I move that the Bill be read a Second Time. It is practically identical with Bills of a similar nature which have been before the House so often that I do not think I need say so much about this Bill. The House understands that it is a formal Bill, and that it is necessary to renew the Defence Forces Act year by year. The purpose of the Bill is to continue that Act in operation until 31st March, 1931. There have been so many discussions on the Act from time to time that I do not think it necessary to say more.
Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1930—Second Stage.
The Minister has been very brief in his remarks in introducing the Bill. I think he might have had something more to say as to why we should continue the Army and continue spending over one and a-half million per annum on it. He says it is a temporary Bill from year to year, but it has been promised from 1923 that a permanent Bill would be brought in. The Minister has made no reference to that promise to-day. I do not see why the Dáil should be asked even in a few words or a thousand words—I do not see how it could be justified in ten thousand words—to carry on this Army with the present policy of the Government. The Army can only fight when England wants it to fight. There are absolutely no munition factories here, and I do not see why the Irish people should be asked to expend £1,600,000, leaving out the cost of Army Pensions, on an Army which can only fight when England wants it to fight. One thing the Minister should have referred to is how he justified the establishment of a Volunteer Reserve under the past temporary Acts. I admit that he has more justification for that according to the letter of the law, than the Government had for a lot of other things they did but certainly I think he should have referred to it and explained what his policy regarding the Volunteer Reserve Corps is going to be for the coming year and the dimensions which he hopes it will attain. I think if the Minister wanted to establish a Volunteer Reserve which would command respect in the country and for which he could get recruits, he should have come to the Dáil and tried to get general agreement for the establishment of a Volunteer Reserve. I think he might have got some suggestions from all sides of the House which if adopted would have led to the establishment of a real Irish Volunteer Reserve instead of a Reserve, that, as far as I can see, is going to be one wing of the British Army.
If it is not going to be a wing of the British Army, I would like to know why the Volunteer Reserve was so successful in Trinity College and unsuccessful throughout the country. I believe that in Dublin men, though on the verge of starvation, have refused to join up. Only 600, according to the official organ of Cumann na nGaedheal, have offered their services and only 300 of that 600 were found suitable. I think that the fact that the Volunteer Reserve has broken down shows conclusively that the people of the country are not satisfied with the defence policy of the Minister. I wonder just from an expense point of view whether it would not be cheaper to add 300 men to the permanent standing Army rather than recruit 300 into the Volunteer Reserve at the expense which the authorities have incurred to get these 300. They have got offices in the city, and as they cannot be doing very much work in these offices, I certainly think that it would cost more to get these 300 recruits into the Volunteer Reserve than it would have cost to get 300 additional men into the Standing Army. I would like to hear if the Minister has any estimate as to how much these 300 men cost. According to the Order Paper we are going to have more money voted for the Army. I suppose some of the Supplementary Estimate is going to cover the expenses of the Volunteer Reserve. We would also like to know from the Minister when he is going to introduce a permanent Defence Forces Bill. I would like the Minister to give some indication as to what he wants an Army for in the future, and as to how he can justify an expenditure of £1,600,000 on an Army which can only fight when the British want it to fight.
Before the Minister concludes, I wish to say a few words concerning the Volunteer Reserve which has been inaugurated in recent months. In the other House attention has been drawn by Senator Johnson to the methods by which steps were taken to form that Reserve. I do not intend to say anything concerning the legality of these methods, because I am not concerned with their legality so much as with their wisdom.
As Deputies are aware, the way in which the Minister decided to form his Reserve was not by introducing proposals for legislation to that end and securing their passage through the Dáil but by straining the powers given him under the Act of 1923. He enlists men into the Army and then, without any period of training, transfers them to the Reserve. I think it is due to that particular method of procedure that the Volunteer Reserve has been what can be described as a hopeless failure. Announcements appeared in the Press some months ago that some 50,000 recruits were required, and, according to the official organ of Cumann na nGaedheal, as has been pointed out by Deputy Aiken, 600 recruits offered themselves in Dublin and 300 have been accepted. I think that I remember reading in the newspapers of the formation of a half battalion in Templemore area on the understanding that it would not be asked to fight in any year earlier than the month of November. If my recollection is not correct I withdraw the statement, but I think that was the promise given to that particular battalion. However, comparatively speaking, the formation has been a failure, and I suggest it has been a failure not so much because the people of the country do not want a reserve force as because of the methods which the Minister adopted to create it.
The first official announcement of the impending creation of the force was made by the Minister in his speech, of all places in the world, at the Dublin Rotary Club dinner. There were contained in that speech references not merely to the Volunteer Reserve Force but to the good work done by the Cumann na nGaedheal Ministers. In other words, from the very beginning, the Volunteer Reserve Force was linked up with the political party of which the Minister is a member. Persons offering themselves for enlistment in the force are, I understand, required to subscribe to a declaration or oath which they are informed immediately afterwards ceases to be operative in consequence of their transfer to the Reserve. That oath requires them not to be a member of or to subscribe to any political society or organisation, to give good and true and faithful service to the Oireachtas and the Government of Saorstát Eireann under the Constitution, and to defend the country against all enemies whomsoever.
