Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill, 1932—Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Debate resumed on the following amendment:—
"To delete all words after the word ‘That' and substitute the words ‘believing that the rights and liberties and the economic freedom and privileges assured to the people by the Treaty of 1921 are placed in jeopardy by this 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.'"—(Deputy Cosgrave).

We were told by the President that the justification for the introduction of this measure is to be found in the manifesto issued by the Fianna Fáil Party to the electors before the last General Election, and he quoted for us the items in that document upon which his case is founded. The item relating to the removal of the Oath reads: "To remove the Article of the Constitution which makes the signing of the Oath of Allegiance obligatory on members entering the Dáil." Added to that is a note: "This article is not required by the Treaty." The other item which the President quoted had reference to the international relations between this State and other Governments and it is in the following terms: "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."

Both those items in the Fianna Fáil election manifesto are vitally affected by the measure before the House. That dealing with the international relations of this State is of no less importance to the people whom we represent than is the one dealing with the Oath. In my opinion the maintenance of friendly relations with other countries, and particularly those comprising the British Commonwealth of Nations, is a matter of transcending importance to the peace and prosperity of the Irish Free State. President de Valera has convinced himself, at any rate, that he secured at the last General Election a mandate for the removal of Article 17 of the Constitution. So far as I am concerned I would welcome such an amendment in the declaration to which we are called upon to subscribe before taking our seats in this Assembly as would bring it more in consonance with the circumstances and conditions of the times in which we live, circumstances totally different from those existing a decade ago when the Treaty signed in London was ratified by the elected representatives of the Irish people. If President de Valera can do that without violation of our Treaty obligations then I, for one, will stand behind him.

This Bill certainly does not fulfil those conditions. Let me point out one extraordinary feature about the two items which the President quoted from the Fianna Fáil manifesto. In the one referring to international relations there is a definite pledge given that the Fianna Fáil Party if returned in the majority will not exceed their mandate. No such pledge was given in regard to the steps proposed to be taken in order to remove the Oath. I think it will be in the memory of everyone who went through the election campaign that the electors of the Free State were assured from every Fianna Fáil platform that the Oath was not mandatory in the Treaty and hence, being purely a domestic matter, its removal could be accomplished by an Act of this House similar to those Constitution Amendment Acts which the late Government carried through. What we have before us to-day is something very different, something more far-reaching, something—shall I say—more subtle than all those that have gone before.

This is not a Bill to remove the Oath. In my opinion this is a Bill the main object of which is to nullify the Treaty. It proposes to repeal Section 2 of the Constitution Act of 1922, which is really the operative section of the Act which implements the Treaty. When that section is gone, with it goes the Treaty. I am only an ordinary layman, unversed in the law, and I will ask the legal gentlemen who, I hope, will follow me in this debate, the legal advisers of the Government, to say whether or not my interpretation of this Bill is correct.

My opposition to this Bill is not entirely based upon a strict interpretation of the law. I view the situation as an ordinary citizen of the State who believes that at all times those charged with the administration of our affairs should fulfil in the spirit and in the letter their international obligations and honour the country's bargain.

In my opinion this measure is illogical and dishonourable. I ask Deputies to bring their minds back to what happened here ten years ago, in December, 1921, and January, 1922. This subject of the Oath in the Treaty was then debated at successive sittings of the Dáil. Ireland was then absolutely and completely under the control of the Sinn Féin Party, under the leadership and presidency of President de Valera. What was the case then made by those who opposed the ratification of the Treaty? Many of the men who took part in those debates of ten years ago are in this House to-day. What was their attitude then? Was it not their case that the Oath was mandatory in the Treaty? At that time the Sinn Féin Party symbolised and spoke for a united Ireland. What happened then? The Oath was held then by those who introduced this Bill to be mandatory in the Treaty. In furthering that contention they split the Sinn Féin Party in twain and destroyed the unity of the country. The Treaty which was then discussed is the Treaty that is in operation to-day. Not one comma has been changed. I ask how comes it that in 1922 they interpreted the Oath in the Treaty as being mandatory, and now in 1932 they tell us it is not mandatory? I ask the lawyers who have not yet spoken, but who have advised the Government on this matter, to give us the benefit of their legal knowledge and to tell us if my interpretation is not right.

There is another aspect of the case. I am an Ulster man and proud of it. I fear for the disastrous consequences to my fellow-Nationalists in the Six Counties that will follow upon the passage of this measure. By this enactment we bang and lock the door on their emancipation, and we throw the key away. We stereotype the Border for all time. Our brother Nationalists cannot get out, and, if this Bill is passed, we cannot get in to succour them. As to the minority in Southern Ireland, who, so far as I know, and so far as the country knows, has not a spokesman in this House, can we guarantee what their action will be if the Bill is passed? For that minority we sacrificed 400,000 Nationalists in the Six Counties, where they are penned up, Nationalists whose ancestors wrote their names large in the pages of Irish history, and in the histories of other countries. For almost 800 years they fought consistently, perseveringly, aye, gallantly, to preserve the traditions and the freedom of a united Ireland. No amount of legal quibbling or special pleading will convince me that what we are engaged upon to-day is either honourable or patriotic. After all you have heard in the course of this debate on the economic side of the question, and not wishing to prolong the discussion unduly, I shall not dwell long on that aspect of it. But, if I did, I would be fully justified in staking my entire argument against this measure on the grounds of the disastrous economic effects it would have on the residents of the Twenty-Six Counties. Perhaps I am wrong in not stressing that point of view, because I am here as a direct representative of the class that is going to be hit if there is to be retaliation after this measure is passed. The economic effects of this measure must be obvious to all of us.

When discussing this aspect of it people say that Great Britain will put on prohibitive import duties on our surplus exports. Great Britain may not do anything of the sort, but that there will be a diminution in our exports, with consequent loss to this country, there is not a shadow of doubt. There are other ways of excluding our produce from the British market besides putting on prohibitive import duties. That may be regarded as the mere mercenary side of this Bill. I do not want to stress it. I prefer to keep this debate on a much higher plane.

For over 700 years of persecution, confiscation, religious and civil disabilities, our race held tenaciously to two great characteristics, and held them unsullied and unimpaired. What are they? Our Faith and our honour. Perfidious Albion, as she was rightly dubbed, tested our faith and our honour by every means that subtle brains could devise. Both withstood the acid test. In one of his Notes to Mr. Thomas, President de Valera hinted at Britain's repeated breaches of faith with this country in the past. So far as I am aware—and I think I can speak truthfully for every person in this country—there has been no breach of faith by Great Britain since the Treaty was signed ten years ago. What of the future? Everything points to the fact that the relations existing between nations to-day preclude the possibility of a renewal of the tactics of the past by Great Britain towards this country. Most of us Irish Nationalists admit the perfidy of England in the past. She was guilty of bad faith towards this country when she was able to get away with it. What put hatred in the hearts of Irishmen against England? Was it her domination here? Was it her confiscation or persecution? No. What we hated most in England was her unfaithfulness and her failure to honour her bond in dealing with this weaker nation. Are we in 1932 by this Bill going to adopt the tactics which for centuries we condemned on the part of England? I say that it would be a dishonourable thing and a disgrace to this country if we met the perfidy of the past with perfidy in the future. Let me conclude with a quotation from a great soldier and a great lover of freedom. What he said to the South Africans is equally applicable in Ireland to-day. I will read for you the words of General Botha:—"It may be the will of God that this nation shall be free and independent, but I do not know that anything will ever convince me that it is the will of God that that should come about by trickery and dishonour."

This word "honour" has been bandied about during this debate until one does not know exactly what is the meaning of the word "honour." We are supposed, according to the Opposition, to be doing something dishonourable if we attempt to change one iota of that thing called the Constitution. If we put our finger on one Article of that Constitution with the intention of changing it for the betterment of this country— for the preservation of peace and order—we are told "Thus far shall you go and no farther." We are told that in spite of the fact that the Opposition, when they were on the Government Benches changed that same Constitution seventeen times. We are not allowed, in order to preserve the peace of this country, to come along and say, "We shall change the Constitution still another time." We are told that we are doing something dishonourable when we attempt to do what has already been done—namely, to change the Constitution of the Free State. How can it be held that there was any honourable agreement in respect of the Treaty when it was stated by the members of the Opposition, when members of the Government, that that Treaty was arrived at under the threat of immediate and terrible war? Was there anything honourable in that? Are we supposed at this stage—in 1932, as Deputy O'Hanlon says—to take off our hats and honour the people who made that "honourable bargain" when they said to this poor, unfortunate country, "You must take and give certain things under the threat of immediate and terrible war." We may, like Falstaff, ask "What is that word, honour?"

Deputy O'Hanlon wept at the possible effects of this Bill on our fellow-Nationalists of the Six Counties. I would point out to Deputy O'Hanlon and the other Deputies that those Nationalists of the Six Counties were abandoned and that with their abandonment went Article 12 of the Treaty, which was one of the principal planks in the platform of Deputy Cosgrave and company when they advocated the acceptance of the Treaty. That Article 12 of the Treaty was going to make it possible for all those Nationalists who wanted to vote themselves from under the domination of the Northern Parliament to join with their fellow-Nationalists in the Twenty-Six Counties. Article 12 of the Treaty disappeared and with it disappeared all those Nationalists of the Six Counties. Deputy Cosgrave, when asked about it afterwards, said that they had been sold, but that he had made a damn good bargain. Deputy O'Hanlon should remind Deputy Blythe and Deputy Cosgrave that not alone was the Constitution changed seventeen times by them, but they also changed the Treaty. Although Deputy O'Hanlon said it was the same Treaty, it is not the same Treaty as was signed in 1921.

It is very strange that when we make an attempt to do anything in regard to the changing of the Constitution, or in regard to the changing of the Treaty, there is an immediate howl set up by everybody opposed to us. We are told that all sorts of calamities will happen as a result of our action. But no calamities happened during the last ten years when, bit by bit and inch by inch, certain rights of the people of Ireland were given away. Bit by bit and inch by inch these rights were sold. If they were not sold for cash, they were sold for kind. We are only hearing now, in 1932, of some of the agreements that were arrived at and that were beautifully shelved in some Government pigeonhole and kept there for eight long years with cobwebs on them. We are only hearing about these things now. Immediately we try to do anything to advance this country one step on the road to freedom there is uproar. Everybody starts to tell Fianna Fáil and Republicans of all shades that we are going to plunge this country into another war with England. It is very strange that one simple little change in the Constitution should bring Press and public and the Opposition down on Fianna Fáil. How is it that when any attempt is made to advance the country on the road to freedom everybody is preaching and shouting and writing about what the consequences will be for the people? It is very singular that if you put a finger on John Bull's rights the Opposition tell us what is going to happen to the country. I ask the members of the Opposition to remember that when they used the Constitution and abused the Constitution in order to have seventeen Coercion Acts passed here they did not gain anything material by doing so. They are in Opposition to-day as a result of that. We are taking steps, in spite of the Opposition we are up against, to advance the country on the road to freedom. We are using this agreement as a stepping-stone to freedom—a thing that was talked about by Deputy Blythe and company. We intend to do that as far as we can in spite of the Opposition and in spite of all the help they may get from John Bull.

The Deputy who has just sat down put, a little more grossly, perhaps, than his leader, the fundamental case for this Bill and showed the confusion on which it rests. He equated this amendment of the Constitution to several other amendments of the Constitution. I think he mentioned seventeen. He put them all on the same footing. Everybody who has listened to this debate, or who has taken an interest in this question so far as it affects the country, knows perfectly well that it is not because this Bill proposes to amend the Constitution that it is being opposed. It is being opposed because, as an amendment to the Constitution, it breaks the Treaty.

There are any number of clauses in the Constitution that have no reference, directly or indirectly, to the Treaty that can be changed, altered, and dropped without affecting the Treaty one way or another. But, when we see removed from the Constitution an Article of the Treaty, then I suggest that is a matter on an entirely different footing. We may be thankful, at least, and the members of all the Parties may be thankful, that the subtlety of the President did not induce him to entitle this Bill "a Bill for the Confirmation of the Treaty." That would be in keeping with a great deal of the argument that was put forward. Deputy O'Higgins and Deputy O'Hanlon put the question very clearly: that leaving the legal technicalities aside, is there any sane man, is there any court of international law, that could decide that the Article of the Treaty that practically caused the breakdown of the negotiations in London when the Treaty was being negotiated, that was the cause, or one of the alleged causes, of civil war in this country, an Article of the Treaty which those who signed the Treaty on both sides and those who opposed the Treaty even by force of arms in this country, held to be mandatory, was not mandatory? Are we to be seriously told that all that trouble and all that opposition was for the form of an oath which nobody need take?

I know the other argument. The argument is: no matter what was there in 1921, it is not there now. Listening to the President yesterday, it was exceedingly difficult to tell on which particular foot he was standing. If we have given away, as the last speaker suggested, such a great deal of Irish freedom in the last ten years, how is it possible now to advance without a single obstacle and without a single fear of any ill consequences by peaceful means to a republic? If we have given away such a lot, if during our term as the Government of this country there has not been such a tremendous advance in our position, an advance that was never, during those ten years recognised, how is it that it can be claimed to-day that we can have a peaceful advance to a republic? Then we are told that, in virtue of the position that we are in now, and of the status that we now hold, we can repudiate this Article of the Treaty without a breach of the Treaty. This Bill is meant to do it, or, at least, to be quite accurate, to remove the necessity of this Oath being taken by members elected to this Dáil and by members elected to the Seanad without violating the Treaty. That, at least, is acknowledged to be the purpose of the Bill. This is not anything that is by implication in the Treaty. It is down in black and white. It is a separate Article in the Treaty, and everybody knows that it was one of the Articles on which there was the biggest difference of opinion between ehe signatories to the Treaty on both sides until a final conclusion was come to.

I ask have Deputies given thought to the extraordinary lengths to which the argument of the President would lead? It does not affect merely this Oath. If the President's argument is true, and if this Bill is implemented, as it can be henceforth in other ways without reference to the Treaty, then not merely this particular Article can go without violating the Treaty, but also other changes can be made that will remove the King as being a member of the Oireachtas and the power of the Governor-General so far as the signing of Bills is concerned. All that could certainly be done, and are we still to be told that it would not be a violation of the Treaty? That is quite on a par with, and has as much validity as, the argument that we listened to yesterday. We are told now, because that is the force of the argument, that from the instrument whose main purpose was to see how means could be found by which we could co-operate with the other Dominions, with the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, every connecting link can be removed, and yet the Treaty stands. I suggest that is not common sense, nor would it commend itself to lawyers who are not committed one way or another, nor could it stand for a moment in any international court of law.

The argument was put up to us, I think, by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, can we deny that we have the power to pass this Bill? We have never questioned the power of this Parliament to pass this or any other Bill, or to repudiate the Treaty if it wishes, but I suggest that it is no argument to say that because we have that power you can do it and leave the Treaty intact. You can do it. You can violate the Treaty by passing this Bill, and that is the particular objection that we have to it. The Treaty may be changed certainly, but we suggest that the proper way to bring about a change is the means suggested in the amendment: that is by negotiation. It is certainly a new conception of international relations that when there is a solemn agreement of this kind entered into, when there is a deliberate effort made to remove one Article—one of the most important Articles apparently, as it was at the time, of that particular agreement—to say that it can be removed without any reference to the other side, and yet that the Treaty stands.

We know perfectly well that the position of this country can be advanced. We claim that we have done that to a large extent in the last ten years, but we have not done so by the use of the particular method of the Government and if we had tried this particular method it would have failed.

So far as our people are concerned we have brought them farther along the road towards real freedom from the position of 1922 than anything in this Bill can do, but we have done it by negotiation. We have done it with the goodwill of the people with whom we were negotiating. We have done it with the respect and the goodwill of the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We did not go cap in hand which seems to be the President's method of what negotiations involve. I have often heard regret expressed that the President did not go over to negotiate the Treaty. If that is his idea of how negotiations are entered I cannot share that regret. We were able to bring forward this country so that in the last ten years even the very formal trappings of anything like subordination have disappeared. In 1922 there were some evidences of that formal subordination, but as many at the time pointed out that these were not real dangers, and everything that has occurred in the last ten years has shown that the fears then expressed by those opposed to the Treaty were entirely unfounded. The position in which the President is to-day and the arguments which he used yesterday are absolute proof of the truth of those who said the fears expressed in 1922 were groundless.

We, as I say, advanced taking away any trappings, any traces of any subordination that were still left, but there is still the Treaty standing and that Treaty is not in any sense now a question of subordination. We are bound by it until we repudiate it. England is equally bound by it, and I put it to you, sir, and through you to the people, if England attempted anything even approaching this in the last ten years, if she attempted anything that went one quarter the way towards repudiation of portion of the Treaty as we are proposing to do now what would have been the attitude of every Party in this country? We know perfectly well that we have always denied her right to interfere with that Treaty. Are we now going to claim the right to change it unilaterally? Repudiate it we can. That is the position. But let us be quite clear that it is repudiation of the Treaty that we are up against now.

That is so far as that particular argument is concerned. The President yesterday mentioned other things. Why is the Bill cast in the particular form in which it is cast? Why as I think Deputy Dillon asked yesterday, is there this to the people of Ireland rather sudden inclusion in the Bill of Sections 2 and 3? Is not the answer perfectly plain? Every opportunity was to be denied to the people of Ireland—I am not saying anything about the people of England—of testing in the highest court in this country whether the Oath is still an effective portion of the Treaty. That was the reason for the insertion of Sections 2 and 3.

The President put forward another reason yesterday, when he said he wanted to bring this Treaty into the position of other Treaties. Why has he not done that? If that was the primary intention of introducing Sections 2 and 3, why has he not done it? Why is the Treaty still scheduled as Schedule 2 in the Constitution Act? Why, if that was the motive of the President, is it still given that privileged position? It is not in the position of any other Treaty—it has, at least, the honour of being scheduled in the Constitution. It is merely made inoperative, so far as our law is concerned. We have never denied the fullest competence of this Oireachtas to make breaches in the Treaty; to violate the Treaty; to repudiate the Treaty, if it wills, but we suggest that the Oireachtas ought to face up to the fact, and do it openly and squarely. These particular Clauses 2 and 3 enable you not merely to repudiate Article 4 in the Treaty, but it enables you, as you would say, "legally" to do away, also, with every other Article; in the morning, to set up your Republic here. If the people of Ireland wish that, certainly, you can, but do not pretend that you can legally set up a Republic here and that the Treaty with Great Britain still stands.

I suggest that there was a great deal in what some of the Deputies said here, that this was not straight dealing not only with England, but with the Irish people, and not honourable. We object to the whole method. We think that this method of removing what many find an objectionable Clause in the Treaty, what many people belonging to every party in the country, may find an objectionable Clause, because it is calculated to bring us the maximum amount of trouble and dishonour and the minimum amount of good, we hold that this particular method of dealing with this subject is not fair dealing with the people of Ireland. We think that it is treating the people of Ireland with the minimum of respect, and the suggestion made from various quarters, that the full implications and consequences of this Act should not be debated, should not be put before the people of Ireland, is unworthy in a deliberative Assembly, and is a course that could not for a moment be entertained by any Party or by any Deputy who has a sense of duty to his constituents, and to the people of Ireland. Every effort was made to leave the people of Ireland in complete doubt as to where they stand at the present moment. It has been asked if we are still members of the Commonwealth of Nations, once this Act is passed, and I say that if we are, it does not depend on us whether we are or not. We will have taken a step that violates the Treaty that makes us a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It may be that the settled policy of the people of this country is to get out of that Commonwealth. They are perfectly entitled to do so, but let them do it openly and squarely.

We have been asked to keep silence and not to embarrass the Government. We have not embarrassed them. We have practically been silent. We have not objected to this Government trying to get the Oath removed, but we do object to the method of trying to do it, and we object to their involving this country in what the country was not asked to face up to, in the recent or the two previous elections. The Irish people were assured that no trouble was anticipated from Great Britain. That may be so, but there is certainly objection that we are abandoning the normal practice, either to face up, as I say, to repudiating your Treaty, or else enter into negotiation with the other side. I suggest there is no midway. We are trying really to repudiate, and not to accept the responsibility of repudiation.

Furthermore, in this Bill before us, this Dáil and the people of the country are asked to take a step which, to my mind, is almost an irrevocable step. There is no going back; I greatly fear that there can be no going back, even if the country wants it. There is very little chance of going back from the position now proposed, and I suggest that that was not before the people when the recent election took place. Everybody who was through that election knows perfectly well what was the main victory-winning cry of Fianna Fáil. Their slogan was "Give Fianna Fáil a chance!" Examine that and see what it means, what it meant to any ordinary voter in the country. It meant this: "That Government is in power for ten years; they say so and so and they say they cannot do so and so. Give us a chance and we will see whether we can do it." I suggest that when the people were asked to do that, there was always the implication that if, at any time, the people were convinced of the unwisdom of that policy, they could go back on it. But there is very little chance of going back on this, if the people of Ireland, by experience or otherwise, should decide that this particular Act is unwise and unworthy and to the worst interests of the nation, nationally, spiritually and materially. There is no chance. What does "Give Fianna Fáil a chance" mean?—a chance for what? It meant a chance to bring through their programme; a chance to get out of paying the Land Annuities; a chance to put into operation immediately their plan for giving work to every man, woman and child in the country; their plan for wholesale derating.

They got their chance for these things, and the removal of the Oath is one of them, but it was only one of the considerations, and when we, and other speakers, tried to bring to the minds of the people of the country, that there was a serious risk, so far as the Treaty position was concerned, we were told that we were dragging a red herring across the tracks, and wanted to revive old memories about the Treaty, which, we were told, was no longer in question. We were told that we were only trying to shut the people's eyes to the real economic problems they had to face, and yet, to-day, we are faced with this Bill, and this country is faced with the decision which that Party opposite, with their majority—I think the President said that he had a majority in this House, and I do not dispute it, because little incidents such as that which happened at the beginning of yesterday's Dáil, may happen, but not in serious matters—can force through. I quite admit that they can do so, but once it is forced through, there is no going back. "Give Fianna Fáil a chance" now means, not a chance to the people to reverse their policy, and I suggest that that was not the way the people read that great and victorious slogan. You are playing with fire here, at home, and abroad, and especially at home. I am not at all going to question the competency of the majority of this House to pass this Bill. They can pass it, and I do not wish to raise any question even on the so-called mandate. In a modern election, I find it extremely difficult to know how anybody can arrive at what the mandate is. What I do know is, that the people who voted, mistakenly or not, for Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party—I put them both in the same box again—took a risk, and now the risk is proving true. I do not think there was a mandate. I do not think that what we are engaged in now was ever really put before the people—a real breach of that international agreement, reached in 1921.

Whom does this satisfy? We are told it will bring internal peace; but will it do anything of the kind? Quite characteristically, I admit, coming from those benches, from the Party which has always attached more importance to symbols than to realities, it is quite logical that here, now, they attach more importance to the symbol of a symbol, than they do to the symbol itself.

What is this Oath? A symbol of our connection with the British Commonwealth of Nations, a symbol of our acknowledging the Crown as the connecting link, as it was put at one of the Imperial Conferences, the symbol of their free unity in the British Commonwealth of Nations. The Oath is but a symbol of that symbol. The symbol of the symbol must go, but the symbol itself remains. The President himself was very careful to avoid a pronouncement in that respect. He anticipates, of course, no trouble. But can he speak with any authority? Does he tell the House seriously that the extreme element in this country, that the element that has refused to acknowledge our institutions, because they were, as they put it in their loose fashion, Imperialistic, I suppose they would call it—are they now going to be satisfied with this because the symbol of the symbol is removed? Will they accept the symbol itself? The President is going to have an election after this to what he calls a free assembly that all can enter because this Oath is removed, an assembly called together by the representative of the King. He is asking those who, because of their Republican principles, stood out and would not enter this Dáil because of the symbol of the symbol—he is asking them to acknowledge the symbol itself. Are they going to accept this Oireachtas called together by the representative of the King, an Oireachtas of which the King himself is a member? Is this for them if they are honest in their protestations—and I take it for granted they are—is this for them a free assembly? Merely because the acknowledgement in words is removed, they can swallow the reality of the symbol. That is certainly a strange doctrine. Has the President consulted any of these people? We know, as has been pointed out to the House, that certain of those people, those apparently for whom this Bill is catering, have stated that they will have nothing to do with such an assembly, Oath or no Oath. But apparently the President has other information. It may be that there are members of some of these institutions, or individuals who will go up for election to this Oireachtas once the Oath is removed. But I am taking the organisations as a whole. What authority has the President to speak for them? How can be claim that this assembly is any more a free assembly, in the sense of the word in which he speaks, than the present assembly which is now sitting? Is there any reality in it at all?

