PRIVATE BUSINESS. - RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS.

I beg to move:—

That this Dáil, cognisant of a return to peaceful and more stable conditions in the country, and aware of the approach of the Tailteann Games, with their historic associations of peace and goodwill amongst Irishmen of all sections, is of opinion that the time has arrived when all untried or sentenced political prisoners should be released, and "men who are on the run" for political offences be free to return to their homes.

I move this motion in the name of the Farmers' Party. It is down in the name of that Party because we feel that the acceptance of it by the Dáil will tend towards bringing greater stability to the country, and that it will be a good sound, national policy. The last report we had of the number of political prisoners imprisoned or interned was on April 2nd. The total number of prisoners imprisoned or interned at that time amounted to 941, of which 314 had been sentenced; two had been sentenced to penal servitude for life; 262 to varying terms of penal servitude; 36 to imprisonment with hard labour, and 14 to a period of two years' imprisonment. I am aware that since that was supplied to the Dáil a number of prisoners have been released. I do not know how many, nor do I know the number still detained. At this point I want to make it perfectly clear that in this motion we are not asking for the release of prisoners who are in reality criminals. We are not standing out and saying that individuals who have gone out, whether under the guise of political motives or under a political flag, should because of that be styled political prisoners and be treated as such. We are not asking for the release of such prisoners as these. I do not know how many of those detained could in reality be styled criminals, but on that point we want to make our position clear.

When more than 12 months ago the "cease fire" was given by the Republican leaders, it was looked on, I must admit, rather dubiously by the Government and by many people in the country. The history of the past 12 months, I think, has fairly demonstrated that that "cease fire" order has been lived up to and was meant. It is fairly evident also, and generally accepted to-day, that the statement that accompanied the issuing of that order, namely, that the Republican Party were going to put the issue that they stood for before the people, and that they could achieve their ends by constitutional means, was also seriously meant. It is a real live question in County Limerick to-day. It seems to us at this juncture that that statement of the authoritative Republican leaders ought to be taken at its face value. When leaders of any Party make a declaration, I think that the proper tactics and the best policy for the Government of the time is to put those statements to the test; to put the responsibility on those people of carrying through the declaration they have made. Certainly, the time has now arrived when the statements made by the Republican leaders more than 12 months ago ought to be put to the test. The President, or whoever replies, may argue that it is dangerous even now to release all the prisoners. The point of view held may be, that because, as the Minister for Home Affairs chooses to say at times, arms are sown from one end of the country to the other, therein lies danger; that because of the fact that statements have been made at times, that could not be accepted, the statement as to the intentions of the Republican leaders to achieve their end by constitutional means can hardly be accepted at its face value, and that there is risk.

As to the question of the arms and the difficulty that that raises, I think the Ministry appreciate, just as well as anyone in the Dáil or outside it can, that in every Irishman there is a certain amount of pride. There is a pride that prompts him at times, as the saying is, not to yield up his gun. I hold, and I put it to the Dáil, that it is the feeling that it is not a manly thing to give up one's gun, more than the question of what may be done with the guns if they are kept, that has weighed with these people. I commend that point of view to the Minister. There is the other point of view, that the danger is too great to face. There may be a certain element of danger. But I would remind the Minister that it is hardly two months ago since the Dáil and the country were faced with a danger in another direction. A very difficult and serious situation confronted Deputies and the country generally. I am not going to discuss the causes of that danger. But when men took action, that in the words of the Minister for Home Affairs, amounted to mutiny. plus treason, how did the Minister deal with the situation? He came to the Dáil, I believe after giving the situation careful consideration, and he asked the Dáil to agree that the best way to deal with these people was to agree with him in saying to them, "Go in peace, friends, as civilians."

It was a brave step to take. There were many in the country who felt that there was danger in the step that was taken by the Minister then. What have events proved? In the time that has passed since, we see clearly that that attitude, and that action on the part of the Minister, was the correct attitude. It was the best step he could have taken in the interests of the State, and in the interests of the present and the future Irish nation. It was a dangerous action, perhaps. It looked dangerous at the time. It was grave, but it was statesmanlike, and proved to be the most successful way that the situation could have been dealt with. I think very few in the country to-day will quarrel with that, no matter how they may have felt at the time. The situation that confronts the Ministry to-day is none more serious than that one was. The Ministry are dealing with Irishmen to-day in these prisoners just as they were dealing with Irishmen a few weeks ago, and realised it. They appreciate the fact that the Irishman's outlook, mentality and temperament are peculiar, and must be subject to peculiar treatment. Treatment that might, perhaps, be very successful with people of another State would not just be the treatment to apply to Irishmen. If the Ministry are prepared to take their courage in their hands, and are prepared to act towards these men, as they acted towards the other men a short time ago, I suggest that their efforts will meet with just as much success. Later on such efforts will meet with the same approval as their previous action has met with.

I admit that the Minister may put it to me that there is a difference, that the men I speak of agreed to hand in their guns, but that the other people have not done so. I appreciate the difficulty that that, perhaps, does create for the Ministry. That may, to a certain extent, have been the determining factor. If it has been the determining factor in the past, I submit to the Dáil that we have had sufficient evidence that these people have no intention of using these guns in future; that they meant it, when the order was given to "cease fire," and that they have since lived up to that order. It is suggested that here and there we have incidents and drilling. That has been told me. I must say, for my own part, that I have seen no evidence of these. I do not know if drilling is being carried on in very many places, or at all. I feel inclined to say, and I honestly believe, that if such actions are taking place in one, two, or three districts, it is not the considered Republican policy. It may be the policy of a certain individual here and there, in a certain district, but isolated cases should not be taken as the basis on which a considered judgment should be formed when dealing with a great number of prisoners or with the party these prisoners represent.

There is another point of view that, I think, it is very well, at this moment to stress in the Dáil. August next will see the re-institution in this country of the Tailteann Games. After the occurrences of the past few years there are times, perhaps, when we feel that we should cease talking or thinking of the glories of the past, or of anything glorious at all about our country. I do not subscribe to that point of view. I recognise that while our people have their failings, they also have very many good points. It would be well that we should see our good points as well as our bad ones. Even in the last ten years men in this country have dared to do, and have achieved, glorious things. Perhaps, in a way, they have accomplished things that few small nations would be brave enough to undertake. The glory of this country is not a thing of yesterday. The Tailteann Games were in the days of Ireland's greatness one of her greatest events. Seven hundred years before the Christian era these games were carried out upon the plains of Tara. Up to the 12th or the 13th century these games were to the Irish race the greatest event in the lives of the people. The first Dáil, under the Presidency of de Valera, decided that these games should be re-instituted. I should say that the first Dáil must be to every Irishman with Irish ideals, something sacred, because those days, at least, saw us all standing together. These games were at that time in course of being held; our present Postmaster-General was nominated by the then President de Valera as director of the games, and I believe that many of the members of the Council who are going on with the work to-day were also nominated then. In former days peace was proclaimed months previous to the holding of the games. The Gaelic race in those days had its differences, as we have to-day; but in order that the people might come together in peace and in harmony the High King declared that from the rising of the sun on a certain day peace should run through the land. That was in anticipation of and in preparation for the Tailteann Games. I think that the Tailteann Games to-day ought to be one of the biggest things before all Ireland. They are certainly one of the biggest things that have been handed down to us, not as a tradition, but as a fact—something that lived in ancient Ireland, and the fact that they are to be held in the coming August ought to be an incentive to every Irishman, no matter what his political views may be, to make them what they were in the Ireland of old.

