Debate resumed on motion—"That leave be given to present a petition prepared in accordance with the provisions of Article 48 of the Constitution."—(Mr. de Valera.)

The debate which has just concluded convicted the Government of breaking a law, and the question which we propose to discuss now is one which may lead to a decision which may be a breach of the Constitution. If it decided to-day that this petition is not to be accepted, and that no machinery is to be set up to carry out the terms of Article 48 of the Constitution, it will be a direct and gross breach of the Constitution. On a famous occasion the President, when he was displeased with the Labour Party's conduct, made the following remark: "You cannot challenge one part of the Constitution and prostitute another." The Constitution, when the President finds it useful to his Party's purposes, is a sacred instrument, but when he finds it is not suitable I do not know whether he is challenging the Constitution or prostituting it—he can take his choice.

But he certainly is not setting up in this country the respect for the Constitution which he has always preached. He may be setting up a valuable precedent for other people later on to treat the Constitution in identically the same way as he is treating it now. The plea is a plea that it is not possible to carry out Article 48 of the Constitution. That itself is an admission of intellectual bankruptcy and of an utter lack of common sense on the part of the people who drafted the Constitution, a thing which he is really not going to get anybody to believe. If the Government wished with their majority, such as it is to carry out Article 48, they could very easily find a means of doing so. They talk constantly—and this is particularly true of the Minister for Lands and Agriculture—of the will of the people and the law of the people. The Minister for Agriculture says that that is a thing that must be regarded as the linch-pin of the Constitution. Here we have something which is very directly the law of the people. Nothing could be more direct and come closer to establishing the principle of the law of the people than the principle of the initiative and referendum. Yet, when that question arises and when it comes to a question of making a reality out of their professions of faith in the law of the people they turn from it to find several excuses for not putting that particular principle into force. In an interruption the Minister for Lands and Agriculture referred to the last three elections as establishing the authority of the majority of the people. The less they look into that matter the better, because they will find that at one of the elections they got a majority by Mr. Jinks. Perhaps they regard that as the will of the people. Perhaps they regard that as a more democratic form of government than enforcing Article 48 of the Constitution. At present they hold their majority by having converted Deputy Heffernan and the Farmers' Party to their side against the direct mandate the Farmers' Party got when it went to the country, because it was put up by Deputy Gorey to the Farmers' Party that they should amalgamate and——

This is a bit wide.

I do not think it is.

I am contrasting the conduct of the Government on this question of Article 48, which is a real effort to establish the law of the people —I am contrasting it with their conduct in reference to the way in which they get a majority and flout the mandate given to this House at the last election.

On a debate on the presentation of a petition prepared in accordance with the provisions of Article 48 of the Constitution, the Deputy can discuss the petition. In answer to a question by Deputy de Valera, I said that it was inevitable that the merits of the Initiative as a Constitutional expedient should be discussed. I think that is so. It might be ruled technically that we are not even discussing the Initiative now. We are only discussing whether leave ought to be granted to present this petition. I think it is only reasonable that the merits of the Initiative as a Constitutional expedient should be discussed. To discuss the matters that the Deputy wants to go into now seems utterly irrelevant. The Deputy must realise that the guiding principle always is: "Where will the debate end?" If the Deputy raises questions that are likely to go out and out and out, not only will we not be finished before 2 o'clock to-day, but we would not finish in what remains of Private Members' time in this session.

I submit that while I have no desire to go beyond the limits of the ruling that when a certain attitude is taken in opposition to our putting forward this petition, we are entitled to answer the attitude that has been taken up. We have no other way of expressing ourselves. We have no way except speaking across the floor of the House to answer the objections raised. It was with that in mind that I made the remark I made. On the plea of impossibility, this childish ground is put forward, that because the petition is presented to this House it cannot be presented at the same time to the Seanad. I think we have settled the question of the King in this matter, because the King's functions are limited by the Constitution itself, and I do not think that on this petition a question about the King should be pursued, because unless another Article of the Constitution is going to be flouted at the same time, I take it the contention that the King should be presented with the petition will not be pursued. Another Article says the function of the King is limited either to accepting the Bills when they come and signing them or refusing to sign them.


Or refusing to sign them?

What particular euphemism does the Minister like to use?


I do not like euphemisms.

You prefer the other kind.


Certainly; I did not ask you.

If it is held that the intention of that petition, as drafted, was that it really contains two petitions at the same time, there is nothing to prevent this House from taking one portion of the petition and dealing with it. If the House and the Government were sincere in their attitude; if it wished to implement its own Constitution, and wished to carry out Article 48 of the Constitution and, at the same time, if it objected to references in that petition to Article 17 of the Constitution, it could easily have put in an amendment to this motion that only the portion of the petition dealing with the actual setting up of the Initiative should be dealt with by the House, and the rest could be left aside. To contend now that because there are two parts to the petition that therefore it is vitiated is absurd. There is nothing in the Constitution or the laws of this State that could vitiate the petition. The fact that there are redundancies in any petition does not vitiate the petition and, so far as the petition has a bearing upon Article 48, it is effective and valid, and if the people of this House were in earnest about maintaining their Constitution they could easily find a way out by an amendment. They could carry through and implement Article 48 of the Constitution, reserving the other part of the petition to be dealt with at a later time. As a matter of fact, one of the advantages of having that double petition was that it saved expense, for the two parts of Article 48 would be carried through at the same time. The second part of the article sets out that 50,000 votes are required on a specific issue. By getting our people to sign the double petition we were saving the necessity of two petitions, but at the same time we were hampering ourselves. We were tying our own hands, because we were going to people to sign something which they might not sign. There would be a class who would want the Referendum, and another class who would want the Initiative, and then there would be a class who would not want Article 17.


Quite right.

We excluded the possibility on that point of getting people to sign the petition. No one who signed that petition would have signed it if they read about Article 17.

Hear, hear! Perfectly right.

We were limiting the number of people who would possibly sign it.

Quite right.

We limited the number of people who would possibly sign it. That strengthened our hands. We are certainly putting our cards on the table.

The Deputy is very candid.


That is characteristic.

We are putting all our cards on the table and we are deceiving nobody. Whoever signed it, signed it with their eyes open. It strengthens our hand in this House because there are people who could now say if we do not now support Article 17——

Hear, hear!

—we do not support the attempt to remove Article 17, but we do support that part which would establish a Referendum. There was a suggestion that this matter was settled at the last election. That very suggestion is a denial of the functions of Article 48 because if everything is settled at a General Election, then the use of a Referendum simply does not exist. It is in order to come closer to individual issues that the Referendum and the Initiative are set up. At a General Election several issues come before the people and people choose their sides in the election for several reasons—for personal reasons because certain personalities are put up, and for several considerations at the same time. It is quite possible that people might vote on the side of the Farmers' Party and on the side of the Independent Party at the same time. There might be a substantial majority, I would go so far as to say, who might vote for the Independents and for our side and who would agree that the setting up of the Initiative would be a good thing, but they would not have agreement about Article 17. Therefore, it would be perfectly easy for people of this House, if they were earnest about it, by agreement to arrange that we could deal with the Initiative and not deal with the question of Article 17. But we do not believe that there is any sincerity in this matter on the part of the Government; that they simply feel that there are two Articles of the Constitution and that at last they have been brought up cheek by jowl with each other; they have been brought into a position which shows that they are incompatible.

You cannot have the will of the people and Article 17 of the Constitution there at the same time. If one has to go it is the law of the people that has to go and Article 17 of the Constitution is to remain and nothing will shake the Government in any attempt to remove Article 17. If any democratic institution is set up, any democratic institution of any sort which might in any way threaten Article 17 of the Constitution, the Government will come down on it and, with its promiscuous majority, gathered from other Parties who got different mandates before they came here, they will do their best to nip in the bud any attempt to remove Article 17.

