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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 23 Nov 1927

Vol. 21 No. 17


The section that we propose in this Bill to repeal is Section 71 of the Local Government Act, 1925, which is as follows:—

(1). Where after the passing of this Act a local authority passes a resolution either appointing a person to be an officer of that local authority or increasing the salary or emoluments of an officer of that local authority, such resolution:—

(a) shall have no effect until such person or officer shall within one month after the date of such resolution have made and subscribed a declaration in accordance with this section, and

(b) shall be wholly void if such person or officer fails to make and subscribe such declaration within such period of one month.

(2). The declaration to be made as aforesaid by such person or officer as aforesaid shall be made and subscribed by him before a Peace Commissioner, and shall be in the following form:—

The.............. (set out the name of the local authority) having on the day of.............., 19, passed a resolution appointing me, A.B., to the office of............. (or increasing my salary or emoluments as ......... as the case may require), I, the said A.B., do hereby solemnly and sincerely declare that I will bear allegiance to the Irish Free State and its constitution as by law established and that, in the event of such appointment being (or whether such increase is or is not as the case may require) confirmed by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, I will, to the best of my judgment and ability, duly and faithfully perform the duties of the (or my as the case may require) said office and will observe and obey such orders and directions in relation to such duties as shall lawfully be given to me.

(3). Nothing in this section shall prejudice or affect the operation of any enactment requiring the sanction or confirmation of any such resolution as aforesaid by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health.

That section appears in a Local Government Act, and if you look through the Act you will find that it has to deal with public health, roads, bridges, rating of buildings, and so on. It is very strange to find in the centre of this Local Government Act the section I have read. It seems as altogether apart from the Act. It clearly was not a part of the original conception of the Act, and it is particularly strange coming from a Party that made a part of its platform the abolition of political questions in local bodies. It is a political test. It is a penalsing, political section intended to penalise political opponents of the Party that passed it. Its history is that it was introduced, not in the Dáil, but in the Seanad, and that it was sponsored by the Minister for Local Government of the time. I have read the debates concerning that Bill, read the case that was made for and against it, and I must say that I have very little to add to the case made against it here when it was being debated. My hope is that it will not be necessary for me to go into detail about it, because perhaps there may be a change of mind on the Benches opposite, and we may have a reconsideration of the whole question. If I thought that were so, we could end the discussion here and now—if it could be agreed that this section should be taken out of the Act. If not, I will have simply to deal with it largely on the lines on which it was dealt with here by those who opposed it before.

My first point is that it is altogether out of place in this Act. It deals with the conditions of employment of local officers. It is going over the heads of local bodies and imposing a test on these employees. I think that a local body ought to be given the liberty of selecting the officers that will serve it best, irrespective of any political opinions they may hold. It will, of course, I know be argued from the opposite side that there is no hardship on any employee making this declaration of allegiance to the Free State and Constitution. That, of course, accords with the policy and with the principles of the Party which has been the majority Party up to the present. But I submit there is another side to the question. I think it will be generally admitted that this Free State has not been established by the free will of our people. I think there are Deputies on the other side who will be prepared to acknowledge that so far as this State has a de facto existence it is because of external pressure, and that without that pressure this is not the State that would be in this country. These two States are not the governmental machinery that would have been set up by the free will of the Irish people. Padraig Pearse at one time said that Ireland unfree will never be at rest. That is a statement of fact.

I think it will be admitted by most people that it is a fact that those who took the Treaty policy and who have accepted the Treaty policy have taken with it that disadvantage which is going to be a continuing thing for them and it is in vain for them to hope that it will be otherwise; that is, they have accepted something that in its nature is bound to be unstable. It does not satisfy the aspirations of our people and it can only be used as something on the road to a greater freedom. Now, as long as that continues you are bound to have a section of people, as in the past—and a section particularly of the younger people who will be close in touch with the national tradition—who will say that they have the right to strive for that greater freedom which is denied them at present and all that can be expected of them—all that anybody who adopts the policy of the Treaty can expect from them—is that there should be some rule by which national policy for the time being would be determined and that those who do not agree with that policy could, in accordance with that rule, strive for the greater freedom.

Now, the conditions under which this test has been imposed were conditions which indicated that there was no natural loyalty from a large section of the people coming to this State. Had there been such natural loyalty there would be no need of a test clause of this kind. The introduction of it was a confession that there was something wrong and that that something wrong was not mere perversity; it was something which was natural, which was here in this country as long as the history of our struggle against British interference is known, as long as that history has lasted. Accordingly we must take it into account. Now, the imposition of it may seem nothing to the majority party that imposed it, but it means a great deal to those who feel that giving allegiance in the way demanded here would mean a forswearing of their own opinions and their political principles and I think nobody has a right to impose that as a test of employment. All that can be expected is that those who would be employed by the local authorities would give faithful service to the local authority, would perform their duties faithfully and would carry out the orders given to them. I think you have no right to go any further than that; you have no right to put in penal clauses which are purely test clauses.

I appeal to the fairmindedness of everybody here to accept that view and take out this section which is a disfiguring section of the Act. I know the circumstances under which it was introduced. I am making full allowance for that. As a coercive measure it was deliberately introduced by the Party on the opposite Benches, but I say that if there is going to be any progress here at all we must as quickly as possible get rid of every, as Deputy Johnson called it, irritating test such as we have in this Act. My attitude will be one rather of appeal to the fairmindedness of everybody. We have passed through very difficult times during the last four or five years, and it will be for the good of the country generally to get rid of evidences of that past from our institutions and from our Acts, if we can, and the sooner we do it the better.

We are going to look for a National Loan very soon. Have you not a far more secure basis of stability in the acceptance of some such rule as I have indicated, some such rule by which, whilst nobody is going to forswear his individual opinion or aspiration, for the time being some national policy can be accepted as being the suitable policy for the moment? I believe if you approach it in that way we will make much more progress than we possibly can make by insisting on the retention of clauses of this kind. The Executive have shown a certain amount of good sense in reconsidering the question of the teachers. They have also shown good sense in a reply which I got the other day to a question respecting certain dismissed R.I.C. men. In accordance with the reply given by the Minister for Finance, a change of attitude has been shown. These dismissed and resigned R.I.C. men were denied pensions because of their political affiliations. I regard that as evidence of returning sanity, as I look upon it, and I would welcome further evidence of that if the Executive will say: "Very well; we are prepared to wipe out that clause now without any question of discussing whether at any time it was right or defensible."

Even while I wish to approach it in that way, I can state my point of view that I regard it as mean and contemptible, this idea of trying to force a man to forswear his views and adopt an outward conformity by threatening his wife and children with starvation, by telling him that the emigrant ship is the place for him. I call that the meanest type of coercion. It does not get you anywhere. You will never compel or purchase loyalty that way, aid the loyalty of people whose loyalty you can buy in that particular way, is not worth anything. You will not gain your ends by that means. Reason and appeal to the difficulties of the situation are going to get you much further in that way than coercion.

