I must confess that the speech which the Minister for Justice has just given to us is to me, at any rate, extremely disappointing and I fancy it will prove rather disappointing not merely to this House but to most people in this State. I certainly thought that the Minister would take this the first opportunity available to him of letting the country know what is the policy of his Department because I think there can be no question at the present moment that the Department of the Minister for Justice is the most important Department in the State and that the duties and obligations which are imposed upon the Minister for Justice are heavier than the obligations which rest upon the shoulders of, let me say, the Minister for External Affairs or the Minister for Finance or any other member of the Executive Council, because though our public affairs are matters of tremendous importance; though our financial condition is a matter of tremendous importance; yet of importance far transcending them is the importance of the preservation of peace and order within the limits of our State, and how the Minister proposes to preserve peace and maintain order is a matter upon which I certainly thought the Minister would take the very earliest possible opportunity of enlightening this House.
We know that, at any rate, there has been, in one respect, a complete change of policy. We know that, at one time, the law was administered in this country so that it should be no respecter of persons. The law was administered so that the most influential man or the most influential body of men were equally under the law as the humblest and poorest; were equally entitled to the protection of the law as were the richest or the most powerful individual or group of individuals. As far as I can discover at the present moment that policy has been completely changed and the law is not for the future to apply to a very considerable number of persons in this State. Men convicted of crimes have already been released.
For instance, it is now perfectly plain that possession of dumps of arms, though against the Firearms Act, has ceased to be a crime enforceable by law; not indeed a crime not enforceable by law, but a crime against which the Minister will not put the law in force, and, if we are correctly informed by a very eloquent Deputy of the Party opposite, at the present time the Minister is in a position to discover all the dumps of arms there are in this country. That is the statement of a member of the Party opposite—as I say, a very eloquent member of this House—I have the authority of the Attorney-General for that statement, and I am glad to see the Attorney-General sitting beside that eloquent Deputy, Deputy Cleary, because some little time ago, when speaking in the County Mayo, the Attorney-General told the people of the County Mayo that he had been with Deputy Cleary during the by-election campaign in County Kildare, and that Deputy Cleary was so brilliant and so eloquent that he could make even the dull people of the Midlands understand him. On another occasion, when he was making a speech, not to the dull people, as the Attorney-General styles them, of the Midlands, but to the people of a portion of Connaught, he informed them that, of course, the Fianna Fáil Party knew where the dumps were and that they could be collected within a month or so. I would like to know if the Deputy has placed that information at the disposal of the Minister for Justice, and I would like to know if the Minister for Justice purposes availing himself of that information. In fact, I would like generally to know, and I think the whole country would like generally to know from the Minister, as to what is his attitude at the present moment towards the I.R.A. and towards Saor Eire.
We know, and there is no secret about it, that there is, at the present moment, a body which claims to be the legal and legitimate Government of this country, and that they issued a manifesto to that purport within the last few days and fortified their contention by a very familiar quotation from a speech of the President. They claim to be the legitimate Government of the State. There is an army which claims to be the only lawful army in this country. Their leaders have stated repeatedly that if there is to be one Government and one Government alone in this State, and if there is to be one army only in this State theirs is to be the Government and theirs is to be the army.
I want to know what is the attitude of the Minister towards that association; I want to know if he intends to allow that association to go ahead; to train; to arm; to prepare; and to strike at its own good chosen time, or whether he intends to take the necessary adequate steps to see that no illegal drilling is carried on, and that no breaches of the law are to be made by any association openly, and in the face of day, or secretly, and by night. These, I think, are questions to which we are entitled to have an answer. I consider, and I think most of the Deputies in this House would agree with me when we think that it is the duty of the Minister to put forward plainly to us, and to give us an assurance as to the course which he intends to take, and I can assure the Minister that if he informs this House that it is his determination, and the determination of the Executive, to see that there will be one Government and one Government only, to see that there will be one army and one army only; and to take the necessary steps to ensure that there shall be but one Government and that there shall be but one army, if he does that, he certainly will go a long, long way to alleviate a great number of the fears I entertain about the preservation of the peace in this country. But I do not wish for mere empty expressions. I would like to know the measures which the Minister purposes to take. I do not want mere vague generalities, and I hope that when he comes to speak, he will get away from vague generalities, and that he will come down to concrete facts, and that he will outline to this House, and give, not merely an outline, but, so far as he can, the details of the measures which he intends to take to prove to the people of this State, and to every section of this community, that the law is supreme and must be obeyed by every single person in this community and that there is one law-making authority in this State, and one only, and that is the Oireachtas.
If the Minister, as I say, gives to this country undertakings, and not merely verbal undertakings, but tells us the method by which he is going to carry his undertakings out, he will do a considerable amount towards alleviating the well-grounded feelings of fear which are held by a great number of people as to the preservation of peace in this State. If he goes further and tells us that the opening of the prison gates, that repeal of the Constitution (Amendment) Act, were mere gestures—that they were carrying out election pledges, or something of that sort, but for the future he is not going to deal with the openly confessed enemies of this State by gestures of that nature but firmly, boldly and determinedly; if he gives the people of this country that undertaking, he will certainly, as I have said, have gone a long way to alleviate a great number of our fears.
But I will remind the Minister of this, that against that association the ordinary law cannot prevail; that when that association chooses to do what it considers rightful acts, but which, according to the laws of this State, and, in my opinion, the laws of God, are wrongful acts, the ordinary law is powerless. Juries will not convict and witnesses will not give evidence. Let him bear that fact in mind when he comes to make his reply, and let him inform this State openly what are the methods by which he intends to enforce the preservation of the law.