Reference was made to the cost being something like £80,000. On further inquiry I find that the figure was given in answer to a question raised by Deputy Rice and the amount mentioned was £85,000. I again ask that we should get in detail the basis upon which that estimate was made. A proper basis, I imagine, would be that the amount should be calculated somehow on the cost of the election to the Seanad. People may plead that there are certain arrangements made in the Electoral Act and that they are expensive if carried out that way, but there is nothing to prevent the Government from amending the Electoral Act and putting the cost of the Initiative within reason—making it a reasonable sum instead of an extravagant sum of £85,000.

The Deputy is referring to the cost of the Referendum?

The Referendum, yes. That was the figure mentioned and that was referred to by the President the other day.

Does the Deputy dispute it still?

Yes, I dispute it.

The Deputy said yesterday that I knew it was wrong.

That is a remark which, without flouting the Chair, I cannot repeat.

Will the Deputy prove it?

If the President will put us in the position of the Government, we will carry it out cheaper.

Will the Deputy prove what he said?

If you put us in the position of the Government we will carry it out cheaper.

What was the cost of the last Seanad election?

I could not say.

You cannot say?

I was informed that some Deputy in the House asked what the cost of the Referendum would be, and I think the figure mentioned was £80,000.

I asked the President a question and he does not seem to know what the Seanad election cost. We got information to the effect that it was about £40,000, or something less.

I think that is right.

Would the cost of the Referendum be anything more than that?

The answer was given by the Minister for Finance in reply to a question.

The Minister for Finance is just as fallible, perhaps, as other people.

He was replying to a question on notice.

We would like to get the whole thing set out here.

The Deputy is, I believe, right. It was about £40,000.

I am putting it now so that you will not have an opportunity of saying later that we quoted certain figures.

The President will hardly deny that he knew at some time what the cost of the Seanad election was.

Quite true. We cannot always carry items of that kind in our heads.

And you will observe that Article of the Constitution even at the cost of £40,000?

What Article?

I think it would be better to allow Deputy Little to continue.

I can picture the horror of the President when he first made the statement about the cost of a petition. Within a very short time afterwards he trotted off to the country and incurred the cost of a General Election. Apparently a General Election is more important to him than the settling of a particular issue on its merits before the country. He brought out a certain element of—I do not know if I will be permitted to say it—political dishonesty.


That is quite in order.

The Ceann Comhairle of the opposite Benches is speaking.


At least, I hope it is.

You would have very little chance of speaking if it were not. I will not detain the House much further. There were other points that I wished to deal with, but as the time is short and it might be better to bring the matter to an issue, I will not deal with them now. This is, after all, an effort on our side to try, as far as possible, to stir the spirit of nationalism again in all parts of the House so that we may get back to the real basis of nationality and attain that unity which will make it possible for us to get the country out of the state it is in at the present time. We can only do that on national principles. Here is an opportunity of doing something to mould the Constitution closer to the will of the Irish people, and at a later stage we may hope to get rid of one of the most objectionable elements in the Constitution. It is rather from that point that we appeal to the people who will be open to these arguments than to anybody else.

Deputy DE VALERA and the MINISTER for DEFENCE rose.

Before the Minister for Defence speaks, Deputy de Valera has something to say.

I am afraid an argument has been used by Deputy Little, and his statement, in fact, would lead to other conclusions if allowed to go uncorrected. I want to deal with it at the first possible moment.

Hear, hear.

I am explaining the——

Can the Deputy speak now?

I am explaining the petition. I brought in this petition, I am explaining it, and I want to say ——

I suggest that the Deputy should not be allowed to speak at this stage.

Is the Minister raising a point of order?

I suggest that the Deputy's point is not a point of explanation. When he endeavours to correct Deputy Little in a statement made by Deputy Little, that is not a point of explanation.

It is a point of explanation as to the nature of the petition which I had the responsibility of introducing.

Deputy de Valera will, of course, be concluding the debate, and he will have an opportunity of explaining any points arising out of Deputy Little's speech. The Minister for Defence asks about a point of explanation, and submits that Deputy de Valera should not be allowed now to explain any statement made by Deputy Little.

This is with reference to this petition, and it is a matter which might lead to confusion.

We are not a bit confused over it. We quite admit it.

You admit it because it is not true.

The Minister for Defence has the right to speak, and if the Minister for Defence does not give way to the point of explanation he must be allowed to speak. The only point the Minister for Defence can be compelled to give way on—or any other Deputy, for that matter—is on a point of order which is judged by the Chair as a point of order. The Chair cannot of itself give Deputy de Valera the right to intervene at this point unless the Minister gives way to him.

I do not propose to give way to the Deputy.

The Minister does not propose to give way to Deputy de Valera.

The confusion is valuable to the Minister.

The Minister is an adept at misrepresentation.

Any point that arises about the petition can be explained by a subsequent speaker.

I think it could be demonstrated that this discussion is out of order altogether. A petition is presented here which purports to be a petition under Article 48 of the Constitution. It is not.

On a point of order, are you prepared, at this stage of the debate, to listen to a statement to the effect that the motion now under discussion is out of order?

I would be prepared to receive a point of order now, that the motion is out of order and decide it. I do not know whether the Minister means to make a point of order or is simply introducing his speech with this particular sentence. On the point Deputy Davin raises, when a motion is before the House it is not necessarily in order until it is put from the Chair, and a point of order might be raised at any moment, but the possibility of getting a ruling from the Chair, I take it, would decrease with the length of the previous debate.

On a point of order, the motion is "that leave be given to present a petition prepared in accordance with the provisions of Article 48 of the Constitution." The Minister for Defence says that the petition is not prepared in accordance with Article 48. If you confine him to the motion before the House he will be confined to discussing the advisability of admitting a petition which is prepared in accordance with that Article.

I beg to draw your attention to the fact that the Minister stated that the motion was out of order, which is tantamount to saying that you allowed to be discussed for the last two days a motion which was not in order.

I said I thought it could be demonstrated that this discussion was out of order. I have a perfect right to think that.

Is the Minister going to try to do that?

I do not propose to raise that as a point of order.

He said so.

Therefore no point of order is raised.

I said I thought this could be demonstrated as out of order. I think it is demonstrable.

The Minister is, on his own statement, out of order.

I think it is demonstrable that this petition, which purposes to be presented under Article 48, is not such as is contemplated under Article 48.

Is the Minister in order, considering the terms of the motion before the House.

Absolutely. Deputy Lemass does not want him to argue on something we know nothing about. The terms of the motion are known to the House. Deputy de Valera gave me a copy of the petition before proposing the motion and read out the petition on Wednesday. So the House is in possession of the terms of the petition which it is desired to present and the terms are relevant. Deputy de Valera himself referred to them at some length.

Yes; but the motion is that leave be given to present a petition in accordance with Article 48. Now the Minister is going to contend that the petition is not prepared in accordance with Article 48. That is out of order in a discussion of this motion, which is to present a petition in accordance with the Article.

I do not think Deputy Lemass is serious on that point. Deputy de Valera alluded to the petition and its terms, and if Deputy Lemass wants me to rule out of order any further allusions to these terms I could not do it.

If you read the Official Report you will find what the Minister said in his opening remarks gave anyone, listening to him, the clear impression that he was going to proceed to prove that the motion was out of order.

On the general point I answered Deputy Davin that it would be within the right of any Deputy to make a point of order now. No point of order is being made, but it would be possible to make a point of order at this stage.

Our Party submitted an amendment to this motion, and you, sir, refused to accept that. If this motion is out of order you should not have allowed it to go on the Order Paper and should have ruled it out of order before the debate started.

But the motion, in my judgment, is in order. I framed it myself.