If that is to be done, the first essential is that there must be peace; people who have differences of opinion, politically or otherwise, ought not to be kept apart; the games ought to be given a fair chance; they ought to be supported by all the different political parties. At times we think with such a dislike of one another that we sometimes fear for the future of the country. I do not think that a policy of hate, either by word or act, is the platform, or the foundation, on which any State can be successfully built up.

The Government of any country can at all times give a lead. They are in a better and a stronger position than any political party to give a lead in establishing political peace and harmony amongst the people who claim to have common ideals. I think the Government of to-day could give an earnest of their sincerity, could demonstrate to us that bitter feelings about things that have taken place in the past do not and will not count with; them, that these things will not stand in the nation's way, that if there is a possibility of bringing peace by giving every individual who is prepared to obey the common law, every individual who is prepared to take his stand in obedience to the common law, liberty to obey that law——

And no other law.

Yes. I should like at this point to make reference to the-men on the run. These, too, cannot be left out from my point of view in this motion, because, after all, it is really demoralising that men are not at liberty to go to their homes. It certainly does not tend to make these men have greater respect for the law, and I cannot see that any useful purpose can be served by taking action against these men that will prevent them returning to their homes and living as peaceable citizens. I agree that, perhaps, there are people who are prepared to take their stand on the statement that it is not wise to release some of the prisoners even yet. But I say to these people, that the greater number of the prisoners have been released, and nothing very extraordinary has taken place. The 8,000 who have been released could certainly have done any of the things that the 800 would do who are still detained, either politically or militarily. No good purpose can be served by keeping in leaders of a political party after that political party has declared its intention to pursue its policy by constitutional means, and while it may, from the point of view of some people, be asking much of the Government, there is generally a feeling through the country that the time is ripe for the release of the political prisoners; that if the Government were brave enough to take these people at their word, release them and give them an opportunity to prove that they mean what they say, the Government would be taking a brave, statesmanlike step that will inevitably be beneficial to the nation as a whole.

I rise to second the motion. It was contrary to my original intention to express any opinion on the motion, further than to give a silent vote in favour of it, but as it is a question of such national importance I consider it my duty briefly to state my reasons for supporting it. Months ago, when the Anti-Treaty Party ceased active armed opposition against the State, I advocated in this Assembly the release of the prisoners, and, to their credit be it said, the Government released thousands of men, who since then have acted honourably and straightforwardly according to the undertaking they gave at that time. I think now that a generous gesture on the part of the Government would add a great deal to the further peace and tranquility of the country. But fearing that it might be said that we on these benches who are voting solidly for this motion have not the courage of our convictions, and that we are only giving way to popular clamour, I wish to emphasise the fact that if any sentiment I express here to-day would aggravate the difficulties of the Government, my lips would be closed, and I believe in saying so that I am expressing the unanimous opinion of the party that I have the honour to sit amongst. Let us not be misunderstood. We do not want to withdraw from the Government any strength that they possess for dealing with any party which rises up in arms against the lawfully constituted authority of this State. We have supported, and will continue to support, the Government in any steps that they may consider necessary to maintain law and order, but we are not so——

Is the Deputy in order in reading his speech?

I am referring to notes.

It is not in order to read a speech, but I am not sure that the Deputy is reading his speech.

I am certain.

We are not so inconsistent, because we cannot see eye to eye with another party, as to keep them in jail indefinitely. We consider that the time is ripe for the release of these men. The Deputy who moved the motion has stated the various reasons that brought our party to frame this motion. For my own part, it is my firm conviction that these men will never again resort to armed warfare against the State, and if they did I would consider it a crime of the direst magnitude. I have no desire to disparage the talents or the character of any of my fellow-countrymen. On the contrary, I should like to be one of a party who would try to fuse at the present time the discordant elements of our country into an harmonious and united mass, and if we have learned anything from the past history of the country, I think that this should be the aim and the object of every man, both inside and outside this House. These are my views; I have expressed them in the sincerity of my heart, and I hope that the House will pass the motion so ably proposed by my colleague, Deputy Baxter.

The motion cites three particular things. First, it refers to the fact that there is a return to peaceful conditions. I was rather amused in listening to that statement, having regard to what we heard last night. We recommended a return to peaceful conditions in September, 1922. We agreed at that time to wipe the slate clean, because that is, I think, the only really satisfactory way to bring about peace and to bring about peaceful and stable conditions. Deputy Baxter mentioned that he was informed, I think, on the 1st April, 1924, that we had 941 prisoners. At the moment, from a return I have received to-day, we have 616 prisoners; of these 302 are sentenced prisoners, and 314 prisoners who were not sentenced—internees. Of that 314 I signed yesterday, or to-day, the releases of 24, which will bring the actual number of prisoners now to 592. It takes a couple of days to effect releases. We would then have a lesser number of interned than sentenced prisoners. Deputy Baxter quoted many times in his statement the call that was made by the Irregular leaders for the cessation of hostilities twelve months ago, and the return to what they term constitutional methods. There are many interpretations of constitutional methods. I do not know whether Miss MacSwiney is a leader, but her acceptance or interpretation of constitutional methods differs, I think, very much from Deputy Baxter's, or Deputy McKenna's. Everything, according to her, no matter what it is, is constitutional, and, according to the same authority, we have had a war, and that term "war" covers everything, political offences, criminal offences, and all these very peculiar experiments and experiences we have had for the last couple of years. Deputy Baxter stated that he does not plead for the release of criminals, and I take it he is honest in that statement, but I put it to him and to the Dáil that there is some difficulty in discriminating between what is known as a political prisoner, and what is described as a political prisoner who is guilty of a criminal offence. I remember on one occasion discussing with a man who had been in Belfast Jail for a political offence the various types of people he had come across there, and he told me that one little man who came in one morning was asked what he was there for, and he said "Shooting and forgery." He put the shooting first, and, of course, that covered the forgery, and he was a political prisoner according to his interpretation of it.

