As soon as the President has moved, with any statement that he desires to make, "That this Bill be now read a second time," I propose to call on Deputy Cosgrave to move, with any statement that he desires to make, the amendment that stands in his name. The main question and the two amendments will then be open to debate. At at the end of that debate, I propose to put the question: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand," and on the decision on that question will hang the fate of the two amendments. The main question, "That the Bill be now read a second time," will then be put without further debate.
Public Business. - Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill, 1932—Second Stage.
Seeing that the two amendments are in different terms, would it not be advisable to put them separately to the House?
It would be impossible to do that without having a double debate.
Is not the subject important enough?
Any question arising on the second amendment may be debated as soon as the first amendment has been introduced.
While I agree with Deputy O'Hanlon about the importance of both amendments, I think if, as he suggests, we were to have a double debate we would be getting further away from the unemployment question.
I understood that we were to take the unemployment question at 9 o'clock.
We might be able to take it at six.
I move: That the Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill, 1932, be now read a second time. Before the last election there was widely published throughout the area of the Free State a manifesto to the electors in which the Fianna Fáil Party put forward, in very explicit terms, the items of the programme which, if elected in a majority, they would endeavour to put into operation. The first item on that programme was as follows: "To remove the Article of the Constitution which makes the signing of the Oath of Allegiance obligatory on members entering the Dáil." The following note was added: "This Article is not required by the Treaty. It stands in the way of national unity and of willing obedience to law. Government by coercion is the result."
This Bill, the Second Reading of which I am proposing to the House, is intended to give effect to that first item on the programme. The programme as a whole might be divided roughly into two parts, the part which had relation to international matters, the external relations of the State, and the part that had reference directly to domestic matters. In order that there might not be in the minds of the electors any misunderstanding as to the extent of the mandate we were seeking, the following paragraph was put into the manifesto:
"We pledge ourselves that if elected in a majority we shall not in the field of international relations exceed the mandate here asked for without again consulting the people."
The pledge that we gave to the electors we propose scrupulously to honour. We said in the note that the Article that imposed the Oath, made the Oath obligatory on the members, was not required by the Treaty. That statement was inserted after having given the matter the fullest attention and consideration and having consulted authorities whose views, on account of their eminence, we were bound to consider as worthy of acceptance. I propose in dealing with the Bill to prove to the House that that statement was correct; that there is no obligation on us to consult Britain with respect to the action that we are taking here to-day. In fact, if we were to consider any such course, and to act in accordance with the suggestion that is being made by the present Opposition, I feel that we would be very open indeed to an attack from them that what they had tried to secure and, to a certain extent, had secured, we were giving away.
The Bill consists of three main sections. The first section provides for the deletion of Article 17 of the Constitution. Deputies will note, if they have a copy of the Constitution by them, that the operative part of that section is added over and above anything that was contained in the Treaty. I am not making a point of that, however, except simply drawing attention to it. Article 17 itself, and the last sentence of it in particular, imposes upon the members of this House the obligation to subscribe to the Oath before they can take their seats. We propose to delete that.
The question will be asked in this connection, whether the deletion of that Article does not violate the Treaty? I do not propose to go into the differences of opinion that exist between this side of the House and the Opposition on the merits or demerits of that instrument, or on its origin. I am simply acting here in the terms of the mandate which we have received from the people, and within that mandate I propose to show that the deletion of Article 17 is quite consistent with the position of the Free State as one of the co-equal partners of the British Commonwealth. Members opposite have claimed that, as the result of their labours, whatever may have been the initial restrictions, the Treaty has been expanded until the British Government itself, and the British Parliament itself, recognise that now the Free State stands on terms of equality not merely with Canada, with Australia, with New Zealand, and with South Africa, but even on terms of equality with Britain itself as regards status. That being so, I will put them this question: Will they deny that, if the British chose to do it, they could to-morrow bring in a Bill by which the obligation to take the Oath, which is at present imposed upon the members of that Parliament, could be removed? I know they will not deny it and they cannot deny it. I put them this question: Will they deny that if in the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada to-morrow a Bill like this was introduced to put an end to the obligation of taking an Oath in that Parliament, the Canadian Parliament could not pass it? I am sure that they will not deny that either. Neither will they deny that it could be done in Australia or in South Africa. I ask them then, how comes it, if we have co-equality of status, that they deny that it can be done here? I say it can be done here, and if we were to go and ask permission of the British Government I would say, as I said at the beginning, that we could be justly accused of a retrograde step, of giving away something which the present Opposition said that they gained during their time in office. It is for that reason, if for no other, that I certainly am not going to be drawn into negotiations in that particular matter. I have no doubt that the contention will be made that while Canada could do it, while Australia could do it, while South Africa could do it, we cannot do it because we have been bound by some treaty that gives us a restrictive position. If there is such a restrictive position, then co-equality is nonsense. I hold that there is not that restriction.
Anybody who examines the Treaty itself will recognise the structure of that instrument. He will see that it can be roughly divided into three parts. One of these parts had reference to status, and it was quite clear from that particular part that there was no intention in that instrument to hold the Free State fast in the position in which Canada was at the time it was signed, and to allow Canada, Australia, and the others to advance. I have here with me the letter which Mr. Lloyd George during the time of the negotiations sent to Mr. Arthur Griffith, and in that letter it is made quite clear by Mr. Lloyd George himself that the Articles with regard to status were on a different footing from certain other Articles of the Treaty. There is no doubt whatever— every lawyer I have asked agrees upon that—that we have the right here under the Treaty to pass this Bill and to make it law and to take away this restriction. The only way in which it could be said there is restriction on our action here is on the ground that the Treaty gave to the Free State a status which tied it in the position in which it was impossible for it to advance step by step with the advance that was being made by Canada, Australia and other members of the Commonwealth. I ask the Opposition, in this Dáil, will they hold that the status was one fixed at that particular period? I know they cannot because it would not be consistent with their own attitude. They proposed the removal of the Article of the Constitution which provided for appeals to the English Privy Council. The basis for that action, and of their right to take it, is the very self-same basis as the right we mean to exercise here in removing this Oath— exactly the same. The basis of their argument was that the status of the Free State was not fixed at a special period and kept there, and the fact that we had advanced was given recognition to, not very long ago, when the Statute of Westminister was passed giving legal effect to the constitutional position which it was held the States of the British Commonwealth had at that time attained to. Will, for instance, the late Minister for External Affairs get up and argue that we are not competent here in this Dáil to pass this Bill? Is he going to argue that we must negotiate with Britain first? I hope he will not.
When the Treaty was being put before the old Dáil, one of the arguments put forward in favour of it was that it gave freedom to achieve freedom. Are those who acted on that policy now going to say that there is to be a barrier and a perpetual barrier to advancement? Let the British say that if they choose. Why should any Irishman say it, particularly when it is not true? I say then that whatever the position may have been in 1921, in the year 1932 there is no doubt whatever that we can remove Article 17 of the Constitution, and do it without violating any contractual obligation whatever that we have with Britain.
The next section proposes to remove Article 2 of the Free State Constitution Act which makes the Constitution subordinate to the Articles of Agreement. I do not know whether Deputies are generally aware that it is an extraordinary thing to make a municipal law dependent upon treaties. Treaties, as a rule, are not part of the fundamental or constitutional law of countries. In the case of the Free State they generally are not. Why should this Treaty be put in a very special position? Why, if it is a treaty, should it not get the very self-same treatment in the Constitution that other treaties get? We say that we propose to put that Treaty in the self-same position as other treaties that have been made by this State are put in—to put it in exactly the same position as they are. We know that in these cases the courts are compelled to interpret municipal law and that where the municipal law and treaties are in contradiction the treaties must give way to the municipal law. We propose here, in the case of this Treaty, to regularise the position and to put the Treaty in its proper place. It should not be open to our courts to invalidate municipal law by saying that it is in contravention of a treaty. That is a matter not for the courts, but for the States involved and for the Parliaments of those States. We propose therefore to eliminate this second Article of the Constitution Act.
I would remind the House that this is not a new proposal. Our predecessors in office had submitted to them a similar suggestion by their advisers. That advice was given to them after a full study of the position, and it was given to them in good faith, and it certainly cannot be said it was given to them with any desire to run a coach and four through the Treaty or anything else. It is not then a new proposition and its appearance here is for the reason I have told the House.
The next point is Section 3. Under Section 3 we propose to delete the words of Article 50, that is the words "within the terms of the scheduled Treaty now contained therein." If we did not do that the purpose we have in mind in the elimination of Article 2 would not be served. There would be a back-door method of getting the same results as you get by Article 2. Article 65 of the Constitution provides:—
"The judicial power of the High Court shall extend to the question of the validity of any law having regard to the provisions of the Constitution. In all cases in which such matters shall come into question the High Court alone shall exercise original jurisdiction."
If in Article 50 the words we propose to delete were allowed to remain then the courts would be in the position of interpreting municipal law as subordinate to the Treaty, a position which we think would be intolerable.
I think I have explained the provisions of the Bill and their intention and all I think that remains for me to do is to point out what the removal of this Article will mean for the peace of the country. One of the prime duties of the Government is to provide for the peace and order of the community. It ought to do that with the least possible encroachment on the liberty of the individual citizen. It ought to do that with the smallest possible exercise of coercion. The history of the past ten years indicates how futile it is to hope, ultimately, to deal with matters of this kind by coercive measures. It cannot be done. You can repress for a time. The Government, with the powers at its disposal, with all the organised resources of the community at its disposal, can, undoubtedly, by the exercise of its powers, coerce individuals and groups and make them conform to the law which it passes. But there is suppressed revolution all the time there. And, even admitting the effectiveness of coercion, we have got to confess that it is a wrong method if it can possibly be avoided. And I say that it can be avoided here. It can be avoided by removing the causes which operate and which prevent the law from getting the willing obedience to which it is entitled. If we do have democratic government, it ought to be government largely with the consent of the people. And the manner in which this State was founded, the circumstances under which the Articles of Agreement were accepted, made it more than ever necessary that coercive measures should not, if possible, be resorted to, and that agreement, if possible, should be found.
In 1923, at the end of the Civil War, looking forward in the hope that it would be possible to unite the national forces in whatever advance was possible, a principle was put forward which would enable that unity to be achieved; and the principle simply was this: that all sections of the people would be free to send their representatives to the people's assembly and to send them there without their being called upon to forswear any opinions which they held or to give up any principle. The Oath of Allegiance ran counter to that principle. It can be argued, I know—I know how people will argue about it—that this Oath only meant such and such and such, that it involved no obligation and the rest of it. Well, then, if it is such a light matter, why keep it there? There is a large section of the people anyhow who do believe that it is an important content and that it is a matter of national significance. Why not get rid of it? The previous Government, I believe, could have got rid of it. And I find it hard not to suggest that when they had the power of getting rid of it, they did not do it simply because it served their own political purposes. Perhaps I should not make that suggestion. But at any rate it was my own belief that they could at any time if they took on it the stand that they were prepared to take, for instance, on the question of appeals to the Privy Council—if they took the same stand on the Oath as they did on that question, they could have removed it, and I do not believe that there would have been all the pother about it that we have to-day.
A Chinn Comhairle, I do not think that any good purpose would be served by widening the scope of the debate. So far as I am concerned, I have deliberately restricted myself to the narrowest compass in which I could hope to deal with the matters raised. If other matters are raised during the debate; I shall answer them in my reply. But I ask the House, I ask all the members of the House, to keep themselves as strictly as they can to the questions at issue. We have been told by Labour members, former Labour members, or members of the Labour Party, that they want to get on with the work. I assure them that I am as anxious to get on with the work as they can be—just as anxious; and the sooner this is disposed of in this House the better I should like it, and the better it would be for the country as a whole. I do not think that any good purpose is to be served by lengthening the debate on this Bill. It is going to come to the same question in the end. It is a question, I dare say now, in the end, of the number of voters that will go into the Lobby on either side.
There are two amendments here. The first is that by Deputy Cosgrave; and it runs:—
"That believing that the rights and liberties assured to the people by the Treaty of 1921 are placed in jeopardy by the Bill, the Dáil declines to give it a Second Reading pending negotiations and agreement between the Executive Council and the British Government upon the question at issue."
My answer to that is this: That to do what Deputy Cosgrave suggests is to put into jeopardy whatever rights and liberties have been secured by the people, inasmuch as his action in seeking negotiation, in admitting that the British Government had any right to dictate in our domestic affairs in a matter of this kind—it is that, I hold, that would put the rights and liberties, which, he says, have been secured by the Treaty, in jeopardy, and not the action that we propose to take. And as regards the second amendment, which asks that the Bill should be postponed "pending a definite declaration of policy by the Government on the subject of remaining in the British Commonwealth of Nations," my answer to that is that we did not wait until this debate to declare what our attitude was going to be, what our desires are, what the future policy of this Party, the Party which is to-day the majority in this House, is. What the ultimate hopes of that Party are, are known. But in the last election we went to the electors and gave a pledge that if elected in a majority we did not intend, in the field of international relations, to exceed the mandate which was asked for, without again consulting the people. That is our attitude.
The moment that the people are ready to stand for an independent Republic, we will be quite ready to lead them. We believed, in the last election, that, on account of the policy which was preached to them for ten years, on account of the intimidation of the last ten years, the people were not prepared, at the time, to take the full step that we would wish them to take; and in order to do our best to unite the country and to put into effect the economic policy which we stand for just as definitely as we stand for the political policy with which we are associated, in order to get on with that work we gave the assurance that, pending a further appeal to the people, we did not propose, in the field of international relations, to go beyond the points that were definitely asked for in our mandate. I think that ought to be a declaration of policy sufficient, and, therefore, I think that if the Second Reading is simply to be deferred until such a declaration of policy is made, that that declaration ought to satisfy the Deputy. With that, I move the Second Reading.
The following amendments were on the Order Paper:
1. To delete all words after the word "That" and substitute the words "believing that the rights and liberties assured to the people by the Treaty of 1921 are placed in jeopardy by the Bill, the Dáil declines to give it a Second Reading pending negotiations and agreement between the Executive Council and the British Government upon the question at issue."—(William T. Cosgrave).
2. To delete all words after the word "That" and substitute the words "The Dáil declines to give a Second Reading to this Bill pending a definite declaration of policy by the Government on the subject of remaining in the British Commonwealth of Nations."—(Frank MacDermot, John F. O'Hanlon.)
The introduction of this Bill is not a matter upon which the Government should receive many congratulations. It appears to be one of the greatest pieces of political chicanery in history. I do not propose to enter into any quasi-legal discussions as to whether or not the international agreement which was signed some ten or eleven years ago is in its form a Treaty, or whether it is in the strictly technical sense properly described by being called a Treaty. The validity of international agreements does not depend upon form, but upon substance. We have regarded the relations between this country and Great Britain as being based on the Treaty. The sanction for its observance on both sides rests upon a basis solely of mutual respect and confidence in each other's good faith. We have acted since the inception of the State on that basis which is, I believe, the only possible basis for good relations. Two of the greatest Irishmen who ever lived in either this or any other generation signed that agreement on that understanding and pledged on behalf of this country the observance and the maintenance by this country of that agreement—Articles of Agreement or Treaty or whatever people like to call it. They never contemplated, never imagined, that this country would repudiate or make any attempt to repudiate the signatures appended to that instrument.
A purely legal action of a unilateral character in respect of an international agreement would not commend itself to the representatives of any other nation either in Europe or in the whole world and the basis of every negotiation into which we entered at the Imperial Conference or elsewhere, the basis of our case, was our adherence to the bond which we had made and the instrument which we had signed and of which, at successive elections, the people of the country had approved over a period of something like ten years.
Somebody mentioned duress. There was an attempt at duress on the part of a certain minority in the country to prevent the people of this country——
——giving their adherence or sanction to that instrument.
Immediate and terrible war.
And the people answered that attempt at duress. Listening to the speech of the President of the Executive Council here to-day, I was satisfied if we had not succeeded with the authority of the people in the actions we had taken against the whole of those who objected to the signing of the Treaty, who objected to the acceptance of the Treaty, certainly those 70 seats over there are ample proof and satisfaction to me, personally, and the late administration, that the persuasive methods we adopted were not altogether without their fruit.
There is a new Opposition.
Practically every argument of the President of the Executive Council to-day was to the effect that the powers which we had achieved, the sanctions we had got, and the statutes which had been passed, enabled him to stand up here and say: "Legally I am entitled, and perfectly entitled, to take the action which I am taking and to make these amendments which I am presenting to the House for their acceptance." I would respectfully suggest to the President that the concluding portions of his speech indicate to my mind some reminiscences in his mind of the events of the last ten years. Will Rogers described to me on one occasion, having gone through the various chancelleries of Europe, how one Prime Minister came into his Parliament in the morning and said: "There is a list of Bills; vote these as quickly as you can." Then he said as he got into a cab: "They are voting on them." That is not the way things should be done in a Parliament. We are entitled to examine measures properly, with all their implications. The simplicity of this Bill is its own condemnation. What, in effect, is proposed here? It would have been open to us before the passage of the Statute of Westminster to have introduced such a measure as this. What stopped us? Not fear of the British Government. Not at all. Search the records of the House of Commons and see the communication which was read there addressed by me in my capacity of the Government of this State.
One of the most foolish letters—
Well, at any rate, this can be said about it—it was written in a good literary style. It was a credit to the place where it came from. It was received in good faith, and it effected its purpose. Why? Because the one sentence which might have run through it from beginning to end was good faith. Not in legal formalities, not in statutes—
What about the Republic?
Mr. Hogan (Galway):
Order. You were not interrupted.
I do not think that the man who said "What about the Republic?" ever did much for it. Any international agreement whatever its form is in substance merely a contract. The only sanction for its observance, as I have already said, is good faith, self-interest, if we wish, and the fulfilling of our duty.
We have entered into such an agreement with Great Britain and for ten years we have kept our word. It is conceivably possible that the instrument which was signed ten years ago would not be in the form in which it is, would have been more acceptable to the people of the two countries, much more acceptable, had the circumstances of the time, the suspicions of the time and the bad passions and the terrible acts of the period not been immediately present to the minds of those negotiating on the one side and on the other.