What we have before us is, I understand, this proposal that a certain petition, if it be in accordance with Article 48, should be presented to the Oireachtas. In this matter I submit to you that, because a certain Deputy presents a motion and alleges that it should be accepted as it conforms with Article 48, I do not think, as he is given an opportunity here of demonstrating whether or not it does conform with Article 48, that the mere acceptance of it proves his case for him. The Constitution stands, and I am an ardent constitutionalist. At the same time, there are certain parts of it I disapprove of and think should be altered, and that has been adverted to very much. In that I had the support of Mr. Johnson when he was leader of the Labour Party. Provisions were made to facilitate changes in the Constitution from time to time when it was discovered to be unworkable or unsatisfactory. At the same time, the fact that one proposes to change an Article of the Constitution constitutionally does not make one anti-constitutional.

May I ask the Minister when Mr. Johnson either stated or agreed that it should be made easy to change or alter the Constitution? My recollection was always the other way about.

I may be right or wrong.

Do you withdraw the statement?

I think the Minister is referring to Article 50 of the Constitution, which only refers to a period of eight years. That should be made clear, because the statement made about ex-Deputy Johnson is not clear.

That is my objection to the Minister's statement.

The time is extended during which the Constitution may be changed with greater facility than otherwise it might be. The provisions of the Constitution arrange for representative Government and for the election of Deputies at a general election. At the general election various parties go up and they put down, each of them different, some point of policy. The public have to make up their mind which they think is the more important. On the one hand a party may stand for Protection and also vaccination; an elector may have to say to himself "Do I think protection is more important or is my objection to vaccination stronger than my support of protection?" The general election demands from the electorate a weighing up of values. A part of the Constitution I am not enthusiastic about tries to make it easier by allowing individual and definite points of policy and practice to be put separately to the electorate. That is not a thing I am at all in love with. But one of the means of doing that is by the Initiative. What I understand was intended to be the object of such things as the Referendum and the Initiative was this, that a Party elected to power might bring in a thing which was not adverted to by the electorate and which was demonstrably against the wishes of the electorate or, on the other hand, after a general election a situation might arise in the country which makes legislation urgently necessary, the Government in power refuse to recognise that urgent necessity, and the people rise up and say: "We demand that this legislation be brought along." Now, the object of these articles in the Constitution is to allow the individual to have two separate items put up before the electorate. Article 48 says: "The Oireachtas may provide for the Initiation by the people of proposals for laws or constitutional amendments. Should the Oireachtas fail to make such provision within two years, it shall on the petition of not less than seventy-five thousand voters on the register, of whom not more than fifteen thousand shall be voters in any one constituency, either make such provisions or submit the question to the people for decision in accordance with the ordinary regulations governing the Referendum." We are presented here—and we know how it was done—with what purports to be a petition, which actually is a petition on two subjects. Article 48 lays down that the people may gather together to petition on one point, and on one point only. We know quite well that during some years strong political propaganda has gone around the country urging the abolition of the Oath in the Constitution. We know quite well that the people were organised on that point, that their feelings were roused—they were misled, of course——

Yes, of course. God save the King!

Now, these provisions in the Constitution were made to allow one concrete point to be put before the people and for the people to decide on that. In this petition there are two points put before us, a major and a minor point. The major point is that the Oath be removed from the Constitution, which means the removal of the Oath from the Treaty, which means the abrogation of the Treaty, and that is not put before the people. I suggest that the people who signed this document were deceived into signing it on two points. The majority of them thought—and what interested them in it was that they thought—that they were signing a document for the abolition of the Oath in the Constitution. They did that because they were deceived into thinking that that Article in the Constitution was an isolated Article in the Constitution, and because they did not advert to the Article in the Constitution which says—I do not remember the exact words—that the Constitution, in so far as it may from time to time be contrary to the Treaty, is thereby null and void. That was not put before them. They were deceived on that point. They thought they were putting their signatures to a request for the removal of the Oath, which they thought could be simply removed, and that request of theirs for the abolition of the Oath from the Constitution is then brought up here as an urgent request from 75,000 voters, who are all enthusiastic for this particular piece of constitutional machinery called the Initiative. We are presented with that here, and told: "Here you have 75,000 voters who are full of enthusiasm for the Initiative and who have presented this petition to you," while the unfortunate dupes throughout the country, as we know——


Dupes of yours.

——thought that they were taking steps to remove the Oath from the Constitution. I suggest that this House is not called upon to receive this petition, because it is not a petition within the meaning of Article 48, because the people who signed did so on two points, just the same as they vote at a General Election. A man may vote at a General Election for the Fianna Fáil Party because he approves of wholesale——

Now, do not tell us why a man votes at a General Election for the Fianna Fáil Party, for the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, or for any other Party. The Minister is quite in order when he discusses General Elections as opposed to the Initiative and the Referendum, but not when he discusses particular General Elections and particular Parties.

I was only trying to draw a general analogy. I suggest that this petition, as presented, is not in accordance with Article 48. When it comes to drawing analogies, two points are put before the people; in a general election twenty points may have been put before the people, and a person might vote for one Party because he approves of the Treaty, and against another Party because it is against it. That person might at the same time disapprove of our Licensing Acts, but the people consider what is of the greatest importance to the country, and they make up their minds about that. When this petition was put to the people one man might have been a fanatical admirer of the Initiative as a constitutional method, and on the other hand the majority, I believe, would not know exactly what the Initiative was. All they were told was: "You do not like this Oath. Just sign this document, and if we get 75,000 signatures, the Oath goes out of the Constitution and every one can come into the Dáil merely to wreck the Dáil." I suggest, therefore, that this House, far from being bound under Article 48 to accept this petition, is practically bound by the Constitution to refuse it, because it is an attempt to do away with Article 17, and Article 17 is covered by, I think, Article 3:—

The said Constitution shall be construed with reference to the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland set forth in the Second Schedule hereto annexed (hereafter referred to as "the Scheduled Treaty") which are hereby given the force of law, and if any provision of the said Constitution or of any amendment thereof or of any law made thereunder is in any respect repugnant to any of the provisions of the Scheduled Treaty, it shall, to the extent only of such repugnancy, be absolutely void and inoperative and the Parliament and the Executive Council of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) shall respectively pass such further legislation and do all such other things as may be necessary to implement the Scheduled Treaty.

I suggest that this petition has been brought up veiled and garbed in the cloak of constitutionalism. It is not, first of all, a petition within the ambit of Article 48, and far from being a constitutional thing is a covert act to deceive, first of all, the people and then to deceive the Dáil into destroying the Constitution in its fundamentals and destroying this State in its fundamental of the Treaty, under pretence of admiration and love for a very modern and very advanced method of constitutional practice called the Initiative. I suggest that it is an attempt to deceive this House, that there has been an attempt at deceit of the people outside, and that there is at this present moment an attempt to subvert the Constitution in its fundamentals under pretence of the most meticulous care for the fulfilment of Article 48.

I want to ask the Minister a question——

I would rather that the Minister would not be asked questions. When a Minister replies on an Estimate or on a Bill he is very frequently asked questions, but it is a matter of information then. This is surely a question of argument.

It is not; it is a question of fact.

It is a question purely of debate and argument, and I am long enough here to know that there is very little agreement on facts.

Was that the written Constitution that the Minister quoted?

I will allow the Deputy to ask that question.

I want to ask the Minister what article of the Constitution he has read out.

The Minister said that it was an article of the Constitution. It is really Section 2 of the Constitution Act.

He said that it was Article 3 of the Constitution. I would like him to read Article 3 of the Constitution, so that he might know what it is.

What he really read was Section 2 of the Constitution Act.

In this matter the Labour Party finds itself in a very peculiar position as between the two large Parties in the House. The Labour Party, unlike the Fianna Fáil Party, has to share the responsibility for the framing of the Constitution under which this House functions. We are asked by Deputy de Valera on the one hand to vote for a motion which, if carried, would enable this House to accept the petition for a particular purpose; that purpose is to enable him to make use of one clause of the Constitution to help him to remove another objectionable clause—a clause which, in his opinion at any rate, is objectionable. On the other hand, we are asked by the President——

Might I make an explanation now?

If Deputy Davin gives way.

I would like to read the terms of the petition again so as to make it quite clear.

I understand it.