Yesterday Deputy MacDermot confessed his disappointment with the answer of the President to his amendment. At least we ought to have learned one thing in this assembly: the President can be clear on occasions. But answering a question in this assembly is not the occasion on which he is clearest. A direct question of that kind does not bring a direct and clear answer from the President. You need only read the public Press. He may refuse to give his policy to the Dáil, but he does not refuse to give it to the people of other countries. He does not refuse to broadcast it. He does not refuse even to give it to Mr. Thomas, so far as we can read his implications.

We know perfectly well that the removal of the Oath is only the first step. It is an irrevocable step in many ways. It is an irrevocable step in this sense that there will be no opportunity for the Irish people to go back on it. It is also a step that will lead us to others more serious still. Will the pretence be kept up that we are not breaking the Treaty? What are the other demands that are going to be put before the country? Is it going to be a Republic for the Twenty-Six Counties or for the Thirty-Two Counties? Surely the people of Ireland, before they take such an important step as this, are entitled to know that. Is he going before the country with the policy that a Republic for the Thirty-Two Counties is going to be declared, involving the annexation of the six that are in the northeast?

But you are asked to wait and see. That particular method of solving difficulties was tried before. I wonder whether it was a great success or whether it will be any more a success now than it was then. This is the first big step. Deputy MacDermot need have no doubt that that policy means and is conceived to mean the breaking off of any kind of connection with the British Commonwealth of Nations. That may or may not be the desire of the people of Ireland, but it is idle to shut our eyes to the fact that that is the significance of the step we are now taking. We have had the cry of domestic peace here. We have been told that we had peace in the last six or seven weeks. Why should anybody object who is an extremist, who wants by force of arms to upset this settled Constitution in this country—why should anybody object to the present regime? May I make a slight analogy? A man who has £100 a year can live at the rate of £5,000 a year for a week and if he is clever a little longer. But it is not always looked on as good finance to adopt that particular policy. Is not that what we are doing so far as the peace of this country is concerned? At the present moment we have peace; the future is in the realm of prophecy.

I suggest that it is the business of any responsible Government to face up to the issues that are likely to occur and to make the proper provision. What we are anxious to know in that connection, as it is put forward as one of the arguments in favour of this Bill that it will secure peace immediately, is how long will it secure that peace, how long is the I.R.A. going to allow the majority of the ordinary people of this country to decide the future of this country? To that, we have no answer. Why should any organisation that is given a free hand to develop as it likes for the next six months or twelve months—I do not know how long the period is that they are going to have a free hand—take steps against a Government of that kind when they know that the mere flow of time will give the whole thing into their hands? Domestic peace! Why is it that the interests of the majority of the people of this country must always be sacrificed to the determination—not the interests—of a small minority—not even represented apparently by that particular Party—with guns in their hands? I suggest that it is not internal peace and that this Bill is not going to secure it—it is at best a short armed truce. As I said before, the people for whom this Bill is professedly made to cater have made their attitude perfectly clear. To them the removal of the Oath means practically nothing. I think there is one thing, at all events, and the form of the Bill makes it quite clear what is aimed at. If the Bill had been as Deputy Dillon suggested yesterday limited merely to the removal of a clause in the Constitution dust might have been thrown in the eyes of the people. There were a large number of people in this country as there will be in other countries, anxious to solace themselves that no trouble was coming, no breach of the Treaty. If they were anxious to believe that, I question whether there are many people who having read this Bill and seeing what is involved in it are under any delusion at the present moment as to what the purpose is. It is to "put the Treaty where it ought to be put." We know where the President thinks it ought to be put. We know perfectly well, and I will grant him that it does to a large extent put the Treaty where he thinks it ought to be put. But that was not what was put before the people of this country, or what the President pretended in the speech by which he introduced this Bill. It is a Bill certainly that did not require much drafting—four clauses, all delete, delete. Why is the Treaty itself not deleted? For no other purpose except to throw dust in the eyes of the people of Ireland. It was felt that it would be too great a shock if that were done and if the real issues were put more clearly before the people. The purpose must be perfectly clear to anybody and it is idle to pretend that the Treaty is stillintacta so to speak. I think that the people of Ireland deserve better treatment than this from a Party that claims to have the majority of the votes in this House. They certainly can make that particular claim and with justice the people should be told where they are going and whither all this is tending. Not a word of that! On the contrary, every effort is made to obscure the real issues.

Reference has been made to the Statute of Westminster. There is nothing that this House can do to-day that it could not have done three years ago. The Statute of Westminster gives us no power which we ever acknowledged to do anything that we could not do before. On this side of the House—I cannot speak for those on the other side—we never pretended that the authority of this Oireachtas was derived from any Act in Westminster. We held that it was derived from the decision of the people of this country —the people of this country included in that the Treaty. The Statute of Westminster may have effect as far as the other Dominions are concerned. We never claimed that any Act of any British Parliament was the basis of the liberties of the people of this country and of the liberties that we are now enjoying. We refused it on national grounds. We have never acknowledged that and it is a very dangerous principle for any party to base its policy upon. If an Act of the Westminster Parliament is to be looked upon as in any way the foundation of our liberties, it is an Act, of course, of the Westminster Parliament and it can be repealed as well as passed. Our attitude has always been that that does not affect us. Our position is based on the Acts of this Parliament. We are bound by a Treaty. So are various other countries. We think that Treaty has either to be honoured or repudiated, but you cannot honour and repudiate it in the same mouthful. That issue has been put by various speakers who spoke from this Party, and I think from every other Party who spoke yesterday except the Fianna Fáil Party. One Party has been singularly silent. It may have no views. It may have its mandate to do what it is going to do. It is a matter for itself, but I do not think it interests anybody in the country whether they vote for or against this Bill except as regards the fate of the Bill.

I do not know what mandate they sought from the country, but from a perusal of their speeches and election literature, I thought they were in favour of the removal of the Oath by negotiation. I thought that was their line. I may be wrong. If that was their line, I do not expect them to support our amendment. So far as the exchanges of views between the two Governments are concerned, the President said that he did not anticipate any trouble so far as England was concerned. I think he made a statement of that kind, not in the Dáil but to the Press, to the country, to the world. If he wanted to fail in a peaceful settlement of the question, he could not have gone about it better than he did. He insured that he would exclude the possibility of a peaceful settlement. Not being anxious to deny the ability of the Cabinet or the President, I take it for granted that they wanted to fail. I take it for granted they wanted no peaceful settlement of the question. They adopted a particular action and they wanted only one result—failure. I at least pay this tribute to their ability, that they did not want to succeed. When there is not in the instrument any power that one side can change the instrument, if the instrument can only be changed in honour by agreements between the two sides, I take it for granted they wanted failure.

Nationally, economically, spiritually or politically, Ireland has nothing to gain by this Bill or this procedure. The removal of the Oath is one thing. The method adopted here is calculated to bring us the biggest amount of disadvantage, even so far as the procedure for the removal of the Oath is concerned. There are countries in Europe much less free than we are. Time and again certain people in this country have expressed their willingness to enter into binding relations with other countries and with Great Britain. I say if there is a relation of that kind, I know of no relation that is so little oppressive, no bond that binds less or can bind us less than that of the Crown as the symbol of the mere unity. I admit there is a strong sentimental objection to it in this country and every respect must be paid to that sentimental objection. Quite true, but looking at it from the point of view of the hard realities, it is the vaguest possible bond and the loosest bond we can have consequent on any kind of connection whatever. Do away with it and make other arrangements and you will have to put in its place something much more definite, much more binding.

I cannot expect that to appeal to the people opposite. There are political considerations of which they have shown no conception. That Party have never shown the slightest appreciation of that kind, any real knowledge of being constitutional. If they can tell me a looser bond than the bond that connects the Dominions of England, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand, the loosest of all bonds, the acknowledgment of the Crown as a symbol of that unity, I would like to be told it. There is no looser bond, and there can be no looser bond, even if there was a Republic in the morning and you had to make another kind of Treaty, as on one occasion, efforts were made to make one. It would be much more binding on you, and cause much more interference with our policy, than under the present situation. Never since the putting into force of this Constitution that is now being changed, in a way that is tampering with the Treaty, has England even given a hint as to what her wishes were, so far as our policy was concerned. Not merely has she acted in this way, but she has, I would say, interfered in this country much less than she has in most other countries in Europe. She has not interfered at all here. Anybody who knows anything about the Continent of Europe knows perfectly well that there is no nation, small or middle-sized, in Europe whose policy is not continually interfered with by the Great Powers in Europe, England, France or Italy, especially England or France. That is so; it is a day-to-day and month-to-month occurrence. Never once since this Constitution came into force has there been any hint on the part of England as to what our policy should be in this country or outside this country.

Deputy MacDermot referred to the consequences that are likely to follow this Bill; also Deputy O'Higgins and Deputy O'Hanlon. Deputy O'Hanlon pointed out that even if the British Government did not act, the British people, by the very method pursued, would be bound to act. Instead of treating them as an independent nation, leaving aside the fact that they are a strong nation, or as anybody would expect one nation to treat another, we have adopted this particular line of practically giving them a kick —out you go. That is the method. People on the other side need not pretend that they are shocked at that method. They know perfectly well that I have expressed their sentiments, anyway, if not their words. Deputy O'Hanlon in a reasoned and powerfully argued speech, pointed out that there is that danger. Other people pointed out that there is that danger. I am not going to use that particular argument for this reason: What most of us might look forward to as a serious disaster for this country, as putting serious economic burdens on this country, which the country at the present moment will not be able to bear, will not deter the President of the Executive Council. I am not so sure that it is not an additional attraction of this particular Bill. What Deputy O'Hanlon referred to as the disposal of our surplus trade may be important to him and those who want to represent their constituency, but does anyone believe that a consideration of that kind will have the slightest effect on the President? I, for one, do not. I think it is, for him, an additional attraction in this Bill, in this whole procedure, and in this whole policy. After all, he can say to himself, "That, instead of having gradually to face up to the situation I wanted you to face up to, of a completely self-reliant and self-contained country, cut off from other countries, you will have to face up to it immediately, not in ten or fifteen years. The people will have to face up to it whether they like it or not. Thus we shall be able to set up here an entirely self-contained Ireland, cut off from the rest of the world." That is the ideal of the President. I see him bringing in a Bill that brings that ideal nearer to realisation. Once again, I must suppose that he means to adopt that particular policy and that what we would look upon as a disaster, is looked upon by him as the principal attraction, so far as this Bill is concerned.

I quite admit that the President is quite sincere in his desire so far as his economic ideals are concerned. Do the people of Ireland want them? If the people of Ireland knew his ideals were to be forced on them in that way, as there is a chance they may be under this Bill, will the people of Ireland enthusiastically give him their support? He may think that the people need schooling in that direction. I have not the slightest doubt that he has at least the will. Whether he will have the power to school them in that direction, I do not know.

Great advances have been made by us since 1922. They were made on the method suggested in this amendment proposed by the leader of the Opposition. So great are they that the men who held in 1921 and 1922 that the Treaty was an instrument that bound the people of Ireland in a cast-iron grip, as a result of these advances, made in the way suggested, now claim that there is full freedom to do what we like; to proclaim a Republic in the morning without a shot fired. We achieved these things, not by the method put forward in this Bill, but by the method suggested in the amendment. Many of these things, I suggest, were of much more importance from the Irish point of view than the amendment we are now discussing, but not perhaps from the English point of view. They are two different points of view. For them, that acknowledgment of the Crown is the symbol of whatever unity remains. It may for them be the outstanding consideration. For us, the advances that we made since 1922 are much more important. I shall only mention one: The fact that the Governor-General is no longer in any sense a representative of the English Government. When the Oath was objected to in 1922, what was feared? The fear was that the King stood not merely for the symbol, but also for the British Government, and that the bringing in of the King and the Governor-General into our Constitution meant not the symbol, but the reality of Governmental interference. One thing has been achieved during the last ten years, and that is to prove the futility of these particular fears. Even in form, the claim that the Governor General is, in any sense, a representative of the British Government has disappeared.

Many people through the country and elsewhere think that we are back to 1921. We are not. It will require a little more mishandling of the situation by the present Government, a great deal more mishandling of the situation than they have done up to the present, to bring us back to the position of 1921. The British troops have gone out of the country as a result of the Volunteer movement, as a result of the struggle, plus the acceptance of the Treaty. The President is now the unquestioned head of a Government that nobody in this State disputes, except a minority for whom he caters. He is the unquestioned head of that Government as a result of the Volunteer movement, plus the acceptance of the Treaty. As I say, it will require very much more mishandling of the situation to bring us back to the other aspects of 1921. This is only in the realm of conjecture, but I think it would require almost superhuman effort on their part to bring us back to the more unpleasant aspects of 1921. I do not, however, put it beyond them, but I think they will be hardly able to accomplish that.

If it is not dishonourable now to break this Treaty, what was all the pother about? The dishonour that will be involved was referred to in 1921 and 1922, in the debates upon the Treaty. Once this is signed, once the country has accepted it, the dishonour of breaking it! Now, no dishonour! As I said at the beginning, we are almost convinced by the case put before us by the President, the very subtle case, that we are almost implementing the Articles of the Treaty. This is not the first time in Irish history that that was done. Since 1922, we have built up a State here on the basis of the Treaty. We have organised institutions of Government responsible to the people of this country, and only to the people of this country, and to nobody outside, and under the complete control of the Irish people. By means of friendly negotiations and discussions, we have removed even the formal trappings of anything like subordination that might be present and have hurt the sensitive mind of some in the original instrument of 1921. The Government is responsible to this Dáil and this Dáil alone and to nobody else. We claim we have won a position in these ten years in which we certainly have gained the respect of every country and every State and we have gained the envy of a great many. If this Bill passes, I, for one, cannot but regret the passing of this State which in ten years has been built up to a position of this kind. We regret extremely the wilful destruction of the magnificent constructive work done during the past ten years and the wilful destruction at the behest of people who did not do a single bit towards that reconstruction work, but who tried in every way by plots and otherwise to hamper that work. I think it is an ill-day's work that the Dáil is being asked to do.

As a member of a small group here, I think it is my duty to make a very brief contribution to this debate. As an Independent Farmer, I voted for Deputy de Valera when he was proposed as President. The first duty of the new Dáil was to elect a President. Fianna Fáil was the largest Party in the Dáil, and I believe it was carrying out the wishes of the majority of the people to put a Fianna Fáil Government in power. That is one of the reasons why I voted for President de Valera. Another reason was that I believed that the Fianna Fáil Party got the support of the electors as a result of their policy to bring peace and prosperity to the community, and I thought it right that they should get an opportunity of doing so and I hope they will.

With all respect, I claim to hold national ideals and national aspirations as high as any member of this Dáil, but I say this: I say that the Fianna Fáil Party has no mandate to repudiate the Treaty or to bring about unfriendly relations with Great Britain. Fianna Fáil has no mandate to throw the institutions that have been built up into the melting-pot. I shall not support them in any way that will result in the breaking down of our trade with Great Britain. I am a farmer, and I represent farmers who are dependent largely on outside trade, and I ask the President not to deal recklessly with our interests. I want the Government to get a fair chance to carry out their policy, and I shall support them in that. I shall support the President in every way that will tend to bring peace and prosperity to the people, and I shall sternly oppose anything that I believe will be a barrier to the carrying out of their programme. It seems clear from the notes that have passed between President de Valera and Mr. Thomas that we have perfect freedom here to set up an independent republic for the Twenty-six Counties. Our freedom to do so, therefore, throws upon us the responsibility of making a wise choice. If President de Valera wishes to make any change in our status as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations I shall not support him, but shall vote against him unless he convinces me that it is for our good to do so and that now is the time to do it.

Do we understand that the Bill is being withdrawn? It is going ahead without any defence.

There has been no offence upon it yet.

There has been no defence of the Bill.

There has been nothing said against it. I would like to hear Deputy Mulcahy on the Bill.

You surely will.

Let us know the excuse you have for voting against it.

When introducing this Bill, President de Valera said he did so in the first place as there was necessity for it, secondly, because there was a mandate from the people at the last election and, lastly, because he could do so without violating the Treaty. I had hoped that before some of us backbenchers on this side of the House got up we would have some intervention in the debate from the legal members of the Government Party, particularly from the three legal luminaries who are Ministers of the Government. We are at a disadvantage in debating this measure without having had some intimation from them as to how they have arrived at the conclusion that this Bill can be passed without disturbance of the Treaty position. The Minister for Industry and Commerce when speaking yesterday challenged us on this side to say that the Constitution could not be amended. Of course the Constitution can be amended and has been amended, but it was amended always within the terms of the Scheduled Treaty. If the President is satisfied that this Bill can be passed without violation of the Treaty then why does he deem it necessary to repeal Section 2 of the Free State Constitution Act of 1922? This section of the Constitution Act is what a layman might describe as a necessary preamble to the Constitution itself. Section 2 lays down how the Constitution itself is to be construed and amended. It says:

2. 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 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....

In demanding the repeal of this section the President suggested definitely that in his opinion the Oath cannot be taken out of the Constitution unless he himself violates the Scheduled Treaty which is the Schedule to the Constitution Act. I confess I am conscious of my limitations in arguing the legal position. President de Valera speaking of the necessity for this measure said that there was, if not a majority, a minority at least, of the people of this country who would not take advantage of the position we find ourselves in as long as this Oath remains in our Constitution. I do not know how large the section of people is that he had in mind. Evidently he does not refer to the great number of people he and his Party represent because the mere fact that the full representation as expressed by the Fianna Fáil Party is here in this House is in itself evidence that that Party, at the moment the majority Party in this country, is not prevented by any part of the Constitution or the Treaty from legislating or assisting in legislating in this Dáil.

There may be numbers outside the Fianna Fáil Party who for conscientious reasons would not attend this House. If so, they are a very small minority. There is one such Party, perhaps the largest Party, led by a lady who was at one time a member of this House, Miss MacSwiney. I do not think that any of the provisions of the Bill now before us would satisfy the Party she represents. Speaking I think during this week she made a very strong pronouncement to the effect that while she was glad that President de Valera was legislating to remove the Oath she wanted to say definitely and clearly that until they had achieved all they wanted—one army and one Government and that army the army of the Republic which presumably is her army —she would advise the people she led not to acknowledge the late Government or the present Government, and she asked the people with whom she had any influence to stick to their arms. I doubt very much if the Bill now proposed will satisfy her or her small Party.

Even if President de Valera is right in his contention that this Bill can be passed without any violation of the Treaty, would it not have been better if the ordinary practice of discussion observed in the case of agreements of any kind, whether between nations or individuals, were resorted to? If one party to a treaty or an agreement assigns to itself the right of breaking it, even though there is an expressed contention on the part of the other party that it cannot be changed without mutual agreement, is it not right that, at least, there should be an opportunity for the two parties to meet in discussion and, if possible, by amicable arrangement to bring about whatever change might be considered necessary in the agreement?

I think it was Deputy Curran, of the Labour Party, who, on the occasion of a debate last week, interjected that he did not give a so-and-so about the Oath. I rather think that he represented, if not the views of the Labour Deputies in this House, certainly the views of the great majority of Labour people in this country. He certainly represented the views of the Labour people in this county I represent. They did not see fit, at the last election, to elect a Labour Deputy there. I know perfectly well that their first object in electing a Fianna Fáil Government was because they believed that the first act on the part of that Government would be an honest attempt to better the position of the labouring man. Perhaps they were living in a fool's paradise. I do not know. If there is any need for verification of that belief on the part of the people it was given here yesterday, when Deputy Morrissey's motion to give precedence to a discussion of the unemployment question as against the Oath was passed by a majority of the House. I am quite certain that if a vote to give a similar precedence were asked on any economic question there would be a similar verdict given by Deputies here.

There appears to be no necessity for all this hurry or rush to pass this Bill. Even if the necessity arose for it, we believe that it should be conducted in the ordinary manner in which all such bargains are conducted. There should be direct discussion between both parties to the Articles of Agreement.

Several Deputies spoke of the consequences which this Bill, if passed, will bring about. I do not want to refer to all the possible consequences. but it is natural to assume that if we pass this Bill in defiance of the British Government, the other party to the Articles of Agreement, and if we antagonise them to that extent it is natural to assume, there being three or four other members of the Commonwealth of Nations, that they will give those other members some preference in ordinary business relations. Those other members of the Commonwealth were loyal to their bonds, and for that reason they would get preference. That is one of the consequences that might arise from any attempt on our part to rush this Bill through the House, without some previous discussion.

Deputy Dillon said yesterday that he did not give a snap of his fingers for the Treaty. I confess I do, and I believe the majority of the people do. The signed Treaty was, to my mind at least, almost a consummation of the aspirations and the desires of the people; more than a realisation of all that generations of leaders of the people, O'Connell, Butt, Parnell, Redmond, Dillon, hoped and fought for. It was accepted by possibly the two greatest Irishmen, Griffith and Collins, as the greatest measure that they could hammer out in the course of discussions with representatives of the British people. It was accepted generally by the people of this country as satisfying their immediate demands. It is a Treaty that should not be lightly broken. I hope it will not be lightly broken, that wiser counsels may prevail, and that in the end the President and his Party will take the course they should have taken at the beginning and have a consultation with the other party to the Treaty.

I observe that Deputy Gorey gives me an enthusiastic welcome. Judging by the despondency displayed by members of the Opposition Front Bench, I think Deputy Gorey's enthusiasm is quite out of place. Quite clearly he did not listen to the doleful speeches of Deputy Professor O'Sullivan to-day and Deputy Fitzgerald yesterday. I expect the necessary rebuke will be administered to him when the House adjourns tonight. So far as the Labour Party is concerned, it has no illusions whatever about the removal of the Oath. We realise, quite clearly, that the removal of the Oath will not provide work for one unemployed man or woman. We realise its removal will not provide houses for people living in slums. We realise clearly that its removal will not provide boots for barefooted children. Although we take that view we realise, at the same time, that there are consequences in retaining it in the Constitution, consequences which may show themselves in the form of political unrest, which may show themselves perhaps in political disorder, which may show themselves in instability which will be a barrier to the effective development of industry and agriculture, and which may hold up the economic and social policy which we hope, and which we believe, the new Government, if it gets time, will give some evidence of its intention to introduce.

I do not propose to enter into a discussion on the finesse of whether President de Valera has secured a mandate to abolish the Oath. One thing is perfectly clear, and that is that he sought a specific mandate on a specific programme. He cannot be accused of asking for the blank cheque which the Cumann na nGaedheal Party asked for, and very clearly put in his programme was the declaration that if elected to this House, and commanding a majority of votes here, he would remove the Oath from the Constitution.

Had he not that there before?

Perhaps the Deputy would be kind enough to allow me to speak without interruption? President de Valera is, therefore, perfectly entitled to claim, since he set out in his policy that the removal of the Oath would be one of his acts in this Dáil, and since he is President of the Executive Council of this State, that he has a majority, and that he has a mandate for the removal of the Oath. Deputy Professor O'Sullivan expressed doubts as to whether in modern politics it is possible to get a specific mandate for a specific policy, but the Deputy quite clearly forgot, and apparently nobody on the Opposition Benches reminded him, that if his Party had not removed the Referendum from the Constitution we could, to-day, get a specific mandate and a specific vote on this question of the Oath. If there is any doubt about whether the Fianna Fáil Party got a mandate for the removal of the Oath, and if we have no machinery to-day for arbitrating on that issue, and deciding on that issue, then the responsibility lies with Deputy Professor O'Sullivan and the other members of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party.

There has been a good deal of discussion as to whether the Oath is mandatory in the Treaty. Speaking on the 6th December, 1922, in this House, Senator, then Deputy, Johnson, stated very clearly, and it is on the records of the House, the view of the Labour Party in connection with the Oath. I need not quote his remarks at length, but I would like to quote one sentence from them. After explaining the Labour Party's view of the Oath he said that the Labour Party then took the Oath, but with the proviso that if at any time it should be deemed wise and expedient by the people of Ireland in the exercise of their sovereign right to denounce the Treaty, or to alter or amend the Constitution in any respect whatever, "nothing in our declaration of allegiance," he added, "shall be a barrier to our freedom of action." That declaration, which is on the records of this House, makes clear the point of view of the Labour Party in connection with the Oath. We took it in the circumstances then obtaining, but we took it with that very specific proviso. We took it quite clearly with the declaration that at no time would we stand in the way of its removal.