But we are ten years away from that time, ten years in which the good faith of the two parties to that instrument has been signalised time and again; ten years in which there is a growing respect between the people of the two countries for the bonds into which they entered in good faith. And the main contention which we have always upheld in our own interests and in our own honour is that the Treaty which was signed can only be altered by mutual agreement between the two parties. Is there anything wrong in that? Is there anything objectionable about that?
President de Valera says "ask permission from the British." Not necessarily. We are in the British Commonwealth of Nations on a level with Great Britain. The administration over which I presided never looked up at Great Britain. We always looked along the level and we had nothing to be ashamed of in our relations.
It is open to the Deputy now to put in a motion to rescind the Ultimate Financial Settlement. He has his own votes there and, as I said before, I warn the country as to what the consequences will be. There are certain things about these matters; and the first is that you will not start from where we left off. You will have to start at the beginning. You will not have a civil war to fight and it will not be necessary to build up the institutions of the State. It will be all done and the experiences that we have had for the past ten years are available to both parties. They can tear up the Ultimate Financial Agreement, the Land Annuities, Article V., and the whole lot of that and see if they can do anything better.
And Article XII.
Yes. It comes well to talk about that Article when, as I have said, that Article was almost manufactured by two of the greatest Irishmen that ever lived in this country. That instrument had within it the seeds of political union and these were all destroyed and devastated by the actions of featherheads and so-called idealists, people who were very willing to show form at a time when it was past the period for showing real Irish form. As I have said, the Treaty which was signed contained a number of clauses, and one of these is as sacred, as solemn, and as binding as another. Destroy one of them and all go. This particular Bill appears to me to be a breach of the Treaty, and it has at least the merit that it is clear on the face of it that that is so in effect and in intention. It reveals the dishonesty of the argument that the Oath is not mandatory in the Treaty, because the fact is, if that is so, it is expressly admitted, and sought to be implicitly carried out by this particular measure. I have always taken the view, which I understand is in accordance with international law, that the interpretation of a treaty is a matter for the parties to the treaty themselves and not for one of the parties but both parties to the treaty. The insertion of Section 2 or Article 50 of the Constitution amounts to nothing more than a statutory declaration and a recognition of the Treaty obligations of the State. That Article simply declares that in legislating we would have regard to the fact that there were outstanding mutual obligations and rights between ourselves and another State which we would take care would not be prejudiced by domestic legislation.
We have, and always had, the fullest legal power to legislate in the manner which would amount to a breach of the Treaty or any particular provision of it. But by that section and that Article a headline was set to the Oireachtas, that it should have regard in its legislation to its Treaty obligations. The other parties to the Treaty enacted legislation which imposes the obligation of the Treaty provisions on its own Parliament and on its own people. Now this is not a mere alteration of the Constitution. It proposes to take out of the Constitution the operative clauses of one of the Articles of the Treaty. It opens a very much wider issue and in effect we are entitled to consider the history of the Treaty in connection with this proposal—what the Treaty connotes and what it postulates, what the circumstances were at the time.
Let us remember that we undertook in open parliament to send Plenipotentiaries to see how far it was possible to reconcile Irish national aspirations with the community of nations known as the British Commonwealth. Let us ask ourselves what are Irish national aspirations and what is the British Commonwealth of Nations? The British Commonwealth of Nations is as far removed from what was the British Empire of my early boyhood or manhood as we are from the battle of Waterloo. The British Commonwealth of Nations to-day, ten years after the signing of the Treaty, is a different Institution, altogether, completely different from what it was ten years ago. Apart altogether from the Statute of Westminster, the developments which took place by reason of the Imperial Conferences of the last ten years have marked the British Commonwealth of Nations during that period as an institution dissimilar from anything in the world's history. At no time in the world's history was there such a combination of States, equally independent, equally free, equally entitled to exercise their sovereign rights as independent States, as you have in the British Commonwealth of Nations. That is the Institution not quite so well developed with which you were asked to see whether it was possible to reconcile Irish national aspirations ten years ago.
What are Irish national aspirations? I have never read or seen in a concise form set down by either politicians, statesmen, jurists, professors of international law or by men of any other department of municipal affairs, a brief description of what are Irish national aspirations. The Irish nation which made this struggle against British domination for several centuries is not the Irish nation we have to-day. At that time there was a racial distinction, marked perhaps after a very short time by the infusion of some Norman blood. But even in this Parliament to-day may there not be some people who have perhaps English mothers, who have perhaps only a short period in which they would have a right to be regarded as citizens of this State? When we are considering the Irish Nation have we not to consider each and every one of those?
Only a short time ago I saw where there was administering justice in the North of Ireland a man who would be described perhaps as a Diehard Tory with a grand old Irish name. Has he a right to be consulted with regard to what is to be in accordance with Irish national aspirations? I presume that we may take it that we are not entitled to exclude anybody who has the right of citizenship in connection with a matter of that sort and that anybody entitled to a right of citizenship has a right to express his opinion and to vote. We know that in this country there is a line drawn across a certain portion of it. Would it be in accordance with Irish national aspirations to say, "No, we will give you no voice in ordering the life of this country, in developing its culture or in taking part in the deliberations of its legislature?" Certainly not.
There is going to be no bar against any person entitled to the right of citizenship while democratic right and liberty exist in this State. If all the people in it have a right to give expression to their views, have a right to be free when voting and have a right to go into representation in Parliament, then ought we not give very serious consideration to any possible act that we might take which would divorce, perhaps finally, a large and important section of this country from the rest of the State? If we are going to take this action would it not at any rate be wise to see how far they will go with us in that direction?
For my own part, speaking altogether free from any economic consideration, if I got the offer of a free and independent Republic for the area of the Irish Free State, or even less powers than we have at the present moment with the unity of the country, I would plank for the unity of the country. I think one can advance with a united State, however different the views politically or otherwise of the people may be, more surely and steadily along the right lines; but if such a division is made as will forever divide off a very important portion of our country, then what do Irish national aspirations mean?
What is Irish culture? The very first plank anybody would think of putting down as a mark of Irish culture is that an Irishman, in no matter what capacity and in no matter what condition of life in the country, would have first and foremost respect for his national honour and for his word as a man. His primary consideration would be that when his name is put to a document you might depend upon it, come what may, that at no time would he make a repudiation of that legally or otherwise. Irish culture, I presume, would connote a high place in the world in respect of medicine, law, art, industry and all those other things which go to make up a State. Examining the various countries in the world which have arrived at a high state of artistic development, it is to be observed that each and all started with industrial progress, with commercial development. From that came what we might term, if it is not objectionable to the artists, an improvement in artistry.
Are we now concerned with these matters and are they of vital consequence to us? Is our economic development and the improvement of the country not of greater importance to the ordinary man, woman and child in this State rather than a formula or a legal get-out-of some arrangement at which we arrived ten years ago?
Why defend it then?
I did not catch what the Minister for Finance said. I want to know in what way economic development is going to arise out of the passing of this Bill. I want to know whether, apart from economic enactments that may be made in other countries, this country's name and the reputation and popularity of its goods are going to be discounted in the great market in which we sell practically all of our produce and whether the material disadvantage to our people in this time of terrible industrial depression—not common to this country and in connection with which relatively this country is perhaps less affected than any country in Europe or the world for that matter—will not be great.
Can we stand any further tax upon our industrial or commercial activity? Can the farmers bear any lower prices for their goods than they are now getting? Is this Bill likely to produce a situation such as that? It is perhaps a low ground upon which to put it, but I put it upon that ground for this reason. I know agricultural products of all kinds never fetched in our memory such a low price in respect to the cost of production as at the moment. This is a matter of very serious consequence to the people of the country; it is very serious to practically every activity, industrial or otherwise, throughout the State.
The people living across the water purchase from us annually something like £30,000,000 worth of goods; We purchase from them fully 90 per cent. of our imports. The goods which we purchase from them are goods of the type that compete in world markets. It is my impression that we will not do any better. In that respect I am speaking as a business man. It is my conviction that we have got a vulnerable trade. If there is not that market then it is a poor lookout for those engaged in the very big and very important industry of agriculture.
We have, in addition to the proximity of that great market, a considerable tourist traffic to this country. I would like to know whether the Minister for Industry and Commerce has examined the potentialities of the tourist traffic for the current year. Has he examined whether enactments such as this do not give rise to apprehensions on the part of people, and may not prevent sportsmen or others of that sort coming here? It is unnecessary at this hour of the day to say that tourist money is easy money and is a very advantageous money to a country such as this.
The amendment which I have proposed imposes no great burden upon the new Executive Council. I do not know what the intention of the Executive Council is in this matter. I understood from the election that the things which appeal to the people are, first of all, the solution of unemployment. All other Governments have failed to cure unemployment. Field-Marshal Hindenburg, President Hoover, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Prime Minister of France, even Signor Mussolini, the Duce—none of these was able to solve unemployment. In this country we had a Party coming along that never had any experience of administration of any sort or kind saying that they had a solution and a plan. We have not seen much of the plan yet and it is time to produce it. It is of much more consequence to the people who voted for the Minister for Industry and Commerce and for the President, it is very much more important for the improvement of this country, that that plan should be produced rather than that we should be considering this Bill.
We are told that this Bill is for peace. If my eyesight is quite good I recollect reading from some of those who disagree with this Parliament and with the Treaty that the taking out of the Oath means nothing to them. That did not satisfy them. I see in places around the country the words "Break the connection with England." When this thing is done, will the Ministry be pushed forward another step? In the interests of the business of the country, in the interests of the industry of the country, in the interests of those who are willing to invest money in building or in the extension of industrial concerns or any work of that nature, we should know exactly where we are. I have no information that this is going to bring peace. The peace we have had for the last six weeks is no improvement upon the peace we had after the passing of the Constitution (Amendment) Act six months ago. One Constitution Amendment Act was just as effective as all the promises made by the present Ministry, which they have not carried out——
You are the only one with C.I.D. following you.
I have no C.I.D. following me. If the Deputy wants an escort, I am sure the President will oblige him. As I have said, this amendment asks the Executive Council to enter into negotiations with a view to agreement in respect of that solemn pact that we made with Great Britain. The President said that we might have done this in our time. It did not concern me. It was not put to me by any large section of the people, and, as I said earlier in the discussion, I was satisfied with the conversions I had already made—seventy-two of them, and I suppose more coming. We introduced no legislation which was an infringement of the Treaty. We stood for national honour. We stood for the integrity of this country. We stood for the keeping of our obligations. Even if there were no statutory undertaking or anything of that kind, the fact that this pact was signed by the representatives of the people of two countries would have been sufficient for us. I believe that if the people of this country got absolute freedom to express their opinions they would again declare that they wanted this instrument and that they required it to be kept.
The President said that he had got a majority for this Bill at the last election. I cannot agree with the calculation. His Party got something like half a million votes. The Labour Party, I understood, were standing for the Treaty, and that would leave the Party opposite in a minority of 200,000. The President has not got a mandate in respect of this matter. He has got a mandate by reason of his office as President of the Executive Council to go and negotiate an improvement on the instrument signed ten years ago, which has been improved already. I do not say that every word and letter of the Treaty is sacrosanct. It can and ought to be altered, but it can only be altered by agreement with the British Government.
The remarkable thing about the speech to which we have just listened is that it is a complete abandonment by Deputy Cosgrave of the principles which he puts forward in his amendment. I should like to direct the attention of the House to the terms of the amendment—"to delete all words after the word ‘That' and to substitute the words ‘believing that the rights and liberties assured to the people by the Treaty of 1921 are placed in jeopardy by the Bill, the Dáil declines to give it a Second Reading pending negotiations and agreement between the Executive Council and the British Government upon the question at issue.'"
The Deputy has correctly quoted the amendment as it appears on the Order Paper but might I point out that the amendment on the Order Paper is not the amendment sent in?
Might I point out to Deputy McGilligan that Deputy Cosgrave did not make that point? He did not make it because, I assume, he did not think there was any substance in it.
Would the Deputy say if the office was notified that a change or ommission was made?
The office, I understand, sent round a typewritten copy of the amendment as sent in. It has been since changed. I do not know why.
If there is any objection to the text of the amendment as it appears on the Order Paper, Deputy Cosgrave is as well fitted as any Deputy in the House—nobody is better fitted—to state his objection. I take it that Deputy Cosgrave is accepting the text of the amendment as I have read it. What rights and what liberties are placed in jeopardy by this amendment?
There was, I think, a reference in the amendment, as sent in, to "economic privileges and freedom." I did not see the amendment on the Order Paper until now.
The amendment, as sent in, was circulated to Deputies by your office, A Chinn Comhairle. We had gone on that. It is only now that I have noticed that the amendment on the green paper is not in accord with the typescript copy sent round to us.
What rights and what liberties, secured to the people, are placed in jeopardy by this Bill? The rights that the Irish people shall forswear their traditional adherence to the principles of Irish independence? Is that the right and is that the liberty which has been placed in jeopardy by this Bill—a Bill which proposes to remove from the Constitution of this State an Article which the best of Irishmen resisted unto death, an Article the enforcement of which has cost in treasure, according to the statement made by members of the late Government, no less a sum than £30,000,000. Is that a right or is that a liberty or is it not rather a badge of servitude and subjection?
I should have liked to have heard Deputy Cosgrave, who has sponsored this amendment, tell us what are the rights and what are the liberties referred to and how they are placed in jeopardy. The one remarkable thing which emerged after the election of this Government was the unanimous expression of public opinion in Great Britain —that if the Irish people wanted to remove this Oath, the Irish people were competent to do so and that no rights or liberties of theirs would be placed in jeopardy if they did. Every responsible organ of the British Press, whether it represented Tory opinion of the most crusted order or whether it represented advanced radicalism, was unanimous in saying that if the elected representatives of the people chose to pass a Bill of this nature, the British Government would, in this matter, do what Irish Governments had failed to do—accept the will of the Irish people.
Deputy Cosgrave said that he was not asking the House to seek permission from Great Britain to do what we say it is perfectly competent to do. What is the significance of the latter part of this amendment—"pending negotiations and agreement between the Executive Council and the British Government?" If we seek agreement in this matter from the British Government, what is that but the asking permission of the British Government? If the British Government failed to agree what would be the attitude of Deputy Cosgrave and the Party opposite? Would it not be that because Great Britain had refused to give permission, this House was not competent to proceed with the Bill. Yet the Deputy responsible for putting that amendment down is the Deputy who even according to his own admission, does not know the text of his amendment, as it appears on the Order Paper. Deputy Cosgrave did not defend it in his speech because his amendment is indefensible. He got up and said that he was not going to ask the House to seek the permission of the British Government to make the amendment in the Constitution which this Bill proposes to make.
The Deputy in his speech, and particularly in the opening sentences, gave away his whole case. He said that he was not going to enter into quasi-legal arguments as to whether or not the Oath was mandatory in the Treaty. It would not be necessary for him to enter into quasi-legal arguments if the Oath were mandatory in the Treaty. He would be able to produce very sound and very convincing legal arguments to prove it, if, in fact, it were mandatory. But the Deputy knows as well as I do that there is, in the archives of his own Government and in the possession of private individuals in this country, a Constitution which was drawn up by some of the most eminent lawyers in the State in which Constitution Article 17 does not appear. Why does it not appear and why did it not appear? Because those lawyers held, and held justifiably, that the Oath, that Article 17, is not mandatory under the Treaty.
So Deputy Cosgrave brushes away the whole of that difficulty. He does not attempt to prove in this House that the Oath is mandatory. He says: "I am not going to enter into quasi-legal arguments. International agreements," he said, "do not depend on form, but on substance." What was the substance of Article 12? In the interpretation of that Article and in the betrayal consummated under it, with which Deputy Cosgrave, who was then President of the Executive Council, had a good deal to do, what was the interpretation of Article 12? What was the interpretation of Article 12 as accepted by men who signed the Treaty—accepted by Arthur Griffith, accepted by Michael Collins, accepted by Deputy Duggan —except that the broad view of the people of South Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh, South Down, and parts of Derry would be taken? And that when that broad view was taken, and the substance of Article 12, and not the precise form, was given effect to, considerable tracts of the Six Counties—South Down, Tyrone, Fermanagh, and South Armagh— would be added to the territory of the Irish Free State. If Deputy Cosgrave holds now that international agreements should be interpreted, not in the letter or in the form, but in the substance, then Deputy Cosgrave, when he signed the amending Treaty in 1925, was guilty of a gross betrayal, a betrayal of public trust, a betrayal that will hold his name up to obloquy in the records of the Irish nation from this time forward.
If Deputy Cosgrave had had regard even to the form of Article 12 he would have remembered that one of the difficulties in setting up the Boundary Commission arose from the fact that the words "One to be appointed by the Government of Northern Ireland" were held to be not mandatory upon the Government of Northern Ireland and did not coerce them to nominate a member on the Boundary Commission. If he will turn to Article 5 of the Treaty he will find that a precisely similar phrase is used in regard to the Oath to be taken by members of the Parliament. I cannot even go so far as to say that it is held now—for I think even Deputy Cosgrave has abandoned that position—but it has been held by some persons that that Article made it mandatory upon Deputies elected to this House to take the Oath, whereas the words "One to be appointed by the Government of Northern Ireland" were held by the British Government, the Government of Northern Ireland and accepted by President Cosgrave, as he then was, not to be mandatory and not to be coercive upon the Government of Northern Ireland.
The Government of Northern Ireland did not sign the Treaty.
The British signed the Treaty and Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
And the empty formula could not be swallowed in 1925.
I am not responsible for the wool-gathering of Deputy Mulcahy and I do not see what the empty formula has got to do with what occurred in connection with the Amending Treaty of 1925.
"The Treaty has got to be taken as a whole" says Deputy Cosgrave. "Destroy one Article and the others go." Article 12 was destroyed by the featherheads and the Rip Van Winkles that Deputy Cosgrave who was President of the then Government nominated on the Boundary Commission. Article 12 was destroyed and having been destroyed then Article 4 can go just as easily.
