Before proceeding, I wonder could we have some general ruling as to the scope of the discussion on this Vote of the Executive Council. I understand on this Vote there could be a general discussion on the whole policy of the Executive Council as such but we have a President here who has combined many offices, including that of Assistant Minister for Finance, Minister for Defence, Paymaster General, Commander-in-Chief and various other titles and offices. This Vote only deals with the Executive Council. I asked you when the discussion began on the Vote for the Ministry of Finance whether we were at liberty to discuss the whole financial policy of the Government on that Vote. You said that could be done. Can that be done also on this Vote? Can we discuss the financial, economic and military policy of the Government at length on this particular Vote, or how can you distinguish that from the general policy of the Executive Council? May I point out that we have already discussed the policies of two members of the Executive Council, the Minister for Education and the Minister for External Affairs.
COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - VOTE 3—EXECUTIVE COUNCIL.
Yes, any questions of policy in which the Executive Council are collectively responsible can be discussed on this Vote, but the difficulty that arises is, as the Deputy himself has pointed out, that we have already dealt with the Estimates for the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of External Affairs. If an amendment is to be moved which is to be made a question of confidence, I would allow the fullest possible discussion, except that we should certainly not have a discussion again on the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of External Affairs. If there be any discussion on them it should be on points which did not arise on the Estimates.
There is another matter. The Executive Council, of course, cannot now be arraigned for Acts which have been passed by the Oireachtas,, for example the Old Age Pensions Act, because that is no longer a matter for which the Executive Council is responsible. The Oireachtas is responsible. There is another difficulty in regard to the question of the Finance Bill which we have disposed of here, and which has gone to the Seanad. It was very fully debated, and the difficulty is whether the question of Protection, which was the main question raised by the Finance Bill, could be introduced. I would prefer it were not, but I would not go to the length of ruling it out if, as I say, a question of confidence were arising on the Vote. But I think Deputies should keep from details as much as possible. Detailed matters can be raised on the Estimates.
I would like to move that this Vote be referred back for reconsideration.
Before the Deputy proceeds to move that, can we discuss the general policy, or lack of policy, of the Executive Council, for instance in regard to their failure to provide money, and although the provision of that money may mean the introduction of legislation, can we discuss to that extent their failure to introduce certain legislation?
I think it is a rule that in a discussion on the Estimates the question of legislation cannot be dealt with. The question is rather more difficult here in the case of the Executive Council.
I said the failure to introduce legislation.
Even on an ordinary Estimate a Minister cannot be arraigned for having failed to introduce legislation. He can only be criticised from the point of view of administering money which he has got under the then existing law. Reforms which would necessitate legislation cannot be advocated, but in this particular instance I am afraid it would be impossible to enforce that rule, particularly if Deputy Esmonde, as a matter of confidence, is moving to refer the Vote back.
I would like to explain that if I take part in this debate I have nothing to say against the Minister but against the body of six who are charged with the Government of this country and their failure to bring in legislation to deal with certain matters.
I would regard that as an excellent way to deal with this particular Vote, because it solves the question of not going over again discussion which has taken place on the Estimates or on which discussion will take place during the week on the Estimates.
This is the point I am in difficulty about for in discussing the financial policy of the Government we would have to go in some detail into figures on which that policy is based and figures which have been given to the Dáil. That would take some time, and I wonder would this be the proper time for a discussion as to the principles on which the financial policy of the Executive Council is based.
I think the time is when the motion to refer the Vote back is being moved. At any rate it would be impossible to rule upon all the contingencies.
We are under a certain difficulty in this Motion on account of the fact that the President is here. Everybody knows he is overworked, and he has collected a great number of duties upon his shoulders. I hope, after the vast amount of correspondence that passes between the Acting-Minister for Finance and the Minister for Defence that they are on friendly terms, and that the relations between the Paymaster-General and the Commander-in-Chief are, at any rate, cordial. But I think that this assumption of a great number of duties by the already overworked President is a most subtle manner of making it difficult for us to criticise him too severely. The Session is coming to an end, so far as this year is concerned, and I think it is only right, before the Dáil breaks up, that there should be a discussion as to whether the policy that is being pursued by the Executive Council is likely to attain the results which are claimed for it, and attain the objects which the Dáil presumably has in view, and which the Government has claimed to have had in view. No one would wish to belittle the work of the Executive Council during the last two or three years. The task which they had to perform during 1922/23 was a very difficult one, but it was a very simple one—the task of saving the State. The State was saved, and now the task before them and before this Dáil is a different one. It is the task of leading the nation, and the question is whether they are leading the nation, or are being forced in various directions by various sections without any clear coherence, or any definite policy which can give any confidence or increase the confidence in the country. At the root of all the difficulties with which we are faced in the Dáil is the financial policy of the Government.
It is all very well to criticise any particular department of State, but there is always a satisfactory answer for all their shortcomings, and that is that they have been unable to get the money required from the Ministry of Finance, and I presume that the main object of the Executive Council in their financial policy is to re-establish, if possible, the credit of the State. Well, speaking in the French Chamber the week before last the new Prime Minister of France described credit as simply a learned or scientific translation of the word confidence, and it is well known that no number of bank financiers can give credit to a State which does not possess it, however willing they might be to do so. In this country the credit of the State does not depend on what the bank of England thinks of it; it depends on what Irishmen think of it. If the people of Ireland are wholeheartedly behind the Government, then and only then, can the State have credit and can there be confidence in the country. And in this matter any action which the Executive Council may take which tends, or any omission of the Executive Council which tends to turn a section of the people against the State, that very fact tends to lessen the credit of the State. In this matter it is difficult to distinguish between the financial policy of the Government and the general policy which is based ultimately on their financial arrangements. Measures have been passed which we cannot discuss here, within the last twelve months, which have in the opinion of many members of the Dáil turned large sections of the people against the State. I am satisfied that the decision to sponsor these measures on the part of the Executive Council, the decision not to reduce the heavy taxation we are suffering from, the decision not to allow the various expenditures absolutely necessary for the recovery of the nation, these decisions have been reached, as far as I have been able to discover, in a very hasty and irresponsible manner by the Executive Council, and they have been reached more in a spirit of panic than by any clearly thought out plan. Instead of encouraging and giving confidence to the people, they have always taken the darkest view and given the most gloomy interpretation of figures which are themselves, and have been proved to be very inaccurate, not to say fantastic. The only financial method which the Executive Council have proposed in order to re-establish the credit of the country has been to balance the Budget. Well, what exactly did they mean by balancing the Budget? What Budget was it proposed we should have to balance? Was it proposed we should have to balance the whole Budget, and if not, on what principle are certain items to be excluded from that balance and other items to be admitted?
I would seek guidance from some of the statements which have been made. Speaking on behalf of the Executive Council, the Minister for Finance, on the 2nd November, 1923, stated that "On the best scrutiny of facts available, it appears certain that the normal operations of the Government at present entail an expenditure which exceeds revenue by at least something more than £1,000,000." Two weeks later he made a further statement, on the 15th November, when he said that "More than three million pounds must be saved if we are to balance our budget in the financial year, so far as the ordinary recurrent expenditure is concerned. That postulates an army which will cost not more than £2,000,000. I do not contemplate paying £4,000,000 out of revenue for the Army. I believe that we will have to borrow to the extent of £2,000,000 to meet the Army charge." Finally, last month, we had a statement from the Minister for Finance, when, in answer to Deputy Magennis, I think, on the 4th ultimo, he said: "I think I should say we are not endeavouring to meet out of revenue any of these abnormal expenses such as arise from Army charges, or from the cost of compensation." Here, at any rate, we have a definite statement that the abnormal Army charges and the cost of Property Losses and Personal Injuries Compensation, are to be omitted from the ordinary budget, and that there is a justification for going outside the ordinary revenue for meeting these charges. I would like the Dáil to consider whether in actual fact the Executive Council have done that during the last two years, from the Appropriation Accounts of 1922-23. The Property Losses and Personal Injuries amounted to £1,000,000, and the extraordinary Army expenditure, according to the official computation of the Minister is very nearly £5,500,000, and these two sums total £6,500,000. From the Estimates of last year, so far as we have been able to correct them from official statements made from time to time by the Minister, Personal Injuries and Property Losses amounted to £4,500,000 and the extraordinary Army Expenditure to £9,250,000. Even if we take the sum which is the annual sum and compare these two years of extraordinary revenue with the £3,300,000 stated to have been refunded by the British, in respect of compensation, you find that the total during these two years is nearly £18,000,000 on these extraordinary services alone, and yet at the beginning of this year the total National Debt was little more than £13,000,000, and there was a cash balance of nearly £3,500,000 in the Exchequer, so it is quite evident that during the last two years a very considerable portion of the extraordinary expenditure of these two items alone was paid for out of taxation. But that is not all; that is only the beginning.
On what principle are these three charges alone to be selected as lawfully to be excluded from the ordinary recurrent budget? Are there no other charges directly resulting from the Civil War, and if so how large are they? We have a rough estimate of their extent in the statement of the Minister for Finance. On the 22nd February, this year, he said: "I have no hesitation in saying that the destruction of the last two years can be taken to be solely responsible for this particular cut." That was the Old Age Pensions. "I am aware that apart from the Army charges, apart from the compensation charges, and apart from the charges which that destruction is directly responsible for there would be a comparatively small deficit in the revenue. That deficit would be such as could be met by ordinary savings that we would be able to make in the Departments, and that are now being effected in those Departments." So that according to the official opinion of the Executive Council the extraordinary charges resulting from the Civil War, either out of the Army Charges and the Personal and Property Compensation, are so great that without them the whole budget would be balanced. Yet these other charges for which the Irregular destruction was responsible have been included in the ordinary budget, which must be balanced according to the opinion of the Executive Council. What I want to know is, on what principle are these three items alone selected from the ordinary budget, for we find included in that budget, enormous charges consequent not only on the Irregular destruction, but on the foundation of a new State, and the struggle which led up to that foundation. In my computation of £18,00,000 for the last two years there are vast omissions, which you can find in the Appropriation Accounts which appear on the various other Votes: for instance, gratuities of various kinds, which are not recurrent—at least, I hope they will not be permanently recurrent;—I am leaving out pensions —property losses advances, commandeered premises, reconstruction of Cork, military and Civic Guard buildings, offices, the cost of setting up a new Government, the cost of furnishing their offices, the cost of setting up new Law Courts, the cost of setting up a new customs frontier, and the cost of training, clothing, housing, and sending out throughout the country a brand new police force. All these charges are put down as ordinary current expenditure, that the taxpayers of these few years have got to pay. It would seem to me from this that the Executive Council, if these are ordinary charges, must be expecting that a new State will be founded every five years.
That is only as far as the past is concerned. As a result of the over-taxation of the past, we began this year with three and a-half million pounds in the exchequer, whereas we began last year with less than £200,000. We were informed by the Minister for Finance that the deficit this year would be a little over eight and a-half million pounds. Nothing which has happened since that time, and none of the subsequent legislation, has very materially altered that figure. There have been some increased charges from legislation, and other reductions, such as the Army reduction, in the Estimates. As to that eight and a-half millions, what extraordinary expenditure can be written off against it this year? We have compensation charges scattered throughout the Estimates amounting to very nearly eight and a-half millions —£8,422,000. They are scattered through half-a-dozen Estimates. There may be more, but I have collected that much. There are abnormal Army charges, according to the original computation of the Minister, amounting to £1,800,000. Those two charges alone come to ten and a-quarter million pounds. That is so much admitted extraordinary expenditure which the Executive Council are willing to admit should not be paid out of taxation. But the only item to be found in the Estimates of extraordinary revenue is a sum of £1,730,000 which the British Government are expected to refund us for compensation this year. Even deducting that, you are left with eight and a-half million pounds of extraordinary expenditure, which is practically the same as the deficit.
The Minister may say that there are other items which do not appear in the estimates of revenue—other items of extraordinary revenue which might be described as extraordinary taxation. That is a different thing. It does not matter whether taxation is ordinary or extraordinary; it is the taxpayers who have to pay anyway. It is no excuse for the Minister to say that taxation should not be reduced simply because some of the taxation which we are suffering from this year is of an extraordinary nature. In any case, the Minister has not been able to give us any figures as to how much this extraordinary taxation revenue will come to.
To return to the expenditure of this year. I have only dealt with two items which are admittedly extraordinary expenditure. What about all the gratuities which are being paid now as a result of the struggle for independence and as a result of the civil war? What about the cost of setting up Government Departments and offices, the cost of the furnishing, the clothing of the Civic Guards, the housing of the Oireachtas and other matters which to the average man would seem to be expenditure consequent upon the establishment of this State? Finally, there is the very important item of the rebuilding of Government property. On what principle is it considered right that money which has to be spent on rebuilding private property should be excluded from the ordinary Budget, while the rebuilding of Government property, of national property, must be borne as an ordinary charge upon the shoulders of the taxpayer? I do not see how the Government can expect private individuals to rebuild, or to show sufficient confidence to rebuild, when the Government themselves do not show sufficient confidence, and are not rebuilding, except to a very limited extent.
The figures which have been supplied to the Dáil, as I say, are extremely confusing. On many occasions they have been proved to be extremely inaccurate. Yet, on these figures the Government have decided, without any apparent principle, to continue the present high rate of taxation and to continue to refuse any considerable expenditure which would tend to revive and to re-establish the confidence of the country. I do not think it is fair to the Dáil or the country that the Government should not clearly divide ordinary and extraordinary expenditure in their Budgets. The policy of dividing them has been adopted by almost all small well-run modern countries at present. I would like to compare some of the figures of these countries. We would be entitled to compare our situation with that of small countries which have recently been established and which have had very heavy initial charges on the foundation of their State. Of course, these countries never dreamt of balancing their Budgets. If they had done so from the beginning they would never have established their States at all. As a result of not balancing their Budgets it is true their currencies declined. But these currencies have nearly all been established and are rapidly returning to normal. Had they slavishly clung to the idea of balancing Budgets they would never have reached a normal stage, and they would be at the present time faced by constant revolutions within their borders.
I will now deal with these new countries. I will compare our position with the small long-established countries which are the countries held up to us as models to be followed—countries like Denmark, Holland and Switzerland, which are always held up to us as models of good government and efficiency in administration. As far as Denmark is concerned, in the last eight years there has been a deficit in the ordinary Budget amounting to over fifteen million pounds. In the last Budget statement, while there was an estimated balance in the ordinary account, there was still a deficit in the two Budgets, the ordinary and extraordinary, of twenty-six million kroner, or over one million pounds. Switzerland for the last three years had a deficit on the ordinary Budget of twelve million pounds, and this year a deficit of twenty-eight million Swiss francs. As to the extraordinary Budget, it has never been balanced, and in the present year the deficit stands at something like five and a half million pounds. Yet there can be no denying that Swiss credit is one of the highest in the world, and the currency is quoted above the pound sterling. It was twenty-three yesterday, and the official quotation is twenty-five—so it is quoted above the pound sterling. The same applies to Holland. The deficit in the ordinary Budget this year is over £8,00,000, and on the extraordinary Budget over six and a half million pounds. Yet, their credit is also one of the best in the world, and their florin is also quoted above the pound sterling. These countries are not slaves to the fetish of balancing their Budgets, and these are the countries which are able, and have been able during the last few years, to subsidise agriculture and other industries and to take the place which we formerly occupied in the British market.
The fact remains that a balanced Budget is not the one essential for national credit. For instance, this year Bulgaria is balancing its Budget. Yet, nobody would suggest that Bulgarian credit was as good as Swiss or Dutch credit at present. Far more important than balancing the Budget, from the point of view of national credits, is first of all the political stability, the productivity and the trade balance of the country. How does the Executive Council propose, with its present financial policy, to improve political stability, to increase the productivity of the country, or to recover the trade balance which is at present in such a serious position?
These things are not improving. On the contrary, they are getting worse. There is a general feeling amongst great numbers of people that there is something seriously wrong with the financial arrangements of the Government at the present time. If we want to get our finances in order, we must employ experts to do it. If the finances of the country are to be put in tune with national requirements, we must get some kind of a financial Colonel Brase to put them in tune. Otherwise they will never be put in tune. Ministers outside the Executive Council have not shown that fear of experts that is shown by members of the Executive. The Minister for Agriculture has been willing to set up an Agricultural Commission, and he is slowly carrying out many of its suggestions. The Minister for Local Government has set up a Commission to advise him on Local Government, and it is hoped he will carry out many of its recommendations. It is only in matters of finance that the Executive Council are afraid to call in experts in order to improve the situation.