Ten or twelve months ago we passed an act called the Indemnity Act, and under that particular instrument there was power taken to review sentences that had been passed by courtsmartial, military tribunals, or some such competent bodies. Under the regulations made in connection with that Act it was laid down that on application by prisoners cases would be reviewed. Without the application by prisoners it is not possible under the law to review those cases, and reduce the sentences. In that connection I will read some correspondence that has been transmitted to me dealing with that particular thing. This is a letter from a lady in Dublin to a member of the Dáil:

"A Chara,—Knowing your sympathy with the now universal movement for the release of the prisoners, I venture to ask your kind support of the motion to be made to-morrow by Mr. Baxter in the Dáil. My special excuse for troubling you is a mother's anxiety for the plight of her son, now a prisoner in Hare Park, and nearing the completion of two years without charge or trial. Enclosed extract from a letter of one of them will give you an idea of the treatment they are now being subjected to."

The following is the extract:—

"We have just received notification that we are to be put back to winter lock-up time (6 p.m.) as punishment for our men refusing medical examination specially for sentenced men only, as discriminated from us people, which they insisted on. So it looks as though they are trying to make an issue of the distinction and force trouble on us once more. They stopped parcels on Saturday until to-day, but replaced that punishment by this much more cruel imposition. It is hard enough to keep in good form here, and depression is fairly general—everyone is simply fighting against it. Certainly, keeping us in from 6 p.m. locked up in a hut, when it is daylight until 10 p.m. will not improve matters. The vicious circle will probably commence now. Yesterday considerable excitement was caused by one of our lads, sentenced to ten years, attempting to commit suicide, cutting his throat seriously before being caught in the act. Add to this six lunacy cases since we came here, and you perceive a very serious state of affairs."

I sent that on for report, and I have received the following:—

"The prisoners, on Monday, 28th April, disobeyed a Camp Standing Order which requires them to wash out and scrub the floors of their huts twice weekly—i.e. on Monday and Friday. The prisoners' leaders on that day were informed that letters and parcels would me stopped for four days on account of non-compliance with the order in question. The prisoners' leaders were notified on 28th April that they would be locked up at 6 p.m. for six evenings as punishment for the destruction by the prisoners of latrines which had recently been replaced by the engineers. The prisoner referred to is ——. This prisoner had applied for review of his sentence, and his depression was due, not to the treatment accorded to him by the Camp officers, but to the treatment meted out to him by his companions on account of his having applied for review of his sentence. The Military Governor states that one of the prisoners stood by and watched Flynn attempting to cut his throat without making any attempt to prevent him, but called on a military policeman to do so."

This man's case has been heard, and his release ordered.

"The Military Governor states that there was only one case of lunacy in the Camp within the past twelve months, and that the prisoner in question was committed to an asylum. The same treatment is given to every prisoner in Hare Park whether he is sentenced or not. The prisoners have every facility for games, etc., and the Camp officials are always very willing to remedy legitimate complaints."

I suppose it is showing their form, not agreeing to go before this tribunal, just the same as it is showing their form not to surrender arms. A greater man than any one of them ever was, ordered the surrender of arms here eight years ago to foreigners, and it was obeyed, and they will not surrender to their own countrymen. We are faced with this position that under the law a number of these men are sentenced, and there is objection to medical examination. I myself ordered medical examination. I believe it was also ordered by a Department of the State, but I ordered it, having discovered that there was one sentenced prisoner in a serious state of health, and in order to secure that no other prisoner would be allowed to get into a serious state of health. Some Member of the Dáil or of the Seanad asked me to have a man released. I discovered that he was in a serious state of health, and I ordered a medical examination. It was also ordered about the same time by a Department of the State.

Now we are faced with this position. This correspondence discloses exactly the mentality we are dealing with in those prisoners. Everything which makes for disturbance, which makes for what we consider to be non-constitutional methods is taken to be great form. I expect that this sort of propaganda was sent to America to disgrace this country. Finding those things to be what they are during the last two or three months, since I became Minister for Defence, I have had numerous conferences night and day with officers, servants and officials of the State. Within the last forty-eight hours I got the consent of the Minister for Finance to pay two substitutes for judges so as to allow two judges to review the cases of the sentenced prisoners, and to make recommendations to us. We, in turn, will recommend His Excellency, the Governor-General, to exercise the prerogative of mercy in those cases. That, I suppose, will not hurt the very high sensitiveness of the political opinions of the gentlemen affected. That is the only alternative. If Deputy Baxter were in my place, he could not release those men except in the way I mention. If Deputy Baxter were here himself he would have to go through the same form that we are going through, to see whether or not he was going to release a criminal or a political. We have just the same anxiety. The Return shows what has been the number of releases during twelve months. Eleven thousand and sixty-eight prisoners have been released between the 1st of June, 1923, and the 18th May, 1924. I do not know whether it will be taken to indicate great rashness, great bravery, or great perspicacity on the part of the Government, to have released practically a thousand prisoners a month, but it has been done. I certainly re-echo the statements that have been made by Deputy Baxter and Deputy McKenna with regard to seeing more peaceful and more ordered conditions existing in the country. But I put it to them: Is it likely that we will have those peaceful conditions, dealing with the class of people we are dealing with, if those men are released? They say they have returned to constitutional methods. If I appear on a public platform, will they allow the people to hear me? I do not know whether that attitude in regard to public meetings is regarded as constitutional or not, but it was never advocated by the old Sinn Fein Party that I belonged to, or by any member of the First or Second Dáil, that any man seeking to put his views before the public should be shouted down at a public meeting.

Very many less than a hundred applications for review came before the judges under that Act of Indemnity, and very considerable reductions were made in sentences that were imposed In a great number of cases almost immediate release was ordered by the judges. They had that right. They have that right under the Act, too, but they cannot review or order releases or reductions unless an application comes up. In the circumstances we have set up this tribunal. It will commence work very shortly and it will deal with those cases. But their recommendations in those cases are only recommendations. If they recommend that release should take place in any case, it will be the duty of the Executive Council to advise His Excellency to order the release of that prisoner. For a great many months past investigations amongst the prisoners have been taking place. We have to see against how many of them prosecutions for criminal offences would lie. As might be expected, those investigations occupy a very considerable amount of time Some prisoners who have been interned have been transferred with a view to prosecution. In June of last year four prisoners were transferred to civil custody. In January four more were transferred. In February, 24, March, 32; April, 9; and from May the 1st to May the 18th, 9. They were transferred to civil custody, "awaiting execution." That is perhaps imperfectly expressed. It does not mean exactly "retiring a man out of life," as the Latin says. It means simply bringing men for trial, so that the number is not affected by it. As far as the internees or military prisoners are concerned, the number is 590. I have secured very active and cordial assistance from the various other departments of State in expediting returns to show in how many cases prosecutions would lie against these prisoners. I received this evening a list of over one hundred prisoners against whom no prosecutions will be entered. That will enable us, I believe, to release between now and this day week one hundred others. That will bring the number under 500. Apart from these cases, Deputies occasionally approach either the Minister for Defence or some other Minister, mentioning particular cases of prisoners, and I think there are very few Deputies who have reason to be dissatisfied with the response that they got. In one case a member of the Dáil and a member of the Seanad approached us with regard to something like thirty-six men who were on the run in a certain district. Thirty-six is a large number, even if the cases were in one county, and it took some time to investigate them. I communicated with them, I think within a month, saying that, as far as I could ascertain, no prosecution would lie against those thirty-six men, and that they might return home. I asked at that time these two men to sign a bond for the good behaviour of those men, and they agreed. I do not know whether the men who were on the run are aware of that or not, but it shows how much a man may do individually. In asking that those men who are on the run should be free to return home, one must bear in mind also that there is a distinction between persons who are sought for politically and persons against whom a criminal prosecution would lie. I am sure Deputy Baxter will appreciate the difficulty in making up returns showing on the one side persons whom one would wish to intern from the point of view of Irregular activity, and on the other hand men against whom a prosecution might lie for criminal offences. As I said, the resolution might be divided into three parts. In the first part there is a declaration that we have returned to normal conditions. As I have already stated, Deputy Lyons' statement last night scarcely coincides with that particular picture. I am not exactly accepting Deputy Lyons' statement as to the insecurity there is abroad. However, it is there.

