This is the annual Bill which has been introduced every year since 1923. We are asking the Dáil by the Bill to renew the present Defence Forces Act for a further period of one year—from the 31st March next until the 31st March, 1928. I do not think there is anything I can add to what has been said on the last two occasions in defence of carrying on with the temporary Act we have at present. There has been no hurry to make the Act permanent. We are gaining a certain amount of knowledge every year, and I think it is all to the good that we should take a reasonable amount of time to see how the Army works out and what provisions we really will want to insert in the permanent Bill. There is nothing really that can be said in favour of this Bill that has not been said on two or three occasions already. The Army is functioning in the ordinary way that an army should function, and is being trained and equipped. A good deal of discussion has taken place here on the Estimates, and will take place again, I presume, so far as the Army is concerned, but this Bill consists merely of one clause in order to carry on the Army under the present Defence Forces Act for a further period of twelve months. I beg to move the Second Reading.
ORDERS OF THE DAY. - DEFENCE FORCES (TEMPORARY PROVISIONS) BILL, 1927—SECOND STAGE.
I do not think the Minister is justified in the introduction of this Bill. Year after year we are treated to this temporary Army Bill for the purpose of carrying on a temporary Army for the Irish Free State. In view of the fact that all the other Departments of State have now been settled on a permanent basis, I think we deserve some further explanation as to why this Department is to be singled out for unfair treatment in this respect. This is the only Department whose servants are on a provisional and entirely unstable basis. They have no rights, no prospects, and are liable to be turned out at any moment. The Minister for Justice has certainly stood by all the officials who are subject to his Department. He has brought in permanent legislation to regulate their conditions of service, etc. That is not the case with the Army. If the Minister for Justice had done what the Minister for Defence is doing, if we had had a temporary police force and a temporary judiciary, I doubt very much if we would get the same service from those servants of the State as we receive to-day, when they are established in a permanent capacity.
Although the disloyal, unpatriotic and rapacious civil servants are to-day secure, and while they are appealing across the water to what the Minister for Justice has described as "a bad, useless and unnecessary court"—that is to say, the English Privy Council— and incidentally while that Court is arrogating to itself the right of interpreting an international agreement between this country and Great Britain without protest from either the Executive Council or this House in order to suck more cash out of the already impoverished Irish taxpayers—the Minister for Defence, introduces this Bill in order to keep the national forces of the country in an inferior and temporary condition. The offer of service to the State from members of the defence forces is a much more serious thing than the offer of service from any other section of the servants of the State, and we are faced with the fact that the members of the defence forces are treated worse than any of the other servants of the State. They have no rights; they have no prospects; they have no security of tenure. Week after week we see published in the Press lists of officers who have been asked or been ordered to resign their positions.
The result of the policy which the Minister is pursuing and which is represented by the introduction of this Bill, is that the best of the non-commissioned officers of the Irish Army are clearing out and going to England. It is, of course, a matter of congratulation to us that the British Army accepts our training and admits them as non-commissioned officers into the British Army. In fact I understand that the reputation of training from the Irish Free State Army is very high in British military circles, but it is only natural that they should clear out, seeing that they have no prospects in this country and no security of tenure. The National Army is becoming much the same as the medical schools in this city —an institution for training men for export at the expense of the Irish taxpayers. That is the inevitable result of the uncertainty which the Minister continues to perpetuate in his Department.
There is another aspect of this matter which I think Deputies should consider, and that is the prospect of a conference between the Irish and the British Governments which is to take place on the question of external defence. In recent years Ministers of the Irish Free State, not entirely perhaps through their own fault, have had the habit when returning from conferences in London, of leaving something behind, and as this Defence Conference is approaching I think one would feel more at ease if there was a permanent Army Act on the Statute Book in this country. One would feel more at ease, because one does not know whether the Minister for Defence, returning from that conference may not have left the Irish Army behind. It is possible.
I am not bringing them over there.
I do not say that it is at all a popular thing—in fact, it is very unpopular—to advocate the establishment of a permanent and efficient Army in this country. The Deputy Speaker of this House, Deputy O Máille, speaking a few days ago in Jury's Hotel, as far as the Press reports go, expressed the opinion that the Irish Army should be virtually suppressed and that the money should be used for other purposes. I think that a very disastrous doctrine. It has been acted on in the past by former Irish leaders, and we know the result. Opposition to the Irish Army is very prevalent amongst the Republican Party, who in this matter exhibit their usual savage and vindictive tribalism.
Back to the fold.
