PRIVATE DEPUTIES BUSINESS. - PETITION UNDER ARTICLE 48 OF THE CONSTITUTION.

Question again proposed:—
"That leave be given to present a petition prepared in accordance with the provisions of Article 48 of the Constitution."—(Eamon de Valera.)
Debate resumed on amendment:—
To delete all words after the word "That" and substitute the words "the question of granting leave for the presentation of a petition, purporting to be prepared in accordance with Article 48 of the Constitution. be not further considered until the Oireachtas has prescribed the procedure to be adopted for the presentation of the petitions contemplated in Article 48 of the Constitution."— (Deputy Thrift.)

As nobody else seems desirous of speaking on this particular matter, I take advantage of the privilege of concluding on the amendment. The only really serious speech, in my opinion, apart from the speech of the leader of the Labour Party, in this debate has been that of Deputy Thrift in introducing the amendment. I disagree altogether with his conclusions, and I hope to go fairly closely along the lines that he has travelled. There is very little necessity to deal with and analyse Article 48 of the Constitution. He did that very thoroughly, and I only regret that he did not think it worth his while to take up the Petition and parse and analyse it for us in the same way as he did Article 48. If he had done so I do not think he would, for a moment, have suggested that there was anything slurred over or that there was any attempt to do anything in respect of this Petition except in the most strictly constitutional way. I took the pains to read what was said when this Article 48 was passing through the Provisional Parliament, and I may have occasion, as I go ahead, to deal with some of the remarks made then. The first sentence is this:—

"The Oireachtas may provide for the initiation, by the people, of proposals for laws or constitutional amendments."

Now this was discussed in the Provisional Parliament, and the only point raised in connection with it was whether it should be mandatory on the Oireachtas to provide whether the word "shall" instead of the word "may" should be put in there. The only reason given as to why it should not be made mandatory was that the circumstances of the times were such that it was not certain that within a year or two it would be possible for the Oireachtas to fulfil the obligation which "shall" would impose upon it.

Now, let us come to the next sentence.

"Should the Oireachtas fail to make 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."

Contrast these two sentences with "may" in the one case and "shall" in the other. If you take into account the debate that took place at the time there is no doubt that "shall" there is obligatory. There is a definite obligation on the Oireachtas on the Petition. It does not say on the receipt or on the presentation of the Petition, but "on the Petition." Why was it put in by lawyers? I have seen the draft signed by three of the judges either of the Supreme Court or of the High Court. I gave the names when I introduced the Petition. Are we going to assume that these people did not know what they were doing, just the same as we are asked to assume in connection with Article 17, that Lord Birkenhead did not know how to make a thing obligatory or not in his draft? I say here that that was deliberately put in to compel the Oireachtas on a Petition being signed, and not to give the Oireachtas the simple way, and by saying, "Oh, no, we will not look at this Petition of yours. You may sign it as long as you like, but by the simple process of turning our backs and refusing to receive it we can get out of any obligation to receive it." I say there is a moral obligation, and that anyone who wishes to perform his moral obligation is bound to receive it, on its being signed when he satisfies himself that it fulfils the particular provision made there. Now what are the provisions made in Article 48? The provisions made there are that it shall be signed by not less than "seventy-five thousand voters on the register, of whom not more than fifteen thousand shall be voters in any one constituency." The Oireachtas is bound, and this Dáil, as part of the Oireachtas, is bound to do its share when the Petition has been signed and presented, or rather when made aware of the fact that it is signed it is bound to fulfil its obligation in this matter. I say you are not fulfilling your moral obligation, as imposed by this Constitution, if you try to get rid of it by the simple process of saying you are not taking it; "you may present your bill, but I am not going to examine the account and pay my debts."

Now what is it the Oireachtas is compelled to do? What is it that is made mandatory on the Oireachtas to do on being made aware of the signing of this Petition? It should, of course, satisfy itself, in the first place, by the setting up of examiners that the Petition is of the character indicated or intended in this particular Article. It should satisfy itself, that seventy-five thousand voters, of whom not more than fifteen thousand voters have come from any one constituency, have signed it. I hold that once this Petition is brought to its notice, as having been duly signed, it is the business of the Oireachtas to set up examiners to see whether the conditions here imposed are being fulfilled, and when that is done and if it cannot show that the conditions have been violated, then I say it is its duty to do one of two things made mandatory in the Article. What are the two things? One is that it should make provision for the Initiative. Those are precisely the terms of the Petition which has been signed. I shall take that Petition later and do some of the parsing on it that Professor Thrift did on some of the Articles on the Constitution. The Petition was most carefully drawn up. I knew perfectly well, from the attitude of the Executive Council, that if there was any chance by any legal quibble they would get out of their obligations. And in order to make sure that they could not get out of their obligations I got it drafted by the best legal authority that I could find, and one by the way who is not associated with our political Party, who could take a calm, impartial view, and who did it from a purely legal standpoint.