In the propaganda matter issued by the Department of Defence to secure recruits for this Reserve it was described as a citizen army, and they emphasised the necessity and the duty of every young able-bodied man being trained and organised to defend his country against aggression. But I think it will be obvious that a citizen army will not be created if the members of it have as a first step to declare by oath that they will not exercise one of the fundamental rights of citizenship, and that is the right to influence political matters through political organisations. Throughout the whole period during which this force was being planned and organised a definite impression was created that it was not to be an army designed to defend the country against external aggression, but a sort of Fascist force at the disposal of the present Executive Council. I do not wish to imply that I think the Executive Council had that view in mind; it was the clumsy methods which they adopted which resulted in the creation of that impression. We have had very definite assurances from the Minister that the Army is and will be a non-political force, giving the same loyalty to one Government elected by this Dáil as it gives to any other Government. We have been always glad to have such assurances. We hope that time will prove these statements to be facts. It is, however, somewhat extraordinary that officers of the Army when they are discharged, placed on the Reserve, given gratuities and allowed to exercise all the rights of citizens, always prove to be the most vituperative opponents of Fianna Fáil. It is not necessary to go outside the membership of the Dáil to get proof of the truth of that statement. I am quite certain that the amount of spleen which these members of this House possess was not suddenly acquired by them on the day on which they took off the Army uniform. It had obviously been stored up during a long period, when they could not give expression to it, and is poured out with particular volume and force as soon as the brakes are taken off. I hope that was a mere coincidence, and that the particular individuals to whom I refer are not typical of the officers of the Army or of the Volunteer Reserve.
The Minister gave a most unsatisfactory statement in introducing this Bill. I think it was his duty to have reviewed developments in the defence forces during the past year when asking the Dáil to renew for another period the Act of 1923. He did not choose to do so, and left us dependent on news which we get through the columns of the semiofficial organ of his Party. These statements, as I pointed out, indicate that his efforts to form a volunteer reserve have been a failure. I do not know if the Minister for Defence is to be criticised for the failure. He was telling the people of the United States about the prosperity we enjoy here, while actual steps were being taken to bring the force into existence. The Minister for Finance, I understand, was acting as his deputy at the time and was personally responsible for the details of the arrangements, and the fact that the plan miscarried must be laid at the door of the Minister for Finance. If he had been here the Minister for Defence might have handled the position more skilfully, but I think that the speech which he delivered at the Rotary Club prior to going to America indicates that such would not have been the case.
The Minister for Defence in fact made the first false step when he linked up the Reserve with the present Executive Council. He gave as an example of the political wisdom of the Party to which be belongs the fact that they were going to take steps to form this force. Therefore, at the very beginning he made it difficult to ensure that there would be no political tinge attached to membership of it. At present that political tinge is there, and the best course which I suggest the Executive Council could take would be to wind up the present attempt, to acknowledge their failure, to come to this House with a new Bill seeking to form this force upon new lines, and to secure if possible the agreed passage of that Bill through the Dáil, and then I suggest that the formation of the force would have the good will of every political Party in the State. I am convinced that if the force be established as being only liable to be called up to defend the country against external aggression no difficulty will arise in securing that good will from every Party.
I should like to say a few words in support of this Bill; not that it ought to need support from any section of the House, because it should have the support of all sections. Year by year, following the usual course, the Minister has moved the continuation of this Act to keep the armed forces of the country in being. That is following the course in other constitutional countries in providing every year for maintaining an armed force for their defence. Since 1923, year by year, the Army has been reduced in numbers, but not reduced in efficiency, as anybody can tell you who knows anything about military matters at all, and I think I may say that I do. Nobody can say otherwise than that the Army is as well drilled, as good and as efficient a force as any of its size to be found in any other country.
Along with the efficiency of the Army, there is, of course, the question of the cost of it and of its size. Ministers announced many years ago that as soon as they saw that the state of affairs justified it they would reduce the Army as much as they thought advisable. They have done so, but they have not reduced its efficiency. A year or so ago it was announced that when it was reduced to the smallest nucleus that would be capable of expansion in case of necessity a reserve would be formed, and this promise they have fulfilled. Deputy Lemass and Deputy Aiken more or less threw cold water on the Reserve because some had been passed into it very quickly. I have had a good deal to do with the training of Irishmen. Many years ago I formed five battalions, and I trained every man of them, so that I do know something about drilling, and anybody who had anything to do with the drilling of Irishmen will know that they learn their work with extraordinary quickness; that in one day they will learn what some men of other nationalities would take a very long time to learn.
