Is oth liom an sgeal a bheith tagaithe do dtí seo againn go bhfuil orm bhóta gearáin a dheunamh i gcoinnibh Comhairle an Stáit. Dubhairt Teachta airithe liom inde nar cheart rud mar so do dheunamh gan machtnamh ceart a dheunamh air. Ní gan an machtnamh agus cuimhneamh ceart sin atáim dha dheunamh. Agus táim deimhnightheach da n-deunamh an Comhairle cuimhneamh ceart air, ní thabharfidis bhóta mar so ortha. Dá bhfeidfinn-se an treimse atá caithte agam ag gabháil le gnóthaí náisiúntachta a roinnt i g-codaibh, do bféidir a rádh gur deire coda aca-san an lá so—deire coda a theideann siar dhá bhliadain.
Ach, má's oth liom an rud atá a dheunamh agam anocht, is maith liom a tuisgint gur Comhairle Stáit seasmach Gadhalach atá a cháineadh agam annso agus gur mór an teacht chun chinn dar dtír an méid sin féin.
I regret, sir, that it should fall to me, as I consider it my duty, to move this motion of censure on the Executive Council and to propose:
That Dáil Eireann condemns as contrary to the best interests of the State the ill-considered action of the Executive Council in removing the late Chief of Staff, the late Adjutant-General, and the late Quartermaster-General from their offices and the subsequent failure of the Executive Council to act upon the Report of the Army Inquiry Committee.
I regret that it should come as a duty to me to do this, but it is simply like other duties that have come my way, and I am facing that duty. Deputy Cooper reminded us yesterday that a vote of censure on the Government ought not to be lightly brought forward, and I do not lightly bring forward this vote of censure. I feel, too, that the Executive Council of to-day ought not lightly to face a vote of censure, or face it in the spirit in which the Executive Council have shown that they face this. If the period that I have been associated with national matters can be divided into terms of various lengths, I feel that to-day is the ending of one particular such term—a term beginning, say, two years ago. It is with a sense of very sincere regret I face this duty; it is with a sense of the very considerable amount of achievement that has been done during those two years. I realise that it is upon an Irish Executive Council of an Irish State I call on an Irish Parliament to pass a vote of censure. I feel a certain amount of disability myself in having to propose this vote of censure—disability from the point of view of constitutional government. I labour under the disability that I have worn the uniform of my country, and that to many persons young in the feeling of being democrats, that is a very great blemish now-a-days. I labour under the disability that I appeared in this House in the uniform of my country, and that that has been counted more to my discredit as being somewhat self-opinionated—an overrider of the people —rather than being counted to me as being prepared to come here as a soldier, a servant of this Dáil.
And I labour under the disability that I sat on the Executive Council in uniform also, with the result that a collcague in the Executive Council could be so affected by that sight that he could state to the Chairman of the Army Inquiry Committee these words:
I could not get away from the impression that the Minister for Defence came to the Executive Council, not so much as a colleague, to do business with colleagues as in the capacity of a delegate—almost as a man coming to the Executive Council who held a watching brief for a particular organisation, a watching brief for the Army in the Executive Council.
I realise, if I had been able to stir up feelings like that, that I labour under a disability in making this present case. I would have thought that a realisation of the work of the three officers who have been removed from office might have stirred people less used to having to control their feelings than our soldiers, might have stirred some such person in this Dáil to make a protest such as I am called on to make here to-night. I said when we last had this matter before us that I proposed bringing forward a motion of a particular type. I appreciate very much the representations made by Deputy Johnson that night as regards the undesirability of attempting to discuss in the Dáil the merits of individual officers in the Army, or attempting in discussion here in the Dáil to interfere directly in matters concerned with administration.
