PUBLIC SAFETY (EMERGENCY POWERS) BILL, 1926—FIRST STAGE.

I move for leave to introduce a Bill entitled "an Act to provide for the preservation of public safety and the protection of person and property during national emergencies and for matters connected therewith."

I am proposing to ask the Dáil for leave to introduce this Bill and to make it an Act this week. I suppose every member of the Dáil is in possession of the information which has been published concerning the attacks made in five counties in the Saorstát on members of the Gárda Síochána, and in one case here in Dublin on some soldiers. As a result of these attacks one officer of the Gárda was killed, almost at once, and in the case of the other Guard he died sometime this morning. There is little doubt but that a conspiracy has been formed for the purpose of subverting order in the State. The attacks made upon those unarmed peace officers in many places indicate that there must be some centre from which instructions are issued in order to bring about a series of raids almost at the same time on a particular day. In addition to making attacks upon the peace officers of the State, who function by the authority and with the consent of this House and who are paid out of moneys levied and collected by the representatives of the people and with their sanction, the telegraph wires were cut, trees were cut down and roads were blocked and an attempt was made to terrorise the people of the country. This conspiracy must be met and dealt with, and the purpose of this measure is to give the Executive such powers as it may require in order to deal with this menace. We had hoped that such incidents as have happened within the last few days would not recur. We believe that the force which is behind them and the genius which is directing them will be unable to make any sustained attack upon the liberty, the order and the peace of the State, but we do ask and believe that we are entitled to ask for such powers for the Executive as will enable it to deal with such murderous attacks upon unarmed men as have occurred in these instances. I will be in a better position on the Second Reading to give the chain of circumstances which go to show that this particular incident which has happened within the last few days has been, and must have been, the result of a considered conspiracy. I need not tell the Dáil at any great length that it is rather difficult, to get evidence of such a character as would lead to the conviction of persons for these crimes which have been committed. But I do hope, and I am confident, that the good sense of this House will readily give the powers that are asked, and that it will be shown we have behind us in dealing with a conspiracy of this sort the goodwill and co-operation of every citizen who abhors murder, who objects to robbery, and who insists that law and order as established by this Dáil and the institutions of the people of this country must be maintained at whatever cost. In one of the cases in which these outrages was committed a member of the Gárda Síochána was robbed of either £15 or £30. Well, political movements have certainly degenerated if idealists of to-day in furtherance of their policy in carrying out their intent have to stoop to such a proceeding as robbing an unarmed Civic Guard of his wages.

Mr. LYONS rose.

Before the Deputy speaks, is any opposition being taken to leave being given for the introduction of this Bill?

I take opposition.

Standing Orders prescribe that when opposition is taken to the introduction of a measure of this kind a statement is made by the mover and a statement by the person objecting, and the question may then be put, but not necessarily be put,

My reason for objecting to the introduction of this Bill is that the Executive Council have at present ample power under legislation to put down disturbances, murder or robbery committed in the Saorstát. No doubt from the President's speech any Deputy who stands up here and goes against the introduction of legislation of this kind will be branded as being an associate of murderers and robbers outside the House. I know that I am not an associate of either one or the other. If the President has information that would lead to the arrest of those who committed the crimes on last Sunday evening he has ample power to deal with them under the law as it stands at present. This Dáil has to its credit the execution of 67 Irishmen. Is the Dáil going to give power to the Executive Council to take more innocent men, or men who have been led astray by some person who had been a great advocate from a national point of view in years gone by, or who will be led astray by some such person in the coming year, and give the Executive Council power to take up another 67 and execute them? I appeal to the Dáil not to vote in favour of the introduction of this measure as the Government has sufficient power already to deal with the situation without giving them more power so that they may be able to arrest men if they could find out what their thoughts are and cast them into prison —that is if they thought a person was thinking of something against the State. No doubt if these raids had not taken place on Sunday night last the President would still have come forward to-day and asked for permission to introduce this Bill. He has very good grounds to-day because the raids took place on Sunday night, but it is not since Sunday the Executive Council made up their minds to introduce this Bill. Surely it must have been under discussion by the Executive Council before that?

No. It was not.

Then the President confesses it is simply and solely on account of the raids on Sunday night that he has asked for leave to introduce this Bill. In my opinion no member of the Dáil should vote in favour of this Bill, for to do so would be to vote for further disturbance in the country. We do not want drastic legislation now, but should instead appeal to outsiders to come in and to take their places here and act as representatives of the people in this House. We should try and prove that all the old enmity is forgotten, and that we are prepared to shake hands with those who have been opposed to us, and to carry on with the free goodwill of the people instead of saying, "if you commit this offence or that offence we will lock you up without trial or charge made, and if necessary execute you." I certainly oppose giving leave to introduce this Bill.

As one Deputy I am fully prepared to agree to any proposal put before this House for giving to the Government any powers they may require to ensure that the civil power will rule in this country. I do not care what that civil power is, or to what party it belongs, once it has a mandate for its political doctrines the only way to deal with it is in a constitutional manner. Any power that is required to put a term to the operations of the blackguard and the coward I am prepared to give. It may be held in some places that what occurred on Sunday were acts of bravery. I say it was no bravery, and that the Irish name for bravery has been tarnished and brought down to the dust. It is no bravery for armed men to come in among unarmed people. They would not have come at all, in my opinion, had they known the other people were armed. As an Irishman, I feel insulted by what has happened.

This is an effort to play at bravery, but what in effect has been done is that the Irish name has been disgraced and has been made a by-word of. Instead of bravery we have evidence of the most arrant cowardice, that any man calling himself an Irishman should be ashamed of. Any powers in reason that are asked for I, for one, will support.

Question put and agreed to.

When will the Second Stage be taken?

I ask for permission to take the Second Stage to-morrow.

When will the Bill be circulated?

It is in the printers' hands at present, and I hope it will be in the hands of the Deputy in the morning.

It will be in the hands of Deputies by the usual post by which they receive their Order Papers in the morning.

I feel that the proposition to take the Second Reading to-morrow should not be persisted in. It presumably is a Bill of importance, and it will require reference to the previous Public Safety Acts. I cannot conceive of anything that is required in addition to the powers that the Executive already has. I, therefore, feel that it will be necessary to refer to previous Acts. I think it is likely to be very difficult to do that in the hours between the post in the morning and the meeting of the Dáil. I really feel that we should at least be given the liberty of asking for the postponement of the Second Reading until we see what the Bill contains.

I think there are in all something like ten clauses in the Bill. It is practically a repetition of the clauses we had in the previous Public Safety Act. I want the Dáil to pass the Bill by Thursday at least. If Deputy Johnson is in a position to satisfy the House to-morrow that he should have more time, I would be prepared to give that consideration. More I cannot say at the moment. I ask him to waive his objection now, and to raise it to-morrow. If it be a reasonable one, in the circumstances I will be prepared to give it very careful consideration.

Second Stage ordered for Wednesday, 17th November.