[An Leas-Cheann Comhairle took the Chair.]

We argued then in 1922 that if the Oath were mandatory in the Treaty that there was no need to put it into the Constitution since the Treaty was the Schedule to the Constitution Act. But the fact is that Great Britain insisted that the Oath should go into the Constitution. Why did Great Britain insist that the Oath should go into the Constitution? If it were mandatory in the Treaty and the Treaty were given the force of law what was the necessity to insist that it should go into the Constitution? I submit that the necessity of insisting on that was due to the fact that the Oath was not mandatory in the Treaty and that Great Britain sought to make it mandatory in the Constitution.

But when we advert to the Constitution of 1922 we find that the Provisional Government then existing sought not to insert an Oath in the Constitution. But why did they seek to omit that from the Constitution? Is not the reason clear? Is it not because they did not believe that the Oath in the Treaty was mandatory in the Constitution? Will anybody suggest that in seeking to leave out the Oath from the Constitution they were actuated by a spirit of bad faith? Will anybody suggest that in seeking to omit the Oath from the Constitution they were acting dishonourably, seeing that at that time they were actually waging civil war in defence of the Treaty? That was the Government that sought to omit the Oath from the Constitution. That Government consisted of the late General Collins, the late Kevin O'Higgins and Messrs. Cosgrave, Hogan and Lynch. So that in 1922 the Provisional Government believed that the Oath was not mandatory in the Treaty and they sought to omit it from the Constitution. To-day they are adopting the very opposite role.

I understand that the Committee responsible for the drafting of the Constitution consisted of no less high legal personages than the present Chief Justice and two members of the present Supreme Court. They, I understand, decided that the Oath was not mandatory in the Treaty. Does anybody suggest either then or now that these three legal gentlemen were actuated by any desire to dishonour the nation's bond either morally or legally? I suggest that in 1922 the unanimous view of the Provisional Government and its advisers was that the Oath was not mandatory in the Treaty and that there was no need to put it into the Constitution. If it is in the Constitution to-day it is in the Constitution as a result of an agreement arrived at subsidiary to the Treaty between the Provisional Government of that period and the British Government of that period.

The Oath is in the Constitution because the Provisional Government of that period felt apparently bound in the circumstances of 1922 to put the Oath into the Constitution, yielding to the pressure of much superior force. We are told, and a good deal of capital is attempted to be made out of the plea, that the removal of the Oath is an attack on and repudiation of the Treaty. But when we come to ascertain what is the basis of our rights to interfere with the Constitution no evidence is produced. The only thing that is produced for the Dáil is a whole cloud of fears, of doubts, of misgivings, and a whole fog of possible consequences is produced and every attempt is made to play on the fears of the people in the hope that they may be persuaded from looking for their just national rights.

After all we are told that we dare not take this Oath out of the Constitution because it would be an infraction of the Treaty. If one looks at the Treaty one finds that there is no need whatever to produce a written Constitution. This country need never have had a written Constitution. It could have allowed its legislation to form an undefined Constitution. Yet we are told, notwithstanding the fact that that is the Treaty position, that taking this Article out of the Constitution is an infraction of the Treaty. Deputy Cosgrave's amendment seems to me to be a most interesting amendment. In it he raises no constitutional issue and unlike his speech he does not suggest that there is anything dishonourable in proceeding with the Bill. If it is dishonourable to proceed with the Bill, and if the nation's honour is at stake by passing it, surely it was not by a mere oversight that Deputy Cosgrave neglected to refer to the dishonour involved in passing this Bill when he was drafting his amendment. There is no question of dishonour in the passing of this Bill.

I would like to know from the Cumann na nGaedheal Party whether when Germany seeks to rid herself of the unjust burdens imposed by the Treaty of Versailles they will say that it is dishonourable to try to get away from these unjust and unnecessary burdens which have neither legal nor moral sanction. Deputy Bennett and other speakers referred to the necessity for negotiation with the British Government. Perhaps things might have been done in some other way. Perhaps there were two or three roads by which this Oath could be got rid of. The one and the clear fact that emerges is this:

That the view of the British Secretary for the Dominions is that Britain regards the Oath as necessary, as something that must be retained, and, so long as Britain adopts that attitude, what is the hope of negotiating with Britain? If that is to be the British attitude that the Oath is there, that it must stay, that it is the price of maintaining the Treaty, then negotiations of that kind are bound to be unprofitable, are bound to result in befogging the nation, and getting those who are negotiating on the Irish side into a fog from which they might not find it easy to extricate themselves.

We are told in the amendment that the rights and the liberties of our people are placed in jeopardy. I cannot understand in what respect the nation's rights or liberties are placed in jeopardy. Does Deputy Cosgrave suggest that Britain is going to adopt a belligerent attitude if the Oath is removed? Does Deputy Cosgrave suggest that Britain is going to wield the big stick if the Oath is removed? If that is the way in which our rights and liberties are to be threatened, is it not an inconsistent role to be at the same time talking about co-equality with Britain and free association with Britain—when our rights and liberties are assailed, when we want to claim our full national rights or some instalment of them?

Deputy Cosgrave said that our economic freedom is in jeopardy but if the Deputy will read the Treaty he will discover that there is no economic freedom guaranteed in it. There are economic privileges, perhaps by our association with the British Commonwealth, but let us not play Britain's game by imagining that these are one-sided privileges. These privileges are mutual. They arise from the fact that the two nations trade with each other, enjoying mutual benefits from that trade, and if we look at the figures we will find that to-day we buy much more from Britain than Britain buys from us. When we talk about economic privileges let us try to remember on behalf of this country that if we receive privileges we extend them as well. Is it suggested that if we remove the Oath we are not going to get these economic privileges? Is the Deputy suggesting that perhaps the Danes who take no Oath of Allegiance to the British King are going to get a preference over the produce of this country? If that is going to be the attitude of the British Government, if that is going to be the belligerent, big stick attitude of the British Government then there are millions of Irishmen in America, millions of Irishmen and their descendants in Britain, and tens of thousands of Irishmen in this country who fought in the British Army in the past, and serving Britain in a military capacity to-day who will ask: "Is this the gratitude that we are getting from a country which in 1914 told us that they required our services in the military field to fight for the so-called liberty of small nations?" Is this the kind of liberty for small nations that Britain asked Ireland to fight for? I imagine that Irishmen in all parts of the world will ask Britain, and perhaps ask in an awkward way: "Is this the gratitude which Britain shows to a country with which there is agreement, economically, socially and in other respects, agreement in respect of everything except taking an Oath which is offensive to the people of this country?"

The view of the Labour Party in connection with the Oath is simply that we have no use for it as an instrument. It is a bad, useless and unnecessary instrument. We believe that the retention of the Oath in existing circumstances will produce discontent at home. If I have to choose between discontent at home and smiles abroad, then I prefer to have no smiles abroad and contentment at home. If I have to choose between having peace at home and temporary frowns abroad, then I want to see peace at home and I will put up with the temporary frowns abroad. Peace at home is the most valuable thing this nation could have. I believe that the removal of the Oath will help in a large measure to give us that peace at home. Though Britain has made it clear that she believes the retention of the Oath is necessary, I hope that even at this belated stage Britain will take the sensible view, and realise that the Oath in the form in which it is in our Constitution is a relic of feudalism, that it has no place in the modern relations between States. In our view, the Oath cannot last forever. It ought to go, and so far as the Labour Party is concerned we think it ought to go now.

When I received the short and the long title of this Bill I was rather intrigued. It struck me at once that the short title of the Bill was somewhat a departure from precedent, in the framing and issuing of Constitutional amendments, that in fact the short title of this Bill—Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill—was a political rather than a legal suggestion. But when we got the long title of the Bill and saw the Bill itself it became quite clear that the title of the Bill—Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill—was not only framed purely for a political purpose but was also completely misleading. Nothing could be greater proof of how misleading the Title of the Bill is than the speech of the Deputy who has just sat down. He has confined himself entirely to the removal of the Oath, but as the President very aptly explained in his speech yesterday, the removal of the Oath is the minor matter in this Bill. The Title of the Bill is entirely misleading for that reason. There are, in fact, two matters in this Bill, and the minor or less important matter is put first, and put into the Title which will go down the country, the Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill. The purpose in framing the Title of the Bill in this way is to enable the President to say to those to whom he has promised, as he explained to us yesterday, to remove the Oath without breaking the Treaty, that, as Deputy Norton has suggested just now, this is the Removal of Oath Bill. If these people say: "Are you breaking the Treaty?" he will be able to reply "Oh, no, not at all. I am just removing the Oath and it has nothing at all to do with the Treaty."

On the other hand, there are people in the country to whom some consideration is given by the present Executive. There are extremists who would not be satisfied and who would not be, in any measure, placated simply by the removal of the Oath. This Bill enables the Executive Council to say to them "Not only is this a Bill to remove the Oath but it is a Bill which, by repealing Section 2 of the Constitution Act, puts us in a position to remove the Treaty piecemeal." That is the main purpose of the Bill. The Bill is not a "Removal of Oath" Bill. It should more properly be called "Removal of the Treaty Bill," and, as I think the Minister for Industry and Commerce stated yesterday, as the first fruits of that process, to remove from the Constitution the Oath.

In the President's admirable and restrained speech yesterday, he gave us two principal arguments for this Bill. One was that it was absolutely necessary for internal peace. Deputy Norton has repeated that argument. The President added that it would not bring us into any external complications. If that proposition could be successfully demonstrated, we would be all very happy and we would be very near complete agreement. We are told that this Bill is necessary to internal peace. What is it that prevents us from having internal peace? Presumably, it is the existence of an armed force which did not acknowledge the authority of the last Government, does not acknowledge the authority of this Government, and does not acknowledge this State or Constitution at all. How can that menace be removed? I agree, completely, that it could be removed if those who are in the organisations which have the arms would acknowledge the State. But they would need, I think, to go a step further in order that we might be sure not only of actual peace but that the peace we have had for the last six weeks would last. We want to get into the position when an officer of the Army in Island Bridge, or Parkgate, or wherever he happens to be stationed, would know where all the arms in this country are, and when the Minister for Defence, on the Front Bench opposite, would be in complete control of that officer. That situation must be brought about before we can have internal peace and a guarantee of peace for the future.

I should like to have some demonstration as to whether that situation will be brought about by the passage of this measure, because, if it were brought about, this country would have made an enormous step forward, and it would not matter very much whether the Minister for Defence was a Fianna Fáil Minister or a Cumann na nGaedheal Minister, or a Labour Minister—whether his name was Fitzgerald, or Aiken or Norton. We would be all very satisfied if the Minister for Defence were in that position. He is not in that position now and, I think, when we are told this Bill will bring us peace, we are entitled to ask whether the Bill will bring us into that position. The Executive Council may have information not in the possession of ordinary members of the House which leads them to the conclusion that they can have peace, that they can have complete control of all the arms in the country, and that they can dispose of the armed organisations in the country, outside the National Army, if this Bill be passed. Perhaps they would vouchsafe some of that information to the House because the only information we have—dependent upon the speeches of persons who are the known and acknowledged leaders of the Irregular Army—is that the ideal is one Army and one Government— the Army and Government of the Irish Republic, having jurisdiction over all Ireland. They have gone further and stated, if my recollection serves me aright, that they will acknowledge no other Government save the Government of an Irish Republic having jurisdiction over all Ireland. I am not for the moment entering into the question whether that Government would be a desirable or undesirable conclusion. But we have not got it, this Bill does not give it to us, and I do not see any prospect, in our time, of President de Valera getting into the position in which he will be President of an Irish Republic. It might be no harm if he did, but at any rate this Bill does not seem to bring us any nearer to peace in spite of the statements that have been made that it does. For my part, I should like to say that if any reasoned argument could be brought forward to convince me that we could have peace—a proper peace—in the Irish Free State by the removal of the Oath, I would be wholeheartedly in favour of the elimination of the Oath, or of accommodation upon the Oath, and I would be prepared to assist—I think many others would be prepared to assist also—to bring about that conclusion by proper means. The proper means to bring about the conclusion appears to me to be negotiation as suggested in this amendment.

The President stated yesterday evening, in the course of a very skilful argument—he must have done some study during the last month in the Department of External Affairs—with regard to the repeal of Section 2 of the Constitution Act, that he was merely taking the Treaty out of the jurisdiction of our own judges. He stated that there was no necessity for the Treaty to be municipal law, and that, in any event, the interpretation of treaties was for States and not for judges. I think that that argument was completely sound, but it seems to me that the natural conclusion from that argument is that when States have a difference with regard to the interpretation of a treaty it is for themselves to settle it, and the only way civilised States know of settling that kind of difference is by discussion and agreement. I fail to understand why, in the light of the President's own statement, that treaties are for States and not for judges, the process of negotiation is not resorted to. Deputy Norton tells us that the British have stated their views but, if my memory serves me aright, the British view was not so drastic as he has represented. I do not think that British views are ever quite so drastic as they appear. Before the British view was stated in that way, we had stated a strong view of our own. In any event, our position surely is that we have made an agreement, or treaty, or contract— call it what you will—and that we desire now to do a particular thing for our own purposes. The other Party to the Treaty says if we do that we are in their judgment breaking our agreement. What possible solution can there be for that situation except negotiation, conference, compromise or—if you like to use the word that the President himself used when in office before and when writing to Mr. Lloyd George—accommodation? Why should not accommodation be sought?

Some reference was made in this debate to the dignity of the Irish people. I have always taken the view that although the Oireachtas has not jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland, we, in this House, are by far the more important House of a Parliament which is the only corporate body that exists now or that has existed in modern times that claims to speak with authority for the Irish people, for the historic Irish nation, and that can act for the nation, and by whose actions and procedure the dignity and the reputation of the ancient Irish nation will be judged. Taking that view of this House—and I have always taken it—it seems to me absolutely essential, recognising that although we are a new State we are a very ancient nation, that we should act in a manner that is prescribed for nations and for states. In this particular case we are not doing that. It seems to me that just as our dignity demands and our history demands that we should act in a proper manner, so too our interest demands it.

We have been told frequently—I think the President himself has said it on many occasions—that as between this country and England there must be an agreement, there must be a treaty, there must be a contract. If that is so how are we going to negotiate agreements in the future if the procedure that is now being adopted by the Government is followed: that having negotiated one agreement we say, "we take this view of it and we are going to act on our view and we do not care what you think." That is an impossible procedure. It is contrary to our dignity and to our national interests. Never mind about threats, never mind about the economic consequences that may follow upon a breach of the Treaty, but take the long view: we must be on terms of peace with our neighbour; we must make possible agreement with her. How can we do it in the future if now in the full consciousness of what we are doing we take up the line that agreements do not bind us at all and that when there is disagreement we can take our own line and not worry about the other party? It seems to me that we should not put ourselves in the wrong merely on the question of how we proceed. We would surely be all the stronger if we followed the normal, proper and natural procedure. In the case of people who say that they are pro-Treaty and do not want the Treaty to be broken, their position is that of Arthur Griffith—that this is no more a final settlement than that we are the last generation of Irishmen. When you say that, it does not mean that you can behave as if you had made no agreement and that the agreement you had made had no binding force. It simply means that in the development of your agreement, and in the alteration of your agreement, you bind yourself to adopt a rational, ordered procedure, namely conference, negotiation and agreement, and nothing else. Nothing can be got in any other way.

The President in his speech seemed to me to advance two reasons against negotiation. The first was that so many advances have been made since 1922 that the Treaty no longer exists at all. We can now do anything at all we please, having no regard at all to the agreement made. The advance which the President argued very skilfully about has been made by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government to whose policy he was always unalterably opposed. It seems to me that yesterday he praised them a little too much. I do not agree with him that they made the extraordinary progress of which he spoke. I think he praised them too much and carried the argument a little too far. But it is a distinct advance to find the present President of the Executive Council getting up in this House and arguing the merits of the Treaty, arguing in favour of the advances that have been made in the Treaty by people who have been called for the last ten years enemies of Ireland, traitors, Freemasons and Heaven knows what else. Now it appears that these people, these traitors to their country, have carried us into the position when there is no limit at all to what we can do. There is a limit, and the limit is in the Treaty, but great advances have undoubtedly been made.

The other objection of the President to negotiation seemed to me to arise from a misconception of words. When he mentioned the amendment he said that the Executive Council were not in favour of it because they did not propose to ask permission of the British, and later on he said something to the effect that he would not be drawn into negotiations because he would take no dictation from the British. But those who advocate negotiation do not advocate going on your knees to the British. They do not advocate asking the permission of the British, and they would hope—we would all hope—that if the President or somebody on his behalf proceeded to negotiate with the British they would not take any dictation.

Now, sir, I said that if we could get any reasonable proof that the elimination of the Oath from the Treaty would bring us peace we would be all prepared—I would at any rate be prepared—to support the necessary steps to take the Oath out of the Treaty or to reach an accommodation which would be satisfactory. And what are the steps? The steps are not to write the British notes, not, so to speak, to use a megaphone across the Irish Sea explaining what we want, what we are and where we are going, but rather to approach the British as the head of a Government based bona fide upon the Treaty, willing to work the Treaty: to approach the British as a bona fide member of the Commonwealth and say to them: "Look! there is one part of this agreement we made with you that now ten years later we would like to talk about as the situation now is so different from the situation in 1921." If that procedure, which is the proper procedure, were followed it is quite likely that the Oath could be removed or that a suitable formula could be found or suitable accommodation found whereby satisfaction would be given to the interested parties. I do not understand at all why that procedure is not adopted.

The Treaty in 1921 was negotiated in a particular atmosphere of suspicion. In 1932 the President and the present Executive Council are in a much stronger position. They have at their disposal—we have had evidence of it in the speeches made—all the machinery of State. They have skilled lawyers and skilled officials in the Department of External Affairs—and all the advances that have been made by a Cumann na nGaedheal Government during the last ten years, and they are in a much better position to negotiate a Treaty now and bring about a proper conclusion than were the people who negotiated the Treaty originally in 1921.

One might be asked why the last Government did not carry on these negotiations, but it seems to me they were in a very different position. In the first place the opposition to the last Government, in the field, one might say, and, then, in the country, politically, and, then, in this House, was an anti-Treaty opposition, an anti-State opposition. Now, seeing that the Fianna Fáil Party are in office, we must presume that they are pro-State and pro-Treaty. They have the advantages of the institutions of the State. They have the advantage of an Opposition which is pro-Treaty, and they have the further advantage of having—I think they claim it themselves—the confidence of the people who were opposing the State in arms up to the present moment. With all these advantages, they surely should not be afraid to negotiate, and if they are afraid to negotiate, it surely arises from an inferiority complex. There is nothing degrading, nothing inferior, nothing bad about negotiating with the British. It would be the more Irish way, the more rational way and the more effective way, and it is the only way that would bring about some unity on this question in this House. It involves an acceptance of the Treaty by everybody, and an endeavour to alter this particular section, dealing with the Oath that is in the Treaty, by conference and agreement. This Bill is wholly misleading, and it accomplishes much more than the purpose it sets out in its Title in regard to the Oath.

As regards internal peace, no shadow of evidence has been produced to us to show that if we passed this Bill, we will get any more peace than we have at the moment, and there is no guarantee of future peace. The statement that the passing of this Bill, as Deputy Norton suggested, would be a help to unemployment, seems to me to be completely fallacious. The only hope for the unemployed in this country, surely, is stabilised political conditions, and we cannot have stabilised political conditions or stabilised economic conditions unless we stabilise the Irish Free State, and this Bill is a Bill for the complete unsettling of the Irish Free State; for the undoing of the settlement reached in 1921, and approved at many elections; for the undoing of the work that has been done for the last ten years, and which the President recounted for us rather proudly yesterday. Therefore, I am against the Second Reading of this Bill, and it seems to me, that if we could have any evidence that we would get peace, we should, by the proper methods—by negotiation and conference—be able to reach a conclusion, whereby this Oath would be removed from the Treaty, and we would hear no more about it, but could go on to do our other work which is so necessary.

The supporters of the Bill seem reluctant to speak. I was interested to see Deputy Norton rise, and to hear what excuse he might give, on behalf of the Labour Party, for voting in favour of the Bill. When he had spoken, and sat down, I found that he had nothing to say really, except that the Labour Party were going to vote for it, because they were going to vote for it. He made a few remarks about the Constitution Committee, and quoted views of the Free State Constitution Committee which are not correct. There is no justification for saying that the Free State Constitution Committee unanimously decided that the Oath was not mandatory in the Treaty.

Deputy Norton also talked a good deal about taking the Oath out of the Constitution. Now, we are really dealing, in so far as the Oath is concerned, with something far more than taking the Oath out of the Constitution. If we are to be told that it is merely a question of deleting an Article of the Constitution, but that the Oath is still to be taken and that every person elected to the Dáil is still going to have to take the Oath, then there is quite a new question before the House. There were people, when the Constitution was being drawn up, who thought there was no need to put an Oath into the Constitution. There were some who thought that the legislation in regard to the Oath should be ordinary legislation. There were some who thought that the direction for taking the Oath should be contained in Standing Orders, but to say that there was any of them who believed that the Oath was not mandatory, is something I had no evidence of. I certainly know that the great majority of them were quite convinced that it was mandatory.

This particular Bill is one which the President did not attempt to justify to the House, and I think he particularly shirked justification when he refused to give a clear and definite answer to Deputy MacDermot. We cannot really make up our minds in an intelligent way about the Bill, unless we know what the future policy of the Government is, and where it is desired that the State should go. If that is the policy of the Government, to take the Free State out of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and to establish an isolated Republic here, without connection with the British Commonwealth of Nations, then, the objections that one would have to the Bill are not so great as the objections that can be put forward if the policy is to remain in association with the British Commonwealth of Nations.

It is not possible, I think, to deal with this Oath question as some isolated problem. It has a background of history, and it is closely connected up with the whole issue of the maintenance of the Treaty, and that is so, apart altogether from the contents of this Bill. There is no reason for all the haste that is being shown in connection with the Bill. If there is any urgency about it, it is not a national urgency; it is purely a Party urgency or purely a personal urgency. From the point of view of the Party opposite, there is a great deal to be said for the Bill, because it will enable them, if they pass it, to justify, to some extent, things which they did in the past, and attitudes which they took up in the past, and it seems to me that the haste with the Bill is haste to do something for a Party advantage, without regard at all to any national advantage. From the point of view of internal peace, there is not a bit of need for this Bill. With a Fianna Fáil Government in power, there is no difficulty at all in maintaining order, if it wishes to maintain order.

There are sections of the people who have opposed the State, and who still say that they are prepared to oppose the State, in arms, and are prepared, to some extent, to do so, who have given trouble in the past, and who have committed crimes in the past, but they have committed those crimes, and maintained that organisation in that attitude because they believed that, with the passage of time, the Cumann na nGaedheal Government in power was bound to be superseded by a Fianna Fáil Government, and that, under a Fianna Fáil Government, they would have a free leg to do what they liked. In a sense, they were supported by the propaganda of Fianna Fáil. The burst of activity that began last summer, and which necessitated the passage of the Constitution (Amendment) Act, arose from the near prospect of a General Election, and from the belief that that General Election would give these people an opportunity of progressing, and ultimately seizing power, and if there is any danger to peace now, it lies merely in the weakness of the Fianna Fáil Government themselves. If the Fianna Fáil Government took a strong stand against any illegal armies, against any secret or private military organisations; if they stood strongly on the law of the State, and the right of this Parliament; if the members stopped uttering these sentiments about a fault in the title of the Dáil, then the I.R.A., which had been a menace to the peace, would fade away, and would no longer be a menace to the peace.

To say that the removal of this Oath is necessary to secure the peace of the country seems to me to be something that cannot be supported at all. Remember their numbers are small. No great courage has been shown by the people in these organisations, no willingness to take any great risks or to do anything that involves risk. When they shot anybody they always shot somebody who was unarmed, knowing that they would get away. They are not formidable except in the way that thugs and gangsters are formidable. They were only difficult to deal with because our laws were not adapted to deal with such an organisation and the ordinary juryman was vulnerable. It is not worth going to any trouble and it is not worth deflecting any national policy, where the national policy is in the best interests of the people, in the slightest degree to conciliate people of that particular type.