The purpose of this petition is to get the law setting forth the Initiative passed. It is to get rules for the Initiative made.


Will you read the petition?

I will. I wanted to read it long ago so that there might be no doubt. The petition is as follows:—

Petition of seventy-five thousand and upwards of voters on the register for the year 1927-28, signed for presentation to the Oireachtas, pursuant to Article 48 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann).

We, the undersigned, whose names are set forth in the second column hereof, and whose addresses are set forth in the third column hereof, being voters on the registers to the constituencies and registration units indicated, hereby request that provision be made for the initiation by the people of proposals for laws or constitutional amendments.

"And in particular."

The purpose of this is "for laws or constitutional amendments."

"And in particular for the constitutional amendment following."

Is that in it?

It is here in ordinary English: "By the people of proposals for laws""and in particular for the constitutional amendment following."


Read on.

Read on to Article 17.

I am reading it as an English sentence which has to be construed as such.

That Article 17 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) be deleted, and in lieu thereof that there be substituted an Article in the words and figures following, that is to say:

Article 17.—Every member of the Oireachtas, after the Chairman of the House to which such member has been elected shall have signed the roll of members of such House, shall publicly, when the Chairman of such House is in his Chair, sign such roll, and upon so signing such member shall be entitled to take his seat and to vote in such House and to enjoy all rights and privileges of members thereof, anything in any Act contained to the contrary notwithstanding.

That is all in the petition?

That is all in the petition.


That is what we are asked to vote for.

What you are asked to vote for is quite clear. You are asked to vote for a motion that this petition be accepted. The petition is a request that in accordance with Article 48 provision be made "for the initiation by the people of proposals for laws or constitutional amendments——


And in particular?

This is the explanation of one of the constitutional amendments which it was proposed to use the initiative for. Deputy Little caused confusion by suggesting that we were trying to get by means of one petition two things. That is not the case.


He gave the show away.

Does this supersede Document No. 2?

I was endeavouring to explain to the House my meaning of the motion as distinct from the petition if this motion is carried. The motion reads:

"That leave be given to present a petition prepared in accordance with the provisions of Article 48 of the Constitution."

I am very sorry that the demand in the motion has been associated with the reception of the petition for a particular purpose, and unfortunately that places members of this House, especially in view of the President's speech, in the position of voting for the motion and for the reception of the petition as against the President's idea of abolishing the Article altogether. That is my own personal view, and it is unfortunate that members of the House should be placed in that peculiar position. On the other hand, we had the President on various occasions through his political career boosting the democratic nature of this particular Constitution. I hope I am not bordering on any contentious matter when I say that it is well known that the civil war was fought on the issue of the Treaty and the Constitution under which this House functions to-day. The President made that clear in every speech he made, not only during the general election of 1923, but during the two general elections of 1927. If the general election which followed the framing of this Constitution was fought on the issue of preserving the Constitution or otherwise, and if the cost of the civil war is to be counted on that basis, then the words in this clause of the Constitution have cost the taxpayers a very large sum of money. I wonder if the President would tell us what every word in the Constitution cost the taxpayers, and will he say what was the cost of this particular clause that he now wishes to have deleted. As we are talking about the intentions of those who passed the Constitution, or who framed it, I think it is not wrong to go back on the speeches of those who were responsible for fathering it in this House, or in what was known as the Constituent Assembly. According to the Official Debates of October 5th, 1922, page 1213, the late Minister for Justice in moving this particular Article said:

I may say it will still further associate the people with the forging of the laws of the country and it puts the power in the hands of the people of even initiating legislation. If a large section of the people feel that a certain law is desirable and the Parliament fails to introduce the desired legislation the power is given here to the people to initiate legislation themselves. It is the direct complement of the Referendum and pretty much what can be claimed for the Referendum can be claimed for the Initiative—that it keeps contact between the people and their laws and keeps responsibility and consciousness in the minds of the people that they are the real and ultimate rulers of the country. The text of the Article as it stands is permissive. It is not mandatory. It is permissive of Parliament to institute the Initiative but it is mandatory if Parliament having failed to introduce it is so requested by a petition within two years. I think it is better not to speak of the amendments that are on the paper until they are moved.

The late Minister for Justice is responsible for this particular clause in the Constitution. I will take the liberty of quoting—I do not want to detain the House very long—the Minister for Finance. According to the Official Debates, page 1215, speaking on the same day he stated:—

I do not think in any of these matters which are left to the people that we should make it too easy for a very small body to involve the country in the expense which anything of this nature will bring about.

He was talking about the number of people who would be entitled to sign a petition in order to implement this particular clause of the Constitution. He goes on:—

Every Initiative would mean an enormous expense. It may be that within two years when the country has had experience of Referendums there may not be any very great desire for an Initiative. On the other hand if there is sufficient desire it would be very easy to get it.

I quote in support of the Clause of the Constitution as it now stands, two Ministers, the late Minister for Justice and the Minister for Finance, who took the responsibility of introducing that Clause into the Constitution for the purpose of enabling them to say, as they have already said on many occasions, that the people are masters in this country. Personally, I think Deputy de Valera has adopted the wrong procedure. Whether we like it or not, the law-making authority in this country consists of the Dáil, the Seanad and the Governor-General. That is a fact whether you want to recognise it or not. Therefore, in my opinion if the proper procedure were adopted, it should have been by some other means than the moving of a motion in one part of the Oireachtas, if I might put it in that way.

The Labour Party has given very careful consideration to this question. Personally, speaking for myself, I am anxious to retain the Clause as it is in the Constitution to enable whatever body of citizens have the right, to exercise that right, if they wish to do so at any time, in any matter. I say it is a serious state of affairs for the President of the Executive Council to refuse the petition and to refuse to agree to this motion on the grounds that the clause in the Constitution is in his opinion unworkable. The clause stands in the Constitution and those who are constitutionalists, and I am one, will stand by the Constitution until it is amended in a proper constitutional way. The Labour Party have given careful consideration to this matter and are of the opinion— although we will, if forced, have to vote for this motion because we are committed to it, as we want to retain the clause in the Constitution to give the people the rights that have so often been spoken of—that a different procedure should be adopted. We framed an amendment to the motion, but the amendment was ruled out of order. The amendment was on these lines:—

That the House notes that it is proposed to present a Petition in accordance with Article 48 of the Constitution, and resolves that a Joint Committee of both Houses be appointed to consider and report to the Oireachtas upon the procedure required to give due effect to the provisions of that Article, including the procedure for the reception of a Petition, the checking of the signatures thereto, the period within which the Oireachtas should give consideration to the Petition, and the arrangements to be made for a Referendum if the Oireachtas should decline to make the provision contemplated in Article 48, and that a message be sent to the Seanad accordingly.

That, in the considered opinion of the Labour Party, is the procedure that should have been adopted by Deputy de Valera if he intended the motion to have any real effect. I do not believe in detaining the House in considering a motion of this kind. I am personally very sorry that the motion which stands in Deputy de Valera's name has been associated with the reception of a petition for a particular purpose. Deputy Little admitted that quite frankly in his speech to-day. I am very careful, and I will be careful, to see that the Article of the Constitution which gives certain rights to the people of the country will be respected and implemented if, and when, necessary. I hope that the President, who has involved this country in a civil war for the preservation of the Constitution, which was framed and passed in this House, will not try in the way he is doing here on this motion, to ignore a very important clause in the Constitution.

Is the Deputy correct in stating that the Constitution was introduced into this House while the civil war was in progress?

Of course that is open to question. The President can dispute and, I am sure, he will dispute, a good deal of what I say, but the civil war was fought for or against the Treaty, and the Constitution was framed in the Constituent Assembly within the meaning of the Treaty itself.

Will the President state the date on which the Constitution was first published?