Has there ever been in any debate upon a grave and serious issue a speech so devoid of substance and of real argument as that made by Deputy Cosgrave? What was the principal ground of his opposition to the Bill? That we were anxious to get it through in a hurry. We are anxious to get it through in a hurry because we want to clear this political obstacle out of our way in order that we may give our immediate and individual attention to the economic problems that beset this nation.
Deputy Cosgrave, in order to justify the holding up of a solution of these economic problems, in order to prevent our giving effect to the motion put down by Deputy Morrissey—the principle of which has already been accepted by the Government—referred to a funny story that was told by a certain Mr. Rogers. He makes the whole question a matter for jest, and we have in this House the overlordship of Great Britain defended by one comedian with reference to something said by another.
Was there any single argument of substance in the speech made by Deputy Cosgrave? As I have said, at the very outset the Deputy abandoned his whole position, and did not make any attempt to show that the Oath was made mandatory by the Treaty. He told us in fact that we were ten years away from the circumstances of the Treaty. We are living, he says, in altogether changed times and changed circumstances, and yet he asks us still to be bound by the Treaty. You might as well ask the great Canadian State to be bound to-day by the provisions of the British North America Act. Canadians have long ago burst the bonds of that Act. They have also long ago burst the bonds imposed upon them not by a treaty but by a constitutional Act of the British Parliament. And as they to-day would not for one moment consent that their liberty of action, their liberty and their right to do anything that they thought fit in the interests of peace, good order and good government within the confines of their State to do, so too we say that as the removal of this objection able test is necessary in order that the authority of this House may be based upon the broadest possible foundation, in order that every citizen born within this land who comes under our jurisdiction may be free to seek election to this House, free to take a seat here and free to help to make or amend the people's laws without having first of all to forswear principles which some men, at any rate, have shown they hold dearer than liberty and dearer than life itself, we should, just as Canada would not be bound by the British North America Act—even if the Treaty were binding in this matter, and we will not admit that it is— we should for the sake of our own people and of our own future refuse to place the whole peace and good order of this State in jeopardy by maintaining in our Constitution an Article the evil fruits of which all of us know too well.
Deputy Cosgrave did not even try to contend that we had not a perfect right, if we chose to avail of it, under the Statute of Westminster to take the step that we are taking. He referred in a passing sort of way, to a letter which he wrote to, I think, the then Minister for the Dominions. The letter, which was read in the British House of Commons, was one of the most utterly foolish letters that ever passed from a spokesman of the Irish people into the hands of a British politician. But that letter is absolutely null and void and of no effect. It cannot bind us in any way. It was merely the expression of opinion of a man who held the temporary headship of this State and who, as after events very quickly showed, had long lost the confidence of the people who elected him. That letter of Deputy Cosgrave —of the President as he then was— written to a member of the British Cabinet, cannot bind or fetter in any way the actions or shake the policies of those who come after him. It has not any binding effect, and it does not in any way limit or restrict the powers which, even looking at it merely from the Commonwealth point of view, we have under the Statute of Westminster. The proof of that is that Deputy Cosgrave did not purport to show how there was anything, either in the law of this State or on the Statute book of Great Britain, that would prevent us from taking the action which we propose to take to-day.
The one point of substance in the whole of the Deputy's speech was that if we removed this Article from the Constitution, then it was going to make the problem of the ultimate unity of this country more difficult of solution. He has been in office for ten years. We have not been ten weeks in office, and yet more minds in the Six Counties have thought of unity during that period than during the preceding ten years. There is much more attention being paid now to what is being done in the Twenty-Six Counties. The fact that there is going to be an intensification of industrial development in the Twenty-Six Counties is the one thing which makes the Six Counties sit up and take notice. And, just as political considerations have not brought us together in the past, just as the fact that in the North they take the oath of allegiance to the King of Great Britain and that we here are compelled to subscribe a certain test before we could take our seats, did not solve the problem of partition and did not bring the two parts of this country together under one common legislature, so, too, the fact that if we refuse to take that Oath it will not keep us apart one moment longer than the economic circumstances compel the people of the Six Counties, and convince the people of the Six Counties that it would be a good thing for them that we and they should come together.
If there is to be any argument based upon the history and tradition of the majority of the people of the Six Counties, then I say that the Republican form of Government would offer, on historical and traditional grounds, a greater inducement to the Presbyterians of the North, to the descendants of those who fought and died for the Republican cause in 1798—provided that the economic circumstances were favourable, and this Government is going to make the economic circumstances favourable—to throw in their lot with the people of the Twenty-Six Counties, and make once again a united Ireland. Because this Bill will help to preserve peace in this State and restore the manhood, self-respect and dignity of the people of the Twenty-Six Counties, and because it will make ultimately for the unity of the country as a whole, we are asking the Dáil to accept it.
There was a point raised regarding the wording of the amendment moved by Deputy Cosgrave. After the word "liberties" in the second line the words "and the economic freedom and privileges" which were in the text handed in were omitted. The amendment should read "believing that the rights and liberties and the economic freedom and privileges assured to the people...."
Usually, when any matter comes before one for consideration one considers its possible good effects or its certain good effects and its possible bad effects. In the case of the Bill before us, we may consider it from the point of view of certain good effects, and certain ill-effects, or what one may call its potential or speculative good effects and its speculative bad effects. Before I come to that, I want to try to remove a possible slur that may be cast upon the President of suggesting to him a dishonesty which I myself am quite convinced is really not dishonesty but mere lack of knowledge. It is, possibly, to some extent dishonest to pretend to be able to explain things to the people and to mislead them when you have not the knowledge required. The President, when speaking, read from the Fianna Fáil manifesto, which declared that if the Party were put into power it proposed to remove the Article from the Constitution that makes the Oath obligatory; that explained that the Oath was not required by the Treaty, but that it hindered unity and obedience to the law. It stated that if elected in a majority they would not exceed the mandate asked for, without going again before the people.
It is an extraordinary thing—I do not know that it has ever been heard of in any other country—that a body of men should go out before the people and ask the people to elect them to run the country, not in the way that these candidates thought would make for the best interests of the country, but that a body of men should ask to be the Government in order to govern, not as they thought was in the best interests of the country but on a policy that they thought would get the votes of the people. That seems to me to be an extraordinary thing.
What have we here to-day? We have the President and his Government coming along and producing a Bill which he assures us is only to remove the Oath from the Constitution and not in any way to interfere with the Treaty, although he thinks, and thought to the extent of shedding blood in this country, that the Treaty itself is the greatest disaster that ever befell the country. But he is prepared to stand before the people of this country, before the world and before God and take over responsibility for governing this country under a condition which he himself considered so damnable that blood should be shed to do away with it.
Now the President has said that they consulted authorities upon the Oath, and the authorities said that it was not mandatory. He said that there is no obligation to consult Great Britain, and that we, the Opposition, could say that they were giving away what we had gained. He said that the Opposition claimed, that whatever there was in the way of limitation, in the initial stages of the Treaty, there are now terms of equality as regards status. There are terms of equality as regards status; the mere fact that we are bound in honour to honour a treaty, itself implies that we are equal in status. Any treaty made by any two countries is, in effect, a pawning of some part of those countries' sovereignty. That is the effect of every treaty. A country asserts its sovereignty by the fact that it can pawn part of that sovereignty. In status, the mere fact of a treaty existing between us and Great Britain, itself implies clearly that there is equality of status. The Government, either through ignorance or not wanting the truth to get to the people, are trying to misrepresent the meaning of the word "status."
For instance, Great Britain to-morrow, can, if she likes, pass an Act saying that no alcohol, under any circumstances, shall be brought into British territory. The United States of America actually has that law as its fundamental law. It is part of its Constitution. It says that no alcoholic liquor shall be brought into United States territory, but every British ship going into United States territory takes in alcoholic liquor. The United States has the legal right, as we have the legal right, as a sovereign body, to pass any Act she likes. We can fling national honour to the winds, and say "we do not care a damn about Irish honour, and we do not care twopence if the Irish farmer starves. We are a sovereign body, and we are going to do this in defiance of every possible human conception of moral values." The United States to-morrow can say that they have no intention whatever of allowing their Constitution to continue to be broken by the importation of alcoholic liquor.
The United States, at the moment, suffers from exactly the same handicap, with regard to the law forbidding the importation of alcoholic liquor, as we suffer in regard to this question before us. The United States pledged part of its sovereignty, and made an agreement with Great Britain, because they thought that by parting with a certain something to Great Britain, they would gain something of more immediate value to them. We pledged our potential sovereignty — our sovereignty in potentia—before we possessed it, and we agreed to accept this Treaty, and to honour this Treaty when we possessed that sovereignty that we would acquire, in order that that Treaty should be operative between us. The Government, knowing that the people of this country have not had experience; that after generation after generation of struggling, in a life and death struggle, to attain nationality and national freedom, we, naturally, entirely misunderstood in the end; that we exaggerated that societas perfecta, that the nation is; that we exaggerated the meaning of national freedom into a sort of aseitas such as no country ever possessed. There are people in this country who think it perfectly scandalous, that we, as a free people, cannot insist that the British people should consume our goods at prices at which we want to sell them. It is natural that the people of this country should not realise, that when we talk of that national sovereignty and status, there are limitations to the connotations of these words.
The President has tried to imply that there is, in the suggestion that we are in any way bound to adhere to the terms of the Treaty, an implication that we have a lower status than Great Britain. He says that in Great Britain the Government can, if they like, bring in a Bill to say that the members of the British Parliament shall not have to take an oath. We have exactly the same legal rights, but we have entered into an agreement with Great Britain, because we thought that in the give and take of that agreement we got rather more than we gave, that we in this country will accept a certain unity, a certain link, with other countries, known as the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and we agreed under the Treaty that the members of this Parliament would take a certain oath. It has been urged—I think the President was referring, possibly, to certain considerations in regard to the Privy Council—that we actually proposed to change the terms of the Treaty. As far as I understand the Treaty, Articles I and II defined our status as analogous with that of Canada and the other Dominions. Other articles adverted to the special geographical position of the Irish Free State; to the relations that had existed between the Irish Free State and Great Britain before; and made certain specific terms. One specific term says "that the Oath to be taken by members of the Parliament of the Irish Free State shall be such a one."
The President and the Fianna Fáil Party have consulted authorities. When you go to a lawyer for advice, you can say to him: "It will suit me to interpret such a document in such a way. Would it be possible to argue that that connotation could be put on that form of words?" And he may say "Yes, that can be argued." Or you may go to a lawyer and ask advice from him, and he may say, "Go on with your case, because the case can be argued and the case can be made." But the decent lawyer, the honest lawyer, will consider your case, and he will say: "I think that, in any just tribunal, the likelihood is that that just tribunal will give it in your favour"; or he may say "I advise you not to spend any money in taking this case, because I think that any just tribunal will give this case against you"; or he may say, "I refuse to take your case, because any impartial tribunal will throw your case out at first sight."
Is there any of the experts in the External Affairs Department, or any distinguished lawyer—I do not refer to the nonentities that the President sometimes quotes—who will get up and say that the probability is that if we went before any impartial international tribunal, as to the interpretation of the Treaty, and whether on that clause, which was the most debated clause in the whole Treaty negotiations—which was the pivot on which the whole negotiations turned, is anybody going to assure the President that any impartial international tribunal, and I use the word "impartial," because we know perfectly well that any modification of the impartiality of such a court would necessarily be a modification against our interests, rather than in our interests, will consider this matter, and state for the world that they consider that when that Article was inserted in the Treaty, it was intended that no such Oath should be taken by members of the Irish Free State Parliament? Every man who knows anything about this subject knows perfectly well that if we were foolish enough to submit this question to an impartial international tribunal, we could get only the one result, and that would be that when we agreed to that Treaty, we agreed, and the British understood, and were right in understanding, that Deputies elected to this House would take that Oath when they came to sit. Consequently, any international impartial tribunal would, while agreeing that this sovereign House has a perfect right to define its own morality, has a perfect right to pass any Act it likes with regard to this country, at the same time must necessarily state that, if this Bill is intended as a notification that we intend to break the Treaty, or to cease to fulfil an obligation of the Treaty, then we are refusing to comply with an international obligation.
First of all, we were told that we were only to remove Article 17 from the Constitution. The manifesto issued by the Fianna Fáil Party indicated that limit perfectly clearly; that they were going to remove the Article in the Constitution which made the taking of the Oath mandatory. In this we are removing Section 2 of the Constitution Act. I do not pretend to be impeccable on the legal side, but, as far as I understand it, the effect of the Constitution Act, among other things, was to give the force of law to the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty. Consequently, the Treaty up to this moment has had the force of law here. We are not now proposing to make the Treaty cease to have the force of law. What we are doing is merely to remove that operative section together with the relevant portion of Article 50 of the Constitution. I presume this is the intention of the President—I am not pretending to interpret the letter of it—that whereas up to the present the Treaty had the force of law, and this Act states that anything that is repugnant to the Treaty shall to the extent of its repugnancy be null and void, now the Treaty after this Bill is passed, will continue to have the force of law, but at any time that the Government cares to bring in another Bill contrary to the Treaty, they can do it. Consequently, it seems to me that the part of this Bill which proposes the abolition of Article 17 is itself a breach of the Treaty, and the other two sections of the Bill are merely a notification to the world at large that the Government are preparing the ground and adopting the necessary legislation which has no purport whatever except to permit a complete and utter breach of the Treaty. I do not see what other point there is in the terms of these two sections.
In so far as the President claimed that because he issued this manifesto during the elections he got a mandate from the people, it is perfectly clear to me that the people being told that this Oath, which nobody in this country really cares twopence about, except the President, either for or against, could be removed, or this Article be removed without breaking the Treaty, and consequently without any resultant friction with the other party to the Treaty, the people said, "Very well, if that is so, we do not mind; he can do what he likes about that; we will see the remainder of his policy and vote on that." The people were assured, first of all, that this was going to make no trouble whatever with England. A Treaty is maintained, as has been said—he referred to two things—by a sense of honour and by self-interest. It is also maintained by the power to enforce it on the opposite party. When we made the agreement with Great Britain we knew perfectly well that militarily, navally, or any other way, we would not be able to force Great Britain to abide honourably by that Treaty. We knew that once Great Britain bound herself to do that she was bound in honour and that she would stand dishonoured before the world if she attempted to outrage the terms of the Treaty. Great Britain, on the other hand, may not have considered that we had such a hostage to fortune, such a tradition of honour as she had, but she knew that, although she might not trust this country's honour, although she might think that the people of the country would have no better conception of what their self-interest was, and would attempt to go against the Treaty, she had another sanction and that was the sanction of her superior force. As I have said, I do not think that any responsible lawyer or international lawyer, in this or in any other country, would advise the President otherwise, and that an international court would come to only one conclusion if asked for an interpretation as to the meaning of Article 17, and that is, that it was intended when the Treaty was signed that that Oath should be taken that is set forth specifically in a definite Article of the Treaty. It is not contained merely by analogy in the Articles which define the status of this country.
The President, so far as I can understand what he was driving at, at one stage was saying that we had proposed something like the same thing. Things were considered in the same way as I have heard people talk about the Catholic Church a long time ago not being sure whether women had a soul, because there was a discussion whether they had or not. It does not follow that there was any doubt in anybody's mind as to whether women had souls. I myself have argued all sorts of points with people just to get the argument in favour of them perfectly clear rather than, to some extent, being influenced by the arguments on the other side. The President has said that we proposed doing exactly the same thing, that we considered documents laid before us proposing exactly the same thing. As far as I understand what he was referring to, nothing of the sort was the case. Articles 1 and 2 define our status by an analogy with Canada. That status was not static, it was dynamic. Every development of the status and the powers of the Dominions that proceeded during the various years and that applied to Canada applied also to us. There is no specific reference to the Privy Council in any Article of the Treaty. The only way it could be imported into the Treaty was in that definition or analogy with Canada—I presume this was what the President was referring to—because when the Treaty was signed there were appeals from Canada to the Privy Council, therefore it could be said that in the case of the Irish Free State these appeals should also lie. But as that only arose from our status, as that status developed, then any limitation, any modification of that status, which has been done away with in the case of Canada, applied also to us.
If you read the Treaty from now until to-morrow you will not find the Privy Council mentioned in the Treaty. You will find in the Treaty one specific clause which refers to nothing whatever except the Oath that is to be taken by the members of the Irish Free State Parliament. When we sign a treaty it often requires legislation to implement it. Suppose we were to make a treaty with Great Britain to-morrow whereby we agreed that we would allow in British-made toothbrushes free of duty, provided the British would put a tax of 100 per cent. on all butter imported from countries other than the Free State, and allow our butter in quite free of tax, and the British then went back and left their municipal law exactly as it is, and we found that they, having signed and therefore created a moral law in England that they should put that tax on non-Irish butter coming in, had not taken the necessary steps to implement that treaty, that they did not bring in the legislation in Parliament to impose a tax of 100 per cent. on all non-Irish butter, would we say the British had kept the Treaty entirely? Nothing of the sort. We would say that when they agreed to a certain thing, if that condition would not come by that mere agreement, but if it could only come by legislation, then they broke that Treaty unless they brought in that legislation and made it operative.
When we agreed in the Treaty that that Oath was to be taken by members of the Irish Free State Parliament, either the mere fact of that Treaty being given the force of law should be sufficient law in this country to insist that every Deputy coming in here shall take that Oath, or if that is not so, then we were bound undoubtedly and indisputably by the Treaty to bring in the proper legislation to create the condition that we had undertaken to create when we agreed to the Treaty.
Consequently it seems perfectly clear to any reasonable man who will consider this matter not in the light of trying to work out a most appallingly dishonest propaganda, to put before the most unintelligent people in our country but as one who is merely looking for truth, whether for or against us, that any intelligent man, if not satisfied with his own judgment and going to any international jurist would expect but one reply, and that is that if the British Government does not concur in the removal of that particular Article the British Government have a right to say that we were breaking the Treaty and were dishonouring in our bond. That seems to me to be perfectly clear. When that is reinforced by the other two clauses, while I think that juristically they are of no effect, they would open the door to the present Government to dishonour every other agreement we have with Great Britain. There is no other purpose I can see. I agree there may be other purposes in the Government's mind that I have not succeeded in fathoming. It is proposed here that having made a Treaty with Great Britain which does not infringe our sovereignty—no matter what we agree to with any other country a treaty does not infringe our sovereignty because we only agree to it by virtue of the operation of that sovereignty—we are not interfering with our status.
