THE DÁIL IN COMMITTEE. - GÁRDA SÍOCHÁNA BILL, 1924.—FOURTH STAGE.

In the absence of Deputy Pádraig Mac Ualghraig in whose name the amendment stands, I move to add to Section 6 the following sub-section:—

So far as may be, the officers and men stationed in a district which includes an area where the Irish language is in general use shall possess such knowledge of the Irish language as will enable them to use it with facility as a medium of communication in the performance of their duties.

I should like to put the substance of the amendment before the Dáil and ask for its consideration and endorsement. So far we have accepted the Irish language as the official language of the nation, and where we are putting public officials into a place where Irish is the general language it is only right that we should ask that these officials would have a knowledge of the language that would make them intelligible to the people with whom they have to deal in the district. Unfortunately, it is too true that this question of the language has not got the close attention which it should get from Government departments. Men have been put into positions in districts where Irish is the language generally used, and yet these men are not capable of making themselves intelligible to the people with whom they have to deal. The knowledge of the language that extends to "Connus tá tú" and "Dia 's Muire duit" is not a knowledge of Irish. They should have a knowledge of the language that would enable them to perform the duties that fall to them and that would bring the people in contact with them in the discharge of their duty. The Gárda Síochána come in close contact with the people in the discharge of their duties, and in districts where the people are native speakers of the language the least that might be expected of them is that they should have a useful knowledge of the language that would make them intelligible to the people.

I would like to second this amendment. I think it would be most inconsistent if, having adopted Gaelic as the official language of the country, we did not do everything in our power to advance it, particularly in districts where it is still going strong. We have taken a great deal of care that Gaelic is taught in the schools to young people who will be soon leaving school and probably will be shortly speaking Gaelic in this Dáil. I think, as I said before, it is very inconsistent if we do not give these people, who at present do not understand English, officials who do understand the language. In the Courts of Justice Bill which has passed into law that principle is recognised. Districts in which Irish is spoken are to have justices or judges who understand the language. In view of that I think it would be altogether improper if we did not give every assistance to these people, and we should not confine it to the Irish-speaking districts alone. We should extend the borders. By-and-by we will all be able to speak Gaelic. Even now, if the Dáil should so will it, we could have our debates in Irish. If that should happen there would be no necessity to enforce the twenty-minutes rule for speeches. I have great pleasure in seconding this amendment, and I hope the Dáil will see fit to approve of it.

Ba mhaith liom cuidiú leis an leasú so, mar ise mo thuairim go bhfuil gádh le leasú mar sin. Tá fhios againn uilig go bhfuil Ceannphort na Gárda, Eoin O Dubhthaigh, ag deunamh a lán ar son na tgangan. Tá spéis aige i gcúis na teangan agus cuireann sé suim 'san obair. Acht b-feidir go mbeadh athrú ann i gcionn tamaill agus go mbeadh fear i gceannus na Gárda nach mbeadh suim aìge 'san Gaedhilig. Ma tá sé luaidhte 'san dlighe, ní deanfar aon failligh i dtaobh an Gaedhilig 'san am atá le teacht. Ar an adhbhar sin, cuidighim leis an leasú so.

I wish to support the amendment standing in the name of Deputy McGoldrick. I think if it errs at all it errs on the moderate side, because it would be better still if the words "so far as may be" were omitted, and that all officers and men stationed in a district which includes an area where the Irish language is in general use should have a spoken knowledge of the Irish language. Under the old régime we know how the interests of the Irish language were neglected and officials sent to the Irish-speaking districts who did not understand the language of the people. I, for one, freely admit that the present Commissioner of the Civic Guard, General Eoin O'Dufty, has done magnificent work for the language. He has instituted classes for the teaching of Irish in the Depot, and, as far as possible, he is sending officers and men who know Irish to Irish-speaking districts. But, notwithstanding the great efforts that General Eoin O'Duffy has made there are frequent complaints that Civic Guards are stationed in Irish-speaking districts who do not know the Irish language. We must fare the position as it may be in some years hence when a Commissioner might be at the head of the Guards who would not have the same sympathy for the Irish language as General Eoin O'Duffy. It ought to be definitely stated in the law of the land that officers and men serving in these Irish-speaking districts should know the language. If it is not definitely stated, no matter what professions would be made the interests of the language will suffer. I, therefore, support the amendment, and I hope the Minister for Justice will be able to accept it.

Deputy O'Maille has referred to the Civic Guard. There is no such force. I am surprised at the Deputy. Our feeling about this amendment is that it rather lays down a canon of conduct for administration, and that is scarcely a matter to be embodied in legislation. The Deputies who spoke, particularly the last Deputy, have acknowledged that in the distribution, of the Gárda Siochána every care has been taken to allocate to Irish-speaking districts members possessed of a good working knowledge of the language. They might have added that in recruiting preferential consideration is given to Irish-speaking candidates, and that a study of the language has been encouraged by the formation of classes at the Depot. Further, in the regulations recently made governing promotion in the Gárda. Irish has been included as a compulsory subject for the educational examination which the members are required to pass in order to qualify for promotion. Now, when that has been recognised, it seems to me a futile thing to write into your legislation a mere pious canon that "in so far as may be" you will do such a thing. The fact is, that "so far as may be" these things are being done. The regulations that have been drafted and that have been approved insure that they will continue to be done. There is no foundation for the suggestion that either the Gárda Síochána or the District Justices are Anglicising influences in any area. More than one-third of the justices are Irish speakers and there is no English-speaking District Justice in an Irish-speaking area. The difficulty about insuring that that will absolutely be the case with the Gárda Síochána is simply that it is not so easy to get a sufficiency of Irish-speaking candidates and Irish-speaking applicants for the Gárda Síochána who are otherwise suitable. When the Ministry of Education are able to create a supply for the demand that problem will be got over. My only objection to the amendment, and I wish to stress it, is that I think that the principle of writing pious aspirations into what is essentially statutory legislation is undesirable. If there is a departure from that canon of conduct the attention of the Deputies can be always drawn to that in the Dáil. I think I have satisfied, or should have satisfied Deputies that there has been no departure; that, in fact, the who tenor is to insure that we will has a sufficiency of Irish-speaking Gárda to cater for Irish-speaking districts. But I do not think that it is wise or desirable to write in mere window-dressing aspirations into an Act of the Oireachtas.