They prefer the victory of Great Britain to the success of their own fellow-countrymen, but whereas Republicans are admittedly vindictive and tribal, I do not know that there is any Party in this House who within the last few years has shown any particular pride or interest in the establishment of a permanent and efficient Army in this State. We are faced by the grandmotherly or perhaps old-maidish pacificism of the Irish Labour Party. We are faced by the shortsighted provincialism and false economy of the Irish Farmers' Party. We are faced by the thinly-disguised British Imperialism of the Business and Independent Party, and, finally, where we might expect some defence, we are faced by the cynical or apparently cynical indifference of the Minister for Defence. The Minister has so far succeeded in preventing the Army from taking its proper place in the life of the nation. He has done so by keeping the Army on an entirely provisional and temporary basis. You cannot expect men in any career to do their best, you cannot expect them to work as hard as they could work, if they are liable to be turned out at any moment, if they have no security of tenure and no prospects of promotion. That is the case in the Irish Army to-day. That is the policy which has been pursued by the Minister for Defence, and that is the policy which is embodied in the re-introduction of this Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Bill. The Minister is responsible, but I suppose in his neglect in this respect he has the wholehearted support of most of the Parties in the State.
I, too, desire to join in condemnation of the Minister for Defence, but not exactly on the grounds which we have just heard from Deputy Esmonde. My complaint is that the Minister has given no reasons to the Dáil for the continuance this year of the Army upon the same basis as that upon which it was continued last year. I certainly do not suggest that the Army should be a permanent one. On the contrary, I think that any Minister has to justify the bringing into existence of a force such as this for a time.
Deputy Esmonde has suggested that the members of the National Army have no security of tenure. I do not know that they have any less security of tenure than members of the British Army. I know there is no such thing as a permanent Army in England, and that there is no greater necessity for a permanent Army in the Free State that there is across the water. I think the time has come when the Minister responsible for the Army should give some indication to the House and to the country as to whether this procedure of bringing in an annual Army Bill, based on present lines, is to be the future policy of his Government. Some time ago, I suggested that what we should have in this country is something in the nature of a territorial force. I endeavoured to point out, though perhaps some Deputies would not agree with me, that for external protection purposes our Army would be practically useless. I went so far as to say that I thought it would be better for us to have a Navy than an Army, but it was suggested that we required an Army for internal purposes.
That is a different question. On that point, I would point out once more that I would be in favour of having a strong police force in this country rather than a highly-equipped and expensive National Army for internal purposes, and along with that, something in the nature of a local territorial force which would be recruited, perhaps, county by county, the youth of the various counties being called upon, compulsorily, even, if you like, to do a certain amount of useful and beneficial training every year. Thus they would form the nucleus of a defence force, if and when an emergency should arise for the use of that force. I think it is not sufficient for a Minister to come here and merely state, as did the Minister for Defence, that there was nothing more to be said this year than was said last year. I ask him seriously is it necessary for us to maintain this year the same forces as last year, and is this vast expenditure of public money to go on year after year? Is the Minister to come down on each occasion and say: "There is nothing more to be said than was said last year?"
I thought, perhaps, the Minister would be in a position to tell us that there were proposed reductions in the Army, or that he might be able to foreshadow some new scheme whereby we would not have a standing Army in this country, but a force available in case of emergency. Instead, we are told there is nothing more to be said on this question than was said last year. That is not a sufficient explanation or justification for the introduction of this measure again, and for the further expenditure of, I presume—because I do not know to the contrary—an equal sum of money upon these forces during the coming year. I wish it to be understood that I have the greatest admiration for the Free State Army, both in its appearance and discipline. I do not think that the members of that force can have any reason to complain on the grounds put forward by Deputy Esmonde that their position is uncertain. As long as I have an opportunity of remaining a member of this House, I shall do everything possible to make it necessary that there shall be nothing in the nature of a permanent Army in this country, and that every year the Minister responsible, whoever he may be, shall come to this House and ask the permission of the Dáil, and give reasons for such a demand, to have such a force created, and to get the public money necessary for the upkeep of the force. It is one of the greatest holds that the civic population have upon the expenditure of public money, especially in military matters, that they, through their representatives in Parliament, should have the right to say at least once a year, whether there shall be money voted for a military force and whether that military force is at all necessary.
It is on the Estimates.