On a point of explanation, I did not last night make a statement to the effect that it was the released prisoners who were responsible for getting ex-members of the National Army dismissed from their employment. I did not say it was ex-internees who did that. It is up to the Government to find out who are the people.

The second part of the resolution referred to the approach of the Tailteann Games. I put this to the Dáil deliberately and solemnly: Pass a vote of want of confidence in the Government, by all means. Do that, and out of your generosity, if you like, and if you are prepared to take the risk, release every one of the prisoners, but do not release them on account of the near approach of the Tailteann Games, because, if you do that, you are rearing up for yourselves in the future, or for other Governments, the menace of hostility to any public festivity, public event, great occasion, or anything else of the sort; and it is too dangerous. I have no objection, and I would willingly walk out from my position as head of this State, but I would feel humiliated and I would feel dejected if a resolution lending colour to the case that was put up by these men and their hostility to these games was the reason for our releasing the prisoners. I submit, on all the facts of the case, that I have made a fair case for fair treatment of those prisoners. I say it is scarcely fair to my mind to release all those internees who were not prosecuted before courtsmartial, and to keep in the unfortunate dupes who were so prosecuted. I say that the man who took out his gun and fought like a man, or obeyed orders to burn a house, as much as I condemn it, is not a bit more guilty than Mr. de Valera, even though, at the eleventh hour, he stated that be never stood for destruction. He had the right to say that when destruction began, or when it was at its height.

I feel for a man who was sentenced for fighting, even though he should not have done it, even though it was morally wrong, as much sympathy and consideration as I have for Mr. Stack, who was found with an insurance policy in his pocket. That is the reason I say that until there is a review of the cases of the men who were sentenced, it is scarcely fair to them that they should suffer while the others should go scot free. That is a matter of opinion. I may be wrong in my interpretation as to what is guilt. But I do say that it is at least due to the rank and file that they should not be discriminated against. And they are discriminated against owing to the accidents and the circumstances of the time. The men on the run cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Their cases must be reviewed to see whether or not a prosecution would lie against them. There is no use in telling a man he can go home—"We forgive you for what you have done during the last twelve months or two years." You are not entitled to do that. You have no authority to do it. You are not empowered by the people to do it. Their cases, just as the cases of the internees, require investigation and report to see whether or not it is our duty to prosecute them. Doing all those things and considering so generously the cases of those men who have inflicted such wrongs upon the country one must remember the dupes who followed their example and who have been prosecuted in the civil courts and sentenced. It is all in that one period. It was a vicious cycle. Take the case of the man who fought for us during, say, 19 or 20 months and then fell—and fell only once. We arrested him for it and sentenced him. There is no plea made in respect of him. The plea is only for those who started it, and but for whom that man would not be in jail to-day.

The other case the Deputy mentioned was, I think, a most unfortunate parallel. That is the case which has been before the public here for the past couple of months—the case of what some people call the mutineers. Are the facts the same? Here were men who believed that they suffered a severe grievance, a real grievance. Within three days or a week of having addressed a letter which was mutinous in tone and treason-like in its appearance, they wrote a letter saying they accepted the authority of the Government elected by the people of the country. Although I know very well that they did not agree with perhaps the majority of that Government, still their very acceptance of their authority places them on an entirely different plane. Even if they had rendered us no service during the past two years, that very acceptance placed them in a position in which they could not be compared with the other people who spread the torch.

On a point of explanation, that matter was not mentioned, in that connection at all. It was mentioned to show that the Government could take a big, statesmanlike view. If the other parallel can be drawn it was not the parallel meant by us.

I am taking the statement as it was made. I think it was most unfortunate to draw a parallel between the two cases, and I submit, with great respect even to Deputy Gorey, that we have shown great courage in releasing about 12,000 prisoners in practically twelve months.

What good is the balance to you?

Deputy Baxter says he does not want criminals out. Are we entitled to examine to see whether we have any of them or not. If Deputy Gorey were in my position, or in the position of the Minister for Home Affairs, or the Minister for Defence, would he examine into 12,000 records in twelve months, and not have a small residue left? When he says, "What good is the balance," I tell him the law of the land, the law he went out to support, the law which his colleagues paid tribute to to-night, is that they are prisoners and sentenced, and that, as a matter of fact, under the law, they should be in a convict prison. We have not sent them there.

We are dealing with a peculiar mentality whose only policy is a negative policy. Everything is negative—preventing public meetings, interrupting public meetings, and winding up with, perhaps, the most colossal and gigantic blunder that ever was made—that was the great big hunger strike of last year. Two lives were lost in that hunger strike. For what? Everybody knew we were releasing them. We had given evidence of it in the number already released, and still they should have, as it were, a little flutter before the end. There is no use in telling us here now that this would not be accepted by them as a surrender by us to their threat of hostility to the Tailteann games. It would, and it would be hailed as a victory by them.

There may possibly have been some sort of excuse previous to the election last year, which they contested, so far as I know, in every constituency in the country, and they put their case to the people, the highest court in the land That answer was against them. They were definitely defeated there, and at that time they should have surrendered those arms. It is not too much to ask. Some of their best men realised that, and they were released, and to-morrow Mr. de Valera can walk out of jail if he orders the surrender of arms, and if they come in. We do not want to keep them. We are much more anxious than they are to end this thing. It takes up a lot of our time, and it gives us no pleasure to know that any man is in pain. Last year they tried the same game at the cinema and theatre performances, and it all failed. This thing will fail also. I put it to the House, and let this be my last word—pass a vote of want of confidence in the Government, and then release the prisoners, but do not pass the Resolution in its present form.