I have not seen in this Bill that the Minister for Justice is responsible for any statement to the effect that the provisions of this Bill shall no longer prevail after the Minister leaves office. This Bill is not a temporary Bill.

Neither are the regulations governing promotion temporary regulations.

The Minister is arguing against this amendment because. so far as the Gárda Síochána is at present administered and governed, it is carrying out what this amendment desires to import into the Bill. But let him think for a moment that it is possible that some person may be placed in his present position, who will not have the same desire that he has regarding the use of Irish in Irish-speaking districts. At least that is a possibility, and if there is no provision in the Bill, no matter how often Deputies may raise the matter in the Dáil, the Minister can hide behind the statement that the Act does not provide for any such thing. Now, the Minister under his new title will be responsible for certain duties in respect of the Courts of Justice Bill, and the Minister with his colleagues was responsible for the passing of this Bill through the Oireachtas. In at least two places in the Courts of Justice Act, provision has been made for a knowledge of the Irish language being requisite for justices. Surely if it was requisite in the case of justices it is equally requisite and more so in the case of the police who are acting in the area. Perhaps the Minister was not in favour of this provision m the Courts of Justice Bill. But he did not express his disapproval of it when it was brought up first in the Seanad, and secondly in the Dáil; he did not ask the Deputies to divide against the insertion of the amendment which the Seanad put into the Bill. I take it that he agreed that in the case of the District Justices it was desirable that a provision of this kind should be inserted in the Act. My reasoning leads me to the conclusion that if it was desirable in the case of the District Justices it is still more desirable in the case of Gárda Síochána, who are constantly and perpetually in touch with the people concerned. I do not think the Minister has met the arguments in favour of the amendment when he is asking us to leave it to the discretion of the administrative officers.

The point that the Deputy ignored is that the Minister politically responsible for the Gárda Síochána will be at all times subject to the criticism of the Dáil, and responsible to the Dáil. If there is any departure from, what is admitted to have been the practice hitherto, attention to that can be called here. I suggest that that is the important matter rather than writing down your aspirations in a Bill. I attach absolutely no importance either to the presence of the amendment in the Bill or the absence of it. What does matter, and what will matter in the future is, what the actual practice is. If any future Minister or Commissioner of the Gárda wants to do so, he can sail away under cloak of that, "As far as may be." The amendment is neither worth the time nor the discussion that is given to it.

Mr. P. HOGAN (Clare) rose,

An dtairigeochaidh tu siar é?

Ní tairigeocaidh. The Minister for Justice is never anything if not interesting, and when he tells us that this motion is a pious aspiration and is window dressing, he forgets I am sure that there is a good deal of window dressing in the Standing Orders upon which the Government of the Dáil is built, because it says definitely that the language in the Dáil shall be the Irish language, and when he tells us it is pious aspiration——

I do not think that is in the Standing Orders.

Mr. HOGAN

Mar sin tá sé in áit eigin eile.

Mr. HOGAN

When he tells us it is a pious aspiration, I wonder does he think we should not carry it through in legislation? If he intends to carry the principle through, what is the difference of embodying it in legislation? If it is the intention of the Government to observe this principle, what objection can they have to introducing it into legislation? The Minister says that the Gárda and the District. Justices will not Anglicise any district. To anybody who knows Irish-speaking districts, it is evident that it is such men as these who will have great influence in Anglicising or otherwise the districts where Irish is spoken. It may be safely argued that in the Irish Colleges there are many English-speaking people residing in order that they may become Irishised, but the very opposite effect is brought about, and the English speakers actually Anglicise those speaking Irish instead of the contrary. If you introduce numbers of the Gárda who will be doing business in the country in English, you will be Anglicising the districts entirely.

The Minister says that the Government will continue the policy of encouraging the native language amongst the Gárda. Will he tell us how many of the Gárda speak Irish at the present time? We are told that a system has been introduced by which they can learn Irish. Why cannot Irish speakers from the western and southern seaboards, men of fine physique who would be capable of carrying out police duties, be recruited for the Gárda and when they are well equipped and trained, sent to the Irish-speaking districts? To many of us this question of encouraging the Irish language is not a pious aspiration; it is a dreadful reality. If we are to save the Irish language we must be in earnest about it. Unless we are in earnest and put officials who are Irish speakers into Irish speaking districts, I do not think that anybody will believe that the Government are in earnest in trying to save the mother tongue.

Amendment put and agreed to.
Question: "That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Fifth Stage ordered for Tuesday, 27th May.