It cannot be said that Fianna Fáil have some urgent mandate from the electors. I do not want to go too much into the question of the mandate, because I agree with Deputy Professor O'Sullivan that it is very difficult to say that mandate the Party has or has not, but it is quite clear that there was not any great interest through the country in the Oath question and that if the people were prepared to accept the Fianna Fáil policy in regard to the Oath, they were prepared to accept it passively. There was nothing like a majority of the country demanding that the Fianna Fáil Party should hurry on to get the Oath removed. If there were any people demanding that, they were certainly very small in number. Whatever mandate the Labour Party had—and I think they had no mandate at all—to vote for a Bill like this or to deal with the Oath question other than by negotiation, certainly their supporters were not agreeable to deal with this thing in the way it has been dealt with. Therefore there is not from the people anything that would justify or cause the Fianna Fáil Party to hurry on with the Oath Bill. As I say, I believe they are hurrying on with the Oath Bill simply for pure Party and personal reasons. They are prepared to sacrifice the interests of the nation to gain some political advantage and to whitewash their own past, which has been full of great errors and, I think, from the national point of view, crimes.

As I said, I think we ought to know whether we want to stay in the British Commonwealth or not in considering this Oath. I am satisfied that if the Free State wants to go out of the British Commonwealth, it can go out and go out peaceably. I do not know whether it can go out just now peaceably, but it certainly could not have gone out in 1923 because there was this difference between Canada and the Irish Free State after the Treaty was signed, that if Canada had chosen to secede in 1923 Canada could have seceded and no British military action would have been taken, but if the Irish Free State had attempted to secede in 1923 then I believe military action would have been taken against it. If the Irish Free State attempted to secede now I do not believe military action would be taken though special action of another sort might be taken. I believe if we want to go out of the Commonwealth and pursue a policy aimed at going out of the Commonwealth, then in a relatively short time —I do not know whether it would be two years, five years or ten years—we can go out quite peaceably and if the behaviour of the Government was right this country could go out of the Commonwealth without leaving any special ill-will behind us.

As far as I am concerned, I think any policy aimed at going out of the Commonwealth is directly contrary to the national interests. I believe the position we have in the Commonwealth gives us security and an international status equal to anything we can have out of it. I believe that if we were to be an isolated Republic here our status and the respect in which we are held in the world, the influence we have in the world, would decrease rather than increase. I believe the Free State, as a member of this great association of nations, is a far bigger figure and that its opinions are far more thought of than they would be if they were the opinions of an isolated republic for twenty-six counties. I believe we would lose economically if we went out of the Commonwealth. Perhaps in future the loss, owing to changes in policy, will be much greater than any such loss would have been in the past but, more important than either status, international considerations or economic advantages, the setting up of a Republic here would mean that the partition of this country would be permanent for all time.

Deputy Lemass yesterday talked about the last ten years. He asked was re-union any nearer than in 1921. I would not say it is. The last chance there was of re-union was spoiled by the action of the present President of the Executive Council and others who operated with him when they took the line they did against the Treaty and brought about civil war, because they made certain that the Northern Parliament—and it was not by any means certain—would opt out and no matter what the Boundary Commission did it would not have ended partition. It might have removed the actual place of the boundary, but it would have left the boundary still there and it would not have ended partition. Nobody can say now that there is any immediate hope of national re-union, and I think myself that a considerable time must elapse before there is any likelihood of national re-union. But, at any rate, the people of the Six Counties and the people of the Free State are held pretty closely together. There is this bond of common citizenship. If you set up a Republic here, what is now a little ditch between the two sections in Ireland would become an abyss. They would become, legally, foreigners to one another. The facilities that exist for intercourse between the people in the two sections would be lessened, and other consequences, which I need not enumerate, would follow. If anybody, for instance, looks at what happened when the Austrian Empire was split up they would see some of the effects, which are not thought of much by the man in the street, that would follow the setting up of a Twenty-Six County Republic here.

What would happen would be this: that the two sections of the people would really have their backs turned to each other and they would develop altogether along separate lines, and that the division which is only a few years old now would become as permanent as the division of Spain and Portugal which took place some nine or ten centuries ago. I am satisfied that there is no hope whatsoever of any re-union of Ireland unless the Free State remains within the British Commonwealth of Nations, and unless the ties which still bind the peoples of the two parts of Ireland are maintained, so that at a future time the people will not be foreigners, legally and constitutionally, to one another, and that any rapprochement that may be desired will be relatively easy.

Even if we do not want to stay in the British Commonwealth, even if we want to get out, this Bill is not the way to proceed. There is no use at all in causing irritation amongst people with whom we must do business. If we want to separate, and the President is aiming at separation—and this is the first step towards separation—then it ought to be done as peaceably and as amicably as it can be done; and there ought to be no attempt to cause irritation either to the British Government or to the British people. We must trade with England. There is no alternative market for our main export but the British market. And it is very easy for the President, by irresponsible actions such as he has been guilty of since he came into office, to create irritation which need not be created; and even if the British Government— and everybody knows it—even if the British Government never imposed a tariff, if one rubs the people of Great Britain the other way, then it is easy to cause losses, actual economic losses to the people of this country on a scale that would undo to one section of producers the advantages which the Minister for Agriculture was trying to get for them the other day.

Nobody believes that the Oath was not obligatory in the Treaty. When the matter was under discussion in the Dáil originally I think I was the only member who suggested that there was any obscurity in the wording of the section. Both those who were for the Treaty and those who were against it accepted the Oath as obligatory. It was believed to be obligatory by those who negotiated and signed the Treaty. It was believed to be obligatory by the British Parliament when it approved the Treaty and by Dáil Eireann when it approved the Treaty; and ever since the negotiations and relations between the two countries have been carried on on the basis of the Oath being obligatory. And so far as our right to get rid of it is concerned, that is not affected by the Statute of Westminster. The Statute of Westminster, so far as this matter is concerned, only gets rid of the Colonial Laws Validity Act, and we always held the view, and I think could have successfully upheld it before a tribunal, that the Colonial Laws Validity Act did not apply to the Irish Free State.

The Treaty was made between the two countries. It was made on the understanding that the Oath was obligatory. In no communications that have taken place between the two countries up to the advent to office of the present Government has it been suggested that it was not obligatory. And for the President of the Executive Council to claim that the question of the abolition of the Oath is purely a domestic matter is really on a par with the bosthoonery at the French Legation on the part of a couple of Ministers the other night. That is a sort of thing that can do no good to the country and that does not uphold the dignity of the country or of anybody acting on behalf of the country. It is only liable to cause ill-feeling and a certain amount of contempt; and that will be damaging whatever may be the future of our relations with the British people and with the British Government. If the President merely wants to get rid of the Oath, as Deputy Hayes has said, it would be relatively easy for him to get rid of it, because there is no doubt that changes have taken place in British opinion since 1921. We could not have got rid of the Oath in 1921. The British negotiators— perhaps it was largely our fault—felt that they had reached the last point to which they should go, they felt that they were being tricked, and the position was that the Oath could not have been got rid of. But there is not the same importance attached to it in Great Britain at the present time. And as regards that particular feature of the relations between the two countries, if the Free State were willing to accept the Treaty and work the Treaty, there is no doubt that an accommodation could be arranged; and if the President set out to arrange that accommodation and to arrange it in a proper and normal way, then he would have general support and he would have no opposition whatever. It is wrong, of course, from the national point of view—and I think the Dáil should endeavour to look at these things from the national point of view and not look at them from the point of view of the handful of gangsters who constitute the I.R.A.—and looking at them from the national point of view, I do not think that it is good policy to attach too much importance either to the Oath or to the position of the Crown in relation to the Irish Free State. If we remain in any sort of association with the British, then it is best that the link should be the Crown. If we are to enter into association with them on any other basis, then we are going to be tied to obligations much more numerous and much more rigid than any obligations that would fall on us under the present arrangement.

I was looking over the Treaty debates the other night, and I found that the argument that was put up against the Oath and against the position of the Crown was that we were bringing in, as somebody put it, not King George but Lloyd George; and it was everywhere insisted that if we had the King in our Constitution, or if we had the Oath in the Treaty, the British Government was going to be continually interfering. The late Erskine Childers, whose words carried tremendous weight at that time, put forward a great number of arguments, all of which have been proven by events to have been entirely wrong; and he argued that if we put the Oath and the King in our Constitution then our Acts would be continually vetoed even though the veto had become obsolete in Canada. What was the use, he said. of talking about Canada which was 3,000 miles away, and he argued that there would be continual interference in every way, and that in fact any reference to the King in the Treaty or the Constitution meant a reference to the British Government, and meant giving the British Government powers here. Whatever the position of the King might have been in 1921, and whatever objections might have been held to the King being in our Constitution and being the link which bound us to the other members of the Commonwealth, these objections have disappeared by now. The King has become the symbol of the free association of the States of the Commonwealth. There is no power now exercised by him otherwise than on the advice of the Ministers of the Irish Free State. The Oath, in so far as it is an oath of faithfulness to the King, is an oath of faithfulness to what has been officially described as the symbol of the free association of the States of the British Commonwealth. If the words of the Oath have not changed since 1923, the meaning and the content of the Oath have changed since 1923. While I am not arguing against changing the Oath, if people want it changed and agreement can be got for it, I think that people should look at the realities of the situation and should have regard to the true national interest, both in the immediate and distant future.

The President said that the late Government, if they had tackled the Oath problem as they tackled the question of appeals to the Privy Council, could have got rid of the Oath. It is possible that we could, but not, as Deputy Hayes has explained, as easily as the present Government could, because there are several advantages now for them. But I would be prepared to take this view at any rate, that if we did devote the energy to it we could have got that Oath, if not removed, modified. We did not do that, because we thought there were more important things to do, that in fact any of the matters which engaged our attention during our period of office was more important than that. We believe at the present time that this Oath question is a purely artificial issue put before the public, and which has been bolstered up by this sort of threat of the I.R.A. organisation, and which will do nothing except enable the President to say, whether it was in 1927, 1926, 1925, 1921, or in any speech that he chooses to rake up, that the people would not be satisfied as long as the Oath is in the Treaty.

I think that the attitude of the Government in dealing with this question is essentially a frivolous and irresponsible one. I hope that, charged as they are now with responsibility, there will be some tendency on their part to get rid of the Chapel-gate-meeting mind, to look at the business of the nation in a responsible way, and that they will not be bothered with mere attempts to score off those who were their political opponents. It does not matter who is right in fact about their view on any particular matter, or about the view in 1921 or 1922, and it is absurd for a Government to occupy themselves merely with whitewashing their political past rather than getting on in a serious and responsible way with the business of the nation.

Deputy Norton, in his speech on this matter quoted part of a statement made by Senator Johnson on 6th December, 1922, in, I think, Col. 3, Vol. 2 of the Official Reports. I am sorry that the Deputy did not read the whole of that statement. I feel called upon to refer to this matter because I was at that time a member of the Labour Party in this House, and subscribed to the statement made by Deputy Johnson, as he then was. I should like to read to the House that portion of the statement which Deputy Norton omitted to read. Deputy Johnson, in the course of his statement said:—

"We recognise the act of taking an ‘Oath of Allegiance' as a formality, a condition of Membership of the Legislature, implying no obligation other than the ordinary obligation of every person who accepts the privileges of citizenship. In complying with such a condition of membership we are giving effect to the will of the organised workers, that we should through our election endeavour to influence the laws and the administration thereof, in such manner as will lighten the burden of the poor, remove the evils of unemployment, bring to realisation the ideals of justice and liberty and finally lead to the dethronement of Capitalism and the substitution therefor of a Commonwealth based upon labour and service."

Deputy Norton did not read that part, which I submit is much more important than the part he read. I want to go further and suggest that the portion of the statement which he did read does not bear the interpretation which he put upon it. This quotation is from the same column:—

"We make our Declaration of Allegiance intending to fulfil our pledge, with the proviso that if at any time it shall be deemed wise and expedient by the people of Ireland in the exercise of their sovereign right to denounce the Treaty or alter or amend the Constitution, in any respect whatever, nothing in our Declaration of Allegiance shall be a barrier to our freedom of action."

I still subscribe to every word of that. If the people of Ireland want to denounce the Treaty they have a perfect right to do so, and this House has a perfect right to alter or amend the Constitution in any way it likes so long as it does not endanger the Treaty position.

It has been said that the Fianna Fáil Party at the last election got a mandate for the removal of this Oath. I deny that. They got a mandate, in my opinion, for the land annuities and for dealing with the unemployment problem. Whatever doubt there may be as to whether they got a mandate for the removal of the Oath or not, there can be no doubt that the Labour Party got no mandate, because they never asked for a mandate. The Labour Party at no election, since it first came into this House, ever made the Oath a question before the people of the country. I was a member of the Labour Party for nearly ten years, and during all that time the attitude taken up by the Party was absolutely and all the time for the Treaty, and to squeeze out of that Treaty the last ounce that could be got. There is not an elected member of the Labour Party to-day, I think, who will contradict me when I say that the attitude, at all times, both with regard to the land annuities and the Oath, or any other major matter, either in the Constitution or in the Treaty, was negotiation. That was stated as lately as the last election. I want to submit, as one who has represented the workers in this House for the last ten years, that any Labour representative who is prepared to take an action which, in my opinion, endangers the Treaty, endangers the peace of this country and, above all, the prospects of providing work for our unemployed, is not reflecting the views of the workers who always voted for Labour members for this House.

Why did you not stick to that in 1927?

I came into the Dáil in 1922, elected by the people of Tipperary as a Labour representative.

I am asking you about 1927. I shall reply to you afterwards.

Get up and make a speech yourself.

I want to make it perfectly clear that in my opinion the Fianna Fáil Party did not get a clear mandate for the removal of the Oath. There may be some doubt about that.

Had they a mandate when you voted with me in 1927?

Deputy Morrissey must be allowed to make his speech. Deputy Breen can make his speech afterwards.

They certainly said it was their intention to remove the Oath, but in any speech I heard from Fianna Fáil platforms during the election or any statements I read by Fianna Fáil representatives it was conveyed that the Oath would be removed and was going to be removed because it would not affect the Treaty in any way whatever. But, as I say, whether there be any doubt in regard to the Fianna Fáil mandate on this question or not, there is no doubt that the Labour Party got no mandate, because they sought no mandate on this question. They concerned themselves, and quite rightly concerned themselves, in my opinion, in putting before the country the economic and social questions.

I shall vote against this Bill because I believe that if I were to vote for it it would be an infringement of the Treaty. I believe it would bring about conditions which would make it much more difficult if not impossible to solve the problem of unemployment in this country. I believe it is absolutely essential to the progress of this country that we should have stability and peace here, and that these are more essential to the workers and the workless than to any other section of the community. There is great pother about this Oath. President de Valera on 3rd June, 1927, speaking at Kilmallock during the election campaign told the people that they would be in their graves before he or any of his colleagues would take the Oath. When the election was over they did not take their seats in this House. Subsequently, a Bill was passed through this House making it obligatory on candidates for the Dáil to make a declaration that they would take the Oath before they could be nominated. That apparently created a new situation for the Fianna Fáil Party. They had a meeting lasting for a day or two and then they discovered that it was not an Oath but that it was merely an empty formula—a mere nothing and did not count. It being a mere empty formula they decided to take it and come into the House. With that decision, I may say, I was in absolute agreement. But now we are told again that it is an Oath and an Oath of such importance that we shall never have any peace in this country until it is removed. Now when was the President right? In June, 1927, or in August, 1927, when he declared it was a mere empty formula, or now when he declares it is absolutely essential for peace and prosperity in this country that it should be removed? Under which thimble is the pea? I am taking this stand not because I have any love for the Oath whatever, but because I want to see peace and, if possible, prosperity in this country, because I believe that we have got, to use the words used by Senator Johnson when leader of the Labour Party, "All the freedom contained in this Treaty to enable any citizen of this country to do all the ordinary things that any ordinary man wants to do from the cradle to the grave." And I, as representative of the people in this country, am not going to endanger that position because we are told that this Bill will bring about peace. I do not believe it will.

I wish to remind the House and particularly the last Deputy who has spoken that when I introduced in the Dáil on 6th April, 1927, a similar Bill to this, Deputy Morrissey voted for the First Stage. What has happened to him since? What has made him change his mind? Had I a mandate when I put that Bill before the Dáil? I was only an individual. I had no mandate. Deputy Morrissey talks about mandates to-day. Why did he not consider that matter then? Why did he vote with me? I want to remind Deputy Morrissey that this is not the only time he twisted. I want him to get back to the black days of 1921 and think of his association with the "Tans" in that time.

We had better not get into that.

It is an absolutely unfounded suggestion.

Let us discuss the Bill on its merits and not on the merits of any particular Deputy in this Dáil.

I want to remind him that if he must change his mind so often I must bring that change to the notice of the people. I want to remind Deputies on the opposite benches, especially Deputy Mulcahy, Deputy Blythe and some other of my I.R.B. friends, that when they travelled the country with me in the dark days of 1918 and 1919 they did not then talk of taking an oath of allegiance to a British King. They talked of and insisted that we should take an oath to an Irish Republic and stick to that oath. Now, I am surprised that in the course of ten or twelve years they have changed about. Not alone will they now take an oath to the British King but they insist upon other representatives in this country doing likewise. As the only member of this House who took part in the attack on Lord French, the King's representative in this country, on 19th December, 1919, I say I would be false to my comrade, Martin Savage, who died in my arms, if I did not support this Bill. I did not attack Lord French to kill him to make room for James MacNeill or any other man to take his job. I went out to Kill French, and, if it were possible, to kill the last link of British supremacy in this country. For the attack on French or for any other attack I made I make no apology. I would do the same if the occasion arose tomorrow morning. I also want to remind some of the Deputies on the benches opposite that when I was in negotiation with Michael Collins in 1922 he promised definitely that there would be no oath in the Constitution. Mick Collins is dead. God be merciful to him. The men who carry on in his place should at least remember his words and his promise.

I do not want to detain the House on this thing. All I say is that I ask the men who stood with us in the dark days of 1921 to examine their consciences now and to come over and help us to remove the last vestige of British interests from this country.

When speaking on this Motion it is not my intention to go deeply into the matter. We have already heard speeches from our side of the House dealing with the problem of what it means to put the Oath out of the Treaty. To-day in listening to Deputy Carney's attack on the Treaty I was reminded of certain things and these have been again brought back to my mind by the last speaker. Deputy Carney said that this Treaty was a Treaty signed under threat of immediate and terrible war, and he said that because of that threat it should not be signed. General Michael Collins stated in the debate on the Treaty that he put his name to that Treaty not because of any threat of immediate and terrible war and not because of duress. He said he never felt duress, and that he would have signed it in Paris or New York or in any other place for the simple reason that it was a good Treaty and that it gave freedom to Ireland which enabled her to restore her ancient culture and to revive her language. These were the reasons why Michael Collins said he signed the Treaty.

We remember the dying words of Arthur Griffith who, I claim, was a better leader and a better teacher from the Sinn Féin point of view than the leaders who are to-day preaching Sinn Féin. Arthur Griffith left as his dying declaration to the people of Ireland, "Hold fast to the Treaty, it is Ireland's need and economic salvation." Arthur Griffith was my first leader and my first Sinn Féin teacher. He was right then and time has proved him right now. He was right because he was a man with a wonderful love for Ireland, a wonderful love for our people. He was not of the type of the man who said he would set brother against brother. Deputy Carney in his remarks on the Treaty said it was signed because of a threat of immediate and terrible war. I have certain memories of the days previous to the Treaty. I have recollections of certain members of the Labour Party meeting Michael Collins in my house before he went to London. These Labour men put certain aspects of Irish life up to Michael Collins and they asked him to bear those aspects of Irish life in mind when in London and to make the best bargain he could there. He was, as the President said, to put himself in the position of a man going to the fair to sell a cow and to make the best bargain he could.

When was that said?

I have read it time and again in the Press, and I never saw it contradicted.

It was never said by me.

Very well. The Labour members who met Michael Collins in my house put up to him another aspect of the case: that we had not force enough to drive the English out of this country. They said: "You know, Collins, we have curfew at ten o'clock, and you know that at night there have been all these terrible glaring lights, and during all this terror in the land there have been women prematurely confined. You know that at night women are calling for doctors and nurses, and when their husbands go out in the hour of curfew they are held up and arrested. Their story is not believed, and they are brought back to the house out of which they started to see if their story was right. You know, Collins, that matters of that kind cannot be too long delayed. We know this country is crying for peace, and we expect you to do the best you can to secure peace for the country, in view of the position we put before you." I know these were the things in Michael Collins' mind when putting his name to the Treaty. They were equally in his mind with the things Deputy Carney said about immediate and terrible war. That, too, was there, and duress was there, but, as you know, there is duress to-day, and were it not for that duress we could alter our Constitution and Treaty in any way we liked. There is always duress in the world. I did not like to hear, in some of the speeches that have been made, the statement repeated that we should not have passed this Treaty because of the threat of war.

I will now quote from statements made by President de Valera when he came back from America in 1921. Speaking at a private session of the Dáil on January 21st, 1921, after his return from America, he said: "The enemy had superior forces and equipment. All Ireland had was the power of moral resistance. Looking at it from the outside, his opinion was that the policy demanded was a delaying policy. This policy might necessitate a lightening off of their attack on the enemy." We were facing facts then. We were facing force then, and we admitted that we were up against a greater force than we were able to meet. It was because of that we accepted the Truce, and from the Truce we got the Treaty. Because of all that we sent men across to London to negotiate a Treaty for us and to make the best bargain they could.

I still claim here to-night that it was a great bargain, but we were not allowed to enjoy it. Our people were split. The great Sinn Féin force in this country was split. A Deputy was able to get up in this House the other night, Deputy Dillon, and he said: "God forgive me, it gives me consolation now when we see President de Valera and ex-President Cosgrave at each other's throats."

Were it not that our people were split, were it not that the great Sinn Féin Party were split, it would not be possible for that Deputy to get up here and belittle the great men who in 1916 laid down their lives in the fight for the freedom of this country. I ask the Deputy where was he on that occasion?

Not murdering his neighbours.

I remember being a prisoner after Easter week with our worthy President now, and we read in the papers that the Irish Party in the House of Commons, when our first three leaders were executed—Pearse, Tom Clarke, and I forget the third— we read in the Press that the Irish Party, of which the Deputy's father was a member, cheered.

That is a damned lie.

The Deputy will have to withdraw that remark.

I will withdraw the observation, but the statement made by the Deputy is a deliberate inaccuracy.

The Deputy must make an unqualified withdrawal of the remark that any Deputy of the House is guilty of uttering a damned lie in the House.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle will allow me to make this explanation. A statement has been made here that the members of the Irish Party cheered the execution of men whom they struggled to save. That statement is a damned lie, and if I am suspended from this House forty times I will adhere to that remark.

And it is a damned lie, and I will be suspended, too, but only by force.

I was present on the occasion——

Only by force will I be suspended from this House.

Let me say that I was present on the occasion in question.

I must ask Deputy Byrne to sit down.

I was present on the occasion in the House of Commons, and the statement that the Irish Party cheered the executions has been made time and again, and it is absolutely untrue.

I must ask Deputy Byrne to sit down.

Apparently Deputy O'Connor has heard the remark so often that he believes it is true.

As I have said, it was whilst I was in prison we read it in the papers. Whilst we were in prison we saw it in the Press. It was in the Press the statement was made.

Perhaps I will be allowed to intervene for one moment?

May I, with the permission of the Chair, request Deputy O'Connor to withdraw the statement? The statement is not true.

Hear, hear. You were always an Irishman. As far as Deputy O'Connor is concerned, I will tell him straight that if he was a young man I would kill him where he stands for what he has said. Do not say anything of the Irish Party cheering the executions. I would beat any man who says that. The man does not stand in this country who would say it in front of me, who could throw any insult at the Irish Parliamentary Party as long as I am here. There is no fear with me.

Will Deputy Coburn please sit down?

All I want is fair play and honesty.

Every Deputy will have his rights preserved as far as the Chair is concerned.

Deputy O'Connor will keep quiet. What he said is a lie.

Deputy Coburn must sit down.

A Leas-Chinn Comhairle, you will remember——

Every Deputy in this House will have his rights preserved. I am not a judge of what any Party did in 1916 or did not do in 1916. It is no function of the Chair to decide that. But when a Deputy rises and charges another Deputy that he is after saying what is a damned lie, the dignity of this House is in question. It is the duty of the Chair to insist that the statement shall get an unqualified withdrawal from the Deputy who used it. I must, therefore, ask Deputy Dillon to withdraw his statement in an unqualified fashion.

I am in the presence of two loyalities. I have a loyalty higher to the memory of those men than I have to this House. If Deputy O'Connor withdraws his statement I will withdraw mine and apologise to you, sir.