I am sorry that the President has dealt with this question in the manner in which he has dealt with it. He seems to forget that this is May, 1924, and that the arguments that he used a year and eighteen months ago ought not to be valid and are not valid. I deny that they were valid then, and I deny it now. The Minister referred to the last election. After the last election I said that so far as I was concerned I took it as a direction from the people that they preferred that we of the Labour Party should not interfere and take the initiative in pressing for the release of prisoners, that the friends of the prisoners and those who claimed a peculiar interest in the prisoners—that it was not our business—would look after the prisoners' case. I said that we of this party would support any person or any movement in favour of the release of the prisoners, and the carrying out of what we believed to be the right national policy in regard to political offences, and in regard to the intentions of the Constitution, that we will leave it to others to take the initiative and that we would support them and we did so. I am supporting Deputy Baxter in this motion, and I do not think it has been improved by the reference to the Tailteann Games, but I am not going to assent to the proposition of the President because one or two, ten or fifteen, Deputies believe that the coming of the Tailteann Games is an added reason for the release of the prisoners, that because they rely on that added reason all the other reasons should be forgotten. The President has referred to three classes of persons affected by this Resolution —those who have been tried by courts and convicted, those who are interned hut not yet tried, and those who are, in the phrase, "on the run." Those who have been tried and convicted, the President says, are free under the law to make an application and an appeal for a review of their cases, and he has assured the House that—I do not know what proportion—a very large proportion of those who had their cases reviewed after sentence by court-martial found their sentences greatly reduced and in many cases releases. have been ordered. Is not that the most eloquent condemnation of these courts that you could imagine? Does it not prove to any person that these courts ought to be scrapped?

I must intervene. There was an express direction given to the judges that we wanted them— unless there were extraordinary reasons to the contrary—to release the men. I, myself, gave instructions to the Minister for Defence and he directed the judges.

In the words of an eloquent counsel in another place, "This is really more and more sad." The courts, which were established under the law which the President relies on, sentenced prisoners to long terms of imprisonment. Another court or tribunal is established under the law to review those cases, and the President admitted and affirmed that those cases had been reviewed in such a way as to mean release or a great reduction. That proves that the sentence of the court was not just. He also claimed that the reviewing of these cases and the action of the judge in the case was under the direction of the President.

PRESIDENT

I think it is only right that I should intervene. This is a very serious matter. The men constituting those courts have their honour impugned here in the absence of any information, and I submit it is not fair to the officers of the court who undertook that duty.

I am following the President's statement for the purpose of showing that it is at least unwise to be pressing, as a justification for his action, the existing law. He is, at the same time, making that a defence. He explains how the law, according to the administration, has been followed and how judgments have been given and sentences imposed which appeared to have been entirely unjustified on the facts.

That is not the case, and you know it.

The President cannot have it every way. If it is not the ease that those sentences were just, according to the facts, how can he say that those persons charged with reviewing the cases on appeal were justified in releasing the prisoners? The end which was accomplished, the release of those prisoners, was probably the right end to be accomplished, but I ask him to do what he would like to do, what his better judgment prompts him to do, and to do in a generous way, what be has secured in a niggardly, slow, half-hearted way. Then we have the case of the internees who have not been tried. Now, I will assume that there are a dozen or twenty or fifty. The President seems to think that because there are only now 600 that the position is not so serious, but 600 persons imprisoned in this country is a very serious fact. Round about three hundred of them have not been tried even by those courts. Three hundred persons interned in a country which is not at war and which is not suffering under armed rebellion is a very serious fact, and, I am afraid that the President and the Ministry as a whole do not realise the seriousness of it, because they have been through a period actively engaged in what was called a rebellion and insurrection, and latterly putting down a counter-rebellion and a counter-insurrection. It is only comparatively that the President and the Ministry can think of those three hundred people interned without trial, as something not serious. My proposition is that you cannot justify the detention of 50 persons let alone 300. You cannot alone justify the detention of one person in a time of peace in this country which purports to be living under a Constitution which was deliberately designed to protect the citizen. You cannot justify that and at the same time claim that we are at peace and that the state of armed rebellion has been put down and has ceased.

Again, the Minister has referred to the conduct of people outside, to the peculiar mentality of those persons, those persons being 600 inside and how many thousand outside? Those persons with peculiar mentalities include the person who was quoted specially, Miss MacSwiney, who is outside. Those 11,000 persons who have been released contain within their number a large proportion who are politically more influential than those who have been detained. How can you justify the continued detention? It is not very satisfactory when we are dealing with the question of the release of those who are at present in prison to refer to the action of those outside prison who attempted to interfere with public meetings. Those who interfere with public meetings have not been interned. They were outside. However, very probably if those who are interned are influential enough to be leaders, their leadership would prevent interference with public meetings. I say it is worth a trial. It is worth the risk, if there is any risk. If you want to prove that the Free State is established, and has got control and authority in the country, do not keep your political opponents in prison. It is a good many years ago since I read about the method of treating active political opponents on the Continent of Europe for offences against the stability of the State. People were sentenced for long periods of internment in fortresses, and were banished to distant parts of their country. I have learned since how these people who were banished have come into power in their respective countries, and the policy of banishment and internment in fortresses proved an utter failure, as it will prove in this country. The position that the Government has taken up is not one that is going to bring satisfaction. It is a tribute, as I said earlier, to the desire, that I believe to be the sincere desire of the President, to release the prisoners. He does not desire to keep them, but he is afraid of the political consequence of release. He is credited with courage. Can he not be courageous enough in this matter to be willing to open the jail gates to all those who have been convicted or interned for political offences or for offences which would not be criminal in any other circumstances?

Unless they are actual criminals under the ordinary law, then I plead with him that there should be a general release. I would suggest the importance of considering this matter, having regard to the attitude of the courts. We read some time ago of a case in the courts where constitutional points were raised. It is quite evident from the expressed opinions of the judges, that we have either to admit that many of these prisoners are detained unconstitutionally or against the Constitution, or that the Constitution is not worth anything, that it is being amended, or may be amended, by any and every Act of the Oireachtas. Now, that is a dilemma, as it seems to me, that might lead the Government into a position where the continued detention of these prisoners will bring a nemesis very undesirable.

If there is to be an Order of the Courts that these persons have been detained unconstitutionally; or, alternately, if it is to turn out that the Constitution which we have passed, and under which we are acting, is worth nothing as a constitutional document, that it is subject to continuous change, then I say, that the Dáil will be brought into contempt, and the whole position of the Ministry and of the Government and of the Oireachtas will be made farcical. But I would not like to close on that note. I believe that it is good policy to release all political prisoners. I believe we have much to gain by recognising the danger there is to the constitutional stability of this country or of any country by treating the question of imprisonment without trial lightly. I believe it is dangerous to the future of the country to rely upon the Acts of the Oireachtas which were passed in times of emergency and under pressure, without real consideration by that Oireachtas, and to rely upon Acts for the continued imprisonment of men without trial. I say that it is bad policy from the point of view of the stability of the State, to keep these prisoners interned, and it would be advantageous in every respect as showing confidence in the powers of the State. It would be more to the credit of the State to be able to say, "Yes, we are in a position to maintain the law. We are in a position to put down crime. We are in a position to subdue rebellion, and, therefore, we can afford to release those persons whom, a year ago, we thought it necessary to intern."