The President played about with the word "status," implying that when we say that this Dáil should not and is bound in honour not to pass this legislation that the implication is that we have a lower status than Great Britain. I say it is nothing of the sort. Great Britain has treaties with every other country in the world. There are a thousand points on which the British Government would tell their Parliament that they could not agree to legislation without prior agreement with another country or formal denunciation of a treaty beforehand, because Great Britain has tied herself up with every country in the world in hundreds of treaties.
I could point to hundreds of things that we can do here without any question of a treaty or no treaty but that the British Government would have to consider before they could do them. Are we to say, therefore, that the British Government consequently has a lower status, and is lower in the matter of sovereignty than we are? It is just as sovereign as any other country in the world. It might be said that the United States is not sovereign because British ships entering their ports break the Constitution of the United States by carrying alcoholic liquor. The United States made an agreement with Britain and did not reduce the status or the freedom of the United States. Apart from that, the people of this country, many of them through ignorance, think of absolute and idealistic independence, not an impossible freedom not possessed by any country in the world.
I wonder how many Deputies realise that when Belgium and Holland want to make an agreement as to the navigation of the Scheldt, before they could make that agreement, and when they proposed a few years ago to make such an agreement, they had to communicate with us as to whether we agreed or not in that arrangement in their interior waters, because we, as part of the United Kingdom, had been in that fractional position parties to the Congress of Vienna, and Belgium and Holland were parties to the Congress of Vienna, and Belgium and Holland applied to the signatories of the Congress before they did that. Are we going to say in these circumstances that Belgium and Holland are not free? As I said, England is tied up in hundreds of treaties and must hesitate before legislating. We ask the people of the country to hesitate on this. First of all, it is a breach of Irish honour. Nobody suggests that the Treaty in its identical form will last for ever. With the change of times there will be need for modification.
The Minister for Finance talked about Article XII. I remember being intimately associated with Article XII, and the way I considered the matter was this: What would be the decision that could be reasonably anticipated from an impartial international tribunal? I could see that if Article XII were taken before an international tribunal and we said the British were breaking faith with us, any international tribunal would say that the British interpretation was a perfectly reasonable one. And I maintain that any international tribunal would assert that the interpretation proposed by the President and his alleged authorities would be unreasonable, and the British would come out with a clear vindication of the most rigid interpretation of this that they propose.
We are told there is no obligation to consult Britain. There is an obligation to consult with Britain. This whole point turns upon the Treaty. It may be that in a future time it might be necessary to scrap the Treaty altogether. This Treaty is a matter that differs from all others because usually there is a matter of give and take in treaties. If you find after the lapse of years that what you have given is more important than what you got you may perhaps say we will go back to thestatus quo ante. I am only speaking speculatively but it does seem to me that in this Treaty we pledged portion of a potential sovereignty. What is to be the position if we break the Treaty? It does seem to me that one of the means whereby one gets at the opposite party to keep a treaty is by one's own power of making them keep it. It seems to me that using our intelligence in the matter it could be possible for the British to say that by dishonouring our bond and refusing to maintain the Treaty we were reverting back to the position we were in in 1921. I think it would be possible for them to say that, but I do not think it probable.
Were we sovereign then?
Internationally we obviously were not. What I understand by sovereignty is that the Government of a country is perfectly free from outside interference to arrange its own internal affairs and to make agreements with other countries, and that it is internationally recognised as having power to do so. When President de Valera came back from America at the end of 1920 he told us and asserted publicly at a meeting of the Dáil on the 16th or 17th August, 1921, that he had come back from America with one thing to tell us and that was that we had no chance whatever of getting any country to recognise the sovereignty of this country. I regard as one of the essentials of sovereignty, first of all power without interference in internal acts and that we should have power to make agreements with other sovereign powers and that the country shall be recognised by other powers as having that power. On none of these grounds, prior to the Treaty, did this country fulfil the requirements for sovereignty and that was how it was internationally recognised.
President de Valera brought that more effectively home to us than anyone at a meeting of the Dáil in the Mansion House in 1921. He told us that he had learned in the United States that we would not get the United States or any other country to recognise us internationally. Does he want to revert to that condition? It turns then, it seems to me, rather upon a matter of guesswork.
If the President had gone to negotiate, as he was bound in honour to do and has not done, if he had done that it seems to me one of the benefits—a side line in the way of benefits—would have been that he would have got some indication as to what the values were that were weighing with the British Government, that he would have been possibly in some position to give to our people an indication as to what they might be letting themselves in for by this Bill. I know the Government Party have always considered it a scandalous thing that in 1922 the people of this country were warned of the possible results of certain actions. It does seem to me, if you are going to have anything such as democracy, the people must, as far as possible, be enlightened as to the result of any course of action that is pursued. What is the position now? People come to me and ask me what I think the result of this is going to be. I say it is purely a matter of speculation. The President knows no more than I do—he actually knows less, because he has less experience. I admit on this point it becomes a matter of judgment. I admit also that my judgment is fallible, and I am prepared to agree that my judgment is not supported by the judgment of any large majority of the people in this country.
I read in the "Irish Times" last Thursday the statement that, of course, if we want to go out of the Commonwealth of Nations England will not object. She will do nothing. Deputy MacDermot said last week: "Of course, if you want to go out of the Commonwealth, England will not object." I admit that nearly everyone I meet has that point of view, but I have not got it myself. That is not my belief. As far as I have been able to judge, with very much more experience of the matter than the whole Government Party put together, the one overwhelming consideration in British policy is what they would call the safety of their food lines, the safety of their communications. I am dealing with a purely speculative matter, and I do not pretend to know more about it than anybody else. The next month or a week or two will prove what is going to happen.
At the same time, I do think that to propose to us that we should carefully enter into a conspiracy of silence and pretend to the Irish people that there can be no evil results flowing from this act, is to propose to us a course of dishonour and dishonesty towards our country. I can only give my point of view, which I do not think is shared by any large majority of the people. My own experience has been that the British do take this matter very seriously, that their foreign policy is dominated and dictated by their consciousness—their morbid consciousness, if you like—that their very existence depends upon sea-borne food and commodities, and that their interpretation of that position has always been so far, morbidly, if you like, that they themselves must have full power to protect these sea-borne goods.
When you read of naval disarmament and of the British standing up against it, you must remember that you are dealing with a people who are conscious that if there is any possibility of preventing the importation of commodities to them, they simply cannot live. This is a morbid idea running through their minds. Now we are assured by everybody, by the "Irish Times," by Deputy MacDermot —the President would not refer to it because he is not idealistic—we are assured by everybody, and the people of this country are led to believe that the British will not bother about this. And they may be quite right. At the same time we are bound to consider the possible results of this. We are proposing to break the Treaty with regard to Article 17 in order to prepare the way for the breach of every other clause in the Treaty, and we are doing that by breaking our honour. The British cannot rely on our honour, but they can rely upon our sense of wellbeing if they try to give us a sense of their power. Is the President going to tell us that the British have no power as against us? I admit that he can get up and say that I am being anti-national in facing up to the truth. Some people's conception of nationalism is to be blind to the truth. Is he going to tell us that the British cannot make the position of the farmers and the people of this country a thousand times worse than it is at the moment? Has he taken any steps to assure himself that in any such action —I do not want to define what such action may be because we know that the relative powers give such an enormous choice of action to the British— he who is responsible for the wellbeing of the country is not committing it to disaster?
Are we, when we have broken the Treaty, without even negotiations or proposals on the matter to the British, going to have any sympathy from any people in the world? If the British Government say that they will insist upon their pound of flesh, if they say that they allowed the people of this country to take certain steps on the strength of an agreement entered into with them upon which our relations are based and that we have broken that agreement, that they are going to take punitive action against us, if necessary, are we going to have the sympathy of the world? Certainly not. Deputy MacEntee can tell us about the British Press and the propaganda organ of the President can give us extracts from the "Weekend Review" and the "Catholic Herald," assuring us that the whole British people have only one desire in their hearts and that is to shout "Up de Valera." I merely want to try to get the Dáil to face up to the realities of the situation. The status is not affected. The Treaty does not affect status. It is our Treaty obligations that are affected. We say that this Bill renounces our Treaty obligations and opens the way for the Government to break any other obligation there is. Did the President and his Party bring that home to the people in the election? I went around my own constituency. I spoke to quite a number of people who told me that they were going to vote for Fianna Fáil and that nothing I said was going to stop them. I said to one man: "Why are you going to vote that way?" and he said, "I got 32/- per barrel when the War was on for my barley and to-day I am only getting 14/-. Under another Government I will get 32/- again."
Whatever it was. I spoke to another man and asked him why he was going to vote for Fianna Fáil and did he realise the promises that de Valera was making, that he was going to release the prisoners. He said, "I do not think he will do that." I asked him "What do you think he will do in regard to the I.A.A.?" and he replied, "Exactly the same as you have done." I asked him then, "Why do you propose voting for him?" He said, "Because I believe there will be a central pool for farmers' goods and to improve his conditions."
I never met anybody who told me that he was voting for the Fianna Fáil Party because they were removing the Oath? Who are opposing the Oath? We have the Sinn Féin Party led by Miss MacSwiney, and they turn out rather sentimental stuff. We have the I.R.A. and Saor Eire. We know that Fianna Fáil swallowed the Oath. Who are the people in this country whose attitude is going to be changed if this Oath is removed? Is there any section of the community? The people who are permitted by the present Government to break the law, the people whose principles are such that the present Government feel that the law should not be made operative against them—have they in any way indicated that they are going to be lambs, that they are going to be completely law-abiding after the Oath has gone? On the contrary they assert quite the opposite.
The I.R.A. leaders assert that they are not going to be satisfied with this. The I.R.A. is not going to be satisfied with anything any Government, Fianna Fáil or ourselves, or that any people who accept certain moral values, could possibly produce here. Is the Party calling itself Sinn Féin going to be completely changed by this Bill? The women who call themselves Cumann na mBan—are they going to be changed? Is there any section in the community going to be changed? In the last election there was practically no section of the community which did not vote because it objected to the Deputies elected taking the Oath. The I.R.A. organised for Deputy de Valera to get him elected and to get the people to vote for him. Consequently, he is representing those people and the Oath has not hindered their being represented. He is the representative in this Assembly of the people against whom the late Constitution Amendment Act and the pastoral of the Bishops were directed. They are represented in this House by Fianna Fáil. They are represented, and this Oath makes no difference whatever.
The President has said that the ultimate proposals of the Fianna Fáil Party are known. That is not strictly true, of course. As far as I understand, it is proposed in this Parliament to abolish the Oath and the land annuities and when that is done that this Parliament be dissolved and another general election be held in which the representatives of Saor Eire and the people who murdered Curtin and so on will have adequate means of representation in this House. When that is done they will meet here—that is the people who are elected shall come here; possibly I shall not be there— to form a constituent assembly to formulate a constitution, that constitution presumably completely dissolving any relationship whatever with the British Commonwealth, that being the long desired Republic. I presume that will be roughly the programme.
Meanwhile the people of this country who think that that is a bad programme are asked to support the President and the Party who support him. They are asked to support him in bringing in this Bill and making it operative. This Bill is brought in for no other purpose than that he may move on to the next stage. He does not propose that you will have this condition: that the Governor-General and the King shall not be part of the Constitution. There is nothing but the Oath mentioned here. If anybody is proposing to vote for that on the ground that it would be a desirable situation the sooner they disillusion themselves the better. The Fianna Fáil Party regard that merely as a necessary step that must be taken to achieve something further. They knew perfectly well that if they put the full programme before the country they would have been turned down just as they were turned down in '22, '23 and '27. They knew that perfectly well. Consequently they came along and said "Is there anybody here who thinks that we should really quarrel and insist on an Oath being taken?" Everything is done to gild the pill. Nobody could possibly object to the splendid proposal that in the interests of unity we should come in here without having asserted that a certain fact exists. But is it proposed to end there? Nothing of the sort.
As soon as that is done it is proposed to abolish this Parliament and get another one that will then seek to do what the people have refused to give this Fianna Fáil Party power to do at any time within the last ten years, and what they knew the people would refuse to give them power to do during this very year. This is a proposal to remove the Oath. The King presumably, if this Bill is passed, is still going to be in the Constitution. The Governor-General is still going to be there. We are still going to be members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. If there is anything objectionable in this Oath, it is the reality that is behind it. If the King is part of the Oireachtas, if he has an essential function in our Constitution, what is wrong is that he has that function, that he does occupy that position, and not that we say he occupies it. Here is a proposal now in effect saying that it does not matter. If the King is there it does not matter that he is actually a symbol in this State. It does not matter that he is the instrument by which we make our agreements with other nations. That does not matter! All that matter is that we have to say that it is so when we come into the Dáil. That is a peculiar form of nominalism. The reality, the substance, does not matter in the least. What only exists in reality is the name. When you do away with the name, the fact that the substance is still there does not matter. It does not matter that those facts are there provided we say that they are not. It reminds me of the story in the Arabian Nights which told of the appearance of a great banquet that did not really exist, or that while you are enjoying a meal you say you are entering on a hunger strike.
This measure is dishonest in its conception. It is dishonest in its whole approach to the people. It is pretending to the people that it is not an innocuous Act. It is pretending to the people that it is not a breaking of the Treaty, and that they have legal advice that it is not a breaking of the Treaty, whereas one of its first essentials is that they must first break the Treaty. They try to suggest to the people that any suggestion that it is breaking the Treaty is a suggestion that this Parliament is not competent to do that. It is nothing of the sort. There is a suggestion that the fulfilment of the Treaty does not permit this act to be done, that we are saying that the Treaty interferes with the status of the country. It does nothing of the sort. Our status remains unimpaired.
If this country can be committed this way in the dark it does seem to me necessary that those responsible should be in a position to tell the people of the country what they have got to expect. Has Deputy de Valera examined possible actions on the part of the British, those actions having the moral assent of the people of the world? Has he examined the possible acts that the British may do and their possible reactions on our people? Is be prepared to get up and say that even though the British were prepared to place an embargo on our every export, that they are prepared to blockade the country, still he is going to go on with this Bill? Are the Labour Party prepared to go on with the Bill and let the President make a plunge in the dark and trust to luck that nothing will happen afterwards? Have the people who elected Fianna Fáil on the assurance that nothing would be done to prejudice the Treaty and that consequently nothing would be done that would interfere in any way with our good relations, our trade relations, are these people not entitled to be considered? If it is possible that the British do regard this as a breach of the Treaty, if it is possible that the world at large will regard this as a breach of the Treaty, if it is possible that the British could make their disapproval effective by political or economic weapons which will lead to great suffering for our people, have we not a right to ask that the Government of the country before committing themselves, should consider not only the dangers not merely potential but I say inevitable, not merely the loss of honour but the loss of livelihood? Have not we a right to ask that, before this Act is entered upon, the other signatory be communicated with, although the I.R.A. in their placards forbid the Government to enter into negotiations? Have not the people of this country the right to ask President de Valera before he takes this leap in the dark to try at least to get over the British objection, so that he will be able to form some estimate of the possible punitive action that the British may take against us and so that he may have power in his hands for resisting any punitive action or overcoming its bad effects?
I suggest that the introduction of this Bill is a betrayal of the people of this country. The section referring to Section 2 of the Constitution Act and the section dealing with Article 50 of the Constitution have no other meaning than this: that the Fianna Fáil Party told the people that the action they proposed to take was in no way an infringement of the Treaty, but they now know that it is an infringement of the Treaty. They know that it is an infringement and that unless they remove that other clause and that section of another Article this Bill will be devoid of effect, because it is repugnant to the Treaty. They admit by the very measure they have brought in that they were wrong when they told the people that this was not breaking the Treaty; still they tried to get away with it.
They tell us that it is necessary to do this before we can get on with the economic programme. We are told we cannot have economic progress without stability. What is there that is preventing the stability of this country? Is it the I.R.A., the gunmen who are not going to be satisfied unless this preparatory Bill is adopted with a view to opening the way to that condition of affairs which the gunmen, want? Is that what is necessary to bring about the condition of things necessary for our economic well-being? Are the 400,000 farmers in this country to be put in jeopardy of losing their only market, of going to fairs and having their cattle practically eating each other?
Are we to drive the people of this country to a condition of appalling want and poverty because the man who murdered Kevin O'Higgins is too noble a soul to agree that he should be represented in an assembly in which an oath of fidelity is taken to the Constitution of the first Irish State recognised internationally in a thousand years, and to the head of that State? Is that the position? Are we, the majority, to be driven into poverty and misery because the high-souled murderers of Curtin and Ryan cannot bend their noble necks to submit to laws framed by this faulty authority, as defined by President de Valera and the Minister for Industry and Commerce? Is that the position?
I think every member in the Dáil, independent of his Party affiliations, is responsible for the well-being of the people of this country. Prudence is a virtue enjoined upon us. We have been told that these noble people outside must not be in any way compelled. President de Valera has an appalling horror of compulsion. There has just come into my mind the words of Coventry Patmore:
"But for compulsion or strong grace The pebble in the road would straight explode
And fill the ghastly boundlessness of space."
Every one of us must necessarily submit to compulsion. There must be compulsion. I admit we should not go out of our way to look for compulsion. Is the political perfectability that is proposed by President de Valera going to be such that the I.R.A. and the rest of them are going to feed the starving people when we are cut off from the rest of the world, if we should be cut off? This whole thing is based on a misconception of the Treaty, on a misconception of our status and equality, on a misconception of the international relationship of nations, on a misconception of that independence to which any nation can attain because no nation can attain that absolute independence which does not belong to human organisations.
I think the members of the Fianna Fáil Party should ask themselves do they agree that this Bill should be passed. If they do agree that this Bill should be adopted do they think that this should be the end or merely preparatory to another step which is to go further to the satisfaction of the blackguards outside this House? If they do propose doing that, do they foresee the possibility that this measure may mean the economic ruin, and I believe also the moral ruin, of the people they are sent here to represent?