I have indicated fairly clearly my mind. I regard it as very bad from the point of view of the spirit of our people and from the point of view of the moral character of our people to be forcing declarations of this kind. It is bound to injure a man when he has, so to speak, to debase himself, when he has to give a formal denial of the principles he holds at heart. It is not a good lesson for our people. The general national interest and the character of our people as a whole are bound to be affected by measures of this kind, and I appeal to all Deputies to combine in this case, and not make a Party question of it, if possible. Let it be by agreement, and let this thing be taken out. Let it be dealt with just as we had a reconsideration of the position of teachers and of the position of the dismissed and resigned R.I.C.

I cannot help regarding this matter, irrespective of how clearly I see the point of view of those who try to impose it, otherwise than I have stated. I understand clearly what their motives were, and what the impulse in their minds was. I must regard this as mean, and any people who descended to do it were giving way to the meanest instincts in them. It is not worthy of any government in any country to do a thing of that kind. It simply means that you are going to divide your people into two classes— those who are outlaws and those who are otherwise, and you will find, as the elections proved, that this is not a case of dealing with a handful, but with, no matter what the circumstances were, at least one-third of our people who have shown in the most difficult circumstances that they were opposed to this policy, and that they do not like it. You are continuing the old bad British traditions of trying to get loyalty by coercion. I do not think it will succeed. It is most unwise, and I ask the House without further talk to give this Bill a Second Reading, and delete that section from the Act.

Níl mórán agam le rá ach a chur os cómhair na Dála an rud do thárla nuair a bhí Rialtas Shasana anso. Tá fhios agam nuair a chur an Rialtas sin iachall ar a shearbhontaigh mionn do thógaint go raibh na céadta agus na mílte daoine sa tseirbhís an uair sin do thóg rud den tsórt san agus na rabhadar dílis. Dhíneadar rudaí do thaisbeán ná rabhdar dílis 'na n-aigne féin. Taisbeánann san nách féidir daoine do dhéanamh dílis sa tslí sin.

Má táid dílis na gcroidhe agus má dinid a gcuid oibre go maith ní ceart don Stát bheith ag súil le n-a thuille uatha. Dubhairt Uachtarán an tSaorstáit cúig no sé bliana ó shoin ná féadfaí súil a bheith le níos mó uatha, agus ní céart súil a bheith le n-a a thuille. Má tá an fhirinne ann agus go bhfuil an duine sásta an mionn do thabhairt tá san go maith ach tá fhios againn nuair a bhí Rialtas Shasana anso gur thóg a lán searbhóntaigh den Stát an mionn agus ná rabhadar dílis. Tháinig cuid aca chugham-sa agus d'iarradar mo chomhairle. Dubhradar liom go raibh muiríneacha ag brath ortha. Do thóg cuid aca an mionn agus bhí cuid eile aca nár thóg.

Táim sásta nách rud maith don Stát a iarraidh ar a searbhóntaigh rud den tsórt san do dhéanamh. Molaim don Dáil glaca leis an mBille.

The Government opposes this measure. Deputy de Valera states that he knows the spirit in which the measure was introduced and this section was put in the Bill, and that in giving way to its insertion in the Bill we gave way to the meanest instincts that were in us. Deputy de Valera is right in saying this section was not in the Bill as originally framed. He is right in saying that it was put into the Bill in the Seanad and that it was accepted here by the majority of the Dáil. And when we speak of the circumstances in which it was agreed to put this section into the Act we have to realise that the real reason why the section is in the Act is that there was a time when the State which was established here was challenged and when the institutions of the State that were set up here were attacked with a view to undermining the State and bringing down the State. We have to realise that in these circumstances in different parts of the country many employees of public bodies, both openly and covertly, took part in the denial of the State that existed here and took part in the attack on its institutions and in these particular circumstances it was necessary to do two things. It is interesting to see that it was public opinion outside rather than deliberate action on the part of the Executive Council which made it clear that it was necessary to do these two things.

It was necessary in the first place to prevent from being used in the attack on the State and on its institutions the influence and prestige that attach to persons holding different public positions throughout the country. Secondly, it was necessary to preserve in the minds of our people complete confidence in the institutions of local government, and complete confidence in the institutions that were set up to serve the needs of the people; and to see that the finances that were collected were spent by officials who were entirely devoted to the interests of the people in the work which they were carrying out. Local officials then in certain circumstances were required to make the declaration that Deputy de Valera read from the Act. It is necessary in the circumstances in which Deputy de Valera in his speech urged the taking away of this section to read this particular passage with its implication:—"There should be some rule by which national policy would be determined and those who do not agree with that policy could ...strive for the greater freedom." Associating that statement with the statement made by Deputy de Valera the other day, that he recognised this assembly simply because of the individuals that it contained, we must still take it that we are in a position in which the State that is set up here is denied as a State, and the benefits that accrue to our people in having achieved Statehood even to the extent of the twenty-six counties here, the benefits that accrue to our people, nationally and internationally of having achieved Statehood—that that is going to be denied to our people.

We are asked to withdraw this section at a time when Deputy de Valera, representing and leading a large Party in here, denies this Dáil practically as an institution of State and, wants to have it regarded throughout the country as a group of people of a particular political persuasion, varying to a certain degree, coming together to agree what is to be our national policy; not coming together as a Sovereign Assembly of the State, wielding all the force and shouldering all the prestige of the Sovereign Assembly and governing body of the State.

In these circumstances we cannot agree to this measure. In these circumstances it cannot be done without inviting public officials to repudiate the State here; without putting our people in the position that men are carrying out public duties and handling public funds throughout the country who deny the State that exists here and who, in the words of Deputy de Valera, are to strive for the greater freedom.

We have seen what striving for the greater freedom has meant up to the present. We hope that the phrase to-day may mean something different from what it meant before, but we are not clear, and it is simply inviting public officials to repudiate the State if we pass this measure. It is giving over to the people who are to use other means in striving for greater freedom, the power, prestige and resources that the holding of public employment in the country will give them. We must certainly do everything we can to prevent that prestige that comes from occupying the position of public servants, that power that comes from wielding the influence and wielding the machinery that goes with public service, being used for the denial of or for the overthrow of the State. It is for that reason that this Bill is opposed by us. Nearly everything that Deputy de Valera said with regard to what he thinks of the position here—that the circumstances in this country are bound to be unstable, that looking at the matter in the particular light of requiring public servants to declare their allegiance to the Constitution and Statehood is mean, despicable and irritating, and should not be continued—everything that Deputy de Valera has said points to the necessity of retaining this section in the Act.

One other point of his is that this section is out of place in the particular Act. I will deal with that. Now, a very large portion of the moneys that are disbursed and used in the public administration through the local bodies are State moneys. The Local Taxation finance account for the year ending 31st March, 1927, shows that £1,070,000 odd had been paid out to local bodies under the Local Taxation Account; a sum of £599,011 was paid out as an additional supplementary agricultural grant, and the normal income of the Road Fund for the year amounted to £612,000. Normally, all this money is spent through the local bodies, and in addition to that you have State grants under tuberculosis schemes and national health schemes of one kind or another, and all this is paid out of State funds through the machinery of Local Government, for the purpose of carrying out work in connection with these grants. So it is not out of place that such a declaration should be embodied in a Local Government Act dealing with general Local Government work, and it is essential, in view of the atmosphere in which we find ourselves, that we should make it clear to the public official himself and to the public who pay him for serving them, that the work of local administration is to be carried out in a detached spirit of simple service to the people who are paying for the service that is given.