The Act has to be passed. There can be no such thing as an army until the Act has been passed. I think it is a a matter which should not be dealt with lightly, and that, as past experience has taught elsewhere, especially in Great Britain, the existence of an army should depend upon the immediate and the present necessity for it. I know that our Army has been the means of keeping many well-deserving citizens out of unemployment, but I would prefer to see any form of employment than an unproductive employment. This is, undoubtedly, an unproductive employment and, I am sorry to say, in my view, a useless expenditure of a vast sum of public money, some of which might be expended in other directions, and also some of which might be devoted to the same purposes through different channels. I am not saying that I intend to oppose this Bill. The Government deem it necessary to have an army. The Government know the condition of the country and they think this expenditure of public money is necessary. I think, in all seriousness, we should have some justification for this Bill other than that which has been given by the Minister for Defence, who says there is nothing more to be said now than was said last year.
I think it is well that we should have been reminded by Deputy Redmond of the necessity for having an annual Army Bill, or some equivalent measure, to make legal by annual re-Vote the expenses of the Army. Deputy Esmonde, with a militarist mind would, of course, dissent from that proposition. But it is the effective way of maintaining the constitutional superiority of the civilian population over the military. Whatever might be the result of a decision on the part of the military to take charge of the civilian population, at least it would be illegal. There is a view of this question that, I think, ought to be touched upon. The Minister has asked us to agree to the continuation of the Army in its present structure and form for a year or, at least, for a further period—that the permanent Act that he had in mind is not ready and, I suppose, that future policy has not been decided. I think, even when we are dealing with the immediate future, we ought to have in mind this fact—that military policy is determined by civil policy. Military power should be in conformity with civilian policy, or civilian policy on military force, if you like. I am still, after many anxious seekings, in the dark as to what the view of the Ministry is regarding the use to which the Army is to be put. Is the present structure fitted for anything else but the suppression of insurrections? Is that the primary purpose of the Army, or is it contemplated that it should be, in fact, a defence force—that is to say, a defence force against outside aggression? I cannot think it is. I think the utmost it could be expected to do, in its present form, would be to impede an invading force. It would not be able to do anything in the way of defence in view of modern military methods. When one reads of and learns of what is contemplated by modern armies one is struck by the utter futility of our Army and its equipment to meet an attack from an outside force—that is, if the attack were a serious one. One reads of some European nations having thousands of aeroplanes compared with the tens they had in the Great War, that men expert in that particular walk prophesy that the next war will mean veritably cities being wiped out by attacks from the air.
To oppose a defence force such as we have to any such attack would be like putting up an umbrella against a bomb. It would be utterly useless. Unless we are thinking of this force as a means whereby insurrection might be suppressed, we have got to consider the equipment of the Army on entirely different lines from the present equipment. If we are going to contemplate the retention of a force effective as defence against attack from a modern army, what is it going to involve in the way of expense? What is it going to involve in the way of preparation and training—the fitting up of laboratories, the engaging of hundreds of chemists, the preparation of bombproof shelters and all that kind of thing? Our capacity to pay for what would be required to have a sufficient defence of this country against the attacks of a modern army is practically nil. The conclusion I draw from contemplating that question is that we would be much more secure against the attack of a modern army from outside if we had no army at all. It might be able to impede an invader for a few days, but this is not a country which is going to be used as a means of transit from one coast to another. As a defence force, meeting a possible attack from overseas, where are we? This is a Defence Force Bill and not merely an Army Bill. What is our position regarding our defence force? That is a secret about which I think the Minister should enlighten us.
We were informed by the reports of the Imperial Conference that some of our Army officers had been present at the discussions of an Imperial Defence Council. I ask the Minister to tell us what is the position of the National Army in respect to this Imperial Defence Council. What are our liabilities, if any, in respect to Imperial defence? What was the work of our representatives at the Imperial Conference in respect to Imperial defence? Were they there as interested observers, as correspondents of foreign States are received, or armies of belligerent countries for reporting purposes? Or were they present as contributors to the discussion, and with what end in view? I think that when we are discussing the continuation of the Defence Forces Act we ought to have some knowledge of Government policy in relation to defence in general. I do not think there need be any reason for denying the Dáil information as to the relations between our defence forces and those people whom they came in contact with in council in London last autumn. We ought to know what the actual position is in regard to this matter. As Deputy Esmonde has informed us it is fairly common, I gather, for recruits to go from the Irish Army to the British Army. I will assume that that is merely a matter of voluntary choice on the part of those who have been demobilised and have left the Army and who prefer to continue service in an army, having been trained to that profession. But is there an arrangement between our Army authorities and the British authorities that a demobilised non-commissioned officer will enter the British Army as a non-commissioned officer? Is that part of the Defence Forces arrangement or is it merely an accident?