We were told in a letter that the Treaty led to ten years of blood and tears. That was sent out as an international document to another Government by our Government. What was it? It was merely the most pernicious, the most contemptible propaganda for the most ignorant and depraved people in our country. Ten years of blood and tears! There was blood, and there were tears in this country and the Minister for Finance has referred to the loss of £30,000,000. All that was lost through the irritable vanity of one man.
And the treachery of you, and people like you.
After the Treaty was signed we had a letter from the Cork No. 1 Division of the I.R.A., led by Mr. Liam Lynch, who was afterwards one of the leaders of the murder gang outside.
The Deputy ought to have a little respect for the dead.
They wrote and said the Treaty was unacceptable. Why was it unacceptable? They could not agree to the Oath to the King. What could they agree to? They said there was no Commonwealth of free nations and no co-equality and that made it objectionable. Before it could be agreed to there must be co-equality and there must be a commonwealth of free nations. I do not think the Fianna Fáil Party denies that that situation exists now. They said they could not agree to the Oath of Allegiance to the King. They could agree to an oath of allegiance to the Executive of the Commonwealth of Nations. Those poor blind fools were ready to accept that; with their swelled heads and ignorance they did not realise that they were prepared to accept a thing that was repugnant to every conception of Irish nationalism. I myself, if it had been proposed, would, with practically every member of our Party, have felt that I would be justified in resisting it in arms.
They were prepared to accept an over-Government. Their proposal was, that there should be a federation with a supreme Government, we would be one-sixth or one-seventh, and the majority would be five-sixths or six-sevenths. They were prepared to accept that, but they would not accept the present situation whereby the sovereign authority is this Dáil which, as the Government now knows, makes its laws untrammelled and unhindered by any authority outside this country. We have the symbol of the King, whose function is not to govern but to reign. Liam Lynch and the others were prepared to accept a Government over our Government, a Government in which we would be only one-sixth and there would be the other five-sixths who would form the operative factor in deciding the destiny of this country. And because they were going to have the existing situation of the Irish Free State, sovereign in every particular with the King as head of the Constitution—as head only of that Constitution and not by virtue of any act of the British Government—they resisted it in arms and plunged the country into blood and tears. It cost us £30,000,000 because they could not get what they wanted. They favoured an Irish Government under a Federal Government, and that was a proposal that any Irishman would resist.
We have been told that the Treaty brought about ten years of blood and tears. It was all due to the blind, crass, stupid, swelled-headed ignorance of certain people who did not know what the Treaty was, who did not know what they wanted, who did not know what Irish national tradition was or what sovereignty was. It was all to suit a man filled up with irritable vanity, who said the Treaty was everything that was damnable and everything that the people should resist. They did resist it in arms. Now, ten years afterwards, these same people are going to be misled just in the same way, and there is every possibility of their being led to the same sort of disorder and economic disaster.
Why are the I.R.A. quiet at this moment? Because they know President de Valera has promised certain things to the people, has made promises that it is impossible for him to fulfil. They are satisfied that during his time here they can organise and can prepare themselves, and that when the people realise that the promises he made are not going to be fulfilled, then there is going to be reaction in this country, not towards the Cosgrave Government but towards the Communist extremists outside, and it is going to be their moment to strike. That is the programme, and that is the thing held out by one of the leaders of the gunmen outside. If that is so, and if that man's judgment is good, this country is going to moral ruin, moral disaster and to the complete suppression of all moral values on the one hand and to disorder and economic disaster on the other.
Irish nationalism, which received almost its death-blow from the men who waged war against the first Irish State in 1922—what is going to happen it? What is going to be done now? Is Irish nationalism not going to receive its final death-blow? Is it not going to be borne into the minds of the people that we are merely parasites upon England? Are the people not going to have impressed on them a sense of our absolute dependence on the good-will of England? Now when you mention the Irish nation or talk about patriotism it brings the people's minds back to the gun bullies who came to their doors to burn their houses. In future when you talk about patriotism to the people they will say: "Do not talk to us about Ireland; do we not know that we went on high idealistic lines, the British just pulled the strings and we proceeded to starve until we whined for them to take us back?"
It seems to me this Bill is an attempt to fulfil the diabolical work of 1922 and 1923 which more than anything else tended to kill and discourage every sense of Irish manhood in our people. And this Bill is going to be the finishing touch upon our people; it is going to convince them that they can only live as parasites upon England; convince them of the futility of anything that may be done in this country and fill them with the consciousness of their dependence upon England so that the present Fianna Fáil Government will be able to turn round and say: "You see we stood for the Republic and we stand for the Republic; we swallowed the empty formula and we do not deserve the vituperation that Mary MacSwiney threw upon us when we were asking for the Republic just the same as she was; we care no more about the poor unfortunate people trying to earn their livelihood in this country; we have stood where we always stood in the van of Irish dishonour and Irish disaster."
I am not going to speak at any length upon this Bill because it is difficult to find much that is new to say about it and also because I have not been long in Irish politics. I have been long enough to know that this country is inexpressibly sick of the kind of issue, of the kind of discussion that we are engaged upon here. Speaking for myself, familiar as I have become with the poverty and destitution that is so widespread in the country, I am horrified that we should be wasting our time on matters like this.
The opponents of this Bill are in an unpleasant predicament, a predicament which reminds me of a story told a good many years ago in the British House of Commons by a very brilliant Irishman who lost his life for Ireland in the battlefield of Flanders, the late Mr. Tom Kettle. The story was this: That an Irish chieftain having conquered and taken prisoner another Irish chieftain said to him: "Sir, you have fought a brave fight and I am anxious to do you a favour. I am, unfortunately, compelled by a vow to split you in two. Being willing to meet your views, I offer you the choice as to whether I shall split you in two lengthwise or crosswise."
Now, a new Government has just come into office. Everybody wants to keep them there. We want to keep them there because we want to give them a chance to show what they can do. We want to keep them there because we think it is high time that the Fianna Fáil Party had a taste of political responsibility. On the other hand, we are presented with a Bill which we consider a thoroughly bad one, so bad that when I listened to the President of the Executive Council discussing the question whether or not we had a right to pass it, I felt as if I were listening to a man discussing the question whether or not he had a right to take a dose of poison. We all know that the argumentum ad hominem goes a long way in this country. Every one who opposes this Bill is apt to be accused of an anti-national attitude. I should like to say that I maintain now and have always maintained, that the British had no colour of right in this country; that I was a strong and extreme Home Ruler before the European War, and that I made a proposal in 1920 which, I think, proved my bona fides in the attitude I am taking on the present occasion. Being a completely obscure person, my proposal naturally received no attention, but it was published in the Press, and it was this: That Southern Ireland should be given Dominion Home Rule, and that after a period of ten years of Dominion Home Rule a referendum should be allowed her to decide the question of whether she should stay in the British Commonwealth of Nations or not. I still think that would have been a more sensible way of dealing with our difficulties than was the Treaty. But that is neither here nor there. The point is this—that I showed my willingness and belief then in the propriety of the Irish people deciding for themselves whether or not they should be in the British Commonwealth of Nations. I still think they have that right and I should be perfectly willing to accept their decision whenever it is made.
I have put down an amendment to this Bill in answer to which the President of the Executive Council has set out what the policy of his Government is. I regret to say I am not satisfied with the account he has given of that policy nor do I feel it has cleared up the ambiguity of which I complained. It may be that the Government are willing to lead the Irish people into a Republic whenever the Irish people are ready to go. But, unfortunately, we all know that whenever a people is seen to be ready and willing to move in a particular direction politicians will always be found to lead them in that direction. The question is what is the attitude and the policy of the Government now? Do they regard themselves as Ministers of the Crown? Or do they regard themselves as Republican Ministers? Are they going to Ottawa as Ministers of the Crown to confer with other Ministers of the Crown? If so, why do they find it necessary to walk out of a Legation party whenever the Governor-General comes in? Do they consider that the Irish people have accepted the British Commonwealth of Nations or do they not? If they do not, why do they feel that there is such a necessity for a mandate to come out of it? Is there a single individual in this country who is not ready for an independent Republic and yet is ready for the breaking of the Treaty? I suggest that no such individual exists. There may indeed be persons voting in favour of the Government because they believe that the Oath was not mandatory in the Treaty and that it can be removed without affecting the Treaty position. No person, knowing what the Bill was that the Government was to bring in, and how absolutely that Bill threw the Treaty into the dustbin, would, I believe, be in favour of it who would not also be in favour of an immediate, in dependent Republic.
The President of the Executive Council asked a question which, I think, I shall answer before I forget it, though it is not immediately relevant to what I have been saying. The question was whether it would be contended that the British Parliament or the Canadian Parliament had not the right to abolish the Oath. It depends on the sense in which you use the word "right." For my part, I should consider it an outrage on the part of any Government within the British Commonwealth to abolish the allegiance which is the link of unity throughout the Commonwealth without consulting the other partners. I think that that applies with just as much force to the Parliament of Westminster as to our Parliament here in Dublin.
I suppose that anything we say is a waste of breath because the Government refuse to look beyond the alleged facts that they have a mandate for this Bill and that it is necessary to internal peace and orded. Let us look for a moment at both these contentions.
I have already stated in the House that, according to my experience, the people were not interested in the Oath during the election. I can go further and say that each time I heard the abolition of the Oath advocated by Fianna Fáil speakers it was on the ground that it was not obligatory in the Treaty and that it had been imposed upon us by the wilful malice of the tools of British Imperialism now sitting in the Front Opposition Bench. Can it be seriously maintained that a mandate obtained on that basis, if one was obtained, is a mandate for this Bill? I put it to the Government that when an administration has been ten years in office and the country is sick of it, when the world is suffering from the most frightful economic crisis, by which this country is affected, and when, moreover, the present Government put before the country an extremely crowded programme containing all sorts of other attractions, such as the retention of the land annuities and the providing of employment for everybody—I put it to the Government that they ought to take an exceedingly cautious and conservative view of what their mandates really amount to.
I suggest that they might, perhaps, use their own phraseology and consider that a number of these mandates ought to be regarded as permissive. In the case of this Bill, seeing the arguments with which it was defended at the election, I do not believe there is even a permissive mandate. Moreover, I suspect that if the Fianna Fáil Party had put forward no programme at all at the last election and had merely asked, as the National Government did in Britain, for a "doctor's mandate," they would have been returned by a larger majority than they obtained. It would be uncandid not to admit that since the election a considerable body of support for this Bill has been drummed up with the aid of victory meetings, victory concerts, victory dances, victory parades, bands and banners, all the magic cries about Irish nationality and the assertion that everyone who opposes this Bill is anti-national. I am not impressed by the character of that support. Nothing succeeds like success, and there is a natural tendency to wish to be on the winning side. I suspect that that feeling will show itself capable of rapid evaporation and I, for one, would be prepared to debate this Bill before any assembly in this country at which free speech was allowed. In point of fact, I do keep in touch with my constituency. I go there on Sundays and address open-air meetings. I have not found that the movement in favour of this Bill is to be regarded as too formidable, if bravely faced.
Let us turn now to the question of peace and order. So far as I know, there is absolutely no evidence that this Bill will do anything for peace and order. There has not been a single utterance by those who might be supposed to threaten peace and order which would suggest that this Bill will satisfy them. Perhaps, they would be glad to see it pass and would regard it as a step in the right direction. Perhaps, they would, on the other hand, agree with the newspaper "An Phoblacht", which recommends that we should walk out of the Empire with our heads up. I cannot quite forget some words which were uttered in this House on the 15th March by Deputy Flynn, words which passed unrebuked by his leader, who spoke a few minutes after him. The words used by Deputy Flynn were as follows:
"We believe that the day is not far distant when we will act like men, evacuate and leave the country and its administrative offices to the real people who should be in control of this Dáil and this country."
The quotation is from the Parliamentary Report of the 15th March. It is arguable that "the real people" may get restive if the process of evacuation is delayed too long and that this may have more influence on the preservation of peace and order than the passage of the present Bill. One thing I am quite certain of—that the success or failure of the Government unemployment plan will have a thousand times more influence upon peace and order than the fate of the Oath. If even quarter of the statements made to me are true, the policy of the Government or lack of policy in connection with our relations with the British Commonwealth is and will increasingly be a fertile source of unemployment. The demon of insecurity, which is strangling trade and enterprise the world over, has obtained a foothold quite recently in Ireland. The weapon of tariffs upon which the Government rely has everywhere proved to be ineffective against that enemy.
I do not deny that there is a problem behind this Bill. The problem arises from the fact that a considerable body of Irish opinion has never whole-heartedly accepted the Treaty. The Treaty has never been popular in the country except as a means of release from the horrors which preceded it. We have had a conspiracy of silence with regard to these horrors because we do not want to re-open old sores. On the other hand, Fianna Fáil has taken pains to keep before the country the fact that the Treaty was only accepted at the point of the bayonet. We must not forget that at the end of every war there is a treaty and that the weaker party will always be able to argue that that treaty was unjust or was forced upon them. But I cannot believe that a legislative assembly should give sanction to the principle that all such treaties should be treated as invalid, because, if that were done, every war would be a war of extermination. I suggest that the Fianna Fáil Party would be acting a patriotic part if they insisted less upon the fact that the Treaty was forced upon us and devoted themselves rather to considering how to make the best of the situation as it is and how to advance the happiness and prosperity of individual Irishmen under the Treaty.
But if it is felt that the Treaty has to be got rid of, and that it will always remain a living burning poison in the body politic on account of its history and on account of the bitterness between the two Parties connected with the Treaty, I suggest they ought to take a very different course from the one they are taking. I suggest that instead of committing what I consider to be an obvious breach of international good manners, let alone the question of a breach of international good faith, they should go to the British Government and open negotiations, not of the kind which the President of the Executive Council has referred to as implying some giving away of rights. Why not go to them and say: "Look here, we will never have any health in Ireland as long as the Treaty is made the foundation of our Constitution. The Statute of Westminster has been passed. Let us make a fresh start. Let us base our relations with you on the Statute of Westminster. We will put it to our people as to whether or not they wish to remain in the British Commonwealth, stating clearly that if they do not they will be allowed to go out." There would be nothing dishonourable in going to the British Government and making that proposition, whether or not it proved successful. Deputy Fitzgerald has expressed the opinion that the British would never consent to our going out of the Commonwealth even if we wanted to do so. Personally I completely disagree with that. His information is at variance with everything I have been able to learn. You will always find a few Generals and Admirals who will object to a proposition such as that, but I am convinced that the British Commonwealth would be split from top to bottom, and that infinite mischief would be done in every part of the Commonwealth, if the British took that kind of line in answer to such a request.
The arguments for and against this Bill have been pretty fully stated by previous speakers. I do not wish to trespass any longer upon the attention of the House, but I hope I shall not be considered pedantic if I quote a Latin tag which is so apposite, and so familiar that everyone who has ever learned Latin will be acquainted with it. "Quidquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi.""The politicians commit insanities and the common people pay the price."
It will, I suppose, be refreshing in this atmosphere to find two colleagues—because I pride myself in having Deputy MacDermot as a colleague in the agricultural group— differing on politics. I came here to-day expecting a discussion on the question raised by this Bill of the highest order, but my mind has become progressively bewildered by the observations that have been offered by those who have spoken. To my mind the problem up against which we have been brought to-day is one of no difficulty, calling for no great length of oratory, but for a very brief definition as to where we are going to take our stand. In my opinion the text of the Bill which has been introduced reveals an intention on the part of the Government fundamentally different from that repeatedly avowed during the recent election. Again and again during and after that campaign President de Valera reiterated his intention of preserving the Treaty position intact until he had received a further mandate from the people to reject the whole instrument and proclaim a Republic. The intention of Fianna Fáil to remove the Oath of Allegiance was equally clearly stated, and with that intention I was and still am in entire accord. The Oath of Allegiance is an archaism of evil memory, and to my mind of intolerable present obligation. But the imminence of legislation has evoked in England the strangest chorus of irresponsible scaremongering that in my opinion has been heard since England was given over to the Belgian atrocity hysteria. Nor was the British Law Officer behind in making his contribution to that chorus in a speech which, to my mind, showed that he had not bothered to consider the essential paragraphs in the Irish Free State Statutes that were relevant to the question under consideration. While that state of affairs existed it was clear to my mind that the duty of Irish Nationalists was carefully to refrain from saying a single word that would embarrass the Irish Executive in the negotiations they had undertaken or the procedure on which they had embarked, confident that an Irish Government could be trusted to keep faith with its own people and honour its obligations in the National interest.
[An Ceann Comhairle resumed the Chair.]
Fianna Fáil was pledged to introduce legislation to abolish the Oath of Allegiance in the Constitution. They were also pledged not to abandon the Treaty position until and unless they received a further and a fuller mandate from the people. President de Valera stated always when he gave his undertaking to remove the Oath of Allegiance from the Constitution that to remove it was quite in accord with the Treaty because the Oath of Allegiance set out in the Treaty was not mandatory. He said that again and again. That was a view upon which competent opinion was divided, but the opinion of Fianna Fáil and of President de Valera was clearly set out again and again. I have no hesitation in saying that the will of the vast majority of Irish Nationalists at the present time is that the Oath of Allegiance should not be imposed on the elected representatives of the people. That being so I conceive it to be our duty to do all we can to give effect to the desire for the abolition of that obligation.
The only effective means to that end is a Bill containing Sections 1 and 4 of the measure that is at present before us. Were such a Bill submitted I would support it. When it had passed through all the requisite stages in the Oireachtas it would then be open to any one who took the view, as Deputy Fitzgerald takes the view, that it constituted a breach of the Treaty, to take the steps provided for in Section 2 of the Constitution Act—to test in another place whether what we had done was void and inoperative or not. It is not for one political party or the other to arrogate to itself the duties of the judiciary. The very people who drew the Constitution and who enacted the Constitution ten years ago envisaged the possible occurrence of a situation such as we are face to face with here to-day; when Dáil Eireann or the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State would take the view that it was within our competence and in our international obligations to pass such legislation. Others might take the other view. The Constitution provided machinery for the removal of that question from the arena of politics into the arena of dispassionate legal consideration.