So far as this Party is concerned, we propose to support the Bill, not because this test is out of place in the Local Government Act, but because, in our opinion, this test, or any test like it, would be out of place in any Act that should be passed by this House. So far as we are concerned, we are supporting this Bill or opposing this test, if you like, for the very same reasons that we opposed it when it was originally introduced in this House. I certainly would not dream of opposing it on the grounds given by Deputy de Valera because, so far as I am concerned, I do not agree with most of what Deputy de Valera stated in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. The Deputy stated that the Treaty—and I do not know why the Treaty should be dragged into it at this particular stage—was not established on the free will of the Irish people. That may or may not be so. But it is a fact that the majority of the Irish people have set up this Assembly and that this Assembly has the authority of the majority of the Irish people. I am going to go further and say that in my opinion, when the Irish Treaty was signed, the Irish people at that time got more freedom than they expected to get and that they were very glad to get it. I may be quite wrong. I am giving my opinion, and I think I am entitled to give it.

Deputy de Valera went on to say that the people of Ireland had a right to strive for greater freedom. I quite agree with the Deputy, and so far as the Labour Party are concerned we never accepted the Treaty as the end-all of Irish freedom. We accepted it as something to move forward from. But I want to say this: That a minority— and, unfortunately if you like, at the moment, those who are striving for greater freedom are in a minority—has a perfect right to try to convince the majority of the Irish people that they should move for greater freedom. But there are limits to the methods that should be adopted by the minority in order to convince the majority. I think it is quite right that every legitimate means that can be used without injuring the majority of the Irish people should be used to secure greater freedom than they have at the moment. I do not see that there is anything very much to be gained by trying to belittle the prestige of this House. If this House has the right to impose or put that test into an Act it has the right to take it out of the Act, and I hope the House will take it out of it, because you are not going to secure loyalty for this or any other State by such tests, and if you force men into the position, as Deputy de Valera said, that they have either got to subscribe to this particular test or to face the fact that those depending upon them will be hungry, then men will be forced in these circumstances to take the test, but the taking of the test will not necessarily mean that they have any greater regard for or will be in any way more loyal to the State than before they took it.

The Minister for Local Government said there were people who took part in the attacks on the institutions of the State, and for that reason it was necessary to impose this test. Assuming that it was necessary to do that, does the Minister claim that it is necessary to-day? Does the Minister think, for one moment, that by the imposition of this test he is going to secure the loyalty of any citizen of this State towards the institutions of the State? I do not believe for a moment he will. So far as I am concerned, I think we ought to try and face realities. I agree with Deputy de Valera that we ought to get rid of all evidence of our unfortunate past, and for that reason I am going to vote, and this Party will vote, for Deputy de Valera's Bill. I hope when we appeal to the Government to get rid of all the evidence of the unfortunate past that the Party which Deputy de Valera leads in this House will do their best to get rid of all the evidence of the unfortunate past so far as they are concerned. This is not the time to be talking about dividing our people into two classes; this is not the time to try to fix the blame as to who is responsible for the division of our people. We have got to face the unfortunate fact that our people were divided, and that they suffered as a consequence. I think we ought to try and aim at uniting our people, and I am prepared, and this Party is prepared, to go as far as we can with Deputy de Valera or with any other Party in this House to try and unite the people of Ireland, and to go as far as we can to achieve that greater freedom that Deputy de Valera speaks of. But there is no use in getting back to what happened three or four years ago. I think we ought to try and forget that and make a fresh start. Both the Fianna Fáil Party and the Cumann na nGaedheal Party have many things which they should be anxious to forget. All the blame was not on one side and all the honour on the other. There were things done——

Of course, the Deputy is clear that there has been no effort to apportion the blame so far, and I hope he will not make the effort.

I was just trying to say that no good would be achieved by trying to apportion the blame at this moment, and I can assure you, if such assurance is necessary, that I have no such idea at all.

We are unanimous that there is no blame attaching to the Labour Party.

I am sure that if Deputy Esmonde can rake up any blame that he can fling against the Labour Party he will do so.

The Deputy is always delving into the past, and it would be more useful if he would think about the present and the future. I want to say, so far as we are concerned, we agree with Deputy de Valera and his Party, and I hope other members of the House will agree, that this test should be removed. For that reason and for the others we gave when this test was introduced, we are going to vote in favour of his Bill, but not for the reasons given by the mover of the Bill.

I want to add a few words to what the Minister for Local Government has said, and in reference to a few of the points that were raised by the leader of the Opposition. He accused us of going over the heads of the local bodies, and then suggested that this Oireachtas, in its laws, was entitled to demand, so far as local bodies are concerned, that local bodies should get faithful service to themselves. The Government of this country, as I had occasion to remark before, is really carried out by two sets of institutions. It is absurd to separate them, as the effort is being continually made here to separate them, as if on the one side you had local bodies functioning independently of the country in which they live, and on the other you had what apparently is to the members of the opposite side a monstrosity. Let me point out that these bodies function, in so far as they do function within our Constitution and by the laws passed by this Parliament within the Constitution. They have no other locus standi whatsoever. They are set up, they exist, and carry on their business by the laws passed by this Oireachtas, and only by these laws, and all we ask in the existing law, so far as local bodies are concerned, is not that men should sacrifice their political opinions, not that men should not wish for another political state of affairs in this country than exists at present, but that they shall not take illegal means to bring about that other state of affairs.

Radical changes in the Constitution can be carried through, but all we want is that those who serve the State, either in the local bodies or in the Central Government, shall not use violence or illegal intrigues to upset the State. That is the limit of what is demanded in this particular section of the Act that an effort is now made to repeal. I am glad, at all events, though Deputy Morrissey is not voting for us, that he repudiated the arguments by which the leader of the Opposition demands a Second Reading for this Bill, but remember it is the arguments behind Deputy de Valera's contention which are the real things we have to deal with. I wonder whether people have sufficiently examined what is implied in the stand taken up by the leader of the Opposition. I put it quite clearly to all the Deputies of this House: why should disloyalty to this State be something virtuous and heroic? Why should it be continually boomed up, indirectly in this House and elsewhere, as if it were something not to be ashamed but to be proud of. It is altogether unnatural, and the present Bill is really only, if I might say so, pandering to that very unnatural tendency to be disloyal to our own State. That was behind a great deal of the principal arguments used by Deputy de Valera. Loyalty to the State, to the Irish nation as it exists in this organisation of the Oireachtas, is the only thing that is demanded from the servants of the local bodies—"allegiance to the Irish Free State and its Constitution as by law established," not loyalty to a party. There is no suggestion of that kind, and what I dislike about the Bill is that the Bill and the speech made in favour of it imply that loyalty to the State means loyalty to a party. The Labour Party continuously stressed this in a couple of debates in the House recently, that it should be made quite clear that loyalty to the State does not mean loyalty to any particular party, and the whole strength behind this Bill lies in confusing loyalty to the State with loyalty to a party. The Government, so far as they have been able, have always striven against that conception. The Army, the Guards or the Civil Servants or other people in the public service owe loyalty to the State and in no sense loyalty to a party.