I want it to be perfectly clear that I do not propose that this Dáil should interfere in any way with matters of administration, or that this Dáil should in any way discuss the merits of any individual officer. It is to that end I have framed the motion in the way I have done. Neither do I want that anything I may say here will indicate that I suggest, or want to suggest, in any way that the Executive Council cannot do anything that they wish to do in respect of any member of the Defence Forces of whatever rank. But I do want it to be clear that in respect of any action in regard to any member of the Defence Forces, or in respect of any other action in matters administrative on the part of the Executive Council that is considered unjust or worthy of censure any way, as being detrimental to the interests of the State, the Executive Council must face criticism here in the Dáil, and that when the Executive Council denies an explanation of its actions to us in the Dáil we must understand what are the principles on which such denial is made to stand, and whether we can agree that these are principles that we can accept for such a denial. I am not going, however, to bring forward' my motion as a matter of theory. I bring it forward to face a very practical situation that exists, and in order to deal with that practical situation. I realise that there are members of the Dáil who will say they are not in a position to deal with any practical situation that may exist, because of the fact that a large amount of evidence bearing on the situation has been suggested, a large amount of evidence bearing on the situation has been actually taken down before the Committee, and that they have not been made aware of that evidence. Not only that, but they have not been made aware of the supplementary statement made by the Chairman of the Committee as to what he judged was the general position and what were the general circumstances out of which the demand for an Army Inquiry arose. I realise that members of the Dáil will require that evidence, or that they may feel they require that evidence in order to deal with a certain practical situation. I realise also that members of the Dáil will require that evidence in order to see what was wrong that should give rise to the actions that have been taken by the Executive Council, and what was behind all the very grave and serious talk of certain members of the Executive Council.
I regret that an amendment should be put forward to my motion asking that it be not considered until such time as the evidence is published, and I hope to make it clear to members of the Dáil that a certain state of affairs exists that requires to be remedied and that can be remedied in the light of the information the Dáil already has, and that it would be wrong and unjust to the general national situation that a further delay should be required by members of the Dáil here, a delay that would necessarily be given rise to in the printing, circulation and digesting of the evidence. The practical fact is that on the 19th March, 1924, the heads of the administration of the army were swept away; that is to say, the Chief of Staff, the Adjutant-General, and the Quartermaster-General. They were swept away after approximately ten years personal service in connection with the Army, and after four years, or over four years, during which the full brunt of military responsibility rested on them, military responsibility in connection with the movement during the period in which the British were expelled out of the country, and the State subsequently saved from a movement of destruction that very few other countries had to face. I submit that these officers were swept away to satisfy the personal wishes of certain members of the Executive Council and to satisfy the demand of certain mutinous officers for their removal, and that the result of sweeping those officers away was to impair the proper sense of military authority in the Army, to discredit the authority of the Executive Council, to drag the Army into politics, to hearten the mutiny and to make, what the Inquiry Committee will tell you was an exaggerated affair, a movement that some day might very well be a serious menace to the State. And I bring forward my motion to show that the Executive Council has acted disgracefully and unjustly to these three officers, and that in dealing with the result of the Inquiry, or in not dealing with it, and treating the Dáil in the way it has treated the Dáil as a result of the Inquiry, it leaves persons who take a serious responsibility, or a serious view of their responsibilities here, no option but to make it perfectly clear that in the light of these actions they have no confidence in the Executive Council.
Now keeping the Army out of politics, in spite of what has been suggested with regard to some of us, has been the one great aim of our work. and has been the portion of our work in which we have to a very great extent, if not absolutely, succeeded. I say that the action of the Executive Council in dealing with the Army situation as they have done, in the first place brought the Army into politics; and in the second place, in making the appointments the other day that they have made to positions on the Defence Council, they have clinched their action, because the old Defence Council, after very much effort, had drawn back control in administrative and disciplinary matters to Headquarters. We can only infer from the type of appointments that have been made under the new scheme of organisation, about which we have heard nothing, that the grip of Headquarters is to be relaxed. I am convinced that no Minister, taking his responsibility for control of the Army seriously, can rely upon a Defence Council consisting of some members, at any rate, so young and inexperienced as the appointments that have been made recently. It would be utterly unfair to think that, should a new Minister succeed the present Minister in the control of the Army, he could do anything but change some of the appointments that have been made, and those who did not know would naturally feel that the change was made for political purposes.