Then I take it Deputy O'Connor withdraws his statement?

If you want me to withdraw a statement that we read in the Press, whilst I was a prisoner, that the Irish Party cheered the executions in the House of Commons —if you want me to withdraw the statement that I read that in the papers, I withdraw it.

I withdraw my statement, and I tender my apology to the Chair for being carried away under very exceptional circumstances.

May I be allowed to state that Deputy O'Connor's remarks are completely irrelevant to this Bill?

Deputy O'Connor will now resume his speech.

If my remarks are irrelevant to this Bill I will say that I was only going over the ground covered by former speakers and reminding them of other aspects of the case of which I knew.

[An Ceann Comhairle resumed the Chair.]

I think this Bill is a bad Bill. It is not beneficial to our country or our people, and all that matters to every member of this House is how we can build up our country, how we can find employment for the thousands who are looking for work. I think it would be more advantageous if the time of the House were devoted more to matters of that kind than to the introduction of measures such as this, trying to take the Oath out of the Treaty. We have been assured by prominent speakers on this side of the House and by the Independents who have spoken that the taking of the Oath out of the Treaty endangers our position. I stand for this Treaty. Great men have laid down their lives for it. Arthur Griffith said he believed this Treaty was Ireland's need and its economic salvation. I will vote against this Bill because I think it endangers our present position.

For ten years we have been making great progress. We have had ten years of peace. We have built up our resources to a considerable extent. We have constructed the Shannon Scheme, the Carlow Sugar Factory, we have improved our roads and erected thousands of houses. These are matters I would like to hear discussed in the House and no red herring should be drawn across the track such as the taking of the Oath of Allegiance from the Treaty. Deputy Morrissey reminded the House that at one time the Oath was regarded as an empty formula. Now it is thought to be of wonderful importance.

I regret if my remarks have caused some unpleasantness because I am very fond of observing the dignity of this House. I am proud to be a representative in our native Parliament and I much regret if anything I have said would lower the dignity of the House. But when I was listening to the speech the other night of the Deputy who asked God to forgive him because he was glad to see our two leaders at each other's throats, I was pained. Those remarks came to my mind to-night.

The Deputy must have lost his sense of humour.

I purpose dealing with this subject from a different angle to that adopted by other speakers. They dealt with the possible bad effects that may occur if this Bill is passed. I am not going to deal with what may happen but with what has happened and is actually happening at the present time. For the past six weeks trade and commerce in this country have been very adversely affected by the political situation. The present position of traders and of the people generally is more serious than it has been during this generation. The past six weeks have seen a slump in trade such as has not been experienced in this country for a very long period. Restriction of credit, want of confidence and a feeling of uncertainty are the main adverse factors.

If concrete proof of my remarks is necessary I invite the President and his Ministers who are living here in the City of Dublin to go around and interview the managers of business establishments in this City and ask them what the position is and what it has been for the past month or six weeks. They have told me and I believe they will tell the President and his Ministers that the position is very serious. At the present time many of those establishments are not taking as much as would pay their staffs. The position in the country is similar. I am 35 years in business and without any hesitation I say here now that the position all over the country is serious. The reports that I have had from commercial travellers whom I have been interviewing bear out what my own experience is.

There may be a certain amount of artificial excitement in this House with regard to this Bill. I can tell the House that that excitement does not prevail throughout the country. What prevails throughout the country at present is despair. Innumerable people who are just struggling to keep their heads above water in the hopes of better times are now in despair. What is the position at the present time? Is there any hope of stability or of an increase in trade or any other improvement coming along and giving them a chance? None whatever. If this country got half a chance nothing in the world could hold it back. But politics are holding it back, will hold it back and are paralysing it. The vast majority of the people of this country are sick to death of politics, and it is no wonder because politics are costing them dearly every day, and it is the people of the country have to pay for these things. The statements I am making now represent, I believe, the views of the vast majority of the people of this country at the present time.

There is a good deal to be said in favour of endeavouring to remove the Oath by negotiation. There is everything to be said against removing the Oath by the Bill before the House, because by that method we are going to antagonise our best customers and create serious friction with a friendly neighbour. I will read an extract from the "Evening Herald" dealing with to-day's cattle market: "Owing to the absence of any competition in cross-Channel trade prices of cattle for shipment continued to drop." That is what you are getting, and what the country is going to get, if this policy of studied insult to our only customer is carried on. You are going, perhaps, to have a republic, but you are going to have a bankrupt republic.

Is that in the cattle market report?

I would like to ask if what the Deputy has said about a republic is in the cattle market report.

If the Deputy has a serious statement to make he can get up and make it.

The Deputy is awfully clever.

I am not clever at all, but I am sensible.

You look it.

As the gentleman who got excited a moment ago said, "As big as you are, come outside and I will tell you what you look like." I cannot tell you here.

If the Deputy has anything to say he can get up and say it. What effect will that Bill have on the trade and commerce of the country? Will trade improve and develop? Will there be better prices for farmers? Will unemployment be remedied? Is there a better chance of a united Ireland? Will there be more money in circulation? Not at all. It is quite the other way. I do not suppose that there is any use making an appeal, because when you see the empty benches you can make up your mind that this Bill is going to be steam-rolled through. The Labour Benches are absolutely empty.

Far from it.

There may be one Deputy on them, but if Deputies on those benches vote against the amendment they are voting against the opinion of 95 per cent. of their supporters. The numbers on the Labour Benches have been depleted, whatever is the cause. There were 24 Labour Deputies here at first, 13 after the second election, and they are now reduced to 7. Whenever the next election takes place I believe they will be extinguished, and if there is an inquest held the verdict will be "suicide." President de Valera is going to Ottawa, but we do not know what reception he will get there, or if he will be admitted. There is one country in which the President will receive a rousing reception, if he happens to call there, and that is Denmark. He is doing great work to improve that country's trade in the British market. What he is doing is serving Denmark and injuring Ireland. As I said, there is no use in appealing to Deputies on the opposite benches, because it is quite apparent that this Bill is going to be steam-rolled through. During the régime of the last Government the unemployed, on a few occasions, marched to this House, and the police had to prevent them from entering.

The Deputy was very sympathetic then.

If much more time is wasted on this political humbug, the next people who will march on this House will be the ordinary plain people of the country, who are fed up with all this political nonsense when good work could be done that would improve the country. Instead, we are wasting time talking about matters that do not concern nine-tenths of the people. I predict that they will come along and object to what is causing grave injury to the best interests of the people.

March up the militia.

The purely Constitutional aspect of this Bill has been dealt with so exhaustively that there is very little left to any Deputy to say without incurring the charge of repetition. President de Valera in introducing this Bill, told us that he was advised by a certain set of lawyers that, in their opinion, it did not violate the terms of the Treaty in any way whatsoever. On the other side we have another set of lawyers who are, at least, as eminent and as distinguished as the lawyers who advised President de Valera, who maintain that if this Bill is passed into law it will inevitably lead to a breach of the Treaty. That is an interesting situation. You have one set of lawyers tendering one kind of advice to President de Valera, and you have another set of lawyers equally competent to advise on matters of this kind—in fact I am not so sure that they are not more competent to advise on matters of the kind—who state, quite definitely and positively, that if the Bill is passed it will inevitably lead to a breach of the Treaty. Surely that, in itself, should make President de Valera hesitate before proceeding with the further stages of this Bill.

Let us now try to examine the possible consequences that may ensue to the unfortunate people of this country as a result of placing this Bill on the Statute Book. If we proceed in this matter and pass legislation which in its effect will certainly imperil the Treaty, without consultation or discussion with the other party to it, is it not within the realm of possibility that the British Government may, on a later occasion, when it suits their convenience, or when it suits their interest to do so, pass similar legislation abrogating or repealing certain sections of the Treaty that may be objectionable to them in certain respects?

It seems to me that this Bill endangers the whole Treaty, and that it opens up an exceedingly dangerous question. If President de Valera insists on passing this Bill into law—a Bill which, according to all the speeches so far, and according to the best legal opinion, will inevitably lead to a breach of the Treaty—then it is quite open to the other party to that Treaty to pass similar legislation abrogating not alone one or two clauses of that Treaty but the whole Treaty. That may be the situation that President de Valera wishes to bring about. I wonder what President de Valera would do if the British Government, following his own example, proceeded to introduce legislation for the purpose of abrogating certain clauses of the Treaty which may be objectionable to them for one reason or another. Surely, that would create a position of very great difficulty for the people of this State. Surely that may, as Deputy O'Sullivan to-day pointed out, throw us back to the position which existed before the Treaty was ratified. In a grave matter of this kind, affecting the welfare of the people of this State, it is the duty of the Executive Government to see that no action is taken which would injure or impair their interests in any way.

Deputy O'Hanlon said to-day that he did not wish to refer to the possible economic reactions that may ensue upon the passing of this Bill into law. I submit that these economic reactions should be examined and should be understood not alone by Deputies but by people in the country generally. After all, this Bill has been introduced at a time when we are beginning to feel the worst effects of the blizzard of world depression. Surely, at a time like this, it is the primary duty of the Government to conserve by every means in its power the economic interests of the people. In my opinion, the farmers, the business people and the working classes are not in the least interested in this question of the Oath. But the farmers, the business people and the working classes are certainly interested in the preservation of our market—our only market, in fact—and any action that would jeopardise their interests in that market would certainly be a matter of very serious consequence to them. The Minister for Agriculture, in introducing his proposals the other day for an export bounty on butter, referred to the fact that the German Government had imposed a very heavy tariff on the imports of butter into that country and that, as a consequence of the imposition of that tariff, supplies of butter from the northern European countries would be deflected into the British market this year. The price of butter at present is lower than it has been for many years past and the price-tendency is still a downward one. That is merely one indication of the difficulties we have in holding our grip on the English market. I also read in the Press the other day that the Danes are organising a big exhibition of British goods in Copenhagen under the patronage of no less a personage than the Prince of Wales. Let us ask ourselves what is the object of this exhibition of British goods. Hitherto, the Danes have been very poor purchasers of British goods of any description and it is rather significant that they should organise an exhibition of that kind at the present time. It is quite apparent to anyone that the only object of this exhibition of British goods is to secure from the British Government certain concessions for their products in the British market. The competition for that market is daily and weekly becoming keener. Yet, it is in circumstances and conditions such as these that we deliberately embark on a policy calculated to antagonise our only customer, as Deputy Shaw said a moment ago. Deputy MacDermot said yesterday that if this Bill becomes law the British Government may not take any official cognisance of our action.

On a point of personal explanation, I did not make that statement. The Deputy is confusing me with some other Deputy.

Probably. The statement was made yesterday in the course of the discussion on this Bill. Personally, I would be much more afraid of unofficial action by the British public than of official action. I would be much more afraid of the loss of goodwill and sympathy in the British market on the part of the British buying public—that goodwill and sympathy which was secured after so much effort and with so much hard work.

The dishonouring of our bond and the repudiation of an agreement internationally recognised, the terms of which have hitherto been loyally observed by both parties, will inevitably lead to very serious consequences for us unless I profoundly misunderstand the psychology of the British people. Already, reports are current in many parts of the country that in certain parts of England there is a growing prejudice against the purchase of Irish goods. English cattlemen have told me that in certain markets in England there is a marked preference for Canadian cattle over Irish cattle. Even as recently as a week ago, Canadian cattle sold at an average of a farthing per pound higher than Irish cattle in a certain market in Liverpool. It is also rumoured that English wholesale houses have shortened their terms of credit to business people here. The slackening of demand at fairs for our cattle and the slightly reduced prices during the past few weeks have also been attributed to the change of Government and to the bad feeling that that change of Government has brought about in England. The President stated that the removal of the Oath would lead to industrial progress and the creation of employment. It is difficult for an ordinary individual to understand how that can happen so long as there is a feeling of political uncertainty and insecurity in the country.

It appears to me, and this is the opinion of most people who have a stake in the country and are anxious for its progress and development, that a Bill of this character is really designed to strike at the very root of real progress and security. Every business man in the country has a feeling of uneasiness because of the political activities of President de Valera since he took over the reins of Government. The majority of the farmers have the same feeling of uneasiness, and generally throughout the country there is a feeling of insecurity and instability in business and commercial circles. No member of the House who speaks his mind honestly can possibly say that the passing of this Bill into law is going to lead to industrial progress and help the solution of the unemployment problem. After all, you cannot have industrial progress unless you have peace and security, and certainly the passing of this Bill into law is not going to give our people either peace or security.

In order to have industrial progress money must be easily available for industrial purposes, and money will not be easily available for that purpose unless the people who own it are satisfied that we have here real peace and security. It seems to me that the passing of this Bill is going to have quite the opposite effect to that stated by President de Valera yesterday. He said it would bring about industrial progress and the creation of employment in the country. It appears to me, at all events, that its passing will have quite the opposite effect.

Deputy Professor O'Sullivan, speaking earlier to-day, said it is very difficult to know in modern elections what really constitutes a mandate. President de Valera claims that he has got a mandate from the people for the removal of the Oath from the Constitution. At the recent election I do not think that five per cent. of the people were concerned with the question of the Oath at all. If the Fianna Fáil Party have been returned to power and are to-day the Government of the country, it is because of the appeal that certain other items in their programme had for the people. They were returned to power because of the appeal which the retention of the Land Annuities had for a certain number of people, and also because of the fact that the late Government had been in office for a period of ten years. Because of that, attrition was bound to tell and have its effect on the political opinion of the country. Another thing that helped their return was that they told the people that they had a ready-made solution for the unemployment problem here. We are still waiting for President de Valera and the members of his Government to produce that ready-made solution, but certainly the people did not give a mandate to President de Valera to violate the Treaty.

As I said before, the people did not vote for or were not concerned about the issue of the Oath. They did not take any interest whatsoever in that question and certainly they did not give him a mandate to remove the Oath if the removal of it would lead to the breaking of the Treaty. An overwhelming majority of the people are very anxious to maintain the Treaty. They are quite satisfied with the way the country has progressed and developed under that Treaty during the past ten years. I am satisfied that if President de Valera and the members of his Government went to the country to-morrow on the question of the preservation of the Treaty or otherwise they certainly would not be returned to office again. The people want the present Government to maintain the Treaty position, and if the President and his Government proceed to put this Bill on the Statute Book, then I submit they will be acting quite contrary to the wishes of the majority of the people and to the mandate they received from them at the recent general election.

Rotten bad speeches like the speech of Deputy Roddy are made for one purpose, and that is to stir up a feeling of insecurity in the country at the present time. All the speeches on the Opposition side during the last two days have been made for the same purpose, but they are going to fail hopelessly. The new leader of Cumann na nGaedheal, Deputy Morrissey, came in with his tactics yesterday to stir up the same feeling, but he has not deceived anybody. He got his answer to-day from Deputy Breen. The arrant nonsense that was spoken by Deputy Shaw, that the fall in the prices offered for cattle was due to the introduction of this Bill, is certainly not worthy of a member of the Oireachtas. During the period of the last régime the greatest collapse in cattle prices that has ever been experienced occurred. The result of it was to smash the people over half the midlands who are solely concerned with the raising of live-stock. While that happened no one on this side left the blame for it at the door of the Cumann na nGaedheal Government. They know that as long as the economic laws of supply and demand operate occurrences of the kind will take place.

Deputy Roddy referred to the preference for Canadian cattle on the other side. During the past three years the Canadian Government have been subsidising the cattle industry in that country. The cattle are sent across to England in specially chartered boats which are provided with feeding and foddering accommodation and with every contrivance that makes for a non-reduction in the weight of the cattle. Since that system was introduced in Canada it has been the policy in England, for what reason I do not know, to give a preference to Canadian beef. Some say that it is more solid, but at any rate there has been this difference in price between Canadian and Irish beef on the London market during the past three years since the scheme that I have referred to was brought into operation in Canada. Therefore that is a rather mean argument for anybody knowing the facts to bring in in a debate on this Bill. In the same way we had talk about the prices paid for butter. During the last ten years the Cumann na nGaedheal Executive have given a 10 per cent. imperial preference in our market to everything manufactured in Great Britain that comes in here, and as the Irish Industrial and Agricultural Association said the other day, they have asked nothing in return. It has been a case of give, all the time, and ask nothing in return, and consequently, while they were taking their oath of allegiance to the King, in mockery, they got no preference over Denmark, and Denmark took no oath of allegiance to anybody; yet she sold five times as much in the British market as she bought from Britain. No Mr. J.H. Thomas, or anybody else in Denmark, suggested that, as a condition of that trading, they would have to forswear their allegiance and kowtow to King George and his heirs and successors. But then Ireland has always had the distinction of producing the greatest men and the greatest traitors.

I am sure that Deputy Morrissey feels very happy to-day, that the "Irish Times" is concerned with the welfare of the unemployed. They were very concerned with the welfare of the unemployed during the Tramway Strike, and during every movement in which the Irish workers were concerned from 1916 to 1921. The "Irish Independent," of which Deputy Morrissey is the new champion and the new pet, is concerned with the welfare of the unemployed—the organ which tried its very best, by every force it could command, to crush the initial trade union movement in this country, and which, when the life of the greatest Labour Leader in Irish History was in jeopardy, called out for his blood; for the blood of James Connolly. They are true to their traditions, true to the Imperial link. They know that the cause of jingoism is in danger to-day, and they create this scare.

Where is all the scare being created? Is it on the other side? We are informed, and credibly informed, that the British do not care a thraneen about the Oath. What is all the row about? We have heard about vanity on this side, but is it not because of the vanity of the Cumann na nGaedheal leaders, that, if this Oath goes, and it is going, all their arguments of the past ten years are done with, and their hope of a return to office is nil, they stop at nothing, and stoop to the lowest methods to try to defeat the will of the Irish people? I am sure that if the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs were to erect a broadcasting station over there, and to connect it with the Carlton Club, and broadcast the Billy Sunday effort of Deputy Desmond Fitzgerald, with God on his lips and treachery in his heart, that every old crusted Tory would be delighted at his utterances. He is the gentleman who talks of Irish Nationality, and refers to the late Liam Lynch, one of the greatest leaders of our time, as the leader of the murder gang. It is no wonder that a man met me in the street last night and asked me what was Easter Week about when an Irish representative could refer to the late Liam Lynch as the leader of a murder gang.

Deputy Fitzgerald said that we were antagonising the world. There is one thing we have done, in the national stand we are making, and that is, that we have united the whole Irish race, at home and abroad, which has been divided for the last ten years. We have united the best elements in the race, and we have our friends abroad. We have a solid phalanx of the most operative body in the body politic of the United States, and we have the Irish race there in a solid phalanx behind us, and certainly, if they get a copy of Deputy Fitzgerald's speech, it will bind them closer together to resist his machinations, whatever they may be.

They talk about negotiations. They have been negotiating a good while, and we know who has won every time. I heard a person who is dead now, who was a leader in the movement, from 1916 to 1921, constantly quote, in his speeches, an old Irish proverb, that there were three things one should beware of—the hooves of a horse, the horns of a bull, and the smile of an Englishman. Negotiations—get their smiles and get their kicks; go across with three-concerned hats on, and all that the Court may decree—not like Gandhi—but in the most orthodox Court dress, and come back with a big nothing. That has been the result of the negotiations in the last ten years. The "Irish Times" and the "Irish Independent" have spoken of it already, and Deputies on the other side, together with the leader of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, Deputy Morrissey, are very much concerned with the attitude of the Labour Party. I am not the spokesman of the Labour Party. They can very well take their own part, but I venture to say this, with all due respect to them, that they realise to-day that it is impossible to attain their objective so long as constant annoyance, internal disorder and lack of confidence exist, because of the imposition of this Oath, and not alone that, but hundreds of thousands of voters who voted in 1923 for the Party opposite, and put them into office, have equally come to realise the same thing, and voted them out of office last February.

Deputy Blythe referred to the fact that there was only a ditch between us and the Six Counties. There is a partition between us and the Six Counties as deep as if we were separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Whatever mistakes led to it—and we know how to apportion the blame— there has grown up a state of things there wherein nobody, unless he is an Imperialist, and denies the faith of his fathers, has a chance of being a scullery boy, let alone hold any position under the Executive that exists there. That state of things exists, and it has been moulded, and built up, and fostered, and they are as far from us to-day as if they were three thousand miles away. It is only by getting self-respect here, and standing on our rights, and building up a sound Nationalism, and not an Imperialism, or a quasi thing with no meaning, that we will ever win their respect, or hope to end partition.

There was further talk by someone else about negotiations. Yes, go over and negotiate while the collusion exists and which would mean that, while the plenipotentiaries would be inside, the white paper, the document printed at the public cost, giving England's case for the retention of the annuities, would be passed in, as a red herring across the path of the negotiators.

Why did you let your Ministers go to Ottawa?

That has nothing to do with the question. Deputy Cosgrave spoke about the duress under which this Bill was being put through the House. There has not been since my entry into the House a Constitution Amendment Bill, with perhaps one exception, and there were numerous ones, but has been put through by duress before any discussion could take place. These Constitution Amendment Bills took away whatever liberties or rights the subject had. Before any discussion could take place the closure was moved and the thing was steam-rolled through. The Government of the day put their majority into the lobbies on the Tá side and then with mock sincerity Deputy Cosgrave gets up, when there is full latitude for debate here and when there is no closure, and talks about the duress with which this Bill is being passed. National honour! National honesty! National honesty died with Erskine Childers. National honour with Liam Mellows! There is honour only where John Bull is concerned. There is no honesty with our own people and so Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney can talk about the peasant migrants from the West. With that old-world Victorian air, with that superiority complex, he refers to his constituents as the migrant peasants of the West.

The whole argument on the other side amounts to this: the Irish people have no right to advance in the way they like. They shall only advance in the particular way that the Cumann na nGaedheal minority state. The Cumann na nGaedheal minority will supply John Bull with all the arguments and all the weapons of intimidation he requires and we advance only in the way they like. We want to tell Cumann na nGaedheal that the Irish people have chosen this method of advance. They have chosen Eamon de Valera to lead them in this advance and they are going to succeed in it.

This question of the mandate has been raised here by Deputies. Deputy Dillon, I think he was followed by Deputy Norton, said that there was no doubt the President had got a mandate on the question of the Oath. Some Deputies on this side were not quite clear or were not definite how far he had or had not got a mandate. I say he had no mandate whatever on this question of the Oath. I have no doubt in my mind at all on the question, none in the world. The President, I understand, is a bit of a fisherman. He does some trout fishing. I congratulate him on being a bit of a sport. He has been using flies, the fly of the Oath. It did not arise very much in 1922. It arose in 1923 and twice in 1927. In all the by-elections in that time, and there were several of them, he fought these elections on the question of the Oath and it got him nowhere. He got no support. He was losing support. When he saw that things were going to the bad and that his Party were going to the bad, at the time of the Sligo-Leitrim election, he began to cast about him. He wanted a new bait or flies more attractive than the ones he had been using. He immediately got hold of the annuities and he put these as the tail fly at the end of his cast. He began to add next, I think, employment for everybody, nobody out of employment, and the whole thing was going to cost nothing.

A Deputy

It is safer sport than netting hares.

Nobody over there would have the pluck to net hares. They would be afraid of the consequences. Later he put on, I should say, de-rating, national economy in regard to the high salaries of certain officials, judges and a few other people, the Governor-General and the pensions that were given to Army officers. On the question of the annuities they have got a mandate; they applied to the agricultural community to get it from them. Not alone did they take that fly, but they swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Nobody knows better than the President that he never got a mandate on this question of the Oath, and that the country did not care two pins about the Oath. Time after time for ten years he tried to hammer the importance of the Oath into their heads and they would not listen to him. Nobody in the last election knew that better than he did, and nobody gave a better proof of that in the selection of candidates. He selected, where he could, men who were formerly members of Cumann na nGaedheal, men who were sound on the Treaty question, and they actually made all their canvass on the position they occupied with regard to the Treaty. He took that line in my own constituency, and wherever he got a candidate of that kind his success was greatest. I see my friend Deputy O'Rourke smiles. In these particular constituencies he had a greater measure of success than in others. Nobody knew better than he, and his own action is the best proof of what the people thought about the Oath. I have not the smallest doubt in my mind that as far as the agricultural community was concerned they thought more about the rain this morning. They knew it was of more value to the country, and they set infinitely more value on it than they did on the whole agitation about the Oath.