It is absurd to think that loyalty to the State is a political issue between two parties. That is what was fundamentally unsound and rotten, so to speak, with the point of view at the back of this Bill. Apparently the conception is that this State is identical with our party. That is not so and it was never our wish that it should be so. We have striven as much as we could, to disabuse the public mind of anything of the kind. The case for this Bill, unless that is done, loses a great deal, I might say almost all, of its plausibility. There has been, even in the debates in this House, a lot of mischievous talk about the alleged party affiliations of public servants. Because this Bill is in keeping with this particularly objectionable talk, is one of the reasons why I think it should be opposed and I think it should be opposed especially by the party that wanted a clear declaration that loyalty to the State was not loyalty to a party. The personnel of the Executive, so far as this State is concerned, is accidental. It depends on the majority will of the Irish people. If, in the morning, they wish for a different Executive there are recognised methods by which that can be brought about, but whatever the Executive is, whether it is an Executive of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party or any other that is entrusted with the Government of this country it is unhealthy and morbid that a State, no matter what Executive it is under, should not be able to count on the loyalty of all its citizens and that effort should be made to elevate disloyalty to the State—the only State that exists, the State that has been established and built up by representatives of the majority of the people of this country —to the rank of something praiseworthy. I refuse to make the distinction that was made the other day in order to try and get out of the consequences involved in this Bill, the too subtle distinction—dangerous distinction from the point of view of the community and of the nation—between loyalty to the nation and loyalty to the State, that is the organised nation. I may say that for us in this Party majority rule is no question of Parliamentary procedure. It is something more fundamental than that. There is no other State except the State that has been built up, with a great deal of trouble and a great deal of loss in many respects, by this Oireachtas. It is reasonable, as I say, to expect from every public servant the allegiance that the State is entitled to expect from all its citizens. Deputies who listened to or read the speeches that were delivered, say, on one clause in the Dentists Bill, on the repeal of the Public Safety Act, and on the Army Bill and who have examined the implications that are contained in many of the speeches and in many of the sentiments expressed in connection with these Acts and Bills, will understand what is involved in this particular question. The same remarks would apply to the end of the speech of Deputy de Valera in regard to coercion.

Deputies on the opposite benches apparently do not see, as far as I can judge their mentality by what they say, any distinction between laws imposed by the will of the Irish people and laws imposed by the will of the foreigner. A great deal of the force of their arguments depends on equating these two things. If an effort is made to see that the will of the majority prevails—after all, that is what the law comes to, the will of the people as expressed here through the elected representatives of the people—an attempt is made to identify the effort to secure obedience to that law with the effort to secure obedience to a law that was altogether foreign and never was regarded as otherwise than foreign by the people of this country. Disloyalty, therefore, to the Irish State and to the Irish Government has been, again and again, in this House, in this Bill and what lies behind it, made equal to disloyalty to or to an effort to overthrow a foreign Government. The law that ran in this country for a long time could not pretend to be an expression of the will of the people. That is not the case at present. I do not mind whether Deputies on the opposite side disagree with me on that or not, but in this House, in this Oireachtas, and in this State that is a view that is fundamental for the Oireachtas and for the State.

The whole tendency of the argument behind this Bill is to destroy the civic spirit. In a country in which, owing to its past history, every effort should be made to build up a civic spirit and to create a feeling of solidarity, every effort is being made in the opposite direction by some individuals. Now take some of the speeches that we heard about this Bill, and even about the Constitution itself. I hope I am not misrepresenting Deputy de Valera—I do not always claim that I can understand the finer shades of his thought—when I quote him as saying that there were some portions of the Constitution he accepted and some that he rejected. Now what does that come to?

That was not said to-night.

No, but I hope I will make it relevant.

I hope also that when I get an opportunity of replying I will not be debarred from dealing with the past.


The Minister has not dealt with the past.

It is obvious that this matter cannot be discussed without a discussion of the foundations.

If Deputy de Valera is in order in making that statement, I just want to say that I agree with him on that point.


That I do not think this matter can be discussed without discussing the foundations.

It was being discussed, until the Minister's point just now, without discussing the foundations. If we are going to get into a discussion of the Consitution and all its parts we are going into a much wider discussion, it seems to me, than the Bill before us warrants. I do not think that that discussion has been yet started. I do not agree that the past, in the sense of the incidents of the past, has been at all introduced into the debate to-night. The reference to the Constitution was not made to-night. The Constitution is an Act of the Dáil, and that Constitution can only be criticised during proceedings for its amendment or repeal, the same as any other Act. To-night there has not been any argument about the Constitution itself, and I would prefer that there should be no such argument. If I am to accept the view that we are to go into "fundamentals" I should say that "fundamentals" is a very easy word for Deputies to use, but a very difficult word for the Chair to construe subsequently.

I fully accept your ruling and shall avoid what I was going to say merely by way of illustration. I really did not intend to quote or to refer to that speech of Deputy de Valera a few nights ago for any other purpose than the purpose of illustration, and I shall avoid seeming to run counter to your ruling, sir. I shall not even refer to it by way of illustration. What I want to point out is the attitude behind this Bill. I think I have kept rigidly to the Bill and to what lies at the back of it. I have gone into no historical reference so far as I know. I had no intention of doing so, and as you, sir, have pointed out, I have not done so. What I wanted to point out was that the whole attitude behind this Bill is that there are certain things that we can use—the law when it is on our side and the institutions of the law when they are on our side—and that we can reject when they are against us. That, I hold, is a thing that is fundamentally unsound. This Bill is not aimed at the political views of our opponents. There is nothing to prevent a person thinking that this Constitution ought to be altered; there is nothing to prevent a public servant who takes this declaration, if he does so legally and constitutionally, working for what Deputy de Valera calls the larger freedom. There is nothing in the Act as it stands and there is nothing in the declaration that is demanded from public servants to prevent their doing that. There is nothing to prevent them trying to induce, in the ordinary, normal, constitutional way, the people to amend the Constitution— to amend it even vitally, to elect even a majority of representatives against the Treaty who would go in for repudiation of it. There is nothing in that declaration that would prevent anybody from holding those views or working in a legitimate and ordinary constitutional way in furtherance of those views. What I do object to is that the effort to remove this declaration presents a type of mind which regards loyalty to the State as the same thing as loyalty to a particular party. That is one of the principal reasons that I oppose this Bill. I believe that that attitude is fundamentally unsound and that this Bill is simply helping to keep alive that particular attitude.