The book of Estimates which we have before us is a very striking example of the confused mentality, as far as the finances of the country are concerned, of the Government at the present time. It is quite obvious that it is a slight improvement on the Estimates of 1922-23, but it substantially retains the same form. We find in it innumerable historical funds, grants and appropriations-in-aid, that have no particular meaning, but which are retained simply because they were retained under the old regime. It may be said that the simplifying of Estimates would require a lot of work, but I think the work will be far greater if we are to continue indefinitely such an amount of complication in our national finances. At present all up-to-date countries are simplifying their expenditure, as far as possible, in the interests of what is described as intelligent democracy. You cannot have an intelligent democracy unless the people know exactly how much money they have got and how it is being spent. That cannot be done at the present time. It is possible that some people in Government Buildings are not anxious that there should be intelligent democracy in this country.
In the ancient past it was alleged that before the arrival of St. Patrick a class of people known as Druids preserved their power by being able to interpret mysterious signs and wonders of their religion. At the present time I suspect that we have Druids in Government Buildings who are alone able to interpret for Ministers the mysterious and historical funds, grants and appropriations-in-aid, some of which were granted by statutes of George III. and George IV. Members of the Executive Council referred to the business community in this country as "antique furniture." I think, before making that statement, they should have, at least, taken the trouble to see that they had removed any pre-historic cromlechs and ogham stones from their own Departments.
There is one very serious problem of national finance which the Government has not dared to tackle, and which is paralysing them in every direction. That is the problem of Article X. of the Treaty. It can be seen from the statements of the Minister for Finance, and other Ministers, that, however willing they might be to reduce expenditure on their Departments, they are paralysed at every point through the fear of Article X. It was never intended by the signatories of the Treaty, on one side or the other, that Article X. should for ever stand in the way of the establishment of an efficient and economic administration in this country. It is quite obvious that the present operation of that Article was never contemplated, with the result that, at the present time we have a very swollen administration. Leaving out the Army, the D.M.P., the Civic Guard and Pensions. we are paying actually over £10,000,000 in salaries alone, whereas smaller countries than ours pay less than half that amount. That Article was part of the price we paid in establishing the State, and it should be considered as such. Various schemes have been suggested for the purpose of removing the evil effects of that Article. I am not in a position to say which of them is the best. I do not suggest for a moment that the Executive Council should in any way break Article X. of the Treaty, but many schemes have been proposed for relieving the evil effects of that Article. The Government has hitherto shown no signs of being willing to set up any kind of Committee to investigate these proposals and decide how, if possible, Article X. of the Treaty should be removed from the capacity of a sword of Damocles hanging over the head of the Executive Council and preventing a reduction in administrative expenditure.
To conclude, I would say that the present financial policy of the Government is causing a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst a large section of the people. It is turning, and has turned, sections, not only against the Government, but against the State. It is increasing, rather than removing the lack of confidence at present in the country. It is postponing indefinitely the permanent establishment of a real State. At the same time, it is leaving an impression in the minds of the people, and of the outside world, that the State and everything connected with it is entirely temporary and provisional. Finally, it is making impossible by the over-taxation which all admit the real revival of industry or the recovery of the adverse trade balance from which we suffer. There comes a time in the Government of any country when to play for safety, as this Government is playing for all the time, is a most dangerous thing. I am satisfied that time has come at present. I would ask the Executive Council whether in the first place they would be prepared to call in experts, and not civil servants, to investigate the national finances and put them on a sound basis? I would ask them if they are prepared to simplify the Estimates for next year? I would ask them are they prepared to divide the budget into two sections, extraordinary expenditure and ordinary expenditure, as other small nations have done and include in the extraordinary expenditure the reconstruction of Government property and the initial charges for the foundation of the new State.
I would ask them if they are prepared to set up a Committee on the lines of the Geddes Committee in England, for the purpose of cutting down the administrative expenditure, and at the same time making a careful investigation into all the possible solutions of the problem presented to the Executive by Article X. of the Treaty. I would also ask the Executive Council if they have formed any opinion as to what is the exact minimum figure which should not be reduced as regards the ordinary Exchequer balance, the ordinary Treasury reserve. I do not believe that they have formed any idea as to what should be a normal minimum sum to be retained in the Exchequer. If they have formed such an opinion I would like to know whether they intend that that sum should in the first instance be raised by taxation. Finally, I would ask the Executive Council whether they can promise any definite reduction in taxation for the next year. If they can give answer "yes" or "no" to these questions we would at any rate know where we were. If they gave an affirmative answer even to one of those questions that would be so much good done. It is this financial policy of the Government which is at the root, I suggest, of all their failures in every Department. Reasonable schemes may be put up by every Department for the purpose of alleviating the present situation in making headway towards a return to confidence, but they are always met with the same answer that there is no money, with the result that the economic proposals which have been put forward by the Government in the form of legislation are to the average man perfectly inadequate to relieve the situation.
We have had proposals for small doles of one kind or another of a temporary nature, and they are giving very restricted and very provisional relief in the present difficulty. We have had the adaptation of the British Trade Facilities Act which is, at any rate, an extremely modest proposal and admitted to be such by the Minister who introduced it. Yet it is all that the Government is apparently capable of doing in order to relieve the economic position of the country, due, in my opinion, solely to their extremely stingy financial policy. It is not seriously contended by the Government, although I heard some statements by the Minister, that the few small measures in the way of economic improvement which they have introduced can have any appreciable result within the next two or three years upon the situation, which is so serious at present. The same applies not only to their action with regard to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, but to all other Ministries. However willing these Departments may be to get a move on to get us out of that backwater in which we find ourselves at present, they are always prevented from doing anything by what I describe as the stingy financial policy of the Executive Council, and that is hardly the way to restore confidence and to relieve unemployment.
There are other items in the Government policy which tend equally to lessen rather than to improve the stability of the State. There is, for instance, their policy with regard to the Army and the one matter that these two policies have in common is the fear of the Government to do anything to improve the situation. We are supposed to have an Army, but what exactly is that Army for? What could that Army do? We have a Ministry of Defence. Is that Ministry capable of defending the country? I doubt it very much. However willing the officers and men in the Army might be to do all that is in their power to defend the country as far as we are able to see, particularly from these Estimates, the officers and men in the Army are getting no chance to do so. The President is Commander-in-Chief and Minister for Defence, but I doubt if the President could defend Dalkey Island against an invasion. How many guns has he got? I am informed that we have only four guns which are capable of going off at all. I do not know how many machine guns the President has. He may say that for the purpose of the defence of the country he is covered by Article VI. of the Treaty under which the English Government for the next two and a half years will take charge of the defences of the coasts, but what guarantee have we that if any danger arises the British Government will not invite the Lord Chief Justice of New Zealand to discuss their responsibilities under this Article? I doubt if the President even inside Ireland could defend the capital. I doubt if he has enough machine guns to hold the line of the Boyne. I am told that he has not. The Army is not being equipped as an army should be, as an ordinary small efficient army is in other countries.
I would not advise you to try it.
It is being equipped as an armed police force, and it should not be called an Army if it is not the intention of the Executive Council to make it a real army. It is not the fault of the individual officers or of the High Command. It is the fault of the Executive Council who will decide the policy in this manner. I do not know if we are entitled to discuss the Army crisis now, but the Executive Council wriggled out of that without any particular glory. The Minister for Education referred to that crisis as the growing pains of the new State, but was it treated as such by the Executive Council? Why were not these various war lords who created this crisis told to proceed with their work and given work to do instead of the action which the Government took on that occasion? The Army Council was removed, and we were informed by the Executive Council that although they were removed for a particular act, still it was found that they were not the particular men to deal with the mutiny. But was the Executive Council the particular Executive Council to deal with the Army Council, or with the mutiny itself? The Executive Council were as deeply involved in the affairs which led up to that mutiny as the Army Council. They were as deeply involved as anyone, and instead of treating the Army crisis as the growing pains of the infant State, the Executive Council suddenly turned round, deeply involved as they were, and decided to stand upon a dignity which they did not possess.
What does the Deputy mean by saying "deeply involved in the conditions which led up to the mutiny"?
All the members of the Executive Council, as came out in the various debates, had been involved in this quarrel for practically a year before the Army crisis came to a head.
Will the Deputy read out from the Debates phrases to prove that?
I have not got the Debates with me, but I think that was the general impression in the country.
Was it a correct impression?
Instead of treating this matter in a broadminded spirit they decided to stand on a dignity which, as I say, I claim they do not possess, and they donned the motheaten cloak of righteousness and decided to crush both the A's and the B's equally severely, and, in the opinion of the outside public, equally unconvincingly. But one would not blame the Ministers for being involved in the events that led up to that crisis if they had not dealt with it in such a narrow manner when it came to a head. I will compare the way that the Ministers dealt with that crisis with the way in which an identical crisis was dealt with in a country very similarly situated to our own. I will read from the "Morning Post," May 2nd: "Army Crisis. A large number of officers demand the replacement of the present Commander-in-Chief and the dismissal of other former Russian (Imperial) officers from high posts. The Minister of Defence resigned."
On a point of order, considering the reputation which this journal has in this country, is it in keeping with the dignity of this House to read a quotation from it?
That is not a point of order.
"In view of the serious issues at stake and the obstinacy of both sides in the dispute it is difficult to prophesy how the affair may be settled." I will now quote from a paper less offensive to Deputy Hughes, that is "Europe Nouvelle," of June 28th. It describes how an army crisis in Finland was dealt with; it says: "Dissatisfied with the high command of the army, and believing that they could not be of further use. a large number of officers resigned some time ago. There was great excitement in the Press. After the establishment of the new government, supreme control of the Army was confided to Colonel Malmberg, Chief Commissioner of the Finnish Civic Guard, an officer of rare energy; the `dimissionaires' withdrew their resignations. The Government will proceed without delay to carry out long-delayed reforms. The first measure will be the creation of a superior military school. where two important chairs would be reserved for French instructors." I remember last year reading a speech by the President of the Executive Council of Finland in honour of the President of our Executive Council, in which he referred to the striking analogy between the two countries. I can only regret that that analogy was not carried out a few months longer.
Is that the country the athletes come from?
Yes. Well, I suspect that it is too late to try to get the President of the Executive Council to complete the analogy between us and Finland, but I would like to ask him two questions before I sit down. One of them is—is the Executive Council willing to call in experts to train our army as a real modern army should be trained, and secondly, is the Executive Council willing to equip our army as a real modern army should be equipped? If the President will answer these two questions in the affirmative, possibly some good might come out of the crisis of this year. I will not detain the Dáil. I have spoken for a considerable time but I think that in all the branches of the Executive Council's activities they have shown a remarkable lack of cohesion, a remarkable lack of confidence in themselves, and that can only have a very bad effect on the credit and the stability of the country.
In seconding the Motion I propose to deal with another aspect, an entirely different aspect to that dealt with in the main portion of the speech made by Deputy Esmonde. That is, I propose to deal with the latter portion of his speech in regard to the Army situation which has passed— passed, if we are to believe what we are told or what we were told on the last occasion by the President.
I am forced to the view that the Inquiry which was promised and which I accepted in this House at the time of the crisis was only, to use a very common phrase, a gag—to gag me and others with me for the time being. I am absolutely forced to that conclusion in view of the manner and the methods adopted by the Executive Council towards the Inquiry and since the Report of the Inquiry was issued. I am satisfied that they were not genuine when they stated in this House that it would be absolutely necessary to have a searching Inquiry into the causes which led up to the crisis. Now they have their responsibility. We were told, when the questions and the points were being argued as to who and what type of person shall constitute that Inquiry, by the nearest approach to an Executive Minister, that is, an extern Minister, the Minister for Agriculture, and I suppose when he speaks here he speaks with authority, particularly if it is not contradicted, that this was a matter for the Executive Council. Certain information had been given them recently, but they had not all the facts. They were not satisfied, and consequently they would have to inquire into the causes leading up to the crisis, and they proposed to set up this court to do so and it was up to any member of the Dáil, after a certain period had elapsed, to ask the Executive Council the result of that. Now I hold that the attitude of the Executive Council since the Report came along was one of no responsibility. But what happened when the Report was published, as it were—published, as far as the Dáil was concerned? It was handed round; not a word as to whether it was accepted or rejected, simply handed round.
Portion of it.
Yes, portion of it.
It was unfortunate that an effort was made to discuss it, and to my mind that effort was made in a wrong way, made in a way certainly, as far as I and some others concerned with me, could not discuss the report. We were deprived of an opportunity of discussing it, and there is no opportunity except on this Vote to discuss it. The actual findings of that committee I do not profess to discuss, at any rate in detail, but I think that the Executive Council deserve the censure of the Dáil for the manner in which they have treated the Dáil. They have, as Deputy Johnson rightly said, given the Dáil portion of the report which they received. They did not say: "We held this inquiry. This is the result; we are satisfied that a real searching Inquiry has been held into the causes, and that is the result, and we accept it. We have examined the evidence on which these conclusions are based, and we are completely satisfied."
It is due to the Dáil that they should either get that from the Executive Council or something like this: "To be honest, the Inquiry is over, the crisis for which and about which the Inquiry was promised is passed; we would prefer to let the matter drop." They should give to the Dáil either of these statements. They have not done so, and, as I have said in the beginning, I am satisfied and I know a number of others who are satisfied, that the crisis, to their mind, is passed. Certain officers, who perhaps they wanted to get rid of for a long time, are gone; others that were giving trouble, perhaps in another direction, are gone, and as the President said here on the last occasion, if it has brought about peace it is well.
Now, as regards their attitude towards the Inquiry, I hope to prove to the Dáil that they did not take up an attitude consistent with their promise. What effort did the Executive Council as a whole, or any member of it, make to give help to this Army Inquiry? I am not speaking from any real knowledge I have as to refusal on the part of the Executive Council. I am speaking now on the facts from the views gained in a short conversation and short correspondence that I had with the Committee of Inquiry.
I attended the Committee of Inquiry, put my case before them, and pointed out my difficulties. I also pointed out that the Executive Council could give as much information as I could. I was asked to put that in writing and I did so. I further entered into correspondence and pointed out that there were certain documents that should be available and would be of use to the Committee of Inquiry, and I am satisfied from the correspondence that followed that there was difficulty put in the way of the Committee of inquiry in getting, at least, some of the documents. Again, I am only going on correspondence, because I was definitely asked to state officially what the documents were and I am entitled to come to the conclusion that I should not have been asked that, because if the Executive Council were serious when they said that they would have a searching inquiry it was up to them without being asked for it by the Court of Inquiry to put every single detail and document before them. I myself made the suggestion in correspondence also to the Court of Inquiry as to what I thought, in the circumstances, were the best means whereby they could get the necessary evidence.
at this stage took the Chair.
I suggested that official notification should be sent through official channels to people in the Army who naturally would not, and could not, come forward of their own accord because their so doing would be taken as meaning that they were coming forward in the capacity of accusers. Consequently I suggested that some form of notification should be sent throughout the Army asking for information upon these points, and at the same time that these people should be indemnified. Surely, if the Executive Council was serious about their business they would, at least, have done that. They would have gone to any and every trouble to bring forward the necessary witnesses if, as stated here, it was intended to have a really searching inquiry. It might be said I failed to turn up and substantiate the charges I made. That can be said and truly said. I have already given my reasons, but the Minister for Justice himself said here in the Dáil: "The proposal of the Government, as stated by the President, is that we are prepared to institute a most searching inquiry into Army administration arising out of the allegations made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Naturally and necessarily, quite apart from the allegations made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, an inquiry would be necessary because of the situation that has arisen in the Army, because no one believes that that situation simply sprang up in a night. Everyone believes it must have a particular genesis and history and the time for inquiry into that would be when the situation that it created had been dealt with."
What effort did they make to get at the real genesis and history of this? We are told in the Report by the Committee of Inquiry that something I think like twenty-nine witnesses were examined, and that they were satisfied that they had got the necessary evidence. Twenty-nine witnesses were examined. If the names even of the witnesses were given to the Dáil one would be able to form some conclusion as to whether there was anything like a searching inquiry. But the names are withheld from the Dáil. I certainly do not know who they were. I never inquired, but had that information been given, even apart from their evidence, one might be in a position to say, well a decent effort was made. On that I appeared before the Inquiry and they admitted to me that they did not know where to start. They could not get a starting point, and it was admitted in this House that there was no prosecutor asked for. I hold it was the duty of the Executive Council, if they did not appear as a prosecutor, to have helped the Inquiry in such a way that they would be able to say here in the Dáil: this is the result of a searching inquiry.
Again we had the refusal, I can call it so, of the Executive Council to give an indemnity to any officer who would come forward. The President said on the last occasion, and no doubt he will say it here again to-day, that they could not, or would not, guarantee that any man who came forward to give evidence, and who held a position in the Army, would get promotion. That is putting it the wrong way. They ought to be in a position to say—and if they were not they should say so—to any officer coming forward: "We will at least guarantee he will suffer nothing as a result."
