man, any Deputy here, who has not made up his mind as to whether or not that is a good or a bad thing for this nation? Is there any sane human being within the four shores of Ireland who has not made up his mind as to whether the burning of houses, the breaking of bridges and destruction of the economic life of the country is a bad thing, a damn bad thing, for Ireland? I hope by the time I have finished that Deputy Gorey will have made up his mind. Those 44 Deputies to whom Deputy Gorey has referred are rather a mixed grill. There are certain of them at large because really they had not the courage to take the desperate steps their colleagues took. I do not know whether Deputy Gorey means to give, say, Mr. Frank Aiken, facilities for expounding his theory of poison gas. I suggest that Deputy Gorey would ask that particular Deputy to go down to his constituency, to his own holding, and expound the theory of poison gas there. It is true that certain of these Deputies are coming like sucking doves. They talk about peace and unity and concord and the salvation of the nation. They would be better employed for the next ten years in saying Acts of Contrition. They would be better employed in showing the country how to repair the ravages of war that they have brought upon it without provocation, unless the provocation be that we declined to assent to the principle that all authority within the State, legislative, judicial and administrative, should be derived solely from Mr. De Valera and Miss Mary McSwiney. So far as I understand the attitude of the Government, so far as I understand the elementary principles of common sense and of democratic Government, these persons can meet unmolested the moment they assent to this principle that the will of the majority shall prevail in this country, but if they persist in the attitude that they have adopted up to now, that the will of the majority shall go down before a self-selected clique, a small minority, I say, if I had anything to do with the Government, that they should never meet together to try to spread that principle or doctrine. There is not one man or one woman interned by the Free State Government so far as I know who cannot walk out of jail to-morrow the moment they assent to the principle that Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall be the fundamental rule of authority in this country. Deputy Gorey speaks about both sides. I thought we had heard enough of that cant in the last Dáil. That may be an unparliamentary expression, but one cannot resist alluding to this kind of peculiar terminology in some emphatic way. What are both sides? I recognise no both sides in this question any more than I suppose the Almighty recognised two sides when Lucifer tried to set up a rival government with a minority in the celestial regions.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE
There must be no applause in the Gallery and if anyone else applauds in the Gallery he will be removed.
I think that was applause from the celestial region. There can be no question of two sides in this matter. Either the people must prevail or the Nation goes down in chaos and confusion. Either the will expressed by the people must be accepted as the definite and unchallengeable basis of law or the terms law, Government, and democracy become so many shibboleths that have no meaning to a sensible being. I do not really understand what Deputy Gorey is driving at.
You had a right to wait then before you replied.
I do not really understand what was his purpose in raising this matter unless it was to get a column and a half of his prepared speech in to-morrow's Press. I think that he might have saved the Dáil all this discussion if he had written a letter to the Press and signed his name to it. But there is another thing that has struck me, the singular transformation of the Deputy since the last Dáil. In the last Dáil we had Deputy Gorey rampant against the Irregulars.
And he is still.
But there was this difference, an election was then pending and the election is now over. Deputy Gorey is now elected for four years. At the beginning of this Dáil I think that it is time to stop this attempt to appeal to the gallery, this attempt to figure in the limelight for the sake of cutting a figure. I think the time has come to stop talking and to get on with the work of the nation.
The simple question which we raised this afternoon, that we asked that the 44 people who are representing, each perhaps 6,000 citizens of Ireland, should be given an opportunity to consult together, has brought forward an effusion such as that, and if we were to depend on effusions like that in this Dáil and if we were to take a speech like that of the last Deputy as voicing the views of the people of Ireland, then I would say that our case is hopeless. We are asking what is only a reasonable request. These 44 people who have had no opportunity of coming together, and to whom under these laws you were supposed to have sent notices to attend here, are not in a position to come together. They are inside prison walls and on the hillsides, and are not in a position to give expression to their views in order that their followers in jail might be advised by them in the right direction, to follow the Constitution and to come in here and work with us. Is that a reasonable request, or is it not, and why should it bring forth from the back of the Government a man who instead of meeting the question has turned it into ridicule, and has dealt with the past, refusing to look to the future? All our hope and strength lies in meeting the future united and not wasting our strength in these weakening attempts at destruction and turmoil. After all, they are not a minority that are to be unrecognised; everyone of the 44 members of the 153 is a member who must be recognised. I myself am very much disappointed that there were in this country 44 people who could be brought into this Dáil with the opinions which these people hold, but I must look at the facts and I must say that these people have been elected, and it is our duty to do the best we can for the country, and give them every facility to come together and formulate their policy. If we could induce them to come inside and work through the Constitution in this Dáil we would be doing something for the country, and something which would enable us to let out the prisoners and get to work for the economic development of the country, which is badly needed.