Then we have heard recently of calls to British reservists in Ireland to enrol for service in China. Again, I would like to put this question to the Minister: Whether there is any connection with the Army here and the army in London in respect to that matter, or whether it is entirely a private agreement on the part of ex-British soldiers who are British reservists and the British Army authorities? It raises an interesting question as to whether there is any right on the part of the British Army authorities to call up a reservist who is a citizen of the Free State. That is perhaps a legal question, and I just raise it for the Minister to answer if he can. The Dáil does need, I think, to be told, and ought to be told, what the position is of the Irish Defence Forces in relation to the Imperial Defence Council and the discussions which took place in London. What is the position of the Government here in regard to naval defence from overseas attack by sea? Is that matter entirely as it was in 1922? Has there been any change, and are we to expect any change in the near future? Is there any contemplation that the Army that we now have is going to be equipped to meet an invading force from a modern military State, and if that is contemplated what steps has the Minister in mind to meet such an invading force? I think that while those questions are perhaps suddenly sprung they do raise the whole issue as to the necessity for a standing army in this country. If we decide that there shall be a standing army, we have to make up our minds that it is going to be a very costly luxury indeed, and no matter how costly, that it is going to be entirely ineffective for the purpose of defence against a modern army.
Listening to the speeches that have been made, I think they completely summarise what I stated, that there was very little to be said on this occasion that was not said last year, the year before, and the year before that again.
But nothing has yet been answered.
I have not heard anything new put forward with the exception of the question that Deputy Johnson raised at the end of his speech. The other speeches were made before and nearly in the same words as they were made to-day. Deputy Johnson wants to know what connection there is between the Irish Army and the army in London. The Irish Army is the Army of the Irish people, and it has no connection whatever with the army in Londone. He also wanted to know if an arrangement had been made at the Imperial Conference that non-commissioned officers would be transferred—I think that is what he meant to say— from the Irish Army to the British Army. No such arrangement has ever been contemplated, and no such arrangement has been made. If a soldier who is discharged as a time-expired man wishes to join the English army or the American or the Chinese army, I have no power, and neither has this Dáil, to prevent him from doing so. He does it of his own free will, and no one can prevent him from doing that if he wants to. A question was raised about the defence of the country, and whether our Army is capable of defending the country against an enemy. That is a matter that will have to be tried. I do not anticipate or believe that even Deputy Johnson could think that an army could be raised in this country in the short space of a little more than three years that would be capable of defending the country right away against a powerful enemy, such, say, as Britain, France, or Germany, if any of them desired to invade this country. The Army is being equipped and trained for the purpose of defending the country against any outside enemy and against internal aggression if such a thing should occur.
I quite admit that the amount of money that is being spent on the Army is a serious sum. It is a sum that should be taken note of occasionally, but I do think that the country is getting good value for it. I believe that we should not be sitting here to-day legislating for the country were it not for the Army. I believe that if any man or any body of men were so unwise in the near future as to disband the Army and introduce a system of volunteers or a territorial force, as has been suggested, that they would be doing the worst day's work for this country that had been done for many a long day. I think that the Army is an insurance. I believe it is an encouragement to business men to invest their money. They know that as long as the Army is there that if they make an investment it is going to be safe. If you were to disband the Army and to take chances as to what might happen, I can see plainly certain reactions that none of us like to contemplate. You want security in the country. If you want men to come from outside to invest money in the country you must be able to show them that there will be security for their investments and that they are quite safe in coming here with their money. I am not a believer either in a militia or a territorial system at the present time. Such systems may be evolved in years to come, but at the present time I would not advocate the setting up of a militia or a territorial system either for the internal or the external defence of the country.
Deputy Esmonde, I think, said that a number of officers were resigning or were asked or ordered to resign. No officer has been ordered to resign. A number of officers have resigned under a scheme which was made twelve months ago, of their own free will. That scheme was put forward in order that men who have come to think that a career in the Army was not suitable for them in peace times, and who were still young enough to go out and embark on business and earn their livelihood in some other way, might do so.
Is that scheme to be continued after the end of this financial year? Does the Minister intend to leave it in existence for another year?
I am estimating for a sum of money in next year's Estimates which will come before the Dáil in the ordinary course to carry on the scheme for another period. Men have not been forced out of the Army. Many were delighted to get an opportunity of getting a sum of money to embark in business. Other men found that they were not suited for the Army life, and they were, also, glad to take the gratuity offered to them. The complaint in this House from all parties a year ago was that we had too many officers and that the number should be reduced. No one put forward a scheme for reducing expenditure either by disbandment or dismissal. I said on these occasions I would not disband or dismiss any officers, but I put forward a scheme where officers could take their discharge from the Army and embark upon earning a livelihood in some other way.