We come now to the personnel of the Inquiry, and I say the personnel selected proved to me at the time, and I mentioned it here, that it was the wrong personnel. I now say that it was deliberately picked because they were not serious about the inquiry. I mentioned here, I believe that he personnel was drawn from the wrong class. I explained what I meant to the Inquiry, because I feared at the time that I might have been taken up wrongly, but they were satisfied with what I told them.
Deputy Cooper said in this Dáil, and he repeated it at the Inquiry, what I believe to be the correct thing regarding the persons, at least some of them, from whom the members of the Committee should have been drawn. If I may quote what the Deputy said on that occasion, it was: "As the Minister for Home Affairs very truly said, this episode has its roots in the past. Therefore the persons to enquire into it should be persons well acquainted with the persons who had been in the I.R.A. for some considerable time. I think anyone else would make a false start. That is the suggestion I make, as I honestly wish to be helpful and am honestly anxious to put forward some alternative that would be practicable." That, I think, was the general impression of each individual forming that court. They were placed in the position of being asked to act, and they did so. I can at least point to one finding in the report that would never have appeared were it not that the wrong individuals were selected, or, at least, that they were selected from the wrong type of men. That is paragraph 6 on page 5. As I said here before, some evidence has been given here by the late Minister for Defence, and portions of evidence was read by other Deputies. The paragraph that I want to refer to is as follows:—
"Paragraph 5.—In our opinion the evidence presented to us has established the following facts, all of which caused or led up to the late mutiny."
"6—That the organisation which brought about, and many members of which joined in, the late mutiny, was in existence at least in embryo, before the outbreak of the Civil War, and that many of the officers who mutinied, and of those who encouraged and abetted them had become a problem to General Collins before his death in August, 1922."
Now, I do not doubt for a moment that they had some evidence to form that conclusion, but I say with all due respect to them that that conclusion is unfair both to the living and to the dead, and if that tribunal had been formed of the right type of people they could not possibly come to that conclusion, and I will tell you why. If such evidence had been put before them they would know whom to summon and whom to look to for corroboration of such statements.
Would they come?
They would know whom to go to and ask for corroboration. I am asked would these people come? I am referring now to people who are not concerned in this business at all and who could not be got. I am very anxious to know on whose evidence this conclusion was reached. I mention that to prove that what I said regarding the personnel of the committee is to my mind, at least, correct. Since the last occasion on which this matter was discussed I certainly have got a bit of a surprise. I, for the first time, heard of a certain meeting having taken place. I think the Minister for External Affairs said something similar. I never heard of this famous meeting, although a member of the Executive Council at the time, that took place in June, 1923. The late Minister for Defence, after reading over portion of the evidence given by him before the Committee of Inquiry, stated that his evidence related to negotiations, if you can call them so, that went on with the Irregular leader, Tom Barry, and with a member of the Army Council at the time, the late Quartermaster General. He stated subsequent to that, that on the 10th June, 1923, "I with the late Chief of Staff and with the late Quartermaster General interviewed the President, the present Minister for Justice and the Minister for Education. We discussed matters arising out of these points, and discussed our general action with regard to the organisation." Now, as I say, that was the first I learned of such a meeting. It was the only time I ever heard of such negotiations with the Irregulars, although a member of the Executive Council at the time and for many months afterwards. I do not want to hold that any Minister has not the right to consult one, or two, or three, or four, or up to one member of the Executive Council on a point. That is not the point I want to make, but the point I want to make is this, that those discussions were going on with the Irregulars.
There was no discussion going on with the Irregulars. There was the receipt of one letter and the consideration of one letter.
Well, we will allow that—the receipt of one letter and the consideration of one letter. I expect that Deputy Mulcahy means that he received one letter and considered one letter. Is that correct, I ask?
The receipt of one letter by the then Quartermaster-General and the consideration of one letter by me when it came to me direct from the Quartermaster-General, as Minister for Defence, and its consideration at the meeting that I spoke of.
I well remember being told by, we will call them the mutineers, towards the latter end of last year that the then Quartermaster-General had been in negotiation with the Irregulars, naming an Irregular, and I will tell you exactly what I said when told that. I said "I do not believe it." I did not pay attention to it, and, mark you, when you consider that the mutineers, as we call them, had suspicions of the Army Council and of their society, having those suspicions and knowing that negotiations were going on with the Irregulars, we cannot blame them for having no respect whatever for the members of the Army Council, and it was hard to expect them to be disciplined. It is not good enough for the Minister for Justice to make a statement such as he made here on the last occasion in his own defence. His statement was as follows:—"I did not consider myself at liberty at a meeting of the Executive Council, subsequent to this informal discussion, to use anything that was said there in support of my very rooted and deep seated objection to secret societies. I made no reference in public or private to that until this unfortunate mutinous pot that had been simmering and brewing in the Army boiled over, and the Inquiry was set up in regard to it." On the same day while taking Deputy Mulcahy over the coals he said that on the first occasion when he learned of the existence of a secret society he asked for and could not get information. In the course of his speech he said:
"I charged to General Mulcahy in February, 1923, that officers were being summoned up from the country to sit in uniform at Portobello under the Chairmanship of Lieutenant-General O'Muirthuille who was then Assistant Adjutant-General for the purpose of re-organising the Irish Republican Brotherhood within the Army—resurrecting and re-organising it. I charged that the staff of the Army were for all practical purposes an inner circle or upper circle of that secret society and these two accusations were blandly denied by the ex-Minister of Defence."
Because they were denied and because, perhaps, he could not get any further on that account he did nothing, but in June, 1923, it was not rumour with him. The then Minister for Defence and two of his chiefs come to tell him that such is the case. It is not good enough to come and say that they disapproved of his actions or their actions. They had very definite information laid before them and it was their duty—the duty of each of the three of them—to come to the Executive Council and there make an order one way or the other about it. Had I known at that time, had I been aware of it or brought into contact with it at that time, I certainly would have made one effort to finish it once and for all and had I not succeeded in that way I would have got out and perhaps saved the situation by letting the people know why I got out. You may be told that I was in favour of a secret society in the Army. I say, and I said it all along, that I was in favour of one society as against two societies. But the three members of the Executive Council chosen perhaps because of their wisdom, are consulted and keep this matter to themselves. I do not claim that I had any right more than the others who were left out, but I had as good a right as each of the three or the three altogether to be present at that meeting. I do believe that if this had not happened the crisis would never have come. Something would have happened that would have snapped it across before it reached fruition. The allegation I made here I made with one deliberate intention, that of preventing bloodshed. In this House I made the allegation that this crisis was brought about by muddling, mishandling and incompetence. When I said that, I meant it. My real intention was to let the Dáil and the people, who should be consulted in this matter, know that there were two sides to the question. Even though we took no part in the Inquiry, the result given to us, as it is nakedly, proves that there were two sides to it. It proves also that with all this knowledge—and particularly the knowledge that the three specially-selected individuals who were members of the Executive Council had—the Executive Council rushed mad-headedly on the receipt of the ultimatum to arrest the signatories and shoot every dog that would bark. That is where they lost their heads. Again, as Deputy Cooper pointed out, in one of his speeches, if an Inquiry was necessary afterwards, it was also necessary and should have been instituted on the Friday when the ultimatum, as it was called, was received. That is practically all I want to say with regard to the Inquiry.
I am sorry there are not more of the Government Deputies present, because I wanted to refer to the statement made by the President on the occasion when he was taking to task the Independent newspaper for publishing misleading statements. He stated that there were to be no more demobilisations. I want to ask the Deputies supporting the Government what has happened since. I saw numbers of them hardly able to speak with grief for the officers in their areas who made it possible for them to come here, many of whom had been thrown out on the roadside, while ex-British officers and ex-officers of other armies were retained. They got promises then. There was to be a Committee of Inquiry into all this. These mistakes “could have been made, and probably were made, in the rush.” That committee “would be appointed to inquire into all that.”“Everything would be all right; send us the names.” Have they swallowed all that? Are they satisfied to allow ex-British officers to remain in the Army while the men who, they know, made it possible for them to come here are to remain on the roadside? I will probably be told that the new Army scheme, which is to replace the old-new Army scheme, will necessitate some resignations or some demobilisations. I do not know myself how the President will get over that. But at the present moment—or at least up to ten days or a month ago—you had in this Irish Army of ours over 150 foreign officers.
Up to how long ago, did you say?
Perhaps a month ago.
No, Sir. You are entirely wrong—fifty per cent. wrong.
I will go on. There were 150 officers——
You are wrong in your figures.
There have been no demobilisations since. I am satisfied that my information is correct. At that time there was an officer-strength of 1,400, which meant one in nine. What the new strength is going to be, or how they are going to get down to the new strength, I do not know. But I understand it will be in the neighbourhood of 1,000 or 1,100. Then there are going to be no demobilisations. What is to happen? Are all the officers with foreign service to go? In spite of the President's denial, I say that there are over 100 officers in the Army ——
I deny it.
Holding what is known as non-technical positions——
I must correct that also. The Deputy is also out to the extent of 60 in that case.
And that forty of that one hundred—they are my own figures—saw no service at all in the I.R.A. The difference between one hundred and forty—the other sixty—claim service in the I.R.A. at some period, some of them in March, 1921. Some of the ex-British army joined in March, 1921, and fought like good ones up to June. One of those gentlemen paraded Parnell Street on a certain night with his famous Thompson. Another of them claimed service longer than he is entitled to. The famous individual—that brave, good General, whose name was brought before you on the last occasion—has another claim to I.R.A. service for a long period prior to the Truce. In that sixty the words of the officers themselves are taken without check. Leaving that on one side—I am not in a position to give figures—a number of officers in the army saw no service in any army— British, or Irish, French, or German. These men are at present occupying positions in the Army. I know some of them personally. Some of them I tried before I left the Executive Council to have removed from the Army, and I was told they were indispensable, though they were only common clerks. A thousand of our own men were being demobilised. Perhaps three or four hundred of them had good pre-Truce records. That is the position to-day. There is to be no more demobilisation. No cases will be investigated, and the men you people sobbed about——
Who told you that?
I am taking your own words. You stated on the last occasion that there were to be no more demobilisations. Perhaps that was a gag also, like the Army Inquiry, for the time being, to keep things quiet in the Army. There are some of you, Deputies, on the Government Benches now who admitted that you would never have appeared near this Dáil, nor would you dream of staying in it, unless something were done to get back certain individual officers who were demobbed before the crisis, or left as a result of the crisis.
I am not going to keep you very long, because it seems to me that it does not matter a brass button what you say to the present Executive Council. They carry on with their heads in the sand, as I said many times before They do not mind. They put their Whips on, although, on a recent occasion they escaped defeat by a very narrow majority, and on the last occasion when they took the Whips off they were beaten, with the result that the Bill dropped. The present Executive Government remind me of a Government we had at one time in an English gaol. Anybody who disagreed with them was supposed to be disloyal. They have been told in their own party—and sometimes outside their own party—ever since this Dáil met that there was no alternative Government. They have acted in the belief, and they have carried on as if they believed that there was no alternative Government. They have forgotten that Glasnevin Cemetery is full of indispensable people. If you criticise the Government, the President will tell you that you are making doleful speeches that are doing more harm to the country than anything else. The most doleful speeches ever heard in this House came from the Ministerial benches. The present Minister for Finance, who I am sorry, is ill, and the President, when he was Minister for Finance, were responsible for the most doleful speeches that were made in the Dáil. The financial mentality of the Government reminds me—I am tempted to say it—of the man who went into a penny bazaar and asked for the bargain basement. They expect the country to be doing something, to be advancing, and they get up in those benches and they display absolutely no confidence in the ability of the country to recuperate. Their attitude all the time has been: "We have no money; we cannot do this."
The External Ministries and other Ministries that are not, perhaps, external, blame everything on the Ministry of Finance. We are told that we must balance the Budget. What is the good of a balanced Budget to a starving people? The President said we had spent more money on the relief of unemployment than any Government in Europe. What happened the money granted for the relief of unemployment last year? It was not spent on the relief of unemployment. If he will refer to the Appropriation Accounts, he will find it was spent in relief of rates. I say that the Government never rose above what the British Government did in 1846 and 1847 to relieve unemployment. Charity work on the roads! They have not done one single thing to give another man another day's work. The other day, in answer to a question from one of the Labour Deputies, the Minister for Agriculture made a remark about an officer, that he was a man who was a loyal subject prior to the Truce, and since then proceeded to develop a record. Now, I do not know whether that was serious. But I know it applies to ninety-five per cent. of your civil servants and to the military service and to very nearly all the police. Every man with pre-Truce or pre-war service was got rid of quickly. The last demobilisation was a deliberate attempt to clear out of the Army every man with pre-Truce service, and it very nearly succeeded. What it lacked in success on demobilisation was nearly completed by the unfortunate decision of the decent fellows in the Army to resign on the suggestion of the Minister for Justice.
It was not on my suggestion that they decided to resign.
I say, and I repeat, that the Minister for Justice, at a Party meeting, about 2 o'clock in the morning, suggested that if these men resigned the matter would be dropped. With regard to the Army Inquiry, the Army Inquiry was started in a panic, or, rather, it was promised in a panic. Deputy McGrath, before the setting up of the Inquiry, had more or less obviated what looked very much like a big row. We were promised an Army Inquiry, and we asked that the Dáil should be allowed to appoint the people who would hold the Inquiry.
Somebody said "No, no." I say yes.
I said "No," and I would like to know whether Deputy McGrath subscribes to that statement of Deputy McGarry's.
I did not hear it.
Nevertheless, it is a fact. The Government were in a panic. We were promised everything. When Deputy McGrath succeeded in averting what was a very serious situation, the attitude changed. I was invited to go to that Inquiry, and I asked that I should get an indemnity for witnesses. Six weeks after General Collins was killed I went to the President and I made some statements about army officers. I asked him for an indemnity and he said he could not give it. I gave him two specific instances of what I regarded as abuses. He promised he would look the matter up, and he sent to the officer responsible for the abuses a letter asking him to look the matter up. It was bound to be looked up in those circumstances. If everything in the garden was lovely with regard to Army affairs, there is no reason in the world why every member of this Dáil should not know what transpired. As regards the Inquiry, I got a reply stating that witnesses would be indemnified against legal proceedings, criminal or otherwise, in respect of any evidence they might give at the Army Inquiry. But that was not an indemnity. If you have got two or three honest men still in the Army who were willing to come forward and state that they knew certain things were occurring, why would they not get an indemnification. And there are one or two honest men left in the Army, who are willing to come forward and give evidence at any inquiry. But some of them are in this position, that their work for the last seven or eight years has kept them out of civil occupation. They are practically fitted for nothing else but Army work, and if they came forward and gave evidence they would be sacked. The President would not give an in demnity for them.
The President has denied the statement made by Deputy McGrath that there are a certain number of ex-British Army officers kept in the Army while the old men who made the Army are demobilised. The President denies the accuracy of Deputy McGrath's figures. Deputy McGrath's figures are not accurate. Nobody knows how many ex-British soldiers are officers in the Army because they have not gone to the trouble to find out. The records of the officers you have in the Army at the present time are not correct. If you make a complaint you are told that these men are efficient, and they are doing their work efficiently. Nobody doubts it. I do not. But did any of the men who made the Army get an opportunity to prove themselves efficient in these positions? In the one ship you have, the "Helga"—the Navy, or the Armada, which it was called in a Spanish paper—you have got the crew at the present time that shelled us in 1916. You may be told they are efficient. But that is a fact, and I challenge denial of it.
As regards the prisoners, I suppose I am the last man in the Dáil who would be expected to say a word for the prisoners, but I do not know what the policy of the Government with regard to the prisoners is. I do know this, that there was a man tried last week for the robbery of £134 from a bank. I do not think he was sentenced. He probably will not be. But I do know that there was another man in the custody of the Government who was responsible for the robbery of £18,000 from a bank. He was also responsible for signing orders for the confiscation of property in the South of Ireland belonging to Unionists. At least four men were executed for robbery under arms, carried out under his orders.
That man is walking about in Clare at the present day. The men who fought against such men and beat them have been demobilised. I do not care whether you keep the prisoners in or let them out.
I thought you wanted them out.
I do not care whether they are in or out. I have very little reason to care about them, but I do say that there should be some settled policy with regard to the prisoners, especially when a man who robs £18,000, and gets fellows executed, can walk about the streets, and a man is tried and kept in prison for a couple of years, because he took £134. I do not think I have anything more to say except this, that if members who are on the Government Benches would vote as they talk outside this thing would be carried.