I certainly maintain that the issue at the general election in 1923 by all those who accepted the Treaty was for the Treaty and for the Constitution as against the Treaty and against the Constitution. Therefore, if this clause was considered essential —and I believe it is a clause which one can make use of to persuade the people that they are the masters and the rulers and nobody else—I want that clause maintained for any purpose for which the people of the country may consider it advisable to use it. I am sorry to say that Deputy de Valera qualified his use of this particular method of procedure. He is reported —I am not quoting from the official report because I have not got it here— to have stated:—

"The whole question was whether they wanted to avoid the obligation of Article 48 or not. It might be said that it would lead to a hopeless complication of laws, and there was something to be said for that. That was why he was not in favour of the Initiative for ordinary laws."

If I know anything of the some of those who were colleagues of mine in the Constituent Assembly, and who agreed to that clause, I know they had certain matters in their minds at the time. Deputy de Valera must admit that he could not stand up in this House to-day and say that there is unity in his Party, for example, on the question of prohibition or temperance reform. Many of those who voted for that clause in the Constitution foresaw that a time might come when there would be an agitation sufficiently strong in this country to force parties to decide whether there should be legislation for prohibition or otherwise. That is a question which the leaders of the political parties will be glad to get rid of, inside their party meetings. If I know anything about political parties there could not be unity in any party on the matter. They would be glad to allow the people themselves to make use of this particular clause in order to be relieved of the responsibility for deciding questions of that kind rather than placing the responsibility on the leaders and members of parties. That is one of the things I had in mind——

Deputy Aiken will get his turn, I presume, after me. This is one of the things that the clause in the Constitution might be readily used for. I want to preserve that clause in the Constitution so that it may be used for that or any other purpose for which the people of this country may decide to use it either now or in the future.

I agree with Deputy Davin that it would be a monstrous thing for the President or any member of the Government to refuse to honour any clause of the Constitution. Deputy Little was right in his statement that our political convictions can be summed up in one word—reverence for the law. He is right there. Remember we want to have this quite clear. We hold that this is unconstitutional. That is the whole issue. I agree with the Minister for Defence. He has put his case quite plainly. He said that not only would it be wrong to receive it, but it would be absolutely unconstitutional, and it is on that we want to vote. I think I can show to any reasonable man who has reverence for the Constitution that this is an attempt—an unconstitutional attempt —to subvert a most important Article in the Constitution. I might say further, that our political education—I am speaking now to the opposite benches—should have gone far enough to realise that there is an authority to decide what is and what is not constitutional. That authority can always be invoked.

What about the Minister's legal education?

What is that authority?


I do not know. The motion reads:—

"That leave be given to present a petition in accordance with the provisions of Article 48 of the Constitution."

What are you voting for? Remember you are not voting for that motion. Let me put it in another way. You are voting for that motion, with the word "petition" in it, with the actual position before you.

And for what the President said the other night against it.


I did not get that.

He said he wanted the abolition of the Article.


You are voting for that motion and you are voting with the actual petition before you. This is a case in which you cannot consider the motion apart altogether from the petition. It is a rather unique case. The petition is there. It is really the petition on which you are voting. I think any fair-minded man will admit that. You certainly cannot vote, and nobody can expect you to vote for that motion, as if you had no cognisance of what the petition was.

The petition is here in the House. It has been read out. What you are really voting for is this: that leave be given to present the following petition. Deputy de Valera used the word quibbles in opening his case.

There is an example.


I want to strip his case of all his quibbles—that leave be given to present a petition. What is the petition? That "We, the undersigned, being voters on the register for the constituencies and registration units indicated, hereby request that provision be made for the initiation by the people of proposals for laws or constitutional amendments, and, in particular for the constitutional amendments following: that Article 17 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) be deleted and in lieu thereof that there be substituted an article in the words and figures following."

That is what you are asked to vote for. I want to try and be quite relevant in this matter. There were a great many issues that, in my opinion, were irrelevant, brought into this. This is a very serious question, because the Constitution is involved, and therefore we ought, at least, be relevant and stick close to the point. That is what you are asked to vote for, and no quibbles of any kind will alter that fact.

On a point of order, an Article of the Constitution cannot be abolished by a resolution of this House. It must be by an Act passed here.

That is not a point of order.


What has that go to do with my point?

The Minister's suggestion is that a resolution of the House abolishes Article 17 of the Constitution.


I ask Deputies to remember that what they are asked to vote for is a resolution that leave be given to present a petition to establish machinery for initiation, and in particular to establish machinery for abolishing Article 17 of the Constitution. When stripped of all the quibbles, that is what Deputies are asked to vote for. Will any Deputy here tell me that that was ever contemplated by Article 48 of the Constitution? No. This is a trick. Will any Deputy here, facing up to this honestly, fairly and squarely —do not mind misunderstandings of what will be thought or anything else —tell me that that was ever contemplated by anyone under Article 48 of the Constitution?


Was it ever contemplated by Article 48 of the Constitution that a petition would be brought in here, the most important part of which is as follows: that an Article be deleted out of the Constitution, which under the Constitution cannot be deleted by that method. Does any Deputy in the House really hold that Article 48 of the Constitution ever contemplated that the Oath could be removed from the Treaty by this procedure, and that is the whole issue?

Is it not the people outside who will decide that and not this House?

If the Deputy would listen to me. I will probably have to come to that other question afterwards.

Which other question?


I gathered from the Deputy's remark that there are other ways of doing that, and that suggestion is: Am I denying that such a thing could be done?

The point I wanted to make was this: that one would gather from the Minister's speech that this House will decide here and now whether Article 17 of the Constitution is to disappear or not. My point is that when the machinery is set up it is the people outside who will decide that question and not this House.

No. What this House is asked to decide is—to use Deputy de Valera's words, in plain English, that leave be given to present a petition that Article 17 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State be deleted.

Not at all.


That leave be given to present a petition, which petition you must take cognisance of, a petition which hereby requests that provision be made for the initiation by the people of proposals for laws or constitutional amendments.

Remember you are not at a street corner now.


I am not going to be put off in this way. The petition asks that provision be made for the initiation by the people of proposals for laws or constitutional amendments, and in particular for the constitutional amendment following: "That Article 17 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) be deleted, and in lieu thereof that there be substituted an Article in the words and figures following." That is what you are asked to vote for, that leave be given to present such a petition. I say that the Minister for Defence was right that not only have you no right to do it, but in my opinion—of course it is a matter of opinion which may be tested at any time—you would be doing something which, is unconstitutional, because, as I say, it was never intended by the Constitution and was never contemplated by that Article that this machinery should be used to carry out what Deputy Little agrees was the real intention of that petition. Deputy Little deviated for a moment into political honesty, to use a stock expression.

Will you follow me?

He will not make that mistake.


There are other members in Deputy Little's Party who never made that mistake, but Deputy Little has now sanctified the phrase by deviating for a moment into political honesty, very much, I imagine, to Deputy de Valera's disgust, which I think was quite obvious. The Deputy dropped the quibbles and told the truth. Many people, he said, voted for the Initiative. Deputy Little told the House the truth. I do not know any people who voted for the Initiative, but I accept the Deputy's word. Other people, he said, voted for the Oath. He admits it. Everyone all over the country knows well the hugger-mugger that went on over this petition. In any event, I am not denying the signatures to that petition. They are there, and I am not taking up the attitude that the people who wrote on that petition did not know what it meant. We must assume that they did when they signed it.

Hear, hear.


There is no quibbling here, but the fact is that they signed a petition which was never contemplated by Article 48 of the Constitution, a petition which requests, among other things, to make certain arrangements for the doing of something which is a breach of the Constitution, and a thing that was never contemplated by Article 48 of the Constitution.

Never contemplated by whom?


By the Article. Have you any doubt about it?