Some speakers have talked about patriots and traitors. No country produced greater patriots or greater traitors. I heard a few people talk about traitors in my time, and personally I have no doubt that the people who use the word are the traitors and are the first people who would put it into hard cash if they could. Some of them are financiers in their own counties. Mandates, the Treaty and the Oath! They did not get a mandate even for the annuities, but if they got a mandate at all, it was for that. There is not very much now about national economies, salaries and all the rest of it. It has come to this, that even the annuities have to go into second place. When we expect the substance we get the shadow.

I was listening to Deputy Norton, who was the only Deputy who attempted to make a case for the Labour Party. It is said that he and his Party did not get a mandate to support this Bill. They did get a mandate at the election. They got a mandate to oppose this Bill or any change in the Oath except by way of negotiation. That was stated bluntly and explicitly in their speeches and programme. They got a mandate to the effect that if there was any change in the Oath it should be done by negotiation and agreement. They certainly got a mandate for that and for nothing else. I should like to hear Deputy Davin on this question. I heard him speak previously on this question of the Oath, the sanctity of the Oath and the Treaty, and I should like to hear him now.

I hold that it is up to us to be very careful of the agricultural position. The world is over-producing foodstuffs at the present time. All countries have contributed to over-production; and it is only a question of favour in the future as to who will get the markets where markets are available. They talk about Denmark, and say that in Denmark they have no oath. Denmark is not a part of the British Empire, it has nothing to do with it. When England came off the gold standard Denmark changed the next day. Denmark is very anxious; she is moving heaven and earth trying to get a preference in the English market. She is not going to get it except something is done in the matter of the amount of trade that she is going to take from England. It is a matter of life and death to us to know what we are going to do over these matters and how we are going to do it. I heard a Deputy use a phrase that this Opposition is standing in the way of the Irish people. Where do the Irish people want to go, and how far do they want to go?

Some years ago it was understood that an empire and emperor was the highest form of government. A kingdom was next and a king. In those days I suppose a republic would in or about rank with most kingdoms. What are we going to get? What do we want? And what can we get that we have not got now? Freedom? National advance? What does it mean? Are we going to declare an empire here and elect an emperor? Are we going to create a kingdom and go back to the old kingly race? We have plenty of them, too many of them. At nearly every cross-roads we have the breed of a king, but we have not a republic. What is the difference? What can you get under a republic or any form of government that you have not got now? Freedom means liberty, security and justice and the means of developing the country. What is the best country in the world to-day from that point of view? What country gives its citizens the greatest liberty, the greatest freedom, the greatest security and the best brand of justice? Is it the republic? You have them— Peru, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Uruguay, Patagonia, Chili, Nicaragua, Bolivia and America.

A Deputy

Hollywood.

These are some of them. Does anybody contend that in any of these republics you have more liberty, more freedom, more security and a higher brand of justice than you have in the British Commonwealth? People talk about national advance and about republics who know nothing about them and who have no tradition of republican government behind them, who have been no nearer to a republic than three thousand miles or at least five or six hundred miles. Great play is made about the word "republic" here. It has been an ideal. The name of Wolfe Tone is associated with it. There is no man who has more respect for Wolfe Tone than I have. I think he was the greatest patriot of his day, perhaps one of the greatest patriots of all time, but he had no choice at the time but to favour the republican form of government. In those days all the nations of the world were absolute monarchies. There were only two republics, young republics, republics in their infancy—France and America, and they were the only people who could help him. They were the only people who were anxious to help him, or who had any sympathy for him, and he had no hesitation in taking the thing that he could get. But nobody has a right to say that if he were alive to-day he would be enamoured with the present standard of a republic. You have more corruption, more graft and less security for the citizen in the United States, the home of graft, where the citizen has less liberty, than in any part of the world; there hordes of gangsters are battening and fattening on the unfortunate citizens, where justice is not the good brand nor anything like the good brand that it is in the country that we know here.

People are trying at the cross-roads to humbug the average citizen about the Republic and what the Republic may mean to them. The only thing that means anything to them is liberty, freedom, security and justice, and it does not matter under what form of government they get them so long as they get them. The British Commonwealth stands alone as the home of both one and the other. The republics as we know them are the nurseries of graft, corruption and everything that is despicable. Deputy Norton wanted to know is this the gratitude that England had for the Irish race. What has been denied the Irish race? How much more has she to get? What has been denied her? The empty formula! The empty formula is taken away and then we are all right again; then we are happy! If the Oath is taken away that is the end of all things. Was there ever such a substance offered to people who have demanded bread?

The people of this country are looking for something else: they are looking for something to keep body and soul together, and they elected the Government over there because they thought they were to deliver the goods. They wanted a change after ten years. They responded to the appeal made to them because the circumstances of their time made them desperate—the annuitant, the unemployed and the rest. And because of that you are sitting on those benches, and if you are not able to deliver the goods and deliver them within a short time you have no mandate for anything except to get out and to stay out. Gratitude! We heard to-night something about the unity of the Irish race in America. The unity of the political organisations in America and the union of the gangsters and the gangs in America—that is what it means and that is all it means, and very few respectable Americans belong to those gangs or belong to those many organisations. When I see in the papers that they are trying to use the Irish race in America to make England hand over the Annuities here, and when I hear American spokesmen saying that it is a crime on the part of the British to expect that one penny of her debt to America is going to be remitted, I begin to laugh at the idea of England foregoing any claim that she has here. Was there ever such a thing in the world? Was there ever such a joke in the world? Not one bob of the millions that Europe owes America is she prepared to give. Still we see Americans coming over here to tell England and Europe what to do. The position here is different from any country in the world with regard to England, and different from any Dominion with regard to England. If war is going to be ended for all time, and if there is any guarantee that we are to have no other war, I could understand and expect England to cut adrift and let us work out our own salvation in our own way. But while there is a possibility of war, and while the disputes of nations are going to be decided by arms, if I were an Englishman, as I am an Irishman, I would never allow this country freedom to harbour an enemy here to fight England. I do not care who likes it or not. I have said it ten years ago and I say it now. It is the last thing a sensible nation or individual would do or advocate.

You said it ten years ago?

Yes, and if you guarantee that war is at an end I am with you. But if you cannot do that, and if national disputes are going to be decided by war, then you have no chance of doing what you want to do.

I shall be brief in what I have to say on this Bill. It appears to me that a deliberate attempt is being made to show that the removal of the Oath from the Constitution is a far greater achievement than the negotiation of the Treaty. I would remind the President that he was able to introduce this Bill into the Dáil owing to the exertions of those who negotiated the Treaty, and whose duty it was during the last ten years to implement the provisions of the Treaty. That work was done despite the factious opposition of those who now are availing of its provisions. Up to the date on which the Treaty was ratified we had no legal recognition internationally. We were just looked upon as part of what was then the United Kingdom, without any status of our own. We were then looked upon as part of the United Kingdom, just as Normandy is regarded as part of France, and Aragon is regarded as part of Spain. I say this, without fear of contradiction even from those out-and-out Republicans on the opposite benches: no matter how we try to delude ourselves that we are the oldest nation on the face of the earth, that we are the first flower of the earth, and the first gem of the sea, we had no international status until the Treaty was ratified—the Treaty that we are now going to tear up for the removal of this Oath that, as a Deputy told us, not one per cent. of the people cared twopence about. In constitutional law I would say that before the Treaty was passed our status was much the same as the status, say, of the people of Cornwall is to-day. The President's supporters are tired of telling us that the rejection of the Treaty would involve us in immediate and terrible war. Out of their own mouths they are paying a tribute to what the Treaty has done for us. They admit that its operation has made possible reforms that they are anxious to see. They secured the votes of the people at the General Election by telling them that now with impunity we could cut the painter, that there was no longer any danger, that we could abolish the Oath, and that we could cut the painter which binds us to the Commonwealth of Nations.

In the correspondence which passed recently between the President and Mr. Thomas, Secretary of the Dominions, the President, as I say with a degree of exaggeration ill-befitting a responsible statesman, said that the Treaty has brought to the Irish Free State ten years of blood and tears. To my mind it is only those who suffer from patriotic neurasthenia who would have made such a statement. He says the Treaty has brought the Irish Free State ten years of blood and tears. The Saorstát has made greater headway politically, educationally and economically—and I say this without fear of contradiction—than great nations such as Great Britain have made during the last ten years. If blood was needlessly spilled, and tears needlessly shed, I should like to remind the House that it was not the signatories of the Treaty, or those who stood for the upholding of the Treaty, who have been responsible for the needless blood that has been spilled, nor the needless tears that have been shed. It was not the fault of those who asked the people to give the Treaty a chance, who said that the Treaty gave us freedom to achieve freedom, and begged and implored the people, and begged and implored the President to give the Treaty a chance, and in the march of progress to have eliminated the things that were objectionable in the Treaty. During the last ten years many of the shortcomings of the Treaty have been eliminated. I should like to ask the House whether there would not have been more blood spilled and more tears shed if the Treaty had not been rejected, and if it had not been accepted by those who were patriotic enough to see things as they actually were and not to see things as they wished them to be.

The Oath, we are told, can now be removed at no greater cost than, perhaps, a 10 per cent. impost on our exports. Surely that is a great advance on the position of 1921 and 1922—that it now can be removed without a greater danger than this ten per cent. extra duty on some of our exports. I admit that the omission of the Oath from the Treaty in 1921 would have given pleasure to the signatories of the Treaty, the plenipotentiaries who were sent over by the Dáil to make the best bargain they could. Cumann na nGaedheal has never departed from that position. They say that the elimination of the Oath from the Treaty certainly would have given pleasure to the signatories of the Treaty, but I repeat that they saw things as they were and not as they wished them to be. Though they did not like the Oath they accepted it, and when the negotiations were likely to break down on the question of the Oath they were patriotic enough to think of the good of the country rather than to quail before the obloquy and sneers and all the talk of treachery and the other opprobrious terms that would be applied to them. Cumann na nGaedheal stands with regard to the Oath to-day just as they did when the Treaty was ratified. They did not stand for the Oath qua oath. They would have preferred to see an end of all formalism in these days when we have advanced so much, but they had to ask themselves in the interests of the people they represented whether the game was worth the candle. We have to ask ourselves whether the possible removal of the Oath at this time would not lead to consequences that would be very dangerous for this country, whether the removal of the Oath would justify this course of action at this particular time. I, as a member of Cumann na nGaedheal, would ask this House if the time of this Parliament would not be better spent in dealing with some of the real problems that lie before us, in dealing with the unemployment question, the housing question, instead of being engaged as we are in the subtleties of constitutional law and wasting our time, as I maintain we are, on this very unreal discussion of the removal of the Oath.

No member of the front bench opposite has given any reason for the passing of this Bill except what was said by the President in his speech yesterday. Judging by the speeches we heard from some of the back-benchers, from Deputy Kennedy and Deputy Breen, I am not surprised that the whip has gone forth that back-benchers should not speak any further because these two Deputies let the cat out of the bag, when they plainly told us that the objective was not the removal of the Oath but the tearing up of the Treaty. As I say, at such a time as this, when economic conditions are very bad, when the roll of workless is daily stretching, and when, owing to the distractions provided by the present Government during the last six or seven weeks in office, there is a feeling of unrest and instability all round, I ask would we not be better employed in discussing material and real problems than talking about empty formulas. If I could only be assured that the people would not be the sufferers, if I could only think that there was a possibility of the removal of this Oath bringing about that perfect peace which President de Valera hinted at yesterday, I, certainly, would say that a good case is made out for the Second Reading of this Bill. But I think the House is entitled to know from President de Valera on what grounds he made that statement, that if the Oath is removed we shall have peace and permanent peace. For whom does he speak? Does he speak for the leaders of Saor Eire and—I will not say the other illegal associations in the country, for they are all made legal now?— does he speak for the armed gunmen?— We cannot go around with our eyes shut and our ears stopped. We hear in this House and we hear elsewhere threats and rumours of what is going to happen when the Eucharistic Congress is over.

This Bill is a deliberate attempt to deceive the people. It is a calculated attempt not to precipitate matters on the eve of the Eucharistic Congress. but I repeat that speeches we heard from Deputy Dan Breen and Deputy Kennedy show that President de Valera stands not for the removal of the Oath but for the tearing up of the Treaty. I say this without fear of contradiction: If I could see any possibility that the removal of this Oath would make for permanent peace in this country of ours I would vote for the Second Reading of this Bill. I may be stupid, but I think the indications are all the other way, and I think that this Bill and the antics of the Government make for anything but a state of peace and security in this country.

I say again that the introduction of the Oath in the fashion in which it has been introduced will have unfavourable repercussions on the farming community in this country and not alone on the farming community but even on those who are in what we would call very shaky employment at the present moment. Supposing I look at the Oath on one side, and half a dozen workless men on the other I would vote for employment even for half a dozen workless men rather than for the removal of the Oath. I think everybody will admit that the Treaty is a very different instrument to-day from what it was ten years ago. In the words of one of the signatories to the Treaty we got freedom to achieve freedom and the Cumann na nGaedheal Government has done that during the last ten years. If we are so wilfully blind as not to be able to see the wood for the trees, no words of mine will change the frame of mind of Deputies on the Government Benches, but I ask them to put their country first, to think of all the struggle we went through, to forget our talk about the false-hearted Saxon and perfidious Albion. Let us rather remember the traditions of this country for truth, honour and virtue. Our poets always spoke of Ireland as a nation that had its own culture and its own language. I say that under the Treaty we have got back our national culture and our national language. I do not say that the passing of this Bill will lose all that, but certainly after the speeches I heard from eminent legal authorities such as Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney and Deputy Professor O'Sullivan, I have no doubt that this Bill is an insidious attempt to tear up the Treaty and to sever our association with the British Commonwealth of Nations.

It is not my intention to inflict myself at any great length upon the House in this debate because the discussion is perhaps more properly conducted between the two great Parties. It is significant that they were one in sending plenipotentiaries to discuss the terms of the Treaty to the British Government of the day more than ten years ago. These plenipotentiaries brought back what was looked upon at the time as a wonderful settlement, more so than anything which had been achieved during the political history of the country. These men brought peace to this country. You had financial freedom. I dare say the taking of this Oath may be distasteful to some members of this House. It was probably distasteful to the plenipotentiaries at the time.

There was one fact that cannot be overlooked. There was a very prolonged discussion on the Oath as Deputies may remember. The ultimate settlement of the Oath question resulted in our representatives getting something substantial and to the advantage of the country. It was brought back and it was accepted by the majority of the people of every section of this country. I feel that these men have done something for this country of which we might be proud. To dishonour their memory by now breaking down what they had achieved will, I think, be an act of treachery to those men. It is a principle of law and equity that when one party to an agreement breaks one item of that agreement, then the whole agreement is null and void.

It cannot be gainsaid that the emphasis that was laid by the British Government on the taking of this Oath meant that they regarded it, at any rate, as a very important part of the Treaty. They were ready to go substantially in advance of any concessions they had ever given before to this country. That concession they looked upon as important. The majority of the people of the country do not perhaps look upon it as important. The consequences of its rejection have never perhaps been placed before them. The retention of the land annuities has been put before them. There is no question at all about it that they have given a mandate for the retention of the land annuities.

The Oath was meant to be taken by somebody. To say it need not be taken by the elected representatives of the people is wrong. The failure to take it would be a breach of the Treaty. The Oath has been taken by members of the Government Party. I was present when some of them took the Oath or at least when they were going to take it. I certainly did not see that they were greatly perturbed or that they were in any way depressed in spirit by the fact that they knew they were going to take it. Have the Government considered what this Bill may mean in cost to the country? It is probable that the British Government may not take any action. It is probable that they may not take even any economic action. But there is one thing that we cannot overlook and that is that we are trading to-day with a country having a population of forty millions while the population of this State is less than three millions. We are depending on that particular market for our national income. What would be the effect upon that forty millions of people, who will probably look upon this Bill as an act of international treachery? Will it not have a very powerful effect on their trade relations with us even although it has been said by the Deputies on the Government Benches that their trade with us is nearly equal to ours with them? But they are our only customers. We are one of their many customers and I think that is a point that cannot be overlooked and should not be disregarded by those who have taken steps which will tear up the agreement with the British Government.

I feel that it would be better if there were negotiations over this matter although that suggestion has been sneered at. Is it not more likely that you will get concessions such as the plenipotentiaries got ten years ago, concessions far exceeding the expectations of the Irish people? Is it not likely that if negotiations are opened up on the matter of this Oath which is so distasteful to so many of the Irish people that you will get concessions? It is probable that you would get concessions on that issue. References have been made to the Border and to Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland have been unmistakable in their attitude towards the Treaty. They contracted out long ago; and if there is any likelihood of an elimination of that detestable Border, is it not more likely that we can secure it by friendly negotiation, than by an act of hostility such as this? The passing of this Bill will be looked upon as an act of hostility by Northern Ireland. Countries far distant—Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada—have no hesitation about keeping themselves within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Would it not be an act of political suicide on our part were we by an act of ours to do away with the economic advantages which accrue to this State by our partnership in this great Commonwealth? Many of us have met English businessmen and Scotch businessmen travelling through the country. They were all loud in their emphasis as to the respect in which the late Government had been held by the people across in England. Is it not just as likely that the present Government will receive this same meed of respect if they honour the bond that was entered into ten years ago? I feel that it would be a wise act on the part of the Government before taking any steps which will sever these friendly relations between this country and Great Britain at a time of great depression in this country to enter into friendly negotiations with the British Government.

We heard from the President yesterday that in his manifesto to the electors during the General Election he put one thing plainly before the people, and that one thing was the abolition of the Oath. He stated here in the House that he has got a mandate from the people to remove that Oath. There were so many complicated things in the President's manifesto that the people did not really consider the Oath as being a vital issue before them. They took it for granted that if President de Valera got a majority vote of the people he would look after the interests of the working people and that he would look after the interests of the agricultural industry, which is the key industry of the country.

He has now introduced this Bill into the House. Before doing so, as far as I can make out, it appears that he has made some pact with the Labour Party to support him in carrying this Bill through, and it is a matter for the working classes, for the people of the country, to consider whether President de Valera, in insisting upon passing this Bill for the removal of the Oath, is helping to solve their economic need. I am surprised at the Labour Party letting down their own supporters. I am surprised that they would not, first of all, take up the attitude they took up last night in a division here, and say that the first and most important problem to be dealt with is the problem of unemployment and the development of our agricultural industry. By the attitude of the Labour Party in this Bill they have waived their fellow-workers aside. If the removal of the Oath means that the Free State is to be cut away from the British Commonwealth, what effect will that have on the agricultural industry and on Labour in this country?

The passing of this Bill means, of course, a complete repudiation of the Treaty. I think, before it goes any further, it would be very advisable for the President to have negotiations with the British Government. We remember the time before the Treaty was signed when President de Valera had an interview with Mr. Lloyd George. The Irish people never heard an account of the discussion that went on between President de Valera and Mr. Lloyd George at that time.

That is not so.

I would like the President to repeat in the House now what was the result of the discussion with Mr. Lloyd George and the decision that he and Mr. Lloyd George came to at the time.

For the Deputy's benefit. Does the Deputy want the whole House held up for his benefit?

The people of the country are very anxious to hear from the President the result of the negotiations between himself and Mr. Lloyd George. He came back to this country and sent plenipotentiaries across to carry out negotiations and make the best agreement they could with the British Government. Why does he not do the same to-day and carry on negotiations with regard to the removal of the Oath? Is he ashamed or afraid to leave the Irish people and negotiate with the British? Is he in dread of the British politicians and British Ministers, and does he think he would not be able to put the Irish case to them? Could he not tell them that he has a mandate from the Irish people to indicate that they no longer require the Oath? Could he not tell them that ten years have elapsed since the Treaty was signed, that all treaties are now being revised and it would be for the benefit of the country if the Oath were removed from the Treaty?

The President has told us that if the Oath is abolished we would have peace in this country. He has not told us why he imagines there would be peace. He was the leader of the Party opposed to the Treaty and that carried on a civil war against the Government then existing here. All the trouble was over the Oath of Allegiance. He fought with his organisation until 1923, and then he ordered the "cease fire." Members of his organisation dumped their firearms. We passed a Bill in this House with a view to bringing in Mr. de Valera and his Party to work in the interests of the people. Now he is President, and I thought it would be his first duty to the people of the country to issue a proclamation asking that all firearms in the country be handed over to his Government. That certainly would ensure peace. I have not seen any proclamation of that sort so far, and I would like the President to deal with that matter when he is replying. We would like to know what he is going to do with the men to whom he issued the "cease fire" order and who dumped their arms and refused to hand them up to the Government of the country.

The President talked about the last Government passing so many Coercion Acts and he said they always used the strong hand. May I remind him that he is using the strong hand by not carrying out negotiations with the British Government? He is endeavouring to carry out the aims of the organisation that he knows exists in the country. That organisation is looking for complete freedom and for an Irish Republic. The President should be quite frank in this matter and he should be honest with the House. He should not have troubled about this Bill to remove the Oath. He should have told us candidly that he is out to scrap the Treaty and he is out to establish an Irish Republic. He should tell the British troops that at the moment are outposts in this country to clear out and he should declare his intention to establish the Republic.

Why not be more honest and frank with the people instead of bringing forward this Bill which is, to my mind, merely a stepping-stone that the President uses in order to save himself from the gunmen outside? I may tell him that will not save him and he will have to go further. Apparently, there is no concern at all for the Irish people or how they suffer. They have suffered long enough and they should be given a chance to live. The President says if he gets a full mandate from the people to secure an Irish Republic he will at once declare a Republic. I think he should be honest with us now and tell us what his real plans are.

I am not anxious to intervene in this debate. I would prefer to give way to a Deputy on the opposite side who might care to let us hear his views on this all-important matter. There was a time when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance referred to the members of this Party as the dumb-driven cattle of Cumann na nGaedheal. I wonder what would he call those who are sitting on his own Party's back benches to-day? I think they could be aptly described as the dumb-driven cattle of Fianna Fáil. We are asked to pass one of the most important measures that has ever come before this Assembly and yet we have been treated with the utmost contempt by the Government Party. There is absolute silence on the part of members of that Party. This is a Bill that will destroy a great international instrument, an instrument of appeasement between two great peoples who have carried on a struggle for many centuries.

This Bill, if it passes, will imperil the status of the Irish Free State in the Commonwealth of Nations. It will create hostility and estrangement between our best customer and ourselves. In his opening statement, the President said it was not his intention to go beyond the mandate he had received from the country. I am sure any honest Deputy will agree that this Bill considerably exceeds the mandate President de Valera received in the last election. The leader of the Opposition has pointed out that the votes given in the election may have given the President the right to abrogate the Oath in the Treaty, but it never gave him a right to repudiate the Treaty and to cast this country into the turmoil with which the ordinary people thought they were done forever.

The President is engaged upon an insane attempt to continue to enjoy the advantages which this nation undoubtedly enjoys under the Treaty while on the other hand he wants to wave the flag of independence in the face of the English people. He informed the House yesterday that he intended to send representatives to Ottawa. I wonder what reception will his delegates get if they go to Ottawa after this Bill passes through the House? Is not this really the beginning of the policy that the President outlined in his speech at the Ard Fheis? Is it not the carrying into effect of the policy of non co-operation with England? Did the President obtain a mandate for non co-operation with England at the recent election?

The President must realise that in endeavouring to carry this Bill into law he is endeavouring to do what is quite impossible. The President has two alternatives. He can either stay in the Commonwealth of Nations and enjoy the mutual advantages that copartnership and co-equality give, or he must go out and cease to enjoy these advantages. The attitude of the Government Party is a dog in the manger attitude. They neither want one thing nor the other. It is the old dual policy of Fianna Fáil that we on this side know so well.

When the Minister for Industry and Commerce spoke on this debate he issued a challenge and asked to be informed of the detrimental consequences that would follow the passage of this Bill. Does any Deputy want to be told what these disadvantages are? Is there any farmer who would not be able clearly and deliberately to answer the question? Was the Minister for Industry and Commerce not begging the question and insulting the intelligence of this House by propounding such a question? We all know that the one thing that is vital to the economic progress and prosperity of this State is the retention of the British market. We all know very well what the loss of that market would mean to this country. I want to remind the House that while on the one hand we are absolutely tied to retaining the British market, the English people, if they wished to tighten their belts, could say: "We do not want your butter; we do not want your eggs; we do not want your agricultural produce." Is this Bill not the height of insanity, having regard to the fact that the Minister for Agriculture, who is now sitting on the front bench, passed a motion through this House a few days ago to give a subsidy in order to keep Irish butter on the British market—a subsidy that is going to cost the consumer in this country exceedingly dear? When pressed to name the actual amount that would be imposed on the people of this country by the passage of that Bill the Minister demurred and hesitated and appeared as if he had not the facts and figures at his disposal. We all know that it will mean a very considerable sum of money. We are giving that sum to keep the produce of Irish farmers on the British market, while at the same time we are engaged in the passage of a Bill that can only embitter existing relations between the British people and ourselves. Is there any man engaged in business who does not know what the embitterment of commercial relations means between a seller and a buyer? I have been informed that there was a serious drop in the prices quoted in the cattle market to-day

And a scarcity of shamrock shovels.