The phrasing is objected to on the pretence that there are two Petitions, and this by men who admit themselves they are only laymen. I say if they read this as ordinary English they will see it is correctly drafted. These men put themselves up, although they disclaim any such intention, against a legal authority upon this matter. In the drafting this legal authority took the precise words of the Article. When I brought this first before An Ceann Comhairle we had a long talk in connection with procedure, but there was never a suggestion for a moment that this Petition was a double-barrelled Petition, or that it was drawn in any way except in accordance with Article 48 of the Constitution. The first suggestion of that kind came from the President. Deputy Little, on our side, stressed a certain argument which was quite legitimate, but to a point in which he made a mistake. He said that this Petition having been signed, if it is accepted, when the Initiative was set up we might use it afterwards for another purpose. Of course, that could not be done. First of all the Petition would be impounded here with the Clerk of the Dáil or the Clerk of the Seanad or somewhere else and, therefore, that Petition would not ordinarily be available for a second purpose. In any case there is no need to do it. If there is any difficulty about it later, I shall get Deputy Little's argument and show that it was a perfectly legitimate, natural argument as to the difficulty, in fact, the most extraordinary hardship, we put upon ourselves to get this thing signed, by making it quite clear that one of the constitutional amendments which we propose to use the Initiative for ultimately was to get this constitutional amendment, namely, the elimination of Article 17. I hope I have made it clear that the Oireachtas is bound to act on this Petition. On this Petition being presented here formally, it is quite clear that no one, wishing to put an obligation on the Oireachtas, would leave such an easy way out as for the Oireachtas to say, "We will not look at it."

The next thing is this: "Any legislation passed by the Oireachtas providing for such initiation by the people shall provide," and it goes on to say that if the Oireachtas acts on this Petition, either by starting out of its own initiation at once on receipt of the Petition to make the necessary provisions for the initiation, or if it prefers to refer the matter to the people, then let the people decide whether there should be initiation or not. It says in either case that any legislation passed by the Oireachtas providing for such initiation by the people shall provide——. It limits, in other words, the powers of the Oireachtas as regards legislation in respect to the Oireachtas in these particular matters. The first point is, that such proposals may be initiated on the petition of 50,000 voters on the register. That means that if you are making legislation, as a result of a petition being signed and brought to your notice, you must if you are to keep within the Constitution provide for these proposals for legislation by the people. When the people start to make proposals for legislation they must be initiated by them on the petition of 50,000 voters on the register. That is the matter of voters necessary in order to initiate the legislation.

The second point is that if the Oireachtas rejects the proposal so initiated it shall be submitted to the people for decision in accordance with the ordinary regulations governing the Referendum. That is, if there be a petition from the people for certain changes in the Constitution, or requesting that certain laws be enacted, and if there be a petition signed by 50,000 voters to that effect, this Oireachtas may of course accept or reject, but if it is going to reject then the questions which have been initiated by the people shall be submitted to the people again for decision in accordance with the ordinary regulations governing the Referendum. The third limitation on the powers of the Oireachtas as regards legislation in the matter is, that if the Oireachtas enacts a proposal so initiated, such enactment shall be subject to the provisions respecting ordinary legislation or amendments to the Constitution as the case may be. That means that legislation that would be passed as a result of the people's initiative would have to conform to the limitations which are imposed upon ordinary legislation in this House.

This House, I take it, is not going to be the judge in disputed matters. Where legal matters are in dispute, we have, time after time, heard it here that these matters are referred to the courts. There is a definite way for deciding whether certain things are ultra vires in accordance with this Constitution or not, and surely such a decision as that would not be taken. This House would not presume, if the people on their initiative want a certain thing passed, to sit as a court of judgement and say, "No, that thing is not possible in accordance with the Constitution." The people, I take it, are above us. If we are going to deal with this thing properly as a democracy, we must take it that the supreme sovereign authority in the country are the people. I, for one, have never denied that proposition.

I take it the people, and by the people I mean the people of the whole of this island, under present conditions are not able to apply that particular test. But, surely, this House is not going to take on the position of interposing itself between the desire of the people to do a certain thing and say: "No, you cannot do this because it is not in accordance with the Constitution." That is a matter to be settled otherwise. What Deputy Thrift and those associated with him propose is, because they think that this thing is ultra vires, that they should interpose at this stage and stop it. We say that they have no power to do it. I have got the written opinion of four senior and three junior counsel on this very matter. Every one of them holds that Article 17, as it stands in the Constitution, need not stand in it at all, and still the Treaty be strictly carried out.

What excuse has been put forward— what decent excuse, and I use the word advisedly—for rejecting this Petition and refusing to receive it, to examine it, and see whether the Petition is signed in the proper manner or not? I see none. I do not see anything in Deputy Thrift's suggestion but a means of shelving the whole thing, and of getting out of a moral obligation by another process. It is simply the "Irish Times" attitude. I am prepared to take it that Deputy Thrift was acting in good faith, just as the Labour Party were probably acting in good faith when they suggested here some time ago that there should be machinery put up here to determine the procedure that would be necessary in connection with this Petition. I am quite willing to admit that.

This is a petition to the Oireachtas, and the Oireachtas does not sit in one place. Laws are made by the Oireachtas but, as I have said on a former occasion, the Oireachtas does not sit together. It is a stage in a certain process. The most natural thing in the world is that if you want to present a petition to the Oireachtas you present it first to the Dáil, which, I take it, is the democratic House and the House in which legislation usually originates. After this House had done its duty in the matter—we have done our part, I take it, for instance—if there was a real Executive here that wanted to carry out its obligations and wanted to act as a real Executive for this assembly, it would, on this petition being presented and on being made aware that such a petition was in existence, straight off, with its legal advisers or otherwise, devise a process by which this thing could be done. But to say now that you are not going to do this, and particularly when we have the threats made from the other side, from the Minister for Education, the last day, the definite assurance that they were going to remove this Article from the Constitution, in view of all that I say that I cannot regard Deputy Thrift's amendment as anything but a means of shelving the whole thing, of causing delay until such time as those who do not want to act on the obligations can side-track them.