There is no use in getting excited over this. As I stated when Deputy de Valera first raised the matter in the House, this whole matter presents a certain difficulty. It presented a difficulty for me, and I resolved that difficulty by allowing Deputy de Valera to move his motion because it was a point which I could not resolve myself. It is one that the House must resolve, and the position is that the House is now in the process of resolving it. There has been some talk of the motion as proposed by Deputy de Valera. Nobody could insist that Deputy de Valera should put the motion in these terms, that leave be granted to present a petition purporting to have been prepared in accordance with Article 48 of the Constitution. Manifestly, it is the case of the mover of the motion that the petition has been properly prepared. That point is arguable and is now being argued. Deputies will get an opportunity of arguing it from both sides, and there is no necessity to import all this heat into the matter. There is no use in contradicting the Minister for Agriculture on the spot. Deputies can contradict him later on.


Deputies on the other side do not want argument because they feel that they are not able to stand up to it.

Before the Minister leaves that part of his speech, might I ask him if he can point out to the House where Article 17 of the Constitution is specifically excluded from the operation of Article 48 of the Constitution?


"The said Constitution shall be construed with reference to the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland set forth in the Second Schedule hereto annexed (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Scheduled Treaty') which are hereby given the force of law, and if any provision of the said Constitution or of any amendment thereof or of any law made thereunder is in any respect repugnant to any of the provisions of the Scheduled Treaty, it shall, to the extent only of such repugnancy, be absolutely void."

The Supreme Court Judges hold it was not made mandatory by the Treaty.

Is what the Minister has read in the Constitution?


Of course it is.

What Article of the Treaty is it?


It is No. 1 of 1922, the Act enacting the Constitution.

That is the Constitution Act, not the Treaty.


Who is quibbling now? The whole thing is a quibble from start to finish.

Is it in the Constitution?


I may be wrong, but I yield to your legal knowledge. When I speak of the Constitution, I mean the Constitution Act. Surely there is no validity in any of the various Articles, 45, 46, 47 or 48. except by virtue of that Act. Surely you cannot take an Act of Parliament and divide it and say some of it is for the Constitution but other parts of it are not. Why this puerile, nonsensical talk?

That Article is in the Constitution Act, but the Constitution does not include it.


I am not as good a lawyer as the Deputy. I am the soldier and the Deputy is the lawyer. Let us put it that way. That is the position; why should we go out of our way? Remember this, we are under no obligation whatever to aid or assist Deputy de Valera or the Fianna Fáil Party in making hay through the Constitution. None whatever. We do not intend to do it. We are not going out of our way to facilitate them, and we are going to avail of every constitutioaal right we have to validate the Constitution. We expect them to take that, and not to be looking for help to us. That is what they are always doing. "Help us in our weakness.""We throw ourselves on the mercy of the House." That is the way with these idealists and soldiers. "Help us; we cannot break the Constitution on our own; come to our help." No, we are not going to do that. We are going to take advantage of every right we have in the Constitution to preserve the Constitution. We would be acting not only unconstitutionally, but betraying the people's trust if we allowed this trick to go through. Remember, as has been said before, there is a way of testing all this—a constitutional way of settling our differences. Other people, other views. We have to take our own line in these matters. If necessary, the courts can decide who is right. There is the law. I will tell you what we will not do: we will not talk about war. If we happen to be put wrong we will not suggest, as Deputy de Valera did in his speech, that, of course, there are young men outside, and God knows what they would not do—patriots and idealists— if such a thing does not happen. That is a suggestion which I resent, that there are young men who will see that you will do it. I am here prepared to stand up to any man in the House, but I object to having that argument thrown into the scale. I want to tell you all here that there are men in this country who are not going to be intimidated by any criminals outside, and who are not going to be intimidated by any group of little girls writing threatening letters. It is a positive disgrace to the country when you have the leader of the Opposition coming along and using that argument to intimidate people.

They are not going to be intimidated by you either.


We will not attempt to intimidate anybody.

The situation arising here is intolerable. The Minister for Agriculture is making a relevant speech and he should be allowed to make it. It seems to me there is a very deliberate attempt to prevent him from making it. If he is not allowed to speak I shall have to regard it as gross disorder and adjourn the House, and let the debate be continued in what might possibly be a better atmosphere. Seeing that Deputies will have the opportunity of replying to the Minister, surely their cause would be better served by making speeches in reply rather than by shouting. With regard to alleged points of order, these can be abused. Deputies rise and say: "On a point of order I ask the Minister so and so," and the Minister proceeds to reply, and in fact the Minister seems to enjoy it. It is not helping to maintain order.


I do not enjoy them. They are ridiculous. I said the Oath could not be taken out of the Treaty. If it were I know the immediate reaction to it would be this: I know we shall have puerile talk again about force and about Lloyd George's blue pencil. Why we have not in 1928 grown out of that sort of puerility I do not know. Every Treaty is imposed by force. There was force on our side and force on the British side. In every Treaty in every country there is force on both sides. That is accepted in all countries. What was referred to by Deputy de Valera as the Western European standard of civilisation has accepted it. It is accepted by all nations that have grown up that there is force on both sides in every treaty and contract. For goodness sake let us not be making an exhibition of ourselves before the people of the world by talking in that puerile way about force. There is a way of doing what the Deputy wants. There is a way of abolishing the Treaty; there is a way of denouncing the Treaty. It will have to be denounced as a whole. "We hold we have the right to secede." Do so, and take the responsibility of doing so. So far as I and most of the Deputies are concerned, we will oppose it and will use every constitutional method to oppose it. I think the Treaty gives us more independence than we would have under a Republic, but that is neither here nor there. If you want to denounce it there is a way of doing it, but I will oppose it. First get your majority—I think this is relevant— and then you can denounce the Treaty, but this is what we will not stand for: we will not allow the people to be tricked into denouncing the Treaty. This is an attempt to trick them into denouncing it. People are told: "Take out the Oath and everything is right." The fact is that to take out the Oath is to take out a fundamental part of the Treaty, and means denouncing the whole Treaty, and we are not going to allow the people to be tricked or cajoled into voting for taking the Oath out of the Treaty under the impression that that does not mean a complete denunciation of the Treaty. If the people denounce the Treaty they will do it deliberately, knowing what they are doing, and they will not do so by a trick. They will not be tricked into it by anybody.

I do not think there is any Deputy who is going to be tricked by the veneer of legality the Minister for Agriculture has tried to throw over his unconstitutionalism. Either he is tricking the House or the Dáil is faced with a political crisis, and a serious difference in this matter has arisen between the President of the Executive Council and two of the most important of his Ministers.



Because every word of the Minister's speech here was in direct contradiction to the speech delivered by the President on the last day that this motion was debated. As a Deputy who, when this question was raised some time ago, did not hesitate for one moment in describing himself as being only slightly constitutional, the President's speech on Wednesday last, I think, justifies me in claiming him as a colleague.

I think that a large section, at any rate, of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party in their attitude in this matter have shown themselves to be only slightly constitutional as well.

Both the President and myself are agreed apparently that the Constitution is an intolerable nuisance only to be obeyed when it suits us, and in so far as it suits us, and be ignored when it happens to be inconvenient. I strongly suspect that the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Agriculture are with us in our attitude, although, in view of the effect which the President's speech has created they are anxious to give a veneer of legality to their attitude. Deputies O'Connell and Davin are, of course, constitutionalists. We can afford to ignore those—we can deal with those. If we can get agreement between the two big Parties in this House to regard the Constitution as a nuisance—something of no significance, something that can be ignored when occasion requires—then I think we will have cleared the way very considerably towards the establishment of proper canons of political honesty in this country. We, however, before deciding upon having that particular fact clearly recognised by the people must reckon with the opposition we are likely to encounter. We have it already indicated clearly that Deputy O'Connell and the Labour Party will oppose our unconstitutionalism. However logical and reasonable that may sound, their numbers in this House, I think, are not sufficiently great to enable them to impede us in our work.