Mr. Byrne

That intelligent Deputy is hardly worth replying to. The consequence of the passage of this Bill is known to every farmer in the Free State. It means one of the greatest blows that our export trade can suffer in a generation. If that export trade is destroyed, do you think it will be ever humanly possible to recover it? We have to-day the right to remain within the British Commonwealth of Nations if we so choose. I also believe that we have the right, if we so choose, to get outside the British Commonwealth of Nations. What I want to ask the House is this: If the Danish farmer got the opportunity of coming within the British Commonwealth of Nations to-day, and enjoying the privileges we enjoy, co-equal with Canada Australia, South Africa and Great Britain, what do you think the Danish farmer would do? Would he not jump at the opportunity?

Would he take the Oath?

Mr. Byrne

The Oath has been taken by the Deputy who interrupted. We were told on various occasions what the Oath means. We were told on one occasion that it was an empty formula. We have been told to-day that it is a burden on the backs of the Irish people that must be removed for the peace and prosperity of this State. Was there ever such camouflage in any debate or ever such inconsistency or such absolute nonsense?

Mr. Byrne

The Minister for Agriculture says no. There is no doubt that we will be in complete agreement with him. If the Oath is an empty formula, on the one hand, how can it be a burden on the backs of the people that must be removed, on the other hand? I ask the Minister to reconcile that. When the Government Party goes to the country again, perhaps they will pay the price of their folly in introducing this Bill. I think I am right in stating that there is practically no instrument in the world that should be more sacred than an international treaty. Nations that signed treaties are bound by their signatures. For ten years the two contractual parties to that great instrument of appeasement have honourably carried out their obligations. The moment a dispute arises over a Treaty and over what a Treaty actually means, we are told in this House that the Government Party will not follow the line of least resistance, will not follow the common-sense road by taking up friendly negotiations with England and arriving at an amicable settlement that would be mutually beneficial. Instead, they will hold the pistol at the head of England and say, "We will throw the Oath in your face, but you must continue to take our butter and to buy our eggs." One of two courses must be followed in this dispute. They must either follow the course of action they are now following or the course of action recommended from these benches. We believe that at the present time the great English nation is anxious to avoid a conflict with the Free State. We believe that if these men had the courage to enter into negotiations there would, undoubtedly, be a settlement arrived at that would confer great advantages upon the two countries. If we refuse to compromise, and refuse to negotiate, what do you think will be the consequences from such a line of action? If the President treats the Treaty as a scrap of paper he must take the consequences.

Will you show me where we are doing it?

Mr. Byrne

There was a much more powerful nation than the State of which the President is head that treated, at one time, a very historic document as a scrap of paper, and they paid a terrible price. If the mad policy outlined by the President is followed, this nation will also have to pay a terrible price, if not militarily, at least economically. We, on this side, ask him, as common-sense people, to negotiate on this question, and if he fails in these negotiations to come back to the House and lay the reasons for his failure and his difficulties before this Assembly. Every Deputy here is at bottom an Irishman, and he does not stand for taking advantage of the national difficulties which may confront the President of the Executive Council. We do believe that the President has got a certain mandate, but we absolutely deny that he has got a mandate for the line of action he is now pursuing. If our co-equality with the other units of the Commonwealth—with Australia, South Africa, and with Britain herself—is lost, does the Party opposite think that we will ever get it back?

I want to point out to the President that there is no loss of dignity in entering into negotiations with Great Britain. He is not asked to go in any menial capacity to present his case on the other side. This State is co-equal in status and in every way with Great Britain herself, and there is no loss of dignity in entering into negotiations in order to reach a friendly settlement of this very important dispute, which may involve this nation in economic bankruptcy. It is for the good of the two nations that this dispute should be settled in a friendly way. It is for the good of the two nations that this co-operation should continue with England which, as I have already said, is our best customer. If we do not negotiate, then we must take the consequences.

I notice that very little part has been taken in this debate by the Labour members, who are to be the means of passing this Bill through the House. I want to ask those who sit on the Labour Benches if they got a mandate from their constituents to pass this Bill. I want to ask them if they got a mandate to cast a single vote here which would mean repudiation of the Treaty. I want to remind the Labour Party of the part they played on one very historic occasion, in 1922, when Mr. Gavan Duffy moved, in this Assembly, for the deletion of the Oath from the Constitution. I want to remind the Labour Party that they were the fiercest opponents of that amendment. I propose to make a quotation from the Official Debates of 3rd October, 1922, Vol. 1, Col. 1050.

A Deputy

Chapter and verse.

Mr. Byrne

I am quoting the reference, and if the Deputies on the opposite side do not want it, it is a matter of complete indifference to me. I want to inform the House of the part the Labour Party played on that important occasion. Deputy William Davin said:—

I rise to oppose the amendment. I listened very carefully to the speech of Deputy Gavan Duffy to find out from him, as one of the signatories to the Treaty, if anything took place in the negotiations that went on that would allow any member elected to the Free State Parliament to ignore this Oath or leave it optional. However, I am sorry to point out that nothing in his remarks cleared the air so far as that matter is concerned. I am rather surprised, however, that if Deputy Gavan Duffy foresaw all these objections, when he was representing the Irish people as one of the plenipotentiaries, why he did not make provision for all the things he has referred to here to-day. Now, the interpretation of this Oath, or any other oath, at any rate so far as I am concerned, depends on the conscience of the individual called on to take the Oath. Looking at the position any way I may, I cannot close my eyes to the fact that the subject of this Oath forms Article IV of the Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, as signed by the representatives of both nations, and afterwards ratified by Dáil Eireann. The Oath, even in its present form, is as obnoxious to me as to any member of the Dáil, or any Irishman who may, at a future date, be called upon to take it, but we have to face the fact and the realities of the position by asking now whether or not it is possible to get a better form of Oath.

That is what we are asking the President to do now. Deputy Davin continued:—

Unless I am greatly mistaken, practically every member in this Assembly has already indicated, in one form or another, acceptance of the Treaty.

Are the Labour Party not definitely bound to the position they enunciated so lucidly in 1922? Deputy Davin went on:—

It must be plain to everybody that the violation or alteration of any vital clause in the Treaty by one of the high contracting parties that signed would render the whole agreement null and void.

That is also the opinion of Mr. Thomas, in the British House of Commons, so that two eminent authorities agree— Deputy William Davin, on the one hand, and Mr. Thomas, in the British House of Commons, on the other hand. Deputy Davin proceeds:—

Unless Deputies are prepared to face this position honestly—emphasis on the word "honestly"—and say they are ready to accept the full consequences of their action, notwithstanding promises, explicit or implied, given to their constituents, they are only wasting the time of this Dáil in moving amendments which, if accepted, would leave the English free to say the Treaty was no longer in existence.

Deputy Davin is now swallowing every single word that he uttered on this subject in 1922. He goes on:—

Personally, I gave a clear and emphatic promise to my constituents that I was prepared to make the best of the Treaty. I was elected to this Dáil by a very emphatic majority, and I am not going now, for the sake of any display or to satisfy any sentimentality, to defend a course that would be tantamount to antagonism to the policy on which I was elected. To my mind all these remedies about the Oath are a mere storm in a teacup.

Yet, Deputy Davin is to go into the Division Lobby with his six fellow members in support of this Bill. They are going to swallow every promise they have made to their constituents not to tear the Treaty to pieces, but to defend it should the occasion arise. "This proposal," said Deputy Davin, "to abolish or alter the Oath at this stage is like trying to destroy the middle storey of a house after the building has been completed." I wonder how many members of the Labour Party took part in this debate, and how many of them have justified the attitude they are taking on this Bill?

I challenge the Labour Party to say that a single member of it has any right or title to cast a vote in support of this Bill which the Government is forcing through the House by a machined majority. What price has President de Valera paid to the Labour Party for the support they are giving him on this Bill? At one time, the Labour Party was, numerically speaking, two or three times stronger than it is to-day, but it has been dwindling away. I could never understand how the workingmen of this country would not send into this House intelligent workers to represent them, but the explanation is perfectly clear. The Labour Party, in the action they are taking on this Bill, are false to the trust that has been reposed in them by the Irish people, and I can foresee that if such a type of Labour Deputy comes forward in the future, then the Labour Benches in this House, after the next election, will not have a single occupant.

We will have 50 as I said before.

Mr. Byrne

Deputy Davin was a wonderful defender and a stout champion of the Treaty in 1922. I think I am not misrepresenting the remaining members of the Deputy's Party when I say that they did not support Deputy Davin in the action that he then took. The seven members of the Labour Party to-day have a tremendous national responsibility cast upon them, and if they are true to their trust and take heed of the solemn warning that has been uttered in the British House of Commons, it is not yet too late for them to do their duty to their constituents and refuse to give to the President of this Assembly the right or authority to pass this Bill, a right or authority which he never received in the recent election.

We have been told that the passing of this Bill is necessary for the internal peace and industrial development of the country. Speaking as a plain businessman, as one who has had a business training, I want to ask Deputies is there any capitalist in the world who would come into this country to-day and invest his money in the industrialisation of this State? Is there any capitalist to-day who would enter into the new-fangled schemes which President de Valera hopes will fructify as a result of his economic policy for the country? In the commercial world the one great asset which an individual and which a nation must possess is sound credit. The moment the credit of an individual is destroyed he becomes absolutely unable to carry on as a businessman, a farmer or as an industrialist.

I can tell the House that the credit which the Irish commercial community have enjoyed, which they enjoyed even during the Black and Tan period when times perhaps were at their worst possible level, is to-day seriously undermined. People across the water when they are sent on business from houses of undoubted commercial standing, houses whose solvency cannot be questioned, are refusing to handle the business passed over to them. Yet we are told that this Bill which the President hopes to force through the House by the aid of the seven Deputies who sit on the Labour Benches—Deputies who are false to the trust which the people have reposed in them—is necessary for the industrial development of this State and the economic progress of the country. Was there ever such a fallacy uttered in any deliberative assembly? Will any businessman contend that you can carry on business relations with any nation, firm or individual when you go deliberately out of your way to create feelings of estrangement and bitterness between those nations, firms or individuals and yourself?

I remember when the Great War was on, when English manufacturers got very importunate as far as credit terms were concerned in this country, receiving a letter saying "Dear Sirs, you owe us £100. Kindly let us have it by return of post." They had their £100. That is a good many years ago. The representatives of that firm have been calling on me from that day to this, but they have never got an order and never will. What hope has this nation of carrying on business with the great nation of Britain if we go out of our way unnecessarily by the passing of this Bill to insult them and to violate the signatures that our plenipotentiaries made on our behalf?

An examination of this measure by the light of ordinary commonsense will show what its repercussions are likely to be upon the economic life and progress of this country. I said earlier that our consumers are being asked to find some hundreds of thousands of pounds to keep Irish butter on the English market. Are we going to go out of our way to insult the people whom we are asking to buy that butter? This is a matter of commonsense. I want the House to realise that in a question of this kind the President is not the master, although temporarily he may be, on such an all important question as this. When questions of this size, and this magnitude, come to be considered, I would remind the President, that it is the common people, the everyday man in the street, the plain men and women, who, in the end, will be asked to decide the issues. It is our duty to warn the plain people of this country, of the economic consequences that will follow in the train of the passage of this Bill, and it is our duty to warn the people that the great export trade with England, which we now enjoy, may be destroyed. Of course, we have all been told of the value of the British market, but I heard the late Minister for Agriculture, when he sat on the opposite benches, asking the new Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dr. Ryan, a very important question. He asked what are we to do with our fourteen million pounds' worth of live stock; we cannot eat it; are we to put it in a glass case? I think that if this Bill passes we will be told to put our Irish livestock in a glass case, or do what we like with them, because there will be no need for them in the markets of Great Britain.

We have been asked by the Press to keep silent when this great economic injustice is being forced on the Irish people, and when the Irish people have not declared their will that this Bill, in its present form, should go through. We have, in this House, the representative of a very notable man in the parliamentary life of this country, Deputy Dillon. He said, in the course of his speech, that, in his opinion, there was little doubt that the President had received a mandate for the alteration of the Oath, but that the incorporation of Sections 2 and 3 in this Bill, meant a gross betrayal of the trust the Irish people had reposed in him, and we, on these benches, cannot be accused of being partisan, if we remind the House of that unprejudiced opinion, uttered by a Deputy who does not belong to our Party, and who does not see eye to eye with us in the political viewpoint we hold. Is there a single Independent Deputy prepared to stand for the passage of this Bill? I have frequently heard that the country should send in more Independent Deputies to this House. I have heard a sort of "a plague on both your houses. We want men to go in there and give us an honest verdict on the legislation you pass." And that verdict has been passed by the Independent members in this Assembly, that the Bill we are now reading for a second time is a gross betrayal of the trust reposed in President de Valera by the Irish people. I do not think there is a single Deputy, except those who sit on the Government Benches, who would venture to deny that every single word that Deputy Dillon uttered in dealing with Sections 2 and 3 of this Bill, is absolutely true.

We asked President de Valera not to force this Bill through the House; we asked him to take the line of least resistance, and negotiate with the people on the far side; we asked him in the interests of the people of this country, and in the interests of the people on the far side of the Channel, to follow the same logical way of resolving amicably the differences that exist between this House and the House at Westminster. But President de Valera will not negotiate. President de Valera was never a strong hand at negotiation, and the negotiations that he took on, on former occasions, were not a success. The only explanation I can see that President de Valera can offer to this House, is, that he is absolutely afraid to go across, and put his case before them at Westminster.

A Deputy

To beg!

Bigger men than you begged.

Throw the Deputy a turnip.

Mr. Byrne

There is an old saying: "Beg from a beggar and you will never be rich," and I am afraid that if we beg much from the Deputy who is interrupting so often in this debate we would not have a copper to put on the plate on Sunday.

There will be thirty-three and a third per cent. on Shamrock shovels.

Mr. Byrne

When Deputy Vaughan was speaking he referred to the action of President de Valera on former occasions, and he was met with a very vehement disclaimer that the statements he was making were not true. I do not know; I was never intimately acquainted with these negotiations. The President has not informed the House, but, perhaps, before this debate closes he may do so. But there is one man who has informed the House of what actually did take place when these negotiations were on on a former occasion. Mr. Lloyed George has left on record his view of what happened. He is reported to have said that he was emphatic on the partnership aspect of the Treaty as negotiated by his Government. "He showed me a copy of the letter which he had addressed in April, 1921, to a number of Anglican Bishops and Free Church Ministers, who were then much exercised about the future status of Southern Ireland. The letter read:

‘The Government of which I am the head will never give way upon the fundamental question of secession, nor do I believe any alterative Government will do so.'"

If the President of this Assembly has any right or any justice on his side, as he maintains he has, that right and that justice have arisen from the present co-equality of Great Britain and the Irish Free State, and I wonder to what section of the political representatives in this House is that condition of affairs due. I wonder is he not sheltering himself and climbing on the backs of the two great men who practically laid down their lives to obtain the Treaty that President de Valera now repudiates by the introduction of this Bill. Is that not actually a fair interpretation of the position that now exists. President de Valera will not negotiate because he knows very well that he has always been unsuccessful in the matter of negotiation, and it is interesting to add further what Mr. Lloyd George has placed on record in this matter. Mr. Lloyd George continues:

"That was the line we took then. Mr. de Valera would consider nothing less than complete independence, and our negotiations with him completely failed for that reason. Then he was practically thrown over by the men who were really conducting the fight for Irish freedom—Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. They intimated that they were prepared to discuss matters with us, but we stated quite definitely to them that we could talk with them upon no other basis than that the right of secession was ruled out from this discussion."

To-day Deputy de Valera neither wants to secede nor wants to stay in the British Commonwealth of Nations. His policy to-day is as it always has been, a dual policy that no man of sober understanding or common sense could ever understand. There are some eminent lawyers sitting on the opposite side of the House and when these eminent lawyers, as I hope they will, take part in this debate, I want to ask them one question. I see we have the Minister for Lands sitting on the opposite benches now. I want to ask the Minister for Lands is it his contention that when a contract signed by two parties is in dispute, one of these parties can claim the right to interpret that contract to the complete elimination of the other? I challenge the Minister, or any lawyer who sits on those benches, to define the attitude the Government Party has taken in the passage of this Bill. Is it not common sense that as far as the interpretation of this Treaty is concerned, as far as its interpretation or its repudiation is concerned, neither one party nor the other, when there is a dispute, possesses the right to say "This is right and that is wrong"? Is it not a matter almost of common knowledge that when there is a dispute over the interpretation of a contract, when both parties cannot agree, that dispute must be submitted to the courts to decide upon? We have asked the Government Party before forcing this Bill through the House to go across to the far side of the Channel not hat in hand, not as an inferior in any way to the British Nation but as co-equals with the British Nation and endeavour to resolve their differences. Is that not the wise line of action to follow?

A Deputy

It is the safe one.

Is it wise to risk the whole economic future of this State by the passage of a futile measure through this House for the sake of an Oath about which no man in this Assembly cares, I was going to say a tuppenny d——, but I will not. I think there has been a very important thing placed on record by that section of the people whom we were told the abolition of the Oath was meant to appease. I think a very important pronouncement has been placed on record by these people, that they are not concerned with the abolition of the Oath, that they have refused and will continue to refuse their recognition of the Treaty, that they stand to-day as they have always stood for an Irish Republic, that they stand for an Ireland one and undivided. What will the passage of this Bill do to those people in regard to whom the President in this House tells us that it will act as an instrument of reconciliation, that it will act in such a way that there will be no need for the passage of coercion Bills, that it will act in such a way that every man can enjoy the freedom that in this State he is entitled to enjoy, and that every section in this State will in future be represented in this House?

I would like to go a little bit further and to add that Miss Mary MacSwiney has also placed on record another important pronouncement. She has said: "We will recognise only one army in this State." Is that army the official army of the country?

A Deputy

It soon will be.

Mr. Byrne

Will the interrupter on the other side tell me that?

A Deputy

It soon will be, I say.

Mr. Byrne

It soon will be! That explains the whole position. It soon will be! Saor Eire and the I.R.A. whom we passed a Public Safety Act to suppress and whom we did suppress——

A Deputy

You suppressed empty air.

Mr. Byrne

To-day we are told there will be only one army recognised in this country and that is the I.R.A. Those Deputies who represent the constitutional element in this House agree with that declaration of policy. These are the people who have the hardihood to talk about the maintenance of peace, about law and order, about reconciling the differences that now exist between Irishmen. These are the people who have the hardihood to talk in that way. When a difficulty confronted the nation, as undoubtedly it did confront it, we on this side took the opposite view and if the verdict of the people is that we erred in taking that view we still continue to maintain that we were right. We still continue to maintain that this Bill when it is through the House will be no instrument of appeasement for the Irish people. We challenge contradiction in making that statement. We say that Saor Eire and the I.R.A. are making steady preparations to build up their strength and be ready to strike when the time and opportunity favour them. This Bill is one of the most insane pieces of legislation that has ever been introduced since this country got the right to legislate for itself.

Before sitting down I want to say just one final word to those sitting on the Labour Benches. I do not mind the unintelligent Deputy who has his hand under his chin on the opposite side. I want to say to these Labour Deputies and to the Mayor of Wexford sitting there on that bench: "Will you reconsider your attitude before you give your vote to force the passage of this Bill through the House? Will you explain before this debate concludes why you are entitled to cast the vote in this House which you intend to give? If you are not entitled to cast that vote, we ask you in the interests of the plain people to stand by the promises you gave to those who sent you here to express their views in this House and to refuse a Second Reading to the Bill which we on the Opposition Benches ask you to reject."

Deputy J.J. Byrne asked at the outset of his speech what was the reason that some of the backbenchers on the Government side were not giving expression to their opinions. He went on to explain it himself, but I presume the intelligence of Deputy Byrne did not lead him to the conclusion or the explanation of the question that he asked himself. The explanation is this: this whole matter, so far as he and his Party were concerned, has an entire ring of insincerity in it from start to finish. That is the reason there has been no reply from this side of the House. There is nothing to reply to. Deputy Byrne expresses great concern about the possibility of what is going to happen. In one breath he says that we have established power for this country to secede if it wishes and that that is due to the efforts of his Party, Cumann na nGaedheal. In the next breath he says: "The line of action you are proposing is going to lead to terrible consequences. If not actual war, economic war will result." In the contradictory statements coming from Deputy Byrne he marvels why this side of the House can be silent in face of the unintelligent way in which he had spoken.

On a point of explanation, will the Deputy say where one statement I have made confutes the other?

That is not a point of explanation.

Mr. Maguire

If we come really to examine this case from the point of view put forward by the Opposition, then the most calamitous thing that has ever happened this country was the acceptance of the Treaty because they tell us that to whisper a word about this country's right to its independence is a most injurious thing in so far as it is going to have very dangerous consequences for us. It is an unnational thing to talk about this matter. It is dangerous from the point of view that we are going to be economically ruined. Prior to the Treaty, I always heard it accepted as a good standard of national integrity to stand up for the assertion that this country was entitled to its independence. Since the Treaty, it is the very opposite to talk on those lines. If we do so we are guilty of an unnational act, and we are doing a thing that is most gravely injurious to the country at large! They talk about the injury to the farmers. They talk about the economic consequences this reform effected. I know the farmers better than Deputy Byrne. The farmer is not in the least way concerned about the economic repercussions that may result from this act of ours.

You have asked if we have got a mandate. I say that we have got a mandate, and I will show you where the mandate exists. It exists in the seventy-two Deputies who occupy these Government Benches, the largest individual Party that was ever returned to this Dáil. That is the mandate that we have got for the removal of the Oath.

Is that a majority?

Mr. Maguire

That is the mandate. This is the largest Party ever returned since the Dáil was started.

Mr. Byrne

Is seventy-two a majority?

Mr. Maguire

If that is not a sufficient mandate, will Deputy Byrne and the other Deputies, who are so strongly favourable to constitutional methods, tell us how it was that a Party of fifty-six undertook the passing, six months ago, of the most oppressive coercion Act that was ever passed in this Dáil? Will you learn to realise this fact—that the country has turned you down? Learn that fact, and rub that fact into your minds, if your minds are capable of absorbing it. It is because of that fact that you have burned your oars and have thrown yourselves finally into the arms of English Imperialism.

I listened yesterday to the speech of the late President, Deputy Cosgrave. He was setting out various arguments why this question of the Treaty should not be raised, and he asked the extraordinary question: Was there such a thing as a definition of Irish national aspirations? What can be the explanation of that coming from a man who from 1914 to 1916, and for years after that, taught Irish nationality as a leader of the Irish people? He asked the House to tell him was there a definition of Irish national aspirations. He asked that question, and I think I could tell him where he got the inspiration from. He got it probably the evening before at Newtownforbes attending a fashionable wedding there. Had he remained here in Dublin and attended the funeral of Mrs. Pearse on that day he would have got the atmosphere which would have left him in no doubt as to the definition of Irish national aspirations.

I do not intend to make any lengthy statement on the proposal before the House. Before I spoke I thought I would have heard an exposition of the legal position from the chief law officer of the Government on what the President described as the legal right that we had to pass this particular Bill. For some particular reason that I am not aware of, the Attorney General has remained silent during the whole debate yesterday and to-day. I think that it would only be fair that we should have some statement from him, the chief law officer of the Government on the legal question that is before us. But I have to proceed without his advice and without any information from him, and I do so feeling in a very peculiar position. There is no doubt about it that the Treaty position is in danger through the action of the present Government. I, for one, do not see that they have not a mandate to remove this Oath, and I am rather surprised that the President and the Executive Council are any way particular about mandates for any particular action that they take. They have surely as much a mandate to remove the Oath as they had to take up arms against the majority of this country in 1922, an equal one, and they need not be a little bit hesitant at all in taking whatever action they think is the proper action for the benefit of this country. I am not at issue with the President on the removal of the Oath, but I am at issue with him on the manner in which he proposes to remove it. I do not say that he should go to London to negotiate on that particular matter. But what is wrong in sending an invitation to them to come over here and negotiate? Why not ask them over here? Remember that in 1922 we said that if we had to do it again we would never have gone to London, but would have insisted upon them coming here. Why not do it now?