I would like to draw the attention of the Dáil to what I believe is a scandal; that is, the case of the Contracts Committee. There are files in the Ministry of Finance going back for the past twelve months recommending a change in that Department. Their contracts system would not be tolerated in a rural district council let alone in a Government Department. That information was put before the then Minister for Finance, the President. I pointed out to him that even the Dublin Corporation system of opening tenders and giving away contracts was absolutely ideal as compared with the system carried on by the Government. I take it in that case some official came along and told the Minister for Finance "everything is all right in the Contracts Committee," because when an official goes to a Minister and tells him something, that is the end of it. You had an Extern Minister coming to this Dáil and listening to complaints about illegal trawling. He told the House that he could not get a boat; that he had only one boat, and that the Minister for Finance said he could not have another. What is the use of paying a Minister for Fisheries if he cannot get a boat to protect the fisheries? It is only throwing money away. That is another case where, I take it, the Minister for Finance did not go into the cost of one or two boats. Some official came along and said it could not be done, that they could not balance their Budget. The result of it is that the Minister for Fisheries is getting paid for doing nothing. It is not his fault, of course, because the Ministry of Finance will not give him the money necessary for the boats.
Might I suggest that the Dáil would adjourn for tea now, for the Minister apparently would seem to be too weak to intervene until he has had some refreshment.
You could not make an effort before the adjournment, could you?
I do not want to make a speech now, for it seems to be an indication of an attempt to treat this motion with contempt by remaining silent until those who have spoken in criticism have concluded, and then we may get a short, curt reply, or there may be an avalanche of eloquence from the Ministerial Bench and no one to reply to it. I do not think it is treating the motion or the Dáil seriously.
If I have to reply, I have not heard much to reply to. Perhaps the Deputy would supply the remainder.
I move the adjournment.
Does this Money Resolution come on to-day?
No; the Money Resolution has been passed.
I move that the Dáil report progress at this stage.
I second that.
That Motion does not require a seconder, and it is not necessary to report progress. The sitting can be suspended.
On a point of order, the Motion to report progress has been moved. There has not been any Motion hitherto on this Vote of that nature, and I submit it is within your right to report progress in view of the fact that no member of the Ministerial Party has replied to the criticism of a responsible section of the Dáil. Therefore, it is to be presumed that they are waiting to consider the challenge that has been put to them, and to enable them to make up their minds I suggest that the Motion to report progress is in order.
I move that the Dáil do now adjourn.
I submit that Mr. McCarthy's Motion is not in order, that we are in Committee, and you must take the Motion moved by Deputy Morrissey.
- Pádraig F. Baxter.
- Seán Buitléir.
- Osmonde Grattan Esmonde.
- Henry J. Finlay.
- Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh.
- Séamus Mac Cosgair.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Seán Mac Garaidh.
- Seán Mac Giolla 'n Ríogh.
- Seosamh Mag Craith.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- Próinsias O Cathail.
- Tomás O Conaill.
- Aodh O Cúlacháin.
- Liam O Daimhín.
- Eamon O Dubhghaill.
- Risteárd O Maolchatha.
- Domhnall O Muirgheasa.
- Tadhg O Murchadha.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
- Séamus Breathnach.
- John Conlan.
- Bryan R. Cooper.
- Sir James Craig.
- Louis J. D'Alton.
- John Daly.
- Máighréad Ní Choileáin, Bean
- Uí Dhrisceóil.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- John Good.
- William Hewat.
- Connor Hogan.
- Liam T. Mac Cosgair.
- Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
- Patrick McGilligan.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Liam Mac Sioghaird.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Patrick McKenna.
- James Sproule Myles.
- Peadar O hAodha.
- Mícheál O hAonghusa.
- Seán O Bruadair.
- R. O'Connell.
- Partholán O Conchubhair.
- Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
- Séamus O Dóláin.
- Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
- Eamon O Dúgáin.
- Seán O Duinnín.
- Donchadh O Guaire.
- Séamus O Leadáin.
- Fionán O Loingsigh.
- Pádraig O Máille.
- Séamus O Murchadha.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (Gaillimh).
- Patrick K. Hogan (Luimneach).
- Seán O Suilleabháin.
- Caoimhghín O hUigín.
- Liam Thrift.
- Nicholas Wall.
took the Chair.
The case as I have listened to it so far falls under—
On a point of order, I think there was a motion agreed to that we should adjourn at 6.30.
It has been the practice without a motion.
There was no reference to an adjournment to-day.
No. It was not necessary to move a motion to that effect. The order that the Dáil should sit until 10.30 has up to the present carried with it an adjournment for at least half an hour, in or about 6.30—not necessarily at 6.30.
If that is the case I would not have challenged the last vote. I do not propose to give away on that now. The Dáil has decided that we do not report progress, and consequently we cannot have an adjournment at present at any rate. We must have some order in the method of conducting business.
The Dáil has always been very generous with Ministers, as far as I know, both when I was in the Government and out of it, but if the President likes to throw out this challenge and break a rule that has been carried out for some time past, let him do it, and we will give him all he wants.
The President says we cannot suspend the sitting for a period. We can.
After taking that vote?
Yes, after taking the vote, we can.
I would have been willing, if Deputy Milroy had moved the adjournment, to take it so that he could speak when we came back. I understood it was a question of getting rid of the situation, because Deputy Johnson said we were not ready to go on. However, I am ready to go on now, and I want to hear the whole of the case. One particular Party in the Dáil has devoted two hours to making up a case. Not the whole of that Party has spoken. I wanted to hear the whole of it, and I have not heard much up to this.
Does the Minister take the view that the whole of a discussion on a motion of no confidence, which, in effect, is what has been moved, must take place before any member of the Ministerial Party shall reply?
It is not necessary for the Ministerial Party to reply.
That is not the question.
The point of order is whether the vote to report progress was not the vote of the Committee on Finance, and whether that having been declined, the Committee still remains in existence.
The Committee still continues but it is quite feasible to suspend the sitting for half-an-hour, three-quarters of-an-hour, or one hour, as has been done on several occasions before. The defeat of the motion to report progress does not make it impossible to do that now. That is the point I am called upon to decide. Of course, I cannot adjourn the Committee. That is a different question.
Might I suggest that I think it is the general desire of the Dáil to have a brief adjournment for a meal. If the President, on the grounds of principle, thinks that impossible, I have had something to eat and I am willing to talk for half-an-hour while others get off.
No. The only objection I have to an adjournment is that Deputy Johnson thinks we could not talk unless we had time to make up something. I do not know that that is an imputation that we should allow to pass.
My position is, as a matter of Parliamentary practice, when a responsible party in the House makes a case which has called for frequent interruptions from the Ministers, it requires a reply in the course of the discussion so that the discussion can continue as a Parliamentary discussion.
The Deputy went further than that. He said we would have to adjourn to make it up.
I assumed from the silence on the Ministerial benches that there was no reply.
No, Deputy Milroy wanted to know if we could not adjourn. I wanted to know if he was going to speak, and whether we would hear the whole case. I am prepared to go on and I do not require an adjournment to make up a reply, not in the least. If the Dáil wishes to adjourn for tea I am prepared to give way.
These questions are not questions for me to decide. I could not give a decision on any of these questions except that if the Committee wants to have a suspension for tea it can have it.
Would I be in order in moving now that the Committee adjourn until 7.30 for tea?
I think, after the motion to report progress has been defeated, we should have the views of the President.
I am prepared to adjourn.
I think the usual practice ought to obtain. We gave our votes on the division a minute ago because we thought it was want of confidence or something like that.
Very well, if the Dáil wishes to adjourn, I agree.
I think I am expressing the view of most Deputies when I say that an adjournment is wanted.
There were four speeches on this motion so far, none of which dealt with the subject-matter of the Vote, and all of which were concerned with events which happened principally during the last three or four months, and some, I take it, which occurred previous to the period which is usually described as the Army crisis period. The attack, as far as I can gather, was under four heads. There was criticism of the financial policy of the Government; of the Army Inquiry Committee, its personnel, its report, and various matters which came before it; the failure of the Executive Council to take up the matter according to the opinion of Deputy McGrath; of the Government's Contract Committee; and then an instance which Deputy McGarry stated he had brought under my notice somewhere about 1922. As regards the first of these, which occupied most of the time, extending to something like an hour, the three particular countries which were brought under review, and which, it was said, should have borne some relation to this country, were Denmark, Holland, and Switzerland. I do not know whether it is really suggested from the point of view of a financial expert, or a person having experience in the matter of finance, that a comparison should be made with three highly-developed, well-organised countries, which are free from internal disorder and from any external aggressions. They had all the advantages arising from their situation during a war period lasting four or five years. The war lasted a little over four years, but its reactions went on a little longer than that, and these countries were in a position to reap considerable advantages out of these reactions.
I think the Minister for Agriculture sighs sometimes when he hears of Denmark and its highly developed agricultural policy; its traditions, the advantages that it has had, its opportunities for development and the fact that there was a Government there for a great number of years highly interested in its development whose sole concern ought to have been to see that its agricultural policy should be shaped to suit the needs of that particular country. It is said that the Government here has failed in its duty during the last three or four months, because, I take it, that is the period which forms the basis of the criticism. Up to that time at any rate, we had the advantage of the counsel and the wisdom of practically all our critics and, to some extent, I should say, also their confidence. During those four months we have allowed Denmark, Holland and Switzerland to get beyond us. They have been portrayed as countries which were unable to balance their Budgets during the last three years or, at least, last year, and that they present a much better comparison for us than any of those countries which have recently got their liberty and whose financial policy has not resulted in maintaining what somebody, in a letter in this morning's "Freeman," called "stable currency."
Discussions on matters of finance are very serious things. Criticism as to balancing a Budget is very easy. Nothing lends itself to such a great display of oratory, and to holding forth prospects of employment and of development, constructive genius, and so on. It has been stated in foreign countries, and sometimes in this country, that we are a people without experience. But we have had some experience of balancing Budgets. One finds it in local authorities, and if there was anything to commend the action of the British Government in this country it was the genius with which they framed the accountancy or administrative sections of the Local Government Act, which insisted upon local authorities balancing their budget. The result of it, at any rate, has been that every item has got to be weighed, the value must be received during the year, and the people must be asked to pay for it during that year. Anyone who has had experience in the management of local authorities and of their finance knows quite well that in the early part of the year, before the rates come in, when there is no money in the Exchequer and when they have to get accommodation, the first question that is asked by the directors of a bank when they apply for accommodation is: "Have you estimated and struck a sufficient rate to meet your expenditure during the year?" If the answer to that be in the negative you will have to look elsewhere for your financial accommodation. It is a well-known principle. If the new Party, this great new National Party, from which we had an exhibition of oratory this evening, has got a better financial policy than that, something sounder, something which will open up those great avenues of development and of constructive policy for the improvement of the country, there is a great field for them, not alone in this country, but in many others—very many others.
This is big enough for us.
It would not be big enough to hold them if they could table a better policy than that.
We will try to satisfy you.
The dreams of Napoleon would not be sufficient for them. The Alchemists themselves, who failed in their day to solve this question, could be written down as children in the matter. The great financial geniuses of our time could succeed, where everybody else has failed. There is nothing cheaper, nothing easier than to say it is bosh to balance your Budget. Nobody realises how hard it is to do that better than we do. It is not on a motion like this of want of confidence, lightly proposed during a discussion of a single Vote for the Executive Council, that you are going to teach the Executive Council how to do their business, if they do not know it. Those countries that have not balanced their Budgets, and which are without the tradition that Switzerland, Holland and Denmark have got, what position are they in? What position would this country be in if we went on not balancing our Budget, with deposits of over £150,000,000 in our banks? That is the sheet anchor in this country at present. You can destroy it, you can make it valueless, and put money in the pockets of the bank shareholders if you like by disturbing that particular equation——
Which Budget? Does the President mean we have to balance the whole Budget?
When I say balancing the Budget, I mean what is known to everybody. We are getting out of a war period. You can easily take a cycle of probably ten years in which there should be that equation, or equilibrium.
I would not say twenty.
It would be immoral.
The Deputy is an excellent judge of morality. I would not like to interpret it for him.
I did not hear the President.
I did not hear the Deputy either; the statement is only reported to me.
It would be better if the President was allowed to continue his statement and was not interrupted.
It is occasionally stated that certain items appear in our Estimates; secondly, in our Appropriation Bill, and subsequently in our balance sheet, items, the burden of which should be spread over a number of years, and that is one of those cases in which it is stated that our balance sheets are not true. We know that they are not true. They are true to this extent, that they are an accurate picture of the exact state of affairs, but we have not yet arrived at a period when you can say that the amount in the capital debt, or the national debt of this country, whatever you like to call it, is so much of the service on that debt as the corresponding five per cent. equivalent to it, together with whatever sum is needed within a given number of years to wipe out that particular liability. We do know that in respect of sums that we have put in that they are insufficient. We do know that more money will be required, and we further know that if there is one thing more than another which animated investors to put money into the National Loan, it was that they had that particular head line that we were not going to live beyond our means, and that is another method of saying that you are going to balance your Budget. Deputy Esmonde stated that credit is only confidence.
I only repeated the words of the French Prime Minister.
I see. Well, I take it if they were used by the French Prime Minister they are probably very wise words. But what is this confidence we are losing? A week ago the National Loan was at 93. I understand that notwithstanding the importance of this motion it is at 94 this afternoon.
On a point of order, have we nothing to do here but listen to this Deputy interrupting?
Deputies must leave my duties to me.
I am not so sure that it is the possibility that the Government is going out of office that has been responsible for this increase in the value of the Loan. It is not at all likely, within the next couple of years, until we see what the actual cost of the compensation will be, that you will get Estimates framed in such a way as that you can say: "That is a normal Budget; that is a normal expenditure," and that you can calculate your revenue accordingly. But why is it put to us that this particular heavy taxation should not be imposed in these years? The answer to it is very simple. Huge sums of money have been disbursed. We did not spread their disbursement over three or four years. We disturbed them last year to some extent, this year to a large extent, and the year before, and if these years cannot bear the burden of heavy taxation, what prospect is there in a few years' time, when there is no such disbursement of capital moneys, that the people of that time will be able to bear the taxation that they want us to pass on to our children? Deputies say that legislation that is being introduced, and that the Acts that we have passed have weakened the confidence in and the popularity of the Government. I suppose they have. The Government that goes in for pandering to popularity can buy it at an exorbitant price. Nothing is easier than to pass on the liability to the people that are coming after you. But we have such respect for the new National Party, and for the rights they should have when they come on these Benches, that we would not think of doing such a thing as that. We trust their task will be very easy, and their troubles light, and they will get every assistance from us when they do take on these onerous duties. When Deputy Esmonde as President, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Finance, and probably Minister for Defence, is struggling under the weight of that policy, nobody would say to him what the Minister for Finance said about his duty as President, and what the Commander-in-Chief said about him as Minister for Defence. I regret that the Minister for Finance is ill, very seriously ill, to a very large extent due to the burden of the work that he did, and a complaint never reached us from him as regards the strain that was put upon his physique. I regret he is not here to deal with this matter of finance, but I am satisfied that other than embellishing what I have said, and putting it before you in a way that would be more easily understandable, that he would agree with the foundations and the basis of the arguments I have used. The Government is in this position. It got a great measure of support at the time of the signing of the Treaty. Immediately legislation had to be introduced, and as universally happens you cannot introduce legislation which would satisfy everybody. Take some of the measures which you have recently passed, and which, I suppose, some of the Deputies are now dissatisfied with having voted for. They have not said so, but I take it that they are dissatisfied.
Their consciences prick them.
I would not say that it is their consciences, because they have absolutely clean consciences. They are men without sin, and all that they are sorry for is that all the sins in this country are committed by the Executive Council. Take, for example, the Railways Bill. How many interests did we antagonise by that? Quite a large number. Take the Housing Facilities Bill. How many people were dissatisfied about that? Quite a large number. If we were only to bring in a vote for unemployment, and that County Kerry got £5,000 more than County Clare, Deputy Hogan would get up in his wrath and would himself demolish the Government by his maledictions. But while all that is the case, the fact of the matter is that until four months ago we possessed the confidence of a very large number of the people, and four months ago or thereabouts I offered Deputy McGrath an Army inquiry. I did not ask for it myself. He made certain statements, and I said: "There is only one way of settling this matter, and that is by having an inquiry."
Were the statements news to you? In case there is any objection to interruptions, if the President would adopt a different attitude in his speech there would be no interruptions.
Perhaps if the President addresses me instead of people who are opposed to him it would be simpler.