This Reserve is being made little of because it has not reached in three or four days the enormous proportions which apparently Deputy Lemass and Deputy Aiken think it should have done. We do not want it to reach that stage all of a sudden. We want to get the best and the most efficient Reserve that we can get. It is desirable that everybody should have a military training. I think men will get an opportunity of getting that training before they pass into this Reserve, and when in it they will retain what they have learned. I am perfectly satisfied that the Minister is acting on the right principle by having efficiently trained reserves and, as small as possible, a centre body to which the men of the Reserve could be brought in case of need.
I have not the smallest doubt that that plan will be a success and that the Reserve will attract to it the best elements in the country, irrespective of what the political opinions of the men enlisted may be. I do not see what authority Deputies had for insinuating that this is a party business. The Army has been formed to protect the country, not to protect any particular party. That has been put forward by the Government time after time, and nobody has ever put forward any proof to show that the contrary is the case. I have no doubt at all but that the country generally does approve of the action of the Ministry in forming this Reserve and in their action generally on the subject of the improvement of the Army.
Deputy Wolfe misunderstands us if he thinks that we say that the Army is a party machine.
That is what was said.
We welcome the assurance that it is not. But there is a certain amount of evidence which is being quoted here to show that there is, unfortunately, a tendency amongst those who have recently left the ranks of very biassed views on party lines which is very regrettable indeed.
So long as there is an Army there, the national dignity requires that that Army should be of as strictly a non-party nature as possible. Our attitude towards the Army is that we wish we could transfer its activities into productive activities as citizens working in a State where there would be plenty of work for everybody. There is no need for an Army in this country and the only opportunity they will ever have to fight is when they are brought in to fight for England under the Treaty. As to the formation of a Reserve Force, the thing is at present psychologically impossible, and we may as well recognise the fact. We are emerging from an unfortunate period in Irish history, a period of civil war, when the people of the country took certain action, and the feelings arising from this civil war have not yet died down. It will be a long time before you can appeal to the people in such a way as to get united action in the formation of a Reserve Force. It is a matter for the time being of psychology at any rate. We have got to wait until there is something that will appeal more to the traditions and imaginations of the younger generation, something that will be closer to our ideals and closer to the ideals of Irish nationality than the present system.
This Bill might be described as an Army annual. We have it coming up here every year in a temporary fashion and the Minister never gives us any definite reason as to why some permanent measure is not introduced. I submit that the reason the Minister does not introduce a permanent measure is that some of the arguments that have been used from time to time in the Dáil are arguments which have some weight with him and that he is looking forward to the time when he can dispense with the Army altogether. I think a good case could be made out for dispensing with the Army altogether. In the first place, the country can scarcely afford an ornamental Army at the present time, and that is what we are having just now—an ornamental Army that will do very little work, that will add very little to the wealth of the country, and will never do any service of the kind that an Army should do. The only thing that Army will indulge in will be Army manoeuvres in the Dublin Mountains or somewhere else. That Army is keeping money out of productivity, money that might be very well employed in productive work. It is keeping men out of productive occupations. Secondly, I have repeatedly asked succeeding Ministers in the Dáil for some reason for the existence of an Army in this country. Whom is the Army going to fight? What Army can be sustained in this country that will be able to resist an invader and what invader wants to come into this country except to impose a foreign government upon it? If a foreign government wanted to impose their form of government upon this country, I submit there is another people whose responsibility it would be and whose desire it would be to keep out this foreign Army. I submit that if it were the desire of some South American State to come in here to enforce its form of government upon this country it would be the duty of Great Britain to resist that encroachment upon one of its Dominions.
There is no good in blinking the matter. If we are to maintain an Army, it is to take its stand with the long red line whenever Great Britain chooses to go to war with another country. If we are to preserve this country from invasion by any other State which may endeavour to use this place to attack Great Britain, this Army would be a very menace to the safety of the country that it is protecting. If we are going to get ourselves involved with any people who are at war with Great Britain, we will get ourselves into a maelstrom of war and the civilians will suffer just as well as any other people in the country. I submit, then, that the reason for the existence of an Army here has never been demonstrated so far as the protection of the country from any outside influence has been concerned. If we want an Army to preserve the internal peace, we do not want an Army of the size that we have at present, and if we want an Army for internal peace preservation it is in the best interests of the country that that Army should be on a permanent and not on a temporary basis.
The Minister, I submit, did not explain to the Dáil, when bringing in this measure, in what way the Army is going to maintain the national dignity. He did not explain what way it is going to maintain this nation and this State intact. What power, does the Minister think, is likely to invade this country which this Army would be able to resist? In what way does he propose that this Army is to be used if at any time Great Britain should find itself involved in war and if a foreign State tried to make use of this country as a base of attack upon Great Britain? I think he ought to tell us whether this Army would be used to resist that invading force or whether it would be simply neutral. These are important points not alone for the Dáil but for the entire State and for the mass of the civilian population. One never knows when we may get involved in war with other countries. For this reason, I would ask the Minister to make some statement as to what is the purpose of the Army and how it is to be used.