I do not intend to deal at length with the implications, tendencies and sinister motives that are behind this Bill, according to the Minister for Education. One would imagine that what the Minister for Education defines as "loyalty" should become loyalty for every member of the House. There are some Deputies, on this side of the House at any rate—I hope on the other side also—who have loyalty to certain ideals, and I hope they will remain true to those ideals. Loyalty to the State, the Minister says, is not loyalty to a Party, but at the time that this Act, which it is now proposed to amend, was passed into law, the Party on the opposite benches, as well as being in control of the Government of the Saorstát, were in control of the public bodies throughout the country. They were in a position to take action against the employees of these public bodies if they found that they were unsatisfactory in the discharge of their duties or that they were engaged in treasonable offences. We have quite a long list of Acts on the Statute Book that deal with treasonable offences. Under this section of the Local Government Act, it was proposed that people should be dismissed from their positions without any charge or trial. When we hear so much talk about constitutions and loyalty and the necessity for maintaining the State and for procuring the adherence of the citizens, we ought, at least, to give this minority, which seems to be the bane of the Minister's life, an opportunity of having their cases argued fairly and squarely in open court. If they are found guilty, the Executive is in a position to deal with them. As far as I know—and I have knowledge of a good many cases which happened under this section—these people were given no opportunity whatever to have their cases heard. They were simply, in the words of the people who proposed this declaration originally in the Seanad, to be considered as men who "paraded themselves as people looking for a Republic.""If," in the words of Senator Gogarty, "a man parades as a Republican, from any form of confused mentality, and if, while in that interesting condition, he injures the hand which feeds him, then he ought to be deprived of his livelihood."

I do not want to prevent the Deputy making his case, but it is a recognised rule that Deputies do not quote debates in the Seanad. They can quote debates which take place here. It is bad enough to be discussing one another without discussing individual Senators.

Furthermore, when this Act was being introduced, the Minister for Local Government, of that time, said that one of the effects of it would be that if it were not possible to secure this declaration of loyalty from the employees of public bodies it would have the useful effect of preventing increases in salary; so that if one were to forego an increase in salary, one would presumably be entitled to continue in his position. There are a great many people in the country who have not taken this declaration and who, by reason of the fact that they have foregone those increases of salary, are still holding their positions, although they are people who have the "unnatural" and "sinister" tendencies that the Minister for Education trembles so much about. In a great many cases— I think I might say in all cases—the people who were dismissed from public employment were not dismissed by the action of the local authority which employed them. The local authority, in most cases, endeavoured to secure that the persons employed would be maintained in their positions. In most of these cases representations were made to the Department but, in spite of the efforts of the local committees, orders came down for the dismissal of the officials concerned. In the case of the County Dublin Committee, when the teachers were dismissed by order of the Executive for refusal to comply with this test, we had the extraordinary position that while they could not be employed in one branch of the Department of the Minister for Education, in another branch they were actually able to maintain their position and to draw their salaries. In one branch of the Department of Education they were to be regarded as treason-mongers and preachers of sedition, while in another branch, under the National School Regulations, they were maintained and kept on as teachers. The teacher in charge of the Gaelic League classes in Rathfarnham and Dundrum, who was dismissed for refusing to subscribe to the test, was still kept on as teacher of night classes under the Department of Education.

The Minister for Education has given this House an undertaking that the cases of the national teachers who were dismissed, or who were refused re-instatement, on grounds similar to those which obtain in the cases of the officials I refer to, would be reconsidered by him. Are we to take it that one section of teachers are to have their cases reconsidered and that another section are still to be regarded as outlaws? In the North of Ireland, when the teachers were being organised to refuse to take a similar declaration to the Northern Government, I have information to show that these teachers in the North were instructed and encouraged in that attitude by the Ministry for Education here in Dublin. This Ministry, which encouraged teachers in the North to refuse to take the test, was actually enforcing it here in the South. There have been a great many cases of hardship caused by this test. To those of us who are interested in the language question and in the development of the Irish Ireland movement, it has seemed a great hardship that men who were associated with the movement since 1915 and even before it—men who taught Pádraic Pearse Irish and who were associated with every movement in connection with the advancement of national aspirations in recent times— should be driven out of the country. Their loss was very great. Some of them were Irish scholars who would have been very valuable. Not alone would they have been valuable in their classes, but I am aware of cases in which it would be difficult to excel them in the field of scholarship and literary work. As a matter of fact, one of the teachers who was dismissed under the County Dublin Technical Committee has found a post since as a university lecturer. The Irish teachers, who were the teachers largely concerned in this matter, have been treated rather unfairly I think by the Department all along. They have been in a special position. Some of them have not had qualifications, and when it seemed that they were going to settle down and to get a chance to promote themselves and become teachers on a more substantial basis, this test was thrown amongst them and the whole organisation of teaching Irish in the country became confused. The bitterest opponents of the language movement in the West were given the opportunity not alone to attack the teachers, but to attack the language movement generally. The Minister for Education knows that the introduction of this test was taken advantage of by opponents of the language movement to put an end to the teaching of Irish altogether under the local Technical Committees.

The Minister for Local Government, when this Act, which it is now proposed to amend, was being introduced, said that complaints had been made to him with regard to the county and assistant surveyors who had been breaking up bridges and doing other work of that kind, that when they were taken back into their employment the ratepayers made complaints to him that they were not willing that these men should continue to be paid out of public funds. I challenge the Minister now to show us any case where any public body took up that attitude in the open. I know very well what happened. When the Cumann na nGaedheal Party thought they were in the saddle, and that they would continue to remain there for all time, they had not even then, although they were in control of practically every public body in the country, the courage or decency to take up this question in the open and give the men concerned a fair trial. They came up here and made complaints according to the Minister for Local Government. He took very good care not to give any details of the complaints made. If there were complaints that these men had neglected their work, I submit that the matter should have been discussed by the local bodies responsible for employing them. As those local bodies consisted, in a majority of cases, of their political opponents, there was no question but that the interests of the State would receive a fair hearing. But they were not given the opportunity, and on the pretext that complaints were being made in Dublin, which the Ministry did not think it wise to have discussed at the local bodies, these groundless complaints, of which no instances were given at the time, were made the basis for this attack on Republicans and for driving them out of employment.

The present Minister for Local Government said that public opinion outside is still in favour of the retention of this section. If that is so, why are not the public bodies now given the opportunity to reinstate these men? They were not given an opportunity then for the very good reason that the Executive Council knew that they could not get rid of those officials in that way. If it were left to the free choice of the local councils, they knew that they had as good Irishmen and as good officials as any they could get in their stead. The Minister suggests to us now that just in the same way as the attack on the State at that time—which was over for two years before this thing came to pass—could be used as a justification for the introduction of this measure, he could stand up now and say that Deputy de Valera's attitude and the attitude of his Party is sufficient justification for its maintenance. I submit to the Minister that if he went down the country and stated that the changed conditions, and the fact that this Party is now represented in this House were a justification and an argument for still maintaining this section, he would find very few people to listen to him.