I am genuinely surprised that a matter of this importance has been brought forward in this fashion by the Farmers' Party.
And I think it is likely that every thinking Deputy outside the Farmers' Party in the Dáil at the moment is also genuinely surprised. It was brought forward first by way of resolution. Surely the Farmers' Party knew that they had to give notice of motion. I can hardly make myself believe that they did not, and even if they were under the impression that they could deal with a question like this by a motion without notice surely they believe it was one of those matters so important that at least other Deputies who have an equal interest in the country should get notice of it.
But, as I say, I cannot believe that they were under the delusion that they could move a motion without notice. Now we have it on the adjournment. What is the point of raising a matter like this on the adjournment? What is the urgency? Is it suggested that the matter could not wait for four days, and that we could not all get notice of it, or is it one of those casual, trivial matters that could be decided off hand? It is not the business of the Farmers' Party. Those Deputies, Sinn Féin Deputies as Deputy Gorey calls them, are amongst the people and represent the people, ten thousand or fifteen thousand of whom we have now in gaol. It cost us £50,000,000 to put them in, it cost us the lives of many gallant men to put them in, and it cost us the life of Michael Collins. Do the Farmer Deputies suggest as reasonable men that a question like this should be decided on a moment's notice on the first day the Dáil meets? Is that the suggestion? Now it is a serious matter. I can understand any Deputy from any party putting down a motion on that, but not discussing it on the adjournment of the Dáil. I suggest that we have got just far enough with it.
The matter that has been raised by Deputy Gorey on the adjournment is the same as the question raised by me on the first stage of the 1922 Session of the Dáil. I only want to ask one question, and that is whether the 34 members interned have got the opportunity from the Government of deciding whether or not they would come in and work with the remainder of their colleagues selected by the people of Ireland? I want some Minister, probably the Minister for Defence, to answer whether they have received any written notice that if they had decided on attending this first Session of the Dáil that they would be released and get sufficient guarantee that they will not be arrested, and especially so with regard to the nine men or women Deputies who are not interned. Now, from the arguments put forward on behalf of the prisoners by Deputies Gorey and Wilson one would imagine that all the prisoners interned belong to the Farmers' Party.
Not at all.
As an Independent Labour man I say that there are more workers interned than there are farmers' sons.
The point that Deputy Gorey and Deputy Wilson are going on is that there are pending elections for County Councils and District Councils. I quite agree with the motion raised on the adjournment advocating the release of prisoners. Deputy Milroy said a moment ago that any prisoner has the opportunity of coming out if he is prepared to act according to the will of the people. Now, would it be information to Deputy Milroy to know that there are several prisoners to my knowledge who have signed the usual form of undertaking six months ago and they have not yet been released?
Would the Deputy understand that certain people who signed that are not prepared to act on it?
I am afraid I will have to allow the Dáil to decide as to whether or not they are prepared to do so, but I know they have signed it. If the 44 Deputies elected by the minority come in here and take their seats and act according to the wishes of the Irish people I am sure that no Government elected by the people of Ireland will keep their followers in prison. They are selected by the people to do the work of the people, as employees of the people, and I think it is only right that they should get the opportunity of voicing their opinion as to whether they will accept that position, or not, by giving them the option and a sufficient guarantee as was given to many Deputies in the Dáil in 1920 by the British Government who were at that time interned. That guarantee was given to Deputies then, and to members of the present Government, and other Deputies, that they would get a free pardon and sufficient guarantee that they would not be arrested if they came in and acted in the first Parliament of the Irish people. I think the same facilities should have been given to the people arrested and interned during the recent trouble. I congratulate Deputy Gorey and Deputy Wilson on the fact that they have laid a foundation stone, and that they are going to swell their representation in the County Councils and District Councils.
It is a matter of very great surprise to me that this motion or discussion should be raised at this particular time. It appears to me to be a constitutional complexity to say the least of it. In the first place if it were a matter of serious moment if occurred to me that it ought to have been raised on the question of the election of President. If it were not thought advisable to raise it at that particular juncture in our proceedings I should say it might reasonably have been raised on the nomination by the President of the other members of the Executive Council. But the manner in which it was raised, and the statement made on its introduction appear to me to be extraordinary. I should say that two members of the Dáil—I believe they are here, I have not seen them though I am sure they are here—informed me that they were approached within the last fortnight, close upon midnight—the hour selected, I believe, was after ten o'clock—by men who came to them with a document to sign, On that document was the request that they would raise questions here; first for the release of prisoners, and secondly for the alteration, or to put it in their own inimitable phraseology the provision that no bar and no obstacle should stand in the way of any man taking a seat here in this Dáil.