On these benches, we would have liked to have had some expression of opinion on this matter from some of the Private Deputies of the Government Party. There is no inconsiderable number of them who have served in the Defence Force of the Free State, and I have no doubt, judging by their views upon other matters affecting the citizens of this country, that they have very definite views with regard to Army organisation as well. Apparently, the last thing that the Minister for Defence is anxious for, judging from the attempts he has made to conclude the debate, is to hear such an expression of opinion from the members of the Government Party. He evidently does not wish to hear such expressions of opinion from private members of his own Party in regard to the question of the Army generally, or the question of the new development which was launched during his absence by the Minister for Finance. I may say that I would have liked to have heard a little more from the Minister for Defence as to the present position of the Volunteer Reserve. I may say that the experiment which the Government made in this matter was one which I personally watched with a good deal of interest, an interest which, if the circumstances were happier, would be translated into a good deal of active sympathy.
We, in Fianna Fáil, do not deny the necessity for a defence force in this country. We have suffered from the aggression of other States, and possibly similar circumstances may arise again. But we have very definite ideas as to how this defence force should be organised. We have, time and again, argued from these benches that the Army of this country should be organised on a volunteer basis. Therefore, we watched the experiment of the Minister with a good deal of interest, and the conclusions which we have been compelled to draw, from the facts as they have been reported in the papers, and as we have learned for ourselves, are that the Minister never intended that the Volunteer Reserve should be a success. We say that he launched it in the circumstances which he did in order to be able afterwards to come to the Dáil and to say there that the Fianna Fáil policy is impossible— that it is not possible to reorganise the defence forces of this country upon a volunteer basis to save the taxpayers of this country three-quarters of a million pounds a year. I believe that that is what the Minister for Defence and the Executive Council meant in this matter.
If they had intended that this force should be a success they would not have compelled those who wished to join to take an oath of attestation which, I believe, is not acceptable to the general body of citizens in this country. The oath of allegiance, or of fidelity to the Constitution, in its present form implies allegiance to a monarch who has not been, and would not be, freely chosen by this people. Even to take that for a day and thereafter be released from it is, I know, repulsive to the patriotic feelings of the general mass of our people. It is particularly repulsive and repellent to the young manhood of this country, the section of the citizens which in normal circumstances would flock to a volunteer force.
It has been said by the members of the Executive Council that the Army is the servant of the State, that it serves the State without any political predilections whatsoever, that there is no political atmosphere or bias in the officers or the men of that organisation, and that they are loyal to the Oireachtas and to all parties in the Oireachtas without distinction. That is an attitude which the Executive Council has expressed on behalf of the Army in this House. But what are the facts? Deputy Lemass has told you that there is no section of our political opponents who go further in vituperation than those who resign from the Army in order to become candidates of the Cumann na nGaedheal organisation at by-elections through the country. Those men who speak with a bitterness that is not equalled by any other politician in the country are the men who are the officers of the Volunteer Reserve. Do you think that any young man who wishes to see this country united and free would take service in a force of which, say, Deputy Seán McKeon is an officer? Do you think, or does the Minister for Defence think, that any young man who takes the same view with regard to the Constitution of this State as the Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches would serve in a force which has Deputy O'Higgins as an officer? And yet these men are officers in the Volunteer Reserve. If the Volunteer Reserve is to succeed, if it is to be recruited from all ranks of the citizens of this State, if it is to be, in fact, a non-political organisation and not a mere Fascist army serving Cumann na nGaedheal, then men like Deputy Seán McKeon and Deputy O'Higgins will have to retire from the service altogether. They will have to be either one thing or the other, bitter party politicians as is their nature, or else they will have to be merely soldiers without any politics.
There is another point that I think the Minister, if he wished the Volunteer Reserve to be a success, should have been careful of, and that is the conditions under which it might be mobilised. As I see it here it says:
The men joining will be liable to be called out at any time to aid in the preservation of public order should an Executive Minister call out the Reserve or any portion of it or should the Officer Commanding the Forces, if requested in writing by a District Justice in a town or district call out for the purpose aforesaid the men belonging to the Reserve resident in such town or district.
That is to say, that the officers and men of the Volunteer Reserve might be mobilised on the mere fiat of a District Justice in order to aid what he might think would be the preservation of law and order in his district. There is the possibility there that men might be called out to intervene in a trade dispute. They might be called out even to break a strike. It is the very fact that such a provision exists in the conditions which are imposed on the men when they join that has deterred, I believe, quite a number of men who would otherwise join the force; they are afraid when they do join that this force might be used in a trade dispute or in some semi-political way.
We have watched this experiment with a good deal of interest. We wish that the Minister were sincere in it. The facts as I have recited them have compelled us to believe that the Minister does not want the Volunteer Reserve to succeed. If he does want an organisation working on a volunteer basis he has a very good opportunity before this time next year to have that done. The measure he has introduced is a temporary one. The Oireachtas was told it was a temporary measure when it was introduced first in 1923. After seven years the Minister and his Department surely should be in a position to come to the Dáil and to say that they have some definite ideas as to what should be the permanent basis of the defence forces in this country. The legislative output from the Minister's Department has at no time been considerable. With the exception of this Bill, which has been introduced by him in this perfunctory way year after year, the only other Bills he has been concerned with are Bills providing for gratuities or pensions for those who leave the Army in order that his Party may secure parliamentary candidates.