Let me come back to the terms of the Petition itself. The Petition, as I have said, is signed in accordance with Article 48. The first part is introductory: "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 for the constituencies and registration units indicated." Then it goes on:—

"We, the undersigned,.... hereby request that provision be made for the initiation by the people of proposals for laws or constitutional amendments," and in particular for a certain constitutional amendment which is indicated.

Take the words of Article 48: "The Oireachtas may provide for the initiation by the people of proposals for laws or constitutional amendments." The identical words, the very words which Deputy Thrift, when dealing with the first sentence, said defined for him the Initiative. They request, therefore, that provision be made. What they request the Oireachtas to do is, to make a certain provision, and nothing more, and the moment the Oireachtas or the Dáil gets that request, it is morally bound in duty, if it has any respect for moral obligations, to accede to the request to make the provision or put the matter to the people whether they want the Initiative or not. Confusion is caused by the existence of two "fors." I was not responsible, and the lawyer that drafted this was not responsible for that.

The question is when you have a request 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," is there anybody here who would say that this English sentence is capable of any interpretation but one from the context, particularly when it has reference to an Article of the Constitution in which the intention is quite clear. If more was asked, then the Oireachtas is not bound to give it. The Oireachtas clearly would only give that which it was bound to give, and refuse to recognise anything else. If there was any intention, which there is not, to ask the Oireachtas to do something more than it was bound to do, then those who do not want to do that would have a good case for refusing to do it. But it is not asked to do anything more than to receive or consider a request: "That provision be made for the initiation by the people of proposals for laws or constitutional amendments." That is, pro vision be made so that the people may make these proposals for laws or constitutional amendments, and in particular may make proposals for this particular constitutional amendment which they indicate. If they are at liberty to make proposals for constitutional amendments in general, surely it does not in any way interfere with their rights by indicating a special one —that kind of constitutional amendment they want. It does not, of course. They simply indicate a certain one in which at the moment they are particularly interested. Some people may be interested in the Initiative for one purpose, and some people may be interested for another. For instance, I indicated earlier that I was particularly interested in the Initiative because it gave people the opportunity of changing the Constitution when they wanted to do so, and I think that a very valuable power, for history shows, I have said already, that wherever there is a cast-iron constitution—it was tried very often in France and in other countries—and when any attempt by means of such cast-iron instruments was made to defeat the will of the people, it has generally resulted in the whole thing being swept away. I do not say that fundamentally a law, particularly if that law had the full approval of the people, could be easily changed. I do not say that, but if there is a strong desire on the part of the majority of the people to change it, then the people ought not to be defeated in their desire by any instrument of this particular kind. Therefore, I say the Initiative would save the nation from the danger which I foresee, and would save it from the action which is bound to come. Now, I will be told in a moment that whenever I mention an argument of this kind I am threatening, and gentlemen on the other side will say they will not be threatened. That is nonsense. It has nothing to do with the question. The fact is that if you tell people there is a fire there, and that if they put their fingers into it they will be burned, that is not threatening. It simply means you are indicating that certain reactions will follow if they put their fingers in the fire.

The fire is not there.

That is not the lesson of Irish history, and it is not the lesson of history in other countries. I say that you ought to act in a commonsense way and give no reason for anything of the kind. I think you will agree with me that whatever Deputy Gorey's views may be as to whether the fire is there or not, that as long as it is the opinion of a large number there is such a fire, and when you take the existence of the Free State Army to an extent which is regarded as abnormal, and the existence of a very large police force, these and other things of that kind do in fact indicate there is something there at any rate. I say that the simplest way to save yourselves the expense of arrangements of that kind is to put out the fire, that the best way is to try and make arrangements that such instruments would not be necessary at all. That is my chief interest in the Initiative. It gives people the opportunity of changing the Constitution and preventing it from being a cast-iron instrument. Some member of the Labour Party—Deputy Davin or somebody—suggested that Party were interested in the Initiative from another point of view. They were interested in it as a means of enabling them to pass laws which might not otherwise be passed in an Assembly like this. I understand and appreciate that. I said that I was not strongly interested in the Initiative from that point of view, but I am not going to object to anyone making it possible to change laws or to have laws passed on the initiative of the people. I know there are complications and difficulties which would not exist in the case of using the Initiative for changing the Constitution. This Petition is simply a request that the Oireachtas will make provision for the initiation by the people of proposals so that the people may initiate proposals for constitutional amendments. When the time comes to put it to the test we will put it to the test.