I thought I heard somebody speak, and you might not have heard him, and I wanted to assist you. An inquiry was asked for. We agreed to give an inquiry. If Deputy McGrath had not asked for the inquiry I hesitate to think that an inquiry would have been held. Possibly it might have been held. It was held as a peace offering to the person who asked for it, or, rather, the person at whose instigation it was held, or in respect of some statement that was about to be made. When the inquiry was held he did not attend, and he said: "The Executive Council have all the information." Now, there were documents in my office, and I had forgotten that they were there.
I suppose I would have been inclined to say that there were no such documents. They were discovered for me. I did not know they were there, and when Deputy McGrath says: "Documents are available; the Executive Council has the information," I submit in all fairness that it is not a fair way of putting it. I am not blaming Deputy McGrath for not attending the inquiry. That is his own business. I do say that it was not my responsibility to bring evidence there, since it was not at my instigation that the inquiry was instituted, and I say that it is too late in the day now to find any fault with the personnel of that Inquiry, its constitution, its complexion, its political complexion if you like, or anything of that sort. The way to have done that was to have brought up a motion—I would have given every facility for debating it, and to have suggested another method. The circumstances did change from the time I offered the Inquiry first, and when the Inquiry was set up, because General Mulcahy was at that time outside the Executive Council, and in these matters one must be just. The Dáil was put in possession of every tittle of information, and the personnel of the Inquiry was adapted to suit every party in the Dáil.
On a point of order. I would like to point out, fearing the President is speaking without having heard me, that I distinctly stated, and it is on record that I did so, at the time the personnel was put before the Dáil that it was not a proper personnel. Further, I want to remind him that I did not ask for an inquiry. He put it up as a means of getting out of the difficulty that he and other members of the Executive Council were in, and I accepted it. I did not ask for it.
No, the Deputy did not ask for it; it was to get him out of a difficulty as well as to get anybody else out of it that I offered the inquiry.
I was in no difficulty.
The Deputy was going to make a case, a case that could be made if he had the real interests of the country at heart, that the abuses he thought or alleged were in existence among other things with which he was dissatisfied would not be remedied by a Debate here in which one member of the Executive Council would indict another——
Yes, or others. Now, I want to make it clear that it was not, in my opinion, fair to say that the Executive Council were bound to produce every document. I asked for some indication as to what the documents were. It is impossible when dealing with a large number of documents to keep track of them, to remember from whom one got a letter. A member of the Executive Council gets a large number of letters. A large number of letters come into my office every day. Some of them I never see, and many of them I never want to see, and to keep track of all these and to remember any one letter from any person or any persons dissatisfied is beyond my capabilities. Deputy McGrath has stated we have 150 officers in the Army who had service in other armies—I do not think he used the words ex-British. The total number of officers we have at present serving in the Army, who had service with other armies—some, a very small number, of whom had pre-Truce or pre-Treaty service with us—including an ex-Russian, an ex-Belgian, and an ex-Frenchman and some Germans, is 71.
Now. One month ago I said——
One month ago; there were not 71 other officers who had service in other armies demobilised, and of that number 40——
I have no doubt if the President supplies a list of names I will be able to show that the information supplied to him is incorrect; it is not the first time that information supplied to the President on the same matter was incorrect. I do not say for a moment that he is not telling the truth from the information exactly as supplied to him. I know what I am talking about.
Forty of these are in special positions. I think Deputy McGrath called them technical or special posts like that. There are some legal and other professions, and thirty-one outside of that are officers who have not had pre-Truce service with us, but who had pre-truce service in other armies. The average in that case would be over 2 per cent., very nearly 3 per cent., which in all the circumstances is, I think, fair. Now I put it to Deputy McGrath that his criticism of a meeting held in my room is a criticism which many other Ministers could in their capacity also allege. It is not always possible to get every member of the Executive Council into conference. I had not the faintest idea that Deputy McGrath would have been any use at that particular conference, or that he would have desired to be present.
I suggest I would have been of more use than any other Minister.
The President has been speaking since 7.30, and this is the eighth interruption. He must be allowed to continue. These interruptions are merely on points of fact or on points of opinion. They can be made when the President has concluded. They do not serve any good purpose during his speech.
It could be said about other conferences that it would have been far better if I called in other Ministers. That is one of the disadvantages of occupying the position of President of the Executive Council. With regard to what Deputy McGarry said, I have heard countless stories such as he suggested. I sometimes asked for these stories in writing, and if I did not get them in writing I took them down and forwarded them, as a rule, to the Minister in charge of the Department against which a case was made. Only in one case did the man give me all the information I asked for, and in that case I was able to explore the whole story, and bring home to a person in the employment of the State responsibility for a certain act which was sufficient to have him dismissed. It is easy to say, "I heard so-and-so about such-and-such."
All sorts of complaints have been alleged about purchasers and so on, and when I asked for the particulars in writing, and for the names of the persons against whom the charge was made, only in one case did I get information, and in that case I took action. Now, as regards the Contracts Committee, the Contracts Committee was attended for a very considerable time by Deputy McCarthy. I heard many complaints, and had many consultations about it, and the Minister for Finance, if it had not been for his illness, would have set up an entirely new body to deal with that. He had already circulated a document to the Executive Council with regard to putting a certain Department over purchases, and if it were not for his illness that department would have been in operation by this.
I take it that was the case four months ago, and exactly the same complaint might be made against that particular Committee. Now, on the general question, I have very little further to say. Deputy Esmonde suggested that we should bring in experts on finance. I do not know that that was altogether a fair statement to make. Experts on finance! One might just as well say: you should get in experts on medicine or engineering, or anything of that sort. After all, finance is like many other things. It has certain laws which must be obeyed, and no expert that you get in can get you out of obeying these laws. The time comes when you have to draw your cheque, and if you have not got the money to meet it you want credit, and if you have not got the credit you will find yourself in difficulty if you draw the cheque. I have dealt with the matter of the Estimates. In a year or two, possibly next year, if we can get rid of the compensation claims, the Estimates would lend themselves to the treatment desired. I would like very much to see that particular treatment, but I am not so satisfied that some of the items that are complained of as being in a certain compartment, should be capitalised. I refer to some criticism from somebody that the pensions list and so on should be capitalised, and that we should not put in the total amount of them against a particular year.
I rather welcome a motion like this. I would like that a better case was put on record of the faults of the Executive Council. We have, I suppose, many faults. We have struggled in very difficult times to do good work, and if there is one thing upon which, in my opinion, the Executive has done well, it is upon its financial policy.
Is the President in favour of the policy adopted by the Ministry of Fisheries?
All I can say is that that is under consideration at the present moment. It has been under consideration for some time past. It is not easily settled. It is not easy to give them another boat like the "Helga."
Is there any possibility that these things will ever be taken from under consideration?
As soon as the Dáil adjourns, I expect many of these things will get much more consideration than at present.
We have had an exhibition of two lines of military strategy to-day. The Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Army has adopted the policy of stone-walling. He allowed all attacks to expend themselves or he attempted to do that, before he responded. The other line is more interesting to the onlooker. For some time there has been persistent criticism and attack from the small arms, shall I say, continuous and apparently ineffective. But the heavy guns were never available. The tactics that have been adopted by the Commanders of the Army were the decision to have a field day before the adjournment, and an attack upon all fronts, at the same time forgetful of the fact that it is not much use attacking in that manner unless some support is given to the small arms and the people holding the trenches. I think that the attitude of Deputy McGrath and his colleagues deserves criticism from this standpoint. They have come to-day with a motion of no confidence, but for quite a considerable number of weeks they have missed occasion after occasion and opportunity after opportunity to express that lack of confidence both in discussions and in votes upon Estimates, and on Bills, and they have never availed themselves of that opportunity, or only seldom. Now, I suggest to them for their earnest consideration, that if they have no confidence they ought to show it by constant attendance and persistent criticism. In regard to this motion. I am going to support it because I think it would be a very good thing for the country and a very good thing for the Dáil if it were passed and resulted in a complete reorganisation of the Government. The discussion has, in the main, dealt with financial policy and its consequence on the one hand, and an Army crisis on the other. I do not propose to deal with the latter subject at all, except to say this—and it is more concerned with financial policy than the criticism of Deputy Esmonde in respect of the Estimates was criticism in favour of an effective Army for war purposes. His demand was that the Government should set about training an Army for war purposes. He instanced Finland in respect of the course that had been taken regarding a similar army crisis—or a somewhat similar army crisis to that gone through in this country.
I would ask the Dáil on the contrary to refer to Denmark which has also been mentioned to-day in another respect, and to consider whether it would not be better to think of the desirability of following the idea that is being worked out in Denmark to-day instead of organising an efficient army for war purposes: rather to take a referendum on the question of disarmament. That is the policy that the new Labour Government in Denmark has adopted, and is in the course of testing the feeling of the country upon. The matter of financial policy involves a great many other matters, and from what we have heard the President say, and from what has so often been said from the Ministerial benches, everything depends upon our continuance of the financial banking and commercial policy that has been handed down to us by a preceding regime, that is to say, maintaining the financial and commercial policy, the commercial and industrial methods of Great Britain. It is suggested that by maintaining that policy, particularly the financial policy, is the only way we can hope to remedy the social evils that confront the country. I mean to suggest to the Dáil that continuance and reliance upon that policy will never remedy the evils that we are to-day complaining of, never in this country as it has never done in England, Scotland, Germany, France or America. The criticisms that I have to make regarding the contention of the Government that the budget must be balanced are not quite those of Deputy Esmonde, but rather that by attempting to balance the budget and by attempting to follow the old methods of capitalist finance you are ensuring the perpetuation of unemployment and preventing a settlement of that question. The first duty of a Government is not to balance a budget, but rather to ensure that the people will be fed and clothed. I ask the Minister if the Executive Council has considered the consequences that will follow to this country if the policy that is now being canvassed in banking circles in England is adopted here, the policy of deflation and the consequent reduction in the price of commodities in England, with the inevitable consequence of a great decline in productive enterprise in England, because of the sudden lowering of prices which follows a deflation policy. Has the Minister considered how that is going to affect agricultural prices and the agricultural community in this country? Does it not point to this necessary conclusion, that unless we are going to be the plaything of financial policy in England, a policy of deflation or inflation, unless we are content to be the plaything of banking institutions in England it is necessary to develop a distinctive financial policy, perhaps a currency policy, in this country. I say that the absence of any sign from the Executive Council that they are considering the commercial and industrial effects of financial operations in England, and the absence of any sign that they are proposing to strike out a distinctive line commercially and financially for Ireland, is in itself a defect and warrants a vote of no confidence.
Deputy Esmonde quoted the French Premier, and spoke of financial credit as being the equivalent of or simply another way of speaking of general confidence. But, I ask, general confidence in what? Confidence in the ability of the Government to collect taxes, confidence in the ability of the banks to collect deposits, and confidence in the ability of debtors to pay their debts in cash. Is that the kind of confidence upon which credit depends? I suggest that behind all that there should be, and must be, and is, in fact, confidence in the ability of the country and of the people of the country to take out of the country the wealth which is there and is ready waiting to be tapped. Even though there is no confidence in the ability of the banks, or in the ability of the debtors to pay their debts in cash, and even though financial systems fail, we ought to be in the position to bring the wealth producer into touch with the wealth of the country, and even if financial methods fail, and even if this mechanism of distribution of wealth fails to call forth the production of wealth, then I say that we have to go beyond the ordinary commercial methods and to pass by the ordinary financial methods and go direct to the producer, to the workman, the farmer, and the man that owns the machine, and say: "Get to work and we will feed you while you are working." These systems that have grown up through the ages were useful in their time, but the test of their utility lies in this: that they do assist in providing people with food, clothing and shelter, and if they fail in that work then they must be altered and we must not rely upon the old system which has proved futile, but we must attempt to get behind the system and do the actual thing ourselves even if we have to adopt new methods by using the soil, using labour, and using machinery to feed the people. That is what we are failing to do, and there is no sign, notwithstanding the occasional ameliorative measures which the Ministry is bringing forward alongside measures of the other kind, which are removing amelioration—there is no sign that the Government is appreciating, or does appreciate, the state of the country and the needs of the country.
The question of pensions and pensioners has been brought forward, and the great burden that pensions, no doubt, will be upon the country. If you choose to allow large numbers of people to depend upon the chance that an employer will employ them for a livelihood, and you say that it is better to rely upon this system, then you must make provision for the people who will not be employed. You select a certain section of the community who, you say, have done a service, and say they are, therefore, entitled to a pension. All right. I am prepared to support those pensions, because I feel that the men must be given an opportunity to live.
But I will say equally that it is far better to utilise the ability and the labour of these men, and let them do service directly or indirectly for the State. Once you begin to say that a man who is getting a pension, or who is being maintained, must be provided through State auspices with an opportunity of earning what he receives, then you are giving way to the case which I make not only with regard to pensioners but with regard to every other citizen. I say again, as has been said already from these Benches, and as I have said, that there was in January, 1919, a general declaration not merely of Party policy, as has been suggested, but a general declaration which amounted to a promise or bond, that the first duty of the Government would be to see that no child went hungry. It is still the first duty of the Government to see that no child in Ireland goes hungry, and I say that along with that assurance to the public that that would be the policy of the new regime, there follows the assurance that the father of that child will have an opportunity of providing the wherewithal to keep the child from hunger. So far from balancing budgets being the first and only financial duty of the Government, I say that if budgets do not balance it is of less consequence than that children should go hungry. Because I see no sign that the Government has a realisation of its duty in this respect, and because I think there will develop during the next few months, unless the unexpected happens, a very bitter cry. I feel the necessity for a distinct and radical change in the personnel of the Government. I believe that a radical change in the personnel of the Government must accompany a radical change in political and social outlook.
During the earlier part of Deputy Esmonde's speech I thought I was listening to a most admirable oration. The manner was excellent, the diction was perfect, and, best of all, I thought, were the ideas which formed the matter of the speech. But when I came to consider the speech a little more carefully, I realised that it was not very surprising that I admired it, because the two main ideas on which the Deputy based his speech were both borrowed from me, without acknowledgment. More than two months ago I urged the Minister for Finance, in one of the stages of the Finance Bill, not to be too much of a purist about borrowing, that borrowing for reproductive and constructive purposes was not necessarily extravagant and might be most desirable in view of our present position regarding unemployment. That seed seemed to have fallen on stony ground at the time, but I am glad that it fell on the fertile soil of Deputy Esmonde's heart and ripened there. It was worth waiting for. The other idea in his speech that we should call in the services of experts and set up a Geddes Committee to inquire into the expenditure of the State, was even an older child of mine. It was born nearly nine months ago in the debate on the Governor-General's address. I have brought it up here from time to time, and the Minister for Finance has always looked sternly at it and ordered it out. You can imagine my surprise this afternoon when I saw my child reappear in Deputy Esmonde's arms. I forgive him entirely for the fact that he did not quote me as his authority for these two ideas because he added such charm to them. I even forgive him for producing many of the ideas I intended to put forward when the Army Estimates come up. The Estimates for the Army may not come up for a month or two, and I may reproduce those ideas and use them as my own—as indeed they are my own —in the same way as Deputy Esmonde used mine this afternoon.
As to the question of the appointment of experts, when I raised that matter it was dismissed by the President. But the idea is a sound one. There is no derogation from our status or independence as a nation by consulting outside experts on matters of finance. If proof of that is needed, you have only to look at Brazil. Brazil is an independent State absolutely, and yet it has just had a British mission of experts. It is true that the moment the experts left the country a revolution broke out. But that was probably because they were sorry to see them going away, or else it was—and I say this seriously—because the Government did not call them in in time and because the measures that were recommended by the experts were not acted on. After all, matters of finance, as the President says, obey certain laws. But these laws can be wisely or foolishly applied.
Health obeys certain laws, too, but you have from time to time to call in a doctor to advise you as to the best methods by which these laws can be applied. So it is with finance, and I think it is a mistake to go on as the Government have been going on, assuming that the last word in wisdom lies with the officials of the Ministry of Finance. I think we should go outside and try if even more experienced officials in other countries could not help us. There is one point that I wished your ruling, A Chinn Comhairle, had allowed Deputy Esmonde to elaborate—that is the measures passed by the Executive Council, which, he held, turned many people against the State. Because if he had been allowed to elaborate that, he would have explained what the measures were, and he would have told us if the Old Age Pensions Act was amongst them.
Deputy Esmonde could then have explained why he voted for that measure fifteen times, why Deputy McCarthy voted for it seventeen times, and why Deputy Milroy only voted for it once.
It was a question of party obligations.
I did not vote for it at all.
