The answer which I received here to a question addressed to the Minister for Justice with regard to the treatment of Messrs. Seán McGuinness and George Mooney in Mountjoy in consequence of the hunger-strike in which they indulged, has left me so dissatisfied that I take this opportunity of seeking further information on it and of registering a protest against the answer given to me by the Minister. In order to refresh Deputies' minds on the subject of why hospital treatment is necessary, it is well to go back to the answer to a question addressed by me to the Minister for Justice in which he said that George Mooney's health had suffered from his long period of confinement. That fact was admitted without any qualification. On 11th June, in the Dáil, the Minister admitted that the cell doors of Mooney and McGuinness were left open during certain hours. He further admitted that later, on his instructions, or on the instructions of an officer of his Department, that that privilege was withdrawn and the cell doors were closed. As a consequence these prisoners were compelled, when they could not get fresh air any other way, to destroy the cell windows in order to secure ventilation. The result of that action on their part was that they were put in strait-jackets. Each of these prisoners at that time, it is well to remind members of the Dáil, was in delicate health, particularly Mooney, who had been in what you might call solitary confinement for a period of nearly seventeen months. The Minister, of course, will say that it was of his own volition, but that is neither here nor there. The fact is that he was confined, and that that was bound to have an effect upon his health. McGuinness did not suffer from the solitary confinement, but he suffered from the excessive brutality which resulted in his spitting up blood, as was testified in a sworn affidavit of a prisoner who was released last week.
The consequence of this brutality and of the persecution indulged in in that prison was that the prisoners felt that they were not being treated as human beings, and feeling that some more desperate action was necessary to force their case on the attention of the Minister for Justice, and on the attention of the authorities of this Dáil, resolved to make the only protest that remained within their power, the desperate and, if I might so describe it from my own experience, the inhuman protest of a hunger-strike. The hunger-strike followed and lasted for eleven days.
There was a discussion here last week, and the Minister's attitude might best be stated in one sentence which he uttered in the course of his reply—"If these men choose to injure their health it is their look-out"— merely a repetition nine years later of the doctrine—"Let them rot; it does not matter." The Adjutant-General of the Republican Army called that hunger-strike off after eleven days on Saturday, and one would imagine that even sentiments of justice and charity, of which we hear so much from the Government side of the House, would have induced the Minister at least to take cognizance of the fact that the long period of solitary confinement which was endured by Mooney, and the excessive brutality which undoubtedly was inflicted on McGuinness, would have been sufficient cause for immediate attention after the effects of that hunger-strike. Evidently the Minister's heart has become a piece of granite. He is dead to all human appeal. His ears have been stuffed, and are incapable of hearing anything except the doctrine, "Let them rot." It is pure cussedness on his part, a refusal, in the way in which another Minister was described last night, to recognise a mistake.
We find him, in reply to the question addressed to him to-day, as to whether he had issued instructions to the prison authorities to provide adequate hospital treatment to prevent serious after-effects from this strike, stating that no special instructions have been issued in this case. The Minister for Justice, of course, never having had the experience of the horrors of a hunger-strike, fails to realise what exactly it means. He fails to realise that eleven days' hunger-strike, small period though it is, following upon a period of solitary confinement in the one case, and excessive physical torture in the other, must be met by medical attention over a period of not less than three weeks. We find him stating definitely and cold-bloodedly that no special instructions have been issued. We may take it for granted from that phrase, "no special instructions," that the ordinary prison diet is probably available for these two men. The ordinary prison diet, of course, is a thing which the Minister never has had experience of either. If he had he would be very slow about issuing instructions that men who had endured a hunger-strike for eleven days would secure nothing but the ordinary prison diet.
It is well to anticipate him in this. He will state that the medical authorities in the prison are giving due attention and will undoubtedly give the requisite medical supplies to these men. I have had some experience of prison doctors under the Free State Government and of what the prisoner who endures a hunger-strike receives in the line of medical attention, and I want to tell the Minister that unless special instructions are issued to the medical authorities in Mountjoy it is quite likely that these men will be allowed merely the ordinary routine food of the prison. If that is so after eleven days' hunger-strike it is quite possible that their health will be permanently injured, and if their health is permanently injured, despite what the Minister says here that it is their own look-out. I charge him with the responsibility, and if they die I charge the Minister for Justice in this Dáil with the moral murder of these two men. It is no use getting away from the fact by drawing red herrings across the trail and introducing side issues as to the type of criminals these men are. The Minister for Justice knows very well that those men are not criminals. He has learned nothing, his ears being stuffed and his heart being dead to the appeal of human sentiment from the long struggle of Irish political prisoners in British jails for political treatment. He has not learned the fundamental fact that all these struggles in the years that have passed have left something which prisoners can go on, and if he does not desire, as I said the other night, to lay up a heritage of bitterness and animosity which may result in calamity, I would suggest to him to take a more human and more broad-minded view of this. I would suggest to him, apart from anything but pure Christian humanity that men who have endured suffering deserve something more than the cold-blooded, granite-like reply that was given to me to-day. The Minister probably will gloss over these facts, but I would put it to him that if his prison medical authorities are of the same calibre and of the same mentality as the Governor of Mountjoy and as the prison warder, Sugrue, have proved themselves to be, then there is little hope that there will be any result from the medical authorities in Mountjoy. These two officers in Mountjoy have proved themselves to be ——