On the previous evening that I was speaking on this Bill the adjournment had to be moved at a most interesting stage. I was on the question as to whether the actual terms and the precise details of the Agreement had been revealed to the Dáil. Speaking that night, I made the statement that:
"The bond was given under duress certainly, but we are not breaking our bond in turning down this, because the proposed method of repayment was not divulged to the House in December last."
I emphasised that the President, a few minutes afterwards, interjected by by saying:
"May I correct a statement of the Deputy's when he said that the House was not led to believe that this was part of the bargain? I made the statement that it was £250,000 a year for 60 years."
Not having the precise details before me at the time, I was inclined to accept this. It is true—and I want to make this public—the House was aware that the agreement laid down a repayment of £250,000 yearly for 60 years. Did it come from the Government or is it something we learn from the newspapers, something that was disclosed in the British House of Commons? The Government, it appears, were inclined to take credit to themselves for giving this information to the public. No thanks whatever is due to the Government. This information came to the House absolutely independent of the Government, and in my opinion were it not for the fact that the revelation had been made in the British House of Commons we would be kept in the dark, in complete and absolute ignorance, as to the secret arrangements which they had made. Mr. Churchill, speaking on the 8th December, 1925, said:
"When the Irish representatives proposed that they should assume for themselves the burden of the compensation charges we have had to pay for pre-Truce damage amounting to approximately £5,000,000, of which £4,000,000 has already been disbursed by us, and that in addition they would issue 10 per cent. more stock to the victims of post-Truce damage, we thought it perfectly right on our part to agree to the complete abrogation of Article 5.... But under the existing arrangement we were liable to pay to the Irish Free State a sum of approximately £900,000 in the next two years. These payments we shall, of course, withhold, and they will form the first instalments of the annuities which they are prepared to pay, and also have the effect, as long as they last, of a moratorium so far as the Free State is concerned.”
Mr. Baldwin, on the second reading of the Irish Agreement Bill, stated:
"The Free State has now undertaken to bear full liability for compensation for material damage done in the Free State area since January, 1919, and to repay to the British Government the amount which this Government has paid or is still liable to pay under the previous agreements. Those amounts are calculated at something over £5,000,000 and the representatives of the Irish Free State offer to discharge that obligation by an immediate payment of £150,000 and an annuity of £250,000 a year for 60 years from the 1st April next. That offer has been accepted by the British Government. The initial payments due from the F. S. Government under this agreement will be set off against payments amounting to approximately £900,000 which would have been made to the Free State Government by the British Government under the existing agreement."
I criticised, on the previous occasion, the rate of interest the Government is paying on this debt. I drew a parallel as to what was paid by France and what England was paying. The French agreement, I may point out, was agreed to prior to the Treaty of December, 1925, and the Italian debt was settled some time about the 25th or the 28th January. The French, under the agreement, are paying 12½ millions annually only for 62 years, or, in other words, their total payments amount to £775,000,000. But what was the French debt to Great Britain? The present amount of it is £620,224,200. In other words, the French are paying a sum of about £155,000,000 in interest on their debt in the course of 62 years on a capital sum of £620,000,000. I will quote the figure the Italian Government is paying from the "Irish Times" of 28th January last:—"What Italy will pay —£277,000,000. Britain to forego half her debt. Statement of terms. The terms of settlement of the Italian War debt with Great Britain were announced last night, and Mr. Churchill said they would be received with criticism both in Italy and in England. The total Italian liabilities is £6,110,840." The total of their payments is £277,000,000. They are evidently not paying interest at 4½ per cent. That fact is obvious even to the densest. Let us see the rates they are paying:— In the current financial year £2,000,000. In the next two years £4,000,000 a year, and in the next four financial years £4,250,000 a year. Each succeeding financial year until 1986-1987 £4,500,000 a year, and in the year 1987-88, £2,500,000. The Government can say that it is easy to be wise after the event and that they were not in a position to tell what the Italian Government would pay, but is that a sufficient answer as to why we should pay the inflated Bill they have now sent us? I am not going back by one penny on the terms of the London Agreement, but I am not prepared to accept anything not within the strict letter of my bargain. We agreed to it in the Dáil, and I was one of those who voted for it. I made my defence at the time and I am not going to repeat it. We agreed to return the sums that had been paid, but the agreement stated—I shall read the words again:—
"The Irish Free State hereby assumes all liability undertaken by the British Government in respect of malicious damage done since the twenty-first day of January, nineteen hundred and nineteen, to property in the area now under the jurisdiction of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State, and the Government of the Irish Free State shall repay to the British Government at such time or times and in such manner as may be agreed upon moneys already paid by the British Government in respect of such damage or liable to be so paid under obligations already incurred."
I direct special attention to the words "and the Government of the Irish Free State shall repay to the British Government at such time or times and in such manner as may be agreed upon." Are we to understand from the sane reading of that agreement that, at the date the London Agreement was signed, they had not yet completed the details or worked out the proposals to pay this £250,000 a year for sixty years? It means, then, if they had not done so that while the very fate of the pact hung in the balance the Executive Council agreed to pay £250,000 a year and resolved to keep it secret from the Dáil, and would have kept it secret, I contend, were it not that the British disclosed it to defend the bargain they had entered into. The Government can take no credit whatever to itself, I submit, for giving the actual details of this agreement to the Dáil. The Dáil learned it from independent sources. Mr. Baldwin's statement that I have just read stated that the British had paid over £4,000,000 and had retained £900,000. We are actually paying 4½ per cent., with a ¼ per cent. added to make up the sinking fund, and if an annuity of £250,000 a year is payable it means that the capital charge is just about £5,300,000. I am only giving an approximation.