Deputy Milroy can expound his wisdom later on. If the same reason applies, I do not know how Deputy Milroy was so wise above the other Deputies I have mentioned. I pass from Deputy Esmonde to Deputy McGrath. I do not propose to go into all that Deputy McGrath said about the Army Inquiry, because a great deal of it was not directed against the Inquiry but against the measure taken by the Executive Council. It is not my responsibility to defend the Executive Council. That is, perhaps, fortunate for them, because I should probably do it very badly. Like Deputy Esmonde, Deputy McGrath quoted from me, but, unlike Deputy Esmonde, he put my name to the quotations. Whether that was to honour my foresight and wisdom I am not sure. I will say this, that what I have said, and what was quoted by Deputy McGrath, I still hold. I think the form of inquiry originally proposed would have been the best one. It would have stood a better chance of getting, I will not say more completely, at the truth, but of getting at it more quickly than the Inquiry that was set up. But once there was shown a desire in the Dáil, as unquestionably there was, that each party should be represented on the Inquiry, then that original form of Inquiry, consisting only of people who had been in the I.R.A., from the beginning, and had been fully conversant with all that had occurred, became absolutely impossible, because the choice of representatives would have been so restricted as practically not to exist at all. Once the desire appeared and grew, and was forcibly expressed, that the Army Inquiry should contain representatives of all parties, there was no alternative but to abandon the old idea, though I still believe the old idea would have been best. When Deputy McGrath says that the personnel of the Inquiry was deliberately picked, and that we were not serious about the Inquiry, there I join issue with him—not about the deliberate picking, but about not being serious. I do not think I have ever been so serious about anything in my life.
On a point of explanation. I did not mean that any single individual member of the Committee was not serious. I meant that the Government were not serious, and did not help the Inquiry or give it the information they should.
I am very glad that the Deputy has explained this, because I took it the other way. Certainly the Deputy would not have been justified in saying that. Now, as regards information, so far as I can understand Deputy McGrath, he thinks we should have had all the information in the possession of the Government, whether it bore on the Inquiry or not, placed before us to pick for ourselves. We were really not in a position to hunt through the whole of the files of the Ministry of Defence. We could have got them if we had asked for them. We got everything we asked for except one thing, which was a professional opinion given for the information of the Executive Council. Except that we got every file we asked for. Deputy McGrath spoke of the Army Inquiry as a gag—a gag for him and others. I never looked on it in that light before, but if it was a gag it was an ineffectual gag, because before we were half way through our proceedings Deputy McGrath went down to Mayo and made a speech—
Deputy Cooper is in error there. The Committee had finished taking evidence before that. You were actually framing your report.
I said before we were half way through our report. It was before we had fully completed our report.
I hope what I said did not upset you.
Not in the least. Nothing upsets me.
On a point of order—
I withdraw that last statement. Deputy Gorey upsets me.
On a point of explanation, I wish to say that before the Committee considered the report at all and before they had finished the evidence a pamphlet was issued and Deputy McGrath's speech was made.
There my recollection is not quite the same as Deputy Gorey's. The pamphlet, by General Tobin, was issued just as we had begun to draft our report. I think Deputy Gorey is right about Deputy McGrath's speech, but not about the pamphlet. I do not remember having seen it until after we had finished taking evidence. I come to another matter which may perhaps relieve Deputy McGrath's mind. I have no papers here. I did not bring even the report of the Army Inquiry with me. Deputy McGrath referred to a statement in that report that the attitude of some of these officers had been a problem to the late General Collins. I can assure him that it was not in my mind to make any reflection on the dead or living in that respect. I considered that paragraph very carefully, and I took it in the sense that in every Army at the end of every war the General responsible for the administration of that Army finds that a problem is presented to him by a certain number of officers who were excellent fighting officers and have given good service but are not suited by temperament to the routine work of administration. I personally had no more meaning in those words than that. They were not intended to give offence to anyone.
I come to the last words—Deputy McGrath's reference to ex-British officers in the Army. As a matter of fact the statistics put before us did not deal with ex-British officers at all. They dealt with officers who had served in any army. The first statement of service I saw on the return handed to us at the Army Inquiry was of a gentleman who had served 25 years in the German Army. Therefore, the figures put before us cover all those who had experience in any army whatsoever. That being so, I do not think that the 3 per cent, the President has referred to is a very large proportion, when you must have a certain number of skilled men for training purposes. I do not want to quarrel with Deputy McGrath at all. I understand his loyalty to his old friends and comrades. I respect that loyalty, but I say that the attitude he is taking up is hopeless with regard to the future. If the Treaty meant anything it did mean that we were going to forget about old quarrels and old squabbles and join together to make Ireland a better place to live in. That spirit should be found in the army as elsewhere. But the attitude of Deputy McGrath leads nowhere. If he had been at Baltimore he would have said that George Washington was an ex-British officer, because he was.
If he had been a prominent figure in the French Revolution he would have rejected Napoleon Bonaparte because he was a royalist officer. If he were in Russia he would object to the number of Czarist ex-officers serving in the Russian Army. If the army is to be as we want it to be, Oglaigh na hEireann, it should be an army in which there would be room for all Irishmen and the cardinal test should be: "Can this man give good service to Ireland?" There should be no other test.
I cannot support the motion to refer back this estimate on the grounds put forward by the National Group. If I intended to bring an indictment against the Executive Council—an indictment that would sound well in the ears of the public—I should pass that estimate and I should take them to the Governor-General's Address and say: "What has become of your pledges?" I had the curiosity to go through the Governor-General's Address and examine the outlined legislation there the other day. I find that nine Bills mentioned in it have been passed. Six have been introduced and not yet passed. That includes important measures like the Local Government Bill and the Liquor Bill. Fourteen Bills have not been yet introduced. Out of 29 measures promised in the Governor-General's Address, only just half have come into being at all.
Have we passed any that we did not promise at all?
You have passed a great many. There is one Bill I found it very difficult to classify—the Local Government Elections Bill. I did not know whether I should count it as two Bills or as one Bill because the Government have passed two Bills. Although they gave us more than we desired or deserved, there were some important measures promised which they did not introduce, such as the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Bill, the Patents Measure, the Copyright Measure, the Merchant Shipping Bill, the Electric Power Bill, and a Bill for regularising Commissions of Inquiry. All these are very important Bills. There is also another Bill which, I think, Deputy Johnson or Deputy O'Connell would like me to call attention to—a Bill for providing medical and dental treatment for school children. That is a measure of some importance. I think we might well ask the Government what has happened those Bills. I do not do that myself for fear that I might be taken at my word and that the Government might immediately introduce these Bills and insist on passing them before the Recess. But I should do that if I wanted to make a paper case against the Government.
The real indictment I have against the Government is not lack of courage, not fear of hard work, but that they have failed in one respect, and failed in a way which is very serious to the country—they have failed to educate the country and failed to educate their constituents about the difficult issues that are before us. Except for the Minister for Justice who, think, has spoken to his constituents twice, it takes a by-election to get a Minister on to a platform. I do not think that is a right state of affairs. We are in a new country and there are all kinds of wild and whirling political ideas about. If the Government and the people who have most information and who can speak with most authority do not go down to the people and explain what they are doing and why they are doing it, then that confused, vague outlook, that readiness to ride off on side issues, that is already a characteristic of politics in Ireland will continue and must continue. Ministers may say that they do not want to justify themselves. They have a false form of courage which prevents them from going down and explaining their position. That breeds what was referred to by the Minister for Justice, a little while ago, as persistent unpopularity which has been found fatal to individuals, and may be found fatal possibly to Governments, but I think it will not be so found to-night. A vote of censure is more than a vote of want of confidence in the Government. It is a vote of confidence in those who move it, and in those who will be called on to replace the Government, if the Government falls. That vote I am not prepared to give. I am not sure that even if Deputy Johnson is taken back from the trench line and put with the big guns, and the position is defended by big guns entirely, that the coalition would be either a popular or practical one. I do not see that we can hope in any alternative administration to have a Finance Minister with more thoroughness and more conscientiousness than the present Minister, nor do I think we can get a Minister for Industry and Commerce with greater ingenuity, a Minister for Justice with greater resolution, or a President with more combative common sense. That being so, I propose to vote against the motion to refer back this vote.
While the President was making his opening observations in a charmingly tactful and courteous manner, my mind went back to certain discussions that took place in this Dáil when the Ministerial opponents of the anti-Treatyites told us they wanted constitutional opposition. They yearned for it, they pined for it, but now that they get a touch of constitutional opposition it does not seem to agree with their temperaments at all. They are going to get constitutional opposition just as much as the situation requires, and just as much as the interests of the nation demand.
I am glad that the Minister for Justice says "hear, hear." By the time we are finished with him he will not be like Oliver Twist, asking for more. Deputy Bryan Cooper has just recited the virtues of the Ministry. Let me picture what I think is the impression of the great majority of the people in Ireland at present in regard to the personnel of the Executive. In the Minister for Education we have an apparent disciple of Rip Van Winkle, whose department, however, makes progress despite his solemn somnambulistic tendency; in the Minister for Justice we have a man whom some regard as a Mussolini, and others regard as a mustard plaster that has exhausted its usefulness; in the Minister for External Affairs we have an amusing, ineffective dilettante Will-o'-the-Wisp, whose sole conception of international diplomacy seems to be not persistent unpopularity but persistent flippancy; and the last, but by no means the least, in the President we have a firm believer in the philosophy of Mark Tapley, that there was no credit in being cheerful except when things were going against us, and, therefore, we should try to keep things going wrong in order to get credit for being cheerful in the worthiest sense of the term. I will say nothing harsh of the Minister for Industry and Commerce; he is a mere tyro, but, as we all are at elections, he is a man of excellent promise. The President, I think, lowered the dignity of this discussion before the adjournment, and at the resumption of the debate. Deputy Esmonde opened this discussion with what every one must have recognised as a reasoned, thought-out statement, adducing facts worthy of consideration even from the present Executive.
Deputy McGrath made an indictment severe in character and serious in its implications, and what was the tone of the rejoinder? The only rejoinder yet from the Ministerial Benches was a series of—I was going to say of flippant sneers, but I do not think they were intended to be sneers—a series of flippant comments and references to this contemptuous and insignificant minority, or group, that are trying to express what they believe to be their duty to their constituents, and that is in speaking out what they believe to be the truth free from the shackles of party or personal interests. Some time ago I initiated a discussion in the Dáil, which I said was not intended to be a vote of no confidence in the Executive. I said on that occasion that if I aimed at such I could easily have found a more vulnerable point of attack, and I think we are confronted with such a point in this discussion. I have no qualms to-night as to how I view the vote which will terminate this debate. It is intended to be a vote of censure, a vote of no confidence in the Government, and I trust that the decision of this Dáil in the matter will be such that if it does not cancel the period of office of the Executive, that it will, at least, arouse the members of that Executive to a realisation of the fact that the symptoms of paralysis which appear to characterise their energies where the vital needs of the country are concerned, may, if not overcome, bring themselves to discredit, and the State to the brink of tragedy. This national group, as it is called, may be an object of derision to the Ministry. Those who compose it tried to support the Government hitherto, and they gave unstinted support to it until recent months, and it may be painful to them, and it certainly is regrettable to myself, that I have found it necessary at present and for some time past to adopt an attitude of a severely critical character towards the Government. But we do this in an entirely impersonal way without any desire to import into such discussions as may ensure from our differences a bitter intransigeant element of personality. We have taken this serious step—at least to us it has been serious; to me it was a very serious and very grave step to sever my connection publicly from the Government Party, and I think that the fact that some of us have taken this action, after grave consideration, ought at least to make members of the Government, and those who support them, realise that there may possibly be serious and deep grounds for criticism, when men who would have wished to stand by them to the end had to take the step that we have taken.
I am aware of the kind of argument that will be put forward, by the Minister for Justice if he intervenes in this discussion, and by the minor supporters or apologists of the Government. I have no doubt the Minister will review the long series of disorders that the Government have been confronted with as a vindication of their present policy, which, to us who stand as their critics, appears to be totally lacking in the elements of progress. Those who support him will assert that to shake the stability of the Government at the present time is to jeopardise the security of the State and to open the gates of the citadel to the forces of anarchy and chaos once more. I find both of these arguments unconvincing and out of contact with realities. The period of disorder has sufficiently receded to enable Ministers to disclose some plan or progresivse, constructive policy. We cannot always have thrown into our face as an argument to justify every elementary lack of a constructive policy the fact that certain of our people threw the country into chaos and bloodshed. That argument has had its place in our politics. To-day that argument should cease to be the thing, and the argument that the Ministers confront us with when they are faced with criticism. I say the period of disorder has receded sufficiently to enable Ministers to disclose some indication of a comprehensive, constructive, economic policy. It has disclosed nothing but what may be termed paralytic negation. It has revealed no Ministerial suggestion that will inspire the people with the belief that what we have gained means really the achievement of a great stride towards their ideals, and the people are now conjecturing if, after all, the freedom we have won means nothing really better than the servitude that we have overcome, and they are being taught by speeches from the Minister the dull and benumbing doctrine that it is doubtful if freedom is a condition which we as a people can sustain. When I hear the argument advanced, as it probably will be advanced if Government supporters intervene, "Do not swop horses when crossing a stream," I answer—what if the horse refuses to cross the stream and merely keeps prancing up and down on the wrong side of the stream. In that case swopping horses becomes a necessity and not a blunder. That seems to me in a rough way to describe very accurately the position we are approaching in the Saorstát at the present time. I, as it may be noticed, have taken a more general survey, or am engaged in taking a more general survey, of the grounds upon which I think this vote of no confidence is justified than previous speakers have taken, because the Army situation was not to me the cause of the break. It was simply an incident in a chain of incidents that brought me to the temper of mind and outlook that I eventually arrived at. I go back to the outlook we had when the evacuation of the British from the Saorstát was in progress, when the people of this country were thrilled with the spectacle of a British Army departing and an Irish Army taking over and occupying the strongholds that had been held for centuries by the foreigner, when control by the Irish people of their own finance, their own education, their own judiciary and administration, had ceased to be the mere idle dream of the enthusiast, and was really being consummated before our eyes. I look back to the ideas we then had in our minds, and what we anticipated would be the speedy and inevitable consequence that must ensue as a result of securing these powers. In looking back on that, in view of the present situation, I entertain a feeling of deep and apprehensive disappointment.
It is not because I expected that miracles would happen, and that they did not happen, but that the obvious practical things which these changes gave us power to effect were either ignored, or if touched upon, were touched upon as lightly and as superficially as, one might say, the touch of the seagull flying over the waves as it skims the ocean and leaves no impression behind. I do not know whether or not the members of this House share the opinions of the Minister that neglect of opportunity and of doing for the country something that would put it on its feet is a matter for smiles or amusement. I guarantee, however, if the Minister goes to his constituents and preaches that doctrine, he will find that it is something other than smiles or cheers that he will get from his hearers. Now, I wonder if the Government were to challenge the verdict of the people at present what plea they would put forward to secure the restoration of that confidence which the electorate so ungrudgingly reposed in them at the last election. I suppose they would put forward the suppression of disorder and, so far as I am concerned, I give them every credit for the policy pursued, and while they were in need of support to pursue that policy I do not think that they can deny that I gave them most unstinted support. The restoration of order, after all, while a vast task and an essential service, is a negative service and people cannot live entirely on service of this kind. I wonder would the Ministers or the Government Party go to the country and expect to get confidence on the Old Age Pension cut; I wonder would they expect that that lamentable slogan of the Minister for Finance, which has been so often alluded to to-night, about balancing the Budget, would repair the confidence shattered, not by the people, not by the supporters of the Government, but by the Executive Council itself. We have had a plethora of inquiries and commissions and I think all, or practically all, certainly the greater portion, remind me of that which Deputy McGarry referred to earlier tonight—the roads made in famine days to relieve distress which led nowhere except to a substantial waste of public money. Then we have had a marvellous pageant of green bills passing through the Oireachtas, or rather, I should say, we have had an avalanche of green paper falling on us. Looking over that amazing output of documents, one must come to the conclusion that the Ministerial mind is obsessed with the idea that the stability of the nation can be built up with paper. One remembers the story of Marie Antoinette, who, when she heard that her people could not get bread, advised them to get cakes.