As to whether the particular constitutional amendment herein indicated is or is not within the Constitution, because you see that a certain use of the Initiative might bring up a question in which you think that an issue might be raised which would be ultra vires as far as the Constitution is concerned, are you going to put up a barrier to prevent the question being considered at all? I say you have no excuse for that. Anybody with a sense of moral obligations is not going to allow these obligations to be side-tracked by considerations such as are being adduced here. I have not dealt with some of the arguments brought up by the other side. I do not know whether it would be better not to deal with them, because if ever there was a case in which I had the satisfaction, and I confess it was a great satisfaction, of seeing falsehood wriggling, twisting and turning in front of truth, I had it when I saw the wriggling, twisting and turning on the other side in connection with this matter. It was a satisfaction to see the situation which always exists when you have truth facing falsehood. Can anybody here tell me how you are going to get out of this obligation? Is there anybody here who can tell me there is any honest way in which you can turn your back upon a petition that has been signed in accordance with this particular Article? I do not see any. That is why I am opposed to Deputy Thrift's amendment. It gives a way of killing it. If they are going to do that let them do it with all the moral obliquity attached, and tear it in front of the world, but do not go behind back doors to do it. We have indicated, so far as we are concerned, our view as to the extent to which this is morally binding on the Irish people. Our attitude towards it is that it is not, that this Constitution which was, first of all, made subject to a Treaty which was imposed on the Irish people by force——

From the point of view of parliamentary procedure, the position is that the Treaty is a schedule to the Constitution and is therefore law. From that point of view except on one procedure and by one method the Treaty cannot be criticised. There must be some finality in regard to such a statement as "the Treaty was imposed by force" and so on. The position is that these matters are law and they cannot be criticised inasmuch as criticism of them is criticism of the House itself.

In that connection is it in order for a Deputy to criticise Article 48, which is also law, and say that it is unworkable?

That is when proceedings under Article 48 take place. The criticism of that Article which did take place here was during proceedings on a Bill, which, among other things, proposed to exclude Article 48 from the Constitution. In general, it is quite a reasonable position to say that when you pass a Statute you have to leave it there until you amend it.

But before you proceed to amend anything you must show where it is defective. This particular petition will be one of the reasons brought up by those who say that we are asking—which we are not —in this petition to have Article 17 eliminated. We are not asking that at this stage, because we could not do so. Article 48 has nothing to do with it. That will come when the Initiative is set up and when provision is made to have it removed. Then you can talk on that matter, but at present it is not relevant. I have, however, to deal with it because there has been confusion created by having this red herring, or whatever you like to call it, drawn across the track. It is important, because it may have some influence on the minds of Deputies as to whether this particular amendment indicated here could, when the right time comes, be dealt with under the Constitution. I say it could. We have been fortified in that opinion by several lawyers of the highest standing, and by the fact that those who drew up the draft Constitution, which was taken to England, did not have any such oath in it. We take it that these men drew up that in accordance with the Treaty as they were supposed to do. They said that they were taking the Irish interpretation of it. Very well. In that Irish interpretation there was no oath. It came in at a later stage. It was not obligatory. I think I could quote the Minister for Finance from reports of the debates of the time showing what his opinion was so far as that was concerned.

The point is that lawyers who have taken this and interpreted it coolly and calmly hold that in the Article of the Treaty which governs the Constitution that oath is not obligatory. What is made obligatory is, if we read that Article, that if any oath is to be taken it must be this one. If there is to be an oath to be imposed it is the one indicated. That is the considered opinion of some of the principal lawyers here in town, who have not any direct affiliations and who gave their opinion as professional men. I hold that if provision is made for the Initiative, and if we proceed in that particular way to get this Article removed, it can be removed and we would still be within the Constitution—that it will be so held by the court, if it goes to the court. That is my position. The Ceann Comhairle objected to my talking about the conditions under which the Treaty was signed or the conditions under which this particular Constitution was drawn up, as his ruling is that what is the law is there. Very well; that makes it all the more reason why we should in our ordinary daily lives outside—no matter what we have to do here to conform to order—when we see this thing, want to find a way in which it will be remedied. It is through the Initiative we hope to remedy it. It is not likely, apparently, that it will be quickly remedied in this House. That brings up another question dealt with on the last occasion here. I think the Minister for Education made the astounding statement that it was not democratic. It is not democratic to go to the people and put a definite issue, untrammelled with other issues, and ask them whether they are in favour of or against it. That is a new theory of democracy.

I suppose it is more democratic to go to them with a thousand and one things entangled and in which personalities, especially at a general election, are involved and say that we are going to get a clearer decision from the people than we would if a single issue were submitted to them. I think that every reasonable man will see that one of the values of the Referendum is that the people get an opportunity of deciding on one particular issue. When voters want to vote for an individual they often want an honest representative and one who will stand up for their interests. They may not altogether be satisfied with his policy, but sometimes they are prepared to take a certain amount of chance with regard to policy, as they believe that they will get better service from an honest representative of whom they have knowledge than from one with whose professed policy they may be more inclined to agree. All of you who have been through elections know that it is true that elections are not a proper test of the opinion of the people on individual issues. You cannot separate them.

The reason why in modern democracies you have the Initiative and Referendum is precisely to get over that difficulty. If I were talking here on the value of a Referendum purely and simply, apart from the Petition, I would hold that it would be good and proper to set up machinery by which separate issues like that could be put before the people. We are not really settling the question here as to whether the Initiative is good or bad, though we have mentioned it in the debate. We are not dealing with the question as to whether it is within the Constitution or not to remove Article 17. The one sole question we are dealing with here and which I put to any honest-minded Deputy—and those of you who have a conscience on this matter will remember that you have taken a solemn obligation in connection with this particular matter to act honestly in accordance with this instrument—and the one question we have to decide on, now that this Petition has been brought to your notice, is whether it has been signed in accordance with the specifications. I say it has been, and that there is no other secondary question involved, no question of attempting to do a thing by unconstitutional methods, no attempt whatever to use, as has been suggested here, the Constitution to break up itself. Nothing of the kind. This is a definite case in which an Article of the Constitution is being invoked in order to have established for the people the Initiative. I find it very difficult to think that anybody who has any regard for moral obligations is going to agree to the amendment which simply means doing a thing in an indirect way which you do not want to do the other way.