Now, mark the particular method adopted. If an honest man has got a bargain to make with you it is not near midnight he comes to make it, and he does not usually bring two or three aides-de-camp with him when he is going to make a bargain unless you are not going to be a free agent in the bargain. As I see the situation it comes to this—and I am the only person here now with serious responsibility with regard to the matter; the other members of the Executive have not been nominated; they still hold their offices as Ministers—to raise this matter now and to put upon one person the responsibility of answering it is a thing I am sure the Deputies will appreciate. The position was unquestionably decided by the people in the recent Election. One hundred and nine Deputies were returned, not one of whom put on his placard that he stood for one or both of those conditions put by the midnight visitors. If he did I am satisfied that on that issue the return of those who stood for a programme such as that would not have been as secure as it has been. Those forty-four people have been returned. Are they the petted children of this Nation? Must the Nation stand to attention while these forty-four are making up their minds whether they are to pass through the doors of this representative Assembly; whether or not they will honour this country by coming in here without first apologising to the Nation for the blood they have spilled, the destruction they have caused, and the horrible twelve months through which we have passed? Any time during that period, the whole of the eighteen months, and certainly for the first six months, we actually brought the Treaty into jeopardy, brought it to the very edge of the abyss in order to try and bring back those men to a sense of their citizenship to this Nation. When that failed and even after we had attacked them, many a time we offered here not only to make peace with them but even to get out, only on condition that they would get out too. What was the response? Our houses were burned, some members of our families were shot, and now we read in the Press, from the relative of one of these prisoners, the squeal that ten days have elapsed without getting a reply to a letter she sent to her husband. How many graves are there in Ireland from which no letters will ever come? How few squeals are there from the people who have made these sacrifices that this Nation should stand for the elected rule of the majority? Not one. I have not heard a squeal from one person whose family has made sacrifices for the right of this country and the right of citizenship and for the right of mapping out and marking out its progress and advancement.
Posturing Republicans! Ridiculous politicians! They ask and they demand of the people in Ireland that they should call themselves Republicans. For years I subscribed to that and fought for it as hard as any of them and my friends here have done likewise. What was our revenue in two years? The revenue of the Dublin Corporation. That is what they want to condemn the people of this country to with their nonsense—not one single month's revenue of the State we are now administering. That is what they want to condemn the people of this country to, in the future, in order that a few of their so-called intellectuals shall decorate themselves with the order of Commandant-General, or President, or Vice-President, or Acting President or something of that sort. They ask us now, having failed in doing their damnedest to get the British back here, they ask us now to pitch away in a moment of sentimentalism what we have gained, in order that they may be allowed to walk in through these doors and to say here in this Assembly of the Nation: "We are men and women of principle." The possession of that word is one of their conservations. Is the future political history of this country to be written in this manner: that a man or woman has only to get into jail and has only to stand for election and get elected, and our courts and our institutions, and the order of citizenship that we have established, are to be swept away in order that a number of persons returned in a constituency perhaps under false pretences, can order the Courts to open the doors and demand their freedom and do and say whatever they like? Forty-four of these people have been elected; eighteen of them are in jail. What are the twenty-six doing? What contribution are they going to make to the stability of this State? What apology have they got to make for the wrongs they have done this country? Until we get some evidence of a real change of heart I say it is not for us to be swept off our feet by sentimentalism because an actual minority of forty-four people say they are going to determine and mark out the progress of this country.
Can I not reply?
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE
Can I not make a personal explanation?
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE
Yes, the Deputy can make a personal explanation, but it must be a personal explanation.
The President has referred to men being waited on in the night. I have been waited upon in the night without an Army to protect me. So have other Deputies here been waited on, and they have flatly refused to sign those undertakings. The object of raising this motion here was not to pander to anybody. It was merely to ask a definite answer from these forty-four representatives whether they accepted the Constitutional platform or not. Then we would know what to do.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE
That is not a personal explanation.
What are you going to do with the murderers in that fortyfour——?
Deputies have made personal reflections on us across the floor.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE
Order. The Deputy must sit down. The Motion is that the Dáil do now adjourn until 3 o'clock to-morrow.