I agree with Deputy de Valera that we ought to do what we can to reunite our countrymen. The Ministry, in my opinion, has been very lacking and very backward in doing its share to bring that about. If they take that step, if of their own free will they wipe out this section, and thereby put the men who have been dismissed, or who have refused to take the declaration, on at least the same basis as the national teachers—give them an opportunity of having their case heard and being reinstated—I submit that they will have taken a step forward. I have mentioned the fact that there are people employed already who have not taken this declaration, and who, because they refused to apply for an increase of salary, were left in their positions. It is also a fact that we have here on these Benches a Deputy who refused to take this declaration and who was appointed as a medical officer down in Galway in spite of the Executive Council. When we have a living embodiment here of the fact that public opinion is against this, that the people do not want it—and public opinion in a way may be wiser than the Minister for Education—we ought, I think, go a step further and abolish the thing altogether.

I should like also to treat this subject seriously. Every man and woman in this country have votes, provided they have reached the age of 21, and are perfectly free to vote and vote in any way they wish. In order to give the greatest possible representation to minorities, there is a system of proportional representation. That is the position in this State—that is the Constitution of this State. That seems to me to be undeniable—mathematically accurate. Every man and woman in the State, if they have reached the age of 21, have a vote. There is nothing to stop them from voting—no coercion of any kind—and they vote under a system which gives the largest possible representation to minorities. It is in that way that the Executive of the country is formed— that is the Constitution of this State. Moreover there is machinery provided for changing that Constitution, and it was provided with the consent of those people who have got the vote and the right to use it in the way I have set out. That is the Constitution of the country. It is to that Constitution that public servants are asked to give allegiance. The declaration set out in that Act is a declaration of that state of affairs—a declaration, as every man of any education knows, that implies the right to use every legal means, every means within the Constitution, to change the Constitution at any time, in so far as one citizen can do it.

Nevertheless, at this hour of the day in this country it is said that to ask public officials, to ask people paid with the taxpayers' money, to say that they will give allegiance to that state of affairs is monstrous, or to use the words of the leader of the Opposition, is a particularly mean thing to do. If that is so, if Deputy Derrig is right when he says that public opinion is utterly opposed to that declaration of allegiance —and this is the important point, opposed to it for the reason that the Deputy himself and the leader of the Opposition gave them—if that is so, this country does not understand democracy and is not fit for democracy. We are told that there is a greater ideal than the Free State. What is it? It might be a republic, it might be an Irish Ireland. Is any republican precluded from working for that ideal, from endeavouring to change that ideal by this declaration. In one respect, and one respect only, is he precluded from doing so. He is precluded from using violence for that purpose. I want to know in what other respect he is precluded. That is a point I would like the Leader of the Opposition to deal with later on. How is he precluded? In one way, and one way only, which is from using violence against the majority of the people. Any minority is precluded from using violence against the majority of the people, but so far as he cares to use any other method he has the Constitution there open to him, the most democratic constitution in Europe, and he can use all the methods that are there.

When Deputies tackle that position, they are driven back to one point. The Leader of the Opposition indicated that point. He said, in fact, that this Constitution was imposed by force upon the people. What right has any representative of the country to say that? What right has any minority party to take up that position? What right has any minority party to attempt to interpret the reason which forced the country to come to a decision? If they have such a right—and it is admitted that they came to a decision on many occasions in favour of this Constitution —are they willing to give that right to any other minority in the country? Are they willing to give that right to a minority that wants us to return to the British connection and if not, why not? If you get away from majority rule once, where are you going to end?

There is, I suppose, a small section in this country yet—I daresay they are very small—that would like to see this country ruled from England. If Deputies opposite in a slight minority have now a right to say that as a minority they must interpret what is best for the Irish people by some other standard than the standards the people laid down for themselves, namely, the decision come to at the elections, has not any other, even though it is a small minority, the same right. Has not the party to which we belong the same right if and when we become a minority party? Where is democracy, and what good is your republican or Irish Ireland without democracy?

You talk of greater ideals. There is a greater ideal than any of these things. There is an ideal without which neither the conception of republican or Irish Ireland, or any other conception can live, and that is that there is only one decent form of government which is majority rule. The people are forsooth coerced. I deny the right of anyone to say that. I deny the right of any man or minority to interpret the reasons that have influenced the majority to come to their decisions. With great respect that particular point is a quibble. It is a quibble to say that the Treaty was a settlement induced by coercion. It is a quibble to say the same thing about the Constitution. Of course, there was coercion against the Irish, but equally there was coercion against the English, and there was never a treaty in any country, and never yet a contract in public or in private that there was not coercion on both sides. To come down to a prosaic matter, let me say that I never sold a bullock except under coercion. I would always like to get more for it than I did. As between states, no agreement was ever made without coercion on both sides. It is simply begging the question to rely upon the argument that there was coercion in regard to the passing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. There was on both sides. And it is very hard to say on which side was the greater coercion. I am quite sure that the English did not like to clear out of this country. That argument was relied upon, for what? To belittle the Constitution, to belittle the State institutions, to belittle the Government set up by the majority will of the people, and to allow anybody for whatever reason may seem to be good to him, to call himself an Irish Republican or an Irish Irelander, no matter what his real motives may be. There are a great many people who call themselves republicans, and do not know the meaning of the word "republican," and there are a great many who have the words Irish Irelander on their lips, and who have not the faintest conception of what it means—and all these for this reason are to be justified by that quibble to do what? To injure the State and the State institutions, to flout the Constitution, and to bring the whole idea of a democratic state in this country into contempt. We could not subscribe to that doctrine. That is the doctrine put up by Deputy de Valera, and it is because that doctrine has been formulated in this country that it is absolutely essential to have such a test. Is that a political test? I stated what the Constitution of this country is. Is it mere politics to ask for allegiance to that Constitution?

What is the Constitution?


I shall tell you. As I said before, every man and woman in this country have a vote, and the full right to vote, and they have in that way the right to elect the Government. And elected in that way, any assembly in this country has a perfect right by a majority to amend the Constitution.

What about the Preamble of the Constitution Act?

We will test that out.


The Deputy says "we are going to test that out." We will test it out certainly.

By speeches, not by conversation.


Not by question and answer. We are just as ready to test that question out as the Deputy is. Make no mistake about that.


That is good news.


With the usual amount of bluff.


On which side?


On yours.


I see. Deputy de Valera used another expression. There should be some rule agreed to; it should be agreed within that rule that people should strive for the greater freedom. I endorse that. What is the rule? The Constitution. Is not that the exact position that we have?

Is there any Constitution outside the Public Safety Act?