Deputy Thrift's amendment simply seems to be following out the suggestion: "Do not tear up the Constitution in public. Do not do it, because Fianna Fáil, when the time comes along, will be inclined to do the same thing. You will have set a bad precedent, and they won't be slow to take advantage of it to do something else. Gain time and give the Executive, who have clearly indicated the view that they do not want this Article in the Constitution, an opportunity of bringing in an Act to do away with Article 48. Give them time to pass this Act. Keep this thing out of the public eye. Do not tear it up in public, but tear it up in private." Deputy Thrift made an appeal for unity, and he said to us that there are important things that we could do in the country. I admit there are important things all round us, but what we have been trying to do for a number of years is to put matters on such a stable foundation that we could get on, without any distraction, to deal with the things that are necessary—social programmes, etc. I doubt if the people whom Deputy Thrift spoke of as making sacrifices are prepared to do as much or to go as far as we are prepared to go on social lines. On every occasion, on the question of unemployment, the question of education, the question of old age pensions, we have been on the side, not of those who are wealthy, but on the side of the plain people, and on that side we hope to remain.

What about the no-income-tax campaign?

If "no income tax" has been suggested from these benches, it has been suggested only with the idea that there might be more work and more opportunity for the working people. It has not been suggested as a means of differentiating or discriminating in favour of the richer class. I have not put forward that proposition, but I know it was put forward because those who put it forward thought it would result in better opportunities for the working people. If it could be proved for an instant that it was going to have the opposite result, I for one would oppose it, no matter who brought it forward. I say to Deputy Thrift, in connection with his appeal for unity, that there is no section of the people more anxious for unity, not alone in the twenty-six counties, but throughout the whole of Ireland, than we are. We are trying to bring about unity here, where we believe we can help to do it, and I would suggest to the people for whom Deputy Thrift speaks that if they would try to influence the people with whom they have greatest influence, the people who are trying to prevent the people of Ireland from being a united nation, they have a sphere of activity there in which they would do good. We, on our part, know the conditions down here at any rate. We know them somewhat better than Professor Thrift, amongst the plain people for whose unity we are anxious, and we say that there is a division here which can be got rid of, if an opportunity were given for all the people to be represented here.

It is wrong to say that because all the elected representatives of the people happen to be here, that the whole people are represented. They are not. There is a large section of the people who are not represented and they are kept from being represented mainly in my belief—I may be wrong— because of the existence of that Article 17, which I believe can be removed. I am most sympathetic with any appeal from any quarter in regard to the unity of the people down here. I have worked for unity in the only way in which I think we can have unity, and that is on the basis of the full satisfaction of the desires of the Irish people. I believe that we are building on sand on any other conditions, and I am trying to get to some bedrock on which we can put aside these political questions which are running across and which have run across Irish history and Irish efforts for many centuries. I would say to Deputy Thrift that if he would go back on the history of those years he would find that when the Irish farmers were striving for their land, they were opposed by this particular section, who fought every inch of the way for their privileges. I do not want to go back on those things but I would like to say that as far as we are concerned, to bring in those people and to get them as part of the assembly representing the nation is a more meritorious work than even to get unity on the other side.

I am very glad that the people for whom Deputy Thrift speaks are represented here. There is no one who worked in the Sinn Fein movement who did not think that it was a pity for Ireland that the teachings of Thomas Davis were not hearkened to by the Unionists and the Imperialists whose home, intellectually, at all events, was across the water. We regret that, and we believe that they are a big loss to the nation. We regretted that they fought, as they did stubbornly, every inch of the way. We regret still more that there is a section up there in the North which is still fighting against what is the natural course of things. There is not one in the whole country or no section who would not be satisfied and delighted, even among those on whose behalf, though not at their request, I am trying to get this thing established, to see unity. I want, for the good of the nation, to get people who have energy, ideas and enterprise, and who would be of infinite value here, working along the lines in which it is proposed to work here. I say, no appeal for unity from the opposite benches, or from any quarter from which it comes, no appeal for the advantage of the nation, and for the uplifting of the people, will fall on deaf ears on this side. I say that to Deputy Thrift. I say if he would ask those for whom he speaks to work amongst the people with whom they are most likely to have most influence as we are working now, amongst the people with whom we believe we have influence, then he will be serving the country. It is going to be very bad for the country, I hold, if when there is an obvious and an easy way by which these difficulties can be removed down here, you are going to get away from your moral obligations by referring this matter to a Committee which really means shelving it.

I shall conclude by a few words with regard to procedure. The leader of the Labour Party has suggested that the idea of this thing was all right, but that I had adopted the wrong procedure. What procedure could I have adopted? There was a clear indication of the intention of the Executive here to have nothing to do with Article 48—to cut it out. They do not want the Initiative. They were beginning to come to a point like our people in the North, where they wanted to get rid of even Proportional Representation. They were in power, they were in office, and anything that threatened that is just like the big nations at present when they want to get into a compact which will relieve them in the matter of all they grabbed by force. These people are in power, and all their interest is to try to put up barriers around themselves so that they will not be deprived of that power. The Executive clearly showed their hand in that regard. Were we to come along here and ask the Executive, who are a majority here, to arrange the procedure by which this Petition could be presented? It was clear that it was necessary to do it by some way in which there would be some compulsion, and we adopted the way there would be compulsion, moral compulsion, if it has any influence. That is the way we adopted it, and there was no procedure necessary further than this—to present the Petition to the Dáil, and if the Dáil wished it could make further procedure in accordance with the wishes of those interested in the Petition. The only thing that the Dáil should interest itself in as regards the procedure is to see whether this Petition is what it purports to be, namely, a Petition signed by 75,000 voters, and then to set up the examiners.