Therefore, with those provisions in the Constitution Act there was ample means available to anyone who took the view that President de Valera's intention of repealing the Oath constituted a breach of the Treaty—to test that question in a court of law, and bear in mind in an Irish court of law— in the Irish Supreme Court. That test would be made not by virtue of any legislation of the Imperial Parliament, but by virtue of legislation passed by the Oireachtas of Saorstát Eireann absolutely and entirely independent of the Imperial Parliament.
That was a position involving no obscurity. It also seemed clear, in view of the existence of that position—now remember that I am referring to the position that existed immediately after President de Valera was elected President of the Executive Council and when there started the correspondence between himself and Mr. Thomas the Colonial Secretary—when there were provisions available in the Constitution Act that the attitude adopted by the British Government in that published correspondence was as indefensible as it was ignorant and irresponsible.
But now, unfortunately, as so often happens in this unhappy country, the provocative insolence of British politicians gets the colour of vindication by things which, to my mind, we in our folly do. Here we had a perfectly straight issue. Here we had an occasion when it could be put to the people: Do you want to make the representatives of the people swear an Oath of Allegiance which some of them esteem a perjury or do you not? Has that plain issue been put to the people? Are the Irish people allowed to align themselves on one side or the other? Not at all. A miserable red herring is dragged in, and the whole issue is clouded and confused by these two idiotic Sections 2 and 3. President de Valera has again and again said: "If this thing were a breach of the Treaty I would not undertake it without going back to you and asking you for a further and fuller mandate." But in Sections 2 and 3 he proceeds to clear the ground to pass this legislation whether it be a breach of the Treaty or not, and immediately there are dragged into this discussion issues that are wholly irrelevant and wholly foreign to the programme that President de Valera and the Fianna Fáil Party put before the country during the recent election. Now, to my mind the Treaty—I do not give that for the Treaty—is the unlovely offspring of the Sinn Fein Party: one of the many curses that the Sinn Fein Party brought on this country.
Which Sinn Fein Party?
The two were together then. The President was the inspired from God leading Deputy Cosgrave at that time. Now he is an Archangel from hell leading the country into misery, destitution and isolation from our beloved sister nation—England. At that particular time I was a West Briton and President de Valera and Deputy Cosgrave were the sea-green incorruptibles. Now they have changed a little and attack one another and I must say—God forgive me—that it sometimes gives me great satisfaction to see them at it. What I want to say is this: that the Treaty means very little to me, but what does mean a lot to me is the solemn undertaking of an Irish leader to the Irish people. President de Valera, as the leader of a large party of the Irish people, told them that if they committed the destinies of Government to his hands he would not compromise the Treaty position.
I say that this Bill is a betrayal of that undertaking, and it is a betrayal to which I will not be a party. No Irish nationalist would contest the right of the Irish people to repudiate the whole of this instrument if they wanted to tear it up and to declare an Irish Republic. If they declare a Republic—in this I entirely agree with Deputy MacDermot—not a shot will be fired, there will be no war or blood shed, but if a Republic is to be declared it must be declared by the free will of the Irish people in full possession of the facts, not intimidated by a threat of immediate and terrible war from England or by the threat of murder, assassination and terrorism from secret societies in this country.
I am convinced that these two great peoples are anxious to live in peace and harmony together. Generation after generation of Irish leaders have fought for the realisation of that dream. Many leaders of the English people have understood that longing, too, but unhappily there have always been men to arise and undo their work and recreate bitterness and suspicion that the others fought and died to dissipate. Is the long and hopeless cycle of mistrust to go on for ever? We have, I would even say, that President de Valera has, the power now to open the gates of representation in this country to every section of the people by removing the Oath of Allegiance. It is then for the Irish people, all sections of them, to express their will through the ballot box uninfluenced by fraud or by coercion as to whether they want this country to develop as a free and independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations, or as a Republic. All are prepared to accept such a verdict freely given, but I say that this Bill does not represent the will of the Irish people.
They have been asked, in my opinion —and in this I differ from Deputy MacDermot—to pass a verdict upon the first section, and since the election, they have passed an unquestionable verdict, and the instinct of every Irish nationalist will go with that verdict, that no oath should be imposed of allegiance to a King, if a man believes it is perjury to take that oath. Such a proposition is nauseating to any Irish nationalist, and one which, I believe, President de Valera will have support from every Irish nationalist in doing away with it. The people were not asked, and have not been asked, to pass a verdict on Sections 2 and 3 of this Bill. They have not been asked to do by implication, and by a quibble, what they would not have the courage to do freely and honestly. Sections 2 and 3 mean this: "We will carry out the mandate we got from the people in accordance with our undertaking, if we can, but if we find that we cannot carry it out in accordance with the Treaty, then we will honour our pledge to repeal the Oath, but we will scuttle our undertaking to maintain the Treaty position on which we got power at the last election, the moment political expediency suggests that we should." I say that such a position for an Irish leader is dishonest and deplorable, and I am not without hope, that, even at this eleventh hour, President de Valera may come to realise that he has given an undertaking to our people to do a certain thing; that if he honours that undertaking, the nationalists of this country will support him, but that if he seeks to use the confidence reposed in him by the people, to lead them on a path on which he has promised not to lead them, he will find that the Irish people will resent that imposition and may be driven further on a road to reaction than he, or I, would wish to see them driven.
There remains for me nothing to add, save to say this, that the purpose of my intervention in this debate was this, and nothing more, to appeal to President de Valera, and the Fianna Fáil Executive, at this eleventh hour, to delete Sections 2 and 3 of this Bill, of their own free will, and to put forward a Bill, consisting of Section 1 and Section 4, and with that Bill in their hands, let them challenge amendment here and in the country. If they do, they will find a united support behind them, but if they do not, they have sown the seeds of suspicion and distrust, that will prove their own ruination before we see the end of this Parliament.
In dealing with the Bill before us—a Bill which proposes very real and very drastic alteration of the Constitution—we are in the position where one false step, or any step in the dark, or any step taken without a full and detailed knowledge of the consequences, may have very disastrous results for our people. We are legislating, and it is well to remember it, for the future, rather than for the past and, legislating for the future, we must get, and we are entitled to get, a full, frank and outspoken statement of what the consequences of such a Bill may be; the possible and probable consequences, immediate and remote. I hold that the very attitude of the Executive Council, and particularly the attitude of the President here to-day, was not playing the game fairly, either by this Dáil, or by the people outside. There was a definite attempt to rush the country, and to rush the Dáil, blindfold, into passing this Bill, without any decent or honest or manly attempt to discuss even its possible consequences.
We are here assembled with a very real and a very great responsibility on the shoulders of every single Deputy in this House, but that responsibility is a hundred times greater on the shoulders of the members of the Executive Council. They, more than any of us, through the channels to their hands, have a definite responsibility to ascertain all the possible consequences of such a measure, and to be open and frank with this House. It is natural, and it stands to reason, and I suppose it is generally accepted, that in any bi-lateral agreement, or bi-lateral arrangement, the views of one party to that arrangement, are, at least, as important as the views of the other party, and the only commonsense, statesmanlike way in which a possible meeting point of opposite views can be brought about is by frank, manly and open discussion and negotiation. If views are so diametrically opposed, or if tempers are so incompatible, that there is no possibility of a meeting-point or settlement of the difficulty, then, there is a definite responsibility on either party to ascertain fully the consequences before precipitating eruption.
In this matter under discussion, we have the position where one side says "yes" and the other side says "no." The British hold, and say clearly and openly, that they believe in their opinion that legislation of this kind is a distinct and deliberate violation of the Treaty. President de Valera did not tell us very much here to-day, but certainly prior to the introduction of the Bill, he had pledged himself to the country, that any measure or any legislation which he would introduce, would in no way interfere with the Treaty between the two countries. We are left here to-day with no assistance from the President who introduced the Bill; with no assistance whatever from the Executive Council. Deputies in this House are left like so many individuals to grope around for themselves, each in his own way, to ascertain the consequences, without any assistance from the machinery of Government.
Two questions appear to me to arise at the very beginning. The first question that must present itself to anybody is, whether the Oath was or was not a vital part of the Treaty; whether the Oath was or was not mandatory in the Articles of Agreement, which were ratified by this Dáil and by the people of this country; and the second, leaving that question aside, whether open defiance or honest negotiation is the better and manlier and more patriotic way to settle difficulties of this kind arising between any two countries. Those are the questions which confront every one of us. Discussing the Bill and the amendment together, the questions that arise are (1) whether the Oath is a mandatory part of the Treaty, because, if so, there is no use in talking any longer about treaties, and there is no good talking about mandates from the people—the only thing we have got to discuss is, when a leader of a Government is entitled to break his word to the populace; and (2) whether open defiance or frank and honest negotiation is the better way to settle such questions arising between two countries. Clause 4 of the Treaty reads as follows, "The Oath to be taken by members of the Parliament of the Irish Free State shall be in the following form". Speaking as a plain man; speaking as one not given to ambiguity; speaking as a person not given to hair-splitting or quibbling, to my mind, anyway, be it right or wrong, those words mean exactly what they say, and say exactly what they mean. "The Oath to be taken by members of the Parliament of the Irish Free State shall be in the following form"—I believe there is only one meaning attaching to those words, in the mind of anybody not given to hair-splitting and quibbling.
If my interpretation of these words is correct, if the Oath is mandatory in the Treaty, then removing it from the Constitution accomplishes, in fact, nothing at all. If the game is to remove it from the Constitution and to ignore it in the Treaty, if my hypothesis here is correct, then the whole move means nothing but a deliberate violation of the Treaty.
In any court or tribunal, or even with an honest man, in the case of a dispute between two contracting parties, where there is a difference subsequent to the contract as to the meaning of certain phrases or words, the universal procedure is to try and arrive at the mind of the contracting parties at the time the contract was entered into, to try and ascertain what was the interpretation of the words by the contracting parties at the time the contract was made. In this particular position we have for our guidance a complete record of the views of both contracting parties to this contract, this Treaty, and their views in particular on the Article which the President and members of the Government tell us was in no way mandatory, but was only made mandatory by the Constitution. We have the views clearly expressed of the Parties in this country who stood for the Treaty and equally expressed by the Party in this country which stood against the Treaty. Their own speeches are on record, and I think nobody will contradict me in this: that the whole opposition to the Treaty was whipped together around that particular clause, the Oath; their whole opposition to the Treaty was assembled together by holding up before the people the Oath which every member of the Irish Parliament would have to take. President de Valera was most emphatic at that time in pointing out that this Oath was the Oath which must be taken by every individual member of the Dáil. The present Vice-President was equally emphatic, and both in the Dáil during these debates and in the country at that time, each and every one of the members of the Government Party who were members of the Dáil at that time told the people clearly that they objected to the Treaty because it contained that abominable Oath which would have to be taken by every member of an Irish Parliament, and those speeches were made months and months before ever the first line of the Constitution was drafted.
Now the President tells us that the Oath was not mandatory in the Treaty, that it was only made mandatory by the Constitution. Was he wrong when he made these speeches? Did he mislead the country when he made these speeches? Did he attempt to mislead the Dáil when he made these speeches during the Treaty debates? Some Deputy made a statement in the course of that debate to make light of the Oath, to brush it aside, and the President, who now tells us that that Oath was not mandatory in the Treaty, jumped up and said: "You may sneer at words, but words mean something in a Treaty, else why are they put down?" I say here, too, that words mean something in a Treaty, else why were they put down? The point I am making is that that Oath may be disliked; there may be people on this side of the House who dislike that Oath as much as people on the other side of the House, but we have got to face up to this: if that Oath is a mandatory portion of the Treaty, we can destroy that Treaty as a whole, but by unilateral action we cannot leave pieces out.
Those debates show the view of the President and his followers at that time. They show the reading which they gave to a certain clause at that time, although they present a different face now. But they show another thing. They show why there is a flank attack on the Treaty now, why there is an oblique attack, why there is an attack on anything but an open front, and why the motion tabled by Deputy Cosgrave cannot be accepted. Negotiations are not acceptable; no conversations, no conference can be held. Why? Because words mean something and because they will not stand up to their own words of ten years ago. That is why we are to be rushed into legislation. No negotiations, no manly, straightforward, international conversations ! Nothing but a machine majority and nothing but a machine majority on anything but upon an honest case; and even when the machine is in operation every attempt made to withhold the consequences from the Dáil and withhold the possible consequences from the people outside.
The next point that arises and the next question which everybody here must ask himself and which every Deputy must vote upon is, whether open defiance or open negotiation is the better way to settle a question like this. The only case that has ever been made by the Fianna Fáil Party against negotiation is the cheap parrot-cry that it is a domestic matter. No one, either here to-day or since the election, not a single Fianna Fáil spokesman or writer, and they have been plenty, has ever discussed or presented any case against negotiation. The President's feeble attempt here to-day I do not take seriously. If he wanted to make a case I know him well enough to say that he could make a much better one than he made to-day. The only case that was ever made against negotiation was that miserable parrot-cry that it is a domestic matter. Every Deputy has to make up his mind whether there should be negotiation before such a Bill is launched through the House, about which the other partner has quite opposite views to some people here. Remember that negotiation does not in any way preclude legislation afterwards. The President smiles, but I say that words mean something, else why were they put down?
We waited nine years for it.
Negotiation does not in any way close the door to legislation subsequently, but frank, open, manly, and honest negotiation would at least secure this, that it would retain the trust, the confidence, the friendship, the trade of a nation on whom our farmers and traders are living. Open defiance, backdoor legislation, quite aside from the rights or wrongs of that legislation, have already had their effects on the price of stock in this country. Deputies over there, as well as Deputies here, know that an atmosphere of distrust of the people of this country has been originated in England by the President's action in refusing to take the course that statesmen all over the world take of discussing the difference, anyway, before precipitating trouble. You have already, by your refusal to negotiate, done serious damage to the trade of the country. You have done serious damage to the honourable name of the people, and the further you proceed along that road the more of that damage you are going to do.
The President talked of absolute equality, and he stands absolutely for inequality. Absolute equality! What does it mean? All equal, the same formality binding upon all. Does he not know that an oath is taken in the Parliaments of Westminster, Canada, South Africa and Australia? If in fact he stands for the removal of the Oath whether by agreement or defiance he is in fact standing for inequality. He is standing to put this country in a different position from any of the other countries in the Commonwealth. He asked us to-day if the British House of Commons abolished the Oath what would happen? I do not know, but I think if the English Parliament refused any longer to recognise the King as head of the Commonwealth, either they would end their position in that Commonwealth or would end the Commonwealth. If the President wants to get away with the present case there is no point in his basing it on the ground of absolute equality, because an oath is taken in every one or the Parliaments of the other countries of the Commonwealth.
The President holds this as a domestic matter. That is one of the very reasons why it should be dealt with by negotiation. If he is so strong that this is a domestic matter can he not rely upon the strength of his case to convince the other party that it is a domestic matter? The way that he is going about it at least leaves it open to Britain to say "That is your opinion. But you have got to concede that the English market is a domestic question for Great Britain and who will trade and on what terms any country will trade in that market is a domestic matter for Britain." If we proceed on those lines and invoke such a reply from Great Britain we are doing the worst day's work for the hard pressed people of this country that ever was done. If we proceed on our line of open defiance by unilateral action we may find ourselves out of the Commonwealth or what is worse we may put ourselves in the position to be kicked out of the Commonwealth. I say this: leave oaths aside. If you are going to leave the Commonwealth and if it is the view of the Party opposite or of the majority of the people of this country that we should leave the Commonwealth then for God's sake let us not crawl out backwards. Let us say we are going to go and not crawl out for fear any one would see what we are doing. Be manly about it; be open with the people. Be honest as to our intention and be honest as to the consequences.
Now with regard to some of the possible consequences of the action proposed here to-day. The Government Party at election times and particularly when in and about the Border made great play about partition. They made great play about the tragedy of partition in this country. The further we go out of the Commonwealth the more we strain the relations between this country and our nearest neighbour, the more we violate the Articles of Agreement upon which this State is built the more permanent we are making this barrier of partition in our country. There is no contesting that point of view. The more you persist in the direction you are going to-day the more permanent you are making the partition of the country and the more solid and cohesive you are making the elements opposed to you on the other side of the Border.
The really serious consequence of a Bill of this nature that I see is that beyond yea or nay the passage of such a Bill puts minority rule absolutely on a pedestal for all time in this country. What is the case put forward by the President and by Fianna Fáil orators for the last six weeks to defend this Bill? In a word, the case they make or attempt to make can be summed up in the word "peace." That is their argument for the Bill: that an armed minority in the country that defied all the laws of the country made by the majority will desist, or may desist, from further defiance of the law if the Executive Council crawls before them and passes a Bill of this kind. Passing such a Bill and making such a case as you make for this Bill that it will bring peace, that certain armed and illegal elements will desist from illegality if you pass such a Bill, is the first time in any Parliament that legislation was introduced by the minority of the people. You are putting minority rule on a pedestal and you will have to pay dearly for it. This Dáil, as long as it lasts, will never get away from the precedent that minority rule is established here, that if any element of the country organises themselves sufficiently, equip themselves sufficiently, and murders a sufficient number of people, that then in the interests of peace legislation will be introduced to give them all they want. That is the precedent you are establishing. Do not overlook it. You cannot get away from it. That is the case you are making, that it is on these terms you may have peace, that illegal organisations may desist. That is the whole case for the Bill.
The next question that arises is: Will it bring us peace? The President says it will. The President says that the elements that armed themselves to upset this State and to defy this Dáil will desist from further efforts if you pass such a Bill as this. That is his statement. But people in a position to speak for these elements say the opposite. They say this Oath means nothing, that it is the whole institution of this State that they are out against. Now who is right? Is the President in a position to speak for these elements? Has he had any understanding with them? Has he any pact, and if not, what right has he to presume to put that forward as their idea when their own spokesmen say the opposite? If there is a pact and an understanding let it be produced in this House; but if there is not, I say their own leaders are entitled to speak for themselves and their own organisation. If they are, this Bill means nothing.