There are other Deputies who are likely to be as strictly constitutional as the Labour Party. We know that the word has gone forth from the "Irish Times" to those who adopt its political creed on this matter. In this morning's issue of that paper, you will find that stated in the leading article:

Mr. Cosgrave's incontinent rejection of it, (that is the petition) therefore, may be interpreted, not unreasonably, as a violation of the Constitution; and such violation must be regarded as a dangerous precedent. We can imagine easily the use Mr. de Valera might make of it if, at some future time, his Party should take office. The Constitution can be amended by Parliament but, as it stands, it is sacred. Any other attitude to-day—especially by Ministers —opens an alarming vista of irregularity and lawlessness.

The order is gone forth to the Constitutionalists that President Cosgrave and myself in having this Constitution relegated to the scrap heap will have to reckon with considerable opposition from that quarter.

"So gather round, my boys,

Sinn Feiners scorning,

Let your voices roll across the floor,

For the Constitutional movement, now take warning,

Must go on and on and on, for evermore."


You have not got the Cork accent.

I think, however, the Minister for Agriculture will agree with me that no matter how strong or reasonable the argument is which Deputy O'Connell puts forward, or how the "Irish Times" or other papers may call on Deputies to respect the Constitution as sacred, we will be able to deal with it. "There is a Constitution in operation that is of much greater significance than that printed in this book. We have 15,000 bayonets behind us. Force is the only argument that counts here. That Constitution is not worth the paper it is written upon. We know that. We have got the bayonets. Is not that so? We will be able to enforce our will regardless of what lawyers and pedants and others may claim exists in the Constitution." It will be a rather interesting development.


That is an argument we never use—it is Deputy de Valera's argument: "We have our revolvers behind us."

I can claim that the President is in full agreement with me in this matter.


We do not set the Army in motion.

It will be interesting when President Cosgrave and myself in a Coalition are proceeding to scrap this Constitution and to exercise force on our behalf.

Where will Deputy de Valera be? Why yourself?

Because I described myself as being slightly constitutional.

And Deputy de Valera?

I can speak for myself, and he can speak for himself.

He always hides himself.

Apparently the Minister thinks that every speech made here by a member of a particular party is to be taken as an indication that it expresses the views of every member of that party.


That is usual.

Apparently that does not apply to Cumann na nGaedheal, because we have the President and the Minister for Agriculture speaking on this motion from two entirely different standpoints. The President declares himself as being unconstitutional certainly as regards this Article——



While the Minister for Agriculture is trying to maintain his constitutionalism and assert it, and lecture the House on the sublimity of his attitude in respect of it.

I like that humility. I thought the succession from Deputy de Valera was with Deputy Aiken.

I do not know what the Minister is driving at. We tried very hard recently to teach the wisdom of the old proverb, that a shut mouth catches no flies.

Deputy de Valera has learned that.

We find it hard to teach that. Apparently the effort to educate Ministers in the wisdom of that proverb has not been amply repaid.

As Deputy de Valera's name has been introduced, may I ask Deputy Lemass does he make a distinction between silent wisdom and wise silence? It is the latter that Deputy de Valera has adopted.

I am afraid you are beyond me. As a matter of fact, the distinction between a wise silence and silent wisdom is like the distinction between the Minister for Agriculture's constitutionalism and my avowed unconstitutionalism.

One is safe and the other is unsafe.

He wants to maintain a particular attitude in order to be able to represent himself in the Press and on platforms as an upholder of this document, whereas I do not care a rap what people think of my attitude. It just happens that I am honest and he is not. Of course, I am prepared to admit that there will not be agreement between the President and myself as to what particular articles of the Constitution are to be scrapped. I would be anxious to preserve these articles which provide for democratic government, but he is not. He is anxious to preserve the articles that give to his Britannic Majesty George V., Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India, etc., a certain amount of authority in this country. I do not. So far as we can go together, we will. We can go this far: We can recognise this Constitution exactly for what it is worth—waste paper. I and Deputies who are supporting this motion would like to preserve the democratic articles of the Constitution. We would like to preserve Article 48. We would like to ensure that power would be given to the people by a majority vote to make their will effective. That is what that Article provides for. It provides that in certain cases in which this Dáil does not act the people, by a majority vote, can make their will effective. We are asking this Dáil to set up the machinery by which 450,000 people, who do not want the oath of allegiance, can find out on a straight issue whether or not they are in a majority in the country. That is what the Government is trying to trick the Dáil into preventing. We want to ensure that that will go before the people as a single issue, not confused by any personalities, such as take place at election times, not confused as to the merits of one Party or another, but as a straight, single issue, as to whether or not the people want their public representatives to pledge to an outside authority their allegiance before they can take up their duty in the Dáil as their representatives. The Government are trying to prevent that straight issue being put to the people. I am aware that by emphasising the particular purpose for which we, at any rate, would like the power of the Initiative used, I may be confusing the issue to some minds. The petition asks the House to implement a particular part of the Constitution which lays down that machinery for the carrying out of the Initiative must be provided on the petition of 75,000 voters, or else that the matter of setting up that machinery be referred to the people by Referendum.

And that only?

That is what this petition asks for.

And something else?

We declare it in the petition that the first purpose we will use the machinery for is to get a vote of the people on the question of the retention or the abolition of Article 17.

There are two points in it.

We make no secret of it. We are anxious to let you know that. If this House wishes to implement Article 48 of the Constitution they will not get out of that by the sort of quibbling we have had from the two Ministers who have spoken. The President has other objections, however. The Ministers who spoke to-day tried to maintain—I do not think they convinced themselves—that in receiving the petition under Article 48 of the Constitution they would, in fact, be breaking the Constitution. But the President's objections were different. He said first of all there was doubt in somebody's mind as to what is the Oireachtas. We are told the Oireachtas is the Government of the Twenty-six Counties of the Free State. But what is it? Apparently it was impossible to define the Oireachtas under the Constitution in a sufficiently definite manner to enable Article 48 of the Constitution to be implemented.

There are three parts of the Oireachtas—His Britannic Majesty and the two Houses here. Let us take the illustration of the shamrock—the old illustration of three in one. If you wanted to stick a pin in the shamrock you would be faced with considerable difficulty. You could only stick it in one of the leaves at a time. We want to present this petition to the Oireachtas, and we can only do it to one House at a time. I think that simile is quite in order. It was used on a more important occasion, and it can be used here. I think Deputies opposite will be forced to admit that that particular argument of the President's is only an attempt to side-track the issue. If the members of the Executive Council were anxious to implement Article 48 they would have no difficulty whatever in doing so. We were told that the taking of the Initiative under the Article would be very costly. There seems to be some doubt as to the actual cost. The President said £80,000. That is about twice the cost of the Seanad election. The figure the President gave was disputed. Deputy Davin dealt with that very well. Apparently because it might cost £80,000 to abolish Article 17 of the Constitution we must not do it.

We frequently hear from Ministers on public platforms and in this House reference to the amount it cost to enforce the Oath of Allegiance on the country and to ram it down the necks of the people. How much did that cost? Was it £30,000,000?

The Constitution was not published, the President said while the civil war was in progress; it was published in the Press on the morning on which the elections took place, a week or fourteen days before the civil war commenced.

What the Minister for Agriculture read out was not published.

The elections took place that day, and it was claimed that the result of the elections was a mandate to a particular party to enforce that Constitution, and then the Minister for Agriculture and his colleagues let loose the dogs of war and proceeded to send up £30,000,000 in smoke in order to enforce the Constitution on the people.

Back to Mallow Bridge again.

What about the incendiary bombs?

The Republican is talking at last.

You mentioned Mallow Bridge in Cork on the platform.

The President also tried to make some point that by accepting this petition and setting up the machinery for initiation of laws the means might be provided by which a minority of people would enforce their will on the majority. I wonder was that an argument or was it intended as a threat?


It was not.

If a vote is taken of the people on a particular constitutional amendment, and if a majority of the people vote in favour of that constitutional amendment, how can the setting up of the machinery result in a minority of the people enforcing their will upon the majority, unless with the support of the 14,000 bayonets we have been talking about? The minority decided that the majority's will should not prevail. Of course, we do not hear so much about the will of the people nowadays. I will admit the ardour and vigour with which they advocated the necessity of letting the people's will prevail.