If any sure sign is wanted that the three officers who were dismissed from the Army in March last had really done their work, it is the fact that the Executive Council, in circumstances as serious as the circumstances in regard to the Army that followed the recent developments, are able to place in positions of control in the Army officers so young and inexperienced as the recent appointees. In dealing with the service of any officer, I am not dealing with it in any personal way, but I am making certain that the Dáil will appreciate why I take up the attitude with regard to these three officers who have been dismissed that I am taking up. It is because of what they have been to the State. Yesterday someone said to me that it was very hard to know how people could appreciate a motion such as the one I put down in view of the fact that they did not know what services had been rendered to the State by the three officers in question. Well, somewhere during the years 1919, 1920 and 1921, somewhere and by somebody, trojan work in organisation, trojan work of energy, had to be done by somebody in order to secure the evacuation of this country by the British. That work may have been done in different directions, but nobody can deny that the greatest and the hardest and the most exacting portion of that work was done in the Army and that the responsibility of the work that fell to the Heads of the Army at that time was great; and nobody can deny either that, in dealing with the Irregular problem, trojan work of organisation and of administration, work demanding giant faith, giant courage and giant energy, was demanded of some people here in the country, and that a very great portion of that was demanded from the Army, and a very great portion of it from the heads of the Army.
The Chief of Staff, whom we speak of now, was Quartermaster General during the period of our main struggle against the British. He took up the Chief of Staff-ship when General Collins, Beannacht Dé n-a anam, was killed, and he held the position of Chief of Staff until he was removed from it on the 19th March. The Adjutant-General that we speak of here was Adjutant-General during the years of our main struggle against the British, and he was Adjutant-General of the Defence Forces until he was removed on the 19th March. The Quartermaster-General, whom we speak of here, was not so closely associated with control of the Army in pre-Truce days. He was General Secretary of the Gaelic League, but he was sufficiently closely associated with the Army to be on active service on more than one occasion. When I, in the latter days of 1922, was left without a Quartermaster-General and left without people who felt they could make a success of the work, I had to do without a Quartermaster-General for some months, and I then appealed to General O Murthuile to take up the work in January, 1923. I say this, that no officer of the Army could have done the work but him. He took up the Department which was without a definite head; it was being supervised, but it was without a definite head for say, three months, and what that meant only those who were closely associated with the work will know—all the stuff that passed through our hands after our struggle against the British. We thank the late Chief of Staff for keeping up all our communications when he ran an office within a stone's throw of Dublin Castle in Eustace Street, for months. When that office was taken he removed it to the far side of the river, and continued to run it until the Truce. For acting as the hub of all our office work and the centre of our communications, we thank the late Adjutant-General. When officers who have borne the brunt of that work are treated in the way in which these officers have been treated by the Executive Council, anybody interested in the development and in the stability of the State, will surely want plainly to know why.
As to charges against those officers, they were dismissed from their positions on the 19th March. Some people say they were dismissed because of the Parnell Street incident. I challenge the President to say that the Chief of Staff, the Adjutant-General, or the Quartermaster-General can be considered to have been justly dismissed because of anything in connection with that incident. We have heard from the present Minister for Justice in connection with those officers, the charge, or suggestions of the charge. We were told by him on the 19th March: "We regard the action taken last night as cutting across what was the Government intention and Government policy with regard to what was an extremely dangerous and an extremely delicate national position. But I do not want any Deputy, or any member of the general public to come to the conclusion that the resignation of certain high Army officers was demanded by the Government simply and solely as a result of last night's activities." He says he expressed a view at the Executive Council meeting that this particular personnel was not the personnel to deal with a mutinous revolt. He says one other member of the Executive Council stated that "he, within the last few days, had, as he put it, come to the decision that these men had been too long in their positions, that something in the nature of a sense of proprietorship was springing up, and that he had intended to move for a change at the top of the Army." He might have said that was the Minister for Education. I give those passages as embodying and implying charges which members of the Dáil have had to listen to and be influenced by.