I think that in seven years the Minister and the Executive Council should have formed some clear idea as to what should be the permanent basis of the Army. We have been urging that it should be organised upon a volunteer basis. The Minister will have twelve months to put a definite and final scheme before the Dáil. I suggest that he should abandon the present Volunteer Reserve, the success of which has been prejudiced from the very start, and he should come next year to the Dáil with a Bill putting definite proposals before the House for the reorganisation of the defence forces. The defence forces under that Bill should be capable of being organised in such a way that no man, no matter what his political opinions may be, who is desirous of serving his country in arms and protecting her against the aggression of foreign States, will be debarred from entering that service.
[An Leas-Cheann Comhairle took the Chair.]
I have not heard the whole of this debate, but, judging from what I have heard, nothing new has been said. I sincerely hope the Minister will not waste his time and the time of the House replying to the worn-out remarks of the Deputies on the opposite benches. As we know, the Army is the Army of the State, pledged to uphold the Constitution. These gentlemen are admittedly the enemies of the State, because they are pledged to overthrow the Constitution. Why the Minister should waste his time answering criticisms of the Army put forward by the proclaimed enemies of the State I do not know. The Army is pledged to uphold the State.
Did the Deputy ever assist in organising mutiny?
No, I did not. With regard to that section of the Bill which makes it possible for the Minister to institute the Reserve, I would like to know if he has made any progress in the direction of the establishment of a cavalry force and an aerial observation force in connection with the Reserve Volunteer Forces. As yet I have seen no signs in that direction. I think that in the horse-breeding districts it would be a very popular move to organise a few cavalry regiments for training during the autumn or winter. I think a large number of farmers' sons and others would be very glad to join such regiments.
With regard to the formation of an air reserve, the Minister has, I understand, so far done nothing. I am afraid that he has been derelict in his duty as far as looking after the aerial forces of the Army is concerned. The aerodromes under his control are falling into disrepair. Rain is coming through the roofs, birds are nesting in the rafters, and there is a general air of decay and desolation. Dotted throughout the country are these vast aerodromes half in ruins like the Coliseum in Rome, a relic of one of the greatest Empires of the past. I hope before the Minister introduces his Estimate he will have some hope to offer to those who look forward to the aerial future of the country.
I should like to ask the Minister whether it is true that the fount of all evil, the Department of Finance, has done its best to make the volunteer reserve system failure by not giving adequate facilities to civil servants with regard to the period of training, thus setting a bad example to private employers throughout the country. I do not know if that is true, but it is widely rumoured.
The matters dealt with by Deputy Lemass and Deputy Aiken are rather difficult for me to deal with because a good deal of what they said justified me in the few remarks I made in my opening statement. Time and again I have come before the House and have given detailed accounts of our reserve and volunteer arrangements. That has been done often, as I say. At the same time, both Deputies in speaking showed that they have not the remotest idea as to what they mean when they talk about the Reserve and the Volunteers. Deputy Aiken sees something proving an idea, that he apparently has in his own mind, in the great success in Trinity and the lack of success through the country. I thought at first that he was speaking about the Volunteer Reserve. The Volunteer Reserve, strictly speaking, has not been started in Trinity and has not been started in the country. Therefore, to attempt to compare the two is perfectly absurd. To say that one nothing is more than another nothing, is mathematically wrong. Deputy Lemass showed the same complete misapprehension. He talked about starting half a battalion in Templemore area and an undertaking that they were not to fight before November. The body formed in Templemore is a body of "B" Reserves. There is no arrangement that they will not fight before November, but their period of training is in the month of November.
Deputy Lemass said that the first official announcement of the bringing into being of the Volunteer Reserve was a statement I made before the Dublin Rotary Club. The first announcement I remember of the formation of such a body was made by the Minister for Finance in his Budget statement in 1927. I have spoken very frequently on the matter from that date to this, and certainly to suggest that the first official announcement was at the Dublin Rotary Club is quite absurd. As a matter of fact Deputy MacEntee will remember that some year or two after we had made our statements with regard to our policy in this matter—not having read them; he was not here at the time these statements were made, possibly—he suggested that when we repeated what he had said before we were borrowing from him.