Is not that, as I have asked before, the exact position that we have? Is not there a rule there? Cannot the people in their wisdom elect another majority to change the Constitution? Are not there ways of changing it? I tried to get the Deputy's idea. I think he said his idea was that this was not good enough, but that we had to go on with it, and in the meantime there should be some rule of order. That is, of course, exactly the position. There must be some rule of order if we are to have civilisation, if we are to have any decent conditions. The rule of order is there, and that rule of order enables us to keep order, and it enables us further to change the rule; it enables us to go further any time we wish, any time the majority wish. The minorities have their rights absolutely, but so have majorities. Minorities have the right to use all constitutional means to keep their point of view forward, to make as much out of their point of view as possible. But beyond that they have no right to go. It thus comes down to this: that the only weapon—the only method is the better phrase—that is taken away from the minorities in this country at the moment is the weapon of violence, and that is what Deputy de Valera is pleading for.

When did he lose it?


When did any of you lose it?

Deputies must allow the Minister to proceed.


I do not want to enter into these discussions, but if Deputies are anxious for them they can have them, any amount of them, any time and anywhere.

Choose your weapons.


Exactly. I say this to Deputies, that if they want to talk like that they must remember that they are not going to get away with it. We can begin to talk that way, too, and in that language—in a language that will be understood.

It is the best thing we can do, all right.


You cannot even do that much.

You do not know.


Deputy de Valera said that this was in the British tradition. Is it? I have come to the conclusion that Deputy de Valera thinks that disloyalty to the English Government was treason; that disloyalty to a Government kept in this country by the majority of a foreign country was treason. It is only on that basis that I can explain his present use of the words treason and disloyalty. I do not believe that disloyalty to the British was treason, but I do believe that disloyalty to the majority will of the people of this State is treason, and I do believe that treason is a foul crime. I do believe that any man or woman who is not prepared loyally to accept the will of the majority of the people should not be paid by public money and should not be put into a public position.

I do believe the State is entitled to adopt exactly the same rule in regard to State affairs as a prudent man would adopt in regard to his own business. Nobody is going to employ a servant who will betray him or who is prepared to do violence to him, and why should the State? If the State refuses to employ such a man, what right has he to complain? Let him go to some country that he can be loyal to. No one has any right in this country who is not loyal to the will of the people. No one in this country should be allowed to flout the Constitution. Anybody can do what in him lies legally to challenge it. That is democracy. If Deputy de Valera is really expressing the point of view of the Deputies who are sitting on his benches; if he is expressing—I believe he is not—the considered point of view of the people who voted for him, then there is a minority in this country that is not fit for self-government and that is incapable of understanding democracy. When I hear of Republicanism and Irish-Irelandism here—

Not a word was said about them to-night.


With great respect, you will allow me to remind you that I think the words were actually used. The words "fuller freedom" were often used, and I am almost certain that the words I mentioned were used. When I hear people talking of greater freedom and of this and that idea, and a whole lot of ideas about this freedom, by whom is all this to be brought about? By people who do not understand the meaning of the word coercion. We are told that this is British coercion. Is it British coercion to uphold the rights of the majority of the people of the country? Was that what the British did? Is not that what we are doing? Yet that is called British coercion. I thought British coercion was coercion of the majority. I know the real coercion that exists. The only possible coercion at present is coercion by the minority of the majority, and that is British coercion. I could use the word with some right, but the Deputy cannot.

I agree with Deputy Morrissey that we should try to unite and not divide the people. We can never unite the people on the basis of Deputy de Valera's suggestion. I do not agree that if Deputy de Valera got a majority of 90 per cent., any people can be united on that basis. Such unity could not last. No people can be united on the basis that any minority can challenge, can use any means to challenge, the majority rule. It can never be done. You will never bring this country anywhere until ideas of that sort are killed. I do not care what will happen electorally. My point is that it cannot be done. No good, decent or civilised conditions can be brought about, and no advance can be made in this country until the point of view that Deputy de Valera expresses is definitely killed in this country. I have sufficient faith in the future of the country to believe that the people do believe in democracy and that they will kill those ideas.

I do not know if the Minister for Lands and Agriculture was aware of what the purport of the Bill we are discussing is, but I hope that we will be able to enlighten him.


I was really discussing the speeches.

This Bill deals with a declaration which is contained in the Local Government Act of 1925. When that declaration was being debated in the Dáil in 1925 very many of the arguments that could be advanced against it were advanced by the Deputies present at that time in the Labour Party and I think that Deputy Esmonde and one or two other Deputies in the House opposed it. This Bill is introduced very largely in the hope that a better atmosphere exists in the House now than existed then. Apparently that hope has been killed. The Ministers' speeches have indicated that there was never any ground for entertaining that hope. They are still intent on penalising men who are not prepared to give voluntary allegiance to the Constitution imposed on this State, the Constitution the Act says "as by law established" and as by the Public Safety Act abolished. The Minister for Lands and Agriculture did not give us a very fair interpretation of that Constitution. Such of the democratic provisions which it contains and which have survived the passage of the Public Safety Act will be maintained and vigorously maintained by the Deputies on these benches. I have a distinct recollection that during the recent General Election Ministers of the Executive Council frequently stated that they stood for the abolition of certain of those democratic sections of the Constitution and for the revision of the whole system of proportional representation, the very sections which are now advanced in justification of the Constitution's existence.

We are told that this declaration was introduced to deal with men who plotted to destroy the State. Now, there is a Treasonable Offences Act and the Public Safety Act and a host of other Acts, and between them all I think it is not possible to think of the Constitution for three nights running without rendering yourself liable to imprisonment or deportation or execution. If a man even thought of plotting against the State, if he was even suspected by a policeman of plotting against the State, he could be arrested and placed in internment where he would be harmless. This declaration was not enacted or inserted in the Act to deal with the people who are actively engaged in undermining the State or Constitution. It was introduced to make it impossible for the men who have not got the national or political outlook of the Ministers—to make it impossible for them to get an increase in their salaries without taking the declaration. The weapon of hunger is used. Married men with jobs under Local Government boards were to be told: "If you do not make this declaration you are going to starve and your wife and children are going to starve." I can tell the House that many of those men did choose to starve rather than make that declaration, and it is a matter of note that there are a number of men at this moment without employment because they refused to take that oath.

Does the Deputy state that employees of local bodies refused to take that declaration and left the public service rather than take it?

I am aware that many Irish teachers lost their employment rather than take it, and I am also aware that many men were debarred from getting employment by the fact that the declaration was there.

But the Deputy does not say that any employees of local bodies other than teachers refused to take the declaration and left their employment, rather than take it?

I beg to inform the Minister that people who were elected to positions would not be sanctioned because of the fact that they did not take the declaration.

There is one in Mayo, an assistant surveyor.

Have an inquiry.

Deputy Lemass must be allowed to proceed.

I understand there are very many such. Perhaps we will arrange to supply the information. Although the Minister is Minister for Local Government, his Department may not have informed him of these facts. I was going to suggest to the Ministry that they should for one moment cast their minds back over the road which they had travelled, look at the milestones upon it, so that they may realise the road they are going. I think I am correct in saying that at one period they publicly advocated the acceptance of the Treaty on the grounds that the Oath section in the Treaty would only be applicable to members of the Executive Council. The second milestone was reached when it became necessary to impose that Oath upon every member of the Oireachtas. Then they went further, and a declaration similar to the Oath was imposed on public servants. The next step they came to was to impose that declaration on the employees of Local Government boards. If they keep going on in that direction it will soon be necessary to take a declaration before it is possible to live in the State at all.