This Bill will not bring about peace. They will still continue their armed opposition to this State until they gain their will, except, of course, having once established the principle that this Dáil must legislate for any rowdy group in the country, provided it keeps that rowdy group quiet, we continue to go on and lay it down that every time a demand is made upon you, you bend the knee and you bend the knee with more speed if it is a demand put forward by an armed organisation. If that is your intention, then you might as well go the whole hog straight away and leave no doubt on anybody's mind.
There has been a considerable amount of talk about mandates. The Fianna Fáil Party are in a majority in this House. They got a mandate at all events to govern. Their first duty is to govern. Their first duty is to govern all elements in the country and bend before none. They got a mandate as far as this question goes and they asked for a mandate to remove the Oath from the Constitution but on the clear condition that they would interfere in no way with the Treaty. That was the pledge given. They have drifted very far from that now; that minority means more. Peace at their own price means more. I would say furthermore that there is another section in this House that forms part of the majority and that the bigger Labour Party. As far as I listened to the speeches or read the speeches of that Party during the general election and prior to it, they asked for a mandate from the people as far as it related to this question of the Oath. They were insistent that they did not like the Oath and they wanted it removed but only by negotiation. Practically every Labour candidate who was elected to this Dáil asked a mandate from his people to get the Oath removed by negotiation. Is that challenged? There is an amendment down before you to carry out the mandate you stood for, to carry out the pledges you gave to the electors. I say to you, stand by your pledges. Be open with the people. Be honest. Stand by your own mandate and the great big-hearted democracy of this country will not let you down.
Does Deputy O'Higgins deny that this Dáil is competent to amend the Constitution?
The Minister is talking in legal terms. I say legally you have a right to pass any law you like. The question is not whether you have the right but whether you are right in doing it.
It is quite clear that the issue between us is not whether we have the right to do this but whether it is the wise thing to do.
Whether it is the honourable thing to do in the first instance.
We will talk about honour in a minute. We will take it that there is no question about our mandate. At the moment we are concerned with the political wisdom of the measure before us. I assume there is no Deputy here who denies that this Dáil is a sovereign Assembly and that it can amend its Constitution in any way the Dáil desires.
That was stated in 1922.
Very well. Since 1922 it was the policy of the Party opposite to assert that this Dáil can amend its Constitution in any way the majority decides. What is all this talk about consequences? If we, as a sovereign assembly in the exercise of a right that is not denied, agree that it is wise to amend the Constitution, what is all this talk about the consequences that follow? What is all the talk about open defiance? Open defiance of what? Does Deputy Dr. O'Higgins think that we are defiant on this side of the House? We are not conscious of defiance in any way.
What about your mandate?
I suggest that in the flagrant speech delivered by Deputy Dr. O'Higgins there was nothing stronger than a desire to utilise the old weapon of intimidation, the weapon used in the Treaty debates, the weapon which kept the Cumann na nGaedheal Party in power for ten years, in order to divide this country, the suggestion that certain consequences were likely to follow if the Dáil decided in the exercise of its rights to amend the Constitution. The Government Party and those supporting the Government Party are not defying anybody. We have decided that for the peace, good order and government of the State this amendment of the Constitution is necessary, and we come to the Dáil and ask them to make this amendment because it is a wise thing to do. There has been, I submit, no argument advanced so far against this measure.
Our mandate to-day has been questioned. The possible effects that we see arising from it have been questioned. The wisdom of proceeding with it at this stage instead of with some measure for the relief of unemployment has been questioned, but no positive argument against this Bill has yet been adduced. Nobody has yet shown that any consequence is likely to follow that will be obviously detrimental to the interests of our people. That has not been shown. If Deputies have in their minds any such consequences, if they can foresee the possibility of any such consequences, why are they dumb about them? Why all this insinuation, all this vague talk? Why do they not say what they have in their minds?
The letter of Mr. Thomas is quoted to us. We are told that Mr. Thomas regards the introduction of this Bill as a breach of the Treaty. Mr. Thomas is wrong. Of course I know it is not the first time Deputies opposite took the British view on questions of the interpretation of that document, and no doubt they will do so again. The British Minister concerned sets the headline and they dutifully copy it, but there is now a majority in this Dáil that is going to put on that document the most favourable interpretation possible in the interests of the Irish people, and in so far as that interpretation rests with us it is going to be given effect to. This Bill is the first fruit. We have the right to do it and that is not denied. If that is done we believe that the consequences will be wholly beneficial. We may be wrong in that, but certainly we cannot see that any detrimental consequences can arise. It is a matter of internal organisation to frame the Constitution that we consider best suited for the situation now existing here, and I submit there is not a Deputy opposite who will not be right glad when the Bill becomes law.
We heard Deputy Dillon speak here. I would like to speak now personally to Deputy Mulcahy, Deputy Blythe and some Deputies opposite. When in 1918 the people of this country repudiated the windy compromise that the Parliamentary Party of that period stood for, we were glad. We regarded it as a turning point in Irish history, a reawakening of our nationality and a reassertion of the virility of our manhood. Did Deputy Mulcahy or Deputy Blythe ever think then that they would be sitting here to-day arguing against this Bill on the ground that its introduction might kick us out of the Empire?
Deputy Dillon talked about Sections 2 and 3 of the Bill. Is it contended opposite that the section of the original Constitution Act which is being repealed here limits the right of this Dáil to amend the Constitution? We maintain that these amendments are intended to effect the cutting off of decayed timber of the Constitution tree and that they do not alter our constitutional position in the slightest.
I was, however, more pained than shocked to hear Deputies opposite arguing against this Bill on the grounds that if passed it would accentuate partition. Deputies opposite have the right to talk about partition. Are we any nearer Irish unity now than we were in 1921? For ten years this country has been led by the Party opposite, for ten years its policy has been in operation here, for ten years it compromised whenever compromise was possible, for ten years it degraded the national honour. And has it got us nearer to unity? We can, of course, get unity "under the flag," as it used to be called, at any time. We can abandon such measures of independence as we have got and go back into the United Kingdom, and then we shall have unity. Are Deputies prepared to buy unity at that price? Is that what is suggested? Do you think we ought to limit our freedom, tie our hands, restrict our powers to benefit our own people in that way in order to get unity? Do you think that it is going to help us to do it? Deputies opposite can take their own experience. They have tried that policy out for ten years, and the net result is that partition is more definite, more permanent-looking now than before they attained office. I would ask them not to talk about national honour. They have no right to talk about national honour. The honour of this nation was world famous, all nations did us honour in the period from 1918 to 1921. It was in that year that our honour was degraded, it was in that year that the oppressed nationalities of the world ceased to look to this nation for guidance. They come here now and they talk about honour. We have the right to pass this Bill, and it is in the exercise of that right that we ask the Dáil to pass it. Our concern is for our own people.
I am glad that there are some Deputies over there who agree with that. We have been asked whether it is good manners, whether it will annoy particular parties in England, whether it is the correct procedure to adopt in order to give effect to our will. The main thing which matters, and which was admitted by Deputies opposite, is that the great bulk of nationalist opinion in this country and the great bulk of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party desires to pass it. That is the only justification we ask for, and that is why we hope this Bill will become law as soon as possible.
I am reminded by this discussion of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, who has just sat down, has suggested that no positive argument has been used against this Bill, and he seeks for positive argument against this Bill. I want to suggest to him that the positive argument against this Bill can only be measured by the strength of the armed minority who have dictated to the present Ministry and compelled them to introduce this Bill. I have seen in the Press messages and interviews, and in other kinds of literature, statements emanating from President de Valera. It has been stated in those messages or interviews that President de Valera has stated, and that many leading members of his Party have stated, that the Irish people were weighted down by the Oath, that the Irish people were suffering from this terrible burden of the Oath. Let me say for myself that when I first saw that statement in the Press I inquired of many people how the Oath was affecting them in their general health, how it was affecting them in their business, or in their general avocations. In many cases the answer I got was not fit for publication, and certainly not fit to be uttered here. I have also had many interviews with unemployed persons in Cork City, and I have scrutinised the faces, the pinched faces of many of those people, and I am quite sure that they were not over-burdened or over-weighted or weighed down in any way by the Oath which has to be taken by members of this Assembly. I understand President de Valera to say that there is not any considerable volume of opinion in this country that gives tuppence about this Oath question. My own experience is what I have related—that people are more concerned with the economic prosperity of the country than they are about the taking of this Oath or the abolition of it in this Dáil.
We are asked to consider the consequences of rejecting this measure. I have asked myself, and I am sure many other citizens of this State have asked themselves: Shall we be better off or worse off inside or outside the British Commonwealth of Nations? If we remain within the British Commonwealth of Nations we are entitled to share as co-equals all the advantages that membership of that Assembly confers upon us. But we must also weigh up the consequences of what will happen—and I am not an alarmist —the consequences of what will happen if we walk out of the Commonwealth. We enjoy certain privileges now by way of Imperial preference, and we have many other advantages by being members of that Commonwealth. Are we prepared to suffer the disadvantages of leaving it, amongst which I may mention the disadvantages in connection with our large export trade with Britain? Does any sane member of this Assembly or any sane Irishman or woman believe for one moment that the other party to this contract is going to take this slap in the face quietly, and it means nothing else than a slap in the face, this want of good manners that is suggested in this Bill which is before the House this evening? Does anybody suggest for one moment that the second party to the Treaty is going to accept what is done here without retaliation of any kind or character? If, for instance, we were in the position that Britain is in at the moment would we accept a challenge of that character without replying in some effective way? I take it that Britain will take up this challenge or take up this breach of our contract honourably entered into by honourable Irishmen on the one hand and honourable Britishers on the other hand.
Perhaps the Deputy will show us where it is a breach.
It has already been demonstrated by five or six people in this House.
None of them, not one.
We have heard a good deal of talk about status. Status is undoubtedly a very good thing, but I suggest that our status will be considerably lessened, certainly it will not be improved if this Bill passes into law. We have been told that the removal of this Oath will bring about a state of peace in the country. Who are the persons who are disturbing the peace at the moment? Who are the persons who are disturbing the peace? Who are the persons who are challenging peace and good order in this country?
It cannot be denied that this small and active minority, this armed minority are disturbing the peace in this country and the present Government have not the guts to stand up to them. Whatever the faults of the late Government were, at least it could be said of them that they stood up to their responsibilities as a Government. The duties of a Government are to govern. That is one of the reasons why I am an independent Deputy here to-day, because I felt that if and when the Labour Party were to come into office or power in this country they should show or give some manifestation of their power to govern. The manifestation of the power to govern could only be given at a period of crisis when the country was faced with an armed menace.
We have heard from the Fianna Fáil platforms a lot of mouthings and vapourings about the unity of Ireland, the removal of the Border, and all these other catch-cries with which they certainly gained many votes in the country. Will the passage of this Bill accelerate in any way the unity between the North and South about which we heard so much during the election period? In my view, it puts us farther away than ever from that unity for which we all yearned and for which many of us still yearn.
The agitation that has been got up in the country for the removal of the Oath has been mainly of an artificial character. It has been helped on by a number of torchlight processions and other outward manifestations of jubilation because of the approach of this measure which would eventually make it easy for persons who are now not represented in the Dáil to come into this Assembly. Again I ask President de Valera has he ever gone to the trouble of getting, say, even a rough estimate of the number of these people? President de Valera came into the Dáil, and I take it he is as patriotic as the people who now say they will not come into this Assembly because of the imposition of this Oath. I take it that there is little or no change in the attitude of the Fianna Fáil Party towards nationhood or nationality since they termed the Oath a mere empty formula. Is it because a small group of persons outside the Dáil to whom this Oath is objectionable are sufficiently noisy and sufficiently armed to coerce President de Valera and his Party that this Bill should get an easy passage through the Dáil?
The word "coercion" has been used, I think, by the President. The word "coercion" has been used frequently from the Fianna Fáil Benches. That word has lost its real meaning in this country. We associate the term with all that was bad and wicked in the British régime in this country. I associate it with the period of the battering ram and eviction scenes in this country thirty odd years ago. It may be said that the presence of a police force in your city or the presence of a police force in your country is "coercion," because their very presence refuses the wrongdoer the right to do wrong.
I suggest to President de Valera that he has not got a mandate for the introduction of this Bill. The largest volume of support. I take it, meted out to President de Valera was that given by the unemployed workers in this country. We know the history of the unemployed movement in this country in recent years. We know also that we were suffering from the reactions of world economics, bad world economic conditions. We do know that advantage was taken of that condition of affairs on the Fianna Fáil platforms. The Fianna Fáil speakers attributed the unemployment and misery that were present in the country to the late Government. I want to say that I will give loyal support to President de Valera in any measure he is prepared to introduce to relieve that state of affairs. I want to give him the same co-operation and help that I gave to the ex-President when he introduced any measure which would help towards the uplift or the betterment of the working class people of this country.
If President de Valera has got any mandate at all he has got a mandate to see that the unemployed persons are put to work, and I for one will not cavil with him if, in carrying out that programme, he does not put 80,000 people to work. I will be quite satisfied if he finds work for 40,000 unemployed. I am not over-captious in that way at all. I want to emphasise this fact, if President de Valera put this to the country —if he sought for a referendum and got a mandate from the people to introduce this measure, and, if you like, have another scrap with England, which I do not think he suggests, well, then, we will hear the views of these people on the matter. But so far he has not got that mandate.
I have been sent here by the citizens of Cork to support the Treaty. I would be betraying the trust reposed in me by the people of Cork if I voted for the measure. The Oath is objectionable, but ways have been suggested here to-day by half a dozen speakers by which the Oath might be changed to a less objectionable form; the form might be changed or it could be removed altogether. It would be a more honourable way to discuss with the other parties to the bargain the advisability, prudence and wisdom of having this Oath removed from the Constitution. Then I feel we would have acted honourably and straightforwardly with the other persons who are party to this Treaty. I hope when President de Valera is replying that he will make it clear to the House that he will respond in some measure at least to the suggestions that have been put up to him by the official Opposition in this House. Would he not consider the advisability of approaching the other parties to the bargain and discussing the matter with them at a round-table conference and so let us have an agreed settlement rather than continue in the way in which he proposes by this measure?
This has been a very strange debate, strange owing to the speech the President made use of in introducing the measure and stranger still by the attitude which his Party have taken up. The President told us he had consulted eminent legal authorities. I do not know how many of those eminent legal authorities are members of this Dáil. I do not know whether, for instance, the Minister for Lands and Fisheries and Deputy Little are looked upon as eminent legal authorities, but I do presume that the Attorney-General and the Minister for Justice are looked upon as eminent legal authorities. I presume the President looks upon the Attorney-General as the most eminent legal authority whose assistance he could get, and it is certainly very strange that, on a question bristling with law, these eminent legal authorities have been afraid to rise and express their views and have sheltered themselves behind the President, who, plainly and obviously, did not understand the views which these eminent legal authorities endeavoured unsuccessfully to pump into him.
The President has told us that he got a definite and specific mandate, the mandate he asked for, and that was not to violate the Treaty. He said also that he could amend the Constitution without violating the Treaty. Neither the President nor anybody else could amend the Constitution by taking out the Oath without violating the Treaty because as plainly as it can be put in black and white it is there in the Treaty:—"The Oath to be taken by Members of the Parliament of the Irish Free State shall be in the following form:—" You cannot amend the Constitution by taking out that form of Oath unless at the same time you break Article 4 of the Constitution. I will not say that the President knows that. It is quite possible his eminent legal advisers did not succeed in making the President understand, but obviously the persons responsible for the framework of this Bill completely and entirely recognise that it was necessary to break the Treaty in order to carry out this purpose.
What is the Long Title of this Bill? "An Act to remove the obligation now imposed by law on members of the Oireachtas and Ministers who are not members of the Executive Council to take an oath, and for that purpose to amend the Constitution and also the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) Act, 1922." Why is it necessary to amend the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) Act, 1922, unless the Oath is an integral part of the Treaty? Why is that brought in at all? Why touch Section 2? You say in the Long Title of the Bill that you are amending Section 2 of the Act of 1922 for one purpose only and that is to carry out your amendment of the Constitution. Why put that in at all?
If the contention which the President put before this House is a well-founded contention, then it will be perfectly unnecessary for him to amend Section 2 of the Act of 1922 if it is not a violation of the Treaty. That section says that anything which is inconsistent with the Treaty shall not have the force of law in this country. That does not affect the taking out of the Oath from the Constitution unless it is inconsistent with the Treaty and why put it in? I will go further than that. It has been stated here that this Act is not a violation of the Treaty. I will go very much further to prove that it is a violation of the Treaty. I am going to prove it is an absolute repudiation of the Treaty; it is a denouncement of the Treaty if it becomes law and the Treaty will no longer have any valid or binding effect in this country. If this Bill becomes law we will cease to be here and now members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I will proceed to develop that point. Section 18 of the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland is very clear, definite and specific. It says: "This instrument shall be submitted forthwith by His Majesty's Government for the approval of Parliament and by the Irish signatories to a meeting summoned for the purpose of the members elected to sit in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland, and if approved shall be ratified by the necessary legislation." That Treaty was not binding on this country nor binding upon Great Britain until it was ratified by legislation. What is the legislation to ratify it? The legislation which ratified it is the very legislation with which this Bill is dealing. The only ratification of the Treaty is to be found in Section 2, the section which this Bill hopes to repeal. The section sets out: "The said Constitution shall be construed with reference to the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland set forth in the Second Schedule hereto annexed (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Scheduled Treaty') which are hereby given the force of law, and if any provision of the said Constitution or of any amendment thereof or of any law made thereunder is in any respect repugnant to any of the provisions of the Scheduled Treaty, it shall, to the extent only of such repugnancy, be absolutely void and inoperative and the Parliament and the Executive Council of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) shall respectively pass such further legislation and do all such other things as may be necessary to implement the Scheduled Treaty."
In consequence, if the whole of Section 2 is taken away, not portion of it, then the Treaty has no longer got the force of law in this country. That section is the ratifying section and that statute is the ratifying statute. Repeal that statute and you go back to an unratified Treaty. That is a perfectly plain principle of the construction of statute law. There is a ruling in the case of Surtees and Ellison laid down a long time ago and it has been followed again and again by the most eminent judges, that as soon as the statute is repealed, except as to transactions already passed and done with, it is in the same position as if it never existed. Pass this Bill, make this law, and you will have brought about a state of affairs which will be the same as if Section 2 of the Act of 1922 had never been passed at all. In other words you will have brought about a position of affairs that the Treaty is not ratified and is abrogated. You could have taken no choicer or better way to proceed to denounce the Treaty than you have taken by this measure.