As one who believes and has believed for some time back that the prisoners, the men who took part in the recent war against the Government of the country should not be detained any longer, I rise to support Deputy Baxter's Motion. Now, I do not speak in any spirit of carping criticism, of the Government. My sole intention is to give them every help in making the government of the country easier for them, if possible, and to achieve that end I think no act would have a more salutary effect on the country at the moment than the releasing of the prisoners at present detained. I will make an exception, however, that these people who were guilty of criminal acts that the laws of the country would not justify, should be kept in prison until such time as their crimes are brought home to them. But in the interests of peace and good-will in the country, and speaking in the hope of a spirit of good understanding and the bringing about of a position of goodwill, I believe the best course the Government could take would be to release these prisoners, the prisoners that went into this war and fought for purely political motives. We know it is very hard to distinguish, but I know that the great majority of the men in at present were men who went into the war from purely political motives.

Question.

Well, I hold that that anyway. I believe it. My second reason for supporting Deputy Baxter's motion is that the great majority of the men, the real fighting men in the recent war on the Irregular or so-called Republican side, have been already released. That is my experience in my part of the country at any rate, and the fact that 12,000 of these prisoners have been already released and that the great majority of these never gave any guarantee to respect the State, or to hand over their arms, is about the best argument I know for the release of the remainder. The President mentioned this case. To my mind every argument the President adduced against the release of the prisoners is an argument for their release. For instance, that argument about the 12,000 released is in my opinion a very good argument as to why the remainder should be released. The second argument was as to propaganda which has no bearing whatever upon this case. Why give these people in this Irregular movement food for this propaganda campaign?

Hear, hear.

Why not let them out and kill propaganda? Why not let out these prisoners and put an end to the campaign of these wild women who spend their Sundays, and the time they should spend in their homes, orating from the ruins in O'Connell Street? Why not take away from them all that food for propaganda, and keep those people in their homes instead of having them annoying people and spreading a bad name for us all over the world?

They should be out at Sandycove washing themselves.

Now, I must say that I consider it unfortunate that the subject of the Tailteann Games was dragged into this matter. But in another way I do not know whether it is unfortunate or not. War itself is, I suppose, a great game although it is a brutal and savage one, but it is a game, I think, in which, when the final whistle blows; people should not try to play at any longer. It is not sportsmanlike. It is now twelve months since this long whistle sounded. I did not believe then that it was the final whistle, but since then, and from experience, I believe it was the long whistle, and I am convinced now that the war indeed at that time ended, and that there will be no resumption of it. From a sporting point of view, I think it is playing the game badly to continue the war any longer on those people opposed to us when they cried quits. Now, there is another side to it. Deputy Johnson has touched on the matter already, and it is this, that if the Government have confidence enough in themselves, and confidence enough in the stability of the State, and confidence enough in the people be hind them, and in the intelligence of the people behind them, they will rise above this little threat made by the wild women and the effeminate men and release the prisoners, and rise above this threat which is a small thing after all, and act as they should be, the courageous defenders and protagonists of the State. I do not see why this is not as good an opportunity as could be afforded them. As to the little threat made against the Tailteann Games, I do not see why the Government should not ignore that completely, and have courage in themselves and in the State, and in the future of Ireland, and throw these people out of the prisons and ignore these small threats. There is another point that I would like to touch on, and it has not been touched upon by any other Deputy. It is the question of the prisoners in Northern Ireland, in Scotland, and probably in England.

You cannot go into that.

We are all anxious that there should be some effort made to secure their release. It is a question of arguing in favour——

I am afraid the Deputy cannot go further with that matter.

He is entitled to extend the jurisdiction, if he can.

What I was about to refer to is, I think, closely allied to what is under discussion.

It would be better to keep to what is under discussion.

Well, I do not know. I will go ahead anyway. If we want to have these prisoners released, I do not see why we should be detaining prisoners in the Saorstát. If we ask Sir James Craig or some English Minister to release prisoners belonging to the Nationalists in the North of Ireland, or prisoners in England or Scotland, those people would have a very good argument to use against us. They would say: "What are you keeping your untried prisoners in Southern Ireland for? Why ask us to do what you are not prepared to do yourselves?" That would be a very good argument for them to throw back at us if we ask them to release the prisoners that they have interned. I do not speak in any spirit of carping criticism of the Government. I want to help them in every way I can. I want to help the country and to create a good fellowship, and to promote a good understanding and encourage progress in the country. With these ends solely in view I do appeal to the Government to reconsider this whole policy of the prisoners and act in a manner that will restore what is very urgently needed in Ireland at the moment, a national spirit of good-will and understanding, if not all over Ireland, at least amongst the people who are responsible for the creation of the Irish Free State.

I wish to say that I desire to associate myself in the main with the statement of Deputy Baxter, except in this one respect, that it would have been better had no reference whatever been made in his resolution to the Tailteann Games. These games, as they now stand, are the property of the entire athletic associations of this country, and, as everybody will recognise, these associations have had nothing, and will have nothing, to say to politics. It was sought to introduce this subject at the General Council of the Games, and by unanimous consent, and speaking for all those big sections of the social life of the nation, the matter was excluded. It must continue to be excluded regardless of the result of this plea to the Government for the release of the prisoners; nor can it have any bearing whatever on the outcome of the games themselves as far as the Council is concerned.

I am, however, satisfied from contact with a great number of supporters of the Free State, not only in this country but in neighbouring countries, that the time has come when, in their opinion, the nation would benefit substantially by cutting definitely and finally with the past. It is their view that the particular past of the last two years could be very well forgotten in the interests of the nation, and that there is no point whatever in resurrecting old sores, sores created through abnormal conditions and under abnormal circumstances. It is their view that any harshness between political opponents in this country, whether in the Free State or in the 32 counties, or any particular harshness in the treatment of the respective peoples of these parts of Ireland, is undesirable in the general interests of Ireland.

It is felt that these bickerings and quarrels are being unnecessarily prolonged and that they hang, so to speak, like a wet blanket over the peace and development of our nation. I do not know whether other members of the Dáil have experienced a similar feeling in any part of the country, but I am satisfied that what I say here represents the feeling of a very considerable section of those who support the Free State. It has been represented to me that in some negotiations that took place about the end of last year or the beginning of this year—I am not sure which—a Minister of our Government committed himself to a promise that all these prisoners would be released about Easter time. I cannot say whether it is true or not, but the name of Deputy Professor MacNeill has been mentioned in this connection, and, I think, generally quoted in certain papers in the country.

Get me the quotations.

Now, this seems to constitute the particular grievance, and it would be well that the matter should be cleared up here and now. Sooner or later the prisoners will have to be released, and sooner or later we must come to the conclusion that there is no further justification for their retention. There is much in what Deputy Johnson states when he refers to the fact that these prisoners are being retained for political purposes.