He says again: "But when this personnel, or members of this personnel, without consultation with the Government, without consultation with the General Officer Commanding the Defence Forces appointed by the Government, took a particular action calculated to have possibly grave reactions within the Army and throughout the country, calculated, perhaps, to set the heather on fire, the heather we have been so assiduously trying to quench and damp down, a different set of circumstances arises. We have decided that the public interests, the best interests of the public, of the State, of the Army itself, call for the removal from their administrative positions of these three officers... Let me say here, we have not been satisfied within ourselves and within our own counsels that the matter of this mutiny could be dealt with simply on the assumption that one hundred per cent. of wrong was on one side and one hundred per cent. of right on the other." He further implies: "Let me say, too, we were not without evidence that that impersonal discipline does not exist in the Army, that generally, naturally with diffidence, as being Ministers in the political headships of other Departments, naturally with a certain reluctance, a certain hesitation, the view was forming in the minds of members of the Executive Council that there was danger that the Army was not unequivocably, unquestionably, without reserve, simply the instrument of the people's will, expressed constitutionally through the Dáil, and through the Executive appointed by the Dáil."
He further suggests the charge where he says: "It is not by the water that has passed that the mill is turned, and in this whole matter, as in other matters, the country must realise that it is impossible to carry on administration on the basis of swopping records." He further states, or suggests, that they suffered from incurable unpopularity or that some of them had, and he again says: "We have to act simply in a grim and impersonal way, and we have formed the view that these three officers are no longer efficient in the public service, and have not a useful future before them in these three administrative positions." The Minister for Education implies a charge when he says: "What happened on Tuesday evening was another symptom of the growing pains of this baby State. It showed these in charge of the Army had not come to realise, even admitting that they were anxious at other times to realise, their responsibilities to the Government, the Dáil, and to the sovereignty of the people," and he implied that the action on the night of the 18th of March, in Parnell Street, was a deliberate and conscious setting aside of the authority intended to be created by the Dáil. Other Ministers made similar suggestions of charges, and in the matter of charges, stated or implied, against those officers, you have to take those statements of Ministers into account. You have to take whatever the President may say with regard to the Parnell Street incident, and you have to take the matter disclosed in the result of the Army Inquiry. You are told in the Report of the Army Inquiry that the three officers failed to appreciate their position as servants of the State, that their connection with the Irish Republican Brotherhood intensified the work of the I.R.A. group, and that their so-called reorganisation of the I.R.B., carried out, as it appears to have been, by the actual heads of the Army, was a disastrous error of judgment, and you are told that the mutiny could have been suppressed if those in authority had not weakened their positions by leaving themselves open to the charge of acting in the interests of a hostile secret society.
Briefly, you are told that the charge against the three officers was that they were connected with a secret society, and that that secret society was the I.R.B. Now, Deputy McGilligan says: "I think I could answer the points put up by Deputy Mulcahy, in general, by stating that if the Report were considered as a whole, what is stated in the Report considered as a whole, and no attempt made to read into it things that are not in the Report and no insistence on omissions from the Report which various Deputies may think should have been included, the Report will be much easier to understand."
We are told in paragraphs 7 to 14 inclusive what the objects and the attitude of the I.R.A. group were. What has to be said by the Committee with regard to the objects and attitude of the I.R.B.? Are we to take the statement in the Report that they were members of the I.R.B., and as such they failed to recognise their position as servants of the State, and to leave it at that? Are we to be deterred by the members of the Committee who say, "You must not read any more into it than is in it?" Are we to be deterred by the attitude of the Executive Council that they will not read, and that they have not read, the evidence, and that they do not intend to read that evidence? They do not say whether we are to believe the Report of the Committee or not.
Now, with regard to the allegation that those in authority had weakened their position by leaving themselves open to be charged with acting in the interests of a secret society, I would ask the President, was it the heads of the Army, or was it the Executive Council, that weakened the authority of the heads of the Army in the whole matter of dealing with the Tobin group from the beginning, and in dealing with the mutiny? I would ask him, in connection with the I.R.B., does he consider, and did he consider in June, 1923, that what we had done with regard to the I.R.B. was a disastrous error of judgment?
I press this matter of the I.R.B. somewhat, because I submit it is the only charge, if it is a charge, that is sustained against the three officers. I take it that the finding against the three officers in that respect is founded on their own evidence. The Minister for Justice has not, according to the Report, sustained any of his implications against the three Army officers. The Minister for Education did not come forward to sustain his suggested charges.