A real slave-State.

We had hoped that the drop of the nation into degradation of that kind had ceased, that we had hit bottom, and were on the rebound. This debate here has disillusioned us somewhat. I am prepared to concede this: that the last step of the downward trail, the imposition of this declaration, was not deliberately decided on by the Executive Council, that, as pointed out, it was not in the Bill when introduced. It was not in the Bill when it passed this House. It came into the Bill on the initiative of a rather reckless, unbalanced Senator from Donegal, and it came back here, and was accepted with enthusiasm by the Deputies on the Government benches. We hear a lot about the majority will of the people. Only twenty-six elected Deputies, elected by the Irish people, voted for this declaration out of a total of 153 Deputies—only 26 for majority rule out of the 153!

We can test it now undoubtedly, and a different House is here to test it.

After the next election we will test it.

In any case I want to point out that only one-sixth of the elected Deputies of the Irish people voted in favour of that declaration. We have been told that loyalty to the State is not to be confused with loyalty to a party. Now, I very seriously suggest that if there is any confusion in the minds of the public between loyalty to the State and loyalty to a party in the State that confusion has been very largely created by the Government. They have not hesitated to play upon that confusion in the public mind at election times for the purpose of getting votes for themselves. Mind you, I am not going to permit even the majority of the Irish people to define loyalty strictly for me. Those of us who had the honour to participate in the Rising of 1916 will remember the flood of resolutions that were passed by Deputy McDonagh and by Deputy Leonard and others throughout the country denouncing the traitors and denouncing their disloyalty.

That is a lie.

Then I withdraw the statement.

I think Deputy McDonagh had better withdraw the word "lie."

—But it is the truth. However, in deference to you I withdraw it.

The word "lie" is withdrawn, and Deputy Lemass has withdrawn his statement.

Yes, I do not wish to argue it. We know that practically every Board in Ireland was solemnly passing these resolutions about treason and disloyalty and a few years later every one of these Boards was passing resolutions to erase from their minutes the resolutions passed a few years previously. Loyalty is a relative term. There are certain sections in the Constitution, loyalty to which in my opinion, and in the opinions of Deputies here and in the opinion of the people who elected us, would be disloyalty to the nation. And that loyalty not all your Public Safety Acts or Treason Acts are going to get from us. We are prepared to recognise this assembly of elected representatives of the Irish people as such. We are prepared to recognise their right to make laws for the twenty-six counties over which they have control, but we are not prepared to recognise their right to define loyalty to this Constitution as loyalty to the nation. We have been told also that we here—the Minister for Education stated it—are unable to distinguish between laws made by the foreigner and laws made by the Irish people. I suggest to Ministers, that the most obvious thing about this debate is that they have been unable to distinguish between the laws passed by the people and the laws imposed on this State by the will of the foreigner. Disloyalty, we are told, is not virtuous and decent and there is no fouler crime than treason. In that matter the Minister for Lands and Agriculture and myself are in complete accord. Again I say that treason, like disloyalty, is a relative term, but what is disloyalty and treason to the Minister for Agriculture may not be disloyalty or treason to me. For example, the Minister for Lands and Agriculture has proclaimed himself wildly enthusiastic about the oath. I am not. He, I think, is prepared to accept the Treaty under which this House was established as a final settlement with England. I am not.


These words that you have used mean nothing.


To anyone.

I think they mean something to me.



I am prepared to recognise that my fundamental loyalty must go to the whole Irish nation, and that it is my duty, even if I were the only man in this island who believed it, to resist any laws passed by a majority which tend to restrict the right of the Irish nation to absolute independence. I would like to suggest to the Ministers, to Deputies in the Government party, and to the other Deputies here, that the fewer restrictions we have on individual opinion the stronger and the more virile will the national spirit become. We should abolish every restriction that is not absolutely necessary. Remember oaths are not fashionable in every country. There is no oath imposed on the elected representatives of the people of France. There is no oath imposed on the elected representatives of the people of Germany. They are elected as representatives of the people, and as such they meet together and do the business of the people. Let us get rid of all this nonsense about the oath. Let us take away these shackles of individual opinion, and let us build up that strong, virile, healthy, national spirit which I would remind Deputies is of very considerable economic value.

I was delighted to hear the Minister for Lands and Agriculture say that the question of coercion having been used in the imposition of the Constitution is only a quibble. For the last five years I have been looking at this thing on bills everywhere, that we are faced with "immediate and terrible war," and now we hear that it is only a quibble. I was almost colour-blind looking at it.

Will the Deputy tell us who put that statement on the bills?


You should know.

The Deputy has been announcing that he has been deceived by his own publicity.

The director of publicity ought to know.

This was referred to as a "stepping stone to freedom." A lot of soft soap has been used on the stepping stone since, and a lot of people have slipped off. That has been forgotten. We are told now that it is absolutely essential in order to force people or persuade them if you like, to be loyal to the nation. As Deputy Lemass has remarked, with truth, loyalty is a very relevant term because I think the President would repeat if I asked him what he said some time ago, that in matters of Irish nationality he yielded to no man. I respectfully submit that if the President made that same remark in any part of the Six Counties he would be carried home on a shutter. We cannot define loyalty so easily as all that. It made no difference to people who were employed in the British service whether an oath was imposed on them or not. When they had the spirit of Irish nationality in them they helped during the time of the trouble in this country, although an oath of allegiance was imposed on them. I submit that forcing a thing on a man that he does not want, but that he may accept for economic reasons, is not going to convert him to loyalty to any State or Constitution. That is not going to make him any more loyal, and it is time that that sort of thing was abolished in this country. We are all, even those on the Government benches, moving towards the larger freedom, and still we put fetters on other men who might even be inclined to think along lines of greater freedom. We are told here, of course, that Deputies on these benches do not understand what they are talking about. We have been lectured time after time and treated as if we were children who did not know what we were talking about. I acknowledge that the front Benches opposite have a monopoly of the aperceptive minds of the House, and I hope that, for the sake of posterity, they will bequeath their heads to the Royal College of Surgeons. I know several people who would be glad to take them apart to see what makes them go. The point is that if we are going to move towards any larger freedom we should not at this stage be imposing—

Without examining the heads on this side?

I am not equipped with the proper tools for that. It seems to me that if we are ever to move towards that larger freedom, this is not the time nor the place to impose oaths of allegiance, pledges, or tests on any section of the community. There are several laws for dealing with those who may be inclined to use violence to attain the ends of greater freedom. There are plenty of laws dealing with that, but, as a Deputy on these Benches has remarked, this was not intended to deal with any of these persons who might be inclined to use violence. It was intended as a weapon against those who, in my opinion, differed politically from those on the opposite Benches, and I hold it is time it was abolished.

I move the adjournment of the debate until to-morrow.

took the Chair.

Debate adjourned.