That view is increasing in the minds of many people. I do not believe it. I believe that the Government is genuinely anxious to release the prisoners at the earliest opportunity, consistent with safety. At the same time it would be particularly unfortunate for the future of this country that it should be generally believed that we were in any way associated with an effort to imprison political opponents because they were political opponents. As I say, I do not believe that there is anything in that theory, but it has been advanced. I have a certain sympathy with many of the men still in prison. I know many of them for a very long number of years. I have worked with them in many movements, and I refuse to believe that a great many of these men are not sincere and honest. I believe that they acted in what they considered the best interests of their country. I disagree profoundly with their view. I backed the Government by any little assistance I could give them, in asserting the opposite view point, but still I believe that they were genuine, and that their feelings should be so respected. I also cannot forget that whilst many of these genuine men are in prison, a great many others who, during the period of the Anglo-Irish war, were deadly opponents of this country and opposed it in a variety of ways and who when the Treaty became an accomplished fact swung over to these opponents, have become extreme in the other direction. I know many of these men are now free. I also know some of them personally. At any rate I have information regarding a number of these men to the effect that their records during the last two years were not very clean and now they are free. Other men who fought against the Free State on the same occasion are in prison. These men fought because they felt they were fighting for what they considered principle and what they considered right. It is unfortunate that one type should be free and the other in prison.

The thing is inconsistent, and it is full of inconsistency, and I hold that the only sensible and the only sound national course to take at this moment is to open the prison gates and to finish with this unfortunate period of our history. I do not see much point in some of the heat introduced into the arguments to-night, but I would appeal to the Government to wind up this phase of Irish life. We have been told, with some authority, that the resort to arms is finished with, that henceforth it is the intention of the Republican party to pursue constitutional methods. I am prepared to accept that view, and I am prepared to throw the onus of that word on the party responsible. I am pretty well convinced from what I know of a great many people concerned that we are done with arms in this country for a mighty long time. There is no desire on the part of the Irish people, either supporters of the Free State or supporters of their Republican opponents, or supporters of another party in another part of Ireland, to resurrect another row under arms. The Irish people are fed up with arms. They are finished with them, and the sooner that, in our minds and in our time, we finish definitely with any reference to them the better.

I am afraid I shall have to ask the Postmaster-General to go a little farther in search of the authority for his statement—he did state it, he was more or less hazy about it— that I said something to somebody, somewhere, at some time about releasing the prisoners at Easter. He says he heard it, or read it, but I do not know what the authority is.

I have it in writing.

Well, is it not a strange thing that in our almost daily intercourse this writing has never been produced to me, and I am curious about it?

You will have it tomorrow.

I expect, however, when I see it I will be able to identify it as one of those things that we are familiar with, that we experience every day—attempts to gull the people in various ways, to gull them with regard to the whole political situation, and to gull them with regard to particulars. I will anticipate the Postmaster-General's bit of writing by saying plainly that the thing is false. I have never suggested, never in the faintest way to anyone, under any circumstances or at any time, that it was the intention of the Government, or that it was in prospect, or that it was a probability, that the prisoners would be released at Easter or at any other definable period.

We are asked to be courageous, and we are asked to be generous; in short, we are asked to be what. those who have no responsibility can afford to be— sentimental. We are asked to be courageous. In what way are we to be courageous? It is not a question of facing any personal danger. We are asked to be courageous with the interests of the country, and we are asked to be generous. It is easy for Deputies, and easy, also, for people outside to be generous with what they are not responsible for. In this matter we are going to act according to our judgment, and not according to sentimentality. We do not require any certificate to prove that the object the Government had in view in placing certain persons in detention was not vindictive. I do not think it would be possible to convince the public that the object the Government had in view was to get back upon political opponents. But just as we have not been sentimental in the matter of being vindictive or in the matter of acting with resentment towards political opponents, so we do not intend to be sentimental in the other direction. We act, at least we endeavour to act, according to our lights. We endeavour to act; it is our aim to act. We have a sense of duty towards this nation and towards this country and to no other principle whatsoever, and so far as we can—we do not claim to be archangels—so far as we can to banish other motives. It is all very well for the Postmaster-General and others to say that they know that some of these people are honest and sincere. It is not a case of thought-reading. It is not a case of trying to enter into people's minds, and find whether a course of action which they planned and led up to and stood for, and took part in and carried out, was sincere or honest. The question before us, and that we have to consider, is not whether it was sincere or honest, but whether it was a danger to this country and a danger to this nation. Deputy Johnson is quite logical. He opposed all the special measures under which these men are detained, and why, therefore, should he not oppose their detention? But we placed before this Dáil the reasons for which we thought we should be empowered to use special and exceptional measures, and these powers were granted and given.

LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE took the Chair at this stage.

Deputy Johnson suggests that in some way or other —he has gone back to the old debates that we had here—that in some way or other the granting of these measures was hostile to the Constitution. The plain fact is, and everyone knows it, that these measures were granted and also the action that followed them and that was taken in accordance with them, was followed and was taken to maintain and to make good the Constitution. I do not know that anyone will be convinced, or that anyone will think, that there is any depth in the argument that a particular set of men bearing executive responsibility at present are desirous of nullifying the Constitution, or of setting themselves up as a despotic body above the law, tyrannically anxious to do away with the rights of the public and the rights of others. These things may be suggested here for the purpose of debate. They will carry no weight outside. We are as anxious—I am not saying more anxious—we are at least as anxious that the Constitution should prevail, as anxious that the public right should prevail, as anxious that real public liberty should prevail, as any Deputy or any body of Deputies in this assembly. You may impeach, if you like, our judgment in these matters, but I would ask Deputies who speak in opposition to us, if they wish to be believed, not to impeach our motives. The responsibility is on us. It is an easy thing—I have seen it done—to walk into the premises of a business man and present him with a document or an argument somewhat different from the arguments that were presented to business men up to twelve months ago, persuading him to give his name to some memorial or to take part in promoting some local resolution or some other thing of that kind in favour of the release of prisoners. The people who do that know perfectly well exactly the sort of difficulty that they are placing the man in.

In other cases there is a certain amount of sentimental wheedling carried on and various other motives are appealed to. When the public are taken one by one like that, they, like the proverbial sticks belonging to the bundle, are individually weak and are easily broken. The individual man has no very deep sense of responsibility, and he easily consents to a thing put up to him which perhaps he would not consent to if he had the responsibility that we have to bear. A certain volume of what is called public opinion is created item by item in that manner. The Government that would be guided by that so-called form of public opinion will never govern in any country, would not do any good for any country. We had years ago these snow-ball resolutions and other things of that kind and we find that when the honest citizen is away from these little pressures and temptations, when he has a chance of using the real responsibility which is his, the real part which he can take in the affairs of Government, by registering his vote, by putting his paper into the ballot box, he does not always act in the same way as when he is approached by people and appeals are made to his sentimentality, and he is asked to give assent to a thing for which at the moment he feels no responsibility. What we were up against was not politics at all in any ordinary sense, not war in any ordinary sense, not opposition to a Government in any ordinary sense. The way in which the Treaty was to be destroyed and the Constitution was to be destroyed was by the economic destruction of the country, by reducing this country to paralysis. The way in which government was to be made impossible was by destroying credit in the country and making its economic position impossible. To that end actual distress and suffering, unemployment and all those things were to be made to serve. According to this new creed—it is a new-fangled creed and does not belong to the tradition of Irish nationality at all—distress, unemployment and all those economic evils were to be made to serve the cause of the Republic. I have said before that I know of no instance in history in which a campaign of that kind was undertaken. That is not politics to my mind. It is not war to my mind. I do not know what term to use for it.

at this stage resumed the Chair.