I will not keep the House any longer. I am deliberately refraining, particularly on account of the ruling of the Ceann Comhairle, from going into some arguments used by the other side. I think, on the whole, that perhaps it is just as well. Our position is pretty well-known through the country and is pretty well-known to the Deputies, and there is no need to keep on constantly repeating it. I will simply ask the Deputies—I will ask all those who believe in honour, I would put it at that, who believe in acting honourably and straight, to refuse to accept Deputy Thrift's amendment, because it can have only one result in my opinion. The people have signed this. They want it. At least, that is the indication as far as a particular test which the Constitution imposes is concerned—namely, that you should have 75,000 voters. We got 96,000. We got them from every part of the country. The fact that at the last General Election we had 410,000 voters would show that we can get the biggest number that was suggested at any time as the number necessary for the Initiative—the very biggest number that it was suggested would be sufficient to get the Initiative started. If the number were 200,000 we could get them. I have no doubt we could. Therefore, there is a substantial section of the people who have signed this Petition in accordance with Article 48, and I say it is the duty of this House to act in accordance with the wishes of those people.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 71; Níl, 59.

  • William P. Aird.
  • Ernest Henry Alton.
  • James Walter Beckett.
  • George Cecil Bennett.
  • Ernest Blythe.
  • Séamus A. Bourke.
  • Michael Brennan.
  • Seán Brodrick.
  • Alfred Byrne.
  • John Joseph Byrne.
  • Edmund Carey.
  • Mrs. Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll.
  • Martin Conlon.
  • Michael P. Connolly.
  • Bryan Ricco Cooper.
  • William T. Cosgrave.
  • Sir James Craig.
  • James Crowley.
  • John Daly.
  • Michael Davis.
  • Peter de Loughrey.
  • Eugene Doherty.
  • James N. Dolan.
  • Peadar Seán Doyle.
  • Richard Mulcahy.
  • James E. Murphy.
  • Joseph Xavier Murphy.
  • James Sproule Myles.
  • Martin Michael Nally.
  • John Thomas Nolan.
  • Bartholomew O'Connor.
  • Timothy Joseph O'Donovan.
  • John F. O'Hanlon.
  • Daniel O'Leary.
  • Dermot Gun O'Mahony.
  • John Marcus O'Sullivan.
  • Edmund John Duggan.
  • Barry M. Egan.
  • Osmond Thomas Grattan Esmonde.
  • Desmond Fitzgerald.
  • James Fitzgerald-Kenney.
  • John Good.
  • D.J. Gorey.
  • John J. Hassett.
  • Michael R. Heffernan.
  • Michael Joseph Hennessy.
  • Thomas Hennessy.
  • John Hennigan.
  • Mark Henry.
  • Richard Holohan.
  • Michael Jordan.
  • Patrick Michael Kelly.
  • Hugh Alexander Law.
  • Patrick Leonard.
  • Finian Lynch.
  • Arthur Patrick Mathews.
  • Martin McDonogh.
  • Michael Og McFadden.
  • Patrick McGilligan.
  • Joseph W. Mongan.
  • Patrick Reynolds.
  • Vincent Rice.
  • Martin Roddy.
  • Patrick W. Shaw.
  • Timothy Sheehy (West Cork).
  • William Edward Thrift.
  • Michael Tierney.
  • Daniel Vaughan.
  • Vincent Joseph White.
  • George Wolfe.
  • Jasper Travers Wolfe.

Níl

  • Frank Aiken.
  • Denis Allen.
  • Richard Anthony.
  • Neil Blaney.
  • Gerald Boland.
  • Patrick Boland.
  • Daniel Bourke.
  • Seán Brady.
  • Robert Briscoe.
  • Henry Broderick.
  • Daniel Buckley.
  • Frank Carty.
  • Archie J. Cassidy.
  • Patrick Clancy.
  • Michael Clery.
  • Eamon Cooney.
  • Dan. Corkery.
  • Richard Corish.
  • Martin John Corry.
  • Fred. Hugh Crowley.
  • Tadhg Crowley.
  • Thomas Derrig.
  • Eamon de Valera.
  • James Everett.
  • Frank Fahy.
  • Hugo Flinn.
  • Andrew Fogarty.
  • Seán French.
  • Patrick J. Gorry.
  • John Goulding.
  • Seán Hayes.
  • Patrick Hogan (Clare).
  • Samuel Holt.
  • Patrick Houlihan.
  • Stephen Jordan.
  • William R. Kent.
  • Frank Kerlin.
  • James Joseph Killane.
  • Mark Killilea.
  • Michael Kilroy.
  • Seán F. Lemass.
  • Patrick John Little.
  • Ben. Maguire.
  • Seán MacEntee.
  • Séamus Moore.
  • Thomas Mullins.
  • Thomas J. O'Connell.
  • Patrick Joseph O'Dowd.
  • Seán T. O'Kelly.
  • William O'Leary.
  • Matthew O'Reilly.
  • Thomas O'Reilly.
  • Patrick J. Ruttledge.
  • James Ryan.
  • Martin Sexton.
  • Timothy Sheehy (Tipp.).
  • Patrick Smith.
  • Richard Walsh.
  • Francis C. Ward.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Good and Duggan. Níl: Deputies G. Boland and Allen.
Amendment declared carried.