The principle is more generally accepted now. It does not need to be insisted upon.

I understand it is more generally accepted now, and because the Ministry think they have gained their point in that matter they no longer talk about it, and are proceeding to shift their base a little. Of course, the principle was always accepted. There was no one on this side of the House disputed the right of the people to decide by a majority vote on all issues put to them. You took damn good care they never got the opportunity of deciding that issue. You are now boasting of having received the people's sanction.

We did receive it.


You were in the cradle at that time.

No, he was out on the hills. The President also seemed to think they can claim, because they are the Government in the country, they have received a mandate from the people to abolish Article 48 of the Constitution. Is it seriously claimed by the Government that because they are now the Government and have survived two general elections they have a mandate to abolish, scrap and throw away this Constitution?


That Article.

Did the Government get a majority at the general election? Look at the election results. Cumann na nGaedheal did not get the majority, but they are the Government here because certain individuals, as I said before, got elected on false pretences. Deputy Heffernan is not here at the moment, but he and his colleagues were elected on a fairly definite programme.


On a point of order. That point was raised by Deputy Little, and the Ceann Comhairle ruled him out, and for that reason I deliberately refrained from referring to this matter. Is the Deputy now entitled to do so?

I think if the claim is made that the Government has received a mandate from the people to abolish or scrap an article of the Constitution it can be answered that, in fact, no such mandate was received.

That is not the point. The point is that the Deputy said certain Deputies secured election to this House under false pretences. I think that statement should not be made.

I suggest that every member of the Front Bench opposite was elected because he claimed that he stood for the Constitution. "We are going to preserve the Constitution, come what may." They made fine speeches about it. "No matter who attempts to intimidate us, or what may happen, no matter what forces of lawlessness and irregularity are let loose upon the country we will preserve the Constitution."

That is a different point. I want to get the Deputy back to the statement that certain Deputies secured election on false pretences. That statement should not be made.

If the statement is irregular or out of order I withdraw it. I think Deputy Corry reminded us the other day, very forcibly, that Deputy Heffernan's slogan was: "Abolish the bonus; the farmers have none."

That has nothing to do with it.

The fact is that no vote cast at the last election showed that the people were in favour of the amendment or abolition of the Constitution in the manner indicated by the President. I maintain that the Government, in proceeding to amend the Constitution in that manner by the power or by the votes they can get in this House, are acting in defiance of the will of the people, which a few months ago they were urging should prevail.

Read Article 50.

You know the Constitution, I admit, better than I do.

The Article deals with power to amend the Constitution.

I agree. Rule 50 undoubtedly gives this House power, within a period of eight years or thereabouts, to pass a law amending the Constitution. The point I want to make is that the Government cannot claim that they have got a mandate from the people to do so, and the Government dare not face a vote of the people on that issue.

It was before the people at the election.

They dare not face a vote of the people on the single issue of that Article or of any other Article in the Constitution.

What about the election?

You rushed an election on three weeks' notice last December and put several confusing issues before the people. You threatened them with immediate and terrible war.

I should like to hear some arguments on the motion from Deputy Lemass.

The motion before the House is an attempt to give effect to an article of the Constitution. The Government have declared that not merely are they not going to give effect to that article, but that they are going to abolish it. They have made a claim in this House that they have received a mandate from the people to abolish it, and I say that that claim cannot be substantiated.

They claim that they have the power to abolish it.

They have the fourteen thousand bayonets, and that is all that matters.

And Article 50.

It is possible that the Government, even despite the efforts of the "Irish Times" may be able to loose the forces of irregularity and lawlessness on the country, and succeed in violating the Constitution.

We will leave that to Deputy Lemass.

In a way, I hope they do. It will be very useful for this Party if the first step in degrading the Constitution and rendering it inoperative comes from the opposite side of the House. When we have succeeded in scrapping this Constitution altogether we believe the country will be much better off. When we have succeeded in deleting those sections of the Constitution which have not at any time received the sanction of the Irish people, or which are not in accord with their wishes or national aspirations, we will be much better off. The sections of the Constitution which do provide for the democratic government of the people of this country by their elected representatives, which do enable the people's voice to be expressed upon all matters concerning their welfare, will be preserved by the Deputies of this Party irrespective of the consequences and irrespective of the fourteen thousand bayonets.

I had no desire to intervene in this debate at all. I would not intervene were it not for the fact that certain Deputies have thought fit to deal with the attitude of the Party to which I belong in respect of the constitutional position.

Which Party is that?

The Farmers' Party, who contested the different elections since 1922, and who have always stood for the Constitution and never made any reservations of any kind in regard to it.

You are going to vote with us then?

The suggestion that the Farmers' Party might not, in certain circumstances, be supporters of the Government in regard to the constitutional issue is one which will not hold water. At the moment I am not prepared to advance an argument on the general question raised here. The argument I would be inclined to advance, if I were to debate the matter, would be that used by the Ministers who have spoken on this side of the House. If this motion for the reception of the petition had been brought forward purely for the purpose of setting up machinery for establishing the Initiative and Referendum in the abstract, it is quite possible that I would have given my support to the motion. But the party opposite—perhaps fortunately for the House and for the country—coupled with the motion an addendum. They state that the intention is to set up machinery which will be used for the purpose of deciding whether or not the Oath shall be maintained in the Constitution.

That is the true interpretation. Now we are getting some honesty.

If it is within the Constitution to ask the people if they will accept the Oath, the people must be told that its non-acceptance as part of the Constitution means the abrogation of the Treaty.

And threats of war.

If Deputies opposite are prepared to put to the people the question. "Do you or do you not accept the Treaty?" I say they are entitled to do so. But they must put that to the people in a plain and straight way, so that they will know what issue they are taking a decision upon. They must be prepared to accept and take the consequences.

What are the consequences?

Give us some of the threats of war.

The consequences are whatever you think they are likely to be.

What do you say?

The people on this side are not prepared to take the consequences of action of that sort.

What are the consequences you are not prepared to take?

If the Party opposite had thought fit to introduce this motion with the idea of setting up machinery for the establishment of the Referendum, it might be accepted as the ideal of ultra-democratic government. But, fortunately for the clear understanding of the issue which we have to face, it is coupled with the idea that the Initiative, if set up, is to be used for one purpose and one purpose only. The party opposite want to use the Constitution for the carrying out of an operation which, in itself, is an abrogation and a breaking of the Constitution.

resumed the Chair.

Read Article 50.

The people I represent are not prepared to take any chances with the Treaty. We are not prepared to ask the people of the country to fool themselves in connection with the situation. We are not prepared to ask the people of the country to vote for the abolition of the oath under the impression that the abolition of the oath can be carried out in accordance with the Constitution, and that there will be no resultant effects. We realise that there must be some resultant effects, and we are not prepared to take the consequences.

What are they?

That is a matter to be argued.

Tell us what they are.

So far as the Party to which I belong are concerned, there is no doubt as regards our attitude towards the Constitution. We made it plain on every platform on which we stood that, on the constitutional question, we were absolutely at one with the Cumann na nGaedheal Party. We made that plain in the June election, and in the election of August, 1923, and in the election of 1922. The Farmers' Party never quibbled or hesitated in the statement that, on the question of the Constitution and its maintenance, they stood with and supported the Government. One of the main reasons, though not the only reason, that we are here, side by side with the Government, and in alliance with the Government Party, is in order that the Constitution may be maintained. The people we represent are not prepared, and we are not prepared, to face the consequences of abrogating the Constitution.

Are you prepared to say what the consequences are?

It would be out of order for two reasons to state what the consequences are now. Perhaps the Deputy will move the adjournment of the debate.

I doubt very much if Deputies on the other side are prepared to face the consequences.

Will you say what they are? You are afraid to say what they are.

Does the Deputy move the adjournment of the debate?

I have finished now.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 2 p.m. until Wednesday at 3 o'clock.