I dare say that the President did not understand that, but the eminent legal authority, the Attorney-General, must obviously have understood that, and, I presume, he endeavoured unsuccessfully to explain to the President what was being done in fact by this measure. If you want to do this in an honest manner—if you are honest and straightforward and above board, if you want to amend the Constitution only, and you believe that it can be done without amending any other Statute, why do you not do it? Why do you not come into this House as straightforward honest men with the courage of your convictions? Why do you go to the country and say one thing, and then come here into the House and say another thing? Why do you produce a Bill like this? Why do you stick to your wretched and impossible argument that this is not a violation of the Treaty?
It is not only a violation of the Treaty but it is an abrogation and a denouncing of the Treaty. If this Bill becomes law, the Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland will have no binding effect. What will be the result? How are we in the Commonwealth of Nations? We are in the Commonwealth of Nations because of the Treaty. It is the Treaty and only the Treaty that put us there. The President said that he had no mandate to do anything to destroy or interfere with the Treaty. That is precisely what he is doing here. He is not only violating the Treaty but he is destroying the Treaty. He is doing the very thing he told this House he had no mandate to do. Is that straight, fair or honourable dealing? How can you expect other countries to be honourable to you or how can you expect to be honourable with other countries if you will not be honest with your own people, if you will not be honest with the Dáil? Why not go the whole hog? Why not say to everybody who can read what is set down in the Treaty: "We are going to destroy this Treaty." Why not say "We are violating this Treaty and we do not care what follows"? That would be the straightforward attitude. Instead of that, you want to break your word, you want to dishonour this country, you want to make this country pledge its word and then sulk away saying "Please, we do not want to do it." You say you do not want to break the Treaty but all the time you are doing it and everybody knows you are doing it. You come to this House with the wretched plea that you are not doing what, in fact, everybody knows you are doing. No argument has been put forward by the President to show that this Bill does not affect the Treaty. I think I can safely claim that not only is this Bill a violation of the Treaty but it is a back-door attempt at destruction of the Treaty. This is the way in which, in their first great measure, Fianna Fáil approaches Ireland and the Irish people.
What will the result of this be? Where will it lead? Wherein is the advantage? What conceivable advantage is to be got from the passage of this measure? We have had no argument put before us to show that if this measure be passed into law it will have the slightest beneficial effect in this State. We have heard, again and again, from the President and others that they will enforce the law as soon as the Oath comes out of the Constitution, that there is a body of opinion which will become loyal to the State and to the Constitution if the Oath be removed. Here, again, we have statements that every person in the State knows to be untrue. You are building upon a false foundation. There is not in this State a considerable body of men, or, indeed, any body of men who do not accept the State at present and who will accept this State and Constitution if the Oath is removed. If there are such people, let us hear who they are. We have asked, again and again, in this House who these phantom people are. Where are you going to find in flesh and blood those people you are endeavouring to make us believe exist but which at best are merely the products of your own imagination? Where are they? Surely, you ought to be able to tell us if they exist. Who are they? To what associations do they belong?
It would be more orderly for the Deputy to address the Chair.
The President, A Chinn Comhairle, has told us that there is a body of men who will be affected by the passage of this Bill. I wish to know from the President where that body of men is to be found and who the men are. The President has never told us that. I challenge the existence of any such body in the country. I know that the bodies which stand for the destruction of this State, for the destruction of the existing institutions of the State, have over and over again stated that they will not be affected in the slightest degree by the abolition of the Oath. They are going on with the purpose which, they say, they have clear in their own minds by the methods which, they say, they have clear in their own minds. They say that the President is not going to make them deviate from the methods by which they hope to achieve their ends. Who are the other people who may be referred to? They are not the leaders of the I.R.A. or Saor Eire. These people are perfectly straightforward. They have stated plainly what their ends are —a workers' republic. Their means are violence. They have not stated that if the Oath is removed they will desist; rather have they stated the opposite—that they will continue their course. If the President thinks that, now that he is in power, these people will fall down and worship him, that they will give up their aims and methods, he is making a great mistake both as to the ability of the men to whom I refer and their determination to carry out their ends by the means they have mentioned. In consequence, the taking of the Oath out of the Constitution, and the violation of the Treaty thereby, can have no useful repercussions on this country. On the other hand, what are the results going to be outside? With the abolition of the Treaty go straight away the rights which we have as members of the Commonwealth of Nations. The results will be very unpleasant, indeed.
In my constituency there are thousands of families that live upon the earnings of what are called harvest-men who go to England and to Scotland as they like, year after year. Let this Bill become law, not merely will it be necessary for every harvest-man going from the West and from the North-West — from Donegal, Mayo, Galway and other counties from which harvest-men go—to get passports here with all the resulting inconvenience, but they will also have to get licences as aliens before they can go to Great Britain. The result will be that families now dependent upon the earnings of harvest-men will be plunged not merely into poverty but into absolute starvation, because the earnings of these migratory labourers in England and Scotland from the main staff upon which these little western households rest. That is one result. I wonder if the Party opposite has ever given that any consideration. Another result that I need not go into at any great length will be that we will lose the advantage which we have now got of a ten per cent. preference, and that we will have the terrible disadvantage of selling in a market where we are extremely unpopular, to say the least. All these economic disadvantages will come upon the country and, while I do not pretend to prophesy, possibly very many more serious economic results may follow. All that risk of damage is being undertaken for no real reason. It is being undertaken by a Party that knows perfectly well that no good result can follow from it here or abroad.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce in the speech which he delivered —a speech of mere rhetoric—said that our duty lay in looking after our own people. Our first duty is to look after our own people. Our first duty is to look after the economic and other interests of our people. The first duty of every Deputy is to see that the real and the true interests of our own people are not wiped away, in order that a certain amount of window dressing may be done by the Party opposite. I know that President de Valera and the Party opposite have been making every effort they can to stir up a feeling of jingoism in this country. Now that they have reached the Government Front Bench they discover that they cannot fulfil the promises they made at the election. They, like every other Government bankrupt of home policy, being found out in home policy, have decided that they will distract the attention of the people at home, and that they will endeavour to concentrate it upon external affairs, by having what President de Valera calls "Another round with England." That is the deliberate policy which they have taken up. It is for that reason and for no other reason —in order that they may hide their own incompetence—that they have endangered the peace of the State and the economic future of the State. They have flung themselves into the arms of those individuals who wish to disturb the peace of the State, and they have embarked upon a piece of external legislation which can have one result, and only one result, economic ruin for the people of this State.
I rather regret having to intervene in this debate, but I do so for several reasons. The first is the method in which this proposal has been made and, secondly, as an Ulster man and as an Irish Nationalist I stand here to oppose this Bill if, in fact, its ultimate object is to prevent the unity of Ireland. Another reason is that I cannot appreciate how the President can maintain his position constitutionally by saying to this House, and thereby to the country, that if this Bill is passed we will still remain in the Commonwealth. That may be due to my cursory knowledge of constitutional law or my cursory knowledge of the meaning of "sovereignty," but the fact remains what is involved is the Treaty. Is it admitted that the Treaty was a bilateral document? If it was a bilateral document, I want to protest as an Irish Nationalist against its abolition by a dishonourable act. I have been associated with Irish Nationalism for 30 years, and I know the inner history of that movement for 40 years. I challenge any man inside or outside this country to say that any of the Irish leaders of the past were ever guilty of dishonouring their bonds either publicly or privately. For that reason, if the Treaty was a bilateral document to which another State was a party— whether under the threat of immediate war or otherwise—if the names of Irishmen were appended to it it implied that they would fulfil their part. As an Irish Nationalist I protest against any act that would suggest that this country would be a party to a dishonourable transaction. I am not going to say that the passing of this measure will mean the foreclosing of the unity of Ireland, but if it does that I appeal to the President, even at this eleventh hour, to drop this Bill and to adopt some other means of achieving his end. If this House passes this measure, and if the result is that it will be impossible for any Irishman hereafter to say that there is such a thing as the Irish nation, every member of this House will be denounced as a traitor to this country and a traitor to the patriots of the past.
The gentlemen at the other side sneer. They may also live to see the day when they will squirm. Do they think that the enacting of this measure is going to bring about Irish unity? Do they think that this Bill is an appeal to the Protestants of Ulster, because I wish to tell the House that for the last thirty years there has been no Irish question: there has only been the Ulster question, and for that reason I would profoundly regret the enactment of this measure if it permanently closed the door against the reunion of this country. Coming to the third proposal that I put before the House, the President has asked Deputies to support this Bill because it does not interfere with the Treaty, thereby implying that this State will still be within the Commonwealth even though this Bill is enacted. I would like to hear from the President how the Free State will remain within the Commonwealth when the Oath is removed.
At the moment I am not on the question of the Oath at all. No Irishman wants to see the Oath there if it can be legitimately taken out. But what does the Commonwealth mean? What does the Imperial Conference mean? What is the status that permits a delegate or delegates representing any State to attend the Imperial Conference? What is the sovereign authority of the Commonwealth? It is a purely voluntary association, composed of a number of States held together by a symbol known in this case as King George the Fifth. If the Oath is removed by this Assembly, I would like to be informed how we can still be within the Commonwealth. If we are honest men, honest to the people we represent, honest to ourselves and to the nations of the world, let us tell the people, if we decide to take this fateful step, that we are outside the Commonwealth, and that this State is an independent Republic.
In my opinion that would be the result of passing this measure. My reasons for saying so are: First, that if the Treaty is a bilateral document the other party to that document should be consulted and asked to improve it in some way that would modify or abolish this cementing clause in it; secondly, that if it is a bilateral document and the document is destroyed, then I say this country and the House should reject the Bill, and not be guilty of any dishonourable act; thirdly, if the Bill is adopted and if we are once and for all outside the Commonwealth, then let us say so.
I am encouraged to speak this evening because I am convinced that, no matter how unreasonable my arguments may be, I will not at least descend to the nonsense spoken by the last Deputy and the Deputy who preceded him. The Deputies on the opposite benches who have spoken this evening have simply indulged in a lot of prophecy as to the terrible evils that will befall this country if this Bill is passed. According to them, nothing good can possibly come out of it. In spite of all their unreasonable arguments, each and every one of them is hoping in his heart that, after all, the Bill will be carried, but as the last Deputy has suggested, if evil comes out of it they will then be able to say "We told you so."
I never said anything of the kind. I simply stated what I considered to be the constitutional position of this State and never referred to evils, direct or indirect.
The Deputy stated distinctly that he did not know if evil would come out of it, but if it did his words were: "Be careful over there." He said that if evil did accrue because of the passing of the Bill, then the House should not pass it, but he could not point out any evil that would accrue. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, who spoke before him, gave the house a lecture on good manners. The Deputy is certainly capable of giving such a lecture. In doing so he prophesied every possible evil that, as a result of the passing of this Bill, would befall the farmers and the migratory labourers of this country. In the manner of Deputy McMenamin, Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney thought he could make a case without naming the evils. As regards good manners, of course this Bill should not be introduced at all by the President. What we should have done was to dress up in tall hats and knee breeches and have gone over to England and said: "Please, sir, may we introduce this measure in the Irish Parliament?" To act otherwise, of course, would be bad manners. Our predecessors set up a high standard of good manners. When they wanted to do anything that might not satisfy English Ministers they first went over and asked: "Please, sir, may we do this?" Having set up that standard of good manners, it is expected, of course, that we should live up to it, but that is not our idea of good manners at all.
I am inclined to believe that even if the President were defeated on this Bill and Deputy Cosgrave came back to office again, the spirit of the country is such that he would have to change his standard of good manners. This kow-towing to everybody across the water who wants to threaten this country with the big stick must finish once and for all. The same kind of threat of the big stick was used by the same men across the water when the Treaty was being passed. We were told then that the North would not budge an inch if the Treaty were passed, that it would break up the Free State by keeping certain counties out of it, the result of which would damn this State in a short time. We were told, too, that certain English politicians across the water would do everything they could to boycott Irish produce in the English market if the Treaty were passed. The Treaty was passed, and yet we found that these same English politicians were glad to try and hold the market they had in the Free State even though they had passed a Treaty which to a certain extent they did not want.
The English are very glad of their market here despite the threats and the prophecies of certain English politicians who were at that time admired and adored, just as they are admired and adored by Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney to-day. The same threats were made then by English politicians who were admired and adored by Deputy MacDermot who has come over here now. I would advise the Deputy to read a few books on Irish history before he prepares his next case as to the sovereignty of the people of this country. He may think that he has given sufficient proof of hisbona fides here as an Irishman. If he were so interested in the Treaty, or in our remaining in the British Empire, there was a time when the position with regard to the Treaty was being jeopardised by armed forces in the country and when Deputy MacDermot, who was then eligible for military service, did not come over from Paris to join up in the Free State Army to fight for the Treaty or for our place in the British Empire. But he comes back now fresh from foreign lands to tell the Irish people that he has got a mandate to keep us in the British Empire. I do not know where he got the mandate.
This whole thing revolves round the question: where did Fianna Fáil get the mandate to take the Oath out of the Treaty? If we did not get a mandate to the satisfaction of the Deputies opposite, we at least got as good a mandate to take the Oath out of the Constitution as they got to take the Referendum out of the Constitution or as they got to bring off the boundary betrayal, to pay the land annuities to England or to do the many other things they did which, for the sake of good feeling, it is just as well for me not to mention now. I submit that the President has as good a mandate to take the course that he is taking now as Deputy MacDermot and those other Deputies have for opposing it.
There has been a certain bitterness and divided feeling in this country for a number of years. I remember that a few years ago a Deputy, who now sits on the Opposition side and was then a parliamentary secretary, made a speech here asking Fianna Fáil to state on what common ground they were prepared to meet the Government at that time; on what common ground they could have unity in this country. As soon as Fianna Fáil came into power they stated the common ground.
I appeal to the Deputy who, then, made that speech—Deputy Bourke— and to others who are looking for the Republic in the Cumann na nGaedheal ranks, such as Deputy MacEoin, to accept this as the common ground for Irish unity, and not to be led away by the spokesmen of the Unionists, who, to-day, can afford to sit idle. There is not a word from the leaders of the Unionists in this House to-day; not a word from the outpost England had here—the outpost she once thought would be her only outpost here. They do not need to make any speeches. The speeches are made more ably by Deputy Cosgrave, Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, Deputy MacDermot, and others. Those who want the connection with England need not worry now, or exert themselves—they have other men to fight their battles, and I submit that Deputy Cosgrave and the others who are making these speeches to-day are absolutely insincere about the welfare of this country. The only reason for the attitude they have taken up is that they are afraid the ghosts of the past ten years will continue to haunt them, if this Bill is passed into law. They are afraid of what will come, in the future, to this country when the Irish people assert themselves and that, if the Bill is passed into law, even better relations will exist between Ireland and her best market, and between England and her best market, on the other hand. With these good conditions prevailing, when this Bill is passed into law, all their evil prophecies of the past ten years will come to be seen in their true light by the Irish people, and it is that, rather than seeing this country succeed, that is responsible for the attitude that the Deputies in Opposition have taken up to-day.
I could well imagine the very same type of speech being made when the Act of Union was being passed, as have been made to-day by Deputy Cosgrave and other Deputies. The economic welfare of Ireland, at that time, demanded that the Act of Union should be passed—that was the argument that was put forward by some of the men who tried to pass it and who succeeded, and the very same arguments are being put forward to-day against the passage of this Bill. I would appeal to certain Deputies opposite who have given an indication for a number of years that they do want some common ground on which the Irish people could stand, to realise that they have now that common ground in this measure, and we should at least have a certain amount of unity in this House and not to continue the playacting started by the Cumann na nGaedheal members.
The idea of co-equality and its value has been explained to us at length by many Deputies. Deputy O'Higgins' idea of co-equality is that if the members of the British Parliament take an oath of allegiance to a certain man, we should take the same oath of allegiance here, and he argued that if they did not continue to take it in the British House of Commons—it being the only link that kept the Commonwealth together—the Commonwealth would not exist any longer. What would happen to us if in those circumstances the Commonwealth went out of existence? It is possible that, at some time in the future, other countries abroad would decide not to take that oath of allegiance to a certain man, and therefore the Commonwealth will be broken up. Will we have to go off the gold standard of the oath of allegiance then, as we had to go off the gold standard when England decided to abandon it? The idea of co-equality held by Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy O'Higgins is that whatever they do in England we have to do it here too, and whatever they cease doing in England we must cease doing it here.
Our idea of co-equality is that we are independent, to a great extent, and we will do what is best for ourselves, and it is because that is our idea that we, on this side, propose to go ahead with this measure, and I think that some of the Deputies I see on the opposite side now, who were, in the past, very much associated with the national movement, do realise that this is a step forward nationally towards uniting the Irish forces here, and that, with greater unity of the Irish forces here, you will have greater friendship and greater admiration across the water for the Irish people. Let them not be afraid that the Irish farmer will lose his place in the British market. When certain tariffs were imposed against certain products from across the water, you had no great upheaval against Irish goods in England, but you had English travellers making a bigger effort than ever before to hold their grip on the commercial life of this State, and you will have English firms and travellers telling all their Irish dealers here to continue to trade with the English firms, if this Bill is passed. You will probably have, as you had after certain other tariffs were imposed before, English firms trying to come over here to take sites and to start industries in this country. Is it not just as likely, since England, we are told, is a business country, and her people hard-headed business men, that they will try to hold on to their market here, and even to increase their markets as that they will try to antagonise the Irish people by trying to keep them out of the English market, because the value of their market here is not very much behind the value of the English market to us. These threats about retaliation in the British market are a scare created by Cumann na nGaedheal and followed by certain English statesmen, and we hear more about that scare from those members of Cumann na nGaedheal who prate about being good Irishmen, and about national honour, than we hear from English statesmen across the water.
I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.