I will now put the main question as amended.

Are you going to permit this to be discussed as an original motion?

It has already been sufficiently discussed as an amendment. The usual procedure is that when a question is put down and an amendment to it is submitted, both the main question and the amendment are discussed. The procedure adopted in this particular case, as in another recent case, was that the mover of the motion was allowed to conclude the debate. It was understood, I think, that he was concluding the debate on the whole question. That is the usual procedure. I understood that Deputy de Valera asked me, after the amendment was proposed, whether he would have a right to conclude, and the procedure was then clear.

It was not so clear to me. The only matter I wish to draw attention to as regards this is that if it is going to be debated as an original motion, then, first of all, there is a question of petitions in it. It is quite obvious what was intended in the Constitution was only one petition. There cannot be a number of petitions. There is only one petition—the petition —and then it is a question of arranging procedure. My opinion, as I indicated, is that this is quite contrary to the whole intention of Article 48.

I am putting the main question as amended.

Before you put the question, I suggest that that particular amendment ought to be discussed with special relation to the last two lines. The point Deputy de Valera has just raised——

Is the Deputy raising a point of order as to whether the amendment was, in fact, in order?

No, I am not raising a point of order in connection with the amendment, but I am making this suggestion: that up to this stage the amendment has been discussed purely in relation to Deputy de Valera's original motion, and we had not considered that particular aspect of it that it would rule out, or it might be held afterwards that the acceptance of this amendment by the House would rule out, certain petitions on the grounds that they were not contemplated in Article 48 of the Constitution. Before the House——

That is a question of order, is it not? The passing of this motion, the Deputy suggests, would rule out certain other motions that might be subsequently put forward?

Petitions.

We are concerned only with the motion for the presentation of a petition.

The amendment reads:—

To delete all words after the word "That" and substitute the words "the question of granting leave for the presentation of a petition, purporting to be prepared in accordance with Article 48 of the Constitution, be not further considered until the Oireachtas has prescribed the procedure to be adopted for the presentation of the petitions contemplated in Article 48 of the Constitution."

I submit that sufficient attention has not been directed to that aspect of the amendment. The wording is: "of the petitions contemplated under Article 48 of the Constitution." By the insertion of the definite article there, it is assumed that there are certain petitions which might be presented to this House but which would not be petitions of the kind contemplated under Article 48 of the Constitution, and I think that is a matter that we ought to discuss fully before we take a vote on the amendment as a substantive motion.

There is no doubt whatever about the procedure that was to be adopted, and I think it was understood——

I regret that I did not understand it in that sense. I purposely left over what I regarded as minor matters to this particular stage. I dealt with the amendment rather in its relation to the original motion. There is another question that, of course, immediately comes up once you look at this as the original motion, and that is, how long is it to be deferred? Is it to be sine die? If you fail to arrange for the procedure it can never come forward.

Might I suggest that we are really in rather a difficulty if we do not face this and debate it as a special issue? It seems to me that the two motions are related as follows: The motion is that "I do marry Alice." Now, the alternative is that "I do not proceed to marry Alice until I have the consent of her mother." The second motion is proposed and seconded. There is no reason in the wide world why I should accept the motion, which now broadly means that as soon as I get the approval of the mother I shall marry Alice; I mean that the two things seem to be quite irrelevant. A Deputy may vote quite reasonably for Deputy Thrift's amendment as against the original proposition, and may be thoroughly averse to marrying Alice. What I suggest is that we have not solved the problem at all. All that we have done is, as between two courses of conduct, both of which may be objectionable, we have decided which is the least objectionable, but have not decided that either is desirable, and until we do debate Deputy Thrift's motion we have not decided anything of importance.

What about voting on it?

There is certainly no doubt about the procedure, and the analogy that was adopted was that of the debate on the Unemployment Motion, which was proposed by Deputy Morrissey. A certain amendment was proposed, and it was then decided that Deputy Morrissey should conclude the debate. It was that particular procedure that I had in my mind when I answered Deputy de Valera's question on the 23rd May. Deputy de Valera said:

"As a question of procedure and order, is it my right to close the debate on the amendment as mover of the original motion?"

I said:—

"The Deputy who moved the main question has a right to conclude on that question; but if an amendment is proposed and the amendment is carried, the Deputy who moved on the main question has, I think, lost his right to conclude the debate. As a matter of practice, the Deputy who moves the main question, under procedure of this kind, should always have an opportunity of speaking on the amendment; and it has been found the practicable method to allow that Deputy, by agreement, to conclude the debate."

Subsequently I said:

"I think, if there is no objection, he may be allowed to conclude the debate on the amendment itself."

That may have led to some misunderstanding, to the belief that there would be a subsequent debate upon the main question as amended, but that certainly was not the intention, and I feel personally, as I said, that the practical scheme appeared to me to debate the two things together, and if necessary have two divisions, having allowed the mover of the main question to conclude the debate. But I cannot say how the main question, as it now stands, can be debated at all without repeating all the arguments already used, and without, in fact, debating a motion which is on the Order Paper, namely, a motion for the setting up of the Joint Committee. I think that any argument that was to be used against the amendment should have been used in the debate on the amendment.