Deputy Esmonde also talked about training for export. As I said already, in reply to Deputy Johnson, we are not training men for export. If a man, after serving his time in the Army of Saorstát Eireann, wishes to go and join another army he is free to do so. I might say at present a scheme is being formulated—it is almost in existence— where men who joined the Army for a certain period with the colours may also join for a certain period in the Reserve. Money was voted for that Reserve last year, and it will be formed before the end of this year. As a matter of fact, men are anxious in some cases when contracting for re-enlistment to join the Reserve as well. A Reserve will be formed and when we come to the state of having a proper Reserve to deal with the needs of the country it will then be time enough to reduce the Army to a figure considerably below what it is at the present time.
Deputy Redmond wants a territorial force, and I think he also hinted at compulsory training. So far as I personally am concerned I shall never attempt, and I do not think the Government will ever attempt to conscript the young men of this country. I hope no Party in power will ever attempt conscription, for that is what Deputy Redmond means. So long as a man joins the force of his own free will he is at any rate using his own discretion and he can at least do what he likes. But if a law was passed to conscript young men for any purpose either to fight inside the country or to send them outside the country I think the Party that would attempt such a thing would not remain very long in power. These are the principal points raised and I ask that the Bill should get a Second Reading in order to carry on the Defence Forces of the country for twelve months from 31st March next.
Will the Minister deal with the policy of our representatives at the Imperial Defence Council in London?
The policy of our representatives at the Imperial Conference in London, as far as the Army is concerned, did nothing as far as the defence of the country is concerned. We know that in five years' time from the signing of the Treaty the question of the defences of the country had to come up for discussion. That five years lapsed a couple of months ago and a preliminary meeting was held in London by the High Commissioner representing the Free State and some persons representing the British Government, and that Conference was adjourned for three months. The Conference will again meet at the end of that period to discuss what proportion of the defences of this country, if any, we are to take over into our own hands. Until the Conference meets and decides the question I cannot give any further information.
That is not the point I was raising. During the sitting of the Imperial Conference there were meetings of the Imperial representatives of the various countries constituting the British Empire, I may say that now—not the British Commonwealth. The Free State had military representatives present, but we have no information as to what was the contribution of our military representatives at that Conference and as to what was the result of that Conference.
The military representatives who went across to London went there in an advisory capacity. They were not there of themselves to take part in any discussion. They went to advise Ministers representing the Free State if they required advice.
On military matters?
Had they any policy on military matters; that is what we are looking for. Presumably there were discussions upon matters of Imperial defence. I want to know what were the matters discussed and what was the policy agreed upon.
I think if the Deputy wants that information he will have to get it from the Minister for External Affairs, who was responsible for the discussions that took place at the Imperial Conference.
I maintain as a matter of procedure that the Minister for Defence is responsible for matters relating to defence.
I agree. But how am I to go into questions of foreign policy or what happened at the Imperial Conference, which I did not attend——
I only mean matters relating to defence, not Imperial foreign policy.
The defence policy of the Government is to defend this country, as far as it is humanly possible within its resources, against every enemy from whatever source.
In what connection? What has that to do with the Imperial Conference in London at which our representatives were present?
The question Deputy Johnson asked was if our Army was controlled in any way by the Army Council in England. It is not. Army representatives came over there to advise us. We were considering various aspects of common interest, that is the link between members of the British Commonwealth of Nations—if Deputy Johnson does not mind, I use that phrase—and also the geographical aspect. Our Army is inexperienced. It is a young, new Army. Deputy Johnson asked what their contribution was. While I cannot say offhand, I think their contribution mostly was listening. They were committed to no policy whatever, but it is undoubtedly in the interest of this country, in view of so powerful a neighbour so near, and our close relations, to have a general idea as to what the general defence policy of that country is. We need not blink the fact that it is quite possible, in the event of a general attack on these islands—it is perfectly obvious—our Army must co-operate with the British Army. It is practically inconceivable that our Army would ever be opposed to the British Army. But that our officers should go there to learn what they could in general about military matters, and of the scheme of defence which is in the mind of the Government and the military forces which in the event of a general attack on these islands would have the major share of the defence, was, I think, entirely desirable.
I think the Minister for External Affairs has certainly come to the aid of the Minister for Defence. Whether he has come to the aid of the Government is a moot question.
This is the Second Reading of this Bill, and the Minister for Defence was concluding. The question is: are we going on to-morrow or are we to conclude now? In the nature of things and as a matter of fair play the Minister should have the last word.
I will reserve what I have to say until I have read what the Minister for External Affairs said. His was a most serious contribution to this discussion.
Does the Minister agree with the Minister for External Affairs when he says that our Army must co-operate with the British Army?
I did not say that.