Now, I think, we have a revision of that story. The Ministers when they hear that people cannot get work say: "We will supply them with plenty of Bills." They expect the people to foot the bills. I have had reason before now to comment very adversely upon the mischievous effect of the professional mind, obtruding itself unduly in the domain of practical affairs, and when I think of the marvellous avalanche of green Bills I am inclined to think that the predominance of the strictly legal mind it seems to indicate, is likely to have contingencies or results equally as undesirable as that of the professors. Arthur Griffith, on more than one occasion, held before us the picture of the paper wall which England had built around this country by which it misrepresented the people of the country and kept us out of contact with other people. We have happily survived that paper wall, but the question now is whether we are going to survive this avalanche of paper which the lawyers and legal advisors are showering upon us. To put it in another way, the Ministers have not time to attend to the real, essential economic needs of the country, because they are struggling helplessly like Laocoön in the coils of green paper which threaten not only to strangle them, but the whole future of the nation. I have no desire to minimise the labours of the Ministry but I say they are labouring with futilities instead of labouring with realities. I am not denying that there may be virtues in every one of these Bills. I am not denying that each and every one which has come before us, or which may be put before us, may help to evolve the perfect constitutional state, but they are not all urgent and there are things more vital to the State, neglect of which spells disaster, and it is these essential things which I contend the Executive Council have overlooked or seem utterly unconscious of. The Army question has been a good deal referred to and I have not a great deal to say on that point, but the few comments I have to make are in the nature of censure. In the controversy which preceded the actual happenings already discussed at great length in the Dáil, I took no side, one way or the other, and I have no desire now to express a partisan view in regard to one side or the other. This much, however, I do say with emphasis, that, on the grounds of the information which has come to light, nothing has come out of it that redounds to the credit of the Executive Council. I do not want to impugn the motives of the members of the Army Inquiry Committee but I must say that the report appeared to me to be a piece of special pleading on behalf of one of the contributing elements to the trouble.
On behalf of which?
The surviving element. I have not made up my mind yet whether it was the survival of the fittest. The whole business has disclosed the Executive Council in a most sorry light, and I say, if there was no other count in the indictment, they have come out of this in a way which deserves an expression of the lack of confidence in their capacity to manage such things, things which were not mere trivial matters of debate, but things on which the very life and existence of this State depended, and which should not be made the playthings of any section of the community, no matter whether it be the rabble in the street or the Ministers holding high executive office. I pass hurriedly to one or two other points I wish to make. I referred some time ago to the Minister for External Affairs. I have one query to address to him. I presume this Minister is in touch with his subordinates, especially those who are responsible for the custody of the honour of this State abroad, and I want to know if his attention has been drawn to a paragraph which appeared in last Saturday's "Freeman," which gives an address from Mr. Vaughan Dempsey, the representative of Saorstát Eireann in France. Addressing the Irish Party at the grave of France's Unknown Soldier, in the course of his observations Mr. Vaughan Dempsey, representative of Saorstát Eireann, said:—
"Ireland having at last found peace within herself, has come, the youngest nation of them all, to prove by this act of homage that she took her stand with loyalty and sacrifice by the great nations in the fight for liberty and civilisation."
That was not referring to some remote war that took place centuries ago in which France took part. Referring to the devastated regions of France, he said:—
"You ex-service men have seen those regions made bleak and barren by the shells of the enemy. And you, men who fought through this last great war, I am sure I express your own thoughts when I say that all your suffering and hardship have left you only a great desire for peace. Having fought, what greater ambition could you now put before yourselves than to work for the ideal of peace, peace within your own shores, peace with your great neighbour, whose flag is represented to-day beside your own, and peace with the whole world."
This, I hope, will not be treated flippantly by the Minister. I have no desire to say one word that would give offence to the people of France or to the ex-service men who fought in the war, but this gentleman, representative of Saorstát Eireann, was not speaking as the spokesman of ex-service men. He was not speaking for those who ranged themselves against Germany in the war. He was speaking for Saorstát Eireann, and so far as I know Germany has never been included in the enemies of Saorstát Eireann, and I think it is highly improper for a representative of the Saorstát to describe it in this way. I trust our Minister will condescend to give attention to that.
The manner in which the Executive Council have approached the economic needs of the State has been lamentable, as short-sighted, and as inefficient as their handling of the Army situation. The only conception that they seem to possess of economic defectiveness in the State is the reluctance of people to provide the finance to equip and run the State. There seems to be no realisation of the grave fact that such reluctance does not spring from a desire to evade the responsibilities of citizenship, but from sheer industrial and commercial depression and its attendant deprivations. That seems to be the last thing that the present Executive visualises at all, the last thing it would appear to contemplate, and I believe a good deal of this depression is the direct outcome and consequence of the cue that commercial and banking institutions have taken from the Minister for Finance's slogan: "Balance your Budget." Overdrafts have been tightened up. Commercial enterprises have to sue their customers for payment of their debts, and credit has been tightened up at a time when this is not a virtue but the reverse of a virtue, and at a time when credit should be relaxed to enable headway to be made in the new State. That may seem to be sheer financial lunacy to the acting Minister for Finance; it may seem to be madness to the Minister for Justice, but whether that be so or not, the one fact they cannot deny is that the country economically is not advancing. It is rather receding, and they hold in their hands as custodians of the State the means whereby the energies of the country that can reproduce wealth can be liberated and stimulated.
If they refuse, whether from disinclination or ignorance of the fact that this is their duty, then the country will have to call them to account. I think there is no better example of a—shall I say—superficial outlook on the economic situation in the country than was revealed in the tariff proposals. I am not going to discuss them, except in a passing sentence, because, as you, sir, indicated, it would be undesirable to discuss proposals that have become law. There was an opportunity there to deal with the matter in a whole-hearted comprehensive way, and in a safe and effective way, which would produce substantial results from the economic standpoint. How was it availed of? It was availed of in a way that seemed to indicate that they were sorry this opportunity had come before them. Though certain things did materialise, which I hope and believe will effect, incidentally, perhaps accidentally, material good, and may illustrate the value of this policy as an instrument of economic liberation still the way in which the question was approached and dealt with was churlish, lop-sided, and ill-thought out. One would almost come to the conclusion that the real desire was not to make use of those powers to advance the nation, but to discredit them as an instrument of economic advancement.
It may be urged that there is nothing very tangible in the charges I have made. (Deputies: Hear, hear.) I am glad that Deputies say "hear, hear." I expected that. That is why I said it —in order to provoke that. The very fact that criticism is of this intangible nature is the damning aspect of this matter. That which has not been done may be always accounted as intangible. But, what if that which has not been done is the very thing that should be done, and the doing of it is of the utmost necessity to the nation, as it is in the present instance? So definitely does the policy of the Executive Council seem to evade the essential and to make great parade of the non-essential or the non-urgent, that one begins to wonder if there is an invisible hand holding up the exercise of those energies which can give life and progress to the State. Anyone who knows what it has cost this country to rid itself of the weight of foreign oppression, who witnesses the present apparently inexplicable impotence to advance, and who views the present impasse, will be filled with the apprehension that there are forces working silently and cunningly under the surface to frustrate the hopes of the nation and nullify what we have won. In drawing attention to this, what I believe to be a really serious factor in the contributing agencies that have brought about the present situation, what I am mainly concerned with is, that the Executive Council shall not become unconscious instruments of these forces.
I am not going to detain the Dáil very much longer, because I wish to give an opportunity to some of the back benchers on the Government side to express their views. I will be very glad if they can convince me that my apprehensions are unfounded—that there is no ground for criticism in the Government policy, and that the Ministers are in Merrion Street and all is right with the world. I think they will have a very difficult task, but I do hope, at least, that they will speak, not merely mumble a few words, parrot-like, in support of the Government. If they believe the policy of the Government requires support, I hope they will express that in an intelligent way and give grounds for the belief that is in them. For my part, I find it very hard —indeed I find it impossible. It would be well if only one speech at a time were delivered in the Dáil; because it is very difficult to have a duet or trio in a deliberative assembly. I hope, for the few remaining observations I have to make, that the gentlemen, the Deputies below me, will defer their conversation until I have concluded. I find it difficult to proceed while Ministers engage in these dialogues.
On a point of explanation, the difficulty I am in is that I do not know whether I am referred to, because the Deputy first said "gentlemen" and then withdrew and said "Deputies."
I did not catch that remark.
Deputy Milroy may continue his speech.
I find it hard to fathom the reason for this lack of policy and of statesmanship—this sheer lack of vision concerning the needs and the future of this country in the Executive Council. I wonder is the explanation to be found in the fact that they are suffering from mental exhaustion as a result of their heroic—and I say that without any sense of derision— their heroic and strenuous labours during the last two or three years? Or, is it that they have abandoned the idea of a free and advancing Ireland, and have come to the conclusion that the most we can hope to achieve is simply to stereotype the routine administration that has come within our grasp? That may be their outlook. It is certainly not the outlook of the people. They may regulate their pace, so to speak, to the strains of a dirge or song of defeat, but, if they do so they will be divorcing themselves from the people who have not yet come to the condition of mental or physical exhaustion that will admit of defeat.
To come back to where I started, I began with the President and I am going to conclude with him. I am sorry this discussion has taken place on this particular Estimate, because the greater portion of the items in it are items attaching to the Presidential office, as distinct from the Executive Council proper. I do not consider the Vote excessive. I consider it moderate. Let no one conclude, because it has taken place on this Vote, the discussion is one that has any intention of ranging round the President himself in a personal way. It is intended to discuss the general lines of policy of the Executive Council for which every member of the Executive Council has as much responsibility as the President himself, and in some cases some Ministers must bear the heavier burden of that responsibility of censure and of criticism, whatever it may be. This Estimate gives us the only opportunity before the Recess of reviewing the general outline or scope of Government policy. I think it has been a duty to the country, to ourselves and to the Government itself to place that policy under review. If our criticisms are justified it is time to ventilate them. If they are not justified it gives Ministers an opportunity of vindicating the position that we have attacked. President Cosgrave said that all these grounds of contention had arisen within the past four months. He implied that Deputy Esmonde had not discovered the difference between the Saorstát and Denmark until the last four months. He said that within the last four months, since some of us broke with the Government, that Denmark had got ahead of the Free State. If that is to be typical of the way in which serious criticism is dealt with by responsible Ministers, and above all by the head of the Government, and the first officer of the State, if that is the way in which they meet criticisms not intended to be anything other than criticisms which will affect some public service and throw light upon matters of vital importance to the country, not only is this discussion justified but it is long overdue. Unless a change comes over the spirit and the outlook of Ministers it will not be the last discussion of the kind and a resumption of such discussion will take place at no remote date and possibly with different results than they anticipate.
A great saint, reviewing the course of his life, felt himself called upon to admit that he had done many things which he ought not to have done and left undone many things which he ought to have done. Judging by the few observations that have escaped from Deputy Milroy one gathers that he feels that the same might be said of the Executive Council. They have done many things which they ought not to have done and left undone much that they ought to have done. Other members of his group, or party, or association, rather elaborated the same thing to such an extent, that one hoped in the course of the debate they might leave that point and state just exactly what their own policy was, what their own programme would be in the event of the Motion which they have down for decision by the Dáil being successful. After all we must take it, as Deputy Johnson suggested, that the moving of a Vote of no confidence in the Government involves that those moving that Vote are prepared to take the responsibilities of Government. It might have been helpful to the Dáil in coming to a decision if there had been less of a plethora of adjectives and more of an attempt to elaborate a constructive alternative policy to that which the Executive Council is pursuing, or is alleged to be pursuing.
took the Chair at this stage.
I have listened, and I am pretty constant in attendance here, to speeches from Deputy McGrath's group, and I have as yet no clear idea of a policy. Abuse by innuendo of certain civil servants is not a national policy. Even suggestions that particular individuals in the Army, or elsewhere, have not been dealt with according to their deserts, is not a national policy.
The only thing that I am quite clear about is that Deputy McGrath's group would not balance their Budget. But that is merely, again, a negation. It is not a positive or constructive national policy to go before the country and say: "Vote for us; we will not balance our Budget." It is not an attractive policy to put before any thinking electorate. Yet, as I say— and I am not attempting to draw a caricature—that is about the only definite thing I have gathered of the policy of this National Group which has indicted the Executive Council to-night. There were times during Deputy Esmonde's speech when I was wondering whether it was the Dáil or the Executive Council he had lost confidence in. There were portions of the speech which certainly suggested that he has lost confidence in the capacity of the Dáil to think matters out to a clear conclusion. He started by suggesting that in his view the Executive Council was not leading the nation, whatever he means by "leading the nation," and that it was being pushed in various directions by various sections. He went on to speak of credit. Credit, he says, according to the French Premier, is merely the scientific translation of the word "confidence," and having stressed that for some time, he said that any action on the part of the Government which tends to turn any section against the Government tends proportionately to lessen the credit of the State.
Against the State.
The Deputy cannot have it both ways. On one hand we are to be firm; we are to lead the nation; we are not to be pushed about by various sections, and, on the other hand, if we antagonise anybody, to that extent we are lessening the credit of the State.
On a point of order, I must say that I distinctly said that I was referring to any legislation which tended to turn sections of the people against the State, and not exactly against the Executive Council or the Government.
Well, that is a very subtle distinction.
It is a very important distinction. The State and the Executive Council are not the same.
People in this country have not yet developed the fine political sense of Deputy Esmonde, and I fear that people in this country throughout the last two years have readily turned against the State because of the action of the Government. The Deputy knows that that is true, knows that the people have not distinguished between an act on the part of the Government, or legitimate criticism, or even hostility to the Government, and hostility to the State fabric. When I saw some time ago a motion down in the simple, bald terms that the Executive Council no longer retains the confidence of the Dáil—no reason stated—I took it that Deputies were to be invited to pool their discontents, even though the causes of these discontents might be conflicting. Deputy Johnson, for instance, who might consider, and, in fact, does consider, as he has stated, the moneys voted for relief schemes inadequate, might pool his discontent with Deputy Good or Deputy Hewat, who possibly think they are excessive, and that we were to have that vague general discussion in which people have a variety of motives and a variety of cases without coherent agreement on a policy amongst themselves and were to throw their dice against the Executive Council. That may be a good idea tactically, and I give the Deputy's Group credit that they may be good tacticians, but I doubt if it is helpful. There ought to be a clear issue. There ought to be reasons set out definitely in black and white so that the discussion might centre round them. This discussion to-night ranged over a variety of topics, and I do not know whether even the Deputies in the Group from which the motion emanates are in agreement with regard to all the topics. Deputy Milroy was at some pains to state that it was not over any Army crisis that he found it necessary to part ways with the Executive Council. I do not know, on the other hand, whether all the Deputies of that Group would swallow Deputy Milroy's industrial policy, his policy of whole-hog and cast-iron protection.
On a point of explanation. In the absence of Deputy Milroy, I understood him to say that it was not on the Army crisis only, but that that was one of the many reasons.
I am sorry if I misrepresented him. We may take it that that was the last straw which broke Deputy Milroy's back. But it is difficult when you are dealing with a Group that has put no policy before the people——
We will do that when we get a chance.
Which has not confided any policy to the Dáil, whose sole policy up to the present has been to criticise the Executive Council and to state that they, if and when returned to power, will not balance their Budget. A certain periodical some time ago referred to people in the Dáil as "inverted Micawbers," always on the look out for something to turn down. Deputy Milroy strikes me as answering the definition perfectly in all its fullness. He denounces the Executive Council and all its works and pomps. He sees no good in it. He wants to know what would we say to the electorate if we had to face the people. I have some curiosity as to what the Deputy will say to the electorate. I have no doubt whatever as to what the Executive Council will have to say to the electorate. It is not two years since the Provisional Parliament met on the 9th September, 1922, and although we have been living in somewhat crowded times, with one nail driving out another, Deputies do not forget the conditions that existed when that Provisional Parliament met. Twenty-four short months, and we have accomplished something in the time despite the pessimism of Deputy Milroy and Deputy Esmonde.
On a point of order, at the beginning of my speech I stated that nobody wished to deny credit to the Executive Council for the work it did in 1922-23.
The Deputy has a peculiar idea of a point of order, sir. I doubt if you will agree with him. The Deputy suggests that he has no fault to find with us in 1922 or 1923 but that we became suddenly futile and corrupt in 1924.
I never used the words "futile or corrupt." I do not see why they should be attributed to me.
Well, it is rather a free translation of the general volume of criticism which came from the Deputy's benches.
What would we say to the people? I think we would say to the people that a State has been established here; that two years ago their right to establish that State was called in question and called in question by force; that that force which was opposing and challenging their right has been defeated and suppressed; that this State is now established and is theirs absolutely and beyond question ——
And the men who did it were demobilised.