A Deputy

Sure we have them here now.

I shall ask to have that gallery shifted if they interrupt again. We have heard and listened to that charge for the last ten years—the charge of traitor and King's Irish and such like. That statement of yours is just exactly in keeping with what you have called us. But that Front Bench is occupying to-day the position that we defended for them and held for them, so that they could occupy it. It is quite easy for you to talk and call us names. But the day has come when we are not going to accept it from you or anybody else that we are British tools or British agents. We know who are the British tools, and you are they on that side of the House and nobody else.

Will the Deputy address the Chair?

A Chinn Comhairle, it is pretty hard when a plain Irishman is addressing the Assembly of his nation, one who has received not very much favour at any rate from the British Government and one who has never backed the British cause in this country, that he should be charged and called the particular epithet that has been applied to us by that Government Bench. We are told to-day that the Oath is not mandatory in the Treaty. I wonder has the present Minister for Local Government read his speech on the Treaty debate in 1923? The chief reason that he could not and would not accept that Treaty was because, "Clause 4 of this Treaty lays down the form of oath that must be sworn." His opinion in 1922 was that the Oath was mandatory. If that was the position then it is the position now, and it can only be changed by negotiations, because it is a Treaty between two high-contracting parties.

I ask the Government not to smash the whole of the institutions of State which have been built up at the cost of blood and treasure by action of this type. I do not say that you have not the right to do it; I maintain that you have, but that is not wise to do so. The President says that he will not negotiate, that it is not mandatory to negotiate on this question. Neither is it mandatory to go to Ottawa. Why is it proposed that we should go there? Because it is in the interests of the people of this country. Therefore, it is in the interests of the people that we should open up negotiations with the British on this particular question and it is not derogatory to us. We can invite them over here, and if they do not come, let us proceed with it. But I ask you if you are going to proceed with the removal of the Oath, to take the manly step. There is no doubt whatever that we have the right to secede. That right of secession has been built up and established by Cosgrave, Griffith, O'Higgins, Collins, and all the leaders that backed that Treaty for the last ten years. They have secured that right for you and I appeal to Deputy Cleary that that is common ground which we can meet upon. It is common ground on which I can meet any Irishman. Let us take the manly turn. Let us take the straight day's work and exercise our undoubted rights, but do not take this backdoor method of carrying it out.

If the Government take up the position of withdrawing this Bill and bringing in instead a Bill to secede, or make a declaration of secession, they are exercising an undoubted right, and I maintain that they will have the support of the other members of the Commonwealth in that, because interference with them in exercising that right is interference with the others. It has this merit as against the Government's proposal, that whatever ructions or whatever strained relations there may be, they will be over when they are over. But with this Bill you are going to have strained relations for a period of two years, or whatever time it may be. The next step will be to put the British out of the ports, and after the next election you will have another period of strained relations. When that is done you will have another election, and I suppose you will have the assimilation of the office of Governor-General into the President of the Republic and another period of strained relations. Therefore, this poor old country is never to get a chance. There will be one period of strained relations after the other, until the country is ruined absolutely and completely. On the other hand, if you bring in a Bill of secession, or make a declaration of secession here now, whatever strained relations there may be between this country and Great Britain, when they are over they are over.

Then again, secession will not do any more harm in connection with partition than this. If you take this particular Bill and make it an Act you have definitely finished with the establishment of the unity of all Ireland, and, as Deputy Cosgrave said, I would rather accept much less and have a united Ireland than a complete Republic for the Twenty-Six Counties. My colleague from Longford-Westmeath told us that partition is 3,000 miles deep in this country. If that is a fact, go ahead and take the manly step and do right. We thought it hard in 1922 to go into that Empire and a great number of boys died in this country before they would go into it. But it will be an unfortunate day if after all that we are taken by the back of the neck and thrown out. Trying with one leg to stay in, and with another to stay out is the most disgraceful attempt that any National Assembly ever made.

The Treaty was negotiated and accepted. Personally, I had very grave doubts at the time as to the exact interpretation of that Treaty, but I supported it because it gave us certain rights, which to me were very important. As I said at that time, I accepted it on the same grounds that I would accept an advance in a military position, that it was a distinct advance, and that our object was to hold the ground gained, to defend that position and to strengthen and fortify it. These are practically the words I used at that particular time. If I had to recommend that Treaty to-day, knowing as much about it as I do now after ten years' experience, I would recommend it with even greater confidence than I did then, because it certainly gives us everything that a country could desire. There has been no interference with us during all that time. When one looks over the Treaty debates one sees all the things that the Treaty was to do to us, all the indignities that it was to heap upon us and so on, statements made by people who professed to know, international lawyers, or so-called international lawyers. We were told that we could not have all the things that Canada had because we were too close to Great Britain. We were told that the King would be interfering every day, and so on. What are the facts? There has been no interference whatever since the Parliament was established. I want to remind Deputies on the Government Benches that the description "Republican" cannot be taken as being the beginning and end of Irish nationality. We should remember that such men as Dan O'Connell, honest John Martin, Parnell, and Arthur Griffith, in binding Irishmen together to achieve freedom for this country had as their object the King, Lords and Commons of Ireland. Dan O'Connell at Tara had for his object the establishment of a Parliament for this country composed of the King, Lords and Commons and that did not make him a bad Irishman, and it was not any King but the Monarch of Great Britain that he was referring to. Again, the object of honest John Martin and the Irish League of 1887 was the establishment of a Parliament of the King, Lords and Commons. Again he meant the British Monarch. Then in 1907 the old Sinn Féin organisation was for the establishment of the King, Lords and Commons in College Green and it was not until the Convention in 1917 that Sinn Féin was changed into a Republican organisation. It did not make Arthur Griffith a bad Irishman because he was accepting the King. It would appear that unless you are an out-and-out Republican and accept that doctrine and dogma as an article of faith you are a rotten Irishman. I do not hold that.

I hold a Republican form of government is suited to this country and it is a thing that I personally am prepared to fight for and die for if necessary, but I am not prepared to put my views into effect to the disadvantage of people in this country and for their ruination. It is only if I am satisfied that the people of this country want it and are prepared to go through whatever hardships are involved for it that I want to put it through. In 1918 without question the people of this country decided for that particular form of government, but after they went through the war with the British I knew they were anxious for peace and peace they would have at any cost. Remember we had any amount of proofs of that. We know that where certain British commanding officers had taken action to stop fairs and markets that our columns at that period in these areas had in certain cases to get out. I therefore suggest, in all sincerity, that the removal of this Oath is not a Party matter at all and that it is a matter out of which Party capital should not be made. I say the interests of the people in this country are at stake if you take that particular action, and before you take any action that is likely to damage them, in any way, you should have a definite mandate for it. The President said that he would not damage the Treaty position without further consulting the people. It has been maintained by very prominent people here that this Bill will damage the people of this country. On the other hand, if you are satisfied and you do not care whether it does or not and you want to establish an independent republic, go ahead and do it manfully and I for one, this King's Irishman, will be with you even with the King's Deputy, Deputy Corry.

I never fought for any King.

No, but you were suckled on that and that is the same thing. Now the danger is that history will repeat itself. Grattan's Parliament lasted approximately eighteen years. The Act of Union was mentioned here yesterday and remember that if the people of this country lose this Parliament through the action of any Party in this House the people will have no hesitation in putting the blame on the right shoulders for the losing of it. Therefore I appeal to the President to take no action which will jeopardise this particular institution of State, built up at such cost of blood and treasure. I appeal to him to send an invitation to the British to come over and to tell them that you are prepared to discuss it with them, that you are prepared to put forward your case, and I am perfectly satisfied that if you make as good a case to the British as you made yesterday you will succeed and you will have my definite support, and not only that but I shall take off my hat to you and say you have done a good day's work for the country and that you have maintained the institutions for the people of this country, built up under the Treaty that many Deputies opposite do not yet know the value of.

The President of the Executive Council in introducing this Bill said that it fell within a narrow compass and in his introductory remarks he invited this House to discuss it within a narrow compass. As I understood his opening statement he admits, for the purpose of his argument, that the document of the 6th December, 1921, was a Treaty, or at least he does not deny it, and he admits, or at least he does not deny, that in that Treaty there is a mandatory clause which imposes an obligation on members of the Oireachtas to take an Oath on entering the Oireachtas. He based his argument in favour of this Bill and recommended it to the House, practically entirely on the advice given to him by legal advisers. This Bill has now been discussed for a period of twelve hours and I certainly am at a loss to know why the legal advisers of the President of the Executive Council, if they believe in the advice they gave him, were not prepared to state to this Assembly that legal advice, and the grounds existing for it. Why this reluctance during a debate of some twelve hours to state the grounds for that legal opinion on which the President of the Executive Council based his argument and recommended this Bill to the House? In the absence of that legal opinion all I can do at the outset in meeting this argument within this narrow compass is to state, as I appreciate it, the legal position bearing upon this Treaty and on the Bill, and allow the legal advisers of the President who have carefully desisted from stating their views up to this to contradict me and prove them wrongful if they can. While I said the President of the Executive Council had admitted, or at least had not denied, the Treaty, I desire to take care in the first instance, to show the Dáil that there was a Treaty. The President and those who have spoken from the Government Benches have not yet at least followed the line of argument which some of their followers outside this House have adopted and given expression to in articles in the Press.

It has been argued outside this House that the document of the 6th December, 1921, was not a Treaty, in that simply a de facto handful of rebels negotiated this document with Britain and that accordingly there was no Treaty. It is not essential to a Treaty that one of the contracting parties should be a party having international status at the time the Treaty was completed. It is sufficient if you have one of the contracting parties claiming international status. What was the course of events, what was the position in this country at the period immediately prior to the 6th December, 1921? You had the Dáil still existing and functioning in this country, a de facto Government, claiming, as it always did, international recognition and international status. That Dáil, through its representatives, negotiated an agreement with another State, a foreign State. When that agreement was concluded the de facto Government of this country got the international status which it claimed; that international status was perfected.

I say without fear of being contradicted in this House that the document of the 6th December, 1921, although it may be simply called Articles of Agreement, was a Treaty made between this country and England, and, as such, must be debated and dealt with in the course of the consideration of this Bill. If it is a Treaty what is its effect? What is a Treaty? Any contract or agreement between two states or countries irrespective of the form, is a treaty, and is binding on both the contracting countries until they mutually agree to rescind or vary it, and cannot be rescinded or varied by the action of one party without the consent of the other.

An international treaty does not depend on form. It is the substance you must look to. It has this attribute, that, unless there be a clause in the treaty itself providing for denunciation of it by any one party, it cannot be denounced, and without mutual consent cannot be varied or altered. It has this further attribute—an international treaty—that its existence does not depend on mere legislation. The Treaty of the 6th December, 1921, was ratified by the people of this country and by the people of Great Britain, which was the other contracting party.

No legislation passed in 1921 can provide for the continuance of the Treaty. The sanction for its continuance can only arise from the good faith, goodwill and agreement of the contracting parties. Up to this day, from 6th December, 1921, owing to the good faith, the goodwill and the honesty of purpose of this country we have continued the Treaty of the 6th December, 1921. What the people of the country have to ask themselves to-day is this: Are they, in a form which I will deal with later, going to jettison that Treaty, break it, turn aside from it and set up something they know nothing of and that apparently is cared very little about?

The second point with which the President dealt in his opening speech —or rather, as I say, what he admitted as he did not contradict it—was that this Oath was mandatory in the Treaty. He certainly did not controvert it. At the outset of his speech he said he had a mandate from the people of this country, and he said that the form in which that mandate was sought was to remove Article 17 of the Constitution, which was not required by the Treaty. The form we all know in this House, in which he sought that mandate from the people, was: "I have been advised by eminent lawyers that the Oath is not mandatory in the Treaty. I have been advised by eminent lawyers to remove Article 17 of the Constitution, and that its removal is of no concern to and has nothing to do with England." Why? Because the Oath is not mandatory in the Treaty.

Has there been a change of front from the time of the election? There has. If that were the case which the President wished to make for this Bill it was a very simple one to state. He could have come to this House and said: "I was advised before the election, and I am still advised, that this Oath is not mandatory in the Treaty. It is optional and accordingly it is no concern of England's whether we take it out or not." Does he come here and make that statement? He does not. He says, in effect: "Whether it be mandatory or not, we have the power to take it out of the Constitution, and then we will proceed to go further to show why our taking it out is not a breach of the Treaty."

In other words, the school of legal thought—I might call it the "to be" school of thought based on the words "the Oath to be taken" has been jettisoned by the President. The only person who resurrects it in this House is Deputy Norton, and I can quite well appreciate the Deputy rushing to grasp at this argument in order to try to bring solace to his own conscience and to keep himself right with the people whose votes he sought in the election. Let me ask Deputy Norton: What is the meaning of the words "to be"? Apply them as between two individuals. Let us take Deputy Norton, whose constituency is Kildare, and assume that he and I enter into the heads of an agreement for the letting of a house on the plains of Kildare. Deputy Norton in this agreement proposes to let a house to me on the plains of Kildare as a yearly tenancy, the rent to be £10 a year. Will Deputy Norton tell me afterwards: "If you are going to pay any rent for this house it is going to be £10 a year, but owing to the words ‘to be' being in the heads of this agreement you will not have to pay anything and I will not ask anything from you"? I am sure he would not. If that be the construction of the words "to be" in an agreement between individuals nobody can argue that a different construction is to be placed on them in an international agreement which is not governed by strict legal rules of construction and depends upon the intention of the contracting parties as expressed at the time.

Apply that to the Boundary Commission.

I will apply it to anything the Deputy wishes.

Construe the words in Article 12 of the Treaty: "One to be appointed by the Government of Northern Ireland." Deputy Cosgrave accepted this interpretation that it meant that the Government of Northern Ireland need not appoint a representative on the Boundary Commission.

If the Minister for Finance considers that there was any importance to be given to the words "to be" I would have thought that he would have dealt with it in his speech instead of telling us from the "Daily Herald" and other English papers that the great volume of the people in England were entirely in favour of our getting rid of the Oath. I say if you are to ascertain what the parties to the Treaty intended, look at the debates which the representatives of the people carried on at the time when this Treaty was entered into. The case made for the rejection of the Treaty here was that this Oath was mandatory; furthermore, that it was simply to be a link with a foreign King who would exercise very considerable control in this country. The most gloomy forebodings were uttered of the rights, privileges, and control that the King would exercise here.

These forebodings have proved absolutely to be without foundation and entirely groundless. That has been proved by the events of the last ten years. What has been the discussion of the representatives in the Parliament of the other contracting party? They certainly made it equally clear in their speeches that they regarded the Oath as mandatory and as an essential part of the Treaty. If there be any doubt as to whether it is or is not mandatory we feel it is not by a Bill of this sort that the doubt should be cleared. The President of the Executive Council has enunciated here that the parties who should interpret international agreement are contracting parties. If there be any doubt about it, why are the people of this country to be placed in jeopardy because divergent views may exist? Why not take the plain straightforward course which should be taken in the interests of the country and in the interests of the people; come forward and get an interpretation by mutual agreement or by any other independent method on which the contracting parties may agree as to the interpretation to be placed upon this document?

The President, in introducing this Bill, said that it came within a narrow compass. He never by one word suggested to the Dáil that he relied on the words "to be," in any way as making this Oath optional and not mandatory. If that were his case he should have stated it straight at the opening of the debate and let the debate proceed on that basis. It is clear from the surrounding circumstances and the construction of the document itself that that Oath is made mandatory by the Treaty, and this Bill must be considered in the light of the Oath being so mandatory.

What does the President then say? What does the Minister for Industry and Commerce say? What does the Minister for Finance say? They say that the answer to this is, "We can pass this Bill." That is no answer to the contention that the removal of the Oath, the removal of the necessity for Deputies coming to the Oireachtas taking the Oath, is a violation of the Treaty.

No one can say here that it is not open to the Dáil, not once, but twice or three times a week to pass Bills, if it so wishes, violating the Treaty. What we quarrel with is not the legislative competence of the Oireachtas to pass this Bill. We challenge and we find fault with this Bill being rushed through the Oireachtas, and we say that it amounts to a violation of the Treaty. We say that in doing that the Government have gone much further than any mandate they got or could claim to have got, and that the people of this country, without being consulted, are being coerced into the position that their representatives are violating the Treaty under which their rights and privileges are secured.

I could understand the President and members of the Government opposite saying this is not a violation of the Treaty—the mere removal of Article 17. I agree it would not be if the case made by the Government was, "We will simply take it out of the Constitution, but we still recognise it to be within the Treaty, and we will still say, and it will be the policy of this country, that the Oath will still be taken by members of the Oireachtas." But they do not say that. They say that the purpose for which they are moving this Bill and repealing Article 17 of the Constitution is to ensure that the Deputies entering the Oireachtas will not have to take this Oath. If the Oath be mandatory in the Treaty then the effect of this Bill, if passed into law, is a clear and direct violation of the Treaty.

The President, apparently, argues and gives as a reason for its not being a violation that the Treaty position has progressed. It is true the Treaty position has progressed. It has progressed by means of negotiations, by means of conversations as to the interpretation of the Treaty. It has progressed and our position under it has progressed by certain agreements entered into in pursuance of the Treaty. The President said that on the status given to us by the Treaty it clearly is open to us to repeal Article 17 of the Constitution. He need not depend on increased status for that proposition. I say that he can do it, this Dáil can do it; it can pass a Bill every day of the week violating the Treaty. It is within the legislative competence of the Dáil. But does the President suggest, and is he advised, that any increase in the powers of this country which may be got from the status provision of the Treaty have the effect of doing away with, repealing or cutting out of the Treaty the express written provisions which it contains?

I do not know if the suggestion here is that impliedly this country and Great Britain repealed certain written provisions of the Treaty. If they did, well then it will be interesting to a number of people. No more compensation need be paid under Article 10 of the Treaty. Could we argue that our status is such that we should not pay any more? It could be argued that our status is such that this Government, even though a limited time in office, are guilty of a serious dereliction of duty in allowing British troops to remain in the places in which they are entitled to remain in pursuance of provisions of the Treaty. I suggest, and let it be contradicted, that the position under this Treaty is that there may be an increase, and there has been an increase, in our position under the Treaty which we acquired from our status. No matter what that increase may be, no matter what benefits we may have derived from the negotiations successfully carried on by the late Government during the last ten years, that increase could not have, and has not, the effect of repealing or abrogating in any way, without the express consent of the contracting parties, the written provisions contained in the agreement.

We may hear arguments to the contrary, but we have not heard any such argument up to this. I say that is the position, and, the Oath being expressly stated in the Treaty, then this Bill which will have the effect of abolishing it, has at the same time the effect of violating the Treaty. This Bill goes a great deal further. The title of the Bill does not deal fairly with the people of the country. This Bill, in its effect and purpose, intends to achieve a very definite object. The Government have not been fair or straight with the people in declaring what they are out to achieve.

[An Ceann Comhairle resumed the Chair.]

What is the necessity of repealing Section 2 of the Constitution Act and abolishing Article 50 of the Constitution? But the President says: "It is necessary and in pursuance of legal advice we do it." If it be necessary for the purpose of abolishing the Oath, it is a recognition on the part of the Government themselves that in abolishing the Oath they are committing a breach and a violation of the Treaty.

Do not misrepresent my argument now.

If Section 2 of this Act were retained, it would be open to any person in this country who had any doubt upon this matter to have recourse to the courts and have a pronouncement on the effect of this Bill when passed into law. I agree that the more proper method for the interpretation of the Treaty is agreement and interpretation by the contracting parties themselves. But why at this stage and for no very good purpose deprive the courts of our own country of the right to say at any time whether this Bill was a breach of the Treaty or not?

May I interrupt the Deputy to ask: Supposing your courts found in your favour, would the British accept that?

I do not say that if the courts here found in your favour, the British would accept. They would not be bound by it.

But there are unquestionably a number of inquisitive people in this country who have not got a fair and considered explanation of what the Government intend. There is a difference of opinion in this House as to whether this is a breach of the Treaty or not. There are a number of inquisitive people in this country who have faith in their own courts and in their own judges, unlike the Government. They could go to those courts and to those judges and say: "Give us your opinion whether this is a breach of the Treaty or not." I say that in repealing Section 2 of that Act the Government have deprived the people of that right, because the Government know in their hearts and souls what they have not told the people—that this Act fully effects the purpose they have in the back of their mind, but which they are not frank or candid enough to state, to break the Treaty of the 6th December, 1921. Section 2 goes further. I could understand the repeal of Section 2 of the Constitution Act itself if it were confined to the purpose of the Bill. The long title of the Bill is: "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." The amendment of the Constitution Act is brought in at the tail of the long title as if the Bill were solely for the purpose of securing the abolition of the Oath. It goes a great deal further than that. It is not confined to the Oath. Section 2 of the Act itself and Article 50 of the Constitution do not amount to a limitation on the legislative competence of the Oireachtas. They were inserted as and they amount to a declaration of the Treaty obligations of this State. Their effect is not to indicate that there is no power to legislate contrary to the Treaty. They simply declare that, in legislating to amend the Constitution, this House should have regard to the mutual obligations which they contracted with another State outside. The purpose in repealing Section 2 of the Constitution Act is this: The Government will be able to say that the repeal of the Oath is only the first thing. They can say: "We have now set ourselves on the path which enable us to bring in any other Bill we like without any regard whatsoever to our contractual relations and agreements with the State outside."

In other words, President de Valera says that he clings to the Treaty as his right for this Bill. The Government Party were anti-Treaty up to the month of February this year. They became pro-Treaty—extremely pro-Treaty—within the last week or two. And for what purpose? To achieve their aims as an anti-Treaty Party and to break the Treaty under which they now claim to have rights. I go further and say that the purpose of this Bill, as introduced, is to enable the Government to say to the people: "This is not a breach of the Treaty. We are simply carrying out the mandate of the people to remove the Oath," while at the same time the Government will turn around to that small minority which seems to be a great deal more important to them than the general body of the people of the country—that minority which they know will not be impressed or satisfied with the removal of the Oath—and say: "Without the knowledge of the people, we have gone a great deal further than the removal of the Oath. We have now set ourselves on the path you want us to go and, without any restriction whatever, we can legislate and take any steps we like, having no regard whatsoever for our contractual and mutual obligations to other countries."

That is the position as I conceive it under this Bill. It is suggested that anybody who speaks against this Bill is lacking in patriotism and in national outlook, and that he has regard to something other than the interests of this country. If the people of this country want to break the Treaty and decide to do so, then it is the duty of their representatives to see that their wishes are carried out. The objection that I advance to this Bill is that the people of this country have never declared that they want to break the Treaty or get out of their obligations. It has never been put before them as an issue. They have the right to decide on it, and all that the amendment tabled by Deputy Cusgrave asks is that the people get that choice or, if the Oath is to be removed for the sake of the peace of the country, that it should be done by negotiation.

President de Valera spoke of negotiation in three senses. He said that he was not going to be dictated to by England, that he was not going to consult England, and that he was not going to ask the permission of England. We do not ask him to do any of these things. We ask him to negotiate. If he has a good case, I feel certain that his negotiations will meet with success.

Had you a good case for the Privy Council?

The Minister for Finance suggested that the overwhelming body of public opinion in Great Britain, as expressed through the newspapers, had declared that we were entitled to get rid of the Oath. If President de Valera goes across and says that this Oath, as has been suggested in his opening statement, means nothing, that it is not an Oath to any person, as was suggested in the election, that it is simply an Oath to the King, not in his person but as a symbol of the free association of the nations of the British Commonwealth of Nations—if he goes and says: "We will remain in the British Commonwealth of Nations; as long as we remain there we give an undertaking that we are bound by allegiance to that symbol of free association, that we are further bound to keep faith with this association; all we ask is that this Oath be removed; it means very little and its removal will bring permanent peace to our country," let him make that case boldly—we do not ask him to go with his hat in his hand, but let him go forward like a man and make his case. When he comes back we will be willing to meet him and further consider the matter if he should fail, but do not let him rush the people of this country into what I suggest is legislative revolution. We are asked here to commit suicide. The one thing that Deputies opposite say is "Suggest what is to be the form of suicide." I do not know whether it is to be slow or lingering or sudden, but it will be suicide if we pass this Bill and if we break this Treaty without consulting the people whom we owe a duty to consult.

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.