From what you have just read, I can see that it might have a meaning different from that which I attached to it, and that was, that in closing the debate on the amendment I was closing the debate as a whole when I spoke on the amendment. That was not my understanding at first. I purposely left aside certain considerations until this would become the main question, because I did not want to bring in matters that were relatively small in connection with the choice between the two. One of these points is the Petition. It is clear that there is only one Petition contemplated in Article 48. The moment you have got a petition signed by 75,000 voters there is only one, and therefore it should be "the petition." Then there is another matter that is of importance in this connection, and that is: Does this mean postponing sine die the whole question? Because it is quite clear that unless the Oireachtas has prescribed the procedure, unless a definite limit is set, they can postpone settling the procedure for ever, and therefore this matter would never be considered again.

Motion, as amended, put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 62.

  • William P. Aird.
  • Ernest Henry Alton.
  • James Walter Beckett.
  • George Cecil Bennett.
  • Ernest Blythe.
  • Séamus A. Bourke.
  • Michael Brennan.
  • Seán Brodrick.
  • Alfred Byrne.
  • John Joseph Byrne.
  • Edmund Carey.
  • John James Cole.
  • Mrs. Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll.
  • Martin Conlon.
  • Michael P. Connolly.
  • Bryan Ricco Cooper.
  • William T. Cosgrave.
  • Sir James Craig.
  • James Crowley.
  • John Daly.
  • Michael Davis.
  • Peter de Loughrey
  • Eugene Doherty.
  • James N. Dolan.
  • Peadar Seán Doyle.
  • Edmund John Duggan.
  • Barry M. Egan.
  • Osmond Thomas Grattan Esmonde.
  • Desmond Fitzgerald.
  • James Fitzgerald-Kenney.
  • John Good.
  • Denis J. Gorey.
  • John J. Hassett.
  • Michael R. Heffernan.
  • Michael Joseph Hennessy.
  • Thomas Hennessy.
  • John Hennigan.
  • Mark Henry.
  • Richard Holohan.
  • Michael Jordan.
  • Patrick Michael Kelly.
  • Hugh Alexander Law.
  • Patrick Leonard.
  • Finian Lynch.
  • Arthur Patrick Mathews.
  • Martin McDonogh.
  • Michael Og McFadden.
  • Patrick McGilligan.
  • Joseph W. Mongan.
  • Richard Mulcahy.
  • James E. Murphy.
  • Joseph Xavier Murphy.
  • James Sproule Myles.
  • Martin Michael Nally.
  • John Thomas Nolan.
  • Bartholomew O'Connor.
  • Timothy Joseph O'Donovan.
  • John F. O'Hanlon.
  • Daniel O'Leary.
  • Dermot Gun O'Mahony.
  • John Marcus O'Sullivan.
  • Patrick Reynolds.
  • Vincent Rice.
  • Martin Roddy.
  • Patrick W. Shaw.
  • Timothy Sheehy (West Cork).
  • William Edward Thrift.
  • Michael Tierney.
  • Daniel Vaughan.
  • Vincent Joseph White.
  • George Wolfe.
  • Jasper Travers Wolfe.

Níl

  • Frank Aiken.
  • Denis Allen.
  • Richard Anthony.
  • Neil Blaney.
  • Gerald Boland.
  • Patrick Boland.
  • Daniel Bourke.
  • Seán Brady.
  • Robert Briscoe.
  • Daniel Buckley.
  • Frank Carty.
  • Archie J. Cassidy.
  • Patrick Clancy.
  • Michael Clery.
  • James Colbert.
  • Eamon Cooney.
  • Dan Corkery.
  • Richard Corish.
  • Martin John Corry.
  • Fred. Hugh Crowley.
  • Tadhg Crowley.
  • William Davin.
  • Thomas Derrig.
  • Eamon de Valera.
  • James Everett.
  • Frank Fahy.
  • Hugo Flinn.
  • Andrew Fogarty.
  • Seán French.
  • Patrick J. Gorry.
  • John Goulding.
  • Seán Hayes.
  • Patrick Hogan (Clare).
  • Samuel Holt.
  • Patrick Houlihan.
  • Stephen Jordan.
  • Michael Joseph Kennedy.
  • William R. Kent.
  • Frank Kerlin.
  • James Joseph Killane.
  • Mark Killilea.
  • Michael Kilroy.
  • Seán F. Lemass.
  • Patrick John Little.
  • Ben Maguire.
  • Thomas McEllistrim.
  • Seán MacEntee.
  • Séamus Moore.
  • Thomas Mullins.
  • Thomas J. O'Connell.
  • Patrick Joseph O'Dowd.
  • Seán T. O'Kelly.
  • William O'Leary.
  • Matthew O'Reilly.
  • Thomas O'Reilly.
  • Patrick J. Ruttledge.
  • James Ryan.
  • Martin Sexton.
  • Timothy Sheehy (Tipp.).
  • Patrick Smith.
  • Richard Walsh.
  • Francis C. Ward.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Good and Duggan; Níl: Deputies G. Boland and Allen.
Question declared carried.

I have put down a consequential motion, and I wonder if there would be agreement to have that taken without discussion. I would be quite ready to move it now, if that were so. If not, I suppose it would be necessary to ask the President when he would allow it to come forward, or whether it would come forward in its ordinary place in the list of private motions.

If there is no discussion I do not mind having it moved now.

Deputy Thrift might raise this point after Questions on Wednesday.