It is so much theirs that they have the right and the power to destroy it. There are various ways of doing that, easy ways; the electorate can take any one of them. One way, perhaps, might be by returning a party pledged not to balance its Budget. Another way might be by returning a party pledged to "terrible and immediate war" with England. There are a variety of ways, and the electorate voting freely and openly without force or threat of force can take any one of them. As to policy, if we have been unable to ward off from the people all the consequences of the criminal folly of the last two years, the question arises—would any other body of men, would Deputy Milroy or Deputy Esmonde or Deputy McGrath have succeeded in warding off these consequences from the people. If we, in common with the people, have to face the fact that the country cannot eat its cake and have it, it means that we are just buying wisdom a little dearer than need have been the case. We have been taunted about an avalanche of green paper, an avalanche of Bills. What were they? The Land Bill, the Railway Bill, the Dairy Produce Bill— Bills aiming at increased productivity and standardisation of products; Bills aiming at bringing to a standstill that process by which our Continental rivals have for the past two or three years been driving us from our main market. This is the green paper that the Deputy objects to. If the Deputy simply thought a little more about these things and attended perhaps, a little more, and realised day by day the importance of the work that the Dáil is transacting, he would not be quite so verbose and quite so sarcastic on the question of this avalanche of green paper.
On a point of information, does the Minister question my attendance during the ordeal of establishing this State which he has described?
I refer to the Deputy's attendance on the ordinary routine humdrum matters; attendance day by day or week by week.
I think I attended fairly well.
I think it would be better if the Deputy would not interrupt.
It would be better if the Minister would not malign the Deputy.
It is not, in fact, good enough that Deputies should aim at a full dress occasion, and in speeches full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, denounce those who are attempting to administer the country according to their interpretation, at any rate, of what the mass mind of the country would wish. Now Deputies may find a certain absence of excitement about Parliamentary work. The best work is not always done in a heated, excited, electric atmosphere. Deputies may find it just a little dull sitting here through a long summer session, legislating for the various requirements of the country. Deputies, from the difference in position, do not realise as closely as Ministers the extent to which various administrative tangles have to be straightened out by means of legislation and a great deal of legislation.
Is it his own supporters the Minister now refers to?
I am addressing my remarks, for the most part, to Deputy Milroy, who complained of excessive legislation and the great number of Bills that has been found necessary to bring before the Dáil.
I just want to point out it is not true of the members on the Farmers' or Labour Benches.
Finance, Protection, the Army Crisis and the Contracts Committee which, I think, Deputy McCarthy referred to were the main ground of the attack. Now, I am not going again into this question of the attitude of the Executive Council with regard to the Army trouble. I have expressed the view that I consider the report which the Committee presented was a very fair vindication of the whole attitude of the Government towards these troubles. Deputies may, and Deputies do, I know, differ from that view; that cannot be helped. It is too much to expect that about a matter of that kind you would have a unanimous Dáil. But we had the responsibility of acting, and we acted according to our judgment in a difficult and tense situation. I regard the report of the Inquiry Committee as a very substantial vindication and justification of the line we took. I just leave it at that, and Deputy McGrath is welcome to any capital he may wish to make about meetings which he did not attend. I had my own reasons for going to that meeting. At that meeting I took the line which I told Deputy General Mulcahy I would take. If I did not at the next meeting of the Executive Council report there what had transpired, it was because I regarded my acceptance of the invitation to attend that meeting as having some implication of confidence.
My main object in speaking to-night was to suggest quite seriously that all Parties here in the Dáil ought to have a programme and policy known to the public so that the electorate may generally have an opportunity from time to time of comparing that policy and programme with the policy and programme that is being carried out by the Party actually in power. There is no such satisfactory position at present with regard to the Party from which this particular censure Motion emanates. They took ground at first under the title of a Republican Party.
That is not true. It was a newspaper that attached that label to the Party.
And subsequently they became——
I ask that the Minister be called upon to withdraw that statement. He said that our Party took refuge behind such-and-such. I contradict that statement and say it is not true.
I did not say that the Deputy took refuge behind anything.
The Deputy has made his position quite clear.
The implication in the Minister's statement must be withdrawn. The Minister has no more right in this Dáil than any other Deputy.
On a point of order, was not Deputy Milroy still a member of the Government Party when that label was attached?
I have the right to defend my colleagues. Is the expression withdrawn?
I want to know if the Minister has withdrawn his statement.
You did not give the Minister a chance of withdrawing it.
I am giving him an opportunity of withdrawing it now.
I did not consider that I had slandered the Deputy or his associates. I was stating what I believed, that they took ground first under the title of a Republican Party.
That is not so and it has been denied. I deny it and the statement must be withdrawn.
The Minister must be allowed to finish his speech.
He will not be allowed to go on in the way he is going.
I have not the least difficulty or objection in withdrawing the remark that the Deputy's Party first took ground as a Republican Party and then changed their title. I have it now on the authority, I think, of almost every member of the group that that is not so, and I accept that unreservedly.
I am sorry I was not in the House and did not hear what the Minister said.
The incident is now closed.
Are we to take it that the Party is not a Republican Party?
We cannot discuss the matter further.
I ask the Deputy to explain.
We will explain the position when we meet the Minister and his Party outside.
I would like to explain that this does not mean that I am not a Republican.
On a point of order, I desire to ask what Deputy McCarthy means by saying that he is quite ready to meet the Minister and his Party outside?
That is not a point of order.
Would someone define what is a Repulican Party?
I hope the Deputy will be better able to explain the position outside than he has explained it inside the House, because it does come down to that. The Dáil is asked to express no confidence in the Executive Council. Neither the President nor any member of the Executive Council would take the line that no mistakes have been made, that everything we have done has been right or that we have done everything which we ought to have done. But those who challenge the Government must put forward an intelligent, alternative policy. They must not just talk negatives about not balancing the Budget. We must know what their general national policy is, what their economic policy is, and whether we are to take it that Deputy Milroy's hide-bound protection policy is the policy of the group or merely the whim of an individual, and, generally, what they are going to do which the Government left undone, and what mistakes of the Government they are going to redress and set right. Deputy Esmonde talked vaguely on finance.
Yes, vaguely; but neither Deputy Esmonde nor any other member of his group met the point of the President that some day a cheque has to be drawn, and that if you have not money to meet it you must have credit, and if you have no credit you will get into difficulties by drawing the cheque. The Deputy, surely, ought to recognise that whether you go to the public generally, or whether you go to the banks, a question like that will be asked. Deputies are inclined to forget that either by taxation or by borrowing money must be raised to meet all the high-sounding demands that are put forward here from time to time, and to realise all the wonderful dreams that are recited here. There are complaints about excessive taxation and complaints about high taxation, but I have not heard from any quarter of the Dáil that taxation ought to be increased. The alternative is borrowing, and Deputies should come down to earth and say when and where and at what rate of interest the borrowing is to be done; whether it is to be done at home or abroad. If it is to be done at home, they should ask themselves whether if they had a few hundred or a few thousand pounds that they were anxious to invest securely and reproductively, whether they would invest that in the Home Loan and whether they would advise their mothers or their sisters to do so. It is by facing the position in that way that Deputies will get the proper perspective.
If a five per cent. loan from any other country were floated here to-morrow what questions would we ask ourselves if we as individuals were thinking of investing it? We would want to know what kind of people they were, whether they were hard-working people and whether there were stable conditions or whether they were little politico-military plots and intrigues calculated to bring about a serious eruption at any time. Credit, the Deputy said, is a scientific translation of the word "confidence." I rather agree with Deputy Johnson that credit is simply an intelligent anticipation of future production. Now certain conditions are requisite to steady production and to increase production, conditions of ordinary security, conditions of sanity and conditions in which people who have money lying idle in the banks at present will take it out and use it. We cannot just have it both ways; we cannot have the luxury of being always in semi-revolutionary conditions and at the same time having capital forging full steam ahead to-that the Deputy and his party things that the Deputy and his party ought to chew hard, and ask themselves to what extent they, as individuals, or as public men, have contributed to that lack of confidence in the country: they ought to ask themselves what they can do, what would most contribute to a restoration of confidence in the country. The country pays. Individuals are foolish, but the country pays and will always pay till the end of the chapter, pay in injured credit, pay in compensation as we are paying every day for the fellows who burn farm houses for sport, as one of them said when he was indicted. It is the people that pay, the ordinary people who are not idealists and consequently do not burn houses, wreck railways, or strip the Civic Guard, or do heroic things like that. The ordinary people just pay, and then they are supposed to pat people on the back for their heroics afterwards. Deputy Esmonde had better settle down to the fact that public life is not going to be one round of excitement and melodramatic votes of censure or anything like that, but rather that it is a hard plodding game. It may be a fine thing in the realm of sport to create a difficult situation and then display your agility by vaulting lightly over the balustrades, but in public matters that is not quite so fine.
The Deputy who opened the discussion here to-night is a very romantic figure in this House.
I am glad to have that disagreement early, in view of the remarks I was going to make on his romanticism. I was going to take him back to the days of chivalry and remind him of a knight who saw a turreted castle in every windmill, and of an earlier hero who imagined armies in every flock of sheep. While the one couched his lance and tilted against harmless windmills, the other in his frenzy drew the short stabbing sword and attacked mere passive muttons. What has the Deputy done to-night? Let me take one of the vital arguments in his vote of censure. He objects to the quotation of old Statutes at the head of each estimate, and he sees in this, as Deputy Milroy would say, a serious ground for grave indictment against the President and the Executive Council.
No, I must protest: that is not the case.
The Deputy is full of disagreements to-night, but he put forward as an argument that these quotations were used. I put it to him that he is just the sort of person for whom the quotations are intended— persons who need certain little signposts and guides so that they may know, and realise, what are the statutory purposes for which certain money is vested. That is one of the arguments against us. One of the arguments why this vote should be referred back is because the Executive Council has not taken care to cut out from the heading of the estimates certain references such as the Eighth of George the Fifth and so on.
That is not one of my objections to the Executive Council. I mentioned that incidentally, but it is not one of my objections.
If the Deputy has overstated his case, that is his fault. He has thrown out certain arguments, and it is open to me to attack him on them. However, he seems irritable at having any stress laid upon this particular point, and so I leave it. It has been put that the Executive Council should call in experts to advise the Ministers upon their financial policy. There is, of course, an insinuation and an innuendo there that the people in charge of the finances in this particular Government are not experts.
I am glad to hear that, because one of the Deputies did say that there was nothing derogatory meant in asking for experts to be brought in, so now we see there is disagreement amongst the group.
I think it was Deputy Major Cooper that made that remark.
I assert that there are experts in the Finance Department, and I say further that these men, thinking it in no way derogatory to themselves, and the Minister for Finance without thinking it in any way derogatory to himself, have called on banking men, and business men, and commercial men in this country to advise and state their views about certain points of financial policy under discussion. It may be of interest to the Deputy who raised this point to know that the financial policy of this State has been approved and endorsed by experts, and by financial journals, in the United States and in England and on the Continent. And since the Deputy who introduced this motion built so much upon what the French Premier said, it may be of interest to him to know that a French financial paper has definitely and specifically set out its approval of the financial policy of this Government.
The Deputy has asked that the Budget should be divided into two sections: that there should be what he calls the ordinary Budget charges or ordinary Budget items, and extraordinary Budget items; and certain details were given as to what he meant. This is a rather intricate and long subject to enter into at this hour, but I want to remove one or two misconceptions which the Deputy has in this matter. Certain calculations have been spoken of, and in the calculation of the revenue, as such, there has been included certain items which are not to count as ordinary revenue in this country at all. There is a certain payment —Customs and Excise—for a particular year which was not our money. It was collected here and simply paid over, and that represented a considerable sum of money. On the other side, the questions of pensions has been tackled. Now I put it to the Deputy this way: that there is a big sum paid out and estimated for here as a result of pensions that fall due for payment owing to the Treaty, and, against that, there must be set the fact that for the new Force established, the Civic Guard, the pensions paid there or due to be paid are very, very small, and that there are certain items of expenditure which have not yet reached their height. If we do include at this particular moment a certain sum for pensions, say, which are not a normal item in the country, we must remember that the normal pensions expenditure or charge has not at all reached anything like its height, and that we are not normal in that respect, so that to arrive at normality you must set off one against the other. We have in fact, here, by the actual setting off of these items, arrived at something closely approximating to what the Deputy calls his ordinary Budget.
I specifically excluded pensions from the ordinary Budget which I suggested.
The Deputy left that point to speak of the Geddes Committee which he asked to have set up in order to cut down expenditure and to reduce our future liability under a particular Article of the Treaty. In answer to that I may say that our commitments under Article X. of the Treaty are no great cause of concern at the moment. I cannot understand how the Deputy can reconcile his attitude in regard to this appointment of the Geddes Committee to cut down expenditure, when he also speaks of the extremely stingy financial policy of this State, and of the paltry schemes for the relief of unemployment. The two matters require a certain balancing and I presume the Deputy will give it later.
Take this adjective "paltry" which has been applied to the Government in approaching various problems. Has the Deputy any conception of what money has been voted, and is being voted, and which will eventually go to the relief of unemployment in the country? The sum of £2,000,000 has been voted for the repair of roads, bridges, and drainage schemes.
resumed the Chair.
A sum of over seven million pounds was voted for property losses, a sum of over a quarter million for housing schemes, a sum of almost £200,000 for works included in the Public Works Vote, almost a quarter of a million was included in the Army Estimates for building, a quarter of a million for relief schemes —ear-marked specially—and the Unemployment Insurance Act which recently was passed and which entails a charge for the moment on the Exchequer of at least another £260,000, while the Fund at the moment is in debt to the Exchequer to the amount of £877,000. The Trades Facilities Bill, at present in the Seanad, involves a commitment to the extent of one million.
Is it one million pounds expenditure?
I did not say the money has been expended. I say a million pounds has been set aside under the Trades Loan Guarantee Bill.
Does the Minister mean to say that seven millions which has been set aside for Property Losses Compensation has anything to do with the Relief of Unemployment? If so, how much of it has to do with it?
I think if the Deputy will get particulars of the extent to which the Reinstatement Conditions apply to these six or seven millions, and if he takes into account, further, that payments to date for Property Losses and Personal Injuries amount to over five millions, he will see that this affects unemployment. I wonder, after that series of Votes, is the Dáil going to agree with Deputy Esmonde that the policy of this Government towards unemployment has been paltry? We are told again that we ought not balance our Budget—
You are not.
No policy is put forward except what Deputy Milroy would call "paralysing negation." Not to balance your Budget is apparently the policy. I wonder does the Dáil realise how paralysing——
The statement has been repeated parrot-like by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Justice, that the policy of the National Group is founded on "We will not balance our Budget." Will the Minister inform us which of the speakers to-night from this Group either advocated that or defined the policy af the National Group as such? If he cannot give the name of the Deputy who stated that, I ask him to withdraw both the implication and the allegation.
The Deputy was responsible for two phrases: "paralysing negation" and "dull benumbing argument." I do not know what more "paralysing negation" there can be than this phrase about the non-balancing of the Budget.
Will the Minister answer me the question: which of the speakers in the National Group has defined our policy as "We will not balance our Budget"?
Deputy Milroy cannot go on interrupting. He made a speech of an hour's duration and that will have to satisfy him. The Minister is in order in using reasonable arguments. The point Deputy Milroy is making is a matter of argument and not of explanation.
It is not; it is a matter of fact.
The Deputy should not stand up while I am speaking. He must sit down, and he must accept my definition of these things. When the Minister has concluded, I will allow Deputy Milroy to make a personal explanation, but he cannot keep up a running fire of argument while the Minister is speaking. It would be impossible to conduct a debate in that way.
Perhaps I might intervene with a view to having the business properly conducted in future. Since this debate opened there has been by each of the Ministers, including the President, half a dozen mis-statements or mis-quotations, whether deliberate or otherwise, with the result that the patience of Deputies concerned has been so tried that they must interrupt. I do not believe there has been any debate ——
On a point of order, sir ——
Mine is a point of order. I do not know any debate where there was such a number of mis-statements, whether it was that Ministers deliberately set out to do it or not, I do not know.
I have said here before that it is in the nature of things that votes of censure should be moved on any Government. It is in the nature of things that Ministers should be criticised, and it is in the nature of things that in an important debate people should quote other Deputies in a way other Deputies do not like. In an Assembly like this, Deputies will have to restrain their tempers and listen to what their opponents have to say, unless it is a matter which concerns a Deputy's personal honour. It is quite open to a Deputy to state that the Executive Council is a most incompetent body. It would be out of order for a Deputy to state that a particular Minister was incompetent in his private affairs or something of that kind. The only real matter of explanation is a personal one.
I would like to know if a Deputy is misrepresented, has he the right to correct the misrepresentation?
Not ad infinitum, so to speak.
But if the misrepresentation is ad infinitum, what happens?
I think I am entitled to ask for the future guidance of the House, if it is right to say that criticism is prompted by corrupt motives.
I was not here to hear that point raised.
I am being interrupted at the moment, and I did not say anything as to corrupt motives.
The Minister might as well conclude now, so that he will not be interrupted any more.
I move to report progress.