There has been a suggestion that the Volunteer Reserve is linked up with a political party. Deputy Lemass tries to make the case out there. He says that when a Volunteer reservist joins he takes an oath and is informed that it ceases to be operative. He says that the propaganda described this body as a citizen army, and that the duty of the men was to defend their country from aggression. He says that is impossible if they are required to declare that they will not exercise the fundamental right of trying to influence any political matters. Deputy MacEntee disagrees diametrically with Deputy Lemass. Deputy Lemass says that we cannot expect this body to be successful if men are asked to take an oath not to belong to any political organisation, whereas Deputy MacEntee says that that is quite impossible, that we, obviously, have no desire that it should be a success unless we insist that anybody who is going to be an officer shall, even when not called up for active service, completely divorce himself from political activities. The two Fianna Fáil Deputies, with that chaotic state of mind which is so representative of their Party, produce two contradictory things as both proving what they know to be perfectly untrue, namely, that we do not desire the Volunteer organisation to be successful. Deputy Lemass says that the impression is created that it was meant to be a Fascist force for the Government. I should like to know anything I have said or done in any way that gives any impression that it is meant to be a party force in this country. I do from time to time see certain scurrilous organs directed mostly against the Government, and in one, which I understand is more or less the official organ of the Party in opposition, I certainly have seen that they are very strongly attempting to create the impression that this force was meant to be a party organisation of the Government Party.
I may say also that in that organ of opinion I have seen a few indications of great rejoicing at what they imagine is the non-success of the Volunteer organisation. Deputy Lemass also says that it is extraordinary that the officers of the Army always appear to be most vituperative opponents of Fianna Fáil after they leave the Army. It seems that their stored-up antagonism to that Party bursts out as soon as the restraint is removed. No one is going to say that a man in the Army should have no political opinions. He has a right to have political opinions, but he has no right to take any part in any political matters. When a man ceases to be a member of the Army, he is then relieved from the restraint of discipline which the Army imposes upon him. I should think that Deputy Lemass should at least recognise, if what he says is true, that the discipline in the Army is very effective in that the strong political opinions of certain officers only become apparent when they have left the Army. We have tried, as far as possible, to select our officers from what I might call intelligent men, and I can quite see that the majority of intelligent men would necessarily feel strong opposition to the Fianna Fáil Party. When it is suggested that we are attempting to make this a political organisation, I can only reassert that such a statement is diametrically opposed to the truth. As a matter of fact, members of the Fianna Fáil Party, subject, of course, to their being physically sound, and, possibly, subject to a mental test which might exclude most of them, are eligible for membership of the Volunteer Reserve. I can assert here that I have not the remotest idea what the political opinions are of any member of the Volunteer Reserve. There is a constant suggestion that there is a political tinge about it. What have I said that in any way can be considered as giving it a political tinge? If we want to see what is being done in the way of attempting to give a political tinge to it, we have only to read certain organs produced by the parties in opposition to the Government. There that attempt is being made. As far as I am concerned, I have not queried in any way any political opinion of any member of the Volunteers.
Objection is taken to the form of oath or declaration to be taken on attestation. The form is this: "I ................ do solemnly swear (or declare) that I have this day freely and voluntarily enlisted as a soldier in Oglaigh na hEireann, that I will faithfully serve as such for the period .................. (unless sooner discharged by the proper authority) and under the conditions prescribed in accordance with law; and I will accept such pay, bounty, rations and clothing as may from time to time be prescribed in accordance with law. And I do further solemnly swear (or declare) that I will bear true faith and allegiance to, and against all enemies whomsoever defend, Saorstát Eireann and its constitution as by law established, and I will render good and true service and obedience to the Oireachtas and the Government of Saorstát Eireann under the Constitution, and that I will submit myself to discipline and obey without question the orders of the officers appointed over me according to law, and further that I will not while I am a soldier in Oglaigh na hEireann join, or be a member of or subscribe to any political society or organisation whatsoever or any secret society whatsoever" What is there there for Deputy MacEntee to find fault with? Deputy Lemass finds fault with the proposal that they should not be members of or "subscribe to any political society or organisation whatsoever." When men are under military control and discipline we cannot have them holding political meetings in the barrack. So far as the Volunteer Reserve is concerned when men join they have to take an oath which includes the clause about participation in politics. That is necessary because those joining may at any time of national emergency be called up for active service, and if they are so called up they must be clearly then subject to military discipline. Under normal circumstances they are not subject to military discipline and that proviso does not apply. I think any intelligent man will agree that if men are called up on active service it is good to have such a proviso, and I think he will also agree that that condition must be made at the moment of entry and that it is perfectly right and correct that as long as these men are leading ordinary lives of ordinary citizens, only attending drill occasionally, this clause should not apply. I do not understand therefore what the objections raised are.