These things have not been abandoned. I do not know whether these people are a political party or not. They themselves say they are a Republic. In their graciousness and descending from their majesty, they gave the Irish people not peace at all, but, according to their doctrine, an armistice. If it is true, as Deputy McCabe says, and as the Postmaster-General says, that there is security in this country against any further outbreak, we know to whom that security is due. Let us not forget it. It is not due to the long whistle. I would ask Deputies not to allow their votes in this matter to be guided by sentiment, not to be guided by what has been called by one or two Deputies, courage and generosity, but to be guided purely by a sense of duty and responsibility to the country. They, as well as we, are a part of the Government of this country, and I think that they ought to make it plain to all concerned that sentimentality is not going to be their guide, as it certainly is not going to be our guide, in the decision that we have to take in this matter.

In approaching this question I wish to assure the Minister for Education that neither from these Benches nor in our minds have we ever questioned the motives of Ministers. He talks about responsibility and those who have responsibility. We have no illusions at all about those carrying the responsibility. Even though the members of the Executive Council must carry great responsibility on this and other State matters, some of us feel equal responsibility in supporting this motion. Perhaps it is assuming too much on our part, but we feel great responsibility in this matter. We make certain recommendations to the heads of the State, and in making those recommendations we are alive to our responsibility. A lot has been said about those people that are retained in gaol. I ask the Dáil and the people outside, are they worth all this? Some Deputies may set a great value on them. Some may put them on a pedestal. I think they are very ordinary individuals. Deputy McCabe refers to the principle that some people fought for. When he mentioned that I questioned him, and I question him still. lie said the people fought for principles and ideals, and nothing else. I do not believe one word of that. I do not believe that five per cent. of the men who went out fought for principles or ideals. I believe they fought for personalities, and perhaps for something less than personalities. That is what I think, and I am honest enough to say it. I do not care who it pleases or who it does not please.

The Tailteann Games have been referred to, and we have been blamed for mentioning them in this motion. Some Deputies seem to assume that it is because of a threat made against the Tailteann Games that we have raised this question. It is not. As far as I know, the Executive of the Tailteann Games have met hostility from these people, and as far as I know, have defied that hostility, and are determined to go on whether the prisoners are released or not. Therefore, putting forward that argument is no good. It is not on the question of interference with the Games that we put down this motion, but because of the historic associations of the Tailteann Games. Some of us do not, perhaps, know very much about the history of our country, but we know enough to realise that during the Tailteann Games, the season was one of good-will and peace, in which every citizen of the State, except the criminal, was allowed liberty. I think that would be a fairly correct description of what obtained during the Tailteann Games. The point we have gone on particularly is that of the old associations and what those associations mean. It is not because of these people's interference. To me and, perhaps, to some of those in charge of the Games, that matters nothing. Before we lost our nationhood the Tailteann Games were the greatest national festival we had. We have recovered that nationhood. Although some people assert we have not, I, for one, maintain that we have. The Tailteann Games are being revived in connection with our restored nationhood. That nationhood and the old associations connected with it are dear to us. In my opinion, this great National Festival was the conception of a big man with a big mind. Whoever was responsible—Deputy Wilson tells me it was a woman—well, I take off my hat to that person. I believe that the Games help to take away little minds and little men from the narrow and personal ruts they were, probably, running in. I think if we could do the same now we would have done a good thing for the nation, when too many of our little men, with little minds, are running in narrow ruts. With all respect, I suggest that the time is opportune when big men should follow in the footsteps of the big men of the past. There is ho one more convinced than I am that we have in the Dáil big men, who have faced big things, and who have big minds. I believe that they think only in the terms of the nation, and not in personal terms. I know that this is an appeal for an experiment, perhaps a risky experiment. I have a little confidence in the material we are going to experiment on, perhaps not all the material, but in a very high percentage of it. This is not a question, perhaps, of courage or generosity. To my mind it is a question of statesmanship.

Will the Deputy move the adjournment of the debate now?

As I cannot conclude I will move the adjournment of the debate.

I wonder would the Dáil agree to continue and conclude the debate?

The order was that the Dáil would sit until 9.30. Strictly speaking, there is no power to continue now.

Would the Dáil be agreeable to continue?

I can put the question now if that is desired.

I do not desire to have the question put now.

What does the Vice-President say?

Of course I can only express my own view. I had intended to speak after Deputy Gorey, and to ask the mover of the motion to simply leave the matter as it is. If he presses it to a division it puts certain Deputies in a position of almost taking a line on this matter, and voting, or appearing to vote, against release, whereas, as a matter of fact, I think the average mentality would be that they would be very glad that releases would continue as rapidly as the Government, in their judgment, think possible. That I believe, would be the view. We have sources of information not available to the ordinary Deputy.

On a point of order, is the Minister for Home Affairs making a speech?

I was going to say that I would have urged Deputy Baxter to leave it where it is, with the expression of opinion that we have had from various Deputies.

We must adjourn the debate now. Standing Order 75 says: "If any motion by a private Teachta be not disposed of before 8.30 o'clock p.m. the Dáil shall fix a day for its further consideration, such day not being more than four weeks forward, or failing such fixing of a day such motion shall be put down as the first business for the next sitting, at which business of private Teachtai may be taken." This, therefore, would come on on Friday as the first business, but there was an order already made for the consideration of the Second Reading of the Town Tenants Bill on Friday.

I suggest if the Dáil is agreeable, that we continue and finish to-night.

I would suggest if that is at all possible under the Standing Orders, and if the House would agree, that it would be preferable.

I do not think you can go beyond the Standing Orders. We came to a conclusion that we would sit an hour beyond the ordinary time, and I think we must now automatically adjourn.

We must automaticaly adjourn under the Standing Orders, as apparently there is no agreement for sitting later. The question then will arise on Friday as to whether this motion has precedence of the Order which was made for the consideration of the Town Tenants Bill, or whether it will be adjourned until next Wednesday. Would Deputy Baxter prefer Friday?

Yes. I would much prefer to have it concluded to-night.

Will it come on after the Town Tenants Bill on Friday?

I will have to consider that before Friday The position now is that I have a problem to solve before Friday.

Will this motion have precedence on Friday?

That is what I want to consider before Friday. That is my difficulty.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 22nd.