There is a great deal of talk about a permanent Bill. Now why should there be a necessity for a permanent Bill being brought in immediately? Bringing in this Bill annually gives occasion for almost two distinct debates on the Army of the Estimates type. I am not anxious to bring in a permanent Bill just yet a while. What is the necessity? When this Bill is brought forward, and when the Army Estimates come forward, the Army is particularly subject to criticism and review by the Dáil. If it is pointed out that something which should be done cannot be done under the present Act, or that we do something under the Act which we should not be able to do under a permanent Act, then, I could conceive, and it would be understandable, that there should be this demand for a permanent Act. At the present time I find that the development of the organisation that I am going on with is in no way inconvenienced by the procedure of bringing in the present Bill. It does not inconvenience me in the least. I think that as we are moving rapidly forward towards a new form in the Army, and as it is an advantage to have had certain experience in order to form an army that is best suited to the needs of this country, I think it is a great advantage that we should have that knowledge before bringing in a permanent Act. I do not see why there is a suggestion of something untoward in our failure in not bringing in a permanent Act when the present Act permits us to do what should be done and when we have not attempted to do anything that I have heard criticised as something we should not be able to do.
Deputy Lemass seemed to question the legality of starting a Volunteer Reserve. There is nothing illegal about it. Deputy MacEntee said that he would like to hear private members on these benches speaking upon this particular subject, and he said the last thing I wanted to hear was any expression of opinion from private members on this side. He said whether private members spoke or not depended on my will. Whether private members speak depends entirely upon their own will. I have no objection to hearing them speak, even those private members who have been members of the Army. Those were the ones the Deputy seemed most anxious to hear, although he complained every time they did speak that they are vituperative towards his Party. He said that if circumstances were happier he would like to look at this still more sympathetically. I might ask him what there is unhappy in the circumstances. Deputy Aiken, in his very lugubrious way, asked what the Army is there for, and says that we can only fight when the English want us to fight. I do not know how far Deputy Aiken would pass the intelligence test for the Army Reserve, but provided he would pass it he knows a remark like that is merely silly.
Where is the ammunition to come from? Must not the ammunition come from England?
The ammunition will come from wherever we can get it most conveniently and cheaply.
Where did it come from?
Mostly from England.
And from nowhere only England?
I cannot tell, but I should say mostly from England. I would like to know what Deputy MacEntee means when he says "if the circumstances had been happier." There is no political tinge about the members of the Volunteer Reserve. They may for all I know, every one of them, be staunch supporters of the Government. On the other hand, the majority of them may be quite the contrary. We have in no way confined the membership of this body to those people who are likely to support the Government. We have not done that. There have been other organisations at work to attempt to keep out of the Volunteer body people who do not agree with the Government's view of things. Deputy MacEntee went further and said he was compelled to draw the conclusion that it was never intended that this Volunteer Reserve should be a success, and I gather that he implied that we were limiting it as a political body for the purpose of not making it a success.
May I make this clear: the Minister has read the form of attestation, or the oath, "to defend Saorstát Eireann and its Constitution as by law established," that is to say, to defend the retention of the oath and of the Governor-General. These are the two political issues which divide this country, and yet you ask all those who join the Volunteer Reserve to take an oath to preserve these and to keep them here.
What is the whole idea of the Volunteer Reserve? The State exists for the well-being of the whole people, and the Volunteer Reserve are part of a body of men who, because the State is necessary for that well-being, both spiritual and temporal, come forward and volunteer their services to protect that which is fundamentally and essentially good against outside force.
The oath and the Governor-General.
It is a question of the State. I understand the Party opposite is a constitutional Party. What do they propose to do? The Constitution was made by this Dáil. The proposal that men should abide by the law of this country is what it amounts to, and abiding by the law means the fundamental law of this country, and the suggestion that such a proposal as that would exclude anybody that it is desirable to have is, to my mind, perfectly absurd. The Volunteers exist for the protection of the State.
And the maintenance of the Constitution.
And the defence of the Constitution, whatsoever form the Constitution may have, whatsoever the time may be. Anyone who objects to the Constitution should attempt to change it in a constitutional way.
The way you changed the last one.
The Deputy suggests that oath is not acceptable to the majority of the people of this country. If it is not acceptable to the majority of the people of this country what does it mean? Either that the majority of the people propose to resist the Constitution or that the majority of the people here resist the existence of an Irish State. Either suggestion is, I think, a suggestion that a form of civic immorality exists amongst the majority of the people of this country, which I do not believe to be true. The Deputy asks who would serve in the Volunteers under Deputy Seán McKeon or Deputy O'Higgins. Of course, as usual, he is wrong. Deputy Seán McKeon is not associated with the Volunteer Reserve, and Deputy O'Higgins is not even a member of the Reserve, but anyway, whether they are or not, a Reserve officer and a member of the Reserve of Volunteers, except when they are actually on active service and definitely subject to military law, have a perfect right to whatever political views they care to hold, and a suggestion that a man should be excluded from the Reserve merely because he holds a political opinion, except when he is on active service, is to my mind an attempt practically to interfere with the freedom of the citizen. Deputy Little welcomes the assurance that it is not a party machine. "Unfortunately, bias was shown by some of the men who left the Army." Why should a man who has ceased to be a member of the Army be incapable of having a political opinion? To my mind that is perfectly absurd. I do not know what the political opinions of officers or men in the Army are. I have never asked them. He says that the Reserve force is psychologically impossible. "It would be a long time before united action is possible; we want something closer to the ideals of Irish nationality than what we have now." Our present ideals are that the Irish State which exists for the people for their well-being should be protected. If that is something contrary to the ideals of Irish nationality, well, then, all I can say is that there is something wrong with the ideals of Irish nationality.
Deputy Hogan said that I never give a reason for not introducing a permanent Bill. I have done so time and again. He does not see why we should not dispense with the Army altogether, and then he comes along with—if I was in order I would like to say—the almost contemptible doctrine that when our country is invaded we should remain supine and allow the British to defend us. That is the doctrine of the coward and the slave and a thing I do not propose to attempt to refute. I think it was Deputy Lemass who said that no man, no matter what his political opinions may be, should be debarred from serving his country against aggression. We do not attempt to prevent that. The only attempts I have seen to prevent any man, no matter what his political opinions may be, from serving his country against aggression were made by the organ of the Party opposite. Deputy Esmonde spoke about the establishment of Cavalry and Air Reserve Forces. I think there is actually an Air Reserve Force, but I think it is so small that Deputy Esmonde would be justified in saying it does not exist. I think that in at least some branch of the Reserve Forces or Volunteer Forces equitation will enter into part of their training.
As for the Department of Finance not making arrangements to facilitate men joining the Volunteer Reserve, I have no fault to find with the facilities so far given by the Department of Finance. As the Deputies opposite lumped together all branches of the Reserve Forces, that is to say, the Volunteer Reserve, the Reserve of Officers, the Officers' Training Corps, and so on, they may be relieved to know that instead of the 300 members they speak of as included in the branches of the Reserve altogether, the number is something nearer 7,000. The Deputies on the other side seem to be temperamentally incapable of absorbing any piece of information I give them, as they will come along with the same misguided opinions afterwards. They seem to have an unlimited capacity for absorbing statements which are not true.
Does the Minister say that there are now 7,000 men in the Volunteer Reserve? The Minister seems to lump the Volunteer Reserve, the Officers' Training Corps and the Reserve of Officers.
On the contrary, the Deputy himself did that. I took the opportunity of dealing with what the Deputy himself spoke about.
The Minister is now trying to give the impression that in the Volunteer Reserve there are 7,000 men.
Which just proves the truth of what I said, that the Deputy opposite is incapable of understanding anything I said. He stated that I had said that the Volunteer Reserve numbered something nearer 7,000. I do not say that the Volunteer Reserve amounts to that or anything like it.
Would the Minister give us the figures for the Volunteer Reserve?
The Volunteer Reserve, with O.T.C.'s, is something in the neighbourhood of 500.
How many of these are out of Trinity?
I think 82.
Why should not a man come out of Trinity as well as anywhere else?
You are the only objection we have.
The Leader of the Deputy's Party went down to Trinity. The Deputy said that only 600 offered. As a matter of fact, a great many more than 600 offered. The Deputy talked about only people who were dying from starvation offering. If anybody is dying from starvation it would be perfectly futile for him to join the Volunteer Reserve because he would be only putting extra work on himself and getting no advantage out of it. The Deputy when speaking of that obviously was speaking of the B Reserve. If I was dying of starvation I would go into the B Reserve much more quickly, because I would be fed for three months, and would be paid. In the Volunteer Reserve I would be called upon to drill and get no pay.
Not necessarily aristocracy, preferably people not of the type of the Deputy.
I am not concerned with the misrepresentation of my statement by the Minister. Misrepresentation is, of course, the main characteristic of the Minister. I did not say that we should remain neutral if we were being invaded. What I did say was that we are a dominion of the British Commonwealth, and if we are invaded it will be by some country seeking to force a form of government upon us. It is the duty then of Great Britain, of which we are a dominion, to resist that power.
If I misrepresented the Deputy I should be sorry indeed. I made certain notes. The Deputy talked of dispensing with the Army, and asked what was the reason for the existence of the Army. Was it to fight? Presumably to resist an invader. Who would invade? No one except a foreign country seeking to impose their foreign Government upon us. It was other people's business to resist that encroachment. When the Deputy says that we are a dominion of Great Britain, of course it is a slight twist of words, totally misrepresenting the case. This State is entirely independent, and it is not Great Britain's business to defend us; it is her business to defend herself, and it is our business to defend ourselves against any invader whatsoever. The British Government has no control whatever in the Irish Free State. It cannot say this shall be done or that shall not be done. Inasmuch as the Irish people themselves are masters here, it is their business to protect that which is their own good, namely, their own State, and it is nobody else's business. If I have misrepresented the Deputy I am very sorry, and I hasten to withdraw it. If what I understood him to say was what he actually did say, then the epithets apply to him.
If we resist a foreign invader we do it to retain England. Is not that the sum total of it?
The Deputy knows well that that is not the case. England has no power whatsoever within the shores of the Irish Free State, and the Deputy ought to know that.
Is not this a dominion of Great Britain?
It is not.
The status of this country does not arise on this Bill at all.
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